Background Information You Should Know
Yes, I have a collection of plastic dinosaurs. They are scale replicas. Yes they are technically toys but did I mention they are scale replicas.
If you’ve taken any drawing class from me you’ll have heard me talk about these subjects—still life subjects who are great stand ins for live models when there are no live models around.
They are more useful than regular toys. That’s because regular toys are stylized or may have cartoony features or exaggerated proportions (for cuteness). Because the replicas are realistic and to scale you can practice accuracy while sketching, without having to visually filter out the style of the figure.
(And yes I know that all these dinosaur replicas are ultimately an artist’s interpretation—but it’s not a level playing playing field with these and a Square Pants Sponge Bob figurine which is all stylization, at least I think so because I’ve never lived below in the sea or wherever the heck SPSB lives.)
All my dinosaurs, cattle, and other mammals and birds (it’s quite a collection), have names. I name everything. It’s just more companionable and it seems less rude.
About six years ago I purchased a fantastic dinosaur from Schleich who is a giganotosaurous. His name is Carl. Sometimes he has adventures and I post about them.
One of the reasons Carl is so great is that he’s over 12 inches tall and so it is really easy to see detail on his body, and therefore it’s really easy to sketch Carl. (I have some lovely sheep replicas that are only a couple inches tall and I only sketch them in prep for the Minnesota State Fair because they really are too small to be fun for regular sketching.)
A couple years after I brought Carl home I found another gianotosaurous from Schleich that was standing in exactly the same pose, except that he was smaller, and he had an articulated jaw.
I saw him across the crowded aisles at Hub Hobby and ran to him.
That’s “Carl Too.” (For doubly obvious reasons.)
While he’s smaller than my original Carl, he’s still pretty tall and he’s a lot of fun to sketch.
So Carl Too has been happy to help out.
Today I wanted to show you a couple of sketches of Carl Too. He doesn’t go off on adventures like Carl, but is content to stay with me and watch TV while I sketch.
Why Sketch in a Series?
There are hundreds if not thousands of reasons to sketch in a series. I write about this a lot on the blog.
Today I want to point to two reasons with the help of Carl Too.
All the images in today’s post are sketches of Carl Too. And they are placed in chronological order so you can see the time sequence as well. (These are not all the sketches I’ve made of Carl Too, just a couple that are representative.)
Reason One: Experimenting with the Familiar
One of the reasons I think this type of work is valuable is that if you use the same model (or muse if you want to use that word, Carl, original Carl, likes to be called a muse) you become familiar with the subject in all its moods and in all its poses and forms. You will see this relationship in my work with Gert my rubber chicken puppet. (See the Category List in the side column under “Gert,” or use the blog’s search engine.) You’ll see that because I’m familiar with Gert I’ve been able to use her to test new papers, paints, and drawing materials. I’m as familiar with her shape as I can be, so when I draw Gert I am focusing on the materials I’m testing, even if it’s a technique and not really a material. That means I can focus with abandon on the task at hand.
It helps me rule out the “noise” that humans interject into everything, the “gee I’m having a bad day and don’t feel like sketching,” “it’s too humid to use this paint,” and “the moon is some sort of astrological house which is messing up my energy”—whatever.
When you have a relationship to your subject you don’t really have to get ready to draw, you just draw. And that’s the best gift you can give yourself.
I’m sad to report that Gert is decomposing. She’s actually a hand puppet which means that despite stuffing her hollow insides to help her stand tall, the pressure on her bottom half has proved too great. Time has worked against the cheap rubber that she’s constructed out of and it’s starting to crack away. I’m actually thinking of getting a glass display box for her to retire into. She’s earned her retirement and would rather rest on her laurels than her decaying base.
Carl, Carl Too, Des, and all their dinosaur and animal friends are happy to take up the slack.
So that’s the first reason I wanted to share—if you use a familiar model you free yourself up to experiment with your materials and judge more accurately whether you like the way those materials are working based solely on those materials and not extraneous matters like the weather.
Reason Two: A Series Shows You Where You Are in a Given Space of Time
One of the reasons many of us love working in journals or sketchbooks is that our work is saved automatically in a chronological record. By paging through our journals we can see where we were in our development at any given time.
When we keep using the same models and subject matter we can see at a glance what our skills, interests, and favorite materials were at any given time. We can see also what we need to work on, or what we might want to work on next. It’s like a filter which focuses our intention and gives us clear feedback.
Because of all this working with a familiar model allows us to streamline the self-evaluation process and get back to setting and pushing towards new goals as quickly as possible.
One of the things that you might see in the images in this post is that two of the poses are very similar. Another part of this “knowing where you are in a given space of time” is that you can catch yourself when you have a default to an “easy” view, and start pushing yourself to something more challenging. (I’m happy to say that if you looked at all the images of Carl Too from this time span you would see that I’ve been careful about changing up his positions.)
Reason Three: Yes I Can Count
OK, there is one more reason I wanted to share with you, in hopes of encouraging you to work in a series with a favorite model.
Working in a series allows you to fall in love.
It’s that plain, and it’s that simple.
When we draw something again in a different place or time, when we look again, look closely and really see, then our wonder is activated. We are most susceptible to love when we are in that state. Why is that a good thing?
I believe falling in love with our subjects is a good thing because it causes us to look closely and see how something is made, structured, articulated, whatever you want to call it. And we learn not to waste our time on those things which are not of interest to us. We all, after all have limited time in which to work.
So do yourself a favor and start gathering some helpful sketching muses around you. They should be large enough that you can see their detail. They should be in interesting poses. It’s important that they are realistic and to scale, whether you are talking replica dinosaurs or fake flowers. Then start drawing. Look at negative space, look at relationships of parts, look at angles, look at textures. Fall in love.