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In Context—Fixing A Face

October 15, 2018
Page spread in a journal handbound with Stonehenge Aqua CP which I’ll be reviewing at length in November. Tombow Calligraphy pen and watercolors.

When you sketch directly in pen the lines aren’t always put down exactly where you wanted. But because it’s ink, at some point you decide not to correct your lines and create muddiness, but instead you simply finish the sketch and accept the loss of likeness.

This isn’t a tragedy, it’s just part of the reality of practice. I actually like the process, because it gives me the immediate opportunity to make a study sketch (as I did here on the recto page). With such a sketch I can note the things that I want to change in order to get that likeness. I can reinforce my learning by pointing out where my eye is judging proportions incorrectly. I am using my editing eye to find specific things that I can fix in the future. I’m learning about my tendencies to go too wide! Something I call “wideology.” 

For me the notes are as fun as the drawing.


    • Ted B
    • October 15, 2018

    This is very good advice. I usually sketch with ink and almost compulsively try to correct it and then end up with a mess. I like your idea of making a corrective study sketch

    1. Reply

      Ted, one of the things I didn’t mention (I was trying to write a short post for a change! HA!) is that what I like about this approach is that you have the sketch and the subject to look back and froth between, as well as your new sketch so you have all three going and that’s a good amount of data to compare. So I can look at the finished sketch of the man’s face and look back at the face and see that the proportions are too wide and then in the study fix that. But also because the study is quick I don’t get bogged down in details, and yet I can still look at the subject and compare.

      I find this particularly helpful at life drawing. I tend to draw very fast and finish something before it’s time for the model to move. Then I do a second sketch to correct myself and remind myself where I went off. Like this.

      Sometimes that second sketch, if don’t a little more slowly is actually a finished piece that really works. Other times if I’m just working really fast because I want to move on or time is running out, I find that the next time I draw that subject my first sketch is dramatically improved.

      I believe this is because I am retraining my proportional eye right away.

      Or it’s simply that the more you draw something the more you get it right, even if it has shifted in space.

      Oh, and there’s another aspect about this that I could have written a whole post on. It comes from my finding that one good thing or bit that you really enjoyed doing in every piece. With this type of analysis I find where things are off, but they are specifics, things that I can fix. More importantly I find that there are many more pieces of the sketch that I end up liking when I do this. And it makes me excited about trying again.

      I remember one summer in the early 90s I went to an Atelier workshop where we drew the live model every day for a couple weeks, in the same pose, to create a really finished drawing. If you fiddle too much in one area it ruins the texture of your “charcoal” paper. The instructor came up and was concerned I wasn’t making progress on the model’s hand. She talked about it, she did a little sketch in a box at the bottom of my sheet (not on my figure!) and as she did she explained how she broke down the hand from a big shape to all the little shapes.

      I remember thinking after that that whenever I get into the weeds with something I can take it to the side of the paper and really study it and work it out. Test angles, and so on. And then go back to the original.

      I think in some way my use of this post sketching study-sketch grew out of that as well.

      Sometimes we get so immersed in the drawing and the details and in the things that we normally look at that we miss the obvious—for instance here, missing how the profile lines up, when all I had to do was drop an imaginary plumb line.

      And I think when we go over those things right away we get that clunk on the head “I could have had a V-8” type of response. And then we remember more quickly next time how that things we forgot is useful to remember and it goes into our memory and over time the laundry list of things we remember to check gets longer and longer and we don’t even think consciously about it.

      Not such a short post after all!!!

        • Ted B
        • October 19, 2018

        Thanks for this Roz. I especially like the idea of moving out of the main drawing to work on some particular part like a hand for instance. I try to include hands and feet in my life drawings — mostly for the practice. But I find I keep trying to work out the details on the main drawing and end up erasing, redrawing, and smudging way too much.

        1. Reply

          I’m glad you liked this suggestion. I hope it helps you bring everything forward. (I have a problem with allowing room for the feet as I think you know. Poor planning on my part.)

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