One of the interesting things about drawings (or paintings, etchings, digital art etc…) are how they can be used to tell a story or to make the audience use their own imagination and come up with their version of what the “story behind the drawing is”. I hinted at this in my article about seeing drawings as moments, but I didn’t really go into enough detail about how suggestion and mystery can really make your drawings a lot more interesting.
As I said in my other article, telling a story with your drawing doesn’t mean that every one of your drawings has to have an elaborate 200-page backstory (if they did, they would be illustrations rather than drawings) but each drawing should seem like it is an individual moment from a series of events of some kind or other.
Anyway, one of the best ways of making your audience think about the story behind your drawing is to suggest more than you actually show and leave everything very slightly mysterious. This is a fairly simple thing to do and, if you look at quite a few drawings and paintings you might notice quite a few artists who use this technique.
It can be something as simple as just having the characters in your drawing looking at something which is just out of frame – but adding a small amount of mystery to your drawings makes them a lot more interesting to anyone who is looking at them because it forces your audience to think.
Likewise, your character’s emotions and reactions can do a lot to hint at a larger story behind your drawings. For example, if you drew your character sitting at a table and nonchalantly reading a newspaper – this could be a very good drawing in technical terms but it doesn’t seem to have much of a story behind it though.
Now, try re-drawing that picture but with the character looking either overjoyed or horrified at whatever he or she is looking at in the newspaper (but be sure not to show the title of the article itself). Chances are, the new version of your drawing is going to be a lot more interesting and intriguing.
Another good way to add mystery to your drawings is to add a few intriguing background details which hint at a larger story behind the drawing. Going back to my earlier example of a character reading a newspaper article in abject horror – try adding something like a pair of plane/bus/concert tickets, a broken picture frame etc… to the background of the drawing. As you can probably see, your drawing has just become even more dramatic and mysterious.
Even if your audience doesn’t notice these details at first, they will probably either pick up on them subliminally/subconsciously or they might notice them when they take a closer look at your picture or look at it for a second time. And, if your audience is looking at your drawings repeatedly or examining them closely, then this is usually a sign that you’ve produced something interesting.
There are, of course, many other ways of suggesting things in your drawings, but these are the only ones I can think of at the moment. Although suggesting more than you actually show isn’t an essential thing for every drawing (eg: the advice in this article probably doesn’t apply to landscapes etc…), it can make the difference between a good drawing and a great drawing quite a lot of the time.
Anyway, I hope that this was useful 🙂