One of the things that I really enjoy watching are speeded-up videos of artists making paintings and drawings. As an artist who likes to make art relatively quickly (eg: I usually only spend 30-90 minutes on each of my paintings), it’s really cool to see other artists producing awesome art ridiculously quickly – even if it’s just via clever video editing. Not only that, these videos also contain lots of fascinating insights into the process of making art.
Back in October, I happened to see a really cool example of one of these videos on one of my favourite art-related Youtube channels (called “Mary Doodles“). This video is part of a long-running series where Mary Doodles scribbles randomly on a piece of paper and then uses that scribble as the basis for a proper painting and/or drawing. I haven’t even attempted anything like this myself, but it seems like a brilliant demonstration of artistic skill.
Anyway, this video made me think about how artists construct their paintings and drawings. And, for me, it’s usually more of a construction process than anything else.
Although I occasionally have an idea of what I’m going to paint or draw before I begin, most of my paintings and drawings usually just start with me sitting in front of a blank piece of paper and randomly sketching (and often erasing) things in pencil until I have the beginnings of an interesting painting or drawing.
Usually, I’ll sketch the close foreground and/or any people in the picture first and then I’ll add the background later. Most of the time, I only start thinking of ideas for the background after I’ve already sketched the people in the picture. Sometimes I’ll even sketch out one-point perspective lines as a guide.
But, one of the fascinating things about seeing speeded-up videos of other artists making art is seeing the different ways that they start, construct and/or plan their paintings and drawings.
For example, in the Mary Doodles video I linked to earlier, she starts drawing the picture in the area of the paper that she scribbled on. This is a fairly logical place to start this kind of drawing, but it’s interesting to see the composition that she uses afterwards – first, she adds a zombie in the close foreground on the right-hand side of the painting and then she adds another zombie in the mid-distance on the left-hand side of the picture.
I don’t know how much pre-planning went into this drawing, but – from the video at least- it appears that she’s drawing the entire thing completely spontaneously and without using a visible pencil sketch either. If this is the case, then this is seriously impressive.
Seriously, even though I’ve been making art on a regular basis for almost four years (and on an irregular basis for much longer than that) I can usually only produce vaguely good drawings and paintings if I make a pencil sketch beforehand.
The only real exception to this is the little sketches that I include at the top of these articles and that’s only because I’ve drawn these cartoon pictures of myself so often that I know how to do it without sketching through sheer repetition and muscle memory. But, for anything that involves real creativity, I still usually have to sketch it out in pencil first.
Still, some artists thrive when they make art completely spontaneously and without any prior sketching. So, I guess that it’s safe to say that every artist constructs their paintings and/or drawings in their own slightly unique way. For me, this is one of the cool things about making art – since it’s kind of like computer game designers using different “engines” for making games.
Likewise, when I draw people, I’ll usually sketch a simplified stick figure- like “skeleton” before adding any other details. This is a relatively recent thing and, before this, I used another technique that I learnt from this Shoo Rayner video, which involves drawing a mannequin-like figure in pencil. Before this, I didn’t really do any of this kind of planning before drawing people – which explains the weird proportions and poses in a lot of my older artwork.
Many artists use versions of these techniques, but these are often subtly different. For example, in the instructional video about drawing realistically-proportioned people on Mary Doodles’ channel, she uses the stick figure technique – but her version of it involves drawing triangles and/or diamonds to represent the chest, hips and feet.
So, yes, every artist constructs their artwork in a slightly different and vaguely unique way.
Anyway, I hope that this was interesting 🙂