Jenn's Corner @ Rusty's Snakeskin
Ultimate Drawing Advice
Okay, step numero uno: Make sure you have the materials on hand to make great art. Sometimes, the only thing keeping you from creating quality work is the materials you use. Most amateur artists use the basic No. 2 pencil and copy paper, or even lined paper, for their art. Neh-eh. No more! Here is a list of supplies, grouped together for optimum use, and what they are used for:
Marker and pen art: Bristol paper, Prismacolor markers, Tombo watercolor markers, .02, .05, and .08 graphics ink pens, HB lead or graphite pencil, white plastic eraser. Bristol is the best paper you could get for marker art. Markers will not bleed (if they do, you got cheap Bristol), and it gives you the best surface for marker color blending. Prismacolors are by far the best alcohol based markers you can get as far as color selection and availability goes, but if you do marker art more than occasionally, you'll run out of color fast, and they aren't inexpensive (over $100 for a complete set). Use a hard lead, like the HB, H, or F lead, but not too light, or else you'll find yourself pressing down on the board just to see your marks. Graphite pencils are great because they erase better. White plastic erasers wont give you accidental pink smudges on your paper, and are more no-nonsense than gum or kneaded erasers. The size ink pens I have specified are the basic widths of pen nibs you might need, but if you're a real intricate pen artist, get a complete set.
Watercolor and guache: Cold press block, good watercolor set with at least the color red, yellow, blue, magenta, black, and some sort of green, preferably light green, large, medium, and small round natural bristle brush, medium and small flat bristle brush, frisk, palette, water cup, paper towels, very hard lead pencil (>2H), white plastic eraser. As you can probably tell, we aren't talking about your basic Crayola kiddie watercolor set here. Good watercolors aren't cheap, and it doesn't particularly matter whether you get a pan set or a tube set. Just make sure you have good, quality brushes that wont lose hairs in your work and a palette to mix colors. The colors I specified will help you obtain the basic colors, including skin tones. It would help to know about pigments and chemicals thereof when watercoloring, because not all the time will the color wheel determine your results when you mix, especially when it comes to colors that use red. A cold press block is a stack of watercolor paper that is gummed on the sides so that when you work on it, your page wont buckle under the wet paint. When finished, you simply slide a ruler under the first page and loosen it from the gum.
Tracing paper: Tracing paper has a variety of uses. I, for one, used it when creating my tutorials so I don't have to stop to scan the steps so much. It's also useful for when you run out of wrapping tissue right before your aunt's birthday. It isn't a good medium for final work, however, so if you do want a transparent/translucent medium for final work, use…
Vellum or acetate: Drafting vellum acts just like Bristol only it is translucent. It's great for technical mapping, just be careful when using markers. Acetate is the stuff teachers use on overhead projectors, and when used correctly, can produce great stills, like in animation.
Newsprint: Great for drafts, but not great at all for any type of final work. It bleeds, it's hard to erase without tearing to shreds, and its slick, shiny surface is a pain for hard lead pencils.
French curves: I have not used one of these things to date, but some people use them for impossible, perfect curves. They come in a variety of shapes and sizes.
Rulers, L-squares, and T-Squares: These are an absolute must! A straight ruler is your pathway to heaven, future artists, so listen up. You don't need to go buy those expensive metal rulers with padding under them. You don't even need a big ruler. I would recommend a see-thru grid ruler. It takes the hassle out of measuring. T-squares also help a lot. L-squares are not essential, but they're nice to have to make perpendicular lines and 90-degree angles.
A full range of pencils: It would be very nice to have a complete set of pencils at least ranging from 6B to 6H.
Pencil sharpener: A good, small, portable sharpener will save your ass. Believe me. My faves are the tiny metal ones you see other girls using for makeup pencil sharpeners, or of the like (they do make sharpeners that small for artists, so don't go ravaging your make-up aisle at the local drug store!).
Colored pencils: Again, Crayola is not the best choice here. There are tons of varieties, and, again, the best is Prismacolor. Derwent's is also a great buy, and usually they come in a neat pre-set tin with their uses clearly labeled on front. Derwent is also an excellent manufacturer of artist's sets, my fave being the Graphic Pencil set, about fourteen bucks. You usually want a soft lead that will sharpen easily and blend well.
Grid paper: Not quite sure how you'd use it, but it's nice to have if you do need it!
Xacto Knifes: Get a cheap one with an extra set of blades. It is always good to replace the blade if you break the tip or if it goes dull.
Rule of thumb: if you cannot pronounce the manufacturer's name, it was most likely made in some far off land and is very expensive, and there can be a more economical alternative. However, here are some brands I recommend, and why:
Prismacolor: more available than any other color system to the amateur, if there's a name for it, they have the color available. The markers are made with a nifty thin nib and thick nib, and both the colored pencils and markers blend well. Downside: Expensive, and the markers run out quick.
Tombo: Their watercolor marker set is the best. They have a “brush” nib on one end and a small point nib on the other, and I have not yet run out of color or had one dry up on me! Great alternative to watercolors, but only works good on watercolor paper!
Kimberly-General's: Great pencils, charcoals, and whatnot. Downside: can't think of one. The sets usually come with an eraser and a sharpener, which is cool.
Derwent: A German manufacturer of great graphic pencils, watercolor pencils, and whatnot. Can get expensive, and the tins are cumbersome.
Cansson: They make a variety of papers, including Bristol and vellum, and are the most widely available.
Strathmore: these guys make everything; sketch pads, newsprint, drawing, oil, acrylic, watercolor, tracing, and on and on…
Where to get these? I have found these at my college's bookstores, Michael's Craft, Aaron Bros., and even Target.
Jenn's Guide to Drawing: Tips and Tricks (that I am aware of)
You might want to print this.
Draw light! I cannot express to you enough how important this is. You grind that lead into that paper hard enough and the mark will never come out, so always draw light so you can erase a mistake if you need to.
Lighter colors first. It's always easier to go from light to dark than vice versa, and you wont have to worry about darker colors running into lighter ones this way.
Circles VS Lines. When coloring, move your hand in circles instead of back and forth in lines. This way, you can avoid the dreaded “Venetian blind” effect. Colors will merge much easier, and you wont have to backtrack to get rid of those nasty lines. Also, if you are using Grafics paper, you can color on the back of the paper to blend the layers better. This will give you a cleaner finish with less streaking.
Margin: You should create a margin, or border, around your artwork if you use paints or pastels. This way, you have a nice, neat space around the entire picture that is also good if you decide to frame it. How to make one? Simple. Use masking tape (1” or 1 ½”) and make a straight border along the edge of your paper. When you paint or pastel, the paint will go over the tape, but not through it, so you have a nice, neat border when you carefully strip the tape off.
Creating highlights with gauche, gel-rollers, and frisket: When you have finished your drawing, you can easily add white highlights or transparent “reflections” with any of these three mediums. White gel-rollers are transluscent, so they will blend a bit with the color you have already got down, but will make a nice “reflection” like when light hits a car. Gauche is almost like watercolor, but a bit thicker. Just get a little bit on a thin brush with little (almost non-existent) water and make your bright reflections and glares. Chinese white watercolors do the same thing. Frisket helps make the highlights before you paint. Just dab this where you want the highlight with a q-tip or a brush you no longer use for final work, then let it dry. Paint your picture right on top of it, and when you're finished, just peel the frisket away to reveal white paper!
Water + Color, Color + Water… When you get watercolors, there are a variety of effects that can be achieved with just a cup of water, a watercolor set, and a brush. First, try the usual way: wet the brush and rub it in the color. That usually gives you a nice, bold, wet streak of color. Now, try wetting the paper first, then dipping your brush in semi-dry paint, and then paint on the wet paper. Now you can blend colors.
Take care of your supplies: It is very important that you take care of your supplies. Supplies are expensive, and most won't last forever, so take care to ensure their longevity. Do not let your brushes rest in the water cup! It will bend the bristles forever - resulting in you buying another brush set. Be sure to rinse off any dip-nib ink pens after use so the ink wont crust up the parts. Make sure all markers, pens, gel-rollers, and frisk have their caps on them at all times. When mixing colors in the pot, be sure to get the layer of foreign color off the watercolor pot by rubbing a wet paper towel on the surface. If you use tube watercolors, make sure the tubes are capped and that your rinse off your palette.
Keep things organized. Keeping your stuff organized now will help you later. You can buy one of those tool boxes, or you can simple separate all your supplies and put them in separate zip lock bags (pencils in one, watercolor tubes in another, ink pens in another, etc.), then put the zip lock baggies in a durable tote bag. When you have watercolor brushes, it would be wise to buy one of those bamboo slat rolls and roll the wet brushes inside so that the bristles wont get bent but air will get through the bamboo to dry them. Avoid a canvas roll, because the water and canvas equals…you got it, mildew. Also, when you run out of something…like, a marker dries up or your inkpot is empty, discard it so you'll know you need to buy a new one. I occasionally forget to do this, and when I go to use a marker that I forgot was dry, I get a big disappointment.
Move with your arm, not your wrist. When you draw, move your whole arm in the motion of the line. This means picking up your wrist and not moving it. You'll avoid all those wobbly lines that have been plaguing you. I promise.
Don't be afraid to experiment. You'll never know techniques unless you experiment with them. When you get a new supply, break it out and take it for a test drive! Don't be afraid to mix markers and watercolors and colored pencils. If you hear of a new drawing technique, practice it, and you might see that it is really worth taking the time for.
Don't be afraid to make mistakes. You can always start over, and making mistakes will help you get a better feel for what you're doing. Besides, everyone has to start out somewhere, and I can bet that your favorite comic artist/writer/what-have-you made mistakes when they got started.
If something looks wrong, it probably is. Hold your drawing up to a mirror and you should be able to spot your mishap quickly. Most of the time, it is just an alignment or shape error that could have easily been fixed during the earlier stages of the drawing, but, if you've already colored and inked it in, your best bet would be to start over again…but this time keep in mind what you did wrong before to avoid doing it again.
Don't be too critical of your work. What might look like crap to you might make someone else jealous of your work. Want proof? Instead of tossing the piece, put it away for a few days, then come back to it. You might see that it was just your mind playing up your own self-consciousness and that the piece is actually good. Want more proof? Show your piece to someone else. They can tell you what's wrong with it…or praise it utterly, and most of the time they tell the truth.
Protect your art. Make sure that when you transport your artwork that it is protected from the elements…as in, from itself, from other art, from open air, and from you. Like it or not, paper is eager to absorb marks, and it will usually absorb anything. Keeping your art safe while transporting it is easy. You can buy a portfolio...yeah, they're expensive, but they do pay off. They keep your artwork from moving around and usually come with mylar separators to protect raw media. If not, be sure you have a carrying case big enough for the artwork, and seperate them from each other with sheets of tissue paper. Also, remember that handling your artwork too much is dangerous...your fingers have oils and bacteria on them at ALL times.
Store your art. Good art is preserved art. Make sure you keep your art in a closed space, preferably covered with an acid free cover (like Mylar brand covers). This will keep it from yellowing and from fading, or worse, rubbing off on other work. Keep it out of light, which will only make the colors fade, and don't store it where moths and other parasites will use it to lay their eggs in. Ewww. Keeping your old art is a great way to show your progress over time.
Sign and date your work. Always sign your work, no matter what. Also, it's a good idea to date it so when you do store it and discover it a decade later you'll know exactly when you did it. It's immense fun to compare early drawings to present drawings.
Oh, and the most important thing...have fun. Artwork is...art. There is no true right or wrong answer, and you have "artist's choice".