Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Horsin Around---Pencil Portrait of Twyw

I've always considered myself to be somewhat of a silly person with no visible means of common sense.

And when you have no common sense, or aren't able to do anything useful with your life, you tend to drift off and become a cartoonist. Al Capp, creator of the hugely influential comic strip Li'l Abner once said: 'To become a successful cartoonist it helps to have been dropped on your head as a young child; I was dropped several times.

Anyway, my credentials established and my future carved out for me, I trotted off into the sunset with a bag of pencils, pens, ink and paper and a head full of nonsense, and up until now this is the path I have pretty much travelled, with the odd exception of writing my Sleepy Hamlet novel and my children's book Ryan's Dinosaur Dreams, although I did do illustrations for that one too.

Anyway, I digress (readers of this blog will note I do that a lot). So as far as I am concerned I always considered myself a cartoonist and if anyone referred to me as an artist I would gently correct them, saying that artists do the clever, sensible stuff where as I just goof off and draw silly pictures.

So imagine my surprise when I found myself home alone with a set of pencils and a picture of Jayne's horse Twyw (pronounced Towy). Suddenly, and seemingly without warning, I started sketching the horse. Jump forward two lost hours later and I have completed my first ever serious pencil sketch study of anything. 

This then led to me producing other work of a similar vein and a realisation that perhaps I'm not all about the funny stuff, perhaps---like my writing---I have abilities that have lain dormant all these years; and like a Krakatoa of creativity I have exploded, volcano like, all over the place; I've even brought myself a canvas board and am looking to produce some oil paintings. Something else I have never attempted.

But the main point of this blog post is to show you how I went about the pencil sketch of Twyw (Towy) and in so doing discovered a whole new avenue of art and enjoyment. I have since had a few commissions to produce pencil illustrations of peoples children and pets, mainly dogs.

The picture of Twyw, by the way, eventually became one of Jayne's birthday presents.

First you must select a good, clear photo. One that has plenty of contrasting shading especially if, like with this picture, your study is mainly black.

It's also imperative that you have good clear eyes. Not my eyes, the subjects eyes. My eyes are very good, if not a little tired, jaded and not so rose tinted as they once were. A portrait artist once told me 'if you get the eyes right, everything else will fall into place'

The next stage, which may sound obvious, is to select the correct tools for the job. I use Derwent Academy pencils and for this particular one I selected the H, HB and 6B. The eraser was a standard rubber and a piece of kitchen roll to prevent smudging when working above an already worked up area. The scalpel is for sharpening the pencils.

Okay so this stage seems a little bit of a leap from a photo and tool selection to fully shaded head. But to be honest with you I had no idea when I first started work on this piece that it would go anywhere other than in the bin of frustration. No one knew I was attempting it, so if it went wrong, no on e would be any the wiser. At least that was my thinking.

So the last thing on my mind was to document it's every stage, like I normally do when it comes to producing a tutorial.

But basically what I did was this: I lightly drew the outline of the horse's head and upper body with the 'H' pencil, making sure to very faintly carve out where the markings and light areas would go. That done I then selected the 'HB' pencil.

With the HB I began to shade the tonal feel of the horses head. Once that was completed I then built up more layers, darkening it with each successive pass.

Once it was as I wanted it, I went into the much darker shades with the 6B and continued to build up those layers.

Then it was onto the eyes.

Like I said above, getting the eyes right in any kind of portrait is key. I appreciate you also have to get the overall shape of the subject correct too or all you'd be left with is an odd shaped nothing with an eye, and that would be no better than a Picasso.

So working carefully, paying an immense amount of attention to the photo, I picked out the white areas and accentuated them by making the darks darker.

Once that was completed it was time to sit back and reflect; to see if there was anything I'd missed that needed amending before moving onto the horses neck and back.

Also, you may notice the pencil marks on the page. When I'm working in pencil I can't be stopping to sharpen them all the time. So I select a part of the paper OUTSIDE of the image area and run my pencils side on, twirling it as I do so. This brings the pencil tip to a point again.

By this point I realised that I might actually be producing something of note here, so I began to document it a little more. Not much, because let's face it, when all is said and done, it's just shading until you've built up the requisite amount of layers.

That said I once again began to work up those layers and delineate between the mane and Twyw's neck and back. I also worked into the mane with the 6B to catch the shadows beneath. That way when I went in with the HB later---and went over the top of the 6B shading---it would add to its depth, leaving me only with the task of darkening the 6B layers at the end to give it its final touch.

Then all that was left was to render the rest of Twyw as I had the head. Once this was done, and I was looking over it, I noticed that the neck area to the top was not dark enough and looked almost separate to the head. So I went back in and built up those layers even more.

All that was left to do then was to sign it, frame it up and wait to give it to Jayne. She was, let's say, very happy.

Fancy seeing how I go about creating a comic strip idea for syndication submission? Then come back Friday 1 April when I start the first of six weekly blog posts taking you right the way through the process from conception to the finished package.

I sincerely hope you enjoyed this post. If you did then please share it like a demented sharing person and keep on coming back for more of the same, and a whole lot besides.

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