Corban Wilkin: Illustrator


Making Sense of the World
July 29, 2018, 10:15
Filed under: drawing, drawing theory, illustrations, sketchbook | Tags: , , ,

devon-sketches-lo

Recently, I took a small sketchbook and a pencil to Devon.

In drawing landscapes and scenes from life I’ve been thinking in terms of ways of handling particular visual elements, i.e. how do you make sense of the world in front of you and actual have your drawing appear immediately to the eye as being the view you were looking at?

You’d think it would be simple. If you just draw what’s in front of you accurately then you’ll end up with a good facsimile of what you were looking at, surely. This is often true with highly skilled impressionistic painters, dabbing carefully chosen colours onto the canvas, and literally getting down what their eyes see until gradually it builds up into a coherent image. But for many types of drawing and painting simply getting down exactly what you see is not enough. More than that: it doesn’t work.

Say you’re drawing with nothing but a grey pencil on white paper. You sit down to draw a landscape. You see an area of bright white sand next to an area of dark rock in shadow. This doesn’t present any real problems. Leave the area of sand mostly white on your page, and make the rocks very dark. But then you look up, and above the sand is the sky. The sky is neither light nor dark: it’s bright. And it’s very distinct from both the sand and the rocks. You’ve already used a light area and a dark area, so do you put the sky down as a mid-tone? That doesn’t really work, it’s too bright. It should be white on the page. But the sand is white on the page, already. So you end up drawing a dark line of pencil to show the line where the sky and the sand meet, even though that line isn’t there in real life. You might even see someone’s electric blue windbreaker or hot pink parasol against the sand and the sky, and that will have a different quality again.

These are the things I’m trying to find ways to handle when sketching recently. A drawing is not the same thing as real life, and I’m trying to find methods to interpret things so that they communicate on the page. I’m trying to define shapes of certain qualities, colours and textures so that they are immediately distinct. It’s all too easy for a pencil sketch of a scene to devolve into a mess of lines, where everything has the same quality and nothing stands out from anything else, because I’ll have tried to draw everything in the same way, just marking down what I see. But by using defined areas of pattern and tone, and differentiating objects and areas by using varying qualities of line, and by treating identifiable objects as separate and clearly-defined against what’s behind them, I’ve been able to get a lot more clarity than I usually do out of some very simple pencil sketches.

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Drawing Consciously and Subconsciously
May 18, 2018, 21:03
Filed under: drawing, drawing theory, illustrations, sketchbook | Tags: , , , ,

life drawing april-may 2018

Can you learn new things unconsciously?

Skills like riding a bicycle aren’t really skills until you can perform them subconsciously. No-one can ride a bike well if they have to think consciously about the movement of each arm and each leg, and consciously keep balance and so on. You’re not really riding until you’re doing it without thinking about it.

I’ve been doing a lot of life drawing recently, and I’ve started to notice a distinct pattern in the quality of my drawing.

Here’s how it goes: sometimes I tell myself to buckle down and really concentrate on executing a careful, tightly-observed drawing, taking note of as much as possible, and relating as many areas to as many other areas as I can. What usually happens when I do this is that I do some interesting bits of drawing; some novel local observations, but I do not do a good drawing, which is to say, a good, whole drawing; the parts do not hang together into something harmonious.

Usually the drawings I produce when I focus very consciously in this way make me frustrated because they end up being ugly to look at and I can see how unsuccessful they are at capturing the person I’m drawing, so after a few of these perceived failures I tend to stop focusing and relax into drawing very quickly; more quickly than I can think; letting my hand take over from my brain; drawing subconsciously. Almost invariably when I do this, I end up producing quite nice, harmonious drawings and it gives me a lot of pleasure to do. Additionally, it takes little energy; indeed, I often end up invigorated after drawing this way; I feel full of energy, as though I could draw all night.

So what’s the problem? Just draw subconsciously, right? By delegating responsibility to my hand, my subconscious understanding of drawing takes over and makes things easy. But I started to think about this, and it occurred to me to ask: how did I gain that subconscious ability to draw? Because I didn’t always have it. Surely it must have been through the struggle of drawing consciously, and so paying attention to things very closely and actively and, through long, difficult work, committing the knowledge that I picked up consciously to my subconscious.

It makes me wonder: when I draw in this nice, very enjoyable, subconscious way, am I learning anything? Or do I only learn new things and improve my drawing by doing the difficult thing of being fully-aware and drawing consciously? And isn’t life-drawing, when you’re trying to learn rather than create your best, illustrative work, the time to do that?