Keeping Your Drawings Spontaneous

  • by Ania Marcos
I believe the best drawings, paintings, musical compositions, etc., are the pieces that people can "feel." Not physically of course, because Dorito fingerprints on our drawings could be unsettling but metaphorically speaking.
 
If someone can make a connection and feel our work. We have done a fantastic job! The “feeling” we leave on paper will come from the energy that we put into the piece at the time we’re working on it. 
 
Keeping our drawings spontaneous can keep those feelings locked in on the paper long after we’ve finished working on the piece. 
 
Take a look at how we can keep that spontaneous energy flowing through a whole drawing to help viewers feel what we mean to put down.
 

A Simple Pencil Guide
 

Keep your sketch light and loose. Doing this will keep you from committing to any one thing or look while leaving yourself room for change when you ink and paint. 
 
There’s no need to sketch in every detail at this point if you’re trying to achieve spontaneity. For example, you might know the house you’re drawing needs shutters. 
 
Quick rectangles indicating where the window and shutters will go will suffice. You can draw the shutter slats and any engravings in the wood and window panes later.
 
Maybe there’s a collar on the dog you’re working on. A couple of looping lines around the dog’s neck is a reminder of what you can spontaneously draw in with detail later. 
 
In the case of my drawing, I know the owl needs pupils, feathers, sharp claws, etc., but I’m keeping it loose. I’ll make those detailed decisions later in ink and then again with paint. 
 
Then, maybe I’d like this owl to look angry or surprised. I’m not sure yet. That is where the spontaneity comes in.

By giving ourselves light and simple pencil guide without too many details, we’re also giving ourselves the freedom to make spontaneous changes based on our feelings as we move through our drawing.

 

Making Spontaneous Decisions
 

Spontaneous decisions are by the first pencil line you put on paper. Even though these initial and minimal pencils lines serve as a simple guide, you still have to decide how wide, tall, small, circular, or square the object you’re drawing will be. 
 
The same principle will apply as you start to ink too. Again, allowing yourself to limit the details in those initial pencil lines will help the spontaneous look as you start on the inking process.
 
You have multiple opportunities when inking, the feeling you have for the subject at hand. I wouldn’t concern yourself about a window that’s inked crooked or a foot on a person being considerably smaller than the other one. It’s all part of the process. 
 
Picasso once said, ‘If the image you’re painting is supposed to look like a photo, then take a picture.’ I love that quote! What does it mean? Part of the meaning is that beauty is in the eye of the beholder. How beautiful because there are no mistakes in any of that! 
 
Your drawing is the exact way it’s supposed to be. Your image is your energy and interpretation of the subject you’re drawing with a timestamp of “right now” on it. What’s not to love about that?

Honing our drafting skills is a lot like learning to speak for the first time. 
Everyone hears your sweet coos, soft mumbles, and baby screams.

Just as those sounds turn into words that create more articulation, so do our drawings and paintings when we practice.

We’re always learning! So don’t be discouraged by something that doesn’t quite look right because it is “right." And I for one applaud your interpretation.

 

Drawing With Ink, Not Tracing
 

Inking tightly pencilled images as I did for years with Archie Comics can be a lot of fun. You end up with a slick and stylised look but unfortunately to me, it never has that spontaneity that I’m always looking for in the drawings I produce today. 
 
When you decide to use a minimal pencil to map out your drawing and then draw over it with ink, amazing and spontaneous things can happen.

We’re not tracing our lines but rather drawing on top of our already pencilled out guide. 

 
One thing I was thinking about when I inked this owl was the facial expression. In the initial sketch, the owl’s expression was undefined although leaning toward looking a little angry perhaps. I didn’t want an angry look so I decided with ink to lift that brow right above his eyes so he didn’t look angry.

Had I decided to tightly draw an angry owl face in pencil, it may have taken away my opportunity to think about how I wanted this owl to look. 

 
Also, I made sure to put the eyes closer together without having the owl’s beak between them like they were in the initial sketch as well.

I find that eyes closer together and even touching usually makes for a more interesting character. 

 
At least, that’s the way I interpret the looks I try to create. Another decision when inking is to decide where thick, weighty looking lines can go.
 
I love the weight on this tree branch because the owl needs something to stand on that’s sturdy. Did you notice the little uninked twig attached to the branch the owl is standing on?
 
I thought it might be nice to show a delicate little twig that could easily break off that sturdy branch. Just like we find on real trees!

Leaving some things uninked in various places can help create the illusion of delicacy or push something further into the background.

 

Details

Adding details is fun too. In this drawing, you’ll notice the knots and texture on the branch, the owl’s long sharp nails, dark spots on the feathers, and blacks in the ears and applied to areas that would be dark. 
 
When inking the body, I kept the lines thin, light, and loose just as I felt those feathers would be. 
 
After all, this is an owl and I’m trying to feel my way through that dense body and lighter than air feathers. 
 
Where exactly in your drawing all this happens is completely up to you. That’s the fun part! How are you feeling when you’re drawing it? Do you feel like making your character happy or have a look of uncertainty? 
 
Maybe the branch your bird is standing on is weak and about to break. Maybe that makes it humorous. A really loose sketch to guide you while you’re drawing with ink can keep you thinking the whole way through until you end up with a spontaneous looking drawing. 

Mark Brewer is an author and illustrator working in the United States. His humorous drawings have been reproduced digitally and print publications around the world and have raised thousands of dollars for numerous charities.

Tagged with: art tips inking Sketching
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