Sunday, February 04, 2007

The Simple Minded Sketcher

Note how the clipboard above has a number on it. That's how I keep track of them.

Writing this might actually lower the value of my little drawings. The reason is that it’s just too simple for words but I’ve still not spared you any.

Most of my drawings are done on 8.5X11 sheets of paper. I rarely use art paper. The paper I use now was chosen because it scans nicely. It’s Staple’s Heavyweight Printing Paper (acid free 97% white). I buy it by the ream.

I like drawing on loose sheets of paper. This way I can feel free to experiment and throw it away if it fails. I also like to file pictures by subject matter to return to later and you can’t do that with sketchbook drawings. When I travel I draw in a sketchbook and I photocopy those and file them by category.

Throughout the house I have clipboards loaded with paper and when I finish a drawing I move it to the back of the clipboard. Every so often I go through clipboards and pull out the sketches I like. I have a portable files with a few hundred unfinished drawings filed by subject matter. There’s a separate section for all of my Gnemo drawings that is also subdivided by Structures, Flora & Fauna, Landscapes, Scenes, People, Sculpture and so on.

More recently posted Gnemo drawings like the above are at: Gnemo's Sketchbook

(Here’s a fun hobby if you have a DVR, DVD player or digital freeze on your TV: Freeze facial expressions -- the kind that go by in a split second -- and draw them. I’ve got several pages of this stuff. It’s not something I usually refer back to but the memory of those drawings stay with me.)

I got into the habit of painting by day and drawing at night for concept jobs but I’m not doing them as much now. Almost all of my drawings these days are for my own entertainment but they’re also all plans for future paintings. Drawing for me is exploration. It’s simple relaxing way to try out a lot of ideas -- a test of merit.

There’s a bunch of stuff in my head clogging it up and this is my way of getting it out. I need to move around when I paint so I do that standing up but I like to sit when I draw. Here’s the thing you may find awful: I do a good portion of my drawing while I’m watching (listening to mostly) television. If I’m talking on the phone I’m usually drawing.

The above is a left over Christmas idea.

That’s my reasoning on my choice of paper and some of the psychology behind the process. Now pencils: I use five different pencils: a 4H, a 2B, a 6B, a .5 mm mechanical pencil with a 2B lead and a 2 mm lead holder with 6B lead. The last one I never sharpen. I just like the big blunt end. Typically I use all the wooden pencils on their flat edge to create broad areas and gradations. I like to roll the pencil around in my hand to make patterns and random textures. The .5 mm pencil is used to put in little sharp details. I’ll even create a bevel to it for a very sharp edge.

My hand doesn’t like to press down hard on things so for the most part I use the softer pencils. When I’m drawing from my imagination my beginning pencil lines are light and tentative but they’re all over the place. Sometime even I forget what they’re supposed to indicate. There’s a good chance you won’t even know what I have in mind doing in the first several minutes. I start the drawing with the big blunt ended mechanical pencil or the .5 mm pencil depending on how I feel.

If I’m drawing a person or creature I like to start with different parts each time or I’ll do a quick gesture sketch if I’m going for action. Part way into a drawing I’ll often realize I’ve lost my way and because of my do-everything-in-reverse brain, I’ll then do a few little thumbnails. Drawing tiny forces me to think about the whole. Then I start a new drawing based on the thumbnail.

You might say, why not do the thumbnail first? That makes sense to my conscious brain but not to my addled (literally brain-damaged as a youngster) artist’s brain. It’s not unusual for me to do a few separate drawings of things like facial expressions or I’ll do the opposite of what I do with the thumbnails and draw up large things like hand gestures so I can then draw them small for the finished piece. Another thing I like to do is loosely draw the same idea again without looking at the first drawing. The memory of the drawing is almost always an improvement.

I never stop myself from drawing anything silly that comes to mind. There's no governor on my thoughts as you can see from the picture below.

My habit with these drawings is to not erase much till I have a direction. Any one of the random lines might take me along a more interesting path. Towards the end of drawing I’ll go in and clean up lines and use my kneaded eraser for certain subtractive effects.

Too often I overdo architecture. I just want to see how complicated I can make it before I ruin it. Something that works well for me is to make a copy of the sketch and then continue working. I can always erase back to the previous version. Again see Gnemo's Sketchbook.

Almost all of my drawings are started with a blank piece of paper and sometimes a blank mind. I don’t draw or paint from nature as much as I draw the images in my head. There’s no clear purpose to it. More often than not I find one only when the drawing is done. A few, like the one below, clearly serve little real purpose.


Blogger tlc illustration said...

Very interesting process. I love the idea of keeping a file of your sketches - especially photocopying your sketchbook ones to add... I never know what to do with my sketchbooks after the fact...

4:59 AM  
Blogger marcobucci said...

wow these are quite the drawings! YOu've got a really fine sensibility with a pencil. I like the designs a lot! Lots o' work here

12:34 PM  
Blogger Marianne said...

Tom, you're so organized!! But it sounds really great. I love your drawings - they are, after all, the whimsical bones beneath your stunning paintings. And are just as wonderful.

You're one of the few true creatives that we know. Able to draw anthing out of the ether. :-D

Oh, and thanks for your kind comments on my own art.


5:19 PM  
Blogger Dominic Bugatto said...

Lovely batch'o drawings .

8:54 PM  
Blogger Scott Altmann said...

My brain and eyes are pleasantly exhausted from all your lasts posts here & on Gnemo's sketchbook. Totally impressed with how productive you are while remaining a consistent quality throughout. Did you always have such high output, or have you gotten faster over the years? Again -thank you so much for sharing your gifts and skills.

10:27 PM  
Blogger Tom Kidd said...

To answer Scott's question, I'm old, I've got nothing better to do. However there was a time that all I did from morning to late in the evening was one book cover after another. It's nice to have the time to do some personal work now. That keeps me sane or nearly so.

For the few people who read the comments I have a funny story. Back when I was young and starting out (early twenties) I took every job that came along. I was asked to do some pen & inks for Screw Magazine. My idea was Lilliputian sex -- basically giants and fairy-type folk trying to mate.

It seemed pretty funny at the time and a way to make a little extra money. After I finished them they asked for a bio but I didn't want that kind of attention so I never sent anything in.

Well, when the magazine came out they'd written a fake bio. They retitled my section calling it "The Height of Horniness" and it was subtitled "SCREW presents a prurient portfolio of mismatched f**kers by lecher-sketcher Tom Kidd." (The art director later told me that their readers don't read so they wouldn't know what Lilliput was).

I sent a copy to my dad pretending to be very proud of it. He had a good sense of humor and he found the whole thing pretty funny. I really miss my dad. Sorry to end that story on a sad note.

Thanks for all the comments. It's nice to know I don't blog in a vacuum. Oh, and if I ever sound a little bit grumpy, that's because I am but not the kind anyone should take seriously -- more like the famous dwarf of the fairly tales kind.

11:46 PM  
Blogger Mark Reep said...

Great drawings- And thanks for your comments on process. I like the bit about wanting to see how complicated you can make your architecture before you ruin it. Yup, I can relate :)

12:43 PM  

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