Persistence: The Only Technique That Matters
I don’t usually show my ‘bad’ sketches. I often draw on loose sheets of paper, and tear up bad ones right on the spot. So there was no evidence.
These happen to be in a sketchbook, and this was such a classic incident, I figured I’d post it for you.
Here we have what I’d consider to be a pretty average drawing. Not very structurally sound. It’s stiff. And it doesn’t even show what’s going on.
I ran into this fellow doing a lampworking demonstration at the Corning Museum of Glass. He’s probably there 9-5, five days a week, doing his thing. But I only had 20 minutes before I had to be somewhere.
I’d found him just as he ignited his jet of flame and started to melt glass. I’m a sucker for a jet of flame. I’ll watch anything on fire.
So I dive right in aaaand – – – terrible sketch right?
Despite the interesting subject – it just didn’t turn out.
We had driven two hours out of the way to see the other demo I was heading to – so, I wasn’t interested in missing that. But this drawing was really bugging me. I had already taken five steps away when I thought ‘No. Actually – I can’t live with it”.
So – turned around, did another one.
But, wouldn’t you know it!
Still a pretty weak drawing.
I’ve become a lot more demanding about capturing a likeness in recent months. It’s never going to be perfect – but this isn’t even close.
Plus – I don’t mind a messy drawing – I’m fine with a sketchy feeling. But I want open, floating lines that have some elegance. This guy looks hunched over – his shoulder is a mess.
Even though the clock was ticking, there was nothing to be done but try again.
I had to slow down, ignore the possibility of losing a good seat for the show, take my time, and really look at the guy. Find what is distinctive about him.
His shoulder length hair rolls down the back of his skull, and flips up around his neck. It’s not just a bunch of lines – it’s a flowing shape with weight. Smoothly falling, only then dissolving to brush work.
He had a bit of a heavy jaw (a little chubby – after all, he’s a desk worker like me). His goatee was very specifically trimmed. Almost a Fu Manchu mustache – not just a generic scruff of hair. A beard always follows the jaw line. It’s not pasted on – it reveals the shape of the jaw. Solving that leads me to his somewhat fleshy lips, and prominent – yet pointy – nose.
Now I have an actual person, not a generic human.
As well, the strange device spitting flame – it’s like a little cannon on spindly legs jetting blue fire. That’s a unique prop that is important to get right. Add in the glass rods and sculpted vials he’s crafting – and now I have a real description of an artist doing lampwork. A useful document of the day, not just a scribbled person.
Hope that helps you feel good about any bad drawings that happen. Use them as an opportunity. Flip the page and keep going. Getting a bit better each time. Persistence is everything in this game.