I was browsing online and this book popped up: The Realism Challenge by Mark Crilley.
I looked at it and the preview pages and it seemed interesting because he often uses coloured pencil, graphite, and watercolour together, which I also like to do. He surprisingly uses gouache to brighten white highlights, even in graphite drawings, so they really pop. Having done a couple of sketches where I was drawing a white object on white paper, I thought this might be useful.
He has some short YouTube videos of his process, so I watched them. Due to my interest in collecting playing cards, I found this one fascinating.
Mark also draws Manga and has a couple of how-to books for that, and what I liked about his general approach is that he gets realistic folds and shadows and colouring, but they are not so photorealistic that you can’t see it’s a drawing or painting.
I like things to look realistic but not to the point where you can’t tell if it’s a photograph. I find that sort of realism pointless. It’s the small deviations and imperfections of the hand of the artist that make art interesting. Plus, different materials give a different look, from rough to soft, from pale to vibrant, you can draw something several ways and it’s gratifying. Mark is practiced at sketching from life, which is what really makes his studies sing, and I can always use practice for drawing.
I have spent the last five months doing weekly sketches on my Manner and Material blog with a couple of friends. We have been having such a good time, but last week I really noticed how much better my eye was at drawing accurate initial sketches. This week I sat down and did the sketch in about 20 minutes, and it was accurate. They don’t all turn out like that but I’m forging on slowly to get back the skills I used to have. We all know that practice is necessary, all the art books in the world won’t help unless you sit down and practice, and practice using different materials.
It’s like a mountain when you’re out of practice, you climb and climb and feel so lame because you can’t get anything to look right. I’ve heard other artists speaking about this too, so you need to persevere through the duds and build those skills. What we usually find the most frustrating is the remembrance of how we used to draw when we WERE in practice. It’s like being a marathon runner and then not running for years and finding when you try to run that you can only walk short distances. It takes time to recondition yourself and it’s emotionally painful and requires mental discipline. There is no way around it.
It turns slowly, but it does get better. Mark Crilley’s book has many tutorials that you can draw along with and yet retain your own style. I’m looking forward to that.