Sunday, April 8, 2018

"Sourdough Battery-Blanket"

This particular panel came about as a result of hanging with the usual gang of gang of sketchy characters (see links to previous posts fo mo info here and here). We invaded the Fountainhead Antique Auto Museum for a recent outing, and I basically surrendered to the cartooning instinct by giving up entirely any pretext of following the rules. So in other words I just had fun being myself doing my own thing - which is one of reasons why this group started, and is so fun to, uh, crash.

It was a tough challenge to go above + beyond the usual “visual trigger” of my “artistic shorthand” (ie a cartoon) and push the details past my comfort level. So photo reference was dutifully employed in this particular instance. And as we shall see, it also serves as a cautionary tale to never crutch overmuch on such tools.

I mean, it’s a little intimidating knowing that some of the folks who will be looking at the cartoon have actually built the parts you are drawing, and knowing full well that they’ll see exactly where you took artistic license (like for example where I just started making random engine parts up).

So yeah I know that it’s inviting no end of nitpicking to take on a somewhat realistic rendering of such subject matter, as the inevitable enthusiast will grump about some erroneous detail. Again, refer to the anatomy of humans + dogs for a hint as to the level of seriousness of the overall intent (hint: it's a joke).

As an aside, one reconciliation I have with the past is how much my drawing skills have demonstratively improved – this being pretty good evidence that my abilities have matured (even if my sense of humor remains stunted around the age of an adolescent). Case in point being the original concept doodle excavated on a historical dig through some old sketchbooks: contrasted with something done over a decade ago, there’s no comparison.

And then I went a little overboard by obsessing on the goddamned wheel spokes. I mean, I almost lost my freakin’ mind trying to decipher the pattern after penciling everything else in. Just “copying” (adapting) from the photo caused more mental bifurcations it reminded me of the torture I inflict on art students with more than a few agonizingly insane in-class exercises. So once again, a mental note that this is why we do it – good training that will get used over and over again throughout your career. For example, just like studying the tiny details inherent with each and every single leaf on a plant study: where exactly do the veins start and end, where does the stalk of each individual leaf intersect the main stem and does it alternate with the opposite one or is it symmetrical? So next year instead of the greenhouse we're going on a field trip to the vehicle fleet repair shop.

Then I decided to ink in just the wheel + hubs and leave the spokes out until I could actually understand the structural layout. So I used Photoshop to zoom in and meticulously mark off each individual spoke, including the both layers, then fade out everything else, so as to better facilitate a more informed and accurate sketch. Even then it was a complicated nightmare of mathematical analysis, but switching off and on the relative opacity of each layer at least helped get a working understanding. Ultimately it brought to mind the mantra “draw what you see – not what you think you see” as a default in studying subject matters that might exceed your knowledge of how it’s all put together. Somewhere along that continuum of observation, experience and imagination we find a spot to draw. Didn’t help matters that my underlying shape of the tire itself was wonky – proving again a fundamental tenet I teach of linear perspective that if your base is off, even by a fraction, than everything else built on top of it risks collapse (physician heal thyself).

And after all that, you know what I wound up doing in the end? Winging it – but by going off of what was essentially on the job training, the illusion was successfully pulled off – what better way to impart a hopelessly entangled web of interwoven spokes than to draw just that? But at some point you just have to say enough’s enough, this works, and time to move on.

Tech notes: I used some new ink, Dr. Ph. Martin’s Black Star “HiCarb” permanent black India ink... almost too thick, but dried just as fast as the Bombay Black, which I have been using for in-class demos + satellite studio sketching (ie bars & cafes). For a couple Über geek indulgences check out these two equally obsessive reviewers here and here. Also broke out a couple of the coveted Blackfeet Indian pencils, which are sooo yummy and rich and smooth but a pain to erase (and smears like mad, so a pain to use in the sketchbook but fine on taped-up pages at home).

Only made two tiny ink blobs, accidentally picked up and transferred from my hand while going back to catch an overlooked detail – that’s what happens when you break the habit of inking from top-to-bottom/left-to-right. And then the kitten decided to attempt to walk across the drawing table while it was reset at a sharply pitched angle (I flatten it out a bit more for inking, but jack it more perpendicular to me while penciling) and dragged a minor avalanche down with it while learning an important lesson as the new studio assistant. So some scratch marks gouged out from frantic claws + leftover smudged areas from stubborn areas that were erased + repenciled several times marred the original.

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