Highline Deer

Deer Against Blue and Tan.
Graphite and colored pencil on tan paper, 7.5″ x 9.75″

This is one of a couple of deer I saw while taking a long walk at the Highline Lake State Park last week. I liked the pose as it stepped over a branch.

On the reference photo I made a grid and some diagonal lines to make it easier to see where different areas of the body are in relation to each other, but there was no grid on the paper. Transferring a drawing from a photo to paper using a grid on both can really help to get good accuracy, but the process is so slow that I don’t enjoy it. This was still slow because it was partly relying on that method, but I feel like if a drawing can’t be transferred by sight then it means more practice is needed, which is still something I need. Besides that, I tried using some sight-sizing, which is where you hold a pencil between you and the subject and use your thumb to measure the length of various things. That way you don’t accidentally draw a line disproportionately long and it’s faster than using a grid.

In the first try the proportions were off because I was going purely by sight and not measuring anything. Since the drawing was going to be started again anyways it was an opportunity to try different pencils and charcoal on that paper, so that’s why it looks a little messy.

The second try was drawn just with my favorite pencil, a .3mm Pentel graphgear 500 with either 2H or 4H lead. I have both and I’m not sure which is actually in it. The eraser was a thin Tombow mono. The drawing was going pretty well, but there wasn’t a finalized plan for what to do in the rest of the composition or what kind of background to use, so I decided to place everything in an oval with a simple background. After watching a video on how to draw ovals it went surprisingly well.

The background sky is just a Prismacolor light cerulean that’s heavily applied in two layers and smoothed out with a Derwent blender pencil.

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Draw a Bird Day – Savannah Sparrow

Draw a Bird Day - Savannah Sparrow
Graphite and white pastel on tan paper, 9″ x 12″

This little sparrow had his portrait taken by me last spring, and although I’ve probably drawn this exact same bird before in another pose I wanted to do another sparrow.

I was thinking about when Jesus was reassuring that God has taken a deep interest in each of us, saying “Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? Yet not one of them is forgotten by God. Indeed, the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.” (Luke 12:6-7 NIV)

I’m glad that Jesus chose a common sparrow for that illustration, and not something more majestic. Otherwise, there might be room for someone to think that they were too small for God to notice.

Woodland Deer and the Use of References

Two Deer Among Trees
Graphite and white charcoal on grey paper, 8.5″ x 5.5″

I saw these two deer from a distance and got a few photos to use as reference material, but the photos really weren’t great for just copying as they were. Between being on a moving train, to the sky being overcast with poor lighting, and using an old manual focus lens at a distance, I’m just happy that I got anything useable. So here’s an example of using a reference photo or two just as a reference that I can adjust while drawing, rather than something to slavishly copy.

Woodland Deer 1 ref 1

To start with, the original crooked photo was cropped and edited a bit for contrast and sharpness. Then, I decided the tree on the right should be much closer in, because otherwise it wouldn’t have even been in the framing of the drawing. The viewing angle in the drawing was also lowered from the original photo so more vaguely vegetated background would be visible, because at the original angle none of the background would have appeared on the page. The far left foreground tree was added to give a little weight to that side of the drawing, hoping to help the composition, and a second deer was added so the scene would be a little less empty. The composition really wasn’t thought out as well as it should have been though.

Woodland Deer 1 ref 2

This is a crop of another photo taken a moment later after the two deer started moving away, which was when I realized that there was a second deer. I’m not sure which of these two deer was in the first photo, so I may have just drawn the same one twice. That’s a useful approach because a few photos of the same animal in different poses can be drawn later even as an entire herd.

Back when I was in school I remember feeling like drawing just from imagination was what I should always try to do, because people would always ask if I had made something “out of your head” and would always act more impressed if that was the case. The result of always doing that was things didn’t really look right, or even recognizable, because I didn’t have a good understanding of how they actually did look. That’s gained from practice and thorough study, not from just making things up based on how you think they should look.

Since then I’ve kind of gone the other direction and often feel like I can’t draw anything if I’m not looking at something. Then I often just copy what’s there. I think the real point and usefulness of reference photos is to have something that you can conveniently look at later for ideas or to see the details of how something naturally looks, but then to build a composition from that, not to just copy the references in a way that’s only transferring the image from one medium into another.

Reservoir and Trees

Reservoir with Fast Moving Trees
Black and white charcoal and graphite on grey paper, 8.5″ x 5.5″

A reservoir with a large dam, not seen, in the Rocky Mountains a little distance west of Denver. Although the reference photo I used was actually a clear view of the reservoir, in recognition of the trees that kept photobombing me as my train moved I added some in.

Bee and Grasshopper

Grasshopper and Bee
Graphite and white charcoal on tan paper, 6.25″ x 6″

I took this photo while walking this morning, hoping to see a bumblebee and not at all expecting a grasshopper. There were a couple of other attempts at painting something with watercolor to post today, but they weren’t working out well. Maybe I should make more drawings like this for awhile, or something else?

Bee and Grasshopper 1 ref