Wednesday, February 2, 2011

More drawings, and some incoherent rambling on drawing for illustration.

In my last post I mentioned that I had gotten away from the red pencil drawings because I was worried the media might be influencing my assessment of the overall image. I want to expand on that thought today and explain my general philosophy for preliminary drawings.

In essence, I try and draw in as boring a style as I possibly can. Everything I was ever taught about attractive draftsmanship goes out the window. Thick and thin line weight, loose charismatic linework, cross hatching, etc... I am not having any of it. While all those things are very important to creating a good drawing, I don't think of my prelims as drawings. In my mind they are blueprints, a means to an end, and therefore function must come before form.

One of the hardest challenges an artist faces is imbuing a sense of life into their work, creating something that "breathes" instead of just 'shows". A somewhat common issue I have heard from several illustrators over the years is that the final painting lost some of the life that was in the sketch. There was some indefinable spark in the sketch that just didn't translate to the painting. When I looked at the sketches of these illustrators, they had many of the traditional characteristics of an attractive drawing that I mentioned above. It made me think that maybe that spark had come from their technique instead of something inherent in the content and that is why it didn't show up in the final.

Therefore, my thinking is that if I draw in a boring manner, and the image still has a breath of life in it, then I know that life is inherent in the content, not the technique, and will transfer into the final every single time.

Just to clarify a few things: by content I mean things such as composition, gesture of the figure, facial expression, storytelling, etc... Fundamental image-making concepts that are independent of style and media. I should also mention that I do start out with much looser and gestural technique, I just choose to erase and clean up as I go along.

Lastly I should mention that I arrived at this way of thinking on my own, it wasn't something I was taught. Therefore, there is a very real possibility I am dead wrong and I am giving everyone bad advice. I would love to hear other peoples thoughts on the subject.


  1. Have you seen Rembrandt's pen and ink sketches? He was considering draftsmanship techniques and making images that were full of life, all at once. Like his drawing, "two butchers at work;" he seemed to roughly jot down bold lines and hatching really quickly. And everyone knows his final paintings were the business :)

    I really like your compositions man, how did you go about learning how to design? I've been reading Creative Illustration by Andrew Loomis for help. Do you have any tips or resources? Thanks, and keep up the good work :)

  2. Well yeah... he is Rembrandt. If anyone can draw or paint like him they certainly better not be looking to me for advice =P. In all seriousness I wasn't trying to say you can't have both, or that you need to draw this way to truly know if your image is working or not. It is just something that has helped me, especially with putting out consistent work. Which is incredibly important in this industry.

    Composition is very lengthy topic... and you just gave me something to write about next week. Stay tuned and I will see what I can come up with to answer your question.

  3. Michael, whether you see it or not, your 'drawings' show beautiful draftsmanship. Nothing boring about it. It's lyrical and direct and yes, it is full of life and evokes deep emotion.

  4. Hi Michael, how are you?

    I have being follow your work since you show up on the net and I have to tell you that I love you work.
    I´m trying to build a strong portfolio for book cover as well, and I´m programing myself as you did to achieve my goal.

    But the question that I have for you is, when you make those drawings, do you draw straight on the heavy board paper, like Dan dos Santos, or do you make all the drawing section on a normal paper and only when you are happy with the final drawing you transfer that to the heavy board? And if you transfer, what technique do you use it? Project or old square transfer technique?

    Sorry to make so many question about that, but is something that I need to solve before start to do build my portfolio.

    I prefer to draw the outline in a soft paper and then transfer the drawing to the heavy board and apply all the shadows and details before start to paint.

    But to do that, I think I will need to buy a better projector, what should be expensive for me right now.

    Thank you so much for sharing your process with us. Is such a pleasure and inspirational to see how an artist work.



  5. Thanks Kim :) I definetly see the beauty in the drawings. They wouldn't have become paintings if I hadn't seen it. Just trying to make the argument that one should be aware of what is causing that beauty

    Rod- I use what everyone calls the "Donato technique" of painting on top of an enlarged photocopy of the sketch. He has a write-up about it on his website:
    it is also demonstrated in his DVD which I highly recommend.

  6. Thank you very much for sharing details about your technique in this blog. Learning from experienced artists like you is very interesting and helpful. Your artworks are amazing!

  7. Hi Michael, I wondered where you get your reference?.Since your work shows such good attention to detail and wonderful composition .