Drawing Two Scenes at Once, First Sketch of Grandma

I’m in an unusual place with this sketching hobby right now. I can see improvement in the results to some degree, and it’s making me excited to draw more. But, I’m still not that imaginative in terms of subject matter, and I am sort of running out of ideas. A natural place my brainstorming goes is, “which people/family member combinations have I not drawn yet?” I’ve featured my immediately family (wife and kiddos) in many, and I’ve sketched my sister, mom, and granny…but I haven’t yet drawn my dad, or most of my wife’s family.  Very surprisingly, I also haven’t done one with just me and the two girls!

So, in the absence of a creative tidal wave of ideas, I decided to hit a couple of those combinations. Due to my current excitement about art, I also made the crazy choice to work on two at once. As it turns out, that probably wasn’t a great idea and I likely won’t try it again. The two scenes I selected for this lunacy were; a group centered on our oldest with her grandma, her aunt, and her mom, and then another with just me and our girls.

Now, here’s what happened as I did this. Things started fine as I did the outlines in graphite pencil, and even at the beginning with basic skin color layers. It was a bit refreshing to be able to switch to something new periodically. But, as I continued on, I think I started getting a bit fatigued, or feeling like somehow I bit off more than I could chew. Why didn’t I just take a breather? Well, apparently that’s not how my brain works; I wanted to see what they would both look like as finished products, so I couldn’t help but push forward. I’m going to share these in separate posts, but here’s the “first” one:

There are a number of issues with this sketch. First, my daughter and her grandma in the middle don’t look quite like themselves. That was my own fault in the planning; this was done on 9″ x 12″ paper, and I think it was just too small. I should have either worked on larger paper, or just focused on two people. All of the subjects in this sketched look more smudged than I’d like, and again I think that’s a product of size. Another issue is that you can pretty clearly see the byproducts of rushing in the objects on the table (they’re sloppy and unfinished), and the fact that I forgot to add color to our girl’s bow.

On the positive side of things, I do still think this drawing is better than some of my older ones. But it’s less satisfying than many of the more recent color sketches, so I will probably want to revisit something similar (but a larger/closer view) at some point. All-in-all, I am disappointed how this one turned out. But, I think for my learning process, it’s important to own them all and take a lesson or two to the next one. Those lessons? Don’t draw two things at once, and try not to work so small.

Here’s a progression .gif of this sketch:

Amdall Gallery Group w Grandma Progress

The next post, which should follow this one pretty quickly, is the other concurrent sketch. It features me and my two girls, and I think it turned out well. Stand by for part 2!


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  • A good place to start with innovation and coming up with new ways to frame things are backgrounds and lighting. Some of my favorite tricks that I like universally apply to drawings have come from making a weird mark or texture in a background. Who knows, it might give you some ideas, even starting with light shade backgrounds. You can do some cool light source or reverse shading stuff with a really dark background too.

    Anyway, I can definitely see the improvement. The draping on the clothes is very well done here. That’s something I really struggle with (clothes in general but also how they fall on the body). So keep it up! 🙂

    • Is that technique how some of your work starts? I’m always curious about your process – you come up with such imaginative things, it’s fascinating how it starts and progresses. I’ve got a lot of respect for people who can naturally create art just from their brains. As I’ve said often, that’s really hard for me to do. It’s probably good practice though, like lifting weights for the right side of your brain!

      • This might not really apply, but in digital drawings specifically I always mess around with the background until something pops into my head and I’m like “yeah…that would be cool” and then I roll with it.

        Other times I already have an idea (like a scene from my writing or some of the recent cover art I did for hard-copies of the books) and I start with the subject, then draw the background to complement it.

        I guess the main thing backgrounds really help you internalize is lighting. When I say lighting it’s kind of an extension of shading, but more referring to the overall balance of shading. The highlights draw the eye while the shadows convey depth. A darker background, for instance, can make the mid tones and highlights look really dramatic.

        As for projects in general, I tend to try to keep it fluid. Focusing too much on one aspect for me has thrown things off balance. I’m sure it’s not this way for everyone, but I generally need to do things like horizontally flip my drawings to make sure my proportions look the way I think they do (a helpful trick for assessing how something looks without bias).

        And yeah, I wouldn’t ever say it’s “easy” to make art or compositions. I feel like most of my progression has come from simply getting better at visualization rather than mechanical skills. It is like a muscle, the more you do it the better it gets. I wouldn’t ever say easier, though. I still struggle with a lot of things, but I’m glad I do because it keeps it interesting. The challenge is half the fun.

      • “Highlights draw the eye, while shadows convey depth.” Well said, that’s something to file away. I may use that one some day to make myself sound like I know what I’m doing!

        I’m actually going to make a Google Keep entry to collect some of these pieces of advice, because you’ve dropped several very useful ones just in this comment. It’s good to hear that so much of your progression came from visualization improvements rather than mechanical skills. I feel like more practice can still improve my visualizations, but my hands are stubborn.

        Also, that’s funny you say that about horizontally flipping sketches! That’s sort of what I do sometimes – I like to check them out in a mirror, see if the entire thing holds up in mirror image. I have no idea if it makes sense to do that, but it is a fresh perspective

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