I’ve always believed pencil sketching is a good skill for a photographer to possess. If you ever want to alter the look of a portrait, use the dodge and burn tools in Photoshop for example, understanding the basic muscle and bone structure of a face is essential. How else do you know where to enhance or reduce the shading without it looking painted on. It was with this in mind that I attended Hannah’s second taster session on drawing.After the first drawing session I found that the way I was looking at things had changed and this has had a knock on effect on my photography. To explain, on a recent trip to the Lake District I found myself looking at all the different light and tone levels in a fabulous mountain scene across a lake. Ordinarily I would shoot the scene and be reasonably satisfied with the result, most parts correctly exposed, shadow areas under exposed, bright skies over exposed. Now I found myself wanting to capture all the different light levels and tones in the scene – in one image, as I would if I was drawing the scene. Drawing had made me re look at my photography technique.

I will return to my Lake District images and my technical solution to this problem in another blog entry.

Drawing 1 2 3 a

The drawing class started with us getting our brains warmed up with simple 5 minute, 10 minute and 15 minute sketches of our class mates, concentrating on looking at all the different shade areas in my subjects face. Sketching just the light levels present across a face actually improved my drawing tremendously as the spacing of the features seemed to take care of itself. Although I ran out of time I was more than happy with the result.

Next we had to draw a full length figure and we each took it in turns to pose. We used colour pencils and pens to add a new dimension to the drawing and all three figures were to be placed side by side, (or overlapping). The best technique was to keep the pencil on the paper as much as possible and to keep re drawing over the lines until the proportions looked right. With each figure my technique seemed to improve. The last figure although not finished within the time was clearly looking correctly proportioned.

Figure study 1

Figure study 1

Next was an unusual technique. We were to draw a half red pepper but were not allowed to look at our drawings until done. Placing the drawing board upright and next to our faces meant we were trying to co-ordinate our eyes to our hand movements. Its really strange not being able to see what you are drawing, as adding shading and various detail meant you really had no idea whether you were drawing in the correct place. Success though appeared to be more an exercise in creating an abstract drawing, if the drawing looked like the subject it was down to pure chance. This added a whole new drawing thought process and the experimentation aspect meant you really had no idea what the finished drawing was going to look like. Choosing the moment to stop was the hardest part. Not enough and the drawing would look empty, too much and it would look a mess.

Red Pepper blind drawing 1

Red Pepper blind drawing 1

Red pepper blind drawing 2

Red pepper blind drawing 2

The similarity this technique bore to my solution to the Lake District photographs I mentioned earlier was uncanny, as in those photographs I used a technique called HDR, (high dynamic range). This uses a number of exposures of the same scene blended together after the event. Until the blending process is complete you actually have no idea what the finished photograph will look like.

Both experiences have made me think more about experimentation and my search has begun to find new ways to produce an image where the end result just cannot be predicted.

Our last exercise was to try and shade using two pencils taped together. I found this a little cumbersome and was not happy with the result as I had used too soft a pencil. The result is a very over drawn piece. I need to experiment more with this technique to appreciate its value.

Double pencil sketch

Double pencil sketch


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