Monday, March 11, 2013

Happy 27th birthday to my son, who brought me this sea urchin shell—packed in his backpack—all the way home from his recent trip to New Zealand! He knows that I have a fascination with drawing examples of radial symmetry in nature (often based upon multiples of 5), which I've previously posted about here.

Before I sat down to draw this "test" (which, I learned, is the proper terminology for a sea urchin shell), I was curious whether or not it was as perfectly round as it appeared to my eye. So, I printed out a little template of a circle the same diameter as the shell. I laid the shell over it on my lightbox,! Mother Nature never ceases to amaze.

Since the shell is composed of a beautiful almost monochromatic blue-grey-green palette, I ended up using a toned Strathmore charcoal paper (the smooth side) and only graphite and 2 Prismacolor pencils: Jade Green, and White Verithin. (Sorry for the uneven lighting; I was too lazy to scan, so I just shot this at my desk with my iPhone.)

As I examined the shell closely, I was curious about the texture of the surface, and did a little research—they're fascinating creatures! The raised bumps are where the spines had been attached with an ingenious ball-and-socket mechanism, and all of the tiny holes are where the soft tube feet once extended. What an amazing little structure!

Monday, March 4, 2013

Bell Pepper Update

Perfection is overrated. After writing that last post, I went a couple of days without looking at my bell pepper drawing, but still kind of stewing about it. But then, your encouraging, constructive comments prodded me to get it back out, fix it as best I could, and move on. I decided to forgo the inside cross-section I had planned, spent a few minutes on those problem areas, and gave this guy his jaunty little stem hat.

Linda, thanks for suggesting the use of an exacto knife; it's great for removing the waxy layers! I could even feather the area I was working on with the tip of the blade. Live and learn.

Afterward, I cleaned up the paper around the image digitally, as I always do. I eventually go back and clean up the original, but I like my scans to have the same white background. I know it alters reality a bit (no drawing paper is pure white) but the images pop nicely on a white ground. There are probably a number of better ways to do this, but here's my routine: I go into Photoshop and select an eraser with a soft (feathered) round brush. I run it along the edge of the image, being very careful to erase just shy of the image itself. This takes some experimenting with brush sizes, etc; if  too big of a brush is used, or it's too close to the image, the feathering will lighten the edge of the pencil work. Once the area next to the image is clean, it's easy to use the lasso tool and clear out the rest of the background. (I'm not super meticulous when I draw; my paper is always full of pencil dust, smears, etc.)

Oh, and some of you asked about my swatch cards that I mentioned. When I made them, I had no idea how indispensable they'd be. I never do a colored pencil drawing without using them. Click here to read the post I wrote ages ago when I created them.

This little episode has reminded me why I love to draw things from nature—they're not perfect. No one notices if that bump on that squash isn't exactly right. Let's hear it for imperfection!