Bitter Grounds Magazine

espresso fueled ramblings

Written by catpaw

January 02, 2016

Remember those drawings of feathers?

Over the holidays I pulled my sketching material out for the first time in a long stretch. Suddenly had the urge to draw. Problem was, I had plateaued. I’m pretty much self taught – I drew what I saw and struggled with some basics. I tried the usual “Learn to draw” books, but found them well … boring beyond belief and stodgy.  Part of the problem with being largely self taught is you get set in your ways – whether they work or not. 

 Actually, I did take lessons, back in the dark ages.  Last art lesson I had was in high school back in the late ’70s.  As much as I liked the class, we weren’t really taught a lot of basics of depth and shading.  Looking back on it, I think in a way it was a place to plonk kids for an hour. It was pretty unstructured.  The funny thing is, I really, really wanted to draw a sphere. Pretty basic, and odd if you don’t draw. But it’s the ultimate in shading control in my opinion. If you can master it, you can move onto other shapes and understand how to shadow with much more finesse.  My first efforts were … well .. embarassing. I just couldn’t get it.  So what does anyone in the new century do? I slid over to Youtube and searched “pencil drawing tutorials” and “how to draw a sphere”. What do you know! There is a huge resource of material over there. And I mean top quality tutorials.  Within a day I was actually drawing reasonable spheres. 

Sphere 1 pencil SketchNo idea why the website insists on loading this image sideways – Odd glitch I’m too lazy to fix.  But the point is, I finally succeeded. I have a page full of them now. I keep going back and fine tunning the process.

From there I moved on and started looking at all my old drawings, trying to figure out how to improve them.  Then I went back onto Youtube and found more tutorials – one of the best suggestions was to use a paint brush to help with the subtle shadings.

I was suprised at how a paint brush can help create more depth with very little effort. And yes, I began to draw fruit. What else are you going to do with a sphere? The peach on the right was my first attempt. It was actually an accident.  Didn’t start as a peach, just kind of morphed into one.  Think of it as a doodle on steroids.  Sphere pencilsketch fruit

From there I decided it was time to tackle something that required even more shading control – feathers. I was always happy with my feather sketches, until I tried to get the shading to make them look a bit softer.  I ended up with some embarassing blobs.  Still missing something. I must have started a dozen feathers. First attempts were meh .. nothing interesting and very pedestrian. Actually, amateurish.  

I set the drawings aside and went back to Youtube. I started from scratch with some new techniques. The most impressive, and simple one, was a lighter hand with the paint brush. Gentle strokes with different types of brushes. The second trick  was groundbreaking for me.  I’m a bit annoyed we were never taught in high school.  I went back to YouTube and checked more videos and was struck by how much artists use their kneadable eraser to create highlights and depth. I watched about 20 videos and was struc by how such a simpe technique can create the illusion of depth.  I pulled out some clean sheets of paper and tried my hand…

Feather peacock Pencil sketch

Not too shaby! I worked at using the eraser quite a bit and finally got this one:  Pencil Sketch featherAgain, the software has glitched so turn your head on the side … one day I’ll stop being lazy and fix the glitch. So happy times,  I finally cracked the mystery of highlights and shading.  Check out the following artists on YouTube My Drawing Tutorials and Fine Art Tips


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