Today I’m going to take a look at one of my large marker drawings named “Obvious Gunner.” It’s 22×30 inches and is sitting on my easel at the moment. It’s from back in September of 2014 and I finished and signed it on the ninth. I’m not sure if I got it all done in one day. I could have but sometimes these big drawings took two days.

All of my large marker drawings start out as small drawings. It’s the same process that I always use. I find a small thumbnail drawing in my inkbook, blow it up to about 5×7 or 9×12 inches and then I redraw it. I don’t usually draw it much bigger than that for these large drawings because I’m just going for the bare bones. Changing the scale of a drawing can change a lot about that drawing so I keep it simple and then draw more once I’ve got it scaled up.

I use graphite paper to scale it up. First I scan in my small drawing and then I blow it up and print it out. I don’t have a 22×30 inch printer so print it in pieces on multiple pieces of paper. I tape the different sheets of paper together and then tape that in place on top of my large sheet of paper. After that I slip a piece of graphite paper in between the printout and the drawing paper.

Graphite paper is a thin sheet of paper with graphite (the “lead” in a lead pencil) applied to the back of it. Put it graphite side down on a clean piece of paper and then put your drawing on top of the graphite paper. Trace on top of your drawing and the pressure of the pencil transfers the graphite onto the clean paper leaving a line drawing. This is a messy process so try and keep things neat. Also the tracing won’t be perfect so you’ll have to redraw after this step but at least a lot of guide lines will be there.

After the pencil drawing has been transferred to the large paper is where the real drawing begins. Some of it in pencil and some of it in ink. Mostly ink. As you can see in the “Obvious Gunner” drawing there are lots of little details like the spiked edges of the black shape on his head and the stripes in his facial hair. None of these detail were in the small pencil stage. I add then in as I draw in ink.

I use my Copic or Shin Han markers to make these big drawings. I also use a lot of French curves, a ship’s curve, circle templates, and my Half hatching machine to keep the ink lines neat and precise. I use mostly the chisel tip and fine tip of the markers and not my usual brush point. I work on it standing up with the paper on the easel but when I make all those parallel lines with the Half machine I lay the drawing board down on the couch or floor. It has to be flat to use the hatching machine.

In looking at “Obvious Gunner” the first thing I notice is how much of the drawing has to do with graphic design. It’s about black and white and the patterns they make. A lot of my drawings have to do with graphic design but the ones in this large drawing series the most so. That’s the part I add to the drawing when it’s big. Most of the black shapes like the clouds and the various boxes are done right in ink at this stage.

Years ago I had a teacher remark that my paintings could be a little unsettling because it seemed they were looking at the viewer harder than the viewer was looking at the painting. I think that’s been a theme in my work that’s still with me all these years later. This drawing is looking out as us pretty intensely with two sets of eyes. The eyes on his face are dark with glints of white shining through but the eyes on his chest are large, bright, and looking at us even more intensely than the eyes on his face. They also both have some crazy graphic design eyebrows that disappear into the overall design.

One of the defining features of this drawing is its asymmetrical symmetry. It sure does look perfectly symmetrical at first glance but upon further review the left and right sides are not reflections of each other. This face has different markings on either side, the collar isn’t centered, one shoulder is sloped more than the other, and all the markings on the chest are similar but not the same. None of the circles on the left side of the chest match the ones on the right. I often find symmetry to be bad but balance to be good. I think I achieved a nice balance here.

The parallel lines are key to the look of this drawing. They give the illusion of grey among the blacks and whites and add a little bit of an Op Art element to the drawing. The Haff hatching machine I use to help make this lines is a ruler attached to an perpendicular metal rod. There is a little lever on the metal rod that I push down and the ruler moves down the metal arm anywhere from an adjustable one to five millimeters. I draw a line against the ruler, hit the lever, draw the next line, hit the lever again, and so on. It’s easy to use but the key is getting just the right distance between the lines.

The mountains in the background of this piece are made up of tight parallel lines. The white is about the same thickness as the black so it’s hard for the eye to tell which is the background and which is the foreground. This is the Op Art effect. Compare that to the short parallel lines near the top. With these lines the white is dominant so it clearly looks like black lines on a white background. Not as much Op Art here.

Graphic design, black and white, Op Art, staring eyes, and lots of lines and shapes. These are the hall marks of this and most of my other large marker drawings. I’m going to have to make some more.