“Greetings Earthling”

I’m going to have to start at the beginning. That is the conclusion I’ve come to. It’s not a surprising conclusion at the moment but it’s taken me a couple of weeks to get here. I just recently wrote a blog on trying to paint. I still haven’t gotten that first painting started. I’ve been putting it off for whatever reason. I’m not a procrastinator so this is strange territory for me.

So I’m starting form the beginning. Recently my beginning point for making Big Ink Drawings, Color Ink Drawings, and Dreams of Things Covers has been different than usual. I’ve been recycling and redrawing images that I’ve made over the years. Instead of my starting point being a blank piece of paper or a thumbnail image from my sketchbook it’s been looking through scans of old drawing to see if anything catches my eye. That’s what I’ve been doing to try and start this painting. It hasn’t worked.

I did find a drawing that I used for one of my ‘Red Mary” covers that I thought I wanted to make a painting out of. I even redrew it in a new 24×36 inch proportion to fit the painting. It’s a good drawing. I like it. But it didn’t get me motivated past the color sketch stage so far. I didn’t even like the color sketch very much. The whole thing needs more work but I had nothing else on deck.

I’ve been saying to myself “Let’s get this started” over the last few days. My thinking is that if I can get the painting under way than I can get it finished. That how it usually works for me. But I couldn’t get it under way. It always seems like too much of a task.

Finally this morning I decided to start at the beginning. I put aside that “Red Mary” drawing and asked myself what I wanted to paint. Turns out I want to paint a face. I often want to work with faces. The next question was, “Who’s face?”. I had no answer to that question.

Sometimes I like to do portraits but that really takes inspiration. I have to see a person or picture of a person and like their face enough to want to draw it. That happens sometimes. But with me that doesn’t happen often. Inspiration can’t be counted on to be regular.

More often than not the faces I draw come out of my head and they are far from reality. I like to use shapes and lines in a simple way to build faces. There is more graphic design than portraiture in most of my faces. Eyes become circles and dots, noses are a few squiggly lines, and mouths are triangles and curves. It all works as a face because our minds see faces in patterns.

That’s when I dug out my inkbook. That’s my regular sketchbook that I make small thumbnail ink drawings in. I like to use ink at this stage because it’s all about getting visual ideas down on paper. Using a pencil would make me want to use an eraser too. I’d want the pencil drawing to be perfect. Perfectionism can get in the way of creativity. Using ink at this point eliminates my tendency to try and make thumbnail drawings perfect.

In my inkbook I made nine small face drawings on a page. I drew a box in the top left corner, drew a face in it, drew two boxes to fill up the row, and drew two faces in them. I then repeated that for two more rows. Nine faces, 3×3, on a piece of paper in a 5.5×8.5 inch sketchbook. That’s how I usually fill up my inkbook pages but not always with faces.

It was the face in the middle that I liked. Number five. I remembered a face I had drawn twenty years ago that I liked and drew one similar to it. I think that twenty year old face is just a sketch on a small piece of paper that I never made into anything but it somehow came into my mind. It’s a simple drawing with only dots for eyes, a line for a nose, and two lines for a mouth.

The composition of the face is what makes this one for me. Usually a face composition should have the top of the head up near the top of the paper. That’s how mine mostly are. But this one has a lot of air above the head and an asterisk above the person’s head. It’s cartoon visual language for us interrupting the person and his or her (I’m not sure which yet) thoughts stop suddenly. I find that interesting and amusing.

The next thing I have to do is to make a real drawing out of my thumbnail drawing. That’s not always an easy task. Keeping the charm and spontaneity of a sketch takes thought and practice. I already scanned in the inkbook page and now I’ll print it out on a 6×9 inch piece of Bristol board (paper) and draw right on my printed out sketch. The blown up sketch becomes my underdrawing.

I still have to do that drawing. I haven’t even printed it out yet but I’m confident that the painting is more under way than it has been for a month. I still want to make that “Red Mary” painting that I have a drawing for but it’s going to take more thought. Maybe it’ll be painting #2 this summer.

One more thing about this painting. For my Big Ink Drawings I’ve been transferring the drawing to the paper using a large printout of the sketch (taped together 8.5×11 inch paper as the drawing was printed out in pieces) and graphite paper.

With a painting I can’t use the graphite paper. It doesn’t work that well on stretched canvas. So I’m going to have to grid up the drawing. That process takes longer and is harder. I think that’s kept me from working on the painting too. I haven’t wanted to grid up the complex “Red Mary” drawing. The face one is simpler and I’m looking forward to gridding it up. I think I’ll do that early this week.