Ooooh, aaahhh, huhhh? Many people who watch an artist at work expect to immediately recognize what the illustrator is drawing.
This often happens to me when I go to town to sketch. I’m drawing to gather information, not to paint a beautiful Sunday picture. Many do not understand that.
For the inexperienced eye, my sketch might just look like messy strokes – in school you had to learn to paint neatly within the lines of an object. The sketch that looks like a bit of scribbling actually contains a wealth of information.
For me the rough sketch is the backbone of my illustrations and it serves many purposes. First of all, it’s about that tingling sensation that I’ve talked about before. It’s something that wants out, an idea that wants to take shape. Sometimes it prances around a bit until its form surfaces.
This is the exciting phase of creating – recording the essence and facets of an idea as quickly as possible before the idea vanishes as quickly as it appeared.
I could describe it as a bit like hunting and catching something – when I was a kid, there were hundreds of fireflies in our garden whose lights flashed in the darkness. We chased after these little lightning bugs; sometimes we, my siblings, my friends and I, were lucky enough to catch and observe these magical creatures before we let them go again. But sometimes we went home empty-handed.
Drawing is similar. You try to capture as many aspects of an idea as possible so it does not disappear like the fireflies in the night. So today I open my studio to let you get you get real close to the paper and show you how I create my first rough drafts.
The good thing about the rough sketch is very simple: it is early in the development phase of an illustration and thus easy to change direction if the idea isn’t working.
When I started thinking about drawing my Wimmel mit! illustration, I wanted to develop it in a standard poster format. As I thought more about it, I came to the conclusion that the illustration should rather have a book cover format.
When I started sketching the illustration, the picture went on strike. For example, I wanted to portray the bus-pulling at the city market, but I also wanted to have lots of interesting stories for children, for example the Knights’ Festival in the castle courtyard. I made several small sketches that were no bigger than a matchbox and realized that I really only wanted to draw the castle as a backdrop.
I believe many people underestimate the value of failure and are really afraid of failing.
In the first photo below you can see that the motif originally shows the castle drawn diagonally from the front … but the image did not want to be as my thoughts originally imagined it. I had wanted to draw the place on the moat where the horses were given water AND the bridge over the moat AND illustrate a painter painting the ‘fake’ trompe l’oeil windows. However, the picture did not want that.
I had to take a step back and look at the rough draft from a distance. It was then I realized that my wimmelpicture would hardly wimmel – or teem with people and objects, if I draw the castle only from the outside. I also realized that the title was a bit big.
If I had sketched my picture on a ‘good’ piece of paper, I would have been annoyed with myself, because I probably could not erase all traces of the pencil that I had already put down. That’s why I generally use a thick, brown, wrapping paper for the rough design, which allows me to take a ‘who cares?’ attitude.
You have to know, that as an artist it is important to me not to fear falling on my nose now and then. When I draw something that is being difficult, I can stop and view or create it from a different perspective.
I believe many people underestimate the value of failure and are really afraid of failing. (I like to point to Elon Musk. He fails again and again and he is successful, just because failure leads to learning and to success – it is like what water means to Life)
For Wimmel mit! a rough draft means the possibility of telling many little stories without commiting to them and carving them in stone. The stories are in my head, I have to let them out. When I look at my sketch, I hear the music that accompanies the dance around the maypole. I hear the clinking sounds of the wooden swords of the little children dressed up as knights. I see that the jester is a bit too far offsides in the picture, that he needs a drummer by his side. And then come other little gems, like the Rabenritter Festival – the ravens on the castle roof top celebrating their own Festival of Knights, or the bread baker, the bakery stand (the very small circles are bread) and the visitors sitting at a long table in front of it.
That’s a legitimate question: Why not draw very neatly the first time around? An advantage of the rough design is the speed. I can present many ideas that serve as notes. It does not matter if anyone else can decipher them. That’s something I teach my students when I teach them drawing and illustration. The rough draft is like the note you write in school to catch the idea on paper as quickly as possible while the teacher continues to talk.
To fully paint a A4 (letter sized) sheet of paper, you need about 6 hours using pencil or colored pencil. Even with the computer, it’s really hardly any faster if I want to simulate a hand drawn illustration, except if I use tricks, because my hand is guiding the stylus, not some miracle program.
This picture is approximately 4 x 4 A4 or letter sized sheets large. And a rough draft is just that: A draft. I can add an image like the drummer next to the jester or remove a figure, like a princess who just did not fit into the picture. I don’t waste time doing that. For this sketch I needed about 2 ½ hours. Is that long? Now compared to 24+ hours I would have needed for a ‘neatly’ drawn picture in this size, no.
Because I’ve decided to show the inside-outs of drawing and developing a wimmelpicture story, I’m offering my readers the chance to become part of “Wimmel mit! The Online Wimmelpicture Project”. You can be part of the big Wimmelpicture! Just click over to this form and fill it out. Don’t worry so much about the formality of it. Your personal data privacy is important to me (and I try to uphold the most stringent rulings about data privacy) I will not share your email address.
Once you sign up, you will receive a download link from me. You only have to send back the form, which explains some legal stuff and where you have room to tell me about yourself, and your photos (so I know what you look like) There are no costs for participating – I draw you for free! and you always have control over your own data. I only show what you want me to show. That’s it. It’s that simple. Be Part of Wimmel mit! The Online Wimmelpicture Project! See you next week!