I used to make a lot of simple, graphic drawings for screenprinting and scratchboard art (like animals, runners, cyclists, trees, whatever). When sketching for that, I would just use ink pens like a Sharpie or UniBall. This way I can quickly block in shapes and decide where to play the darks and lights off of each other to aid the design. I also like pens because I like to stylize elements and make things really graphic. So it’s not so much about rendering, although I’m changing my attitude about that now.
To work up a sketch I’ll take my ink pens and start drawing on tracing paper. Then I’ll layer another sheet on top and redraw it, changing things here and there. I’ll do this for as long as it takes to get the drawing exactly the way I want it. The problem with layering tracing paper over and over is that sometimes the “soul” of the drawing gets lost. The lines can start to look contrived and predictable and lose energy.
Now that I’m starting to work digitally, I’m finding that it’s easier to retain the freshness. I can do a rough, imperfect ink drawing, scan it in, and alter elements infinitely. Now I’m just erasing and redrawing things like with a pencil, but still have my bold pen marks. It’s the best of both worlds.
I’ve been able to carve out some time recently to work on my painting and drawing and I’m starting a new trend: outdoor painting every week. After messing about with painting here and there, I decided it was time to really study it more closely. I’ve been following James Gurney’s blog for a while and recently bought his book Color and Light. This book is amazing. For those who haven’t studied painting in depth before the book helps to demystify the process, explaining in detail numerous concepts such as color mixing, atmospheric effects, limited palettes, chroma and value, the list goes on and on.
I’ve chosen to work in casein because it’s water based yet fairly opaque, plus it’s cheaper than gouache or watercolor. It dries pretty quickly, so you can’t do a great deal of blending, but I love its opacity and the way it lays down. You can get some pretty cool marks with it.
At any rate, I built this plein air easel setup a few weeks ago out of some birch plywood and resistance hinges I got from Amazon:
I took it out to our local historical residence, Reynolda House last week. I set up right in front of the house underneath a large shade tree and got to work. It’s been a while since I’ve drawn in perspective, so it took me some time to make my pencil sketch. After I was satisfied, I put down an orange wash over the top and got to painting, trying to focus on values and mark making. I’m using a limited palette here so the colors are not super saturated, but I kind of like that.
Here is my work table. The colors I used were Cadmium Red Scarlet, Golden Ochre, Ultramarine Blue Deep, Raw Umber and White.
After a couple more hours, it was time for lunch so I called it a day on this one. When I got home I immediately wanted to do it over again because I see a lot of problems with it, but that will have to wait for another day. Stay tuned!
Hello! my name is Tom Parsons and I’m a designer and illustrator from North Carolina. I’ve been working for over ten years and my designs have embellished books, magazines, cycling jerseys, packaging, posters and more.
Transworld Skateboarding Magazine circa 1986 was my initial inspiration for becoming a designer. All the day-glo, screenprinted skateboard graphics plastered inside those pages were like eye candy to this skinny kid. Sadly, my efforts to emulate my skateboarding heroes came to naught, but I did learn how to draw along the way. And I’m still learning…
I also love mountain bikes. One of these days I hope to ride the Great Divide Mountain Bike Route. That is if I can pry myself out of my basement studio long enough…