A couple of months ago I was contacted by Lisa M to contribute to a new biannual digital magazine; “Into the nebula”. This is an entirely female and entirely worldwide magazine featuring work from all sorts of creative people.
The basic brief from Lisa was to create something exploring one, or more, of the six senses…
I had no idea what to do! Panic and despair quickly set in. My husband is always particularly helpful in such situations (sincerity? sarcasm? you be the judge).
S: What are you trying to do?
Me: It’s a drawing about the six senses… or one of the six senses.
S: Ok so… eyes, hearing, talking,…?
Me: No, I think it’s taste. Touch… umm.. physic.. something or other.
Me: Yeah that’s what I was thinking to do. A hand touching something.
S: Skin?….. A boob!
Me: Yes a Boob! A hand on a boob. Two hands on a boob!!
S: Two women… a man and a woman! Oi …get your kit off! Lets do it!
Cut to noon on a Monday I am lying naked from the waist up on the lounge room floor, one hand on my boob. My husband is awkwardly trying to take photos with this phone with one hand whilst tastefully placing the other on my boob, all the while trying to avoid too much nipple exposure. Observing this scene from the couch above us with absolute disdain like some furry faced and clearly displeased porn director was our dog, Dusty, (The Big D seems like a suitable porn name). A little to the right, hand down, more energy, make it work (oh ..hang on that’s Tim Gunn – Project Runway isn’t it?…eww weird) grumbled the Big D. You people disgust and bore me in equal measure.
The resulting photos were better than expected. After
carefully VERY CAREFULLY sending the photos from my husband’s phone to my desktop computer, ensuring they were emailed to Alison not A___ our financial advisor who just happens to be the first name in our email directories (awkward), I then made triple sure my husband deleted every last photo from his phone. No you cannot “save” any for a “rainy” day whatever that means.
I got to work on Photoshop – cropping. I didn’t want to include my face in this image; a) because I wasn’t keen on a naked self-portrait and b) ugh ..can not produce a flattering facial expression whilst flat on my back that doesn’t result in six chins. So the photo was ‘tweaked’. Okay, a lot more than tweaked. Those are definitely not my lips. Sensuality requires full, luscious, pouty, lips which, sadly, I do not posses.
Tick, tick, tick…
People often ask me how long it takes to complete a drawing. I honestly have no idea in terms of hours. I generally feel like I work on a piece anywhere from one to three weeks. But how many hours I actually spend with pen to paper I don’t know. So I thought I would use this piece as an opportunity to figure it out.
DAY 1 – FRIDAY
My plan was to set a timer for 30 minutes and then scan the piece at the end of each session. In terms of scale, the hand is slightly bigger than life-size. The index finger is about 10cm long. I just used 3 grades of pencil: 2B for darkest, HB and then 3H for lights and the highlights left as clean paper.
00:30hrs We are off and racing. So far so good
01:00 I have fat ugly fingers!
01:30 S: “Are those my fingers – ugly aren’t they?” No… they are my fingers.
02:00 I’m getting a bit bored of this hand. It takes 30 minutes to draw a finger. I have 4 fingers left to draw… ahhg!
02:30 S: “Hows fat fingers getting on?”
03:00 Woo hoo we have a hand
DAY 2 – SATURDAY
I am really happy with my progress so I thought I would try to extend myself a little today and sit for 45 minutes at a time.
03:45hrs I wanted my darkest shadow to be matt black so I used a 6B and 4B Lumograph for the darkest shadows around the fingers and elbow crease.
04:30 That’s all I did in 45 minutes. FARK!
05:15 I decided to go a grade or two darker on the bottom (male) hand and use a HB, 2B and 4B for darkest (but not “black” areas) to create a clearer contrast / distinction between the two hands.
DAY 3 – SUNDAY
06:00hrs They say a person’s history is written in the lines on their face but I see a whole life lived in these hands. I know my husband thinks his hands are gnarly (and not like gnarly-surfy-good-gnarly), arthritic, often painful, hard-working hands. But to me they are the most beautiful things; the hands of the man I love – nothing more nothing less.
06:15 Hands are finished. I am really happy with how this is looking. Going to move to the face.
06:45 I’m leaving the lips for now because my original plan had been to complete them with watercolour to add a pop of colour.
07:15 Uh Oh I like it but I’m not sure where I want to go now! I am feeling a bit lost!
DAY 4 – MONDAY
07:45hrs Are you as bored of this as I am? …. bored, bored, bored. I really avoid drawing large areas of skin as there is nothing quite as mind numbing as covering large tracts of space where nothing is happening! I suppose its “meditative”.
08:15 Same. Same. Same. It’s also getting to crunch time where I have to decide what to do for the lips and nip. Self doubt is starting to creep in. Is this a bit dull for a magazine? Am going to mess it up when I add colour?
WEEKS GO BY….
I put this aside for a week or two as I was really stumped as to what to do with the lips and nipple. It is kind of helpful to take a step back for a while and it helped me realise I need to make more of a connection between the face and the hands. It also gave me a backup plan; if I stuff up the lips, I can always just crop it to be two hands and a boob (that’s quite a catchy title: “Two hands and a boob”)
I wasn’t quite sure how to draw a nipple as my reference photo was not particularly clear. I don’t know if it’s just me, but an internet search of “nipple” brings up some varied, if not a little disturbing, images (nipple rings, nipples with hair, no nipples, inverted nipples, Rhianna’s nipples, nipples being help by chopsticks!). I’m not sure if time spent looking at boobs online can legitimately be attributed to the total time drawing. As such I have not included an hour of boob watching in my time clock.
09:00hrs I used colour pencil to finish the nipple. I just wanted to give an “impression” of a nipple rather than making anything too obvious.
09:30 Again pencil for the lips.
The finish line is in sight
Photoshop is a splendid thing! When this was “finished” I wasn’t sure if I was entirely happy with the composition. I felt like it was difficult on the eyes to take in but then in a way I liked that as well. It’s kind of like the hands are the focus but then the bright red lips distract you. What really bothered me though was the way the hands seemed to float. They really needed to be connected to the page in the same way as the face. Just 10 more minutes….
From here I probably spent an hour (maybe two) in Photoshop; straightening, adjusting tone, colour cropping and cleaning up the background. So in short, it takes me about 11 hours (pen to paper) to complete something like this.
A bit of an unexpected outcome of working to a timer… I actually love it! I thought I would hate having to stick to one thing for 30 minutes solid without surfing the net or changing the music or a couple of rounds of Plants v Zombies (the ultimate procrastination tool). But I absolutely loved the focus it gave me. I probably worked at a slower pace but with more detail and attention. I actually think I will continue to use a timer on future projects
Don’t forget to keep an eye out for “Into the Nebula” !
Arches Drawing Paper 185gsm smooth A3
Tombow mono drawing pencils
Staedtler Mars Lumograph black 6B and 4B
Prismacolor premier color pencils
See what I have to work with….