Why is it that sometimes the things you think are going to turn out brilliant turn out shit and the things that you think are going to be shit turn out f’ing awesome (or at least better than shit)? I’ve had so many drawings lately that I thought were going to turn out brilliant. You know when you come up with an idea and you think I am a god damn genius (Gump), no one has EVER thought of this before, this illustration is going to be THE MOST awesome thing anyone has seen (well I’m never THAT confident but you get my drift). And then you put pencil to paper and for some reason it just doesn’t work!
The flip side to all of this is those images that start out as a bit of a pile of shit and end up epic!. Okay EPIC may be an exaggeration but a hell of a lot better than I thought it was going to be.
I have this
job, collaboration, ‘thing’ going on which involves drawing a lot of Spring Racing fashion. I like drawing fashion but I have to admit I am a bit out of practice, having focused largely on portraits of late. I did the first drawing late last year of Crystal Kimber, winner on the 2017 Myer Fashions on the Field National Competition. The National Competition brings together all the state finalists at Flemington race course on Kennedy Oaks Day and is Australia’s largest and most prestigious outdoor fashion event.
I have since attempted to illustrate three other winners and each one has been varying degrees of… blahg.
After three consecutive so-so drawings I was neither inspired nor looking forward to tackling another. I don’t know why (call me a glutton for punishment) but I chose to do the one I was dreading the most! It was an outfit from 2007 so like back when tweed and satin were fashionable fabrics (ugh), wide, waist-cinching belts were trendy and greys and browns were the colour of choice, apparently. I am in no way criticising the sartorial choices of the winner (Lorraine Cookson). She was bang on trend in 2007 but after all the colour of the last couple of years this felt a bit drab.
Aside from the somewhat uninspiring outfit, the really challenging part wa sourcing useful reference photos. For these racing illustrations I am trying to accurately draw the clothing and the model. To do so I pull a bunch of photos from the internet and then just use bits and pieces to create my own image.
So back to
1977 sorry 2007 and the lovely Lorraine. I guess because its like all of TEN YEARS ago all the reference images I managed to source were dodgy, a bit grainy, low quality and at the weirdest angles.
I didn’t feel confident creating my own image as there wasn’t enough detail in any of the photos. In all honestly I didn’t have a clear picture in my head of what the outfit actually looked like. I could tell it was a wrap skirt and a grey tweed jacket with a wide belt. The hat was a fedora with some kind of flower and as far as the shoes, apart from being f’ing high (kudos to this woman for being able to walk on grass in those mothers) open toe, close toe, sling back I have no idea!
I ended up choosing this photo by Gaye Gerrad (Getty images) to be my sole reference photo.
So with much trepidation and absolutely no confident I sat down one rainy Sunday afternoon to start. Since everything was kinda vague, vague details, vague edges, vague idea of what I was doing I thought; I know I will just start by blocking in rough, vague, shapes and vainly hope that the fog will lift and I will get some clarity about what I am looking at. By the end of the day I had this.
and I was pretty well… chuffed!
It was by no means what I set out to do. Normally I aim for very sharp, crisp, edges, clean lines and lots of detail, using a range of pencils from 4H through to 6B. This was completed solely with an HB. Generally I use a crosshatch stroke and/or a small circular motion. For this particular drawing, I tried to maintain a 45 degree angle (although clearly my focus is not terribly good and you can see in the hat I was going 45 degrees the other way doh!)
In my second sitting I wanted to bring out the darker areas and smooth out the graduations of tone. I really have no idea what I am doing here. Part of me wanted to do the second layer at right angles (i.e. cross hatch) to get rid of the definite lines. I was also tempted to focus on finishing an area completely before I moved on to the next as this is the way I normally work. Remember the episode of Seinfield where George decides to do everything the opposite of what he normally does in the belief that it will bring him success since every decision he has ever made has been wrong.
“if every instinct you have is wrong, then the opposite would have to be right”.
That’s kinda how I felt. Resist the temptation to do what I would normally do and it will work out!
This second layer was completed primarily with a 2B focused on darkening the shadow areas and a HB to even out the transitions. I stayed away from the skirt for the time being as I wanted to keep this light. Since I was focused on working in layers it was really important keep the pencil application light. I wanted to avoid getting to a point where the paper couldn’t take any more graphite before I had achieved the level of darkness that I wanted.
For my third sitting I focused on the lighter areas, being the skirt and the skin, using a 4H pencil. Also at this time I added in the darkest of the darks where necessary with a 4B (the shadow her skirt casts on her legs, the back leg and the right side of her jacket.). I continued to work on smoothing out the gradiations.
I ended up with something really different to what I would normally do and I quite like it. Truth be told it is one of those pictures that looks better in the flesh from a distance! I know that sounds like a euphemism for saying its really shit. Stand on one leg, close your left eye and then look at it and trust me then you’ll see how good it looks!😉
Photo reference 1/2