HANDS ACROSS AMERICA

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For the month of November (2012) I did a daily morning drill, drawing at least one hand every day. I got the idea from my friend Ben Towle–what in the world is harder to draw than hands?? I usually draw something every morning anyway to warm up my brain, which takes a LONG time to warm up. Like, until about 8pm.

Anyway, I started out the first half of the month just drawing a hand a day, my own at first, although I quickly got tired of drawing my left hand holding stuff. I drew straight to ink, which was another drill for me, as I’m a fussy over-penciller generally. But I found that drawing in ink was increasing a bad habit of mine, which is basically eyeballing forms and proportions as I go, as in “okay this guy’s ear is like two noses away from his shoulder there”; which leads usually to blobby, malformed figures. So after the first half of the month I switched to building up forms with sketchy lines, and then “inking” the hand itself on top.

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The good thing about doing it this way is that my way of drawing–eyeballing things–is definitely a hard row to hoe for hands. Drawing hands is a lot like drawing noses: you’re trying to represent a shape that has less lines than you think. Same with a lot of foreshortened forms–check out the hand holding a telephone on the right side page–that thing looks nuts. Bad foreshortening–you want to put lines everywhere because in your mind there’s something there, and you think you just must point it out. But there really isn’t anything there that’s useful to your drawing. Best to draw the forms themselves, and leave everything out that doesn’t look like hand on your drawing, as opposed to in your head. No one can see in your head.

At any rate, that was a really fun exercise. This month I’m drawing people wearing clothes, but not all together like this. You can track those on my Instagram if you like.

A quick word about the pen I’m using. I’ve heard a lot about the Platinum Carbon pen, and Joe Lambert uses them, which is a pretty loud vote of confidence in my book. So I got one from Jet Pens, and I love and hate it. But more love–there are a lot of good things about it, but the one bad thing is that it weighs basically nothing. So you’re just kind of clutching it, as opposed to it resting confidently in your hand. That part literally sucks. Plus it’s shaped like a bank teller’s favorite drawing instrument. A friend on Twitter recommended a discontinued version in a standard shape, so I got one on Ebay and it’s just as light, weirdly. I need to figure out a weigh to add some weights in the tip of the pen–those rubber bands don’t really do it.

But the good parts of the Carbon pen save the day. Its line is not exactly what I’d prefer for finished drawing, but it’s a strong confident line, built on fountain pen principles so with a little pressure you can add some weight to your line without mushing the point, like say with a Micron. The ink is surprisingly black for a refillable pen, and most surprising of all it stands up to Copic markers without a hint of smear. I’m guessing it can handle watercolors too, although I haven’t tried them yet. And best of all, it’s perfect for sketching–it’s almost better in a way that it doesn’t give me exactly the line I want, because that makes me relax and not make the lines I want, which is a much better habit for sketching. I’m too fussy as it is.

And speaking of Joe Lambert and loud votes of confidence in my book, my sketchbook was handmade by Joe. It’s the third one in a row I’ve bought from him, and I foresee many more in the future. Trust me, I’m a sketchbook nerd, and his are by far the best I’ve used. Well made, paper that can take nibs, watercolor, pencil, whatever, and best of all they’re by Joe Lambert. I get mine plain, but he sells them with printed covers at conventions and those are gorgeous. I don’t know how often he lists them on his site, but heck just ask him.