EDM #40: Draw something with folds


I spent almost as much time picking a subject for this drawing as I did with a pen in my hand. I ran through all sorts of options: a stack of towels, a rumpled bed, a rain-soaked shirt hanging on a hook. In each case, I could immediately see the finished drawing in my head. Boring.

I discussed it with Jack, offering up some of my more offbeat ideas. How about Tim’s ear flipped back? He warned me: when you get too clever, you miss the point of the assignment. The point seemed to me to be about shading and texture which is something I usually obsess about anyway. Screw it, I’ll just do something fun and wrinkly. I browsed through some picture books and found my model in a book of Alexander Lieberman photos.

I often think that drawing people from photos, particularly well-known people, can leave you with something that should be pinned up in a star-struck high school girl’s room or on display by one of those sketch artists who draws tourists’ portraits on the street. It’s lifeless, flat and mawkishly off as a likeness.

My way to avoid that is to draw the photo upside down.

I generally do the main contours first with a heavier pen, then argue with myself about if I should just leave it that way. Invariably, my crosshatching monkey wins the battle and I add shadow and texture with a finer pen. Indeed, I spent most of the half hour thinking about Crumb who make me sweat with envy when I crosshatch.

The funnest part is flipping the drawing around when I am done. The whole time my inner critic is chattering about how off the drawing must be because I am drawing it upside down, but the longer I hold firm and just keep drawing the more thrilling and strong the results are. It’s invariably more accurate and objective than if I drew it right way up. Look closely and you can see a few places where I had to do course corrections, like in the middle of the ear, the neck, the left cheek, but overall it’s pretty nicely modelled and the lighting effect on the left is quite good. And Igor does have folds.

This drawing took about half an hour and is larger than normal, drawn in my 9 x 2 Fabriano — which is almost full so I can soon start on my new Stillman & Birn perfect bound books that just arrived in the mail last week.


  1. Ana Tirolese

    You did an excellent job of this. I really like how you managed to add personality to your drawing.

    It’s funny that you mentioned Crumb. He was the subject of our last Graphic Novel Group. It ended up being a passionate discussion due to how controversial some of his subject matter is. We all love his drawing style. He is amazing with pen and ink and his cross-hatching is masterful. We all enjoy his more tame work. However, I think we all concluded that some of his work is extremely offensive and he is one sick puppy!

  2. Wagonized

    Dang. You tamed that crosshatching monkey far better than I would have. This is a great exercise and I am off to try it. Keith Richards’s face perhaps…

  3. Gina

    Thanks for reminding me – drawing upside down is a wonderful way to concentrate on contours and shading without obsessing over the “end product”. I love your drawing – Stravinsky is definitely not a “pin-up”

  4. sus

    Wow! I wren out my Lp of firebid as a middle school kid, too, Danny! Great advice re drawing upside down!. I just discovered you wonderful bologna last night. -sus

    • dannygregory

      I ma famous worldwide for the quality of my bologna. Thanks for noticing!

  5. JaneLaFazio

    fabulous. and you are brave. so glad you’re taking us with you on the edm challenges.

  6. Lynn Cohen

    Next I expect to learn that you do your next drawing while standing on your head! LOL
    Actually, I was given this lesson once in a one day “So you think you can’t draw” class. It was fun to do upside down. Yours came out exceptionally well. I would never have noticed your “mistakes, or less than perfect places” had you not pointed them out, and then still I can’t really see them that way. Bang up job!

  7. Dorine van der Vloodt

    Clever! I just wonder how you manage to get one hour free every day for all the assignments….however your example does inspire me a lot to try and reach that as well….thanks!!!

    • dannygregory

      One hour? Most of my drawings take about ten or fifteen minutes. I usually spend more time uploading, writing, handling comments, etc.!

  8. zookyshirts

    Cool portrait — I like the bold style of this.

  9. Michael

    This is a wonderful drawing that really captures Stravinsky, as you can see in this video: http://bit.ly/QfaeKJ

  10. I like your humor in this “Draw something with folds” challenge. I bet if we look in the mirror the fold challenge would be right in front of us :) without any further need to look elsewhere ~

  11. broworkshop sketching

    As usual this is a great lesson from you!
    And from Crumb. :)

  12. Rosanne H. Kaufmann

    A question about Jack’s comment that you’ll “miss the point of the assignment”–besides drawing something with folds, is there another point in the assignment?

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