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.