Wednesday, 10 November 2010

One that went wrong

Both my blog and my web site are aimed at beginners. Not because I think I can teach anyone anything when it comes to art, but because most beginners need a lot of encouragement. Beginners get things wrong and that can be soul destroying. I suspect many beginners have given up before they've even started, just because that first effort turned out poorly and they decided they weren't capable. I like to show beginners that it's ok for things to go haywire and that no picture is a bad picture, as long as we learn from it.

In that vein, here's one that went badly wrong. It is a graphite drawing of a white German Shepherd and so I decided a grey background was necessary to help the subject stand out on the paper. I decided to use Bristol Board for the first time. I'm not the bad workman blaming his tools and I make no excuse for the quality of the drawing, but for some reason I did have a lot of trouble shading the background and I just couldn't achieve the smooth, even tone that I was trying for. All of my horizontal pencil lines were clearly visible, so I decided to go over again with vertical strokes. These were also visible so I went over again with diagonals. The more I did, the worse it became, and in the end looked like the scribbled mess that 4-year olds produce (with apologies to 4-year old's).

Having decided the picture was ruined I consoled myself with a 15-year old malt. I pondered on my drawing and decided that rather than discard it I would think about how it might be salvaged in some way. Rubbing out the background didn't work as I couldn't get a clean enough canvas, so I decided to add 'scribble' on top of 'scribble' to create the impression of field and trees.

The end result is still awful, but it is better than it was. It's not good enough to give to the dog's owner so I shall start over and try and get it right next time. I learned as much about drawing, pencils and Bristol Board during the rescue process as I did before it all went pear-shaped. So my message to beginners is don't be afraid to attempt a 'rescue' when things go wrong; even if it can't be salvaged, find a way of finishing it off that adds to your drawing/painting experience; and don't be ashamed to show your effort to others, nor afraid of the feedback that may come as a result.

Now it's back to the drawing board to start over ... although I may attempt a head & shoulders portrait this time.


  1. I think you are a bit hard on yourself John, The dog is a beautiful piece of work and the background doesn't worry me. What the viewer is looking at here is the dog. The lines in the background maybe don't show up so much here, but I wouldn't worry about it. To quote one of my favourite artists (Alwyn Crawshaw), I would say "it's all part of it".

  2. I agree with Frank! You are thinking that this is far worse than it is - Something we all seem to do at times! There is not one drawing that can ever be called a 'failure' because if it hasn't turned out as planned, the worst that has happened is that another lesson has been learned. There is not one of us that picked up a pencil for the first time and could 'instantly draw'! It takes hard work, many bad drawings and lots of practice before we can become better artists. Even then, not 'every drawing' is a success! Keep at it John - you have something, so nurture it! We are all learning and as long as it's fun that's what matters most. I like the dog :0D