I recently heard, or read, an amusing little anecdote about Picasso. I've forgotten where.
Picasso was asked - no doubt by somebody equally famous - for a drawing. He took a table napkin, drew on it for a couple of minutes, handed the napkin over and asked for a hundred dollars. Or francs maybe.
"A hundred dollars for that? But it only took you two minutes to draw!" was the aghast response.
"Plus fifty years of learning how to do it."
Today's teach myself how to draw exercise was to render the pencil sketch of the leaf in ink. It didn't work out very well as you'll see from the scan of the result: 13 pen strokes on a carefully drawn grid before I decided that I'd botched the job and gave up.
The exercise wasn't an attempt to outdo Picasso: my aim was to attack a problem that's stuffed up other drawings I've produced: the problem of hand tremor. You can see the effect of hand tremor in the image below, a detail of a panel from a new comic strip I've started working on. And stopped again, for this week at least.
GIMP's Gaussian blur feature) the lines of the Parliament House flag-pole are noticeably wobbly. That's because they were traced slowly, giving the Trotsky nervous system too much time to fret about the fact that I was working with real, indelible ink on an expensive piece of quality tracing paper (well, more expensive than the crap, picked it up cheap at the newsagent, paper I usually use for drawings that are going to end up digitised).
Three simple mistakes killed today's drawing.
First up, I left the diagonal in the 6x6 grid of rectangles I drew as a guide for the copying. The diagonal was only there as a guide in the grid construction. But, because I neglected to erase it, as soon as I started drawing strokes that crossed it, it became attractive as an additional guide. The inevitable result - confusion, and misplaced strokes.
Second, I bottled out. Instead of pushing through that "OMG I'm actually going to use 110 gsm cartridge this time" barrier, I went the cheap crappy paper option.
I've forgotten the third. Whatever it was, it seems to have been fixed by taping the pencil drawing on a clean kitchen chopping board, and then over that a sheet of that tracing paper, so that I can work on a firm surface that I can tilt to any angle. That's a gunna do solution until I've got budget for a drawing board.
And with those mistakes identified and out of the way, what did I get right?
Well, first up, taking it slowly, visualising each stroke - even practising it in the air above the paper - before actually touching pen to paper worked well. That technique is a keeper.
Bizarre as it sounds, consciously putting white space between strokes works better - at this stage at least - than trying to connect them. The aim was to get used to drawing ink strokes quickly and cleanly - worrying about whether they connect just gets in the way.
Third, I stopped when as soon as it became obvious that it wasn't working. I'll tackle the job again later, under better conditions. There's a whole can of worms hidden in the previous sentence but I'm not going to open it today. Let's just say that some days, and for some purposes, it makes a lot more sense not to get back on the bicycle straight away. You need to take a little time to rub your sore bum first.