Everywhere I look these days there are beautiful, fine art drawings of dogs that make them seem stoic and brave. These talented artists turn them into almost god-like creatures that capture our gaze and have us staring and observing every single, little detail. One day—while gawking at a hyper-realistic canine portrait—it dawned on me; Why do they always have to look so damn gorgeous?! Why can’t they be drooling, wall-eyed, and pulling a stupid face? That’s what I wanna see!
It’s like this:
“I drew the duck blue because I’ve never seen a blue duck before, and to be honest with you, I wanted to see a blue duck.”
So, I set forth to draw my blue ducks.
I hopped on my computer and started looking through my photos. It didn’t take very long for me to find over 40 images that fit this criteria. Most were of my dogs, but I even found a few that were from the park, friends and family. I narrowed them down to the clearest and best options I could actually attempt to draw, then picked the one I wanted to start it all: Nibbler chewing on a bone.
I wanted these to look like fine art, be done in graphite, and at least 11 x 14. Something that makes people say, “Oh that’s so beauti—fff. Wait, whuht?” and then they just burst out laughing. I will accept even a small giggle. But just something. I want these things to bring a little bit of happiness to the viewer because there’s too much awful in the world and we need to laugh more.
To warm up for the big picture, I printed the image and used that to study the shapes, lighting, nuances, and also start to memorize where things are.
I probably drew it about six times before getting onto what would be the final paper. I like to start with scribbling the lighting, then shapes only, then a line drawing, and an attempt at making a smaller, but quick version of what I might want the real thing to look like.
Once I felt 60% comfortable, I allowed myself to start sketching it on a big sheet of paper. Method: Draw with the flat side of a graphite stick, focusing on the dark areas. Smear the entire page. This needs to look like an out of focus version of the image. Take the eraser and add in the light areas (cut out the light). Keep doing this over and over. Refining as you go along. Once you have everything where you want it, go in and add all the fine details. Continue to use eraser, especially for areas where light reflects off fur.
In my process, I made a beginner’s mistake and accidentally shined the graphite. It was hard to decide if I wanted to change to charcoal so late into the work, but the light reflecting off a lot of the dark areas looked terrible so I sucked it up and lightly erased most of the graphite off my drawing. It was a discouraging at first, but once I started adding the charcoal over it I remembered how much I prefer to work with that medium. Then I kept moving forward.
Dogs Making Stupid Faces is already a very fun series to have started and I can’t wait to see them finished. No. 1 took me months to complete and there were many times I didn’t believe I would ever finish it. If I had more than a few hours a night to work on my personal projects, even just two more hours, this thing would have been done in a week! As sad as that makes me, I know the drawing done in a week wouldn’t have the same characteristics as the one that takes months. I’m really happy with the finished drawing. Starting the next one soon.