Readers of this blog will know that I like to sketch from old photographs (19th century ones). I like the hair cuts and the lighting. Since the photos are black and white they make judging values an easier exercise.
Today is an example of what not to do.
I started with the eye on the left and worked out and over, but I developed the eye in its position and then got really involved in developing the other eye in its own position without checking back where the first eye was!
What could have been a pleasant sketch becomes very odd indeed.
When I realized my error I kept going, but you can see in the sketch that I take greater pains to line things up as I move down (you can see some light lines drawn across the face so I line up the ears and nose).
I would have been better served to lightly sketch in the eye features, move to the next eye, lightly do those, CHECK, CHECK, CHECK height, angle, placement and move on other areas. I can always come back and dig in again later.
(Now I'm writing this because I know this is the best plan of attack, but I just want to go on record as saying sometimes if you watch me draw, especially dogs and birds, you'll find that I really dig in to just one eye before I get moving on to anything else. Is it a contradiction, essentially yes, but the reality is that the dog or bird typically will more along before I can get more than that anyway, so I want to get what I can get. I'll often make adjustments around the eye, that fit the eye, instead of the individual, if I proceed with the sketch because after all few people are looking for a portrait of a certain bird. Looking at a person you want that exact likeness. I am not going to apologize for my contradiction, just point it out and point you in a more fruitful direction.)
Just for fun I thought it would be interesting to move up the eye in Photoshop and show you what happens, or what would have happened if I'd been paying better attention to lining things up.
That's what the second image is all about. I can see that I probably could have moved the eye up even a little bit more now that I see it in place here, but that's not the main point I want to make now. First you can see it is vastly improved by being moved up. Second we can see what Roz's number one problem with faces is—tilting. I tend to take the tilt out of things and I have to constantly work to keep that in.
Even though I've moved the eye up a bit we can still see that the essential tilt of both eyes isn't quite right in relationship to each other. (And now of course we can see that the ears aren't aligning across the head either.)
I'm not going to mess with it any more in Photoshop. You get the idea.
So if you find a particular thing that you keep doing, or a pit that you keep falling into, start watching out for it and find ways to compensate and self check.
And no, before you all ask I do not know which charcoal pencil I used for this. I had a bunch in a stand I was testing and when I walked away they spilled and mixed up. Normally I note those things down right away to avoid this type of omission. Also, because someone is sure to ask—I typically DO NOT USE SOFT SMUDGE-ABLE MEDIA IN MY JOURNAL. That's my personal preference. In your journal you get to use whatever you want. BUT since I've been working in charcoal in life drawing again I sometimes feel the urge to work in it at home and hence the charcoal pencils. When I do something like this I scan it immediately (because it is going to get smudged, it's only a matter of time), and if it is something that I want to "preserve" I'll insert a piece of glassine into the book, taping it at the top or side so the glassine can be flipped up for viewing. I NEVER use fixative of any sort. I've tried them all and they all smell so badly that even if I put the sprayed piece in the back room to air out for 2 weeks I still can't get close to the piece to continue to work on it. I can't put my journals aside for 2 weeks so they can air out. If spray fixative doesn't bother you and the ones you live with, knock yourself out. You'll still experience some smudging so can first.
This week's posts have turned out to have a little theme about fresh eyes and correction and self-correction. I have a Project Friday coming up that continues this theme.
Addendum 8:20 a.m.: I realize that I was so focused on writing a short post (short for me) that I neglected to really go into what "fresh eye" is—and since I mentioned that in the title I thought I had better do so. "Fresh eye" can best be described as looking at something after taking a bit of a break. That can be a couple minutes or a half hour or a day. The point of the break is to get the drawing/painting out of your mind by walking away and looking away and putting your mind on something else, and then returning to the work and in that first FEW seconds, not even a minute, your fresh eye will spot where the incongruities and errors are in your image. Make mental note of all of them and address them. I have written about "fresh eye" a number of times on this blog. I mention it in a post about revisiting and looking deeper. I write about using your fresh eye to look at "failed" drawings to see what you can mine for future use. The most beneficial use of the fresh eye, however, comes in a drawing session when you step back, take a break, and come back to the piece to correct yourself.