Detailed drawing – step by step

This week I made a detailed drawing of a Dragonfly. Here’s my step by step process of doing this…

1. First I draw the basic shapes very lightly. Here I’m just looking at the bigger shapes of things. (I have a tendency to jump ahead and include some more detail in this but I try to stop myself from doing that because I need the basic big angles and connections to be right.) So here I was looking at the size of the body compared to the wings, the angle the body was on and the angles of the wings. When I do this basic layout I try not to think about a 3D object in 3D space at all, rather I think about the shapes and relative sizes in 2D only. So, in a way, I never draw an animal or whatever my subject happens to be, I just drew a group of basic shapes. Doing this I don’t have to push my mind through the shape transitions needed for forshortening, I just deal with flat shapes.

(I forgot to photo this stage when I’d finished it, so this is taken just after I’d started to put in a little more detail on the abdomen and wing joints but before I went over all of my lines more accurately.)

The pencils I used for this are two mechanical pencils (I can’t find my Graphgear at the moment.) and a mechanical pencil sharpener to keep things tight.)

2. Once I’ve got my basic shapes looking right, the next stage is to look more carefully at the line directions and angles and redraw all of my outline with greater accuracy and add some more obvious details like the wing joints and abdominal sections.

As I go I use three types of eraser – a thicker pencil eraser, tiny detail pencil eraser and putty…

3. Next I add more of the major details to the wings and refine my linework even more. I quite enjoy this stage as I can see really accurate lines coming out clearly for the first time.

4. Then I went to work on the detail. I began with the wings which have gorgeous patterns in them…

Then finally I added my shading to the body…

My final step was to add a shadow which was a bit tricky because my reference was a cut out digital image and didn’t have one.

Here’s the final drawing…

England in the Summer


Earlier this week I decided to have a go at painting with a less realistic look.  I decided not to allow myself to use a small brush and to make a more, what I call, ‘blobby’ painting.  My plan was to throw on some darker lower layers and then add more detail in layers and go lighter in tone as I got more detailed.  I used gouache, although oils would have been lovely for this.

Rather than painting on location I used an old photograph of a place near where I used to live.  It’s looking out from what is know locally as ‘The Bluebell Wood’ onto a local farm.

Here’s the photo…

Once I’d got the main shapes and structures down I stopped looking at the reference to avoid the temptation to make it too accurate and too close to the original.  It turned out to be a fun and easy way to paint!


I also had planned to finish my other painting but I got sick in the middle of the week.  I’m on antibiotics again.  I don’t know why I keep getting unwell so often.  My best guess is that one of two things really kicks it off.  Either I don’t get enough sleep because of the chronic pain and my immune system get’s weak because of that, or I get badly stressed about something (very frequently because of my autism) and that weakens my system too.

I have previously asked my doctor for help and advice with this and he said I need to have a ‘healthy lifestyle’.  I told him I eat a good diet, I keep my body clean, I try to get as much rest as I need, I don’t drink or smoke or take any illegal drugs.  He said I should exercise more.  This is hard because I need crutches to walk more than 10-20 metres and sometimes I end up in tears just trying to get to where my car is parked.  So I asked him how I could do that given the mobility problems I have and he just shrugged his shoulders.  I thought that was really unhelpful.

So I decided to try to manage this better on my own since he’s clearly not going to help at all.  I’m finding ways to better manage stress and allowing myself more sleep time when I miss sleep because of pain.  I’m also pushing my consumption of fruit and vegetables and topping up vitamin c.  Hopefully things will get better.  I feel so rubbish again now.



Mordaunt Short

Although I can’t paint at the moment as I’m getting ready to move house I’ve been thinking about the way images can affect us when we look at them.  Even simple things like fonts and trademarks have an effect.  I’m someone who is not affected by a lot of advertising.  Most of it just passes me by and some of it actively puts me off buying from certain companies.  However, occasionally I get really caught by something.  A few years ago I was mildly unwell – running a moderately high temperature and feeling a bit sorry for myself.  I got really captured by the trademark of the surround sound speaker system we had at the time.  The trademark is so simple – just the name in white capital letters across the bottom of the speaker but it was really effective.

The speaker looked a bit like this on the outside:

ms6 - Copy

But when watching a big movie or listening to a  video of a music concert we would remove the black grills and then the speakers looked more like this (except that the wood was a cherry colour.)

410mordant.2 - Copy

Anyway, I ended up writing about the experience of being kind of captured by this piece of advertising.  Here’s what I wrote:


Mordaunt – Short

I am sitting staring at the blackness of the TV screen when my eye is caught by a small, precise label near the bottom of the centre speaker, sitting on top of the set.

Mordaunt - Short

I look at the speaker. The front panel is black protecting three dark orifices of sound and language. The case is wooden, chosen to match the colour of the furniture in the room, although it doesn’t, quite. The name fills my mind and body, it echos inside me, resonating, touching me right down to my toes. I am captured, transported for a moment into the ecstasy of quality. My heart is filled with that bedrock-deep love of machines, perfectly and exactly made, and I feel connected to another life, a life of order, of peace, of place and stillness.

I am stunned at how this small piece of advertising can suddenly reach me. Perhaps it’s simply because I’m unwell and febrile. Perhaps it’s because I’ve just been watching the History Channel which would have been great except that there were more adverts than program – ten thousand little bits of trash that some smiling actor is pretending to encourage me to buy. So maybe seeing all that had put me into a cynical, unreachable place where Generation X is born and so made the shock of being touched by a trade mark so much stronger . Or perhaps there is power in the shape and form of words, “Mordaunt Short”, an echo of the Logos itself. Like a prayer, like an incantation it reaches inside me and plays the music of my heart.