And now for lots of dots

Since the last post featured a detailed, graphite drawing, I’ve dropped back to ink for this portrait of Flannery O’Connor. I’m never quite sure if I prefer graphite to ink; like everything, it probably depends on my mood. But if you’ve read any O’Connor, you know she writes about grace and wickedness—light and dark—so ink did feel like the slightly more appropriate choice in this case.

I also wanted to try a portrait in the Wall Street Journal’s famous “hedcut” style, which replicates the classic, engraved look of currency. So I found this great video detailing the process and gave it a shot. Naturally, this method is time consuming and gives you hand cramps, so another savvy Photoshop user figured out a way to digitally replicate the effect. Like all digital shortcuts, it’s not perfect, but it does save you from placing a million dots into carefully contoured lines.

First attempt. The line quality was too comic-book and didn’t suit Flannery at all, so I decided to try a hedcut.

The result I came up with wasn’t exactly Wall Street Journal, but that’s fine. In fact, it’s great because when you’re trying to sort out your own style, it’s helpful to copy someone else’s.

I realize that sounds counterintuitive. However, the fact is you’ll never match someone else’s style yet in the struggle to do so, your own line will naturally emerge. This is why art students copy paintings from the Old Masters and why, in one of the first fiction workshops I took, the instructor assigned us to try writing in the style of our favorite author. I went for Kafka and, while my story failed, it forced me to take apart his stories and figure out why I liked them so much.

Anyway, I think my own, slightly garish and grotesque line came through. That tends to happen any time I work in ink. Either that, or things turn into cartoons. I just can’t help myself. After all, I learned to draw by copying cartoon characters.

An earlier attempt at hedcut style using bigger dots.

Fortunately, it’s time to shift gears back into some design work for a while and give my hand a chance to rest. Besides, I’ve killed all my pens.

I’ll close with a quote from Flannery O’Connor. She has a ton of great quotes (like: “Anybody who has survived his childhood has enough information about life to last him the rest of his days.”), but here’s one of my favorites:


The positives of negatives

This portrait is part of a promotional series I’m working on which recently got me re-obsessed with negative space. This was just going to be a straightforward pencil portrait of Gandhi, but as I started drawing, I remembered how difficult it is to draw glasses. They’re perfect shapes—circles, no less—which are really hard to do freehand.

Source: Wikipedia. I had to guess at some of the detail in his eyes.

I began the portrait in pencil. While the glasses came out okay, I was in hyper-obsessive mode and decided I didn’t like them. So when I brought the image into the computer, I made some perfectly round ones in Illustrator and slapped them on. This combination of flat and three-dimensional lines was very appealing, so I pushed it further by blanking out his robe. For some reason, the idea of negative space with Gandhi seemed to match. Something about nonviolent protest, the dignity and power of restraint—all these felt related. But mostly, it meant I could cover up those lop-sided glasses.

After I dropped in the portrait and the map, I felt like I needed another element, so I went with doves. I knew they would look super cheesy if I drew them, so voilá! Negative space to the rescue once more!

I found a bunch of dove images online, and then traced them in Illustrator to make these silhouettes.

Silhouettes transformed into brushes

After finding several bird images online, I traced their shapes. While I could have used these as-is, since I’d gone to the trouble of doing several, I went ahead and made some Photoshop brushes for future use. You just never know when you’ll need a flock of doves.

I love Photoshop brushes. Check out these cloud brushes. Boom! Clouds.

Anyway, I’m really enjoying the idea of quiet spaces and the implied shape of things. I love using negative space in writing to suggest oblique connections by way of imagery, or by writing dialog that reveals more about the characters by what they don’t say versus what they do. Sometimes it’s those places between things, the gaps in the conversation, that make the biggest statements.

This blog is not dead yet!

I own many a pair of blue-stockings.

I don’t know where this image came from*,  but it pretty well sums up what I’ve been doing most of my summer: writing. And frowning! As it’s been two months since my last post, I clearly have not been writing for the blog; I’ve been revising and rewriting my novel. In six weeks, I barreled through 96,000 words. Crazy? Yes. Difficult? Yes? Did I want to vomit words and stab my eyes out? Absolutely.

However, I’m pleased to report that my novel now has a new second half. I lingered a whole month editing the first 200-ish pages before I got to the fresh material. Then I banged out 41,000 in two weeks (about 150 pp).  That’s faster than NANOWRIMO speeds and will probably be a lifelong personal record as I vow never to do it again. I can’t really remember those two weeks except that my hand nearly fell off (I handwrite first drafts), I dreamed in prose, and when I wasn’t writing, eating, or sleeping, I scribbled furious and mostly incoherent notes onto every available surface. I was also a complete basket case, so my husband gets Hubbie of the Year award for not suffocating me in my sleep.

Now the manuscript is off to the agent, the waiting game begins again, and life returns to normal. Well, as normal as things get for me. At any rate, I’ll definitely be back to drawing and will likely post another Facebook portrait contest soon, so stay tuned. . !

*I swiped it from Tamara Linse’s excellent writing blog.