Behold, the Humble Pen

And the traditional (slightly creased) blank white paper.

elf sketch oneMany people I talk to act as if art is some arcane magic accessible only to a few, and I’d like to refute that theory today.  Art comes more easily to some than to others, sure, but that’s true of virtually every skill on the planet.

I have only three rules about my art when I’m not specifically working on a project:  1.  Look at things.  2.  Forget about making it perfect.  Won’t happen.  3.  Enjoy it.

I’ll show you how those work together in a sketch.  No tricks, no magic, just me and a black ballpoint pen.  Images copyright Dragon Harris, naturally.

Art starts with learning to see things the right way.  Sometimes it can be hard.  The human brain uses different patterns of thought for different tasks, and switching thought styles can be tricky.  Once there, though, art is wonderful.  Even if you draw only in the dead of night and burn the pictures so no one else will see them, getting into art is almost meditative.  It helps your mind work through things from a different angle than it normally does.  It’s a chance to make your brain shut up.

elf sketch twoWhen I was in high school, one of my art teachers gave my class a picture to duplicate–upside down.  This forced our minds to see the actual lines of the picture as we drew, instead of what the picture represented.  With time, we learned to see both.

I don’t have that picture anymore, but here’s today’s sketch.

I wasn’t sure what to draw at first, but I had a suggestion for drawing an elf, so here goes:

The traditional Tolkienesque elf has long hair.  Maybe I’ll make a North Pole elf when Christmas draws closer.  I’ve decided to make this elf female.  I rough in the head, hair, and shoulders.  (Hair flapping in the wind always looks better in pictures than in real life.  Sorry.)

Now she has a nose and pointed ears.

elf sketch threeI try mixing modern clothing styles with fantasy armor.  Her arm’s a bit messier than I wanted, but this is a sketch.  Perfectionism gets you nowhere at this point.

Now for the midriff and legs, which require a very basic knowledge of human anatomy.  It looks like she has a drop-leg knife sheath.  I touched up her eyebrows so her expression would be more devious.

I’m not entirely sure where the skirt thing came from, though.  Now there’s a knife, and feet.

I sketched in a little detail on the trousers.  The other arm has arrived, and it’s holding something.  I added a bit of shading to the face so she wouldn’t look flat.

Turns out it’s a spear, with a crooked point.  I like the feathers tied on the end, though they’re probably not too practical.

elf sketch fiveWe have a completed elfin spearmaiden, but it’s a little boring her standing alone on the page.  I added a hazy horizon line with hint of buildings in the distance–blocks of light horizontal lines, letting the viewer fill in the rest.  That grounds her, so it doesn’t look like she’s floating.

Smoke and clouds are hard to draw.  They seem to think edges are optional.  I think this smoke came out all right, though.

Naturally, there has to be a signature.

And that’s the sketch.  Could it be better?  Yes.  It actually has some potential.  I might rework it in a different medium later.

The point isn’t making it perfect, today.  It’s getting started.  elf sketch six


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