From the category archives:


Sketching and shading

by Henk ter Heide on Thursday May 14, 2009

in Technique

I tried my hand at drawing an ear. Jack Hamm’s book helped me to get some feel about the general shape an ear should have (img040). Then I search for a photo of an ear and tried to draw that.

I found that I have the tendency to use to dark lines while sketching. The problem with that is that lines have two purposes. Not only do they mark the edge of the subject, the ear in this case. They’re also used to show ridges by representing shades. When you use to dark lines to mark edges it looks like there is a ridge where there should be none.

Yesterday I said that I figured out how shading worked. Today I tried it again.
It’s kind of a trick.
I find that I have two modes of looking at a drawing. In the one mode the drawing is flat and darker and lighter areas are just that. Darker and lighter areas.
In the other mode the drawing becomes 3 dimensional and just by looking at the ridges it becomes obvious where shades will be cast and which areas should be darker and which should be lighter.

The trick is to switch from one mode to the other when your drawing needs it. A few days ago I did that by accident and it felt like an epiphany. I didn’t even know it was possible.
Today I couldn’t get it to work so I had to do it the old fashion way: Work on something else for a few hours and when you return to your drawing you’ve switched.
Then you can see what you actually drew. You can think about what you should do with your next drawing but you can’t actually work on the drawing.



Posted on Flickr by Henk ter Heide



by Henk ter Heide on Saturday May 9, 2009

in Technique

As I wrote in my last post “the difficult part of drawing a nose is getting a curved line at a specific distance of an other curved line”. I thought I should device some practice to get better at it and here it is.
What can I say. On the one hand it’s a boring exercise of course, but on the other it does become easier with practice.

I find that my hands starts to shake a little bit when I try this kind of practice. Which is something I have had before. But I never dared to go on practicing so I actually don’t know if this is something that will pass with practice.
In a few days I must try this again and see what happens.



Two single line ink drawings

by Henk ter Heide on Tuesday April 28, 2009

in Technique

As I wrote yesterday I tried my hand at some single line ink drawings.
The rules for single line drawings are very simple. You may double lines as often as need be, but you may never lift the pen of the paper.
If you do the drawing is finished.

So I did the first drawing yesterday. It’s of about the same setting as the color sketch I posted yesterday. Except that I also had put my sweater on the chair.
The drawing looks alright but of course being a pile of towels and a sweater gives such a jumble of lines that you can’t actually see what it’s supposed to be. So it would look alright.

The second drawing I did just now.
I won’t go into everything that is wrong about it but you can see that it’s supposed to be an office chair.
Which is a good things since I wasn’t expecting the drawing to be recognizable. And it wasn’t half as frightening as I expected it to be.

I’ll try some more tomorrow.

Single line drawing odds and ends on chair

Single line drawing office chair


How to become an expert at any skill

by Henk ter Heide on Wednesday December 17, 2008

in Technique

Follow three rules and become an expert on any skill you love.

I had a discussion with my counselor about the whole talent thing. How I had decided to spent much more time on drawing (and less time on other things) because I think that will give me a change to become an expert.
She didn’t agree. She thinks that talent does matter. She played a musical instrument in her teens. Although she practiced for years she never got very good.

Thinking about that I realized that she had a point.
My mother bought her piano in 1968 when we moved to Waddinxveen. When she died in 1989 she had been practicing for more then 20 years, strictly one hour a day.
But she never got any better then mediocre.

So how is this possible?
Why is it that some people practice for 10,000 hours and become world class artists and others practice for well over 10,000 hours and never get to be more the mediocre.
Is it talent?
I hope not.
Because if it’s talent I’m screwed. The last one and a half year have shown that I have no drawing talent what so ever.

A few years ago I bought a harmonica. It seemed like a fun instrument to play. It also seemed a fairly easy instrument to master even for someone with no musical talent.
But it turned out to be a very difficult instrument.
I had bought a few books on musical theory but none of them made any sense to me. And how ever hard I tried I never was able to blow a single note.
After a few months I gave up and threw everything out.

A few months ago my interest was rekindled by one of the videos Youtube recommended. I researched harmonicas on the Net and found a wealth of information on the kind of instrument you should start with and a lot of free music and some instructional videos on Youtube.
A nice read but I did nothing with it and wouldn’t have done anything if it wasn’t for the fact that I broke my hip and can’t leave my house for the next three months.

Getting rather bored I ordered a harmonica via the Internet and started practicing.
This time I found that the level of skill you can reach not only depends on your talent. It’s also depended on the kind of information you can get.
Thanks to the instructional videos I found I figured out how to blow a single note. And although I can only blow single notes for about 10 minutes it’s clear that I’ll get better with more practice.

But that’s the harmonica. An instrument that is played by hardly anyone in the Netherlands. And since hardly anyone plays it you can’t get much information on the instrument. But there are loads of people who draw. There are loads of good books on the subject and I have been researching the web since I started.
So does my lack of progress with drawing mean that I don’t have what it takes or is there something else I should take into consideration.
If I’d ask this question a week ago I would have answered that I suffer from a lack of talent. But this week I started with something I’ve never done before. I started with copying the work of other artists.
In doing so I figured something out.

Until now I’ve always tried to draw the pictures in my mind. Since that is the purpose of of this blog I never thought anything of it. Actually the only reason why I started with copying was because I ran out of subjects to draw but still wanted to draw something. Anything.
But in doing so I found that I had to push my self to get better results.
When I draw a picture from memory I’m the only one who know how the original picture looks. And since to me photographs, painting and drawing always look different from each other I’m easily satisfied.
But now everybody is going to get to see both the original painting and my copy of it.
I can no longer put up with the fact that there are hues missing in my drawing box. I can’t get away with adapting the drawing to my drawing box. I have to mix new colors to adapt my drawing box to the picture.

So in doing this drawing I’m learning more then I’ve learned in the last one and a half year.

I think that’s also the reason why my mother never got any better. Yes she did practice for 20,000 hours, but most of that time was spent repeating tunes she already knew by heart. She hardly ever tried new tunes.
By contrast. I’m finding that when I stretch myself and try something new I also get to practice the old skills.

If you want to be an expert at a skill you’ll need three things.

  • You need the right kind of information.
    If you don’t understand what you’re supposed to do, find an other book, website or teacher.
  • You need to practice 7 to 14 hours a week. Which means that you really need to love this. Otherwise you can get good but you’ll never be an expert.
  • You need to stretch yourself. Spent the majority of your time practicing new things.
    It is important to practice the skills you already know. But to become an expert you’ll have to try and learn everything there is.


Study: Checkered black and white floor

by Henk ter Heide on Sunday April 6, 2008

in Technique

Trying to get a natural white color.

Ever since I started drawing I’ve been thinking about how I could draw white surfaces. The problem being that I don’t have white pencils in my box and I want the surface to look natural white instead of paper white.
I’m not sure whether there is a difference between the two but it does feel that way to me.

While practicing hatching a while back I had an idea how I could get a kind of natural white in a black and white checkered marble floor.
The idea is that the color of the marble isn’t constant all over the surface. In some areas people walk a lot causing a lot of wear and tear. Closer to the wall where less people walk the colors are more clear.

With hatching you can give the black tiles a nice dark color.
To get the kind of walked on feel for the white tiles I tried a little blending. Using a large folded piece of kitchen paper I started with the darkest tiles to get the kitchen paper black. Then I used the kitchen paper to color the white parts in the walked on area.

Checkered floor
checkered floor

The drawing didn’t work out the way I pictured it in my mind. Hopefully that’s just due to lack of skill and I will get it better the next time I try something like this.
Their is a up side though. For this study I had to do a lot of hatching and I find that my technique is improving.


Playing with hatching techniques

by Henk ter Heide on Wednesday March 26, 2008

in Technique

Trying to influence the darkness of the color with different hatching techniques.

One of my biggest problems in drawing with color pencil has been my inability to control the darkness of a color.
For this practice drawing I decided to see what I could do to get a color darker or lighter.

I thought that both the number of times you cross hatch and the amount of pressure you put on the pencil might have an influence on the color.
I was only partly right.
The number of times you cross hatch does have an influence on the darkness of the square.
Putting more pressure on the pencil didn’t have much influence on the color of the line.
(Actually this isn’t completely true. If you put a lot of pressure on a pencil you do get a darker line. A problem arises when you start drawing with softer, more expensive pencils that contain more pigment. With these pencils your point will break if you use to much pressure.)

A better technique to get a darker line is to slowly rotate the pencil in your hand while your drawing. The business end of a pencil wears down while you’re drawing. By rotating the pencil you make sure you always have a sharp edge on the paper.
Whether this influences the color of the square depends on your hatching skill. If the lines are too far apart the overall picture will still seem very light.
Click the picture and go to the original size and you can see the individual lines both in the dark blue and the dark yellow square.

Hatching techniques
Hatching techniques

I also tried the hatching technique children usual use. Starting in a corner or at some arbitrary point and radiating out: First coloring the little bit where I started and then going on with a progressively larger space until whole the square is colored. (Lower right blue square and the brown square).
I’m not completely sure which I like better. I assume it has a lot to do with what you’re drawing. When drawing a kitchen cupboard traditional cross hatching would probably look better, but when drawing a tree seeing the direction of the pencil strokes could be very nice.

For the pink square I tried what would happen if I blended the color using a piece of kitchen paper. Since the piece of paper was far larger then the square the color bled over the edge. In my next drawing I’m going to try to use this effect.


How to learn to (cross) hatch

by Henk ter Heide on Thursday February 28, 2008

in Technique

Rethinking my method of learning how to (cross) hatch.

This morning I remembered reading a site about improving your handwriting. The site advised to go back to basics and start over with practicing to draw a hundred A’s, a hundred B’s etc. just like the way you did it in school when you first where taught how to write.
I never tried it because nowadays I hardly use any handwriting.
But it would be a good way of practicing hatching. Drawing a lot of horizontal lines instead of filling a grid with hatched lines and using more time turning the paper then actually hatching.

Thinking about method also gave me a clear picture on the level of skill I should aim for.
Until now I thought it would be sufficient if I learned to draw the lines the right length but it isn’t. I should get enough skill to (cross) hatch with the same ease as with which I’m type this article. (Cross)hatching lines should become as easy as touch typing.

I’ve been told that people with autism have problems learning new skills because we take more time to automate a skill. Personally I’ve always found that to be a big advantage. I never have the problem that I have to unlearn some skill because I learned it the wrong way the first time round.
But if you have the bad luck of not being autistic then this is a time to pay close attention to what you are doing.

Ink hatching 2
Ink hatching 2

There isn’t a right and a wrong way to (cross) hatching as long as you get the job done, but there is an easy and a not so easy way. The problem being that what is easy for me doesn’t necessary have to be the easiest way for you. you’ll have to experiment a little.
I found that there are a few things you can vary to make hatching easier:

  • The length of the line. (I’ve found that practicing hatching becomes much easier if you start with shorter lines.)
  • Do you work towards your (drawing) hand or away from it. (I’ve found that for me it’s easier to work away from my hand even though that means that my pencil partially covers my work.)
  • In what direction do you draw. Upward or downward. (I started drawing downward but after gaining some experience I use both.)
  • The angle of the paper. (I’m scanning this practice drawing in the angle I drew it. I’m right handed.)
  • Drawing speed. (I found that drawing faster made it easier do draw straight lines. Which might mean that if you want to draw curved lines it could be easier to draw slower.)
  • How much pressure do you put on the pencil. (The type of pencil you use has some influence on this, but I found that less pressure is easier.)

(Oh, the fun of writing an English blog if English isn’t you mother tongue:
Doubting whether cross hashing is one word or two word I looked it up in my dictionary and couldn’t find it. So I went on searching the word on Google, like I always do when my dictionary can’t help me.
Only this time I found that the word isn’t (cross) hashing but (cross) hatching. Sadly my spell checker didn’t save my from this embarrassment because “hash” is also an English word. Only thing is that it has nothing to do with drawing.
I’ve used the word hashing both in a few articles and in a few titles. I can’t change titles without breaking links that I have set up from other sites to these articles. I could change the spelling within the articles but I’ve discovered that if I do that people who follow this site via my rss feed get these articles again.
🙁 )

{ 1 comment }

Study: From boxes to beds

by Henk ter Heide on Saturday January 19, 2008

in Technique

Figuring out what was wrong with my earlier boxes and finding out how to use the technique to create nice drawings.

I didn’t even have to read. Just flipping the page and looking at a few pictures was enough to realize why the boxes I’ve been drawing the last few weeks where so distorted.
They were meant as an exercise to understand the geometrics of the box. By drawing the vanishing point on the paper you get a feel for the way the lines go.
But to get a real box you have to put the vanishing point far beyond the edge of you paper. Even far beyond the edge of your room. To get it right you have to imagine the vanishing point at a distance of some kilometers.

So here is a box the way it’s supposed to look.
From boxes... 1
From boxes… 1

After this I was hoping that I wouldn’t have to draw any more boxes for a while. But it turns out that the book has other ideas.
The whole point of learning to draw a box free hand is that you can use it to draw other objects that are more or less box shaped.

So here are some more boxes.
From boxes... 2
From boxes… 2

And here is the fun bit.
By only adding a few more lines and curves you can make a bed of these boxes. beds
…to beds


Like water color paint

by Henk ter Heide on Friday December 28, 2007

in Technique

Trying out a new approach to drawing with color pencil.

Ever since I started, I thought about drawing with color pencils as though it was a cross between Rembrandt and the way Bob Ross painted.
I thought that to get a nice picture I would have to cover the paper with a thick layer of pigment just like Rembrandt did. I puzzled with the problem that using color pencil you can’t start out with dark colors and put lighter color on top the way Bob Ross used to do.
Although I like most of my color drawings I always had the feeling that something was off.

A few days ago I came across a video tutorial about painting with water color. The main reason for watching it was to see whether it was suitable to link to from my StumbleUpon account. But as it turned out I did learn something from it.

The maker of the video advised people to always start out with the lightest color and then work there way to the darker colors. She also showed a little practice painting to show what she meant.
It suddenly dawned on me that drawing with color pencils is much more like painting with water colors then it is alike to painting with oil paint.

Here is my interpretation of the practice but then in color pencil.
Color practice
Color practice

I clearly used to many different colors. I must try a more minimalistic approach.


Drawing: Green chair

by Henk ter Heide on Sunday December 9, 2007

in Technique

Finding that technique is as important as knowing how to look.

The last few weeks I’ve been drawing assignment out of the book “Drawing with the right side of your brain”.
Although I tried to draw what I saw I wasn’t satisfied with my last drawing of my chair. It felt like something was wrong but I couldn’t put my finger on it.
Green chair
Green chair

Obvious one thing that has changed in this drawing is that there are two instead of one ornaments under the armrest. In my last drawing I drew only one because I didn’t have room for the second. The problem was that I couldn’t figure out why I didn’t have room.

Hoping it would give me more room I drew this chair with a thinner pencil then last. I also thought about how big I could draw the chair to use as much of my paper as possible.
It turns out that under this angle the chair is almost diamond shaped. I tried to incorporate that knowledge in this drawing. But as you can see I drew the chair a little to big.

While I was drawing I figured out what the problem was. I’m sitting so close that lines that look parallel aren’t. The two armrest face in slightly different directions. The top line of the top pillow isn’t parallel with the bottom of the lower pillow.

At the beginning of the year I did a drawing course. Among other things we where taught about the disappearing point. That is the point where all the lines seem to cross. To judge in which direction a line goes you can run your pencil in a parallel line.
A second lesson we learn was the importance of estimating the relative size of the different parts of your object. Which you measure by closing one eye and holding you pencil in front of you object. So all and all an artist waves a lot with his pencil.
Much more then I like to do.
And then, off course, there is the fact that I want to draw the pictures in my mind. It’s quite impossible to wave my pencil in front of an object in my memory.

This drawing shows that although it is a good thing to learn how to look at your object it’s also important to know what you should expect.