Sketching From Life Tutorial

Copic Marker Blog Entry: Sketching From Life with Copic Marker
Sketching Tonally and Quickly

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       I often find that the task of starting a sketch can be a little daunting. A blank white page can sometimes be a very intimidating thing. In my experience, the best practice in learning how to draw is to draw from observation, that is, to draw anything and everything around you. In this tutorial, I will describe two ways in which I like to use Copic Markers to sketch from life. First, I will describe how to gradually build up tones like a watercolor painting, and second, a quick-sketch method for getting a drawing done fast. I usually use brush end of the Copic Sketch or Ciao, and the chisel when I am looking for a sharp edge, such as a shaded cheek bone or table edge.

Sketching Tonally

I like to start a sketch with a very light tone marker, for example W3 (Warm Gray 3), E31 (Brick Beige) or R20 (Blush) and build up the tones with a medium-dark tone, such as W5 (Warm Gray 5), E33 (Sand) or R02 (Flesh). I think that it is important to begin a sketch very loosely, try and let your eyes do the drawing, and don’t overthink it!

Here I have used a dark tone to pick out the darkest areas in the drawing as a way of establishing my range from brightest (the white of the paper) to darkest. Depending on the drawing, I like to use E77 (Maroon), E87 (Fig), W9 (Warm Gray 9) and often 110 (Special Black). Try not to use too much of this darkest tone and allow it to be the one dark shade that can’t be beat by any other tone. Here I’ve used R20 (Flesh) as my light sketching tone, E33 (Sand) as my middle tone and E87 (Fig) to pick out the darkest areas.

Now that I have the lightest area (white paper without any color) and the darkest area (the darkest tone) any colors that I add in between will make up the mid-tones that will describe the subtle variations of tone and color throughout the rest of the drawing.

In this drawing, I found the lightest areas to be light bouncing off the hair, tip of the nose, forehead and cheek (I surrounded these areas with W3 Warm Gray 3). The darkest tones I found to be the inner nostril, inner eye socket and eyelashes, and parts of the hair (110 Special Black). Starting with W5 (Warm Gray 5), I then “roughed in” the darker areas that are not being directly hit with light, which in this drawing, was almost the entire side of his face!
         Now, because I have already established the “darkest darks”, I can be sure that any markers lighter than my darkest tone won’t destroy my contrast hierarchy, and with a little practice, you can train your eye to look for those “tonal landmarks” and in no time, your drawings will read spatially and volumetrically.

The Quick-Sketch Method

          Sometimes, you simply don’t have the time to make a complete tonal rendering of your subject at hand, be it your best friend or your dog, if they won’t sit still, you’ll be hard-pressed to make a complete drawing!
          I like to start with a very light tone, similar to beginning a full tonal drawing, typically W3 (Warm Gray 3), E11 (Brick Beige) or R20 (Blush), in order to make a quick and rough sketch. At this point, I’m not too concerned with getting the lines exactly where they should be, but rather to give me a real sense at how my drawing will sit on the paper. Keep it loose and try to capture the “energy” of your subject.

Once I have a rough sketch done in a very light tone marker, I use my Multiliner SP BS (Brush Small) to clean up my lines, and define the drawing that is hidden in my “rough sketch”. Don’t worry about staying inside or following the lines of the earlier sketch, consider yourself to be like Michelangelo, chipping away the paper to reveal the inner drawing.

Remember to keep the rough sketch loose and allow yourself to really feel out the lines of the detailed drawing. Try to keep your sketches under ten minutes and move on to the next subject!

Often I will use the Multiliner BM (Brush Medium) or 110 (Special Black) to “rough out” the background or quickly draw shapes in the background. It’s important not to add too much detail in the background that it takes away from the subject of your drawing, but just enough to accentuate the focus of the drawing.

 Many of your best models are right in front of you. Draw your friends, draw your parents, draw your cat, draw your computer! You can never draw too much.