and trying something I found difficult.
While journaling recently, I suddenly remembered something I used to do a lot back in middle school – draw people. All my textbooks had doodles in the margins of people ziplining, rock-climbing up the walls of text next to them, or running with long ponytails streaming behind them.
Then I had a pure landscape phase, or several. The reason for it was clear: as I got better at drawing and painting through high school, my landscapes improved first. Adding in a character without changing the quality or tone of the painting was difficult, because I couldn’t make them as detailed, their clothes clashed with the background, and overall, they ruined the peaceful solitude I was trying to capture with the painting.
More recently, I’ve also had portrait-phases. (Not to be confused with a phase portrait. Sorry for that terrible ‘joke’; I’ll see myself out.) Over the past five years, I’ve been learning how to draw both real and cartoon people: from photos I found on the internet, persuading friends and family to sit for me, and drawing self-portraits. Capturing a resemblance was an exciting new skill to learn.
But the one type of drawing I never thought of doing was combining a character and a landscape. It just never occurred to me, and still felt kind of incongruous.
So I thought I’d give it a try! I followed this advice from art YouTuber LavenderTowne: to learn new art skills by framing them in terms of the skill that you are already good at.
In her case, she enjoys and is good at drawing characters, so she imagines their homes as an extension of them. Drawing backgrounds was the hardest part for her until she started seeing them this way. (Overall, her channel is excellent and worth checking out.)
My problem was sort of the reverse, so I tried something weird. I drew a landscape, and basically made the character an outgrowth of natural features. Like she’s some kind of rock-spirit.
In the picture above, I sketched in the foliage and rock face and added a rough outline of the girl, all in dotted lines with pen. Then I inked and hatched most of the background, and hatched some of the shadows on the girl, before finally inking her. I did this with dip pens and some ink I was using for my fountain pens, on some hemp (I think?) paper samples I had lying around.
The character blending into her background makes her a bit uncanny. I think I like it.
Later, I also did some digital editing in (iPad) Procreate, including changing the background color and adding the lighter highlights.
Anyway, this is the first of a series of three ink drawings I’m calling the Nature Girl series. Reconnecting with my middle-school interest in adventurous characters. More to come soon!
Is there a particular skill that you’ve always found difficult? How could you focus on it primarily, and leverage the skills you’re already good at?