In contrast, award-winning illustrator Gemma Correll (gemmacorrell.com) works predominantly on paper. “It’s all hand drawn,” she says of her blocky, childlike illustration style. “I sometimes add colour digitally, but the line work is always done by hand. I have tried drawing with my Wacom tablet but it didn’t really work for me – the line quality wasn’t right.”
She continues, “I enjoy the freedom of mark making and experimenting with media. I find felt pens and markers easy to use. If I make mistakes, I might erase them later using Photoshop – or I might leave them in. Sometimes think mistakes add to the character of an illustration.”
Learning to draw can be a long, hard process – and it’s one that’s never finished. Even the most skilled artists have objects they struggle to draw. But all this can be overcome with two simple techniques: observation and practice.
Be quick on the draw
Dave Bain claims the secret is to keep drawing and looking. “Wherever I am, if I have the materials to do it, I’ll try to do a drawing,” he says. “Even if I’m not quite in the mood or the final result is weak, just that process of drawing keeps me focused and improves my ability.”
Dave adds that he sketches a lot when he’s out and about. “If I’m drawing in public I tend to look at the people and not at the drawing page. I do fast, quick drawings that give me an impression of the movement of the person, rather than spot-on accuracy.”
Above The Guardian commissioned this piece from Sam Kerr. “The column it supported spoke of Gordon Brown’s dual personality, comparing him to Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde.”
He says these sketches often get recycled into his other work. “I find that when I draw, all kinds of ideas flood into my mind about how that drawing can be used, or other ideas that I’d like to try out.”
Andy Macgregor says, “I try to use the old-fashioned [method of] looking at the reference constantly, ghosting in the shape of whatever it is I’m drawing, then running the final line on top.”
He continues, “It’s most definitely a practice thing, but you should never be afraid to just draw what you see and welcome a sense of naïvety to your work.”
Andy admits finding drawing most challenging when he can’t base his drawings on observation.
“The most difficult thing to draw is something you have to pluck out of your mind. Sometimes, there’s no reference for what you’re asked to draw.” He says in these situations you have to completely rely on your common sense and give way to trial and error.
While Andy can draw some things without observing them, Sam Kerr finds others extremely challenging.
“Don’t ever ask me to draw a cow from memory,” he says. “However, like with anything that you might struggle to draw, the best approach is to keep at it, until you get it right.”
As with any artistic discipline, constantly experimenting with materials and techniques is an essential part of honing your skills and developing your style. Indeed, Andy reveals one of the simplest tricks is also one of the most effective.
“Be confident in your own ability,” he says. “Everybody is different. You’ve got to nurture the skills you have and be confident doing it.”
Left Sam Kerr uses iPhone app Paint to sketch people on the go. He says, “It’s the best practice for drawing portraits to achieve a likeness. You’re restricted to what you can do with five brush sizes, a small screen and some fat fingers.”
Bottom Left Sam Kerr says, “This self-initiated piece was derived from the opinion that Michael Jackson peaked at Thriller.”
Top Oliver Barrett’s portraits of The Beatles are sold as prints. He says, “Constant learning, experimentation and exploration is the best and most obvious way to get better.”
Above Sam Kerr’s portrait of John Lennon was part of a series created for a London wine bar. He says, “Each piece has a wine theme. In this case, Lennon’s glasses are made using actual red wine marks.”