Trying New Materials

Unusual MaterialsLast night at ChiPRC, we had a special figure drawing session dedicated to “unusual materials.”  I had encouraged students to bring in drawing materials they don’t normally use, and we also had a large supply of random materials belonging to ChiPRC.  Over the course of the evening, participants tried colored pencil, oil pastel, chalk pastel, gouache, acrylic paint, marker and ink.

ghostly figure drawingWe began our session by discussing the very good reasons why artists normally default to charcoal, graphite and conté crayon.  Those materials are soft, and they generally come in the form of big sticks.  It is easy to cover a lot of surface area quickly.  This is especially useful when you are working with a live model who can only stand still for so long.

I have been impressed, however, with the diversity of tools used by artists at ChiPRC’s figure drawing sessions: everything from marker to pen.  I think the wide range speaks to the diversity of experience in our community.  Not all of us have fine arts training or figure drawing experience, so not everyone comes in with the same training and biases.  Comics artists, illustrators and hobbyists have enjoyed working with our live models in the mediums they prefer.

Those past figure drawing sessions were my inspiration for designing “Figure Drawing with Unusual Materials.”  I wanted to encourage all of us to step outside of the usual clichés and try something different.  Before we began to draw, we took a look at a couple of online galleries by artists who have taken their own unique approach to the figure: Ryan McJunkin and Bill Buchanan.Figure Drawing closeup

It was difficult to work with tools that don’t behave the way we’re accustomed to, and it was hard to evaluate what we had done.  But it was also very freeing.  One student commented on how good it felt to just draw and not think about the result.

Some discoveries can only grow in the soil of the unknown.  And one such discovery for me was the striking combination of blue and red.  I drew the piece at the right with blue, grey and red pastels on red paper.  I can easily see playing with this color combination again, as well as the “less is more” economy of marks.  The design itself could translate to a cut-out, a painting or a print.

If you’re feeling stuck as an artist, maybe now is the time to break out materials you never use.  Let yourself play, and don’t edit the result.  You just might happen upon the seed of a new idea.