Last summer, I was packing up for a week trip to my grandparent’s cabin. It’s a beloved little retreat on the side of a mountain, tucked in a forested valley. Sounds peaceful, right?
I love going there, but was faced with a well-known dilemma for artists: what supplies do I bring?
With dreams of sketching squirrels and woods, I wanted to bring the usual pencils and micron pens, plus some Copic markers. Faced with the pleasant reality of having too many Copics for my pencil case, I chose a few of my classic Cool Grays, a bold red (R29, I think), and a nice green (maybe G24?).
In the end, I drew neither critters nor trees. Before leaving, I had a vague idea of a woman, maybe in a 50’s/60’s style. She would be all in gray, with bright red lips. Hence, my color selection of markers.
One night, with a lamp’s gentle glow and an HB pencil, I started doodling. Running with that concept, I loosely sketched her face and hair.
For better or worse, I just drew what felt right, without really thinking of what emotion or style to use. It was one of those times where the drawing sort of comes together on its own.
The sketch looked a little odd to me, but I hoped it was just the intensity of her expression. Given this was just for fun, I went ahead and inked with a Micron Brush pen for the hair and a Micron Pigma pen for the facial features.
This picture was taken at an angle, so the jaw looks bigger than it is.
Inking helped her face look a little better. I was (and still am) inexperienced with ink brushes, so her hair lines are really uneven. Thankfully, you can’t tell too much once it’s colored.
And by colored, I mean grayed. Red seemed too bold for this picture after the cool gray hair. It began to have an old photograph feel to it, and it seemed like crimson would compromise that.
Like the sketching, I took a pretty loose approach to using the markers. Creating without an exact vision or expectation was a freeing experience.
The finished drawing.
Her hair came first. The coloring ran dangerously close to being overworked, I thought, but in the end I was surprised by how much I liked it. The mouth was successful, too.
I was nervous about the teeth. Teeth are so easy to make creepy: either they’re too realistic or too cartoony. Hers were surprisingly realistic—in that vintage photo sort of look I ended up going for.
Alas, though, by the time I reached her skin I was afraid of ruining it all. Especially recently, I’ve been overcoming that fear of shading skin. But that doesn’t help this woman. Her face ended up flat compared to the rest of the coloring. In the low warmth of the lamp, it wasn’t as noticeable. (It was also about 1:30 a.m. when I finished.)
At the same time, I like the contrast between her dark hair and pale face. I just wish I could’ve done that while giving her some more facial dimension.
Semi-realism is something I’ve played with a little bit since this work, and definitely want to keep trying out.
All-in-all, this was a fun drawing. I learned more about using Copics and rendering a style different from my usual default. The relaxing atmosphere of a cozy cabin night likely had something to do with that.