Drawing trouble (offline and on)

One of the things I didn’t expect to happen in the past year (other than things like, uh, a global pandemic) was my rekindled interest in drawing. I took drawing and painting classes through junior high and highs school (five years total) and my only regret is that I never really got better–I simply didn’t practice enough, partly because my attention was split among a bunch of things–drawing. writing, acting, an interesting and bizarre turn at doing hurdles, along with all the usual distractions of youth–riding my bike, playing games (video and board), hanging with friends, figuring out my sexuality, stuff like that.

But last October I pledged to do Inktober and, to my own surprise, I completed all 31 prompts, nine of which brought back the Gum Gum People, to the delight of myself as well as others. After Inktober I let the drawing fall aside again, but the urge renewed itself on my vacation and I started digging into online resources.

I’ve settled on a few sites and their respective lessons and one of the key parts of each is that they emphasize and even require that you ground yourself in traditional drawing first–pencil and paper, not tablet and stylus. I like this because it goes against my first impulse, which is to just blunder about on my iPad, and “fixing as I go” without learning the proper lessons because when you go digital, you can skip a lot of proper technique in favor of brute forcing things.

Anyway, I’m starting the lessons now and will occasionally post my thoughts and perhaps a few sketches over the next little while. If this all ends in terrible failure, I will report on that, too.

And end the post with a single, badly-drawn tear.

Gum Gum people, toothbrushes and bananas

More scans of my doodlings from days of yore!

The Gum Gum People were small, pink elastic beings that giggled a lot (specifically “HEE! HEE!”) and in a handwritten and unfinished screenplay for what would have been the best Gum Gum People movie of all time, they plot to take over Earth, without having any real malicious intent.

I occasionally doodled out the GGP (if I write it as The GPP it looks a bit like a funky band name) and below are a few sketches that appeared to be a part of a series explaining them, perhaps as a primer before people went to see Invasion of the Gum Gum People. By the third sketch (not included here because it’s little more than a few errant lines) I either ran out of ideas, enthusiasm or pencils.

Sketch 1:

Gum Gum racing
It just seemed obvious that Gum Gum people would race on magic bananas.

Sketch 2:

Gum Gum toothbrush
I have never found gum on my toothbrush.

The GGP getting scratched looks positively delighted. It almost makes me want to try using a toothbrush the next time I’m itchy.

You may have noticed the first drawing looks a lot dirtier. This is because it was on the top of the drawing pad and picked up something like 20 years of crud that the scanner accurately captured. Hooray for technology. (I chose not to clean it up because cleaning up art can have unintended consequences.)

My fantastic rendition of a ring-tailed cat

Did you know a ring-tailed cat is not a cat? Did you know I sketched a ring-tailed cat back in junior high and upon looking at the sketch today I had no idea what it was, except that it was small and furry and possibly a little mean? Did you know that I discovered it was a ring-tailed cat (which is not a cat but a relative of the raccoon) by doing a search for “ring-tailed animals” and coming across a similar image?

Now you know. Hopefully these trivial bits of information didn’t shove out something way more important from your brain.

Note the small backwards check in the lower right of the drawing. I think this was my teacher’s way of saying, “I acknowledge your work but dare not comment on it.” Which would be fair, really. I’ve never been more than a mediocre visual artist.

The scan is actually a photo I took with my iPhone 6, which I then cropped on my PC. Isn’t technology grand? The original image is 5×7 inches. Also, the ring-tailed cat appears to be missing a leg, a recurring theme in my animal sketches, apparently.

Ring-tailed cat, sketch done at age 15.
Ring-tailed cat, sketch done at age 15.

And here’s the same sketch using the Composition filter from the iOS app Prisma. These filters are so sophisticated they can make my trashy junior high art actually look kind of neat. Did I mention how grand technology is?

Ring-tailed cat with groovy image filter applied.
Ring-tailed cat with groovy image filter applied.

The fake house I drew when I was 17

I promise I’ll scan more than one of these for my next trip down mediocre teenage art memory lane.

In the meantime I like this minimalist but slightly goofy perspective exercise. It’s simple and has a looseness that I probably couldn’t have captured if I was actually going for that. It’s not dated but judging from some of the work from the same book it looks to be from early 1982, a mere 31 years ago!

The Perspective House on the Hill

I deliberately allowed the image on the reverse side to bleed through on the scan because hey, art!

Note: If you reference the previous post, I lied. The teacher did not grade this particular piece. But I can pretend I got an A for it.

The fake chipmunk I drew when I was 15

I’ve been going through some of my school sketchbooks of late and what I’ve found is that I was a fairly consistent and mediocre visual artist, with occasional flashes of talent/skill/luck beyond my usual stuff. The following is not an example of that. Sorry!

Instead it’s a drawing I made of a fake chipmunk I did while our art class was touring the provincial museum (now the Royal British Columbia Museum) in Victoria in October of 1979. The museum was absolutely wondrous to me. It had the usual exhibits, mainly focused on local native art, totem poles and such, but it also had life-size or nearly life-size dioramas depicting scenes both past and present from around the province. The highlight was probably the mining town that was modeled in loving detail, complete with a fishy-smelling cannery, a street filled with shops, a movie theater and a bakery that always had the aroma of cinnamon wafting from it.

The chipmunk was part of the one of the nature dioramas. I don’t remember the exact scene it was in but judging from its stance it was probably not about to be eaten by a moose.

It’s not a bad little drawing but there’s nothing especially remarkable about it, either. I think I’m most proud that I got the proportions right and didn’t give it some weird mega-head or something. Maybe I’ll go over the digital copy and see how I’d improve on it today with 30 more years of life experience and 0 more years of useful art talent. The teacher gave me a B for it. I can’t really argue with that.

The Chipmunk Eats

Next: Something the teacher gave me an A for!


Here’s what I would have done to the image if I’d had a PC with Photoshop in 1979 instead of an Atari 2600 with a Canyon Bomber cartridge:

Crosshatched chipmunk

(apply the crosshatch image effect and adjust the level to give it better contrast)