Ladybird's Flight: 8 Steps in how a drawing composition develops.

Friday, 13 January 2017

8 Steps in how a drawing composition develops.

There is a fabulous Facebook Group, 52-Week Illustration Challenge. Each week of the year there is a set theme that the group members illustrate.

This post is about how the week two theme ‘feathered animals’ inspired the composition of a drawing.

  1. Theme. Take the theme of the week and develop an idea based on the theme e.g. ‘feathered animals’ hence a bird was chosen to be the beginning point of the drawing.
  2. Choose the materials that you want use for your final drawing. For you this step might come later in your drawing process or it might even.
    • Pigment materials. Pencil, ink, watercolours, pastels etc. REMEMBER to use waterproof ink for the drawing’s outlines if you want to add watercolours to your illustration.
    • Pigment Application. Pens, nibs, brushes, fingers, sponges etc.
    • Paper. Paper type and colour. REMEMBER Consider which paper is best for the drawing materials that you have chosen to use. E.g. watercolour paper, pastel paper etc
  3. Develop the initial idea. Draw a number of birds until you have one that you are happy with. For me that meant about 50 birds to be happy with the shape and size of the bird.
  4. Composition Plan. Think about how you will develop your drawing from this point. Will you do several sketches and then create a final drawing taking in all the best elements or will the drawing be developed on one piece of paper that you keep building on? I sometimes sketch ideas on separate pieces of paper then using a light box trace each element onto the final drawing. For my ‘feathered animal’ illustration I used a photocopier to copy my final illustration page each time I added a new element. I then sketched ideas and new elements to the photocopied page until I was happy with the composition to be able to transfer the element to my final illustration.
  5. Choose a location. Now you need an environment for the bird to exist in. In this drawing it is of a bird flying away from a tree but it could have been soaring over a cityscape of buildings.
  6. Develop the drawing location. Give the drawing more details of interest. This could be done by adding more elements, patterns or colour.
    • Add knots to the tree trunk. 
    • Add flowers to the foreground.
    • Add something to show the air – patterns of swirls created by the North Wind, how does the wind react in relation to other elements in the drawing?
    • Add colour – I decided not to do this for this illustration as I wanted a drawing that you might find in a chapter book.

  7. Look at the composition and see if anything else is needed. Do you add patterns to represent the leaves of the tree or something else? E.g. two love birds on a branch.
  8. Know when to stop. It can be tempting to add just one more thing to fill in an empty space. Empty space can be just as important to a drawing’s composition as the elements. In this instance I decided not to add anything to the right mid-ground of the drawing, other elements could be added to this space depending on the story line of the book.

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