This section is my personal digital sketchbook for quick and loose pencil sketches. I try to draw cars every day, and I’ll post the best sketches here.
I’m in far too deep now…despite a busy schedule with work and family life, I’m getting to the point where I’m starting to feel anxious if I haven’t drawn any cars in a while. I think part of the reason is because I’m finally starting to see some real progress with my sketching technique and I’m totally afraid to lose any of the skill I’ve picked up over the past few months. I declared way back in January that I had decided to become a great automotive artist, and despite a slow start, I feel like I’m making some real progress. Of course I’m still far from “great”, but I’m having fun picking up where I left off when I was a kid back in the 1980’s.
My automotive design style still has much to be desired (some of my proportions are cartoonish, I know), but the thing that I love practicing the most is my line work. Thick and thin line weights rock! Line weight is so important when it comes to drawing cars – it’s probably different for everyone, but for me, I like to use varied line weight to give depth to my illustrations. Thick lines on the exterior edges define the boundaries of the car, while the thinner lines are reserved for detailing the little details and more delicate surface transitions. And drawn with enough speed, it’s easy to vary the weight across the distance of the line. This gives a look of more spontaneity to the drawing, and it takes a lot of practice, but I personally really like the results.
Looking back on my progress from the beginning of the year, I know that my biggest problem now is proportion. I realize that my work is more conceptual than illustrative, but still. I need to get that under control. Details are another problem – I’ve got a really short attention span and it’s difficult for me to spend the time to detail out a sketch once I get the line work laid down the way I like it. All I want to do is move on to the next drawing! But I’ve been working on it a bit and you can see a bit more detail in these sketches than my previous ones I’ve posted this year.
I’ve been doodling some car sketches this week in between some other projects, and for some reason or another I seem to be stuck in a “hard edge” phase. All the cars I’ve been drawing recently feature very severe angles and hard corners, and I’m not really sure where that’s stemming from. I have noticed that it’s a style I gravitate towards every now and then (my grayscale SUV rendering is a perfect example of that), so I’m guessing this is going to pass and I’ll be onto other styles in no time.
Also interesting about these two sketches is that one was done in Photoshop, and the other one in Sketchbook Pro. I’ve never been a huge fan of drawing cars in Photoshop, but I’m slowly getting used to it and now I think I’ve come to the point where I can admit that it’s not that bad. The biggest issue for my style of drawing is that making ovals (for the wheels) is a lot more clumsy in Photoshop compared to Sketchbook Pro. With Photoshop, I have to manually create a vector oval shape, reduce the opacity completely, and then apply a stroke layer style around it. With Sketchbook, shape guides are very simple to use – and the best part about them is that I can control the line weight just the way I like. For quick and loose concept car sketching that I like to do, that’s a huge plus.
The other slight advantage that SBP has over PS is that it’s more easy to create pen and pencil brushes that look like the real thing. They are softer, which makes it much easier to vary line weight and control my think and thin lines as I turn corners. I can do this in PS too, of course, but the way SBP renders those strokes is much more natural looking.
Speaking of my hard edge style, I just went back through my archives as I was writing this post and I noticed that many of my earlier renderings and sketches are blocky like that. Remember the Mustang concept drawing I did several years ago? Hard edges all over the place!
If there is one thing I’m learning about myself with my goal of becoming a great automotive illustrator, it’s that I don’t have much free time anymore. That last post was full of excitement and enthusiasm in regards to becoming the automotive artist that I’ve always wanted to be, but…not much has happened since then. Yes, I have been sketching cars off and on the entire time, but I can never seem to find the time (or patience) to sit down for a couple hours at a time to crank out some really detailed automotive art.
I don’t want to make this post a boring one full of excuses and explanations, but that’s really all I’ve got at the moment. Drawing cars takes serious dedication, and I certainly don’t have the time that I did when was an teenager to be doing this sort of thing. That sucks, because…I actually want to become a great artist. But my day job is demanding, the family gets most of my attention, and I’ve got way too many other hobbies. Excuses and explanations…I know.
I’m starting to think that the little doodles and sketches I do here and there is all I can do for the foreseeable future. That’s not such a bad thing, because keeping the drawing muscles trained and in practice is very important. It’s not like I’ve given up drawing and sketching for good, which is something I really don’t have any plans of doing. As long as they keep making pencil and paper, I’ll be doodling!
I guess what I’m trying to say is that my dreams of becoming an illustrator who creates jaw-dropping works of photo-realistic art is likely not to happen (for now anyway). But…the sketches and doodles will continue, and all of that work will be posted here on this blog as a visual timeline of my progress.
I’m going to be flat-out honest when I say that for as much as I want to re-learn how to draw cars, it’s not an easy thing to commit to. You see, automotive illustration is a very physical thing. For the best quality, it’s necessary to draw from the shoulder and move the entire arm to create a smooth and flowing lines. And at the end of the day (usually the only time I have to draw), I just don’t have it in me to do something physical like that.
I’m a visual designer in my day job, meaning that I’m essentially a jack of all trades graphic designer. I design mobile apps, websites and posters, as well as creating 3d content for advertising. But none of this is very physical work. It basically involves moving my wrists and fingers to push my mouse around and press some keys. Not very healthy, I know, and it’s one of the reasons why I want to be doing less of this as I get older.
The other reason is age. I’m 40 years old now, and my days of being a hot-shot visual designer are numbered. This is a game for younger folks – the trend setters, if you will. I’m not setting any trends anymore, and I’m starting to think that automotive art is going to be my creative outlet once I hang up the visual designer thing for good. But the problem is (as evident by my latest sketches above) that I’ve got a long way to go to be considered the hot-shot artist I want to be.
That means that I’ve got to change my mindset about drawing cars. This is what I want. This is the next chapter in my life. And the only way I’m going to be great is to practice every single day.
And the good news is that I have been practicing – the sketches above are some of the cars that I have sketched over the past week. I’m not really happy with any of them, but I know I need to bust through this period of never being satisfied if I want to break through and be a hot-shot.
Looking back on my archives, I recently realized that most of the car drawings that I do are late-model sport coupes. That discovery wasn’t even all that shocking to me – after all, that’s probably my favorite kind of car of all time. Even when I was 10 years old (way back in the mid 80’s), I was drawing sport coupes!
Well, I decided to shake things up a bit and go old school with this Mercedes Benz 300sl rendering. I don’t think I’ve ever done a true classic like this (other than the ’72 Chevelle drawing I did a couple years ago), so it was interesting to say the least. I had no idea that drawing old cars would be so difficult – there are a lot of compound curves, and there isn’t a straight body panel anywhere to be found on this particular car.
I aslo wasn’t planning on doing a full-blown rendering. My intention was to limit myself to a 1 hour pencil sketch (similar to the Audi R8 sketch I did last week), but I found myself fidgeting with all the little details the further I got into it. I’m glad I decided to go all the way though – I really need to practice my rendering technique anyway, so this added a bit more experience under my belt.
If you’re curious, here is an in-progress sketch of this Mercedes that I captured along the way:
After the line art was complete, I exported everything into Photoshop to add the color and reflections. I must say that Photoshop is difficult to work with in this regard. I think for the next drawing I do, I’ll do as much of the color and shading as I can in SketchBook Pro before exporting to Photoshop.
Part of the reason why it’s so hard for me to draw cars very often is because I’m a total perfectionist by nature and I want things to be the best they can possibly be. That means that when I start a new sketch, I tend to have visions in my mind about it being the coolest thing I’ve ever done – anything less would be a disappointment and not worth the effort. But perfection takes time, and that’s simply something I don’t have much of these days so I’ve got to let that desire to be perfect go.
This quick sketch of an Audi R8 is an example of “letting go”. It took about 20 minutes to do, and while it’s far from perfect, the fact I was able to call it done after that short amount of time is a pretty big deal to me (and a step in the right direction). Yeah, the perfectionist in me just looks at this drawing and has a hard time not fixating on all the things that are wrong with it, but the artist in me is just happy to keep my hands practicing – no matter what the outcome is.
One thing I’m still struggling with a bit is developing a focal point in my sketches. I know that my transportation design instructors from school (a looong time ago) would beat me over the head for drawing this entire car without letting some of the details fall off at the edges, so that’s something I need to work on going forward. There’s no need to draw every detail of the car – as long as the overall shape is captured, a lot can be left to the imagination.
I can’t believe how much I’ve been slacking in terms of drawing cars this year. Here we are in the last quarter, and the total combined amount of time that I’ve spent with pen to paper (er, Wacom art pen to drawing tablet) is not anywhere near where I had hoped it would be. That’s not to say that my entire life has been a giant slack-fest – as a matter of fact, I’m busier than ever with other projects which is unfortunately cutting into the time I have available to draw cars.
I’ve decided to make an effort to draw a lot more. Art is an important part of life (I believe it’s an awesome creative outlet), so I’m taking charge of the time I have available and making time to draw and sketch cars. If that means drawing while stuck in a business meeting, so be it. Frankly, I’m pretty darn sick and tired of other people preventing me from doing what I want to do. Now that I’ve got that off my chest…
Anyway, here’s a sketch of a Lotus Exige that I’ve been working on for a while now. It’s a rather simple line drawing actually, so I’m a bit ashamed to mention that it has been a long-term project. In all actuality though, what I mean by that is working on it in 5-minute increments (whenever I have the time).
I was planning on doing a really tight rendering of it just as I did with the Fiat 500 illustration, but I’m tired of looking at this thing and I actually sort of like the simplicity of the line drawing style. I think I’ll leave it just like this and move onto the next one…
It’s been a while since my last update, but I’m still drawing cars every now and then – but certainly not as much as I’d like. Most of the time it’s because I’m so busy that I’m not anywhere near a computer, but other times it’s because I’m at my computer but too busy doing other things! There don’t seem to be enough hours in the day to draw all the cars that I’d like, so finding any amount of spare time to sneak in a sketch or two is a challenge.
I posted a while back about how my iPad is a great way to sketch and draw wherever I happen to be, and I still think that is the case. I take that iPad with me to meetings (and during travel), and combined with the Sketchbook Pro app and a Wacom art pen, it’s a pretty good solution for getting my art and design fix whenever it may strike.
The car and truck sketches above are two that I recently created on the iPad. Well, “recently” is a loose term, mostly because I started both of these back in January of this year and just tinkered with them both since then whenever I had a few minutes here in there in meetings (or wherever). I wanted to put some more detail into both, but I’ve just now decided to call them “done” and move on to the next drawing.
Because they were drawn on the iPad, they are pretty basic and crude. It’s difficult to get a lot of detail into these with a fat-nibbed stylus, so I was basically playing with basic shape and form more than anything else. But most importantly, it’s good practice.
They say that the more you draw, the better you will get. I’ve always been a believer in this, and it’s been frustrating to admit that my skills as an automotive artist have actually decreased over the past year due to the fact that I’ve hardly been drawing. I mean, take a look at the quick truck sketch I uploaded in my last post. Blech – I don’t even know why I posted that! Well…I’m very happy to report that I believe I’ve finally busted through my slump and found an awesome new rendering style that I actually like.
Before starting this C7 Z06 rendering, I took a good look at the work of many other automotive artists and illustrators – and it dawned on me that I was drawn (no pun intended) more towards the illustrator types who did the tight vector-style renderings. The guy who runs problemchildkustoms.com is a good example of that. BUT – I’ve never had the patience to create illustrations with that amount of detail so I knew that a style such as that wasn’t the best fit for me. I then realized that I don’t have to replicate anyone, and I’m better off finding and developing my own style. And that’s exactly what I’ve done with this Corvette.
This style is semi-tight, but not over the top. I like looseness and spontaneity in my car drawings, so that’s why I purposefully left the pencil lines from the original sketch show through, and I wasn’t overly concerned about making all the details perfect. My goal is to capture the essence of the car, and then move on to the next one. Like I said above – I don’t have the patience and attention span to create photo-qualtiy renderings and illustrations.
So this will be my style going forward, and I’m anxious to try it with some other cars.
I remember back when I was a child, and I could crank out 5 car sketches a day without a problem. I’ve got boxes full of my old car drawings from when I was a young teen, and I’m amazed how many I did back then. I was a total machine! Sadly, I just don’t have that kind of time anymore – as a matter of fact, this truck sketch took me nearly a week to do from start to finish. Technically, I only spent 1 hour on it, but it was one of those “10 minutes here, 10 minutes there” kind of things. Someday I hope to have the kind of time I used to have when I was a child so I can just sit and draw cars all day. Someday…
Anyway, this is a slightly different style for me. I’m not sure if I like it, but I do like the contrast.