How Do You Do That?

“How do you do that?” is a question I’m often asked, so I’ll give you a brief description of my process, including a short video at the bottom of the post.

I work from photographs so that I can capture the strong sunlight and shadows that add so much depth to my drawings. I use a zoom lens so that I am cropping and composing as I take the photos. (When I became a full-time fine artist the best thing I did at the time was invest in a zoom lens camera.)

I start with a contour drawing to get the shapes of objects and the perspective right. Then I start putting in layers of lines. The direction of the lines changes with each layer. White areas will have no lines, lighter areas from two to four or five layers and the darkest shadows as many as 12 to 14 layers.

As I get closer to finishing a drawing I am continuously making adjustments. If an area needs to be a bit darker, I’ll add another layer or two of lines, which means I will need to adjust the other areas of the drawing including the darkest areas with some more layers of lines too.

It takes a great deal of concentration (there is no erasing!), so I work in 1 ½ to 2 hour increments with 30 minute breaks. Ideally, I like to work 6 hours a day. I try to schedule errands and meetings that take me away from the studio, as much as I can, on the same day. And even then, I try to draw for at least two hours on those days. You really have to stay in control of your time because there are so many things and people that would love to take over the time that you have. You have to say no even to good things so that you can say yes to the best things.

When I am “finished” with a drawing, I put it aside and for 2 or 3 days I “fine-tune” it. After not looking at it for awhile, I pull it out and that’s when something that needs to be fixed jumps out at me. Maybe I've left something completely white in the background that wouldn't be white and sticks out like a sore thumb so I add some layers of lines. 

My drawings take anywhere from 14 hours to 35/37 hours to create with some exceptions such as “Carnegie Hall, NYC” which took 70 hours. Typically, anywhere from 25 to 35 hours. The whole process is very cathartic. When you concentrate so intently, all those random thoughts that usually bounce in to your mind constantly can’t get in (kind of gives your brain a rest).

I have created a video, below,  that you can watch that shows you a little bit of what I've described. Take a look! If you have any questions, I’ll be happy to answer them.


Alejandro Martinez said...

I couldn't see the video...could you public the link to YouTube? Thank you very much for sharing your art.

Melissa B. Tubbs said...

Certainly, thank you for letting me know!

Leslie Moore said...

Love seeing and hearing about your process! What kind of pen do you use? I, too, find drawing cathartic.

Terry said...

Music? TV? in background.

Melissa B. Tubbs said...

Hi Leslie! I currently use a Rotring Isograph .18. I have to order them from England. And, of course I use Strathmore 400 Series Drawing paper.

Melissa B. Tubbs said...

Well, Terry, it is music I put in on purpose. I hate to play a video and have the music blast me out of the room so I kept the recording low. Is it too low?