Sketchbook Thread of Wade White


I’ve glanced in at the Anatomy and Figurative Art threads from time to time and finally decided to start one my own. It’s encouraging to see everyone’s development, and I hope to see the same results for myself over time (by putting in the hard work, of course :slight_smile: ).


I saw a thread asking people to post their general improvement. I’ve only just joined the forum so thought I’d post my personal development here for the time being until I’ve established more of a presence.

I’ve always been interested in art and the ability to draw, especially the human figure, but followed another path in my formal eductation. Several years back, however, I began to apply myself a little more purposefully towards developing the skills. My progress has been somewhat uneven (mostly because I’ve admittedly been on again/off again in keeping up with it), but I have seen improvement.

Following Betty Edward’s book, The New Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain, here’s a self portrait I did back in April of 2004 (#4 pencil on regular photocopy paper while looking in a mirror; roughly 1.5-2 hours):

And after many stops and starts in finishing the exercises (and switching over to other books/tutorials in the meantime, or just not getting any drawing done at all), here’s my second attempt at a self portrait from just a few days ago (also pencil on paper; around 3 hours):

I can see all kinds of problems with it: general shading is patchy (to some extent because I tweaked the contrast slightly when importing to Photoshop; might not have been a good idea), the shape of the upper lip and the space between the lip and nose, the glasses and right hand side of the face are off (partly, I think, because I rotated my head over the course of the drawing and thus distorted the perspective from when I started; I tried to fix it a little bit, but could only do so much). I also think I shied away from the details to some extent. Part of that was setup/lighting (i.e. I couldn’t make out the finer details), but some was fear of messing up the parts that were working.

Still, I’m reasonably pleased with how far I’ve come. I know I could be even further along if I’d applied myself better, but rather than dwelling on where I’ve missed out I think I’ll focus instead on making sure it just doesn’t happen anymore.

Anyway, I’m very interested in undertaking a detailed study of anatomy over the next months/years, and thought this would be a good place to track my progress and maybe get some feedback from others on the journey.


And here’s another recent exercise from the Edward’s book. A copy of a self portrait done in charcoal by Gustave Courbet (back in 1897, I think). My copy’s pencil on paper:

Again, I played with the contrast a bit upon import (my original is lighter) and I’m not sure it was a great improvement. I might leave contrast alone from now on, at least on works that aren’t intended to be “digital” in the end.


Hi Wade! Welcome!! Great to see your improvement…:thumbsup: Wish you great progress in developing your skills, and looking forward to regular updates!


Here’s one I started last night and finished today. Another exercise from the Edwards book (from the chapter at the end on beginning to work with colour).

Here is the reference I used (our oldest son wrapped in a towel and sitting on a rock at the lake when he was four):

The drawing was done in coloured pencil (purple and cream only) on a darker purple construction-type paper (construction lines are still somewhat visible and were part of the proscribed exercise):

The exercise said to use lighter coloured paper, and now I know why. It was much too dark. And I had to seriously adjust the contrast because it looked even worse when I imported it (a really bright purple).

I had an earlier version that I was about to call finished, but you could hardly make out the shoes and only the darkest areas of shading (which could still be graded better, but I don’t know if it’s fixable anymore). Here’s a small version of that stage:

I decided to take another run at it and when I looked at the photo again I was surprised by how much more subtle grading in the shadows I could see. It was like there were several more layers I simply hadn’t picked up on before. Although I still need to work on grading from dark to light, etc, I think the final image is a step or two better for having at least noticed it.

I also noticed after I started my second run at it (since I’m still in the beginning stages of learning about value) that for most of the picture there’s really only one middle value. The highlights aren’t overly intense (cloudy day on early afternoon), and the really dark values are minimal. So it probably wasn’t the best picture to select for training myself in values because there wasn’t that much contrast in there to learn from. To finish it up, I actually worked on the kitchen table away from the photo itself and just went with my gut instinct as to where it needed some tweaking in order to make it work overall.

As a final thought, I think perhaps I should try to bring in the water somehow, but even though it isn’t perfect I’m afraid of messing it up. I’m not sure: a) if it needs it, or b) which colour to use when using a limited palette.

Anyway, a fun exercise and I learned tons.

Edit: I also realized afterwards that compositionally I probably should have shifted him over to the right a bit more. I don’t think it’s way off, but the figure is a perhaps bit too centered.


A quick concept piece I did today:


anand - thanks for the kind words. I’m hoping this year is going to see major improvements. Actually, what I’m really aiming for is just a year of steadily working away at it. I figure improvements can’t help but come about if I do.


Hey fifty3dragons,
I like this pencil potraits of you where the whole paper is full with pencil … can you show us some more of this? :smiley:
Keep you sketchbook up I’ll check later for some new potraits :wink:



Thomas - Thanks. Glad you enjoy them. I actually haven’t done much of that sort of thing. I learned the technique while working my way through Betty Edwards, The New Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain. Basically you “prime” the paper with a graphite stick and then gently rub it in (with paper towel or a cloth) to make a smooth drawing surface. Then use an eraser to subtract the highlights and a pencil to add in the darks.

Here’s some WIP pics from today (using the same technique as described above). The reference for it is the skull image from the suggested introductory tutorial for the anatomy thread available here (which I intend to do digitally next, once this pencil version is finished):

I still use a grid (as is evident in the picture) in order to get the basic outline down. I’m not confident enough yet in my skills not to use it, however I did erase it once I got this far (which for me really felt like going out on a limb, or losing the safety net). The dark streaks in the lower right were because I starting priming the paper on the table instead of with several sheets underneath to cusion it. Probably should have redone it. Oh well.

Here’s how it looked once I did the first pass of picking out the highlights with the eraser:

And here’s how it looks after the first pass of adding the shadows:

That’s probably all I’ll do for today. I have a concept piece I want to go draw, just for fun!

I intend to take it another couple of steps at least, but to be honest I’m not too sure how to proceed. The pencil shading looks pretty rough (though I suppose it is only the first pass). If anyone out there with experience wants to chime in and offer suggestions/tips, I wouldn’t mind at all :smiley:


Hi Wade!! The skull study is coming out awesome!!:thumbsup:


anand - hey, thanks for the encouragement! I’m working at it.

So, here’s the rest of the skull study. Next I tried to work the shading a bit more and began to add in some of the finer details. I was getting the feeling that something was off around the eye sockets because I had to redo the crack across the nose bridge. I really should have checked it better against the original. Anyway, here’s that step:

Then I decided to shade around it, to make the background darker (thus matching the reference image):

Ach! Danger, Wil Robinson! Danger! This did not go as planned; I was not impressed with the shading here. It felt like the beginning of the end. Anyway, I did this and that to try and fix it up:

I was going to call it done here, but noticed upon scanning it in that the shading was uneven (i.e. I had darkened some areas, but not others). And so …

Hmmm, kinda hard to tell I did anything at all. Oh well :shrug:

Anyway, afterwards I did a trace-over of the reference image, just for comparison:

Reasonably close, but generally too narrow and the eye sockets are quite a bit off (too small). I probably should have done this sort of check after the basic outline and corrected myself early in the running. Still, many lessons learned in the process, and now I have a cool skull picture to use as an avatar or something!


Rough concept for a sort of commissioned piece (i.e. for a friend, but with somewhat specific parameters on the overall design, including the falcon). Working in Photoshop (though I may flip over to Painter). Her name is Zarine:

Any comments/critiques/corrections would be great before I continue working on it.


hey 53dragons,

really fun to read your thoughts (and leave your avatar the way it is now, btw…:smiley: )
Also, it’s good to see your enthusiasm.

I like your full pencil drawings and the skull especially!

Random thoughts for this last concept:

  • enhance the gesture of the pose! (links to gesture tutorial) Maybe leave the dress out at first and really figure out how the weight is distributed on the legs, for example.

  • get rid of the 100% black in the staff. Only makes it harder to key the overall values later on

  • think of a more intricate pose for the hand holding the staff. Something more sophisticated, somehow… something that suggests that that thing is a thing of magic, or otherwise arcane, not just something she is carrying along, you know?

  • mind the concept of opposing curveson her right arm (links to opposing curves tutorial), but also in the overall flow of her gesture.

I hadn’t heard about the from-dark-to-light method with picking the lights with an eraser and all. Sounds like a logical adaptation of painting from dark to light.

However, there is one thing I would really like to recommend to you (very strongly):
Anthony Ryder’s “Artist’s Complete Guide to Figure Drawing”

It’s hard to give a short summary for the reasons, but I will try:

  • it gives you a small, but powerful set of easy to adpat to tools with which you can organize any figure drawing from observation (envelope, block-in, contour, tilt-measuring, organization a.s.o.)

  • it will take your shading/light forming to higher level

  • it slows your working speed down, forcing you to take an in-depth look at what you do and see.

  • Ironically, this also means it speeds the understanding of the most important aspects about drawing, thus saving time in the end.

  • it’s a deep, exciting essay on perception which changed the way I see people when I draw!

The self-portrait, done from mirror, in my portfolio is the first thing I drew when I had read this book. It was a breakthrough for me.

Check the author out here (esp. the drawing section):

I think that for the stage you’re at this approach will take you very far.

Keep going!


Hey, Mu! Thanks so much for taking the time to go over my stuff. I especially appreciate your critique of my last concept piece and will be sure to study the links you’ve posted. I also checked online at the closest branch of the library here and they have the Ryder book you mentioned, so I’ll give that a look too.
And I’ll leave the avatar :slight_smile: . I just did it up quick back when I joined, always with the intention of changing it. But I gues I’ve kind of grown used to him.

Thanks again!

I’m off to work on my OFDW today and try to catch up (what a bunch of keeners around here, eh? :smiley: )!


Edit: Oh, and I did do an underdrawing of the legs (as you suggested) and then erased them out, but I think I probably rushed it. I’ll take your advice and try for a much more solid foundation before moving forward (there’s no rush/time limit, and I’d really like to do a nice job on this).


Hi fifty3dragons,
I actually really liked the purple paper on which you were drawing that boy. You just need to use a lot of light chalks to bring him out. Would be cool to see you work that one more. Also if you discover that you put him too centered you can always cut the paper on the sides if you wanted :slight_smile:

The girl you’re drawing looks pretty cool. Mu pointed out a bunch of good things, I’ll also just say that I think her arm holding the staff is too long and thin. The whole forearm is longer than the upper arm. I’d move it in closer to her body, maybe even tilt the staff to give it a bit more interest. Although having her holding the bird and the staff in each hand is a hard pose to do. Good luck with it!


Roja - thanks. Don’t know if I’ll work that one too much more as it has a grid on it. But I might follow your suggestion about using light chalks and try it from scratch again.

Thanks for the crit on my latest concept piece. Very helpful.

My first post for the OFDW 022:

I know, it’s hard to see. 4H pencil on smooth bristol and a very light touch. Next update will be darker, I promise! It’s the outline for the ears render by Joel Mongeon available for viewing here.


In the interest of starting to do more actual life drawing, I penciled in this piece in my sketchbook tonight. Reference was from the Character Designs website (Photoset 16, Image 0017). About 25 minutes:

Obviously I need to do a lot more life drawing :slight_smile: .


Hi Wade,

like it - goes a bit more into gesture direction than your previous work.

Nothing beats observation from real life, though. Pencil and sketchbook and a chair in a cafe with a view on the square, for example. Maximum of maybe 3 secs for each pose (people keep moving about and all)… that’s really fun… try it…:slight_smile:


What about auto contrast in photoshop ? I think it would help a lot to see the lines :smiley:


One of six. Not quite finished yet, but this is what I got done today: