No Big Lebowski reference here.
Jeff Bridges

So we all knew I couldn’t keep a regular update schedule.

Anyway, even though the last portfolio addition to Dark Side is dated eleven months ago, I’ve drawn regularly since then. Mostly in sketchbooks now, but that’s not to say mechanical pencil doodles on printer paper will ever die at Dark Side of the Soul. Even though I have an abundance of art supplies and wasting sketchbook pages with screwups is a non-issue—I do blind and speed studies in sketchbooks just to defeat my anxiety of drawing in them—I will still find an excuse to use crappy mechanical pencils on crappy printer paper. And, yes, you will hear me bitch about it here.

This is actually a request. Will Armstrong, one of the two readers of DSotS, sent this mug shot-esque photo of Jeff Bridges and asked me to take a crack at it. Three years later, I obliged ... when I was bored ... and had nothing else to do ... or draw. Seriously though, I often find myself sitting down to draw, thumbing through my photo library for a subject that inspires me. And while I really like this mug shot for its dark shadows, I just never was in the mood to draw it (whimsy strikes again).

With less time to draw (and update this site) on account of a new job, I’ve placed more emphasis on speed, hoping I can become more efficient and effective without sacrificing quality because it seems like I sit down all the time with three or four subjects I want to draw ... and I make it through only one before calling it a night. Let me clarify that I’m referring to drawing time. It still took me upwards of a month to finish this one because it stayed in a drawer where it remained untouched for days and even weeks on end. When I did get to it, we’re talking about 10-45 minutes of work during lunch break or after work while traffic dies down so God only knows if it was actually faster. Having said that, I’m pretty damn proud of the results. Not my best, but hey, considering the conditions ...

What most pleases me isn’t very apparent at a first glance, and that’s the size of the render: it only takes up about three-quarters of the page, and the scanned area is even smaller because like many other renders I didn’t square off my frame so ... it was basically shaped like a rounded pentagon. And of course, the whole time I knew better but never fixed it because, “Screw it! I don’t care! That’s not the point of this drawing!” And now I’ve cropped out those unsightly borders I so clearly didn’t give a damn about. Anyway, the render as presented here could fit on half a page which means you, the viewer, have a closer look at a my pencil work. And you know what? I think this one can (mostly) hold up to the closer inspection.

I say mostly because I’m not too thrilled about the beard. In a way, it’s like drawing foliage where the artist focuses less on individual leaves and focuses more on an overarching texture that tricks the eye into seeing something it doesn’t. So I knew going in I could never draw the beard follicle by follicle, but I could never quite figure out how to generate the correct texture. It just looks like half-assed sloppy pencil strokes. I suspect one of the factors lay in the mechanical pencil I used which sucks for many things but especially sucks when it comes to rendering texture. The nature of its design lays down graphite in a relatively uniform line, and you really have to work it to get organic variety which equals texture.

But this is overly critical me writing an introspective analysis on Dark Side of the Soul so I won’t completely excuse myself. Yeah, I didn’t know what to do. Indeed, I improvised a few things. And of course, I got tired of the drawing and declared it finished even though the beard could clearly use a lot more work. But hey, some things never change.

Lastly, I am pleased to note I’ve identified a longstanding problem with my work. Yes, my tendency to skew and warp features such as putting one eye noticeably higher than the other. Turns out, I tend to draw with the paper/sketchbook at an angle. This accommodates my right hand coming in from the side and is the most comfortable position for me to draw, but it’s lead me to drawing with my head tilted ... and my neck can’t comfortably match the angle of the paper. So, I end up looking at the source one way while drawing on a page that’s twisted another way. This also explains why much of my work leans to one side.

Now the question remains: can I learn to fix it? We’ll see ... sometime ... on Dark Side of the Soul!

—Jay Wilson