Mistress of the Grid
The Mistress of the Grid

I was so proud of myself. I made a commitment to start using one of my dozen drawing/sketchpads pads and pencil sets—I even got a small hardcover sketchpad for when I’m on the go—and I have been using them for my serious renders. And yet, the number of doodles I do on printer paper with plain ol’ .5mm mechanical pencils hasn’t decreased at all. I’m just drawing more. And, as made evident by this render, a few of these doodles will evolve into something beyond the tools used to make them.

One of my main inspirations for drawing is my writing and/or the writings of friends. Although, typically the images are vivid in my mind, and I’m not up to the task of representing them on paper. Somehow these renders wind up being the most complex images I tackle. Thus, most renders/sketches in this vein make it to the trashcan and do not appear anywhere.

So, most of the time my writing influences my drawings in more subtle way. Like the render of Wrenny, for example. The angle that picture was taken from happened to match up with a story-inspired image floating around in my head at that time. Instead of drawing from imagination, I find a close proximity and draw that (hopefully figuring out how to do it purely from imagination later on down the road.) But, every now and again, though, my illustrations will rise to the occasion with reasonable success.

Every element of this render comes from a story idea—the girl leaning slightly over the glass desk, the laptop in front of her, the office-ish environment behind her with its array of monitors and that weird glass billboard/quasi-giant-computer monitor behind her. Not a perfect representation, but trust me, I’ve done much worse. This is probably the sixth or so sketch that I’ve done of the same image, and the only one that evolved beyond basic linework.

The biggest challenge initially was rendering her hands—how she has some of her weight resting on them, how her fingers are fanned out, and how they’re bent backwards as far as they’ll go. Any time the fingers arc the natural interpretation is that they’re curling towards the palm, so you have to be careful to include the knuckles and other details of the hand’s backside. Plus each joint in the fingers has a different threshold on how far they’ll go in the wrong direction, giving a weird irregular arc with little room for error in rendering them. And, most frustratingly, hands are very expressive and a line with too much or too little curve conveys some very different information.

Initially, I really screwed up her hands. The worst part was I liked how the rest of her looked, but the hands were just awful, awful, awful. So I vowed and tried my damndest to salvage what I’d sketched because I hate having a drawing I really like with one glaring flaw that looked like a monkey got a hold of my pencil. In a purely anatomical and mechanical level, I think I did a pretty good job saving her from deformity (especially since I didn’t really have a model or source). As far as nuances in their expressiveness, well, that was beyond rescue. I’m just happy they are recognizable as hands and not some freaky hoof-paw hybrid.

The background was drawn after I had pretty much finished her, which brings me to the next major challenge: giving the background depth. Perspective, the absolute bane of my drawing existence. I got lucky with this drawing because of the preplanned office-ish environment with rectangular ceiling tiles and fluorescent lights which made life easier.

Anyway, I like how the symmetrical nature combined with the halo of light gives it a unique and meaningful feeling despite the casual pose and the quasi-mundane setting. I’m also pleased with the flow of focal points and overall composition—how the eye will follow one arm down to the laptop, which leads to her other arm, which leads back up her body to the halo of light, which complete the circuit.

If I were to do this render again, I’d break out a straight edge to give more contrast between the curved nature of the female body and the rectangular nature of the room around her (in turn, solidifying her place as the primary focal points). Beyond that, the only things I’d like to improve are just the subtle nuances of both her pose and in rendering perspective.

Really, just detail work.