Tutorial - drawing a Collie (Part 1)

I’m going to try a show you how I sketched my latest artwork “Collie”. The source photograph wasn’t the best in the world, but it was workable.

Material used:
A2 Size slightly textured cartridge
paper 180gsm (Bought from Staples)
Pentel mechanical pencil 9mm 2B lead
Pentel mechanical pencil 7mm 2B lead
Pentel mechanical pencil 5mm 2H lead
Pentel mechanical pencil 3mm 4H lead
A kneadable eraser (I call a putty rubber)
Roll of masking tape
Scraps of paper
Copious amounts of tea (English Breakfast or Earl Grey)
A whole packet of digestive biscuits (not the really crumbly kind)
A radio or some kind of fangled audio device (MP3 player etc.)

OK, first things first, clear all the junk which is on the desk/table where you want to sketch, preferably in good light (in front of a window is ideal). Switch on the radio or plug in your prefferred “I’m ignoring the world” music player of your choice.

Tape your cartridge sheet down using the masking tape, this really helps to keep your work tidy and stops it moving when it shouldn’t and prevents you making creases on it when you rest or lean on a corner of it which is hanging off the desk/table (done it, not nice, makes the paper look tatty). I always use pieces of paper to either lean on or place over the areas I’ve sketched, helps to keep your work tidy.

The first thing I do is (now please listen carefully) try to ROUGHLY and LIGHTLY sketch out the Collie onto the paper, don’t go trying to sketch it straight away, (unless you’re a Michelangelo then ignore me!). You can also try gridding the paper or tracing onto it, if you’re not happy sketching the initial rough outline, don’t worry, it doesn’t matter so long as you have a basic outline of the dog somewhere in the centre of the paper (the lines you sketch now will help you begin and soon disappear under all the pencil you will apply – trust me on this). When sketching the rough, make sure it covers a fair amount of the paper you are using with a border of 6-8 inches of free space all around your sketch, this is going to be a very useful area to rest your hands (I constantly am aware about where my hands rest on the paper, there is nothing worse than spending a lot of time with pencil work on one section whilst you unknowingly smudge another area with your palm/fingers. Take your time with this rough sketch. if it doesn’t look to be in proportion, rub out a few lines add others till your happy you have an outline of the dog.

Step 1
As I’m right handed, I always try and start from the top left working my way across and down (always mindful of not smudging my work). I start with the eyes (the eyes are the souls of an animal portrait and if they are not right then the whole portrait will look off. Using a 5mm 2H pencil, I lightly sketch out the outline of the eyes going over the rough sketch already on the paper, still using the 2H I shade in the pupil and areas where I’m going to shade darker, this is like an undercoat when you paint a door, as I’ll be going over in a softer pencil later. Using the 2H I hatch the shading around the left eye and parallel hatching on the top of the head (above the left eye) trying to keep my strokes generally going in the direction of the dogs fur, making sure I leave a lighter patch under the left eye. I finally use the 2H on the right eye, picking out the shape and where the iris is. I leave the hi-lights of the eyes as paper, which will (hopefully) end up being the brightest part of the dog’s eyes and helps them stand out. I then switch pencils over to my workhouse the 9mm 2B (really versatile, the 2B can sketch a range of tones and thicknesses and is one of my favorite leads) and I start hatching the underside of the collie’s ear, around the top corner of the eye and eye line. I’m trying not to go over all of the 2H areas I laid down previously, with care and patience; I can make the darker shading flow into the light shades. I try not to uses my fingers for blending or smudging, it may sound an easy way to move the lead around, but it very difficult to control and (in my opinion) looks unsightly. The left eye is made up of a 2H pupil with a 2B iris (gives a great contrast when used together – looks dull and off if I only use a 2B to do the eye). Using the 2B for a while gives you a diagonal flat edge to the lead, the reason I use Pentel, is that I can turn the pencil and use the sharp edge for very fine strokes, like the tips of the ears and a few loose hairs under the ears (cheaper mechanical pencils don’t grip the lead tight enough and you cannot do this). I keep applying the strokes to the paper until I have something like the Image below.

Step 2
Now I’m moving over to the right eye with my 2H and starting from the top, I begin to lay down a few strokes on the right hand side of the central white flash on the collies head, down towards and past the right eye. On the reference photo are some feint hi-lights of fur or white spots, I work around these with the 2H. I now move onto the underside of the right eye, making sure to leave the area below the eye paper white. Switching to my 2B, I sketch out the patterns on the area I’ve just been over with the 2H, I can see a dinosaur tooth shape above the right eye (see it?) and a baby tooth just to the side (I’m always seeing shapes in the things I sketch when most people see a dog, I see swirls, teeth, patterns of light and dark – I must be wired funny I guess). I emphasize the tooth shape and work around a small spot an over the top of the right eye. I then lightly use the 2B (LIGHTLY PLEASE!) on the squiggly bits here humans tend to have bags and then parallel stroke below the right eye to its edge. This is where the pieces of paper come in handy, I lay a scrap down on the lower right hand side of the face. I cut out a curve in the scrap to help get my hand in close to where I’m working. Still using a 2B I then move over the left side of the collie and carry on down till I come to the first whiskers. A lot of people have commented on the fact that I can sketch beautiful whiskers, well I don’t! I sketch around them (I must be one of those people that enjoy pain!) leaving the paper to make the whiskers jump out (which they will – trust me). I then work on the detailing around the whiskers, and if is too tight, I switch to my 7mm 2B pencil and can draw up close to the whisker lines. I try and shade between the whiskers in the same tone of shading outside them; if you don’t the eye (our eyes) are excellent and will pick out any discrepancies.

Step 3
Now I’m concentrating on the right hand side of the collies face, I start off with my 2H again laying down the undercoat strokes working from the top down around the right side of the right eye and down onto the cheek area, keeping my stroke lines fairly loose. I then switch over to the 9mm 2B and pick out some darker spike areas in the right ear and a portion on the right temple, I also add a few punk rock spikes where the era meets the top of the head. I then do a diagonal cross hatch over the cheekbone. It’s now time to match up the right eye to the left, I start (again with my 9mm 2B) to match the darker crescent or bell shape over both eyes, I also try and bring out the distinctive darker edging of the eyes, the corner of the right eye has a dark diagonal L shape leaning over to the right touching the top of the right eye, I also lightly scribble in a few boulders falling down the right side of the right eye (see them?). I finish off with a 2H matching both pupils. I also use the 2H to ever so delicately feather in the to of the white flash with a few strokes (only enough to give a hint of the top of the head).

Step 4
I’m still working on the right hand side of the collies face, primarily on the cheek, using my 9mm 2B, reinforcing the cross hatching, coming down further till I reach my first whisker. I use the 2H to fill in a small triangle leaving the paper white whisker visible. I use the 2B to show a little darker outline on the top edge of the right whisker and a small touch on the apex of the triangle (that’s the point of the triangle for those who skip geometry!). I also take this opportunity to reinforce the darker shading on the left hand side of the collies face, making sure I don’t touch any of my pencil work with my palm.

Step 5
Continuing, I attack (and I really mean attack) the right cheek of the collie with my 9mm 2B making a kind of gauntlet shape (does anyone else see these shapes?), I know it looks drastic but that part of the collies face has a lot of dark contrast in it, and to show of the collies eye orbits (the eye sockets) I need this dark area to bring them out. On the down stroke of this gauntlet I try and feather it into the cheek area, this is a nifty trick if you can master it, being bold and drastic at the beginning (never taking your pencil off the paper) and hatching it into the lighter cheek area. Now comes the first of many important steps, putting my pencils down, I open the packet of biscuits and taking one carefully dunk it into my hot tea (try not to let your tea go lukewarm – the biscuit dunking doesn’t taste right!). Whilst enjoying my well earned digestive biccie break I take the time to look over what I have achieved, looking (always looking) for bits that need attention, areas, where I need to reinforce. Seriously, it really helps to stop and take into account with a fresh pair of eyes, sometimes you work too long, too close and don’t realize something glaring at you till you stop awhile and take a fresh look at it.

Step 6
Still using my 9mm 2B pencil I sketch a darker zigzag spring shape coming down from the inner right ear, crashing into the top of the gauntlet. I then shade in darker on the right ear with two main shoots ending into the dark v of the ear tip. It looks like some kind of flat headed buzzard with a square-ish beak (see?). I continue down the neck of this buzzard, giving it a couple of stray hairs under its beak and at the base start a few darker diagonal strokes. Still with the 2B I shade some very loose diagonal hatching strokes on the right temple, making it darker than it was but still slightly lighter than the left temple. I also now pick out the longer darker hairs on the top of the right ear, shading it into the zigzag I sketched earlier. Hope this is making some sense to you and hopefully not the ramblings of a demented artist!

Step 7
I’m now getting into the flow of using my 2B, first with cross hatching (not heavy mind you) again on the right temple coming down the right side of the right eye until the avalanche of boulders has been covered with a fine mesh dust. I also cross hatch some strokes onto the right ear, close together on the first run then looser at the top of the ear. I also pick out in darker shades a few downturned fur spikes on the right hand side of the face. I join up the darker shading around the buzzards beak, making the ear one piece. Switching to my 2H, I begin picking out the outline of the rest of the whiskers on the right hand aside of the collie, making sure the edges of each whisker is fairly strong and proud. Still using my 2H, I move over to the neck area of the collie and shade in a longer triangular block pointing down. I finish off by shading in between the whiskers and the top of the head with my 2H.

Step 8
I need to focus these two halves of face together and begin on the nose. Starting with a 2H (did you notice that whenever I start somewhere new, I like starting with a 2H?) I feather shade the top of the nose (a bit like a Japanese volcano where the top is shrouded in clouds!) as I shade the bottom part of the nose, I try and make sure I keep a small curved crease on the left hand side of it till I end up with what looks like the top of a plum lying on its side (see it?) coming to a broad point on its right side. Now with the 9mm 2B, I begin shading in the nose, first on the top crease (getting stronger near the actual edge of the crease) and also on the other side of the nose, but barely noticeable. I then give the bottom centre part of the nose a slight dip into the lip crease. Switching to my 2H, I start some light blocking shading on top of and under the nose and around the mouth as well as shading a few larger spots on the right side of the nose. Switching between a 2H and a 2B, I feather out the right ear into long thin swaying underwater sea fronds.

Step 9
Still working on the collie’s nose, I use the 2H to reinforce the light shadow under the nose and switching to a 2B I shade in the mouth area into a small flat top mountain, still on with my 2B, I give the right hand side above the mouth a few small whisker spots going slightly larger as I move around and up the right side of the nose. With the 2B, I try and emphasize the light flecks meeting the dark area of the right ear and working down onto the right cheek. I think now is a good time to reflect on how far I’ve come, to help me do this, yes you’ve guessed right! digestive biccie time with another nice hot cup of tea. We’ll leave this for now but as that great general Patton once said “I shall return”.

Journal Comments

  • Meg Hart
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