Sketching the Ballantines - Toby's story

Sketching the Ballantines (continued)…

Day three (Toby the Jack Russell)
Continuing on with this challenging composition I’ve recently undertaken, I’ve now moving onto the third of the Ballantines, a wee Jack Russell who goes by the name Toby, a mighty tall, proud looking fellow despite his size wearing a short haired speckled black, brown and white coat, who, to give him his due, loves to pose.

Prep up…
OK, now it’s Toby turn. Normally I would use a couple of strips of scrap paper to cover on both sides of where I’m sketching, but as I’ll be sketching below the finished Gypsy, I’ll have to try a different approach. First off I don’t want to damage the hours of work already done sketching Lily and Gypsy, so I cover up this artwork with three sheets of scrap cartridge paper leaving a frame to work on Toby, I’ve already scribbled out construction lines for Toby’s head and mask and shade divisions.

Now I’m ready to work inside this frame, it’s small enough not to require me working in strips like I did with the previous two dogs. It was a lovely size where my rested palm could reach all parts of Toby’s head, shoulders and neck without the danger of rubbing. Rubbing is the deadliest of my enemies, one misplaced rub or smudge can ruin hours of hard patient work. I’ve learned that when I’m sketching, another of my golden rules is always be aware where my pencil hand is resting at all times!

Toby, hopefully won’t take as long as I already spent on two of his sisters, with their long flowing manes, Toby had a shorter coat, a closer mane and had stronger contrast, but this doesn’t mean I’m going to give him less the respect his proud demeanour deserves, no way! He may be smaller but I reckon I was still going to have my work cut out, or he’d let me know why!

I start on his eye, which is fairly central on his head, using a Pentel mechanical 2B pencil, I quickly outline his eye, I’m sketching fairly boldly, I suppose over the years, my confidence lets me go straight in, working heavy and at the correct pressure where others would (quite rightly so) try a harder lighter pencil and work up to the strong contrast. This for me is the challenge in sketching Toby, positive, clean crisp but sturdy lines, plus I’m really used to working fast. Once I’ve got my thin acorn outline I carry on establishing the pupil boundary (leaving enough white of eye for the strong contrast) and the main eye spot high-light. I use a H7/H6 to blend around the hi-spot hi-light and the pupil boundary before filling in the pupil with my 2B.

Still using my 2B, I begin re-inforcing dark wrinkles arond the eyes, these are the stronger flecks I can see around the eyes.

After I’m done with Toby’s eye (did he just wink in satisfaction?) I move over to his nose, which has a very strong dark contrast to his fur. I begin blocking in his nostril again with a 2B (3mm lead) trying to make sure the lower nostril edges are defined, as I want it to stand out against his dark nostril. I carry on blocking around the nostril and onto the top of his nose, but decrease the pressure I’m applying to fade it out slightly. Using a H7 and an F lead, I leave a speckled hi-light around the nostril top edge and blend it into the bulbous nose shape, keeping in mind the round curves of his proud majestic nose. I then add shading (quite heavily) at angles on the top and base of his nose, the top flattens out to a rugged point and the bottom hooks around underneath the nose.

I also begin picking out darker flecks along his mouth line which helps define the shape of his mouth. I carry on this mouth line stopping just below his nose. I now begin to outline where I want hi-lights in the dark patch below his nose to be sited, and beging hatching the bridge between where his mouth ends and up under his nose, careful not to go over the hi-lights I want to stand out. A few minutes of hard graft begins to pay off, and the hi-lights start looking like flecks of hairs stand out from the shadows below his nose. Now this bit is important, if I left these flecks pure white they will distract from his overall appearence, standing out too much, I don’t want this, so using a F lead I shade them in, so that they blend into the shadows, but still visible as they are on the reference image. Now comes the bit I love when sketching dogs, the side whiskers! Using a very sharp H7 lead, I feintly, sketch out the lines of his whiskers, the pressure has to be just enough to leave a mark on the paper, too hard, I I’d have to rub out and start again. A few moments later I have a series of very faint lines for the whiskers, why so feint you ask? well this first step will be the main structure of the whiskers, I re-inforce them by now using a very thin 2B (3mm) lead to define the beginnings of each whisker and perhaps the ends of one or two, if you do this correctly, the whiskers have a beautiful springy look which thins out (you can rub out the centre for a hi-light). I then begin picking out a feint fur lines coming from the corner of the nose out towards the beginnings of his whiskers. I’m concentrating on the shadow of his lower jaw, and apply shading at the tip to match the shading above the mouth. I use the thin 2B, to pick out the odd hair and fleck which joins the lower mouth to the top and nose.

Now I’m working on Toby’s neck and right shoulder, still using my favourite, the 2B, I begin to define the outline of his strong neck, his neck is defined with very fine flicks of hair going into the dark of his shoulder, I get around this very fine work by defining the flecks slightly larger than they need to be, as I can re-inforce and reduce them later on. Using my largest mechanical 2B (9mm) and happily block in the entire shoulder, this 9mm 2B is great for quick filling in and fairly large area’s where dark is a must. Once the shoulder is complete, I can see that the tonal values of the lower jaw need to be slightly darker, which I quickly do, and when finished, I use my kneadable rubber to take out the bottom edge of the lower jaw, this gives that secondary lightness that I can see on my reference image.

Hmmm, I’ve been at this for well over an hour now, and the light is starting to go, I think I need to replenish my batteries with a nice cup of tea and maybe devour another Jacob’s cream cracker or two?

Day four (Toby the Jack Russell)

OK, where were we? Ah yes, time to start working on Toby’s proud wee chest, I think. I start by blocking in some cross hatching in the area I want that beautiful under shadow in a H7 lead, but I make sure to leave my hi-lights and snow peaks, which I’m going to use later on. I then give another layer of cross hatching, this time at a different angle, and carry on giving layer upon layer until my cross hatching is practically gone and it looks like some kind of a pencil wash (like you do in water colour but now with a pencil). You’re probably think why so many layers of cross hatching? Well, this pencil wash is lovely and shiny that the other pencil shades I add later (I find) are real easy to slide over the top or remove excees if you have to.

Once I’m satisfied the pencil wash is how I want it, regards tonal value and shapes in comparison to the reference, now using a 5mm 2B, I decide to start cross hatching in (yup, sorry, but I love cross hatching, I find I can control my shading sooo easily) the small darker flecks and that darker spine running down the under Toby’s throat. I also pay more attention to the darker flecks under Toby’s corner jawe and under her small tuft of hair, which kind of fans out to the left. Hmmm, it’s coming on, I can see the begginnings of Toby’s face coming out of the white fog of cartridge paper.

Now I need to concentrate on the left side of Toby’s profile, first off, I shore up Toby’s neck with some heavy 9mm 2B lead on the left side of his neck and under his jaw. I carry on up around his jaw into the shadow of his visible right ear.

I also start working on that really faint ripple fur effect at the base of Toby’s neck, this I do by sketching in wee wiggly worms fairly close together, filling out the shape of this ripple, slowing and smaller wriggles, blending it into the rest of his neck. I thought it looked strange, but as I look at my reference photo, the fur really does look rippled, and you know me by now, “What I see is what I draw”.

As I’m working from his right ear, I decide to carry on with a light curve hatch across his temples, picking out that beautiful thin flash running down towards his nose. I also shade in that bird’s wing on Toby’s far temple, on the other side of the white flash, see, look closer now, that bit of shading (and on the reference photo) looks just like a wee bird’s wing!

I aso start my invasion of light wiggly lines across Toby’s cheek, this is going to be the base pencil layer of his fur. I alspo work a little below his eye, making sure the fur curves around the eye, turning into the direction of the wiggly fur on his cheek. I also spend a few minutes, strengthening that one lonesome small white hair at the corner of his mouth, using a 5mm 2B, I can really make that wee slick stand out!

Hmm needs some replenshment, my stamina levels are dipping, now where are they? Ah yes! I spot my saviour, a half emptied packet of Jacob’s Cream Crackers, one or two (possible three) later, my sketching stamina is satisfactorily rejuvenised for me to carry on sketching Toby! I start by darkening the temple areas and his far ear, I also begin strengthening the speckled fur on Toby’s cheek area, by sketching in more, but slighter and progressively darker wiggly lines which I make sure, fade out towards that light plain betwix his eye, nose and corner mouth.

I also begin the heavy blocking in on his nearside ear, I can black in quite heavily on the inside of his ear, care to work around the merdium hi-lights I want to keep. Finshing off the ear give me a moment to quickly compare my progress so far with the reference photo, looking good, a few spots or areas through need only a slight touch up with darker strokes or taking out slivers with my kneadable eraser (which I thumb into thin rounded edges to pick out the odd hi-light here and there.

Now I’m on the home track and just need to fill in that darker nearside shoulder (this wee short hair dog is starting to take me longer than the previous two long haired ones, why?? This right should at first glance looks like a churning mass of dark waves, going in no particular unform direction, how on earth do I sketch this? Looking closer, I do some some pattern shapes in the chaos, and decide to concentrate on these shapes first. I use the H7 to pick out the random hi-lights there, using a 2B, I re-inforce these pattern I can see, and start blocking in between them, and suddenly I see that I’m actually sketching chaos in a somewhat orderly fashion, this is why I, still to this day, find art just sooo bloody amazing! Once I’ve sketch in his right shoulder, I check one last time for comparison to my reference, and decide, finally, that I have completed the story of Toby.

When you finish something you create, you must like me, I feel sooo proud of your own little achievement, this feeling is more often than not, a private moment between artist and his art. This is why I do it, I suppose, this unique high you get from all the hours spent strugglinmg, pushing, scribbling. Isn’t art just fantastic! What does bring me down, rather quickly, if truth be told, is that Toby is only the third Ballentine, I still have one last one to go….

…and that is another story, as yet to be told….

WIP – Lily’s Story
WIP – Gypsy’s Story
WIP – Brinnie’s Story

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