Exercise 24: Stipples and dots
Draw a textured object on A4 cartridge paper with a ballpoint or drawing pen. Spend at least an hour on this drawing. Look at pattern, line and shape. Also look at shadows and tones. Use stipples, dots and whatever other marks you can think of. Refer to earlier mark-making exercises.
Spend at least an hour on this drawing. I did that. I spent many hours on it. Three half-days, in fact. During this time, I found that there’s a tipping point between ‘This is taking far too long’ and ‘I’ve been at it too long to give up now‘.
Patience is essential for this technique, as little makes sense until one is almost at the end (of one’s tether?). For 90% of the drawing, it seemed no end was in sight, then… suddenly… it all came together. As suggested, I revisited the earlier mark-making exercises, making a few notes in my sketchbook on possible marks to use here. In the end, though, I chose to use ‘pure’ stippling… dots only. The reason was curiosity. I can imagine using stippling as one mark of many in a drawing, but I was curious to see how it would be using dots alone.
- Going straight in with the pen, I began with a light outline of dots. I then stippled some of the darker areas (including the main shadow, running along the underside of the shell) to make the shape and form clearer. Very quickly, it became a hypnotic activity, quite unlike any other form of drawing I’ve done. Perhaps it’s the inherently fragmented nature of this approach – it lets you know early on that you won’t be getting anywhere in a hurry.
Highlights proved tricky, especially as here they appeared against light backgrounds anyway. I could see how to create them on dark backgrounds – simply stipple concentrated groups of dots around the desired highlight. But when dots needed to be few and far between, to indicate lightly toned areas, highlights seemed almost impossible. I compromised by graduating the lighter tones, making them very slightly darker just at the point where the highlights appeared. I have mixed feelings on the successfulness of this approach, but it was the most effective one I came up with.
Due to the time-consuming nature of this technique, I’m unlikely to use it in isolation very often, but it’s one I liked very much. I’d be particularly interested to try it in portraits. I came across an artist who uses this technique exclusively whilst I was working on this exercise – Pablo Jurado Ruiz.
In this drawing, my main aim was to suggest the rounded form of the shell, and the hard knobbly texture. It feels as though it worked.