My Pencil Sketch Progression – 1994-2017

I used to draw. A lot. In high school, I fancied myself an amateur artist, and away I went, sketching girls, monsters, and fantasy settings.

My work was juvenile. Unpracticed. Untrained.

But still a lot of fun.

Most of these are drawings I doodled between 1994-1995. Mostly while in school…while I should’ve been studying. I still have the originals in my house.

A tower in the woods. I drew this one during a loooooooooong math class.

Knight on horse. I really could’ve used a better reference photo of the horse. I just kinda BS’d it.

Demon guy. 20 years later, he became the basis for the antagonist in my fantasy book series. Here, he just kinda sucks.

Every teenage boy likes to draw boobs, right? This drawing might’ve been competent had I not given her spheres instead of actual breasts.

Same girl. Different angle. I like the mug. And the knife.

He’s mildly ok. The background is pretty boring. His necklace should probably be beneath his sleeves…realistically speaking.

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Fast forward 20 years…

After a long layoff, during which I played too many video games, airbrushed cheesy T shirts, and pretended to be an author, I started drawing again. But this time I tried to take things more seriously. I wasn’t just avoiding homework or ignoring math class. I began doodling as a passion, not just to pass the time.

I used grids to help me get back in the feel of drawing faces. For this girl, I almost left her as-is. She looks pretty intense, right?

 

Changed my mind. Finished her. Added some blue.

She probably needs a sandwich. But I like the feel of her pose. And the grass she’s sitting in.

Now look what you did. You pissed her off. Smooth move.

More grid work to help with her mouth and eyes. She’s the heroine in my fantasy novel series. You’d be serious, too…if you were in her shoes.

An intense warrior woman. For no reason other than I felt like it. Look at her shoulders. She’s pretty much ripped.

I decided to step things up and invest in a few quality tools. Charcoal sticks, high-quality pencils, blending tools, powdered graphite…

…and with the powdered graphite, I went nuts. This fearsome girl stands five feet tall on a giant canvas.

And now it’s time to step away from simply drawing faces. Full bodies. More expression. Abstract elements paired with realism. Also…no underwear.

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Anyway…I hope you enjoyed this little sketch timeline. I’m trying to get a little better with each piece I create. And a little darker, too.

Love,

J Edward Neill

My Love of Drawing Beautiful Women

Ages ago, I was a student in a small Atlanta art school.

I wasn’t searching for a degree. Or a job. Or to become the next Boris Vallejo, HR Giger, or Picasso.

I just wanted to learn how to draw. Particularly people. Especially beautiful bodies and faces.

After I finished school, I ended up getting married, having a kid, writing books, and falling out of touch with the artsy young dude I’d once been.

But…

Over the last year, my world has stabilized. Once full of turmoil, I now enjoy relative peace.

Which means more time to paint. Sketch. And draw. Usually while sipping red wine beneath the setting sun.

One of my favorite topics has always been the female face. It’s elegant in a way no other subject matter can match. That’s not to say I don’t love all other forms of art, just that I find relaxation in the challenge of painting human expression.

So today I’d like to share some of my work. Some of these are what I’d consider ‘failed’ pieces, being not up to my standards. Others are small successes. While I still consider myself to be a weekend warrior (at best) I’m getting better with each piece.

…and enjoying every second of the process.

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Here’s a recent tiny (6″ x 8″) piece I did. I almost, almost, almost left it the way it was on the left. The mere suggestion of a face is sometimes enough. Nevertheless, I ended up finishing it up and naming it Callista, after a tragic character in this book.

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Here’s another one I almost left alone after the initial sketch. Valeria’s look is completely different before and after I added the crazy watercolors. On the left, she looks pensive, maybe even regretful. On the right, she looks more like a warrior princess. I sometimes struggle with loving/hating a piece after I move beyond the initial sketch phase. Still, despite the unusual color scheme, Valeria is framed and hanging on my wall.

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After finishing this one, titled Ashes for Ande, I suffered no such post-color regret. The sketch looked ok, but the inks and dark acrylics worked out really well. This painting popped off my brush with ease. I had a character in mind (from another of my books) and the outcome matched what I’d imagined. Ashes for Ande might be my favorite. Maybe.

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Mother of Midnight is and probably always will be the most challenging thing I’ve ever painted. The sketch alone (performed on a 24″ x 48″ canvass) took a week. The deep graphite, inks, and shading took another twelve days. I still haven’t snapped an ideal photo of Mother of Midnight. The trouble with photographing graphite is that it tends to reflect light, thus dulling the image. Oh well. Here she is:

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For this tiny (6″ x 6″) piece, I imagined a dryad leaving her ancient forest behind. I sketched her, inked her, and then let the golden watercolors drip. Her name is Sylpha. You like?

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Emme, the Pale Queen is a portrait I did for a friend. My latest gig has been to draw real-life people, but with subtle fantasy elements added.  In this case, she got a few green face tattoos and a whip of black hair tightened to her throat. I really liked how Emme’s eyes turned out. Her look suggests complete confidence.

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The Sorceress is a piece I tried (as in really tried) to sketch and swear to leave alone. I made myself promise not to go in afterward with colors and inks. Apparently, I can’t keep my oaths.  A few days after I finished the sketch, I sipped too much wine and broke out the color. For a little abstract addition, I left half of her hair untouched. She looks dangerous, no? And I’m glad I smashed my promise. I like her better now.

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Ah, the treacherous nature of adding color. This is one piece I wish I could go back and redo. There’s something about her face that’s not quite right. Even so, I couldn’t bring myself to trash this one (titled ‘Last Glance’.) If for no other reason, I hold on to her to remind myself I have lots of room for improvement.

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For a true challenge, try sketching the intricate musculature of a woman’s shoulders and lower back. It’s no easy thing. For ‘Blood Princess’ I wore a few pencils down to nubs. And now she’s undressed to kill.

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This is my most recent piece, titled Angelic. The original sketch was fairly NSFW, but after I added an ethereal gown and some ghostly yellow-gold watercolor, she’s slightly SFW. Maybe. For a real challenge, I used almost every media available to me, including pencils, inks, graphite powder, charcoal, acrylics, and watercolors. Next up: framing her.

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For even more paintings (most of which aren’t women) go here.

To start a conversation with anyone on the planet, get into this.

J Edward Neill