Archive | June 2012

Drawing Unplugged

Fact: Your rendering style will inevitably be determined and recognized by your unique talent and drawing skill… or by the software you bought. Not a tough decision to make.

When it comes to creating something, it pays to know a little bit about what you are aiming to make. With illustration, namely vehicle renderings, it’s not only helpful, it’s imperative. After all, how can you visually describe something if you don’t understand it?

Taking that a step further, knowing the tools and mastering their use will only make the work that much better. I’m going to share a bit of what I’ve learned. Granted, it all starts somewhere, and to me, the most important part of being an artist is developing a unique style, a way to have your work stand out. Even if you trace a Picasso, it will have your own style integrated somewhere, so why not just do it in way that is all yours? If thirty people all use the same filter on a photo, you have thirty filtered photos that all look alike. Boring!

That said, for this tutorial, we’re working on drawing, using your own abilities, and I’m simply guiding you in applying those abilities in the methods I use. They may not be for everyone, or they may be the spark that gets you rolling. In any event, I’ve been asked to break-down the technique I use, and here it is.

Any drawing should start with an idea. Hopefully you have one of those. I’ve decided, for the sake of this introductory tutorial, that I’d run with a 1950 Chevy pick-em-up… Coincidentally, I happened to keep step-by-step images from the original drawing… lucky you!

Hopefully, you have some basic knowledge of drawing, as these won’t be entry-level tutorials here on this particular go-round. If, however, you do need some help with the basics, grab a copy of the DVD Special Edition of How to Draw Cars Now. The tutorials included will have you swinging some lead in no time! If, however, you’re ready, let’s nail the basics.

First step: Grab some reference material. Unless you know the subject of your sketch by heart, well, you’ll need a point of reference for the overall scale, proportions, dimension and details. Lacking the real car or truck, photos and books are your best friend.

reference material

I like to give my drawings a little bit of energy and action… so I’m going to work with the truck’s overall dimensions, and tweak the proportions just a hair on this one… I’m going to freehand a quick box layout, just to get an idea of where everything will “grow” on the paper. Working with a standard 2B pencil, I’m going to keep everything very loose… Don’t worry if all of your lines aren’t perfect, or if all points intersect or not… we’re simply figuring out where this beast will live on our page, and get the stage set for our drawing.

box method for drawing

From here, let’s start figuring out where the main parts of the truck go, with reference to our general boxes.

creating panels

Think of it like sculpting. At this stage, we’re simply removing everything from those first boxes that isn’t a ’50 Chevy. Essentially, we’re laying in some guide lines to start fleshing-out the truck. We’ll do this in a few passes:

adding features

Let’s look to our reference material, and begin rounding the boxes to match the correct profiles. I tend to work freehand at this stage, and will break out the sweeps and French curve later to tighten-up the radius on all corners… but for now, we’re keeping things loose:

adding detail

I’ve used the sweep a bit here, tightening-up those corners just a bit, but not quite completely. I’ve also begun to block-in some areas to delineate where the grille openings will go, simply because I want to be sure that everything is staying true to scale. In my opinion, there is little worse than screwing up the scale or proportion in a rendering. Cartooning is the place to go wild… for project cars, keep it grounded in reality to help your client and builder…

using scale in drawing

We’ll start cleaning-up some loose, stray lines at this stage, trying to keep everything clear, and prevent confusion as we start to lay in a couple of details. This leads me to a VERY IMPORTANT TIP:

Observation is your BEST FRIEND. Pay attention to details, and, possibly even more important, observe where lines and points intersect. Get an idea of where one line is in relation to another… think in terms of “if I put THIS body line HERE, where does that trim part line up, and will it be in the right place on my sketch?”

We’re going to start tightening up the lines and overall sketch at this point, so try to keep your lines deliberate… but don’t become afraid of allowing them to flow, and vary in pressure and stroke. Line weight is where the real secret to a lively drawing lies… While we’re adding some observational power here, let’s drop in a little hint of the shadow under the truck… Consider where your main light source will be coming from, and drop a shadow on the dirt. I keep mine tight to the vehicle, especially when they sit low, simply to emphasize just how low they are. In this case, we have a light source coming in on the left side, front quarter, which will allow some fun shadows and highlighting later on to play in that rounded body

At this point, just roll with your own natural drawing style. Your style and technique are what will give your artwork a signature look… like a fingerprint for your drawings. Ever look at an artist’s work, and just know who drew it from the line work or the shading? Ever looked at a rip-off or copy of a know artist’s work, and just know it was a rip-off? You have a unique style, even if you’re just starting out. Celebrate that, and refine it. You’ll reap the rewards of that as your career progresses and people seek out your signature style. I’ve been working on mine for well over a decade, and am just appreciating it’s unique character.

Back to blocking-in some dark areas. Let’s get the shadow in place, and really start to define the grille openings. These are major pieces of the puzzle, and having them in place will help us to define the parts AROUND them, and will get everything where it belongs.

first shadows

Let’s bring our eraser out to play, shall we?

We’ll knock a little out of that shadow, and make some room for the wheels and tires… Think ahead here, and plan for reflected light from the ground onto your tire sidewalls… this will serve to anchor the car, and prevent it from looking as though it’s floating on some black cloud…

line quality

We’ll knock-out some more room for those wheels and, why not, some wide whitewalls… and dust a little kid-tone on the body. Why not? This will help

shading the sketch

Let’s continue, shall we? We have the basic lines dropped in, we’ve cleaned up some stray lines, and even started to describe some surface curves… Look at you! Keep it up!

From here, we’ll keep shading in those small areas that the light source is turning dark… Just imagine how a panel like that front fender, for instance, will drop a small shadow on the door… how the cab, where it’s wider than the bed, will drop the leading part of the bed into shade… And so-on, and just roll with it. Have fun at this point!

Remember: this is a work of art, and the goal is to have fun while describing something without words. You are in control. You can use shadows and highlights to emphasize a part of your drawing, or tuck it away to draw the eye… it’s YOUR call. (BTW– next tutorial will be all about using shadows and highlights, so stay tuned!)

roughing-in wheels

Note that I’m throwing in some wheel shapes here, as well… As I drop in a few more detail lines, I’m working the ENTIRE drawing at this point… building it all over to keep the look consistent throughout. By this point, I usually scan a drawing, and move to Illustrator, but, damnit, I’m having too much fun. And, again, that’s the name of the game: HAVING SOME FUN. When it strops being fun, it should all just stop, because it begins to look forced… and cold, and sterile and machine-like, and that’s not art. That’s rote production, and while it hyas a place, that place shouldn’t be in your sketch pad or even in your creative client work. This is the place to get everyone involved with the project excited and crystal clear on the direction. While that’s a HUGE order, it should be those things, no more and no less. And it all starts with how you sketch the subject. Everything else is being built from there.

With that in mind, let’s place a few guides down to plot where our shadows and highlights will appear. Keep it loose, and keep it realistic, at least with reference to where the darker areas, lighter areas, and, possibly most important, where any light will reflect back onto a surface (whether off of adjacent panels, the ground, or something else that will appear in your drawing). This will help to “sell” the idea that your drawing is representing a three-dimensional object, versus simply being some lines on a flat plane.

plotting light source

Let’s continue to build those shaded areas, paying close attention to where light will bounce and fade, and perhaps not even reach with much intensity:


Let’s bust out that eraser again, and knock out some highlights… We’ll start to give ourselves some guidance for later on, at least for knowing where the light is really playing-off of the panels, and start making the fenders and hood and cab look more lifelike, and give them that rounded character! Again, just play in here, and use your reference materials to guide you on the general shapes and volumes you’re rendering… A light touch is preferable here, no doubt… We’ll blow in just a hint of color here, too, adding a little bit of a coolness to the panels. Visual temperature is something we’ll cover later on, but for now, just remember that this thing is, in reality, made of steel, and steel is often seen as “cold”. Let’s give reality a win here, and play up to it for a bit (and before we haul off and break all of the rules a bit further down the tutorial path).


Continue building up the blue, bit by bit. Again, a light hand here will pay dividends in the end… While we’re here, let’s start blowing in just a HINT of orange.

TIP: Always work in complementary colors when and where you can. The contrast will create instant visual drama, and really add some “pop” to your drawing. Besides, how cool is it to get a little instant gratification when you’re neck-deep in a project?!

working in complementary colors

Continue to build the oranges and blues, and stop every now and then, and darken up some shadows, tighten any stray lines, and again, keep it loose overall, but start tightening your touch in areas that should be showing some edges. This will only help to reinforce the perception of the shapes later on, and prevent the finished piece from looking “drawn over”.

defining surface in the drawing

We’ll lightly touch on chrome and trim here. I say that, as I’ll cover rendering chrome and glass (and other reflective materials) further down the road… After all, this is simply an introductory tutorial… Just giving you a taste of what to expect.

rendering chrome

Let’s blow in some dark and light tones, simulating the bumper and window trim, and start making that big old grille look nice and shiny. The key here is almost thinking in reverse. Consider how the dark pavement under the truck will show up on the round bumper, and then consider that, no matter how dark the tarmac is, that light will still reflect off of it. So… Where logic says “it’s rounded, thus the area closest to our eye SHOULD be lighter”, we say “screw you, logic… that area will be somewhat lighter, but we’ll underscore that light area with a dark line, and go with another dark line just above it…”. Why? To mimic the pavement’s slight reflection on the chrome, and then to provide the eye with a reference point of the horizon. This looks much more natural in a drawing, and we’ll get into the how’s and why’s in a future lesson… We’ll now start to blow in some white (with a slight blue tint) to mimic the highlighted areas of our drawing. Be sure to mask the areas (i.e. the rest of the paper) with some Frisket or other material to avoid over-spray.

Adding the blue here may gray a few areas on you, but don’t worry… we’ll get the color to pop in a future step. The goal here is just laying in color as a guide.

masking the illustration

The idea, at this point, is to start showing where the light is hitting the panels… just play, and let your eye and reference materials guide you, if you’re not familiar or comfortable rendering light just yet…

We’ll start blowing in some more blues, a hint of green (let’s work that glass to look more, well, like glass, shall we?), and continue playing up the oranges (again, complementary colors!), and I’ve dribbled some, so I’ll make those into a nice ground texture, and, after masking (much more on that in the future), I’ve even blown some “behind” the truck. Anything to make it leap from the surface of the paper is a good thing here.

reflected light

Some cleaning-up, and we’re almost there… this is where the REALLY advanced touches come in… and we’ll cover them all as we put the series together for you. We’ll hit on highlights, hot-spots and reflections as shown in the image below… Here’s hoping you enjoyed this intro and over-view, and look for much more soon!

reflections and hot-spots

In the meantime, keep sketching, and observing. Study cars, get to know how light and shadow play off of surfaces, and what makes some colors appear warm, and others colder. Here’s a sneak-peek at where we’ll take all of this sketching and shading nonsense:

finished rendering

To reiterate, relax, observe, and always, always HAVE FUN! Stay true to the fun, and you’ll enjoy the time working, and your work will improve and show how much fun you’re having. This isn’t about layering one filter on top of the next, or trying to hide some referenced photo or model with cliche’d distractions and light flares… it’s about rendering a vehicle in a visually striking manner… making the most of what you have available observationally, and transcribing that in your drawing. More soon, and thanks again for looking in!

Catch you soon, and keep an eye out for the next installment… and check out my other drawing tutorial as well as my primer on line weight, and be sure to check in on my Facebook Fan Page! Thanks for reading and drawing along, and feel free to leave a comment or questions below…

The Heavier Side of Line Weight

One of the greatest perks of my job is having fun. I get to have a blast when I’m drawing, even during the late-night thrashes, and times when it stops being “car drawing time” and becomes “let’s see this doodle pay a bill”. I hadn’t realized, or consciously thought about the fun part of the equation before… It just never really occurred to me to consider it. It was simply sit and draw, erase, draw again, keep drawing until cross-eyed, rest, draw more… And then it hit me.

When drawing, rendering a project, or sketching a few thumbnails to feel out a logo or whatever, it’s not all about the final product. I’m having a blast in each line I’m placing on paper. Every last one of them, in fact..

…and I know them ALL by the time I’ve set pen, pencil, stylus or brush down.

Continuing our discussion from last time, I received a number of great comments and emails regarding the obsessive detailing that seems prevalent among we car-drawing folk. It just seems to be a natural part of it all, and it’s logical indeed. Consider just how complex the machines themselves are, and then imagine having to convey that complexity in some lines and pigment. A daunting task indeed!

Yet… somewhere between those strokes of a pencil and color work, we have this absolutely enormous area to play in! We can take any number of roads to reach the finished product: Will it be a straightforward portrait, in which we choose to portray each and every line in a rigid, photo-real way? Or go minimalist, and work from that one body line that offers so much energy? Do we find an area in-between? Man… this is where the fun meets panic on some pieces!

I was asked more than once to describe my technique, and I’ll try over the next few installments, and use this as a primer for the upcoming tutorials, if that’s OK.

I try to convey some sense of the vehicle’s personality. Not to humanize things too much, but I look for what makes a particular car or truck jump out at me. Of course, in the case of design renderings (for custom car and hot rod projects), I need to work with what’s existing in some cases… in others, I play creator, and select what stays, what goes, what gets modified… And on those projects, it’s all about giving the thing a personality! Now we’re talking fun.

I’ve found that the best way to do this is often the simplest, most direct route. Let the drawing speak for the car.

Wait… what??!

One element that seems lost with today’s crop of computer-driven artists is the one thing that “drew” me (sorry) to drawing in the first place:

Line weight.

Consider just how expressive a line can be when you drop some character into it:

line weight

Pardon the sloppy pencil guides and inking, but look at the fun that a few lines can have on paper… the way you can describe depth, add some heaviness to an area, even whittle a surface as it rounds or blends into another. Simply altering pressure or lifting or rolling the pencil or marker away from the surface can create an almost unlimited number of effects… and you can do this on the fly! (New to drawing? Check out the pulley on the sewing machine, and compare how thick or heavy the line that makes it up is along the bottom… describing gravity… and then compare it to our rabid ram’s tongue. You immediately feel that one is going to weigh more than another…)

sketching a car

I do this on purpose with each piece. When starting, I grab some reference material, and study the lines of the vehicle I’ll be drawing (especially so if we’re leaving some original panels, doubly-so when really cutting one up). From there, I look over any notes, and collect my thoughts on the project in heavy detail. I try to get a bit of the owner’s personality involved, as, after all, the car tends to be an extension of that. This part of the process can really alter my approach. Are they mellow? Does the owner project an aggressive vibe? Should the car be low and slow, or angry and loud and always at full-bore? My sketch will often go along with my feelings on that (and, on occasion, the music that’s playing).

As the sketching starts, I use the box method to place each major component, and figure-out the space I have to work in. As I begin to rough-in the panel shapes, I start to make a few lines heavier, some lighter, and some more lively than others, varying in width and cleanliness. My goal, at this stage, is to have a visual cue for later on. I want to remember where my head was at when I put each line in there. After all, keeping the mood and personality consistent will make a more cohesive design in the end. And keeping that initial energy alive, whether it’s going full analog or digital is what makes the work unique. My style always builds from this starting point.

When I have the basic line work down, I begin inking, most of the time. I say this because there are times when the pencils are close enough to what I want, and I know that the final piece wis at a size that will not change. When I know (or fear) that I’ll be enlarging or separating a piece for tees or whatnot, I’ll skip inks, and just re-draw my pencils in vector. Look closely at some of my work, and you can pick out the vector lines versus ink lines…

Here’s one that saw ink AND vector (as it was to become a t-shirt):

blocking color

What’s interesting about this piece, at least with reference to our current topic, is that I was limited to one color, and thus had to really make every line count… to ensure that I conveyed depth, spatial relation, and shading. I love working like this, as it really stretches your abilities, making you think in two and three dimension, not to mention always having to think ahead, and in terms of how multi-subject objects (in this case, two bikes, a rider and a van, plus logos and text and an endless-line design) will interact, and, more importantly how we’ll describe that relationship with shadows, hot spots…

What’s even more fun is using line weight to describe motion! Putting some action into a drawing can be that little thing which puts your rendering so far over the top… Dig this little piece (same drawing as above):

action through line weight

Rather than clutter-up the space with motion lines and streaks, I opted for a more unconventional approach (conventional for me, anyway… I do this a lot). I hinted at a light blur on the spokes, and imitated a strobe-like effect, doubling a few lines, and then streaking a few knobs on the tire. But what I’m most proud of here are the chain and sprocket. Simply varying the line a bit (inked this with a Mack 00 striping brush, for those of you taking notes… oooh), and letting it get just a bit loose, I tried to create a feeling that the pedals were being pumped, and that we froze the moment… with the front wheel closer to us, we’d see the strobe of the spokes, and moving back through space, we’d lose detail in the cranks and sprocket, but still see somewhat defined shapes as they were captured.

They key here, as always, is employing your observational skills, and then putting your own artistic spin on what you see as it hits paper… Understand the physics of what’s going on, but have fun in there!

creating space with lines

Let’s show that drawing as it was printed, and move onto another quick point:

Defining space.

When painting, we have aerial perspective working for us, allowing the artist to show distance by blurring and shifting colors to blues, helping distant objects to recede…In a one-color t-shirt, by golly, we could forget all of that, and just draw, right?

Not me.

This goes right back to the last episode, and my obsessive need to detail everything. It doesn’t stop at things like trim parts and reflections and bolts… I have this need to have some sense of space… distance… an interaction of the forms with the plane they’re drawn on, and with one another. We can, fortunately, take a page from our painter’s handbook, and create a sense of aerial perspective, simply by detailing and defining objects closer to us, and letting things get looser as they recede on the plane. Here, I detailed the seat heavily, and got a little looser on the handlebars (and those Mushroom grips!), and simply hinted at the shape of the bubble port window, and going further back, the rear bumper just trails off… Showing just a hint of light bouncing off of the top. Doing this reinforces the effect of the van being back in the distance, as well as emphasizing that it’s parked at an angle, with the rear deeper in space.

Take this a step further, and pay attention to how you taper a line off, and you begin to create a visual guide for the eye… You create direction, and can move someone through your art, or direct them to an important object.

Always keep this in mind, especially if you, like me, work with both analog AND digital tools:

No brush or filter or plug-in can do what the team of your hand and eye can do together. None. Ever. Make the most of this, then, and put a truly unique spin on your art. Create a style, and build on that style, piece after piece. Pay close attention to the lines you draw, and your ability to react to what you see through those lines.

We’ve discussed the many ways to use a line to convey shapes, spatial distance and relationships, and even to describe motion and shading. We can also use a line with consitent width or stroke weight to provide a foundation, or to ground an element or composition. I used this technique in this design, as well, to draw the eye through the image in a set pattern, to make a sort of visual timeline for the action and still-life happening within the art, giving an illusion that many things are going on, no matter where you look. The endless-line running through the design looks groovy and retro, certainly. That’s why I chose it… But it also serves to anchor the outlined “BMX Challenge” logo and the “3rd Annual” text… and, perhaps more importantly, it frames a select few elements, allowing them to pop and recede in the space of the design:

van poster art

All of that by playing with lines. Cool, huh?

Keep in mind just how powerful a single line can be. It doesn’t simply create your art or define a piece or look pretty… the lines you draw are an extension of you. You are the only person capable of drawing a line in your own precise manner. It’s like your fingerprints or signature… Unique to you, and the basis for your style, and how you draw or paint. Refine it, work with your natural stroke. I found that once I stopped fighting the way I drew naturally, and dropped the methods so pressed on me in school, that I had something enjoyable in drawing. My own style became evident. Do likewise, and you’ll find your work taking you in all sorts of new directions.

It goes without saying, then, that your digital work will only be as inviting as the analog preparation that goes into it. This is why, for the most part (I’m discussing mechanical objects, as there are many gifted digital artists who can make creatures and humans and organic things look incredibly real and, well, warm… but more on that temperature thing in a second), pure digital – meaning vector and photo-edited (i.e. “Photoshopped” or “photo-chopped”)or 3D model-based car artwork looks colder. It has a definite visual temperature change when compared to a hand-drawn piece. It lacks, I think, the tactile, the hands-on touch of art media to the paper, canvas, board, whatever to bridge the realistic surface with the warmth of art that we seem to seek…

In my opinion (again, an opinion… I’m not knocking 3D models or vector or Photoshop-based work at all. I think that ALL ART is outstanding, and requires a TON of discipline and skill, and I use Photoshop and vector tools as part of my production, so I’m right here with you… just clearing that up before someone sends me an email telling me how they misread this and that I called anyone who build or uses Illustrator 3D models or Painter a hack, and I have to send them a link to listen to Carly Simon belt out Carole King’s You’re So Vain, and then re-explain that I was simply trying to describe the significant visual difference between pure analog and pure digital work, hopefully they can dig what I have to add here), what makes that work look so cold is that it’s not created by the human hand, but rather by math and machine. Math doesn’t observe an object like we do, and can’t put a personal spin on what’s being drawn or represented… Sure, you can program a filter or action to try and simulate the human action, but it can’t change it all up on the fly. In my humble opinion, again, for whatever that’s worth, what makes a work of art so interesting is the conflict and the way someone deciphers and then presents what they’ve taken from experiencing some object or event, using a pen, pencil, brush, whatever… That’s not to say that any one medium or technique is better than another, far from it. Each has its place, and each requires a ton of work to learn the tools to create with, and I’m simply seeking to express my perceived temperature of one medium’s result versus that of another. It’s a perceptual thing, really. You may see it differently, and again, therein lies the fun and experience of all art.

That said, consider just how powerful your initial lines and strokes of the pencil can be. Everything you build from that will still have that first line carrying its weight or direction. The first lines convey action, energy… or, they can be lifeless and flat. You decide!

rendering lines

Check out the detail above. You can see that this was the result of a very quick sketch that I continued to refine, choosing to build and build on top, versus stopping to create a new, perhaps cleaner version. I just kind of liked the energy that it packed. Funny thing is, the sketch was the result of some very angry drawing. I got myself good and mad, as I wanted to make the car look as aggressive as possible. Crank some Ministry and Black Flag for six hours, drink a pot of coffee, listen to some talk radio, and off I went. Add to that a certain distaste for some elements of the ’68/’69 Torino, and what did you think would happen?

What’s fun here is that the lines in the sketch define the widened fenders, and play into the shaded and highlighted areas in the drawing. That thick line along the rear roof line helps to emphasize the bulk back there, but draws the eye in to see that rear spoiler. Even the gestural, angry drawings have a plan.

george torino

All of my work has color built up over the original lines. This is, I believe, due in part to my studies and training in painting with oils. When applying paint to canvas, you build pigment in almost transparent layers, working from an underpainting, which creates the basic shadows and helps to define the forms. It’s this application, or should I say the technique and order of the application that allows me to play, visually, with depth. As I build the color, I’m constantly stepping back to see how each new shade or highlight will play with the setting I’ve chosen for the rendering. Am I conveying a subdued twilight moment, or the rage and action of an autocross course? I’m constantly figuring it out as I draw. In the Torino piece above, I opted for a more serene green with a tip of the hat to Monet. I felt that the combination of raw, energetic lines and a bold, aggressive gold could benefit from a little drama, resulting from the calm background. It’s this competition of soothing versus ready-to-strike coloring which reinforces the rapidly applied line work. Pay close attention in your work as you create, and consider how drama and conflict can work for you!

On the flip-side, look at this Buick:

custom buick rendering

A very mild, almost pleasant, laid-back color scheme in the greens and beige, but what’s that? Some red in the wheel and pinstripe?! Hell yes. Contrasting colors can add instant drama, and here it not only helps to emphasize the edge of the wheel lip and add some pop to the molding, but it hints at the performance lurking under the hood (in this case, it’s a twin-turbo Nailhead). When designing, consider the original car, and compare that to your plans for it. A mundane sedan can benefit from a great stance, but the right colors, and drawn loosely and at a dramatic angle, well… look out. The groceries have never made it home so fast, or with as much attitude!

rad rides buick

A last point for this installment (we’ll pick this up next time with a discussion of composition, and the elements to master therein) is working in a rhythm for your drawing. Much like the Beatles made a killing using a simple rhythm in their songs, the way those songs were written also showed a set rhythm. Your line work and color application should be no different.

From the first lines you drop in, get thinking about how the eye will move through the image. Make a mental list of the cool details in your ride that demand some extra attention, and build toward them, varying your line weight and direction to hit a crescendo at those particular features… Give a little action to your highlights, allow them to “dance” across the paint, flowing toward each perpendicular line (i.e. across the fender to the door gaps). This adds visual interest, and even hints at the setting of your rendering playing into the vehicle.

Catch you soon, and keep an eye out for the next installment… and check out my companion tutorials on our Facebook Fan Page! Thanks for reading along, and feel free to leave a comment or questions below…

Drawing Cars: It’s All in the Details

Salvador Dali once observed that “the true painter must be able patiently to copy a pear while surrounded by rapine and upheaval.” There’s a guy who knew how to put a thought on paper. And you know, it’s not just the turmoil and distractions of daily life that can throw off some artistic concentration, to me, anyway, there’s the constant temptation to get radical with every inch of the paper when drawing, and skim over some little details that could truly test my patience and skill.

Occasionally, the pens take on a life of their own, and the ink and pixels are flowing at an alarming rate, and the piece is getting a smooth, loose look, and all is well… but then something happens.

I just… well… stop.

Not because I’m tired, or unhappy with how things are going or anything like that… I just get drawn into some little detail. There might be a reflection that urges me on, or some tiny curve or indent or character line on whatever I’m drawing that makes me take an almost unholy interest.

…and this is where it all goes haywire.

You see, in my line of work, time is the enemy. There’s never enough of it. You can only create so many pictures in so much time, and time keeps slipping away from you. Oh, sure… you go at the day with the greatest intentions, but by noon, the day’s half gone (or even less on some more marathon days), and you’re three hours deep in rendering headlamps or hair.

Suddenly, the sun’s gone down, the DVD player’s been looping the menu for King Kong’s special features for three hours, the coffee is room temperature, the wife is mad, the kids are sound asleep, the dog is dancing around with crossed legs and floating teeth, and you’re… well, you’re adding digits to some gauge panel on an interior rendering. A detail that almost no-one will ever even see… but, by golly, they need to be there!

drawing tail lights

What drives me to do this, day in and day out?

Beats the shit out of me. I enjoy hiding the tiniest of details in a piece, and enjoy the heck out of it when anyone finds them or comments on it. But, it’s not about the recognition. For a while, I believed that it was. “Wow, Brian, you’re shouting ‘PLEASE LOVE ME!’ by drawing lug nuts and lamp filaments, you douche.” That wasn’t it, though. It was something else… something, well… More personal.

I was deriving a HUGE amount of satisfaction for the challenge of it all. It became a game with me. How far could I take a piece? What miniscule, insignificant detail could I make look cool, without attracting too much attention to it… Yet, if it went missing, would leave everything out of balance and unfinished-looking?

Again, on the flip-side, it’s this obsessive attention to detail that costs the extra hours… but, in the light of perceived value, I’m throwing in some hefty bonus features, and that, in some warped way, makes the cold meals and other, assorted lost time well worth it.

drawing car gauges illustrating car interiors

I mean, it’s fun to see a cool picture, but if you dig a bit deeper, does it still hold up, or is it a lot of smoke and mirrors? To me, it’s far more entertaining to see the little stuff that makes it all look, in the case of cars, anyway, put together.

fender flags

One of the greatest bits of knowledge I was ever taught was to observe.

Not to simply look at a subject that I’d be drawing, or even to study the nuances, angles, curves and so-on… but to pay attention to where it existed in nature (or within its plane of view), and, most importantly, how it interacted with the forms and objects around it. Precisely how it played off of the things around it. That little nugget of know-how permanently warped my sense of drawing, painting, artistic creation… even how I listened to music. It was the equivalent of telling an OCD-afflicted person to watch out for cracks in the sidewalk when walking on the wrong side of the street. I latched onto the idea, and never have been able to let go. For better or worse, it’s part of me.

It has its advantages:

custom door handle

I mean, man… it’s those little things, those weird, small details that bring a drawing up from just a few lines to some cohesive design… that’s fun to look at.

OK, so what’s the point here? To note how much crap I can pack into a sheet of paper that’s pretending to be a car? Sure. I mean, no… it’s a bit bigger than that.

I’ve been slowly making time to create some tutorials on drawing cars, and while handling the basics is cool, and probably the most logical place to start, I was noticing something… well… missing (see s trend here?). I took a step back, and realized that what was missing:

Actual content.

I mean, sure, you can teach someone to draw, or to paint, or to use software… but it’s those little life experiences that make it come together. Teaching someone to observe, and then to apply what they’ve seen, what they’ve witnessed in some way… that, my friend, is the shiznit. The part when it all comes together, and someone begins to develop a unique style, versus simply mimicking another, or rote-learning some pen strokes.

With that in mind, I started to re-teach my kids to draw. To listen to music, watch film, read… and, even better, to create with an emphasis on the harmony of what they are doing and the things that are going on around them and their work. Hell, I’d be stoked if they mowed the lawn in interesting patterns and cut the wife’s plants into topiaries resembling mythical creatures locked in battle over the weeds they strategically left behind. Then again, perhaps I’m reading a bit deep into things here.

camaro t-shirt

I want my work to be a constantly evolving entity… To be a little more than the sum of its parts. And, perhaps more importantly, to pass that idea forward in the tutorials, and inspire someone to push themselves in the same way… How cool would it be to not only push an artist in their art, but have that very act come back and do likewise?

I really want to see my art pack even more detail. If there’s any truth to the old saying that the devil’s in the details, then I want my work to become some sort of twisted, demonic state of Mardi Gras, complete with a never-ending exchange of cool visuals for strings of “wow, I never noticed that before!”.

Here’s hoping I can finish up some tutorials, perhaps inspire a budding artist or two, and who knows… get to bed before dawn, or eat a warm meal sometime soon…

Life Lessons: Four Letters at a Time

what i do

Recently, while working, I got to thinking lately about just how much things in society have changed over the years.

If you’re like me, you grew up in a shop… Cars weren’t some late-blooming thing. You didn’t just magically find them on cable and say “gosh, Wally… I’m going to become a car guy!” You worked in, around, on and all over cars. They became your LIFE. You didn’t weasel your way in… there was no buy-in at the auction, no sudden wave of car knowledge gleaned from reading a magazine or message board. You lived, learned, got greasy and broke things.

I was born into it, and man… I know my cars, I love my cars, and I enjoy the living snot out of being in the company of REAL CAR PEOPLE. I was educated in so many ways in the shop. From how to prepare a gasket mating surface to dealing with douchebags, saving money, doing good things for other folks, bartering, keeping my chin up when things were darkest, running a department, you name it… I learned things that I teach my kids in the same way today. In that shop were these guys who turned wrenches. And these guys, get this, used to work on mechanical things, diagnosing issues, repairing what could be fixed, and replacing what couldn’t.

At no point was the work, the manual labor, the knuckle-skinning, get sweaty stuff farmed-out, or outsourced to some other off-shore land. It was a pride thing. An American rite of passage: The Hard Day’s Work. It was a beautiful thing to behold.

Between the day-to-day grind, there were bursts of conversation, and occasionally, a joke or two would fly. It made the day go by better… It bred friendship, boosted morale, and above all, taught a young me how to curse…. Wait, I mean forged what was to become an integral part of my personality. These cats taught me to say what was on my mind, have fun, and be stand-up, taking responsibility for my actions, and being ready to back up my words when needed. Stand up for what’s right, do what’s best, and don’t be a douchebag. Take what you’re ready to dish out, and shake hands when you win OR lose. No paperwork, no excuses.

Sure, a lot of this was taught four letters at a time, but that was automotive shop culture. Ponder that for a minute. A culture bred by the guys on the front lines… not some trendy, watered-down version for mere “enthusiasts”… But the real deal, a series of traditions handed-down from generation to generation. Rites of initiation, pranks, off-color jokes, creative cursing… No-holds-barred, good-natured ribbing. You took your share of knocks, and fired off a shot when the opportunity was ripe. You learned to think on your feet, to pay attention, and more importantly, to do your part to keep the team moving ahead. There was a level of pride in everyone, from the guy who swept the floors, clean through the man signing the checks, everybody got it!

Somewhere, it all went haywire.

Perhaps these guys retired, others moved on to other things, whatever. It’s not only sad to see those kind of folks lost to time, but the traditions were slowly shown the door.

act of defiance

Could you have hung this in your parts room twenty years ago? Probably… we did. Could you do it today? Nope. There would be meetings, a reprimand, and sensitivity training, because one guy wouldn’t like the gesture, another is afraid of predatorial birds, another of mice, and someone in management may have read a book in Psychology class, and interprets the imagery in some Freudian way, and lies awake fearing some maternally-inflicted pee-pee mutilation. It was a better time, period. Everyone got the joke, and went on with life. If they didn’t get it or disagreed, they still went on with life… and probably spit in your coffee. I worked with jerks like that. Sad, sad times.

Those years cemented my attitudes, and were tremendously important in forging my art style. There is this underlying pride in doing what I do, and drawing cars for a living has come to define so many parts of who I am… not just what I do. I’ve carried that slightly loose around the edges, raw intensity with me, and it wasn’t something I’ve ever given too much thought to, until a friend asked me a question that took me off guard:

How do you design high-dollar rides all day long, and still make due without a big project of your own, and why are your tastes more drawn to the rougher stuff?

I’ve really never given much thought to it. I just love a car that’s more purpose-built than anything else… Granted, I love tweaking the little details, and hiding a ton of cool stuff in there, but a car that just says “everything is here because it needs to be” is certain to become an object of my affection.

Upon deeper thought, I think it has to do with my upbringing. My Father is the kind of guy who makes things work. He just finds a way, and by golly, it all works out. We didn’t have the fanciest-looking stuff, but holy functionality, Hot Rod Man, it would work day in and day out. Brilliant.

As my pal and I chatted, we discussed cars that left an impact on us, and the all-important “what about it just, you know, did it for you?” questions. His upbringing was in a wrecking yard, and he learned how to make things presentable. A huge focus on the pride of detailing… way cool. His tastes have always been toward the cleanest, most well-preserved of cars, even in his quest for patina perfection in his trucks. That’s cool in so many ways! He shares fond memories of Caddy coupes and more, all detailed and ready to move down the road.

The one that haunts me to this day?

1955 chevy

This ’55 haunts my subconscious like nothing else. Far from safe, solid or other such nonsense, it was obnoxiously loud, rode like it was on bricks, and rattled every part off of itself just idling. But man… it was quick. That little 283 and four-speed were magical together. And it had a tape deck. In the late eighties, what else would you need? This car was just neat… A ’63 Impala rear seat, Camaro front buckets, and some carpet-like material inside….

interior 55 chevy

…and ample storage for trim and other non-essentials.

This is the car I’d build… with some notable changes, naturally… but the essence of this car is what inspires me. It has that certain something. It had a killer stance (yes, if you’ve been here often enough, you know I draw ’em low, and love ’em to sit a bit more aggressive and tall), and just had that raw street machine vibe all over itself. It was a no-nonsense machine in the sincerest sense. Between this and the Chevelle, ground clearance was no call for concern:

1969 chevelle

With the car part of the equation tackled, we moved, conversationally, to memories of working on cars, and here is where the foundation for all of that earlier building was set down. It’s in those memories of working on cars with my parents (yes, both were car nuts of the highest order) that I draw a lot of inspiration for raising my kids.

There exists something magical in working with your hands, tackling a task, and seeing it through to completion. Planning and doing, more planning and doing, occasionally re-doing, stepping backward a few times, having the rug swept out from under your feet, and getting back up to do it again… it all teaches you tenacity. Ever block sand a panel and think “man, it’s straight”… only to hit it with pre-kleeno and have it wave in your face? Awesome. But you kept at it… no matter how long it took.

chevelle in primer

…and when it took too long, you’d get some ribbing for certain:

the question

And all was good.

In this age of “everybody gets a trophy!” and outsourcing, kids just don’t have anything readily available to them to understand that failure breeds success… and not always in that order. Anyone who’s spent a day trying to repair a bad wiring job, align door gaps, figure out why the brake fluid just disappears (“it’s a magic car!”), or any other number of gremlins can attest to the power of the never say die attitude. What’s the difference between a couple more hours working, or the lost sleep to get that carb dialed-in? Pride… and possibly walking to work the next day. Guys I know would just keep at it. I still do that.

Some of my best memories were of those days when my Mother would jump in on the cars…

priming the 57

What’s great about this pic isn’t so much that she’s spraying primer… it’s the whole outdoors-y setting, and who needed a respirator back then, anyway? Down-draft? Perhaps a light, Easterly breeze. See? Toughness. Can you imagine today’s boutique-bred, Cosmo-reading, small dog-toting women doing this? (my wife would… but she’s kinda cool that way, doesn’t read Cosmo, isn’t a priss, and she hates little dogs… I mean she enjoys feeding them to our dogs… she’s a giver, too) Cars were a family deal. Between the sheer enjoyment of them, and an understanding of the payoff in working on them, I learned more about my parents and life in those hours than anyplace else.

On that subject: I’m amazed to this day that I have actual fingerprints.

I have sanded a LOT of panels in my time, and abrasives may have worked their way into my actual being. I can be a lot like a sheet of 80-grit: Coarse, and ready to strip away whatever layers I need to get to the heart of the situation. It’s better than being like a ridge reamer or valve stem, I’d suppose… ponder those potential metaphors a while. Suffice to say, I learned to remain focused on the end goal, and to constantly plan and alter my plan according to how things were going. Granted, I still complain when it all goes to shit, but still, I adapt. Kind of.

Anyway, my Dad and I would take weekends and work on his ’57 and my Chevelle (when we weren’t doing parts inventories… you want to learn group numbers and parts visually? do a bunch of inventories… your knowledge will astound you), and those weekends were simply killer. They say that with age comes an understanding, and I’d like to think that I finally grasp the heaviness of those days, when comparing what events and memories have pulled me in one direction or another. If you’ve never spent time stripping a hood by hand, or blocking a car with your old man, and you have the opportunity, do it. You learn a lot about a guy when doing body work.

block sanding

Seriously. Have a few folks come over and wet sand your project. You’ll see more about their inner workings over those few hours than you will have in any leading to it, unless you’ve been to war with them, I’d venture to guess. You’ll see their values system at play… what details matter, and what they’re willing to glaze over to call a job finished. It’s incredible, and I suggest using the Let’s Hook Up and Block My Car Litmus Test when selecting government officials. You’d weed out the weak and the fake, and wind up with some cats who appreciate hard work and the untold payoffs from it.

Looking back, it’s been a wild ride from childhood, through the formative years, and finally arriving at the present. I’m stoked to do something I love and enjoy every day, and I guess that it’s a no-brainer how it all turned out this way. I’m continuing on my path to raise my boys to be upstanding men, and to appreciate what hard work brings. I love seeing families still practicing the art of the project car, and hope that the traditions of shop talk, poking fun and teaching the young ones never goes away. It’s an uncertain future ahead, and we have to guard our history and those little rites of passage with fire. I’d rather my kids hear some shop chatter than spend a week playing some kill ’em all video game or watch whatever reality shows they pollute the air with. Will I simply sit and curse and try to be the shop clown in front of them? Hell no… they have a load of time to be entertained by idiots. Will I do my damndest to make them grow up with some compassion, and an understanding of when to shut that off? Hell yes. I want them to stand on their own, and expect nothing less from those around them. I have one shot to hand them some memories, grant them keys to the history of the whole car thing, and teach them to set a goal and chase it with everything they’re made of. Hopefully the welds hold, and we don’t shake ’em too bad before the footings set (there’s a certain joke that I heard in a shop, around the age of thirteen or so that still sends a shiver up my spine… I’ll save that one for another time). Seeing my eldest walk across the street to repair our neighbor’s sprinkler system the other day after spotting a leak gave me a good idea that I’ve at least planted the seeds correctly.

Overall, it’s been a bumpy ride on occasion, but every one of those bumps, those spots where the pavement was either uneven (or simply disappeared) have left some sort of mark. The trick is learning to appreciate those little nicks and imperfections, and evaluate just what they bring to the table. I’m proud to say “I draw cars”, and nothing beats the extremes in reactions. “How cool!” is naturally a favorite, followed, oh-so entertainingly by “Oh. Why?” Yeah, bewilderment is priceless. There are moments when we all think “I could have done this or that differently… what if I’d been a Dentist or Architect?”, but at the end of the day, much like when you’re in the garage, you make due with things just as they are, and find a way to make it all work, if not for you, then for those in your care… and hopefully, you send them out into the world just a little better each day.

I want to hear about your memories, the car that haunts you, and especially your family projects! Have tales of epic un-PC-ness from the old days at work? Had a manager or co-worker that inspired you? Need my kid to fix your sprinklers? Feel free to drop us a line, leave a comment below, whatever… Thanks, as always for reading along.

How to Draw Cars

I’m asked quite often how I create a drawing or rendering… what the technique is, what tools I use, and so-on… But the most common question and comment seems to fall back on “What programs do you use? How can I get my work to look like yours?” There’s a simple reply to that:

The secret isn’t in software. It’s in the sketches that come well before that stage. I was taught early on that observational drawing is the greatest skill any designer or artist can have, and I took that to heart. I took a number of life drawing classes, and sketched a LOT as a kid, and later in life. Developing this skill makes any software use in your tool set that much more fun and effective. The sketches you lay down before hitting the digital side will have a profound effect on what your artwork looks like in the end.

After many, many emails, phone calls and requests on the Facebook Fan Page, I’m putting a few “overview” tutorials up here, just to give a sneak-peek at the full-tilt versions that I’ll be releasing soon. Again, these are by no means full-on, “learn-to-draw” lessons, but a glimpse into my process, and a means to show the basic skills you’ll get to grips with prior to moving on with the more advanced techniques that I’ll be sharing. (This is a sample of the “static” tutorials. Video and audio-enhanced versions to follow.)

That said, let’s draw a deuce three window, shall we? (these images are saved from my time on Dave Lane’s project, which went on to win the 2011 Goodguys Street Rod of the Year award, Dave’s THIRD, BTW!) The ’32 is an iconic design, to say the least, and one of the most popular hot rod platforms of all time, and certainly one to pop-up time and again if you begin a career as a hot rod artist or custom car designer. Besides, it’s a fun car to render, with a great variety of planes and shapes to capture your attention and time on, and a great way to hone your shading and highlighting skills!

Let’s start with the standard box method. We know that a three-window will have a top, the main body, and some fenders, so a typical two-box, profile view will do great for this exercise. Let’s get the roof pillars in the correct locations, with reference to the length of the body, taking into consideration how long the hood is, and how short the deck appears.

sketching box technique

Simple? Yep. The idea here is to break even the most complex of shapes into their most rudimentary forms. In “art-speak”, we’d call these primatives. Your goal here is nothing more than figuring out where the car will exist on paper, and then plotting the main shapes, placing them in the proper proportion. I use a straight edge for this on occasion, as shown here, simply because the sketching will get a bit messy moving forward, and if I build on a clean, solid foundation, I can be certain that I’ll keep that in mind when finishing everything.

From here, let’s throw in some guide lines to act as landmarks. We’ll get an idea of where the windows, doors, hood and wheels will go. Keep it gestural and loose, and simply mark the areas that these elements will live in the drawing. Too much detail here will cost time, and lead us to re-working if the placement is off even just a bit. Let’s start tightening the sketch up, once we are sure of where we’re placing things… Use your landmarks to judge where lines will be places, like the belt line, window reveals and so-on:

refining basic shapes

With the general guides in place, let’s figure out where those windows and other elements will appear, always keeping it light and paying close attention to the proper proportions, so that our rendering will look right:


Doesn’t look like much here… but as we continue to add the windows and door lines, it’ll all come into view, and you’ll be thankful that you gave yourself some sort of guidance:

refining the sketch

I’ve begun to throw in some curves, keeping it all freehand. As we begin to tighten things up, reach for your French Curves, which will be tremendously helpful in laying out the guides…

adding panels

…not to mention using a circle template to rough-in the wheels. Pay close attention here to the scale of the wheels. I often place a center line in, just to help envision the stance. As you can see, I adjusted this one a bit, getting that front end nice and low, almost menacing! I’ve even thrown some thought the way of the door handle and belt line at this stage. I’ll lower that hood just a touch… The importance of sketching comes to light! Better to see it off just a hair at an early stage, versus re-drawing the whole thing later on.

Let’s start to darken-in and clean up the lines that we KNOW we’re keeping…

sketch character

At this point, I often throw in a shadow. It grounds the drawing for me, and helps later on as I add shading. My reason for this is balance, pure and simple. I want to keep the dark areas visually equal with lighter areas, and use those dark fills to balance-out openings like windows, negative space and so on.

PCK TIP: Remember, it’s not just a sketch, it’s a composition unto itself. Many times, a rendering will help to sell the job. The better the drawing looks, the more excited the client will be. Capitalize on that energy all the way through.

sketching a shadow

I’m going to throw in some wheels now, just because. As they’re wires, well, I have some work ahead… so I’ll figure out the basic lacing pattern, and give myself a road map to follow when I get to tightening things up later on. I’ll thank me then… By the way, notice my draw-erase-redraw on that rear wheel. Ick.

drawing wire wheels

Let’s darken that shadow a bit, and start cleaning up those stray guidelines and original sketch marks… We don’t want to trap an unused line under anything, and ruin a clean look, or even worse, confuse ourselves moving forward.

drawing a hot rod

We’ll begin figuring out our shading at this point, as well. Throw a few guides in, indicating where the shadows, highlights, and even some hot spots will go. As always, go loose, and remember to use your observational and reference materials… keep it real, but feel free to add your own artistic spin to it.

A good starting point, for me anyway, is along the side flanks of the car. Find the largest surface area that would reflect something back, and start planning just how light and shade will work off of that. In this case, we have the hood sides, doors and rear quarter panels, and they’re relatively flat, yet have a slight bow from front to back (with the apex of that curve just about in the middle of the door), and everything curves ever-so-slightly from grille shell to trunk. Try to mimic the look of a slight arc to give the car some realistic dimension.

We can do that by bringing the line of our shadow/reflection up just a touch on the ends, and allow it to drop a bit through the door. Remember, we’re aiming for visual excitement here, so allow your lines to be loose and have character.

shading the drawing

Don’t go overboard here… we only need a few basic lines to indicate where our shadows and highlights will fall. I’ve moved mine a couple of times here, seeking to not only render the panels in a realistic fashion, but taking a small amount of artistic license to help balance the composition. I’m seeking to make the coupe look low and aggressive, and that means drawing the eye a bit higher on the body to emphasize the car’s proximity to the pavement… Raising the eye will only serve to make it appear even lower… and when drawing a sinister hot rod, it’s a damned good thing… Make it look sneaky!

It’s a lot to think about, but try to keep an idea in your head of where the drawing is going, and what you hope to convey through the drawing. I try to set the tone, to give voice to the personality of the car. Your job, as an artist, is to stir an emotion through your pictures. Always think of ways to do that!

Once we have the guides, let’s fill-in, very lightly, where our shaded areas will be… play with different pressures and strokes here, and work up tonal values gradually. A light hand, again, will pay off tremendously later on. Give thought, too, to the final color that your rendering will be. Darker colors can benefit from using more light or white space (to mimic reflections), and lighter colors can benefit from a little more darkness. Yellows (where we’re headed here) can be a bit trickier, and require a bit more thought, especially with regard to how light disperses in the pigment, and how reflections will scatter… MUCH more on that in upcoming tutorials… For now, let’s allow our reference materials and observational skills guide us.

Keep things loose but controlled at this stage. We’re thinking about where light is hitting and shadows are formed, but, at the same time, we want to keep a fluid, organic look to it. Too mechanical, and the drawing will processed and cold… too loose, and things will start to look very sloppy. We want it to look almost natural. Keep your strokes consistent.

highlight and shadow

Ready for color? Let’s lightly add just a touch of yellow here… if for no other reason than it looking cool. Seriously, though, this will give us an idea of how successful (or not) our shading efforts have been. I start by blowing-in some hue, whether I’m working in analog (like in this example, with pencils, paper, etc) or digital (in Adobe Illustrator, 99.9997% of the time) to get a feel for how to proceed.

If you’re working on paper, grab your airbrush, and thin-down some color. Hit the image with just a light, translucent coat. We don’t want to bury anything, just get the color showing over our shading efforts. If you’re afraid to mess with your sketch, grab some vellum, and paint on that, OVER your sketch, much as you’d use layers in Illustrator or Photoshop or Painter. Choose a hue that’s close to your final color choice… I usually work a shade or two lighter at this stage, painting it like a candy color. It will add tremendous depth later on.

coloring a hot rod

Once we’re happy with the shading and color test, we’ll start blowing in some saturated toners… play in ALL areas of the car, and give everything some thought… Where can we use this base color? In the glass? Hell yes, The wheels? Definitely. In the shadow? Why not?

PCK TIP: a touch of a warm color on the outlying areas will help to blend the shadow to the fore- and background, and look more realistic!

shading with color

While we’re here, let’s follow my usual plan, and darken-up any lines or blacks… We don’t want to do this last, as it will leave our work looking sloppy, and force an air of “overworked” and “afterthought” all over. Not a good thing. Work tight, but nimble.

PCK TIP: Always, ALWAYS give some thought to line weight.

Alter you line widths to simulate where the eye will be drawn back, to mimic what areas will be closer to the eye and so-on. If you’re new to drawing, please have a look at my primer on line weight. It’s loaded with tips on effectively using different widths and strokes of the hand to not only create the illusion of space, but to add visual excitement to your renderings. One stroke can draw attention to a particular detail, or guide the eye around the piece… and, in many cases, help it to “pop” off of the page! Have fun with this, and go at it with a plan. Give the drawing a nice visual rhythm, keeping the viewer entertained, but not confused.

line weight

Once we have the tone figured out, and those areas we want dark and saturated looking right, we’ll bust out the white. The idea here is to slowly, ever-so-carefully build up highlights, Keep your technique loose but controlled. We want the highlights to scatter a bit… no harsh edges just yet. The white will also act to blend any “sketchy-looking shaded areas. It’s a great two-for-one bonus step. Allow the light to look as though it’s dispersed through many layers of paint… Think “candy” at this point, and you’ll do fine! Again, we’re building in layers, as mentioned earlier. We want some depth in our rendering, not some flat doodle!

color tone in drawing

As always, I suggest some use of a complementary color. We’ll drop in some purple for visual pop, and get just a bit of drama and spice in there… A touch in the shadows, as well as into the yellow hue will help to define the shading, and create some… wait for it… depth! It contrasts beautifully with those greens in the glass, and can add some great taste in chrome. Don’t be afraid to experiement with this. After all, it’s art, and you can have a few freedoms, creating and tweaking realities to suit the look you’re creating.

PCK TIP: Build your complementary colors up in the same way you’ve been building the body base color. This will keep everything looking uniform. Again, a little depth here goes a long way later on for visual appeal. Keep it tight in this stage. Sloppiness kills a great piece.

complementary colors

From here, we’ll concentrate on tightening up the little details, and throw in some blues and purples to get that pop and dimension… Not to mention some green in the glass (it’s my trademark touch, and looks “right”, so why fight it?).

PCK TIP: When rendering any reflective surface, try to use a slightly cooler color. Think in terms of blues and some greens. This will read, to the viewer, as having a slightly smoother and colder feel, just as glass or chrome does in the real world. I tend to work a lot with classic cars, and many of these came from the factory with a slight green/blue tint to the glass. In my mind, it just looks right, and offers just one more place in your rendering to play with reflections, as blues and greens can often reflect light and objects around your subject in a different way than the paint would. We’ll cover this in a much more in-depth way in the near future, but for now, I just wanted to explain why I did that in this and many of my other drawings. Observe how glass reflects its surroundings in the real world, and draw it!

adding depth

At this stage, keep everything clean, and make sure that all edges are sharp, and that any guides or original sketch lines are gone. Play with detailing, and use some pure white to create hot spots, and draw attention to some areas. As always, just HAVE FUN in there. Let it build, and you’ll enjoy the realism and artistic look that your work will pack.

Whatever you do, though, do NOT over-work an area at this stage. Trying to correct a piece that wasn’t right four steps ago will just look ugly. It’s the equivalent of piling white-out on your term paper… it’s an afterthought and looks as such. If you find that one of these “mistakes” is too noticeable, work an area around it with a little highlight or a hot spot to draw the eye away. Chances are, you’re the only one who will see it anyway.

reflective surfaces

Finally, we’ll blow in some toners and shades of the body color, as well as just a hint or purple to create a background texture (I know… “wow, Brian… splatters… who’d have thought?” but it’s my work, my trademark thing… I enjoy it.), which is a major tutorial coming soon. Give your rendering a place to “live” on the paper. As tempting as it may be, keep it fairly toned-down. Granted, I go a bit crazy with it sometimes, but each piece has its reasons, and this one is begging for it…

finished rendering

Thanks again for looking in, and following along! Please let your friends know if you found this useful, and be sure to share your work and progress, as well!

Let’s go over a few points one more time, just for good measure:

Keep your drawing clean. Erase stray and guide lines as you go. You don’t want to trap a line under some ink, as it will show up at the wrong time, and be almost, if not impossible to remove. Work from observation. As you walk from the parking lot to your job, the supermarket, wherever, pay attention to how light reflects and plays on different cars, surfaces, colors… Get an idea of what shapes and panel contours pick up the most reflected light from the ground, adjacent panels or other objects around the vehicle. Get to know what looks warm and what looks cold, and what colors are in play to make that happen.

Always give your work some CHARACTER! Play with line weights and vary the strokes and directions of your strokes to make things come alive! Above all, just have some fun. Don’t forget the FUN. If little details start to become tedious, you’re either tired, or over-working (and over-thinking) them. Step back, take a break, or simply move on to something looser in the drawing to freshen-up your attitude. It’ll happen from time to time, and on a last-minute deadline rush, well, it happens even more often. Just roll through it!

Catch you soon, and keep an eye out for the next installment… and check out my companion tutorials on our Facebook Fan Page! Thanks for reading along, and feel free to leave a comment or questions below…

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