Drawing a Drawing of Baseball Players

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Drawing is something I enjoy a lot. Sometimes it can be a real ballache, but most of the time, it’s the thing I enjoy to do the most. Apart from the few seconds when I have an idea, when my brain fizzes like Pop Rocks, the best part of drawing is when I’m happily going along the same path I’m used to, and then something simple happens, something different, and you see a whole new direction opening up. This happened with the drawing you see above these words. So, I figured it may be interesting for a handful of you to have a look behind the curtain, at the stages of the process that ended up with this picture.

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The first drawing was done with the Paper app on an iPad. It’s a nice app, despite its overall feeling of Moleskine-y hipsterism. I use this app a lot. For me, it’s the un-messy version of drawing with ink. And I can lie in bed and draw, and as we all know, if you can do something in bed, it’s immediately a load more fun.

I did a doodle of a woman a few months ago with an ant-ish body. I drew her body like it was just head, thorax, and abdomen. And the abdomen was drawn like a big long old-fashioned skirt. Then in London last month, I had an exhibition of some of my non-baseball-y work, and in the gallery they had some glass-fronted cabinets, so I drew on the glass with big, fat, wash-off-able marker pens. One of the drawings that came out was a new version of that woman with a man and a cat. This marker pen version got the idea of drawing people in the style back into my head. I did another one on the iPad last weekend. But the problem with this style of character drawing is how to do men. The long abdomen only really works for women that I want to draw wearing long skirts. So, in the end, I had to abandon the head-thorax-abdomen thing, and go with head-thorax-legs.

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Something I like to do with the Paper app line drawings is import them into another app called Brushes. (I still use Brushes 2 which is far superior to the current Brushes 3 version, in my opinion.) I use colour on a separate layer, drawing the colours roughly. A technique I like to use in Brushes is to draw by erasing. For example, the trees start off as big blocks of colour, then I use the eraser tool to trim them down. Kinda like a sculptor carving a block of marble. It produces a nice effect, I think.

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When I first started doing these half-Paper, half-Brushes drawings, I didn’t realise that the Paper drawings could be exported without a background colour; that is, as just lines on an otherwise transparent layer. So the drawing above is what I would normally have done to show the black lines. I would erase thin lines from the colour layer to expose the black lines. I enjoy the effect of this, where the lines are sometimes black, sometimes a big white where I’ve drawn the erasing line slightly wrong.

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Another thing that sometimes works is taking the above drawing, turning off the line drawing layer, and putting a solid black layer behind it so that all the erased lines are fully black. There’s something in the way the Paper app works that gives the lines a nice, smooth, inky feel. This isn’t the case with the Brushes app, where lines are a lot scratchier. I like the effect of using the smooth lines as a guide for scratchy lines.

And then the new, fun thing happened. In the process of doing the above version, I turned off the layer with the Paper line drawing before erasing lines into the colour layer, and there on the screen was just the colours.

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This moment was a joy. It’s the sort of nice accident that turns a tired, gonna-go-to-sleep-soon brain into one that can’t stop until the drawing is done. The elements missing from this version were just legs and facial details. So I turned the line drawing layer back on, and returned to the colouring process, adding blue blocks and erasing them down to size for the socks, same with black for the cleats, and then with various colours for facial details.

That, dear reader, is how I ended up with this week’s NotGraphs post. This post has not been about baseball. You will have noticed that already, I suspect. So, to rectify that:

Babe Ruth was left-handed. He hit a load of home runs and held the all-time record until Hank Aaron came along and annoyed the racists, and then Barry Bonds came along and annoyed people who don’t like creamy things or clear things.

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Craig Robinson is not a Child, a God, a Pilgrim, a Rock, the Forest, the Resurrection, the Cosmos, the Law, or Damo Suzuki. Nor is he trying to break your heart. He does have a Web site, though. It's called Flip Flop Flyin'.


5 Responses to “Drawing a Drawing of Baseball Players”

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  1. Dang says:

    Pretty cool, cel-shaded-y type of look.

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  2. Enjoyed this very much, Craig.

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  3. Double J says:

    Will the real cel-shaded-y please stand-up. Please stand-up.
    All the other cel-shaded-y are just imitating.

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  4. nickolai says:

    very nice. as someone who dabbles in photoshop, I enjoy the thought of a drawing layer containing just legs, eyes and mustaches.

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  5. Umpire Weekend says:

    Totally captures my perception of a 5pm spring training game I saw during spring break in college.

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