Thursday, November 22, 2007

Doodling in the plane

One of the most effective ways to combat boredom during long flights is to doodle on a small sketchbook. The cramped spaces and bumpy flights can be a challenge, but with proper planning and the right tools you can let your mind wonder for hours as you explore different ideas and work out designs. To that end, I prefer aisle seats that give you a bit more legroom whenever there's no beverage service cart going by. A handful of pens and pencils with a small sketchbook (typically no larger than 7" X 10") are usually enough. Choose your pens carefully since some might leak especially when cabin pressure changes. From experience, I tend to pick gel ink pens and Copic multiliner SP pens. On this flight, I used mainly a Zebra "Fude" pen (pictured above) that came from the Calligraphy section of the Kinokuniya Stationary Store. After a quick test with a waterbrush, it was clear that the ink was waterproof when dried. Its flexible felt nib is ideal for creating organic lines and cartoon sketching. For pencils, a 0.7 mm Sakura Sumo Grip mechanical pencil was a good pick since it doesn't require sharpening and it's thick enough to limit lead breakage. Started with inspiration from the trip through China and San Francisco,
and then got ideas from Classic Greek Mythology and fantasy themes.
By this point, a young artist traveling next to me asked for some tips on how to draw eyes, mouth, and noses. So I did some sketches in pencil and pen to illustrate a couple of points on manga-style cartoon sketching.
She was already quite proficient in her sketches. Most artist regardless of skill-level and style can benefit from drawing from life and daily practice. The main issue with improving her rendition of eyes was to avoid the flat look of the the perfectly symmetric football-shaped eye with individual eyelashes (2nd example from the bottom right corner) . The eyes are not located on top of a flat surface, but roughly on the middle curved line across the head. For female eyes, it is usually more effective to have the outer corner of the eyes placed higher than the inner corner. Increasing the size of the reflection on the eyes gives a lively innocent look to the characters. Eyelashes are best depicted as a solid mass instead of individual lashes. Mouths for younger characters of both genders can be drawn as a simple curved line, and reserve depiction of full lips for older females wearing makeup. For older male characters avoid depicting the upper lip and use a broken gentle curve to depict the bottom of the lower lip below the mouth opening.

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