I promised Lissa that I would take some process photos of how I draw rocks, because it is widely known that LISSA TREIMAN CAN’T DRAW ROCKS apparently, and so here they are! It’s no video tutorial, but it’s something. :)
So drawing rocks is kinda different from drawing other stuff.
What I love about drawing rocks is that they’re abstract, but they’re abstract with their own logic and history to them. Rocks look the way the do for a reason- sediments, erosion, eruption, human foot traffic, what have you- and it’s important to suss out those reasons while you’re drawing them. Sometimes you know why rocks look the way they do (maybe you are intimately familiar with the Colorado plateau, I don’t know your deal), but a lot of the time it’s up to you to silently observe trends and features in the rock that speak to a grander system.
Learning geology is gonna seriously boost your rock-drawing skills.
At Bryce Canyon (technically an amphitheater or pothole!), you’re staring at the Pink Cliffs of the Claron formation- limestone eroded into elaborate fins and hoodoos through an ongoing freeze/thaw cycle. Unlike the formations in Arches, where you can see elaborate upheavals and folds, Bryce’s sedimentary layers are blessedly flat- you can trace the layers across multiple hoodoos, each of them wearing differently according to their particular mineral composition. Knowing this, knowing what to look for when you’re drawing a particular formation, is a fantastic tool for you as an artist- as you’re laying in the overall shape, these tiered layers give you visual anchors to check the scale and proportions of the rocks. Thanks a lot, NATURE.
How I personally draw rocks.
A note about hatching- I generally prefer directional hatching, rather than flatter cross-hatching, when I’m working with pen. Cross-hatching happens in the process, it’s inevitable, but hatching in a direction consistent with the form you’re drawing tends to make for much more plausible 3D forms that sit well in space. Look to Franklin Booth and Charles Dana Gibson for some particularly expert hatching inspiration. Try not to cry. So! Onto the process itself:
- I start out with loose outlines, marking particularly important landmarks, change of planar direction, and any deep pits in the rock- they help to anchor the drawing down the line, and give me a nice base to work on top of. This is the stage when I panic and think the sketch is going to turn out horribly. It is an ugly stage.
- From there, I tend to (apparently, I don’t think this is something I’m considering at the time) block out sections of rock to render with more detail, working the entire surface and trying to keep broader value structures in mind. Those darker pits in the rock help ground me- they give me a “darkest dark” that I can work against as I’m laying down tones.
- As I start working on new sections of rock, I’ll jump back and forth to cohere the sections, make sure they sit well in the value structure, that the forms are reading across the rock, etc.
- While you sketch, make sure you aren’t overworking the surface of the rock- let your eyes go out of focus, and really prioritize where to add value, where to leave swaths of blank paper, etc.
- Once I’m nearing the end of the sketch, I’ll do a quick pass of overall hatching to make sure the piece reads as a whole. I love the local colour of the hoodoos- the transitions from pink to orange to white- and so I wanted to make sure there was a hint of that broad value structure in my sketch.
- Add plants, if available. Plants make everything better.
And you’re done! Or, well, you’re kinda cold and your butt’s going numb. Here’s the final piece I ended up with, alongside an in-focus photo of the rocks for comparison:
…it’s not perfect- I can start to pick it apart now that I have them side by side- but it’s pretty damn close! :)
Have fun drawing rocks ALL DAY LONG,
Shailene Woodley wrote about John Green for Time’s “The 100 Most Influential People,” 2014 [link].
1. I am so thrilled to have been named to the 2014 TIME 100. Shai’s essay is so kind and generous. That sentence about planets and moons is a lovely goal for us all to reach toward. Now, that said, I’m no prophet. I’m a guy who not too long ago tried to wax his chin.
2. Do I really look like that illustration?
I haven’t run in a week. I should probably go do that.