I recently had the pleasure of spending the day with artist and illustrator Sterling Hundley and here is a sampling of his process as well as wisdom that I gleaned while I watched him draw.
He began drawing in Nupastel on toned paper which he prefers since it allows a push and pull of values that you don't get when working on white. He dropped in large flat shapes in two values creating a simple light and dark arrangement.
Sterling likes to design the drawing and let the architecture of the figure dictate some of his choices. He tries not to get caught up in the face too often when drawing the figure. When that happens, he spends too much time there at the expense of the figure. He often will purposely leave the face less defined, insisting that it should be figure drawing, not portrait drawing. Sterling deliberately groups the values close together to create form and then softens edges and transitions to create credibility within the drawing.
At one point, he darkened down the knee and other areas in the drawing, explaining that he needed room to pull out the highlights noting that "something can't feel light unless it is against dark". Sterling said that he hates nearly every piece of art he does at some point, insisting that "there is always an ugly phase". But he then admitted that he would rather see a confident, honest drawing than an accurate drawing.
Hundley likes art that requires an act of participation. He noted that a frequent failure of the Atelier style of drawing instruction is that though it can produce technically accurate results, they can feel lifeless, leaving nothing for the viewer to do. He stressed the importance of learning how to manipulate the hand to give efficiency to the mark making.
When asked if he draws the positive or negative space, he replied that he does both, noting that "the negative space is as relevant as the positive space". Think of yourself as a designer, respond intuitively to the subject.
Toward the end of the drawing demo, Hundley laid forth the following as his guiding principles:
Set up your art around the important things in life- Family/Health/Friends/Recreation/Business. Have a balance.
Build your "legend" by putting out there things that you are interested in. Build a fan base by allowing people into your creative process.
Be direct and honest - don't be afraid to show mistakes. Show your process and the decisions within your process.
If you make more good decisions than bad, you arrive at a better painting.
You are the bridge that brings the things you like together.
The only way to arrive at something personal is to inject your person into it.
You really have to work hard - the hours you put in are reflected in your work.
You can overcome deficiencies in talent through hard work.
Be exceptional at ONE thing and you can be successful; be exceptional at TWO and you can be a star.
Follow Sterling's work on his Facebook Page