always learning to draw – marker practice

Marker sketching is a classic method of quick rendering for fashion – many designers use markers to get their ideas across because it is quick, cleaner than paint, and versatile. I did a lot of marker work in school, but since then I have rarely delved back into it.

The recent acquisition of a light table has made marker work a lot easier. I am doing some practice for a presentation I am working on and happily discovered that many of my ancient markers still work. It is very quick and satisfying but I have to fight an instinct to overwork it.

My first few efforts surprised me, I never thought of myself as having a great talent with markers but it seems like it is coming more easily to me now than I remember it. I am just fooling around, drawing actresses for practice.

The ultimate reference for fashion marker work is Bina Abling’s Fashion Rendering with Color. It is a comprehensive guide covering everything from stroke direction to texture, tight rendering versus loose rendering, shading and highlight styles, and so much more. It really is one of few great books out there that is really useful for more experienced illustrators as well as novices.

Abling’s Fashion Sketchbook is the ultimate primer for fashion illustrators – there are several editions and they are all excellent. I did the exercises in the book on my own while I was in school (the book was not one of our official texts) and I experienced a lot of illustrative epiphanies while I did. It includes a lot of useful information that many similar books omit.

There are a lot of crappy how-to books out there about fashion illustrating. The weird thing is when I was just starting I could not tell the good books from the bad. I acquired a few bad habits from bad books, luckily I did not stop practicing and developing and I was able to shake (most) of them.

Part of the job of being a fashion illustrator is the process of continually learning to draw, which is a very satisfying process for me. I feel like there is a lifetime of development within this narrow specialization, which is why it is so exciting to have the opportunity to make this my career.

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18 thoughts on “always learning to draw – marker practice”

  1. Looks great, markers are a great medium.

    How do you draw your figures? Do you use standard figures or do you draw them every time from a picture/head?

  2. Sunshine – I am not sure what you mean by standard figures – you mean do I trace a croquis? I do not. For this excercise, I sketched each figure in pencil and worked out the pose and the clothing. Then I took it to a light box and traced the outline quickly with a marker. Then I took it off the lightbox and quickly throw in the colour. Scan, clean, post!

  3. Do you mind me asking what color it is that you use for the darker skin tone?
    Who was your illustration teacher for the most part at Rye?

  4. Rachael – the darker skin tone in this picture is Prismacolor “light tan”.

    My favourite illustration teacher at Ryerson was Katherine Bosnitch – she teaches at Humber now. I also had Peter Duck in first year, I think he has retired now.

  5. Peter Duck retired? Hmm.. I had no idea although I have no idea what is going on at Ryerson anymore.

    I have a love/hate relationship with markers – love them when I am successful using them, hate them when I am not. Seems like you have gotten the hang of them. When I look at your work it really makes me miss drawing for the sake of creating a beautiful illo as opposed to drawing for the sake of getting a bunch of ideas down fast… boo urns

  6. Looks great Danielle, I want to get into drawing again. While in school they made us trace the croquis, I want to get into drawing the figure from sight though. I love working with markers and pencil crayons – thanks for the book links – I was eying those books but wasn’t sure how good they were – thanks for the referral!

  7. I think drawing from a croquis is great when you are just designing, but I think when doing fashion illustration you need to develop instant croquis/gestures etc to make you illos something really spectacular. That being said, I have never been good at figure drawing and always have to develop some sort of croquis first… hence the reason I have never even thought of attempting a career in fashion illustration.

    I would love to see you a step by step process of how you develop an illo. I think that would be super informative to all us non-fashion illustrators

  8. Hey Danielle,

    As always, I love your illustrations. Have you ever looked at the ones done for the company Stila? It’s a cosmetics company and the illustrations are very pretty and iconic to the brand now.

  9. Christy – don’t get me wrong, I do trace and refine as I go, but I think tracing a croquis creates something that looks static, whereas building up from a gesture sketch looks livelier.

    When designers only have to think about recording the idea, where as an illustrator I am trying to think out how I can maximize the drawing for its intended purpose, whether to describe, communicate, draw attention or persuade. That is what I get paid for – to make other people’s ideas look amazing.

    Henna – I have never seen the Stila drawings, I like them! Thanks for telling me.

  10. exactly. I use a simple croquis all the time, it’s the easiest way to get a ton of ideas down fast. i think it’s hindered me fashion illustration wise because I am so out of practice just creating a great gesture.

  11. Kathryn Hagen is a driving force for the Fashion illustration artistic excellence that Otis in Los Angeles is known for. You might want to give her text a look. I think it far exceeds Abling,
    (p.s. tracing croqui can result in illustrations that retain their original energy–it’s just a matter of skill and practice)

    Fashion Illustration for Designers
    Spiral-bound: 608 pages
    Publisher: Prentice Hall; Pap/Dvdr edition (March 22, 2004)
    Language: English
    ISBN-10: 0130983837
    ISBN-13: 978-0130983831
    Product Dimensions: 10.8 x 8.8 x 1 inches

  12. Jennifer Orsini,

    Verbal Croquis is from Otis, so I don’t doubt that the texts are terrific – the whole school sounds terrific. I shall certainly make an effort to locate your suggestion. Perhaps once I have exhausted all available fashion illustration texts, I shall make a ranking post and we can all have our say on which ones we think are best.

    I do think that there is a certain difference of intent between a fashion illustration using a croquis and a fashion illustration for the sake of a fashion illustration built from a gesture.

    I don’t mean to disparage using a croquis for the purpose of illustrating design ideas at all – it can’t be compared really to drawing for drawing’s sake because the purposes are so different. I do a lot of tracing and reiteration when I am developing a special illustration; but the idea of using the same figure and pose more than a few times is boring to me. I get even more jazzed by the process of drawing than I do rendering garments and design ideas.

    My goal is to be able to render quickly from life, from scratch, and to do that I have to practice building new figures from nothing over and over and over.

  13. So stoked to have stumbled upon your blog. I am trying to move back into illustration. I went to FIDM in L.A. to be an illustrator, but ended up on the merchandising end. Worked with an illustrator at California Apparel News…then got married and had two beautiful children. Now am back at it! I never wanted to be a designer, always an illustrator. Not many understand that. I am back to taking as many classes and workshops as possible, and hope to find my bliss as an illustrator. Final Fashion is a true inspiration!

  14. Hi Danielle,

    I love your illustration as always. I am glad you introduced some fashion illustration books in your blog, it really saved me a lot of time from sreaching for the good books. As you said, it’s very hard for a beginner to tell the good books from the bad.

  15. Thanks Libo and Lyz… I have a lot of learning to do myself. I look at old posts and cringe sometimes… and the shoulders on this drawing are too narrow! Back to the drawing board.

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