The Zombies in the Wood

I am teaching myself to draw and someone (not a zombie!) asked me if I had any advice on how to go about it. I think, for me, there are many answers to this and I decided this question might be something I could write about here.  I think it worth noting that you should never stop experimenting and pushing yourself – otherwise what is the point! Whenever I have the time I like to look back at old work and try again. Like this project – The Zombies in the Wood (the original piece is included further down)


Work in progress – The Zombies in the Wood – graphite (2H, H, HB)

For me, drawing things that interest me is very important. The few structured art classes I did years ago were pretty uninspiring and I think I have figured out why. I like fantasy and Sci-Fi. If someone asked me to draw a chair (which they did) I could see that the task was useful but not ever so exciting. If someone asked me to draw a pirate king’s throne then I think I would have been all for it. Clearly I didn’t have the imagination to see that back then, but I guess better late than never. I also get that the chair is totally necessary – it’s really important to use reference material and if you are drawing people or animals then it’s a good idea to consider the anatomy and think about what lies under the skin. This really helped with my figures and characters.

I use all kinds of things for reference – I collect objects ,  catalogues with pictures of vases and clocks, fabrics and furniture  or just stringy people in jeans! Every autumn I go to the park and collect Autumnal things. I decorate my home with Autumn.  It helps with the arduous task of getting through summer.

I draw every day if I can and I always listen to music – that is important for me but not compulsory. Maybe.

If I don’t draw I look at my books (see Inspiration) and plan what I am going to draw. I have collected a lot of books. I have learned so much from these resources so far and I haven’t even scratched the surface!. Perhaps I buy too many.

Ask yourself what you want to draw and then make it your mission to find out how.  It’s important to look at the larger shapes and negative space – once you’ve established these you can then look at the smaller shapes within.

When I first began learning I tried a lot of different media. It helped me discover what I wanted to use. I think it’s important to experiment with different media but ultimately use materials that you enjoy using so you can be really good at one or two things instead of OK at lots of things. My favourite is dry media – especially graphite. I’m starting to really realise how much – I always come back to it.  I am desperate to try the coloured water soluble graphite pencils from Derwent. Maybe I will get them for Halloween!

I also love watercolour although I am not sure that it loves me! Some advice I took without regret was to buy the best materials you can afford –  cheap materials can be frustrating and the results disappointing no matter how much skill you have.


My favourite pencils and my home made drawing board (incline fashioned from ImagineFX magazine cardboard packaging)

I think what I have learned the most from is making a finished drawing – not a sketch – but a complete illustration.  Drawing individual subjects in a vacuum is great for practice but actually planning, researching, sketching thumbnails, practicing key elements and then making a piece – a finished piece – is by far the most exciting way of learning how to draw – it forces you to look at so many different things and bring them together and make them work.  You can look at what you made – see what worked and see what didn’t, and then start again. I am going through this process with The Zombies in the Wood. I did this in a rush last year and I have developed a keen hatred for it. So, I am starting again. I will probably look at it in another year and do it again. In fact, I am counting on it!


Bibliography and Inspiration

Fantasy Underground – How to Draw Zombies,  Butkis, M, and Destefano, M, Walter Foster Publishing Inc, 2010

Anatomy for Fantasy Artists – An essential guide to creating action figures and fantastical forms, Fabry, G., and Cormack, B., David and Charles Publishers, 2006.

Martin, Justin.,  Poses for Artists, Vol. 2, Standing Poses, Eagel Ink Factory, Justin Martin, 2016.

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies: The Graphic Novel, Austen, J. and Grahame-Smityh, S., Titan Books, 2009.


Music I listened to

Miss May I – Monument

The Birthday Massacre-  various