Trader's Road

USING THE MACCHIA TECHNIQUES
IN EVERYDAY ILLUSTRATION

I had learned the macchia technique for life drawing. This was part of a classical instruction package taught to my teacher by a student of John Singer Sargent who taught at the Chicago School of Fine Art in the 1970s. Teachers here and there were preserving these techniques, once common. They were still being taught in New York, where Frazetta had taken classes. At some point, I wondered if the macchia technique could be used for landscape. The above picture was done on a large piece of watercolor paper with a lot of tooth to it. I put down the layers of pencil in horizontal strips (you can still see those marks) and worked into it. I prefer this kind of drawing, because, like in red chalk drawing, you can cover a lot of space, then erase and darken gradual shapes. It is similar to watercolor. You do not do pencil line work until after the "painting" is done. I learned in school to never do this, but to cover the entire picture in lines like you would do in pen and ink like this:

Pine

The picture on the left was pen and ink, the one of the right was macchia pencil. They are both good techniques, but the time is amazing. The pine on the left took about 3 hours to draw and was 4x7. The one on the left was 11x14 and also took three hours. Using the staining techniques, even on white paper, cut my illustration time down by about five times: there was no comparison. This is the only way I can do 400 illustrations a year. I sometimes combine macchia techniques with collage, which I will demonstrate below.

Red Deer

With macchia, one usually starts with swabbing in the charcoal, so this is a modified macchia technique with pencil. I'm not good with sharpening pencils, so I use a .5 mechanical with B leads. I use paper with a high rag content for the tooth, but smooth paper is also nice. Here, you can see that I have barely blocked in the deer. I needed nine deer for my illustration. As you can see, I'm gesturing, trying to get in the basic forms without going for too much detail. These are red deer (elk) and, so, are rather large bodied.

Red Deer

Here you can see that I have penciled in light lines and smeared them for my macchia (stain.) I have kept the pencil visible, but only just so. I have exaggerated these drawings a bit for the computer. This is important, so make sure you get a nice layer of pencil in which to work and be sure to take up your lines.

Red Deer

Very quickly (in a matter of minutes) I can now work up the shadows of my deer, raising up their forms from the stained layer. This way, I don't have to spend a lot of time filling in pencil or ink layers on top of my drawing. The immediacy of the drawing is preserved and it doesn't look over worked.

Red Deer

The the barest indication of background trees and some grass, I was able to scan this sketch into the computer and add a little with my program, mostly putting in some highlights.

Wolfhounds

I use this technique with everything. Sometimes I incorporate the nap of the fur with the maccchia, blending and adding, blending and adding. This is the idea of this technique, to add on in layers rather than doing up the pencil study, then adding in the shading, then the inks and so on. I think this style is more organic.

Wolfhounds

Here are some wolves. Here you can get the richness of the focal animals without fussing over the background.

Wolves

I did a picture of a snipe and chicks which I put into a book as a side element. Here is the drawing after I cleaned it up a bit in my computer program after scanning.

Snipe

Unlike most other techniques I've tried, this kind of work colors very nicely. To do this little picture in watercolor would take an entire day or longer. I did this in about an hour.

Snipe

Here is a more traditional drawing on gray paper with chalk highlights. It looks just lovely when scanned in, but it was very difficult to isolate.

Dandelion

Sometimes, if you do not prepare, you will end up doing hours of erasing on the computer. Do yourself a favor and spend the money on a tablet and pen for the computer program. It will save your soul! I promise! :)

Dandelion

So, my dandelion is isolated and I can "collage" it with other drawing to make a new image.

Mouse

This can work with almost any images like this snake and leaves turning into another image.

SnakeAsh leaves

Snake

© 2017, A.R. Stone






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