Part 4: Visual Distortion

Exercise Details

This exercise is designed to push a deliberate process of stylisation.  And producing a stylised character which introduces a narrative.  I like the possibilities of this exercise.  Certainly the scope of this exercise, limited to a cat or dog, intruiges me.  Again, not the kind of subject matter that I would ever pursue personally, but that is a good thing.  As the exercise states, keep an open mind and push outside of boundaries, and be prepared to adapt approaches and thinking.

Cat Drawing

The exercise is encouraging me to draw a dog or a cat in such a way that it makes it seem ‘real’, and to describe some aspect of its appearance of personality.  I’ve chosen a cat because I see the personality of cat, not as a cuddly house moggy, but rather a horrible predatory creature preying on small animals and birds, killing for the fun.  Therefore I wanted to produce a drawing that is fairly unsettling and a little bit sinister:

I drew this with chalk and charcoal sketching sticks (of various grades) on black paper.  I scanned in the drawing and then took it into Photoshop.  I blended the layer with an image of a tom-cat on a very low transparency.  I was experimenting and trying different blends and opacities, and I quite liked the image above.  So I kept as it as shown.

The exercise was about realism and personality; I hope I’ve created the “stalking cat” personality – an animal waiting to pounce!

Line Drawings

I’ve now switched to dogs for the line drawings.  Below is my sketchbook page:

Most of these were actually 5 lines, I kept my hand loose on the pen and limited my control and kept drawing a wavy line.  I allowed myself only 5 lines in all the above.  In most of the drawings I deliberately wanted imprecise line.

I felt that the dog in the bottom right corner would look interesting blown up big – and the haphazard lines painted onto a canvas.  Here is a quick visualisation:


Rather than cutting out pieces of paper I decided on a digital collage.  I took a picture of a dog and distorted it so that it was a lot more hang-dog jowls.  The pieces that make up the collage are a combination of rugs, fabrics and different animals skins and furs.

I must admit that I didn’t feel particularly excited  by this activity, although the outcome is fun enough.  I am certainly seeing the rationale of this exercise in that deliberate distortion can enhance make personality and enhance a character.  I think personally I’d rather this whole exercise was on people rather than dogs and cats.

Final Drawing 

For the final drawing of this exercise I started to form the idea of a couple at an old-fashioned formal dinner; specifically a fierce wife and a long-suffering husband.  I visualised the distorted animal heads of a wolf-like lady, plus a sombre bulldog-like man sat the table.   Below is my drawing  which was produced purely with different grades of graphite pencil:

It was an enjoyable drawing to produce.  Quite fun really.  I had a childlike sense of immersing myself with something surreal and silly.  I didn’t want to distort the animal faces too much, as I felt this would overpower the characters and mood of the these “animal people”.  I wanted the drawing to tell some kind of story of two characters sitting down to dinner.  I let my mind wonder over it, thinking, “where are they?”, “what is their relationship?”.  I’ve realised I’m always intellectually interested in any artwork that prompts narrative questions, but with no clear-cut answers.


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