Recently, I thought it would be fun to re-visit my “SBS cup” again and realised that I hadn’t sketched it since the big film shoot, so almost two years ago. Wow!
But before I share my step-by-step I want to just talk about something that has come up in Seeing this week, and in fact, always comes up whenever people watch me sketching teacups . And that is:
“you make it look easy, but teacups are so hard!”
So a three points in response
- I couldn’t agree more – teacups are extremely hard! They combine a number of tricky situations to draw: ellipses, concentric ellipses, complex patterns, tricky foreshortening and important relationships between all the different elements. Please don’t ever get discouraged when drawing teacups! Ha! I just made that sound as if drawing teacups is a regular occurrence in life… well it is for me.
- How many teacup sketches do you think I have done since I started sketching regularly in Jan 2007?
That’s a nine year period and in 2015 I sketched 100 cups – click here for a few highlights. So my guess for the grand total is anywhere between 500-700 since I didn’t do many for the first few years but have become somewhat obsessive lately. One would expect that I could draw a perfect teacup after that insane number… but you know what? I still can’t. My ellipses are still wonky, my saucers not symmetrical and often my foreshortening isn’t correct. But, that’s ok, I enjoy every sketch I do and yes, all of that practice (and even the more conservative estimate 500 cups is a lot!) does make it easier, but I still have some degree of nervous tension anytime I sketch a cup.
- But perhaps the greatest reason why it has become easier in recent times is that I spent a lot time analysing the structure of a cup and saucer. You can download an info sheet from this blogpost where I share all my secrets.
For those of you who are coffee drinkers, I did a similar exercise recently with my morning lattes. This analytical approach is something that I share a lot in my SketchingNow online classes.
In my SBS demo I explain this process of how I analyse (‘SEE’) a complex pattern like this one before I start sketching through means of thumbnails. But these days I work a lot more spontaneously and that is what I will share with you today.
So “lets get going!” (that’s a sketchingnow quote – hey?)
I pulled out the cup and made myself a new pot of Earl Grey tea and just went for it. I was interested to see whether the ‘seeing’ I did two years ago helped me now (ie. whether I could remember the pattern)… and it did! There was one small element in the design (the spacing of the pattern inside the cup) that I had forgotten, but all the rest felt like old friends. I find this is often the case when I sketch something the second (or third, or fourth) time.
A lot of my teacup sketches these days are very loose and experimental, so I did this in a bit of a hybrid style – somewhere between ‘traditional ink then wash’ and ‘completely random’!
I started with painting the tea shape as that was just about to move – of course I was drinking my tea at the time and I hate lukewarm tea! I then did a very quick loose setup with my favourite brown ochre watercolour pencil…
and then some ink lines. I wasn’t wanting to outline every part of the cup so I worked fast. What is interesting in this sketch is that I was able to refrain myself from drawing every outline in ink, enabling me to ‘lose’ some of the edges.
Note the level of the tea in the cup!
This was a very quick cuppa sketch (even for me!) as I did the whole sketch while drinking the first cup. Normally it takes me the two cups that I get from my teapot to complete a sketch.
BTW both of my SketchingNow courses include teacup demonstrations. In Foundations it’s a more ‘traditional’ approach to ink and wash and in Edges it’s a very spontaneous sketch. Registration for Edges will open in a few days, so if you are interested and would like an early-bird discount you must sign up to my mailing list before the end of Wednesday 6 April to be eligible for it.