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!
And then quickly added some paint and it was done. Once again notice the level of the tea!
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.
I then spent the second cup doing my usual planning for the day. It was a very wet day, so I opted for a cuppa tea rather than a walk to my local cafe as part of my morning planning session.
BTW both of my SketchingNow courses include a 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.