Drawing Technique

"Never work from a photograph – that’s cheating!
Never draw from memory – that’s cheating!
Never project an image on a wall to trace – that’s cheating!
If you do any of these things, you will never learn how to see. You must work from a live model. Your subjects must be in front of you."

Yet, there was one tool that Hnizdovsky always carried with him and worked with, a tiny cardboard mat that fit in his pocket. He would walk around the parks framing trees by holding this tiny mat at arm’s length, framing plants, framing animals through what is now called an artist’s viewfinder and can be found on Amazon in plastic with fancy subdivisions of thirds or with a Golden Triangle or Golden Ratio. But those were too fancy. He simply cut his own mini mats from left over mat board. You could easily also take any piece of paper and cut out the center if you lost your mini viewfinder.

Much like a photographer framing his image in a camera’s viewfinder, he would always frame his image before he started drawing. This allowed him to choose the best angle, the best ratio (horizontal or vertical), and only when he was satisfied by what he saw in his mini viewfinder, did he take out his three-legged portable seat and start to draw in his sketchpad. He always had a pocket sketchpad, and wore either a tweed jacket to the parks, or else a khaki jacket from the army and navy surplus store.  This was his uniform. And he always wore a hat to shade his eyes and drawing pad. Numerous stubby pencils would be in his pocket, as well as an eraser. He preferred sketching at the parks in pencil. Any inking for pen and ink drawings would be done at home.  Sometimes, he would bring larger sketch pads, up to 18” x 24” if he was working on a large tree sketch. In those instances, he would spend hours at the parks, drawing out every branch, making sure they all connected. All of this was done from life, never from imagination. If he drew the bark and branches a certain way, you could identify which tree it was in the park, since nothing was made up. It was a perfect portrait of the tree, which posed for the artist. If this was to be a planned print, he would often take a detail photograph of the bark to made sure he did not make any errors in his drawing, but this was only as a reference for texture.

This pre-drawing process was his #1 tool for effective and striking composition.