Spools of thread are fun and easy to sketch, and they are also a great drawing “device”. What is a drawing device? . . .
No, it’s not a pencil or an iPad. The word may not be commonly used in this way anymore because of the plethora of “devices” in our lives, but one of the dictionary definitions for the word device is this:
A drawing or design as in: the decorative device on the invitations.
A drawing device, as used in the world of illustration, is an item that connotes a lot of story by it’s very nature. It can also refer to a shape or element that can be built into a more complicated design, but we are going for the story aspect.
What does a spool of thread bring to mind for you? Domestic tranquility? The art of sewing? The security of repair? Adventure as in “following a thread”? Connections?
See what I mean about story?
This first sketch happened because I saw a small spot photo like this in an issue of Daphne’s Diary – an awesome magazine out of the UK. I often digest a publication by taking “notes” in the form of pictures in my sketchbook. It is also a good way to stretch my sketching abilities to see if I can copy different illustration styles – much the way art students have always learned by copying the Masters. I also like to try to match the palette. All good practice. I flipped this little vignette to fit my page design, but otherwise, it’s pretty close
But the interesting part for me – the “story” if you will – is the fact that the yellow spool is sitting partially off the purple one. Just a bit more and it could fall. That lends a dynamic to the picture that may or may not be a good thing – as we will see.
I was lucky enough to do some graduate study at Parson’s School of Design in my student days. I studied illustration there and the great thing about that school is that the teachers practice what they teach. My instructors were all successful New York illustrators working for the top publications and they knew their stuff. We also worked with art directors from some of the magazines as a part of our learning.
One day, the art director was from Good Housekeeping (ever think about the “story” in that title?). She gave us an assignment to do a spot illustration for a sewing column.
I was already a bit of an edge-dweller, and here is the illustration I did.
OMG! It got bounced right away. The color was much too bright and the graphic much too dynamic. But the worst sin of all was that thimble! It might fall off there! This would be very upsetting to their readers who wanted to feel safe and secure within the pages of Good Housekeeping. Talk about story! Can you imagine?!?
I knew then I would not make it as a Good Housekeeping illustrator. I did not know then that I would never really be a good housekeeper either. I had an inkling though.
So, when I saw the small photo in Daphne’s Diary, I was immediately transported back in time, and realized we’ve come a very long way!