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The Process of Drawing Atalanta and Hippomenes

Artists of the 21st Century by William Zhao

When it comes to sitting down and working on an art project, I usually find that I have no clue how to start—or even what to do—oftentimes leading to procrastination. Luckily, I encountered an opportunity to record my artistic process a few weeks ago for the National Junior Classical League Convention held at Indiana University. Since I took pictures along the way, I’ll use this project to reflect on and explain my personal process when I work on artistic endeavors.

The first step almost always takes the longest amount of time – brainstorming. This step varies from project to project. Sometimes the inspiration or the idea of a scene or character hits me first, leaving me the task of figuring out how to put it onto paper or a digital screen. Other times, I organize my own incoherent scribbling and doodles, similar to picking shapes out of clouds, and create the beginning of a drawing that way.

This particular project took the former way. Basically, I thought (I’ll note here that I was limited to classical inspirations), “It would be neat to draw Atalanta and Hippomenes during the golden apple race,” and so it happened. Atalanta was a beautiful Greek woman who said she would only marry a man who beat her in a footrace. Hippomenes fell in love with Atalanta, and so Aphrodite, the Greek Goddess of Love, gave him three golden apples to distract Atalanta during the race, allowing him to win.

Once I decided on the idea, I had to brainstorm how I wanted to portray the scene and determine the best way to do so. To assess how the scene should be laid out on paper, I usually make many different, small thumbnail sketches so that I find a layout I like.

Then, when I decided on the thumbnail that I liked, I put it to the final piece of paper and sketched the first draft to get this:

first draft

Once I had the foundation on paper, I added details and thicker lines to the main focus of the drawing, like so:

second draft

Then, added details to the background:

third draft

After that comes the hardest part for me, of completing an in-progress project – coloring. It is the worst part partly because when you mess up with coloring, you can’t erase it. Also, I haven’t practiced coloring enough to feel like I have the same nuance and detail I get from a pure graphite pencil. However, I was pretty happy with how this scene turned out.

fourth draft

Finally, I matted it to protect the paper from creasing easily and prepared it for presentation:

fifth draft

And voila! One completed art piece ready to go! Incredibly enough, I was awarded fourth place in the colored pencil category for my grade level, so I’m pretty proud of it. At the same time, I have a lot more to improve on.

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