Sketch Gallery: The Eyes Have It

The Eyes Have It
August ’17: The Eyes Have It

Bottom images: with tutorials
Top image: without tutorial

The eye is an incredibly complex instrument. Of the whole human, the eyes are perhaps the most potent tool for expression and conveying emotion. Without the need for words, these tiny little guys can suggest any item on the gamut of emotion from joy, sorrow, fear, hope, and inquisitiveness. The mechanics of the eye is an incredible story as well: A colored lens of muscle congealed within a lidded sphere, loaded with millions of rods and cones that take in light, and send the data to your brain where the light is processed and compiled into the images you see. Amazing. No wonder they’re so challenging to draw.

The bottom two images were drawn while watching some wonderful tutorials by Tom McPherson of the Circle Line Art School. Please try them out, they’re very well-done and easy to follow. The top image is an original I drew afterwards. The bottom-right image was helpful in drawing a highly detailed eye, with iris detail and individual eye-lashes. The bottom-left image was useful for practicing eyes in the context of the face’s upper hemisphere.

Drawing the eye and various parts of the human face is both an interesting challenge and a great lesson in learning how the different parts of the face work together to convey expression. The eyes are powerful communicators on their own, but even more so when paired with a subtle tilt of the corner of the mouth, turn of the head, or wrinkle of the eyebrow.

“If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be? If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be? But in fact God has placed the parts int eh body, every one of the them, just as he wanted them to be. If they were all one part, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, but one body.”
1 Corinthians 12:17-20

Circle Line Art School (pair, lower-left) –
(and single eye, lower-right) –

More drawings at:


Sketch Gallery: Faces

August ’17: Faces

Left: Pencil/graphite w/tutorial
Right: Pen/ink w/o tutorial

Having recently gotten interested in portrait drawings, I wanted to learn more about the techniques involved in drawing faces. I found some excellent tutorials (links below) by Tom McPherson’s Circle Line Art School Youtube channel that provide very straightforward step-by-step guidance for doing so. I’d highly recommend giving them a try. These images are the result of my drawing while watching the tutorials (the pencil drawings on the left) and then trying to reproduce them later from memory (the pen drawings on the right).

I had a lot of fun with these and it was interesting to experiment between pencil and pen. The first drawings are in pencil because that’s the medium that was used in the tutorial. The second is inked because that’s my preferred medium. The reason for this preference is not very deep, other than the fact that I tend to always have a pen in my pocket (less so a pencil) and I find the ink’s permanency and dark tones to be more visually appealing. However, a good pencil sketch is beautiful in its own right as well. I found the pencil to be more flexible in terms of being able to create varying tones of shade via subtle changes in applied pressure and loose scribbling, and forgiving because of the simple fact that it can be erased. Shading with a pen requires some different techniques as loose scribbling tends to look more sloppy than pencil, so the shade must be built-up with layers of intentional lines stacked on top of each other on criss-crossing angles (called ‘cross-hatching’) to communicate lighter vs darker tones. Also, once the ink is on the paper, it ‘aint going nowhere. This feature introduces a touch of both fear and intentionality in my pen drawings which could explain why I’m happier with how the pencil drawings came out, produced under less pressuring circumstances where more time is spent focusing on the overall art rather than the minutiae of technique.

Additionally, working on these faces gave me the opportunity to learn a few things about how a real-life object (like a human face) gets translated into a graphite or ink drawing. In my still early attempts to translate flesh and bone to paper and ink, I am tempted to think that every contour and feature of the face should be completely outlined. The nose, for example, should be a conical shape with two circles at the base and two defined lines running upwards to a blunted point. However, drawing these faces with the help of the tutorials showed me that it is far more realistic to use fewer lines that one might think should be there. The nose of the woman on the right, or the man on the left, only have two lines (like “c”s) to indicate the edges of nostrils, and a faint, shadowy line going up one side of the face to convey the ridge of the nose. The rest of the nose is not really ‘there’ (on paper) but is suggested by shading, which tells your brain that there is some dimension of the nose that blocks the light to a greater/lesser degree in that space.

In much of my learning so far, I’ve repeatedly heard words like, “suggest”, “indicate”, and even “illusion” when it comes to discussing techniques for conveying a sense of how an object exists in space. What this suggests to me is that an artist has done his/her job when, instead of drawing an image verbatim and line-for-line, they have ‘convinced’ you that a series of lines and smudges of ink is actually something greater. In a literal sense, art is a form of communication. Spoken language is a series of phonetic sounds in which we package meaning and send it to a listener who may understand as intended, interpret their own different meaning, or hear a jumbled mess of syllables and grunts. The outcome is co-dependent on the speaker and that of the listener. Similarly, art packages its meaning into lines and the spaces between them. If, when you look at those lines and spaces, you see more than lines and spaces, then perhaps you’re looking at art.

Circle Line Art School
(female face) –

(and male face) –

More drawings at:

Sketch Gallery: Delight

August ’17: Delight

My wife and I went to visit my parents this past weekend. Shortly after the busyness of arriving, unpacking, and settling in, there was a brief period where there was a quiet stillness in which most of the house occupants were running errands. The only sounds in the house were those of my father calmly strolling around with my daughter in his arms, the baritone of his voice resonating through the tranquil rooms in response to the lilting syllables she sings in manners of curiosity and wonder. I quietly followed them on their tour of the house and snapped a picture of this tender moment, which served as the reference for the sketch. I felt fairly satisfied with how the hair came out on both figures. I also practiced some reserve in regards to detail and shading this time around. I am amazed at how little needs to be added in order to convey crucial detail as well as how dangerously easy it can be to overdo it. For example, a tiny curve and dot (like a sideways apostrophe) serve as my father’s eye and a previous attempt to lightly detail his mouth blacked-out half of the feature. Oddly enough, the hardest part of the drawing was my dad’s smile. I couldn’t figure out how to convey the side-profile perspective of a smile and it took at least 5 or 6 sketches with pencil before I was comfortable committing it to ink.

Drawing this one out allowed me to appreciate some very true qualities of both my father and daughter that were captured on camera at this particular moment: her, with gloriously tousled hair, looking off into the distance and pointing wherever her wonder leads. And he, a tirelessly diligent man whose strong, mechanical-engineer arms and stiff-upper-lip work ethic are both completely disarmed by, and protectively surrounding, his Granddaughter. To me, this picture is a look into that place where the two are uniquely themselves in a beautifully contrasting way: The strongest yet gentlest of bear-hugs, a small and feather-weight hand resting on a muscular shoulder, and a squint-eyed smile of pure delight cast toward a child lost in wondrous exploration. Such things need no words. Such things comprise the hidden language shared between a Grandfather and his Granddaughter.

For more drawings, please check out the Sketch Gallery.

Sketch Gallery: Seth

August ’17: Seth

Another portrait drawing installment, this time of my good friend Seth. I was fortunate enough to be Seth’s roommate for about 9 months during our last semesters of college. He hid defaced cereal boxes in my room; I had a habit of slamming the toilet seat on the other side of the wall adjacent to his bed while he slept…you know, usual roommate stuff. Anyways, Seth is an upstanding man whose friendship I hold near and dear to my heart. I’m happy with how the shading of various facial contours came out on this (done by holding the tip of the pen nearly parallel to the surface of the paper) as well as those of the shirt folds under the suspender straps.

Seth is a gifted composer who specializes in film scores and writing to visuals. Please do yourself a favor and check out his beautiful work at:

For more drawings, check out the Sketch Gallery.

Sketch Gallery: MED

August ’17: MED

August ’17

Today, I discovered that I enjoy using my commutes to draw sketches of friends’ profile pictures. This is a portrait drawing of my friend Marc, a crazily talented musician, public educator, and friend for whom I am deeply grateful. Our friendship is such that we tend to travel through major life transitions simultaneously, allowing us to insightfully pray for, mentor, and support each other through mountains and valleys. To hear and purchase (please support him!) his music as well as to learn about his awesome kids music project, please visit his website at:

Source photo by Ashley Dorce.

Literally drawing literacy: Announcing the Sketch Gallery


I’m learning something and you’re invited to watch. Here’s the story:

The pen is a mighty instrument indeed. Throughout the ages, it has spawned words, music, policy, hypotheses, formulae and all manner of thought and reflection. So much can be done with this simple implement whose primary function is to transfer ink to a blank page. Imagine the works that the same pen would etch in the hands of a child, a scientist, a poet, a UN representative, or a mechanic.

I’ve always been captivated by artists for whom the pen is no mere writing implement but a bridge to a beautiful paradox where a few simple lines come alive as fantastic three-dimensional worlds and images within a two-dimensional page. There are plenty of examples out there where even the humble ballpoint pen, forgotten for its ubiquitousness, has been used to create photo-realistic portraits of people, animals, and landscapes that may or may not exist.

In an effort to move the needle from “I’ve always wanted to draw like that” to “I’m learning to draw like that”, I’ve begun to take advantage of the countless resources out there to learn the craft. Armed with a pencil, a 20-cent pen, and said countless resources (<cough>YouTube<cough>), I’ve been assaulting pages and margins with lines, shades, and shapes with fervor. And I’ve decided to go public with it here in keeping with the intent of this blog.

Below, you can see a gallery of some of the drawings I’ve produced along the way so far. Some are originals, others are practice exercises, and many others are reproductions of a reference image or were drawn alongside a guided tutorial. Click on each image for it’s back-story and a link to any resources used in the process where applicable if you would like to join me in the practice. I plan to use some future drawings as cover-art for upcoming posts. As new drawings are made (I’ve been drawing a lot lately, so I’m hoping to add a new one weekly), they will be added to the gallery which will be permanently stored on the Sketch Gallery page of this blog. Some new drawings will be announced via blog post, others will quietly sneak into the gallery on their own.

Lasting learning doesn’t take place in a vacuum. The student needs an active feedback community of mentors to teach, guide, encourage, or simply observe. For whichever of those elements you are able to provide, I am grateful.

“As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another” – Proverbs 27:17

A Perfect Union

Check out the song above while reading. The song is “1B” by Yo-Yo Ma, Edgar Meyer, and Mark O’Connor from their album “Appalachian Journey”

Story and song are in love with each other. After all, they are a married couple. Look throughout history and you will scarce find a party or funeral that they haven’t been invited to. These two romantics will use any available vessel to tell their love story, from ancient cave paintings, to the bards of medieval lore, to all forms of contemporary yarn-spinners. You will often find them together; lyrics and lullabies wrap around each other in a beautiful embrace. Else, where it seems there is only one, the other is hidden close at-hand; an epic tale will beckon his wife near, emerging as a song on the lips or in the mind of the listener. A distant melody will sing fondly of her husband, illuminating long-forgotten memories and inspiring pens to fill their blank paper canvases.

I was reminded of this love narrative at a cousin’s wedding. Just outside of Philadelphia on an oasis of a beautiful day amid a soggy week, the bride and groom were married on the tracks of an old train station that had been transformed into a magnificent garden. With vows promised and rings mounted, the pair began their journey into married life, song leading them by the hand down the aisle in her dancing steps. The song she sang at this particular moment has no words. The melody lilts between a trio of string instruments and the vast soundscapes of their harmonies, as a kestrel dashing through valleys and mountains. The central theme, beginning with the rapid fire bowing of the fiddle, passes through several frames that speak of beauty, courage, humor, loss, and redemption. Give a listen to the song in the video above and you’ll see what I mean. Relying purely on instrumental content absent of any disclosing lyrics, this particular song invites the listener to seek her partner, to figure out the story he is telling. And the story he tells you may be uniquely yours, spun just for you. Here is mine:

Early American settlers of the Appalachian region, whose music and culture inspired this album, are often held up as iconic pioneers. They are remembered for venturing the seas to an uncharted land and braving the untamed wilderness of the western world to lay the foundation for a new nation. Life was no prairie dance for these families. The sweeping beauty of the mountains and valleys they settled were starkly contrasted with disease, poverty, and hunger. Although history often paints a glamorous view of settlement and westward expansion, we must remember that it yielded the genocide of the Native American people, a new market for the slave trade, and countless other sins that still haunt the nation to this day. Nonetheless, this era and these people are remembered for chasing an enigmatic entity known as “The American Dream.”

But what is it?

In writing, America is founded on noble principles. The Constitution outlines the lawful methods through which “We the people” would pursue a “more perfect union.” The Declaration of Independence lays the foundational presumption that God created all men equal and gave them the right to strive for “Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.”

Ask any American to explain that title and you will be given countless definitions. However, it is highly likely that the vast majority can be traced back to those three end-goals: Life, liberty, and happiness. It’s worth noting that these are not uniquely American ideas. You don’t have to be a citizen to identify with these things. Everyone from every nation wants them and, in some way, orients their lives to strive toward them. But for various reasons, America has identified these pursuits as its principle cause. When anyone refers to “The American Dream”, they are likely speaking of this trinity of timeless values.

Yet something is awry.

Life, liberty, and happiness seem beyond the grasp of so many. Death, captivity, and tragedy are still here. We still get caught in the ripples affects of our nation’s historical vices. The American Revolution, the Civil War, the Civil Rights Movement; these changed the methods of tyranny, segregation, and poverty but did not end them. Any liberty that  guarantees the life and happiness of the few while diminishing those of others is merely another form of oppression*.

I am not the greatest patriot so perhaps I am biased. Among the liberties that I receive with gratitude in this country, I find a measure of shame in the mix. Shame for our past crimes and the hesitant pace of our repentance. Though there is much to be thankful for in this country, we are still a far cry from the “more perfect union” that we strive to be.

But that’s the point, isn’t it?

A “more perfect union” is one that is not yet perfect but is trying to be. And though we are imperfect people, we the people (you and I) have a role to play in the outcome of this union. Moreover, this union has a role to play in the outcome of this world. And if we want our world to improve, then our own nation is the best place to start.

If want our three-fold dream for a perfect union, we must chase it as a unified people.

To strive toward a higher standard. To reorient when we are drifting off-course. To seek the life, liberty, and happiness of others, not just our own. And to invite the perfect God who created us all equally, in all races, all languages, all nations, to show us how to become more perfect.

* I believe I am paraphrasing Martin Luther King here but am unsure. If you are aware of the source, please let me know!