Production Designer Diaries: Learning to Draw
One of my favorite street artists creates quote based art. I was at the Beverly Center in Los Angeles and I saw that he’d done a collab with Uniqlo and one of the pieces in the window read, “I’m a writer doing time in Hollywood. What are you in for?”
I am a writer doing time in Hollywood and so is everyone I know. We’ve got all kinds of goals. Some of us want to write TV shows, others of us want to write features films or short films or novels. I don’t know what the hell I want to write so in the mean time, I’ll write blog posts.
We don’t just write. Some of us want to produce, some of us want to direct. As for me, I don’t know what the hell I want to do so in the mean time, I do whatever is needed. Ergo, I’m working on two short films as a Production Designer/Marketing Director/Social Media Director/Rights and Clearance Department. You could call me a jack of all trades, master of none, and you’d almost be right.
Just about everyone I work with and associate with went to film school. I did not. I went to a state school and got a degree in English. I am so out of my depth in this position. I have no idea what the hell I’m doing.
But I am the queen of faking it til I make it.
That’s exactly what I did last night when I took on one of the first tasks of a production designer: making a mock up of a set. In this case, it’s the bedroom of a teen girl who likes sports. I had to draw her room. But I don’t know how to draw rooms. Before last night I had no idea how to draw anything in perspective. So I did what I’ve done with many other things I’ve needed to learn on the fly and I hit YouTube.
YouTube is a great place. It’s where I learned how to fix toilets. But I’ll tell you about that another time.
I clicked on the first link that popped up, which was this one. Many thanks to Frank Curkovic, the creator of the video. I grabbed my sketchbook and a pencil and started in on my task.
I won’t lie, it wasn’t easy, but mama didn’t raise no quitter and eventually, I’m going to have to do a bunch more of these. There were a number of times when I thought about giving up. When I’m not good at something when I first start doing it, I’m more inclined to give up. I know that’s a bad habit, but it’s through things like this that I’m trying to overcome it. With the help of a ruler and about half of the video, things started to come together.
Please excuse my shoddy iPhone photo, I promise it will get better from here now that I have a better idea of what I’m doing.
This is one of the key jobs for production designers. Diagrams like this are necessary for planning how a room will look, or figuring what exactly the look you’re going for is. I haven’t been a teenager for a decade, neither has anyone I’ve been working with, so this is good practice for all of us. I recently went to a special screening of A Christmas Story with one of my friends and got the chance to see some of the original drawings of concept art for the movie. There was even a drawing of the infamous leg lamp. The production designer spoke a bit about what it was like creating some of the iconic images from the movie. It was inspiring.
He did a lot of his work on graph paper, which I might consider for the future. I can see why it would be a lot easier to draw on and figure ratios for and such. Turns out those math skills I was promised I would use later in life actually came in handy. So thank you Mr. Arnold from 7th grade math, you were right about ratios. After doing a little math, things started to come together and I started to ink it.
I have a lot of pens. I like to draw, but I’m not the best at it (yet). I’m more of a typography person. I can’t draw people for anything, so don’t expect to see anything remotely people shaped in anything. Anyway, I couldn’t leave all those hideous pencil lines so I had to ink it. My personal favorite are Microns. I discovered them when I lived in Chicago and ventured into Blick Arts for the first time. I could do some serious damage to my credit score there. I also picked up some great erasers at Blick that don’t leave any pencil residue. After what seemed like an eternity of erasing, I had my finished product.
All in, it took about 3 hours to find the video, trace the lines, draw the room out, ink it, and erase it. And I know it’s basic, but that doesn’t really bother me. For a first time, I think it turned out all right. Now that I’ve done it once, I think I’ll add more to the next one. Or maybe I’ll draw something completely different next time (I have to do that, too).
Whatever happens, I know that if I need help, YouTube will be there to help me learn how to draw it.