How to Draw — A GOD!

By George O'Connor

Or in this case, a Goddess. Specifically, we'll be drawing a picture of Athena, the Greek Goddess of Wisdom and Warfare, and also the star of the second book in the Olympians series, Athena: Grey-Eyed Goddess.

Here's the first step. I quickly, with a light pencil, draw a stick figure of Athena in the approximate position and pose I want her to be in—holding a spear, ready to leap into battle against Gigantes or Titans or some sort of fearsome foe. I know we've all seen something like this before—the stick figure drawing—and if you're anything like I used to be when I was a kid, you figure this is a step that you can easily skip. WRONGO!

Here's why this step is so important:

  1. It helps you to measure out her proportions, and make sure everything fits together right. It's not easy, for instance, to make sure that both hands grab the spear correctly, and also join up to her shoulders in the right way. Go ahead and try drawing two hands grabbing a spear without drawing a stick figure outline first—it's tricky, I tells ya.
  2. Say that we would be drawing this picture of Athena for a graphic novel. Not only would I be drawing her this one time, but also I would literally be drawing her 100's of times throughout the book! I want her to look like the same character every time I draw her, and figuring out what basic shapes make up her figure is a helpful way to insure that consistency. I, personally, have drawn Athena over 70 million times (give or take a few), and I still do this, every time.

As you can see, I made up the body of Athena with some circles, lines and a few other basic shapes. Once that's done we move on to step 2...

With the same LIGHT pencil as before, I make a second pass over my stick figure from step 1. It's helpful to think of the stick figure as Athena's skeleton—and now I'm adding muscles, skin and everything else that makes up a person (or Goddess) to it. I haven't added that much detail yet—notice, that while she has a nose, Athena does not yet have eyes or a mouth. Also, even though she will be wearing a long skirt in the final drawing, I've drawn her legs in completely. This is to make sure I haven't made any mistakes in her pose and proportions. It's very easy, when drawing someone that is completely covered by clothing, to mess up the body underneath.
This way, I won't.

Also notice that I've given a few, slight traces of what Athena will be wearing—her helmet, skirt, her sleeves. Don't worry that you can see through her clothes at this point—we'll be erasing all this pencil eventually anyway. Remember, that's why we're using a LIGHT pencil.

Now that I'm happy with how Athena was posed, I go in and do some final pencils. Now she has eyes and a mouth, as well as hair, toes, fingernails, and all the elements of her outfit are well defined. I've also gone in and colored in quickly the parts of Athena that I will want to be colored black in the final drawing. I also broke out a ruler to make sure that Athena's spear was nice and straight. Don't be afraid to spend a little time on this step, and to redraw anything that might look a little funny.
Now we erase the whole thing. WAIT—Not YET! First, we look at our beautiful, finished drawing (in LIGHT pencil, remember) and decide, yeah, we like this drawing. Then we take some ink and trace over ONLY THE LINES WE REALLY, REALLY LIKE. What do I mean by this? Well, take a look at the finished pencil drawing from step 3, you will notice that there are many extra lines outlining Athena's body, and we can still see through her clothes and helmet. So, with our ink, we only trace over the lines WE WANT TO SEE in the final drawing. We don't want Athena to have a see-through helmet.

As for what you should use to ink your drawing, there are a lot of options. You can use a ballpoint pen, or a thin marker. I use a type of pen that's called a cro-quill, or dip pen. It's one of those pens you see in old-timey movies, where it's basically a stick with a metal point on it that you actually have to dip into a bottle of ink. I like drawing with this very much, but it's not easy at first, so if you're just starting out, you might want to practice with some normal pens at first. At this point, I should mention that don't be discouraged if your drawing doesn't look quite right just yet. It takes a lot of practice! When you've drawn Athena 400 Trillion times like I have, you'll draw her as well as I do. Heck, you'll draw her even better.

After you finish inking Athena, go take a break and read for a little while, or maybe draw some more pictures in pencil. We want to give the ink time to dry properly, because now, FINALLY, we're going to erase all the pencil lines from our drawing. Only the dried ink lines will remain. If you used a DARK pencil, even though I kept reminding you to use a LIGHT one, you might be sad at this point, because dark pencil lines are very, very hard to erase. If you didn't wait long enough for the ink to dry, you might also be sad, because the eraser can smear the wet ink. Try erasing a small area that's not as important first, like maybe the corner of her cape, to test if the ink has dried enough.

This step, in fancy-comic-book-artist language, is called "spotting the blacks", but you might just call it "coloring in the dark areas". If you go back and look at my drawing for step 4, you might notice that I have drawn little 'x's in some of the areas that are now colored black (like her armor, for instance). This more fancy-comic-book-artist stuff, basically a little reminder to myself that I will want to color in those areas black later. You probably will want to switch the pen you used to ink the drawing in step 4 to something fatter, like maybe a big black marker or something, or else it will take you all day to color this in. When I'm inking with a dip pen, I normally use a small paintbrush to "spot my blacks", or I will even fill the black parts in on my computer, after I've scanned my drawing into it.
Athena Step Six
Now the final step—we add color. I mentioned scanning before—a scanner is a device that basically takes a picture of your drawing and makes it into a file for your computer. Then I use a program called Photoshop to color in my drawing, until it looks like what we have here. Photoshop and scanners, like dip pens, are pretty complicated stuff, so you may just want to color your drawing in with some markers, colored pencils or crayons. Anyway is good, even leaving it black and white.

So now you have a finished drawing of your own Athena! Remember; don't be discouraged if your drawing doesn't look just quite right this first time. It takes a lot of practice, and each and every time you draw you'll get better! I should know—I've drawn Athena over 7000 gazillionbillion times, and I'm still learning!

FIRST SECOND is an imprint of Roaring Brook Press/Macmillan USA.
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