The Musician and the Dancing Cat

The Musician and the Dancing Cat

I’m in another illustration class, and we had three prompts to choose from for our first assignment:

Dining with a robot.

The musician playing for the dancing animal.

How the magician sawed the woman in half.

Obviously I chose number 2 so I could do a cat. My understanding of the assignment was that we were supposed to be doing the figures in silhouette, so entirely black. But it turned out that that was just for development of the idea. 

We had to do a bunch of thumbnails, so I did those, although I didn’t have any amazing ideas. I basically tried a person playing different musical instruments, and a cat dancing in different ways. Here’s what I came up with:

Thumbnail sketches

I liked #7 because the idea was it was a line dance, but I developed that and a couple new ones for three rough sketches I had to do. The first looked like this:

Rough silhouette sketch - cat line table dance

I actually really liked this one, but I wasn’t sure if I was supposed to have more than one of the animal figures (this was me being dumb—I should have gone with this one, though I could have changed the musician.) Then this was the next one:

Rough silhouette sketch - drummer

This one was okay, not super exciting but not bad. I kind of liked that the cut was partially cropped out of view. And here’s the last one:

Rough silhouette sketch - trumpet player and cat

We had to cut out the silhouettes of our chosen scene to position them in the most interesting positions, to make the most interesting composition. I had decided to go with the third idea because it was simple but I liked it. After moving the figures around, I ended up basically sticking with the original composition. This is the final composition I turned in for that week:

Final composition idea

So as I mentioned, I thought we were supposed to do silhouettes for the final composition, which I added to and came up with this:

Final silhouette version

I did this on Ampersand Claybord, a surface I’m starting to like a lot (I first started using their Gessobord for acrylics, and I like that, too). I used a dip pen and black India ink with a brush for the larger areas. For this composition, I wished I had the line of musical notes leaving the page more to the left because of that blank space there. And then I realized we were supposed to be doing it a little more realistically, and doing crosshatching, so I did a totally new version. I’m not very experienced with crosshatching, so it wasn’t totally successful. But I did move the musical notes stream. I used a dip pen for everything except I did paint the notes. I also decided to do the cat in simple hatching to more fit its fur. This is the final version:

Final version

I did this on Bristol smooth paper, thinking I might have to do another version, but I didn’t. I sort of like it. I like the musical notes stream better, and I think the crosshatching turned out decent. But the cat looks so stiff. I haven’t figured out how to liven things up. I think the human looks a little more alive. But this is all still a learning process. How do you breath life into your 2D creations?

I still don’t know. My instructor didn’t care for the drawing. She wanted more background/setting and said I had almost no value in it. I actually made it simple intentionally, not wanting to distract from the cat and person. But it obviously didn’t work for her. And maybe as an illustration rather than simply a drawing of a musician and a cat, perhaps setting is more important. I mean, in writing, at least minimal setting is critical, and often it can be elevated to nearly be a character itself. So, lesson learned. For my next drawing, I’ll focus more on having a good background. 

Update April 24, 2022:

I did end up redoing this one. I wasn’t able to do much with the lighting because it was already determined and couldn’t really be modified, but I added more background elements to make it more interesting:

I think it’s better, even though I’d need to start from scratch to make it really work, and I’d figure out a way to make more of it darker, since that’s usually more interesting.