Drawing 101

After a week of troweling, digging, and pick-axing, today was a change of pace as we learned the basics of archaeological drawing. Professional academic illustrator, Mark Hoyle, helped us reconstruct various pots and artifacts using artist’s tools. We were given instruction on calipers, compasses, profile gauges, and more. But first, we used our newfound knowledge to copy some very modern coffee mugs.

My attempt at drawing a cross-section of a mug.

Though part of me wanted to draw freehand, I resisted and used the tools provided. This made all the difference as sometimes the eye can be deceiving. When I used the calipers to measure the inside of the mug they would catch in the centre. This was because the mug was thicker in the centre and thinner on the top and bottom as can be seen in my drawing. After we more or less figured this method out some of us moved onto pot pieces and others jumped right into artifacts.

Mary drawing a burnish ware pot.

When an artifact comes out of the ground it looks completely different after it is washed. Though they’re clean, sometimes details are lost in their dry state or they’re missing pieces. This is where an archaeological illustrator is called to help emphasize these small but important details.

Prem drawing the details of a brooch.

This brooch is a good example of the camera being unable to capture all the features of an artifact. Springs and ornate details require a bit of artistry to better represent their placement.

After a morning of drawing and measuring we went down for lunch at the Vindolanda Cafe. Many of us opted to eat outside as it was quite the nice day as far as English weather goes and a great garden view.

The gardens.

The final step we learned after lunch was how to stipple. Stippling is using concentrated dots to create shading and sometime texture in artifacts. This is more effective than normal shading as it can be scaled down in an archeological publication and still reflect what the object looks like.

An attempt at stippling and shading of a leaf carving.

Mark seemed quite impressed with our drawings but we were even more impressed with his. He uses both classic and technological techniques to create his illustrations. He explained how it can take hours to days to weeks to draw certain artifacts. But the result is extremely detailed and accurate. Some of his work can even be input into a 3D modelling system that can be rotated from different angles.

Prem, Rachel, and I with our messy artist workspace

Even though we weren’t quite sure what we were getting into we all soon fell into a comfortable silence, happily sketching away. We discovered illustration isn’t for everyone but we all felt invested in doing our best to recreate our artifacts on paper.

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