The Gold Bug

This drawing is from the most recent episode of “Gettin’ Sketchy” with artists Ashley Bane Hurst and Matt Fussell. One of the biggest challenges was making an initial sketch with graphite on black paper. We were working from a very small reference photo, and it was almost impossible to see the details on this bug.

So, I just followed along the best I could. The project gave me an opportunity to learn about and use a negative drawing technique. The negative areas were the legs, the antennae, and the shadow beneath the bug. These were made by drawing around the shapes with white.

By creating this sketch on black paper with a white colored pencil, we were also practicing reverse drawing.

While negative drawing and reverse drawing are similar and are often confused, there are differences between the two methods.

  • Negative drawing is a process of “drawing without drawing”. In other words, we create shapes not by drawing them, but by drawing around them.
  • Reverse drawing refers to a reversal of our usual black-on-white procedure. Instead of making black marks on white paper, we turn things around and make white marks on black paper.

This “gold bug” makes use of both techniques in some ways, yet unlike true “reverse drawing”, it also uses color. In addition to the white colored pencil used to “draw around” the features of the bug, I also used an orange pencil. This is what gives the bug its shimmery “golden” color. In places, I also did a bit of burnishing with a colorless blender.

Ashley finished his sketch with an application of white tempera paint to emphasize the white markings on the bug. I didn’t worry about that. I was happy enough to have completed the bug — another beetle, I believe — and the quick forty-five minute project was a lot of fun, especially because the techniques used were a bit out of the ordinary.

So, the next time you’re looking for a way to “shake up” your usual drawing routine, why not practice one or both of the techniques used here? To provide further explanation on the differences, here are a few illustrations.

Negative drawing:


Reverse drawing:

Both techniques are helpful in improving our drawing skills. Each requires us to look at our subject in a slightly different way and to approach the drawing process from a very different point of view.


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