Dear Artist: Under-Draw!

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Open Letter
Title: Dear Artist: Under-Draw!
From: Bjo Trimble
Addressed To: fans
Date(s): the letter as printed in one zine is undated, but is likely early 1985
Medium: print
Fandom: Star Trek: TOS
External Links:
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Dear Artist: Under-Draw! is a 1985 open letter by Bjo Trimble.

It was addressed to Star Trek fan artists.

This letter was printed in Communicator and likely much more widely distributed.

The Letter

Dear Artist:

This particular problem has come up so many times in the artwork sent to me for the new, updated STAR TREK CONCORDANCE that I am doing a 'form letter' to address it.

It is absolutely necessary, to get anywhere near a likeness of a human being, to under-draw the skull structure and figure. I have come to realise that art classes do not teach this basic technique any longer, but that is no excuse (once you know what must be done) for any artist to ignore under-drawing. Every really good professional artist does a great deal of under-drawing. If you wish to plead that you don't intend to try professional work, then do so, but I am very bored by the game of "yes, but..." That type need road no further.

Under-drawing is simply making a light pencil (or non-reproducible blue pencil) sketch of the face or figure first then inking over it. By making an initial drawing under the finished piece, you have the chance to correct the usual mistakes that happen when one tries to free-hand the drawing. An under-drawing is where you make all the corrections necessary to see that a head has enough skull in back; that the eyes ere level with one another and with the rest of the features; that the ears are placed where they belong, instead of level with the forehead or on the neck; that the neck is a strong column supporting the head instead of a spindly broomstick and so on and so on!

An under-drawing makes certain the human figure is really human; that it is not a "man in a balloon suit" as so many well-copied comic book figures are wont to be. Underdrawing even alien figures makes them truly alien without being grotesquely misshapen.

If you need assistance on this, look for an art book in your library, but a Walter Foster book on anatomy and heads (and hands!!) in any art, stationery or hobby store, or tackle one of your siblings as a model. LOOK AT WHAT YOU ARE DRAWING. Look at what you have drawn.

Alicia Austin's superb anatomically correct artwork is never started in the inks and paints without the most intricate blue-pencil under-drawing you've ever seen. They are almost works of art, alone. The blue-pencil is erased when the main inking is completed; only you and I know she has done so much work before even one. drop of ink has touched that paper. If you have ambitions of drawing a Kirk that really looks like William Shatner; of a Spock that looks like Nimoy, you must learn to under-draw, and correct, and look at it, until you have those particular facial features down pat. Please try.

For a professionally produced CONCORDANCE, I must have work which you would be proud to see printed in a book sold in your local stores. For that, under-drawing is an absolute necessity. But don't be too discouraged; try again (and again, and again) and send me your best work. I hope this helps you with your artwork in the future.

Thank you for sharing your work with me. I hope this advice helps you with your work in the future. Let me know how you go on. Send me some of your artwork, please.

Sincerely, Bjo Trimble

Fan Comments

[Editor]: This flyer has been distributed in the UK but I'm not sure how many of C overseas readers will have seen it,, so I have reprinted it here as a basis for my comments.

I think the tone of this represents an attitude that I have come to find increasingly
 disturbing. Naturally any editor seeks superior artwork but considering that fan artists 
include such names as Caren Parnes, Susan Lovett, Southern Cross and many talented others,
 it seems condescending in the extreme.

Ms. Trimble claims in a way to represent fandom and while not denigrating her previous contributions, I would suggest that this superior attitude is hardly in the spirit of fandom. Such comments are surely best addressed to individuals rather than issued as a pronouncement from above. Incidentally William Shatner is not Kirk any more than Mr. Nimoy is Spock (in appearance). It is the characters the artist seeks to draw. [1]


  1. ^ from Communicator #22 (March 1985)