Okay, so as you know, while I run this blog, I’m also still learning myself. Usually I only post about things I know about, and the posts take quite a bit of work. However, in this case, I have a quick little thing I wanted to share.
Recently I’ve been working from Preston Blair’s Cartoon Animation. I’ve been copying the illustrations from the book, in particular working on my volume. Over the course of a half dozen drawings I went from the drawing on the left to the one on the right. You can already see the change and the better understanding of volume just from these two.
So, take this as proof of the effectiveness of master studies.
Master studies is a nice way of saying that you find someone’s art you like and you copy it so you can learn what they did. The closer you can get to their process, the better. (In particular, handle it as a full piece, don’t just copy a face exactly and work out from there.) It’s also a great way to learn a new style or work on a principle of art.
The second silhouette post is on it’s way: I have the drawings done, but I need to write it all up. I just wanted to do this quick post on master copies in the meantime, especially because I had a good example.
One of the big things that beginners tend to ignore is the importance of the silhouette, and in more general terms the importance of body language.
First off, what is a good silhouette?
Okay this is a solid silhouette and it’s one we all know and love. I also chose this one because it tell the story of the movie in this one silhouette. It’s about a mermaid who yearns to leave the sea and live on land. You know the story within five second of glancing at that poster. This poster also shows how powerful silhouette can be. The drawing isn’t 100% on model, it’s pretty monochromatic, it’s not expertly rendered, all it is is a silhouette.
So how do you get a powerful silhouette? In my opinion, it ties into “whole body acting” and having a defined goal.
I’m going to get philosophical for a moment. Consider this character description: Sandy is a little shy, but opens up to those who know her and generally quiet, but loves telling jokes to her friends. Do you know who she is? You may know several Sandys in real life, but she comes across as a wishy-washy character especially compared to: Cindy is a shy, quiet girl who has trouble making friends; she is never confident enough to contribute much to a conversation. Cindy you get a better idea of who she is. Cindy makes a statement whereas Sandy is just so unremarkable in every area that she just comes across as dull and we don’t really know who she is.
Take a look at some of your other favorite art-based heroes. Batman isn’t just kind of sneaky and angsty, he’s super sneaky and angsty. Ariel doesn’t like the human world, but also loves being a mermaid, she loves the human world enough to leave behind everything. Aladdin doesn’t have a perfect understanding of when to lie and when to come clean, he lies whenever a situation is difficult. Characters need to have opinions and definite character traits to be interesting.
In the world of drawing, you’re not always going to have more than one image to tell a story, you have to use everything you can to tell a story. One thing that I’ve noticed, largely in myself, but some in other people is that everyone is worrying about subtlety before they understand acting. Before you can worry about how much that character wants that ice cream sundae, you have to communicate that they want the sundae period. This is easier said than done.
(To be continued in “Silhouettes (Part 2)” where we discuss what makes a good and bad silhouette with lots of examples drawn by me.)
Sorry I’ve been MIA for a while.
I had a few issues in my personal life and have been working on some figure drawings. The good news is that I’ve learned a lot about how anatomy works in the past few days. Definitely good news on that front.
I’ve also been collecting art links, including some counter examples. I don’t know about you guys, but it always helps me to see what’s wrong to understand what’s right.
I’m planning on having a post of silhouette for example, and that’s one where I’m just like “well duh!” until I see something that has a lousy silhouette. So I’ve found a good silhouette and the bad one will be provided by yours truly in this case.
Anyway, I haven’t forgotten about this blog, I just think I was originally on a schedule that was too demanding. Quality over quantity so long as the updates are regular, right?
One of the problems that you often come across in an art education (particularly trying to find one online) is conflicting advice. People will tell you how to use reference, that you shouldn’t use reference, that you should always reference, that you can only use reference in a certain way, etc., etc. While I’m going to hopefully disprove a couple of the myths in this post, I’m also going to discuss how to deal with your own advice troubles.
First - Find original sources. Do not take some idiot on deviantart or tumblr telling you something as the gospel truth. Yes, I’m aware of the irony, and let me address it: very few of the things are from my mouth alone. I try to have sources of professionals saying what I’m passing on (and believe me, it’s easier not to look those things up), or, barring that, I try to provide examples where you can see the principle in action. When I can’t do that, I make it clear that it’s worked for me/not worked for me/otherwise make it personal. “They say,” “Artists should…,” etc. are all big red flags - they’re citing a non-existent authority to back up their opinions.
Second - Look carefully to see whether it’s a principle or a rule. For example, realism is better than drawing anime so you shouldn’t draw anime is a common trope. However, it does have a kernel of good advice in there: you need to learn how to draw in a non-stylized manner (if you look at any major art school they will emphasize drawing without stylization in their curriculums). However, it’s been taken to extremes as “always” or “never” and it essentially made into a rule in extreme cases.
Third - Look for harm/benefit. Drawing manga will not ‘hurt’ you, in the same way drawing a page of circles will not hurt you. It will still help you with pencil control, the manga drawing can still help with composition, etc. However, it is also not the most helpful thing to be drawing either. There are additional benefits to drawing without stylization that you won’t get sticking to manga - better knowledge of the body, concept of solid forms, etc.
Fourth - There isn’t “right” and “wrong” in art, but there is “effective” and “ineffective” (and legal and illegal). While I’ll probably default to the old “right” and wrong” sometimes too, there isn’t one right way to do anything in art. The problem is that oftentimes our mistakes “look wrong.” I’m kind of splitting hairs with that example, but it becomes a larger issue later on. A lot of people say “tracing is wrong” and it’s not. Tracing is a tool, just like any other artistic technique. It is ineffective in terms of learning everything, but it is effective in terms of transferring an image, especially in a crunch, but it’s ineffective in that you can’t rely on tracing for everything. It’s also efficient for focusing on one skill. The only time when it’s “wrong” is when it would be illegal in terms of copyright infringement or possibly false advertising.
Fifth - Stick with your field if there is conflict among professionals. Occasionally you’ll find dissent between professionals on a technique, in that case stick to the best professionals or the ones in your particular field. Take the advice of a veteran over a newbie, and if you’re interested in comics, look especially to what the greats in your field are saying. In addition, follow the general consensus of professionals, because there will be a few odd birds out there who say something different. Now, these odd birds may have effective advice, but stick to the consensus before experimenting with the deviations.
Sixth - Silence on a subject is not agreement. If you find an artist that doesn’t discuss their references, that does not mean they don’t use references. They may not want to go into their process, particularly on a business website, but that does not mean that they deviate from the people who have spoken out. It’s very hard to find a professional artist that says “Don’t use reference” so people will point to the silent ones, or sometimes artists that no longer use reference (after using reference extensively for 30-40 some years). Don’t let this fool you; silence is not a statement either way.
Well I hope something in this post is helpful to you guys! Still no computer, so my posts are still few and far between. Sorry!
In art, one of the major goals is communication. In almost every application of art, you need to communicate something. I touched on this earlier as doodling Vs. drawing, but I’m going to go more in depth here.
In general terms, the goal of art is to tell a story, but goes about it in different means. I’m going to be focusing on commercial art here because I’m no fine artist, but I suspect deep down even fine art and modern art is about communication, it’s just a little bit more difficult to see.
The illustration is the classic form of telling a story. We see it in children’s book, illuminated manuscripts, many master works up until the turn of the century or so, and even logos. Each of these things is trying to communicate a story, or barring that an idea. To take a ridiculous example compare the Mountain Dew logo to the Coca-Cola logo: the Mountain Dew gives the impression that the product is rugged, intense and cool, whereas Coca-cola is smoother, more sophisticated and classic. Those are ideas and if you want to stretch it, a story.
So if the story is the basic idea of a drawing, the story is always going to be the most important part and everything else you do should serve the story. This is true in almost any field you can imagine; however for the moment I’m going to concentrate on illustration/painting.
Have you ever seen a masterful work of art that just did nothing for you, or have you seen a crude piece of art that still engaged you? The different is likely whether or not the storytelling is successful. In this regard technique must always serve story, instead of the other way around. I consider Boris Vallejo and Frank Frazetta to be a classic example of showing technique vs. showing story.
For both of them, we’ll be looking at similar paintings: Hot Sun by Boris Vallejo and Moon Maid by Frank Frazetta (both technically NSFW). They’re both relatively similar images: a half-naked woman riding an equine at a similar angle with a glowing orb/planet in the background, however, the Frazetta piece is generally more successful, even if you like the Vallejo styling more. Why is this? Every element in Frazetta’s piece is pointing the eye straight at the story.
The easiest one to see is contrast: a larger jump from light to dark is high contrast and draws the eye. If you look at Frazetta’s piece, the bright white girl is against the very dark centaur, who is against a light halo, which is against a dark sky. That keeps the eye on the centaur and moon maid, particularly their faces. If you look at the Vallejo piece, the highest point of contrast is the open circle on the ledge at the bottom. If you move away from the picture this is especially apparent, there’s another high contrast area on the unicorn’s flank… also not where you want your eye to go.
Another big difference is detail. Vallejo obviously renders a lot more than Frazetta, but that doesn’t make it more effective. When we look at a real object, there will be a focus, and everything else will be a little less clear. We see this a lot in movies where a character will be completely in focus, with background (and sometimes foreground elements out of focus to help us see the main character as seen in this still from Jurassic Park. In contrast, in a dream sequence, a lot of the time nothing is in focus, making it difficult to follow and everything is a little hazy.
Well, the same idea can be applied to art. The Frazetta piece has the most definition and rendering where he wants you to look: the girl’s crown and face. Even if you look at the centaur’s hooves and tail, it’s more of a suggestion rather than defined. This keeps us where Frazetta wants us to focus. Compare this again to the Vallejo painting where the most definition is probably on the girl’s sandals and the unicorn’s rear hoof. Again, that’s not where the action is; that’s not where he wants us to look, but that’s where the painting has the most detail, so that’s where we look.
Now, I’m not trying to bash a style of painting, I’m trying to use this as a teaching tool. The point of this entry is demonstrating how a focus on story is beneficial to an artist’s work. In the upcoming posts, I’ll going into more detail about what tools you have available and how to use them, so take this as a preview of what’s to come.
PS - Still having computer trouble so entries are still few and far between for now. I’m also going to be working on examples for my next posts, so that will take a little while.
PPS - As usual, all images are being used for educational purposes, but can be removed by copyright holder’s request.
I’m very sorry, but for the next few weeks my posts will be few and far between - my computer is away to get fixed. However, I’ll be more consistent when it’s back.
Style is a very hard thing to categorize, especially because we tend to only look at the superficial elements of style: big eyes, flat face, etc. With this in mind, I’m going to discuss what really makes a style. I’ll try to use strong examples, but in all cases, there are different elements that dominate, and other elements that are secondary, etc. The best artists are aware of all of these elements, but will probably focus on one or two. I’m also choosing pieces where it the elements I’m talking about are exaggerated and clear.
Motion/Gesture - While this is the element I focus on most it’s the one I had the most trouble finding a good example of, maybe because it’s hard to me to find something that was pushed enough to be a really clear example. Finally I decided on Claire Wendling because I feel like everyone should know her. If you look at this page of sketches you can see that there isn’t a lot of detail to the cats, but the poses are pushed and loose and that is what makes the cats believable.
Exaggeration/Proportion - I think I’m going to go with Jean Baptiste Vendamme for this just because his work shows exaggeration super clearly. If you look at this piece you can see how the exaggeration is what makes the piece.
Line - Al Hirschfeld is the classic example of line in a style and this piece shows it very clearly. If you notice, he uses the line for a number of other elements I’m listing below: he uses a flat line to suggest three dimensional form.
Design - Mary Blair is a fantastic example of shape as a major element of style. If you look at this piece, you can see how the shapes tell the story; look at the guards, their attitude is shown through the upside down triangular shape she uses for them. This is a little different than exaggeration as design tends to deal with simple flat shapes where as exaggeration tends to deal more with proportion.
Form - This piece by Bobby Chui is a good example of this, that whale head and eye is so solid and three dimensional. You get a very strong sense of the three dimensional forms. It also shows a lot of exaggeration, but I like how solid the forms are.
Lighting - Frank Frazetta is classic example of lighting being the “wow factor.” If you look at this painting it’s all light and shadow. It is an excellent example of lighting establishing mood and form.
Color - I feel like this piece by Pascal Campion is a great example of color as a major style element. His pieces always invoke an incredible dramatic weight with extremely limited palettes. His work also shows a lot of elements of design, but the color is what you remember it for, and it sets the mood and establishes the light. It would not have been as effective with any other colors.
Rendering/Texture - I’m going to cite Nicolas Marlet as an example of texture being a major element of style, though obviously his textures are not entirely realistic. If you look at this drawing, you’ll notice the importance of the texture, to the point where teeth are almost more of a texture than a shape.
There are probably others that I’ve missed or could have clarified more, but I wanted to keep it clear and not start splitting hairs.
I also want to clarify, many of these artists have other styles and will focus on other elements at times, but I think it’s important to look at these elements of a style and the individual ways an artist will use these elements to make their own style. I also want to expose my readers to these artists. Most are quite well known by professional artists, but some that amateur artists don’t always know about.
I encourage you, dear readers, to really examine these artists and similar ones and find what strikes you. We often default to the style of the cartoons that got us interested in art, without questioning it. I want you to be exposed to other styles of art and maybe find something new to inspire you.
PS - Artists I’ve featured, I am happy to remove your link if you would prefer that I not use your art as an example. Just let me know.
So, I’m working on a longer post for tomorrow, but the research is taking a little long on it to have it ready… well now.
Because I’m not ready on that yet, I’ll take this opportunity to talk to you, dear readers, and get your feedback.
What do you think of this blog? What does there need to be more of and what isn’t working so well? More importantly, what do you want me to talk about on the blog? What do you want to learn?
This is a post less about teaching my readers, but more about how to teach yourselves. This is definitely something I wish I had learned earlier. This is about choosing good artistic resources. I think that to a certain degree we don’t know what we should expect in our tutorials because we look at tutorials because we don’t know what we’re doing.
There are a few basic types of guides, and I’m going to discuss them, in particular how to find the most useful resources.
This is kind of the classic tutorial. It is very step-by-step, but it only says what the artist is doing, not why they’re doing it. Hallmarks of this is just saying what the steps are and generally don’t have any deeper explanation. Another hallmark is drawing from one angle rather than having something that will apply from all angles.
This is a similar tutorial (‘anime’ faces) that is much more useful. If you notice, it shows a lot of structure and discusses principles that you can use for any angle and any project you’re working on.
Generally speaking you’ll want to find some who discusses the why, not just the what; someone who talks about general to specific; and someone who shows the underlying structure.
Another thing I would mention is that a good artist, or especially a popular artist, doesn’t necessarily mean a good tutorial, so keep that in mind for yourself. When looking at other artists, a bad tutorial doesn’t mean a bad artist.
Sometimes, you’ll find tutorials on a technique. When I say technique I’m talking about a technical aspect: how to apply paint, how to stipple, etc. This is generally either a factual break down (red and yellow gives you orange) or a way to achieve one effect. These don’t have the same burden as the more general tutorials; if they work for that effect, they work. However, not all technique tutorials are created equal.
This is a fantastic technique tutorial. It shows the features of the brush tools while showing samples and suggested uses.
This tutorial is a example of the technique only. It will work for what the tutorial says, but can be difficult to apply to other situations. It focuses a lot more on “do x, then y, then z” without explaining why. (In fairness, Part 1 of this tutorial goes more into the why, but I see many tutorials that only cover the technical, not the why; I might as well show what the problem is with a good tutorial.)
A good way to think about it is consider what the tutorial is saying and how much flexibility it gives you. If it says: Add purple for shadows with a number 4 soft brush, it has limited use. When it’s add shadows with a soft brush, give it a bluish cast it’s more helpful. The best tutorials are the ones that explain why and give you freedom to use it in more situations. These tutorials would say something like “add some of the atmospheric color to your shadows because the environment will provide a little bounce light, use a soft brush on shadow from form because there isn’t one edge where the shadow starts and hard brushes on cast shadows where there is a definite edge.” All technique tutorials are tools on your belt, but some are more flexible than others.
Ultimately you want to find the whys, the deep underlying truths. The hows can help, especially with a one-off project, but the whys are what you can make your own. They give you the tools to solve the problem, not solution to a similar problem that you hope will work for you.
PS - Artists, if you made a tutorial I featured and want me to remove your link, please let me know and I will replace it.
Oh, I’ve been dreading this topic, just dreading it, but I feel like I need to address it.
I hate doing still lifes.
They drive me bonkers. I’d much rather work on the figure all day than do anything involving fruit, or bottles of wine, or white objects.
However, I feel as though I should mention them as they are still important for art education (I just hate them).
Still lifes are great for learning the basics. In particular, they’re fantastic for having a cheap model. While I am hugely in favor of drawing from photos, every artist must learn to draw from life. There are things that you learn from drawing from life that just aren’t apparent in a photo. In particular, it’s very difficult to understand three dimensional form when looking at a flat picture. I feel like all artists need to learn that from life, particularly in the beginning.
Still lifes are useful for studies (where you draw with a particular focus) and for practicing composition. They’re also fantastic as they are cheap models and will hold very still for a long time.
There are two main types of still lifes that I usually see.
The first is the form-training still life: these consist of the basic shapes: cubes, spheres, cones, etc. usually painted white though sometimes clear. The poor man’s version of this is getting some square boxes (the square kleenex boxes may be a good choice), kid’s party hats, and balls (the kind that you get at the grocery store for $5 are fine). For cubes, be aware of whether there cubes are actually cubes (all six sides are square).
The second is the “more artistic” still life: these consist of things like flowers, fruit, other foods, etc. These are fantastic for learning more complicated shapes, and practicing color, lighting, and mood. They can also be great for texture and other rendering.
So, while I’ll be talking about perspective later, I’m going to give you a brief “How to” on drawing fruit or other organic forms. When drawing an organic form like fruit, the easiest way to do it is lightly block in everything first. What I mean is just a general shape (e.g. a apple becomes a circle). This will allow you to get the overall proportions for the whole composition.
Once you have your basic shapes blocked, the easiest thing to do next is find the axis of the fruit. This easy in fruit because they have little indentations at the top and bottom, so use that! If you’re having trouble seeing the tilt of the axis, stick toothpicks in them! Your axis will likely not be straight up and down, straight left to right, or straight in and out; however, you can break it down thinking in terms of how left to right, how up and down, etc. You can use three dimensional arrows to help show yourself where it’s going. You can also try lining your pencil up with the axis to help yourself see where it’s going in terms of 3D space.
Once you have the axis drawn, you’ll probably want to do “equators.” What I mean is you’ll draw around the shape as if you were cutting it in half. This means that you’ll have a total of three equators and they should all be perpendicular so it looks something like this:
It looks complicated, but if you do them one at a time it won’t be so bad.
If you’re doing a shape like a pear, you may want more horizontal equators than just the one. For a pear, I’d recommend about 3 - one in the thin section, one in the fat section, and one showing the border between the thin and fat sections. However, it’s really what you need to understand the form. I can’t give you the magic answer.
Hopefully that mini how-to made sense, let me know if you need a demo. Also, I know there may be others like me out there who are less interested in still lifes, but I keep reminding myself that while I don’t have to like them, I’ll always need to draw people holding and interacting with objects; in addition, environments will always have elements of the still lifes. It’s excellent training.
This is probably the closest to a straight How-To that this blog will ever do. This is a first introduction to figure drawing.
Figure drawing is important to any artist as most art you’ll do will have a human figure in it. Even with art that doesn’t it can be related to the human figure. In a landscape you can use what you’ve learned in figure drawing from trees and plants, for animals, you’ll handle them like a human figure, for cartoons, you’ll use your knowledge of the human figure as a basis for the character. You can also use figure drawing for studies and experimentation as you get more comfortable drawing the figure. Most importantly, as humans ourselves, we tend to see flaws in human figures much more easily and they’re much worse when they happen.
So all this put together - any artist worth their salt needs to be able to draw humans.
However, humans are damn hard to draw. Seriously, humans, horses, and dragons will give you a lot of trouble. Do not feel bad for having trouble drawing them. Everyone understands. However, just because it’s hard doesn’t mean you get a pass on drawing them.
When setting up, get far enough away that you can see the whole figure without moving your eyes. An easy trick is reaching out with your hand (fingers spread). This is about the area you can see without having to shift your vision. If you need to shift to see part of the figure, you’re opening yourself up to odd proportions, in particular a top half that doesn’t match the bottom.
The first step I use is to get down a ‘skeleton’ of the whole figure. It doesn’t have to be perfect, but just something to show you were all the parts are. This is your map to drawing the figure. Once you have down this skeleton, check your proportions. You should always be checking your proportions, but if you haven’t done it yet, check your proportions on this skeleton. Correct it if necessary.
When drawing your base, you don’t have to use the same method as I do. You can also use simple shapes, volumes, etc. Do what works best for you. You’re the one who needs to follow your map; no one else does.
Another key point is that you need to step back from your work. When we’re working, we tend to lean in close and noodle. This is a problem already, but when we’re in close lose the ability to compare it to the model. So every so often, step back and take a look at how your drawing compares to what you’re drawing.
After this, I add in the structure (the three dimensional), then the anatomy details, and so on.
In general, the first steps are the most important ones. You need a solid foundation to draw on. No one care if you can perfectly draw a knee cap if it’s in the wrong spot.
Another thing I’ve noticed is that figures tend to look stiffer when you draw them, so draw them looser than they appear. This means exaggerate the curves and angles in the body, rather than drawing them straight up and down like we instinctively want to.
In the last post I talked about learning the rules before you break them, so I thought I’d take today’s post to discuss “the rules.”
There’s a saying: “There are no rules in art,” and I appreciate what it means: there is no one right way to do it, especially when it comes to creativity.
However, when I discuss “the rules” and such, the rules are more like guidelines and natural effects. For example, a classic rule is that the highest contrast (largest difference between dark and light) should be at the focus of an image. In reality, you may find a situation where the high contrast area isn’t at the focus. However, you need to understand the principles behind the rule; that high contrast draws the eye.
The rules describe what happens and where you generally want to apply it.
In addition, I’m trained as a commercial artist. As a commercial artist, you’re expected to be able to deliver consistently, so you have to be aware of the rules and how they work. Once you really understand the rules, you can know how and when to break them.
The next post will be more instructional.
As a follow up to Getting the Big Picture, I’m going to take today’s post and deal with proportions.
One thing that can really help with getting down the whole figure before detailing is focusing on proportions. In addition, proportions are a concept you can easily correct for yourself.
Now when first discussing proportions I have to put the standard disclaimer: all people have different proportions. However, the ideal canon of proportions can help immensely. This is a case where you should know the rules before you break them (and by know, I mean knowing it backwards and forwards to teh point where you don’t have to think about drawing ideal proportions).
Disclaimer aside; what are proportions and what are the ideal proportions? Well, truth be told there is no one set of ideal proportions. The top half of the body (from crown of the head to the bottom of the groin) is generally agreed upon to be 4 heads tall, and the legs tend to be 3-4 heads tall (making an ideal figure 7-8 heads tall). However, for now I’m using the 8 heads tall figure (though I tend to go with 7½ heads, personally). Why 8 heads tall? Because it’s the easiest to measure!
I’m going to borrow Andrew Loomis’s Ideal Figure chart so you can get a look at proportions. (This is applicable for both male and female, at least in terms of height.)
Hopefully that’s pretty straight forward. If it’s not, the “head” isn’t anything fancy, it’s just a convenient measure to use on the figure. We generally have a good idea of how large we want the head to be on the paper compared to say… navel to groin. You could use navel-to-groin as your measuring tool, but for now let’s stick to head.
To understand it, I encourage you to draw a vertical oval on a piece of paper; that’s going to be your head. Take your pencil and measure the length of that oval, then move below that oval by one head measure. Mark it off with a line like you see in the back of a mugshot. This is where the nipples are. Draw another line one oval-length down from the nipple-line; that the location of the navel. Another line down from that is the groin, two ovals away from the groin is the knee, and two ovals from the knee is the bottom of the foot.
Do not sit there - actually try this exercise. Then draw a simple figure on top of those lines, just looking straight ahead. It doesn’t have to be anything fancy, just draw something plain, but make sure your proportions line up; you cannot change those markers. Hopefully it’ll look pretty decent.
So once you’ve finished the “lesson” on proportions, you need to practice it. This is just something that needs to become second nature to you. To do this, you’ll need to draw a lot of figures and focus on getting the proportions correct. To check the proportions, use the pencil as described above to measure the head (or a head equivalent) and check to make sure all the body parts are lining up on a similar scale. Do this again and again until you are truly comfortable with the ideal proportions. I can’t tell you how long this will take you.
When drawing from photos be careful with camera distortion. I also recommend Andrew Loomis’s Figure Drawing for All It’s Worth; it is a fantastic source and where I got the chart from. It is one of the best figure drawing books ever written, and it’s available for free download. A long story short, the Loomis books are old drawing books that are finally getting a reprinting after many many years of being shared from artist to artist. I cannot recommend them enough. While you may be able to find a pdf version of them, I encourage you to purchase a copy. It is one of the books that I think could be considered a figure drawing bible and it will serve you well for years to come.
I was debating with myself what would be most important and what was most effective to helping you draw what you see, and I finally decided what I needed to focus on was getting the big picture.
One of the most important lessons to learn when a beginning artist is going from the big things to the little things, and it’s also one of the hardest to learn. We have a natural tendency to try to draw a piece of the picture and finish it before moving onto the rest of the drawing. However, this makes about as much sense as trying to draw every single eyelash without drawing the eye first.
Every feature, every structure, every detail is based on the body as a whole. The placement, angle, and size of the eye relies on the shape of the head.
While it will be hard to make the mental shift into looking for the big picture first, it’ll also make things a lot easier for you in every single picture. If you don’t nail down all your details early you won’t have to erase that hand you spent two hours on when it’s too small for the arm.
I guess the lesson for this post is block out everything as much as possible before nailing down anything. Go from general to specific.
One of the biggest hurdles for new artists is realizing that what you see isn’t what you’re drawing.
When everyone starts drawing, we draw what we “know” things look like, and by that I mean we all draw symbols in a formula. What we’re drawing is essentially a modern version of this:
We don’t draw hands, we draw a symbol that means hands, we don’t draw an eye, we draw a symbol that means eye (or the CBS logo).
In addition to drawing symbols, we draw the way we perceive, not the way we see. It sounds like I’m splitting hairs here, but bear with me for a second. When we look at someone, we pay a lot of attention to the head, and in particular the eyes. That’s why you’ll see a lot of drawings with huge eyes and huge heads.
So the first thing to do is learn to see what’s really there and draw that. While I’ll go more into how to draw what’s really there later, but there are some steps you can take to remedy the situation. On thing I’ll recommend is draw from a source instead of from your head. Drawing from photos can be very helpful; master copies can also be very beneficial. If doing a master copy, stick to more realistic artists. The Renaissance artists are a great place to go, but avoid cartoons like Disney or anime. (Don’t get me wrong, I love me some cartoons, but they won’t help you here.)
The best thing to do is find a mentor or art buddy. An extra pair of an eyes can do wonders! However, a “cheap trick” is looking at your art in the mirror, or reversed on the computer. Sometimes, when working on a piece, we become accustomed to the mistakes to the point where we don’t see them anymore.
I’ll be discussing ways to get you out of your comfort zone in the next few posts, but for now, recognizing that we draw symbols is a great way to start to brake the habit. If you do draw, pay attention to what symbols you default to.
PS - Posts may be spotty the next few days due to personal issues.