Tuesday, 30 December 2008
Year Odds and Ends
- No changes in Zuda's last rankings. If things are as close as they say, it could be any of the top three winning even though the zombie comic, Aeon of the Dead remained in 1st place.
- I'm drawing a really strange and wide variety of things right now; a Swords and Sorcery anti-hero, an anthropomorphic hero sandwich, an old-style football player, ALIENS-style gritty space marines, lovecraftian space colonists and superheroes.
- I'm casting about for what I would consider doing as a Zuda strip. I'm thinking about this within the context of how the process works; 8-page beginning followed by 52 weekly installments. It would have to be something best digested in 1-page increments and be fully wrapped up in the 60 total "screens". I find I'm thinking that typical web comics aren't the model to run with here and that I want to make a "promise" with the first 8 pages that will pay off by the end. I'm looking at what would make for a great three-issue series, essentially, but the first act ends at page 8.
- I've decided I have to make some room in my studio. I moved into a smaller space over a year ago and I've found that my original art collection has essentially been buried in storage ever since. I'd rather someone who'd have the artwork out and enjoy it have the pages, so I'm winnowing the collection a bit. For those interested in some great Garcia Lopez or Chris Bachalo pages take a look here. I'm trying to decide on the best way to store and care for the artwork I'm not selling, which might result in more auctions later.
- I start teaching in a little over a week at Durham College. Just the one class one day a week, but it'll feel good to be actively teaching again.
- In addition to the real basic drawing exercises I've started doing, I'm thinking a more advanced series of entries might be a good idea, time permitting. Right now I'm thinking about some basic anatomy tips, skipping around the body at whim, or something more like an online teaching resource for a readily available book or e-book. The front runners for the latter would either be George Bridgman's books (either in the smaller Dover editions or the complete book) or Andrew Loomis's Figure Drawing For All It's Worth. Figure Drawing is out of print in English, but there are a number of sites with it available as a free PDF download. Let me know what you guys would prefer.
Like many, I wish someone would put all of the man's books back in print.
- When I started this blog, the first picture was a zombie Baby New Year, I managed to draw another zombie early last January. That close enough to some sort of tradition for me! So I'm gonna try to make the first post of the new year a zombie for as long as I keep blogging.
Time to go draw!
Sunday, 28 December 2008
Saturday, 27 December 2008
The Second Drawing Exercise
When drawing the squares, make an effort to keep the lines lighter as they're really guidelines for the circle drawing. Take the time to get the squares right; you may want to draw just the squares then go back and draw the circles afterwards instead of drawing a square then popping a circle inside then drawing another square. You should be drawing consistently good squares at this point as wobbly shapes or rectangles don't allow you to make good circles.
Break the squares into bite-sized portions when starting (dividing the square into quarters as demonstrated in exercise #1 is perfectly okay to start, but you do want to move towards drawing without too many guides). Lightly indicate the curved arc moving from one side to another then continue into the next quadrant. If you're working on a table, feel free to rotate your sketchbook as you go. If the circle seems to wander into diamond-shape territory you can lightly draw in the corner-to-corner diagonals and measure a half-inch from the centre and make a tick-mark. The circle is an inch in diameter no matter what point you slice it in half, so this gives you another guide to work with until you're comfortable with the circle.
A circle is essentially a sphere without any depth added. When we get around to perspective we'll discuss how to draw those oval "ellipses" accurately, but, I think it's important to show where any exercise leads to later on. Since a circle sits exactly inside a square, it's not a great leap to understanding that a sphere fits inside a cube in the same way.
Thursday, 25 December 2008
Sunday, 21 December 2008
Sumpthin' in Process
Friday, 19 December 2008
The First Drawing Exercise
For one week spend at least ten to fifteen minutes a day drawing 1 inch squares in rows. Draw them as accurately as you can and make the rows as straight as you can. It's doesn't matter whether you draw them all at once or scattered across the day (though they do get easier as you go). I tried to keep them about a quarter-inch apart (I think the alleys between the squares help). You can draw the first one with a ruler to make it easier to draw the rest. I measured the first one I drew, but freehanded all of them. Now, I rarely try to get any line in one go; I usually lightly indicate where I think the line should be with the faintest of lines then make a stronger, darker line when I'm comfortable with the size, straightness and length of the line I'm going to draw.
I'm sure there are artists out there who can do this without the wobbles and rough edges you can see in my boxes. I'm also pretty sure some of you may struggle with this exercise, but it should develop your hand-eye coordination as well as some simple spacial analysis. While I think that's worthy enough for freehand squares to be an exercise, being able to draw squares with some degree of accuracy is very useful for drawing the figure and perspective from imagination.
It's pretty simple geometry, but rectangles and squares can be easily divided into halves, quarters, and thirds without having to recall too much math. Perspective drawing, which is really the bread and butter of imaginative drawing, really comes alive if you can take simple blocks and divide them into smaller sections, but I'm getting ahead of myself on that.
The downside to getting that head accurately in perspective is that Bridgman's head is really an intentional simplification, as you can see when I drop a square (rectangle, actually, since the head isn't anywhere near square) over a human skull.
Now, there is a great deal of skull-shape variation within ethnic types so the way a head would fit in a square could change quite a bit as you cross the globe, but, as will most things in drawing you have to start somewhere!
The great Andrew Loomis also built his standard head within a square. As you can see he placed things with more complex planning.
Wednesday, 17 December 2008
That Lovin' Feelin'
That gets easier when you do it for a living, perhaps too easy, so let me rephrase that slightly:
I believe in drawing for myself every day.
To a great number of people that might seem like a pointless distinction, so I should explain it. When you draw for a living the drawing is a means to an end. The goal is to give the client what they need to the best of your ability within the time allotted. This often will mean you’ll be working well within your established parameters of ability and knowledge and you won’t be expanding your capabilities as an artist. You will get better at doing what you already know how to do, and that will certainly seem like growth for some time. Dave Sim described the path for the comics artist as learning to draw well then learning to draw quickly then, finally, learning to draw well quickly. There’s a great deal of truth in this and I know I certainly experienced it. However, the trap for the working artist is that often the gratification of meeting the deadline and getting paid replaces the euphoria of drawing better than you did last month or last year.
Grab a pile of comics by a regularly working artist from across the length of his or her career. At the early issues you’ll see struggles with both storytelling and drawing, which will eventually settle down into competence and confidence. Many stagnate there. Some leave comics for growth opportunities in related fields; storyboarding, concept art, illustration and other tasks. Others might continue to push, their drawing and/or storytelling gets better, more visually compelling. The latter is the more difficult path as you have to push through both your expectations of your work and of the medium while doing so. As an art student you really only had the one goal; get good enough to get hired. As a professional it seems that most work to the level where they want to get good enough to not be out of work. They stop developing. I can think of a number of journeyman artists who’ve been essentially drawing at the same plateau for years, month after month of the same flaws or using the same shortcuts to cover up the same flaws.
There’s no external need to eliminate the flaws as long as they’re not stopping you from working, is there? If working for someone else was always the goal, that’s perfectly fine. However, I’d argue that no one chose to draw for a living to just get good enough. I think that every successful artist and art student I’ve met chose art as a career because they loved to draw at some point. For many, unfortunately, that love turns to obligation and becomes a job like most others, but with the benefit of it being indoor work with no heavy lifting. Oh, and you can work all day in your pajamas if you like. Perks galore!
There is a way to keep from losing that loving feeling; start drawing for you.
One of the things that just flabbergasted me when I started teaching life drawing was the instructions and expectations for students’ sketchbooks: students were to draw a minimum of 20 minutes a day but all the drawing within was to be strictly limited to life drawing derived exercises or studies from life. I really cannot stress enough how bad a decision that was.
All the students I was teaching were hoping for careers where imaginative drawing is the core skill. The ability to draw well without a model or to draw things that no longer or never existed is the backbone of animation, comics, and concept art. Not allowing the students’ imaginations to have play within their own sketchbooks is a certain method to turn love into resentment. I made a point of allowing imaginative drawing in the books and often provided more feedback on those works than the Nicolaides or Hale exercises. I realized that it was more likely I’d see improvement from the exercises if I could show a direct connection between the traditional studies and how they approach their own drawing. The students really responded well to this. I know I’m bragging, but my life drawing classes killed more trees with their sketchbook production than the other first year classes and I really feel they just drew better overall by the end of the year.
The school was started by someone who never worked in any of the fields taught within its walls. Having myself worked with animators, comic book artists and concept artists I know the grimly serious approach to art in the school was woefully inappropriate to actual work environments. You can work hard and learn while having a good time.
If you’re still a student you have to remember that all the drawing you do is for you.
Which brings me back to sketchbooks; the easiest way to maintain the idea of drawing for yourself is to have something entirely about drawing for yourself that you can carry with you and use whenever you a few spare minutes. It can be a developmental tool, an idea journal, a therapist, a notepad, whatever you want it to be at the moment it can be that. The key point is that you have to be able to take it with you. If you plan to draw for yourself an hour a day, it’s a great deal easier to do it in 5-10 minute increments over the course of the day than to try and find the time to do it all in one go. Buy a book that’s easy to carry and make sure you always have a couple of pencils and pens with you. I usually travel with a book bag, so an 8.5 x 11” black hardcover book is easy to always have with me. I also have a few really small books – I just posted about the wee Moleskine I’ve started carrying – it fits nicely in my breast pocket with a pen and pencil. If I’m out and I realize I have nothing to draw with or on I feel strange. I don’t feel naked, that’d be creepy, just like I forgot my keys or left a kettle on – that sort of thing.
Over the next while I’ll be handing out some developmental exercises for those interested in trying them. The idea will be to do them every day for 15 minutes in addition to drawing whatever you want to draw however you’d like to draw for up to an hour total per day. We’re trying to develop a sketchbook addiction, here, so 25 minutes a day is better than an hour every two days.
Monday, 15 December 2008
Drawing From Zero to Sixty
I’ve been thinking a great deal about drawing instruction again – not necessarily as it applies just too drawing comics, but how drawing instruction in my experience is usually handled overall.
While I am teaching again this spring, I’m not teaching drawing. So, to sate that part of me that needs to pass along that sort of knowledge, I think I’m going to use this blog as an outlet. While I bet I’d get a great deal more interest showing people how I draw hot babes or monsters, it wouldn’t be playing to my interests as much (though I am interested in drawing hot babes and monsters). I really want to deal with some of the key things that I believe can make people draw better.
Most courses and books start out by giving the aspiring artist something to draw; a geometric shape, a model, a still life or, should the teacher be an idiot, a photo. These kids are asked to go from zero-to-sixty in the first lesson and most instructors are too far developed in their own experience to really understand how many developmental steps they may be skipping. As important as observational drawing is the historic methods haven’t really been reconsidered for some time.
Really, what are the required developed skills to do good observational drawing?
Hand-eye coordination – being able to get your hand to make the marks where you want them on the drawing surface. This deals with one of the first abstractions of drawing: reducing the three-dimensional to two dimensions.
Spacial analysis – the ability to see the relationships of various parts of the subject either by distance or differing angles.
Line control – once you’re making the marks where you want them you have to be dealing with one of the illusions you have to create when representing three-dimensional objects on a two-dimensional surface. Your line can indicate texture, volume, weight, depth, and value.
I’m going to stop right there. it's enough to start with.
The first drawing class typically asks the student to incorporate two things that aren’t taught (hand-eye coordination and line control) as a part of the process to achieve a third that’s already quite difficult to learn. I can hear some of my former teachers voices in my head; you learn them all at once by doing them all at once. I believe that sort of educational philosophy is completely out of step with how we’re currently teaching today’s kids to learn. The teachers defending 70-year old teaching methodologies like Nicolaides’s archaic The Natural Way to Draw with their dying breaths should really just hurry up and die already. A new century calls for new methods to educate built upon the successes of previous methods. Bridgman, Loomis, Reilly, Hale, and even Nicolaides have all added great things to the arsenal of both the drawing student and instructor, but their works are several decades old and often exist independantly of each other. Looking at the educational work from artist instructors like Ron Lemen and others tells me that pushing old knowledge forward into new developmental tools is the way to go.
Now, if you ask any of my former students they know I’m possibly the biggest advocate for an artist keeping a sketchbook, so my first reflex to develop learning tools will involve daily use of a cheap black hardcover book. I’m also a booster for aggregate teaching methods; show the student something, make sure they understand it and can work with it then show something to add to it. Lessons develop slowly, but the gradually increasing complexity has a similar effect to resistance training with weights. You may not be able to bench press 200 pounds the first time you enter the gym, but by continually and gradually increasing the weight you can press you eventually reach the 200 pound target and surpass it.
So, the goal isn’t for the student to gain immediate hand-eye coordination, but to start developing it. As that hand-eye coordination grows we ask the student to start seeing special relationships. Once the student is utilizing both hand-eye coordination and demonstrating a growing facility with seeing angles and distances they are tasked with controlling the marks they make both in weight, thickness and flow.
Over the next few weeks I’m going to create three sketchbook exercises that will help anyone interested in following along develop towards drawing better. The goal will be 15-30 minutes of sketchbook work a day. A week, perhaps two should be enough to get comfortable with the core concept of the exercise and allow the addition of the second exercise to the process, followed by the third.
First up, though, I believe I’ll have to discuss the importance of keeping a daily sketchbook.
Sunday, 14 December 2008
Wee Little Moleskine
Well, right off, the elastic band to close the book, the bookmark ribbon and rear endpaper pocket are neat to have, but haven't been perks yet. The paper is weirdly thick; like 1-ply smooth cream-coloured bristol board. Now, I like drawing on smooth bristol, so this is a plus.
Decided the book would be entirely goofball stuff out of my head, thus Tubby Peepers shows up on the "address and reward" page. In a moment of paranoia I Pshopped the address and reward out. . . .
The strange thing about the book, to me anyway, is that I never draw on small paper. I often doodle a fair bit and some of those doodles are quite small, but it's always on 8.5x11" paper or larger, so getting a feel for this tiny book is job #1, I guess.
Maybe because somewhere in the back of my head I'm thinking about how this little book is probably has the highest price to drawing surface ratio of any sketchbook I've owned, I find myself drawing in stuff to fill the pages. Not an onerous task when the pages are 3x5", but it's an odd shift from how I work with my typical books. Just pencil so far, though I've been told that ink goes wonderfully on these pages.
Saturday, 13 December 2008
Star Trek Dr Sketchy's Style
I can't recall laughing this much at filthy Star Trek songs in my life. . . .
Katherine Piro dressed up as the green alien babe from the pilot, Bret dressed up as Spock, special guest Model Coco Framboise was the sexiest Uhura EVER, and Dr Sketchy's photog Brynne was Nurse Chapel.
Time just flew -- how could I concentrate with bridge personnel giving birth to tribbles?
Next Sketchy's is January 12th. happens to be my birthday, so I'm doubly looking forward to whatever the Despot and Piro cook up!
Friday, 5 December 2008
Friday Night Life Drawing
A good crowd and an interesting model again. I found out during the session that next Friday is cancelled due to tours at the school and I think I heard that that wraps up the Friday sessions until January --I'll have to check on that. I've found another place that's advertising Wednesday night life drawing a little closer, so that might allow me to continue trying to suck less at drawing through the holidays.
Last session I was rather disappointed with the paltry 15 gestures we did. Tonight we only did 10! Ugh. I need 10 just to get my rhythm started.
Yup -- that's, sadly, the best two of the lot. I weep real tears.
The prediliction toward 5 & 15 minute poses caught me off guard last time, so I decided I'd come expecting to do quick studies of interesting sections of the model instead of trying to get the whole in in the time alloted. One thing I've noticed is that I'm drawing much slower than the I expect, continually being caught by surprise by the pose ending. Hopefully that'll come back with more drawing as well.
Using vine charcoal to block in quick contours and areas of tone before using compressed charcoal over top. Never did that before, I like it, but I'm still finding my way with it.
Tonight's model had a tendancy to vvvveeeerrrrryyyy slllllooowwwwlllllyyyy move during the 15 minute poses, which kept altering my point-to-point and angles and I'm still too rusty to accomodate. Perhaps a few more sessions so I can strengthen that part of the memory to work through this.
Tried a quick head study; the block in was fine, but as I started placing features her head started turning toward me. . .
Monday, 1 December 2008
So, I'm posting these as the best of the lot, even though they're painful for me to look at. So much rust I have to shake off before I think I can get back to thinking about improving.
Sunday, 30 November 2008
November 24 Sketchy's
Had a real slow drawing night; I decided to use carbon pencils for the first time. I certainly like them a great deal, but they aren't as slick or forgiving as graphite. Felt a little like conté pencil, actually.
On December 8, Dr. Sketchy's is having a Star Trek theme -- here's hoping for green women!
Also did some actual "formal" life drawing this past week at the TSA. There weren't as many gestures as I would have liked, but the environment was pleasant, model quite good and lighting as acceptable as you could expect in such a setting. I'll try to take some pictures later and post 'em.
Monday, 17 November 2008
The (Hopefully) Last Max the Mutt Entry
One that stood out was a long e-mail from the creator or a participant in an “Anti-Max the Mutt” blog. That last one gave me a certain amount of pause before deciding how to write this entry.
There are a number of serious issues at the school that will and do effect the education the students are paying for, but a large number of the complaints raised at that Anti-MtM blog would be experienced by attending any serious program designed to cram a great deal of skills and learning into a short period of time. You have to be able to trust that the teachers do actually know what they are talking about, do the exercises as assigned and take criticism. Inability to follow direction at the beginning of the school process is a sign that a career in comics or concept art may not be best for you. If the teacher tells you to do an exercise with a 2H pencil on bond paper and you hand it in created with 6B on newsprint, expect to fail. Enforcing directions is not about stifling creativity, it’s about ensuring that you can get the best results from the exercise.
That being said, one of the major issues at MtM is their hiring practices. Part of the problem is that the primary person making the hiring choices has no experience in any of the fields the school is preparing students for. A number of teachers are hired who have little or no experience in the field they’re teaching. This current semester the comics students are being taught Adobe Indesign in the Introduction to Digital Media for Artists course, not because comics and concept artists use Indesign, but because that’s all the teacher knows how to teach! The course was supposed to cover the fundamentals of Photoshop, Illustrator, scanning artwork, common digital practices in the industry in preparation to learning actual colouring and lettering the following semester.
This is in addition to the woefully inadequate anatomy courses. While director I was told I wasn’t allowed to review anatomy course outlines for the needs of comics artists, at one point being told to stay out of a developing issue in a Heads and Features course for my Comics students because “it was none of your business”. Comics and concept artists need to be able to construct consistent figures from their imaginations – they need constructive anatomy courses. I didn’t get to learn how poorly anatomy was taught until the end of my second year at the school. The end realization I have is that this school has fundamental flaws in its core skills training that need to be addressed before it can adequately prepare students for these fields.
I hear that good developments are underway, largely due to student dissent and I hope that the required changes occur quickly enough to compensate for the time already wasted. It would help if the school allowed the people who actually knew the industries to redesign the course from the ground up; Maxine has never worked as an animator, comics or concept artist and Tina hasn’t worked as an animator for years and, last I heard, was still ignorant of the animation industry standard computer software. I (and several of the industry vets I’ve been talking to) don’t believe they’re competent to make most of the program decisions for current industry graduates.
I’ve been asked to relate a number of anecdotes describing how psychologically toxic the school can be. I really don’t think that could be at all helpful to anyone, really. For the good of the school Maxine needs to greatly reduce her contact with the students and stop condemning the culture they are a part of when she is communicating with them.
I hope this should wrap up most of what I should ever have to say about the school; the further we move away from when I worked there the less likely anything I say will have relevance to its current situation.
A number of the questions were essentially asking the same thing, so I’m answering a few in hopes of really answering all:
“If you're that pissed at the school why are you still listed on the faculty page?”
I know the school had a problem with their web people updating their website in a timely manner. I really doubt there’s anything to be gleaned by my name being listed past the end of my relationship with the school.
“. . .there complaining about vomit buckets being evrywhere in the school.”
The school didn’t retain cleaners last year and employed students to clean up. There was an issue with unfinished drinks being left in the lunch area, so a number of plastic buckets were hung from the walls for the students to dump their remaining liquid before dropping containers into recycling or garbage containers. The problem was that the buckets weren’t emptied and cleaned with any regularity, so the appearance and odour earned them the “vomit buckets” nickname. I’ve no idea if they’re still there.
One of the e-mails I received from a former animation student asked if it was fair that a program doesn’t compensate paying students for recognized class shortcomings. Well, it isn’t. One course last year was a complete disaster, and, when I asked, the administration said there would be no offer to the students to give them the course again when it was “fixed” the next year. I was told the school couldn’t afford to do that. I guess that’s a good stance if you’re the school, but if you’re a student, it means you’ve been ripped off.
“Could you tell me what will happen to someone like me, with know experience with schools teaching comic books and art. I only have high school art and I draw alot on my own. Sorry for the wordy comment,”
. . . and. . .
“Okay, if someone were to decide to attend the school despite of all the stuff, would you still get a good enough foundation for a career as a comic book artist?”
I honestly don’t know. I hear there might be good changes in the offing due to student pressure, but it has to be a wait and see. From one year to the next there could be excellent teachers being replaced by horribly inadequate teachers or the opposite. The Director position is honorary this year, which means it probably has as little weight on its own as when I held the title. I’m sure people will keep volunteering information as things progress, so we can remain hopeful.
Most of the pros I know went through traditional arts programs and the comics end of things were largely self taught or gleaned from portfolio reviews from editors and established pros.
If you can find a good arts program that teaches real constructive drawing skills, you could build your career that way. Other comics programs do exist in Canada and they might be viable options to MtM. I’ve heard a rumor that another program might even be starting up in Toronto soon, so who knows. I will try to keep people updated.
Wednesday, 12 November 2008
Dr Sketchy's -- November 10
Warm-up was the usual 1-minute gestures with a beer -- the beer for me, of course.
The dress was really interesting -- it was some sort of photoprint of Ozzy Osbourne with heavy chain straps and trail.
The first drink contest was to riff on the Ozzy dress and have her biting a bat. . .
The next challenge was to draw Anastasia in the style of one of your favourite artists. I chose Frazetta.
Spent the rest of the night drawing her as this lingerie pirate - -which made me think of that classic film, Flesh Gordon.
Tuesday, 4 November 2008
Halloween at Dr. Sketchy's
It had a Venture Bros. theme. The Despot came as Rusty. His delightfully silky chin hair is not captured in these crude scribblings!