Tuesday, 30 December 2008

Year Odds and Ends

A few things while I imbibe caffeine and wake up:

- 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!


Tentacular Squidlike-Man

Drew this as a continuation of the work I'm doing on that game project. The above sketch was drawn slightly smaller than the head shots I posted yesterday, so I already couldn't get as detailed, but I also only had the most general idea of what I wanted to draw.
There are a number of ways I start to work when my result is merely a glimmer in my imagination. I can do a few dozen really tiny gestural sketches (graphite) or silhouettes (marker) until something clicks, I could do 10-or-so larger drawings with a big fat pencil one a page of 8.5 x 11" bond in a 15-minute set time or I could do what I did above and just doodle until something emerges. A great number of the really faint initial lines aren't showing up in the scan; the first marks trying to get a feel for the energy and gesture of what I'm starting to piece together. When something is close enough it becomes good enough for this drawing and, as a result, I get a pretty mediocre final piece, but that's fine for my purposes.
I now have an idea of what I want this image to be and, if I decide it can be used, I can now redraw it knowing what my result should be. I can fix their relative proportions, change their gesture so it's more dynamic and desperate, pose them so the relative character information is more easily read. Decisions like the weirdly placed right leg don't get left as is since I now know the intent and focus of what I'll be drawing if I decide this image is even worth pursuing. One of the things that surprises a number of people coming to concept work is the sheer volume of drawing that's purely developmental; you may do 10-400 drawings of something, each building or deviating from a previous batch of drawings until you get to something the client likes.
That being said, the above was the tenth or eleventh drawing I did today along these lines and the only one I felt contributed anything to what I'll do next.
Draw lots and learn to draw fast.

Sunday, 28 December 2008


Doing some concept work for a few game illustrations I'll be starting soon and I thought I'd share some of it.

Saturday, 27 December 2008

The Second Drawing Exercise

After a week of drawing 1-inch squares in your sketchbooks you're probably ready for the next step. It's really an add-on to the previous exercise and will take the same amount of drawing time per day, though you'll only spend half of that 10-15 minutes drawing those same 1-inch squares, the other half of that time you'll be drawing circles that fit exactly into them.

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.
All these simplified shapes do lead to even more complex construction, like Loomis's sphere method for sonstructing heads, but you really need to have control of the basics so that the end result turns out how you want it to.
Like last week, spend 10-15 minutes of the exercise portion of your daily sketchbook drawing, then another 15-20 minutes drawing anything anyway you like. Of course, spreading the exercise and other drawing over the course of your day will make that half-hour seem like no time at all. Next week I'll be adding another, slightly more difficult step.
I hope all of you are having a great holiday season!

Thursday, 25 December 2008

Strange Winter

We're having quite the bizarre little winter. My arms were so sore from shovelling heavy wet snow earlier today that I was quite uncomfortable when I tried to paint earlier. I did some creepy wintry sketches I might post later and started another drawing right in Pshop (above). I think I'm getting comfortable enough with the interface that I can sketch reasonably well straight into the program, but I do miss the feel of graphite on paper.
Maybe it's just me, but a naked babe with a oversized sword just screams Christmas.

Sunday, 21 December 2008

Sumpthin' in Process

Waiting to hear back before proceeding on a few things, so I decided to work up a few things for myself.
Thinking of turing the above into a painting and I'm thinking I'll keep a development log on me blog. I usually do all my drawing on bong first, but the above was sketched in Pshop.

Friday, 19 December 2008

The First Drawing Exercise

After telling you all that I think there are some very basic skills not being taught at the earliest stages of traditional arts training and then making a convincing argument how important daily drawing is for the developing artist I'm ready to drop the first exercise on you.

Exercise #1
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 square is also used by artists as the base shape from which to develop the profile of the head. George Bridgman's is a great place to start playing with the head in a square and, again, this connects with perspective as you can use this as the basis for putting the head in a 3D box and draw the head accurately in perspective.

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.
So that's the first exercise, draw as many accurate squares in rows as you can in 10-15 minutes over the course of the day, every day for seven days. Try and spend an additional 10-15 minutes drawing something entirely for you and have fun doing it. Don't worry about anything while doing this part of the daily drawing as there's a good chance the squares were somewhat frustrating. Draw longer if you're having fun, of course.
The next exercise will build on this one and be somewhat more difficult as we start introducing some line weight control.
I've convinced my eleven-year old son to give this a shot and I'll post his results as long as he wants to continue.

Wednesday, 17 December 2008

That Lovin' Feelin'

I believe in drawing every day.
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

So, with so many of my friends and acquaintences using and suggesting that Moleskine sketchbooks were something special (with a few notable exceptions), I decided to get a couple; a pocket-sized one and the larger one. I'm finishing off another 8.5x11" hardcover one, so I decided to put off trying the larger one till after, but just had to start doing something with the pocket one.

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

Last Monday was probably the best Dr. Sketchy's I've attended, but the worst one in terms of my drawings from it.

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

Another Friday night open drawing at TSA!
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. . .

Was loosening up toward the end of the night and stopped trying to do something specific and just sketched big with the charcoal.

Last 10 minutes I decided to do another quick, but looser, head study.

Hoping to hit Dr Sketchy's Monday night and I might try this other LD place Wednesday.

Monday, 1 December 2008

Un-life drawing

Here's a sampling of the life drawing I did last week at the Toronto School of Art:

Like I said last entry, it was a fine experience for the most part, though I do prefer far more than 15 gestures out of 3 hours of drawing. maybe I'm just really old and set in my ways or I'm just that rusty!

A large number of 5-minute and 15-minute poses were taken. I've never been a huge fan of 5 or 15 minute drawings (without a specific exercise in mind) as they seem to end just as I'm really getting into them.

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.

I'm gonna try to do a least 2 sessions with the model a month, though I'll be aiming for 3. Hopefully the blog can serve as a track of either my improvement or abject failure!
I'm gonna try to find a few different venues for life drawing to take in different environments and atmospheres, so if anyone knows of open life drawing sessions North east and East of downtown Toronto, please let me know!