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The journal of an aspiring animation filmmaker. Inspiration, Film Analysis, Animation Art, Student Work, Book Notes, Book Store, Composing Pictures, and much more!

Oct 18, 2008

Don't Draw Out of Your Ass

Since I started going to life drawing on a regular basis seven months ago, needless to say, I've learned a lot. Granted I've been inspired and shaped as an artist along the way by other things, like books, movies, and other artists. But I realize just how far I've come when I look at posts not even a few months old, and cringe at my work. I was thinking the other day, that it might be a good exercise to regurgitate the rules I strive to draw by every day. This might also serve as a sort of resource for anyone below me on the drawing curve of life. So without further delay, here's some tips I've picked up along the way:

1. Don't draw out of your ass
Never draw aimlessly. Really LOOK at what you are drawing. It takes an incredible amount of concentration sometimes, but drawing is really just an exercise of analyzing what's going on in front of you. Drawing really is learning how to see. When you get that first "click" in the early stages of learning to draw, a new world opens up in front of you. You don't see things the same anymore. I catch myself drawing out of my ass all the time: Not thinking about what I'm drawing, just putting lines down. Every line you draw must have a meaning. It must come from A and go to B definitely, and at the same time communicate something. If it doesn't, it's useless. A lot of people refer to this as economy of line.

2. Draw forces not forms
A good resource for me for drawing forces has been Mike Matessi's book of the same name. Once you learn how to do forcefull drawings, figure drawing gets pretty exciting. I know it takes an incredible amount of effort for me to crank out one good five minute gesture using the techniques in his book. I can only hope it gets easier, because this method of drawing is so cool. I recommend you grab a copy of Mike's book.

3. Don't allow yourself to plateau
Constantly draw in various mediums. It's the only way I know of to stay inspired, humble, and aggressive in your appreciation at drawing. Over the past six months I've gone from strictly charcoal to using the following on a regular basis: China marker, Sharpie, NuPastel, Conte, Chalk Pastel, Pencil Crayons, Letraset Markers, Chalk, and India Ink. I've yet to get into Watercolors, but they're at the top of the "to use" list. I strongly recommend you never rest on your laurels, and you constantly be your hardest critic.

4. Don't copy, draw
Drawing isn't copying exactly what you see. I go to life drawing and constantly see people trying to do drawings like photographs. WHY? If you're going to do that, why don't you just take a picture? What are you saying as an artist if you just reproduce exactly what is there? So many people focus on rendering before they get any emotion into the figure, and then time runs out and they have a leg floating on their page. Pointless! Draw what YOU see.

5. Pick something you like about the model, and run with it.
You don't have to draw the model. You can just use it for reference in the most basic sense of the word. Some models are great, and some I skip figure drawing for because they're soooo bad. For the most part, the models in Vancouver are just okay. So if you can't get any character out of what you are drawing, create your own. That's what drawing really is. If they aren't doing an interesting pose, make them do one. This comes directly from the Walt Stanchfield notes which are currently not available online. Apparently there's a book in the works, which will be a must buy for anyone interesting in improving their draughtsmanship. I realize I'm contradicting myself a little here, but some models are absolutely hopeless, and you'll be better off studying anatomy at home. But the point here is to pick a characteristic and get creative with it. Let that inform a story to build your drawing around.

6. Use perspective to make a good drawing better
First things first, learn perspective. Then use it to make a drawing truly dynamic. Your figures can jump off the page if you experiment with and exaggerate perspective effectively. Mike's book has great examples of this also. Once again, I urge you to pick it up.

7. Slow down, and take your time
This one applies mostly to gesture sessions. I probably have the hardest time following this one out of all of them. But when I follow this one, my drawings immediately look better. Gesture sketches are deceiving because they look like they were drawn at ridiculous speeds. A lot of the time, that's NOT the case. Yeah, sure you can draw that fast if you want, but can you think that fast too? I can't, and that's why when I draw super fast, my drawing look like crap, even for gestures. When you slow down, you gain critical thinking time. The lines you put down make sense, and communicate better. Since you usually only have 30 seconds to five minutes, this also cuts down on the amount of lines you put down, increasing your economy of line. It's a win win. So slow down, and eventually you will get faster, and you'll be surprised what you can do in 5 minutes. I was, and I still have a LONG way to go.

That's all I can think of off the top of my head, but if I think of more, I'll do another one of these posts. I'm still at the beginning of the learning curve myself, but I've noticed a lot of improvement in my life drawing since I started getting serious. I have a tough time following all of these rules all the time, but these are the things I'm constantly thinking about while I'm drawing. When I do manage to incorporate a few or more of these into a drawing, it's usually a portfolio candidate.

Glen Vilppu says that you don't "get it" until it's on the page. As in you can read this, and regurgitate this all you want, but until it shows up in your own work, you really DON'T get it. I like to think I'm headed in the right direction, as I can rattle this stuff off pretty good, and every once in a while I produce a drawing that proves I'm starting to "get it."

Having said all that you'd expect a masterpiece to follow, but there's no better way to motivate yourself than to post a questionable drawing. This is my first attempt with NuPastels. I just got a set of 96 this week, and I can't wait to get better with this. This isn't a particularly good drawing, but I enjoy the direction I'm heading in with the color, so I thought I'd post it up.

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