Sep. 17th, 2007


ADMIN: Exercise Prompts -- Week #3

Just as a reminder, it's okay to post responses to prompts from previous weeks even if new prompts are already up. So if you have tried anything inspired by older prompts, please feel free to still post! Also, if you have any suggestions for drawing exercises and prompts, or comments/feedback on the ones I posted, please comment.

1. Drawing humans of different ages.

Draw humans of different ages (children, teenagers, adults, old people) to practice the different proportions and the signs of aging. For a more difficult challenge you can create specific characters, and draw them at different stages of their life. If you have problems aging a specific face, maybe photos of yourself or your family (or even famous people without plastic surgeons) can help.

For a general idea how to draw different ages most how to draw books covering humans have sections on age, like these pages from Andrew Loomis' books "Figure Drawing For All It's Worth" and "Drawing The Head and Hands" (p. 29 / p. 60 / p.86 / p. 87), and these from "Figure Drawing Without a Model" by Ron Tiner (p. 50 / p. 51), though obviously the complete sections go into more detail.

2. Combining expressions and body language.

In the previous two weeks there were prompts to practice expressions and body language, now this week's prompt brings both together. This is another exercise from Scott McCloud's comic Making Comics, taken from page 127:
Try a one page sequence of a person holding a phone to their ear, speaking only occasionally, making short unspecific answers or comments on what the unseen speaker is telling them ("I see," "uh-huh," "no, of course," etc...). See if you can communicate how the other caller is affecting them emotionally, through their changes of expression and body language alone.

Extra challenge: Can you then take the exact same dialogue and redraw the conversation to a┬┤have a completely different emotional meaning?
3. Practicing perspective.

This is an exercise to create and use perspective grids (a grid of guidelines indicating the horizon and the vanishing points) from McCloud's book, page 183:
Take a photo of an object with a fairly complicated shape and a lot of parallel edges or right angles (a car, a lawn mower, a coffee maker, a fire hydrant). Make sure your viewing angle isn't straight on but from an odd angle, so that you can see two sides of it and its top or bottom. Then trace that photo into a small section of a large panel and use it to infer a perspective grid. Using the grid, draw an invented scene around it. Then improvise one or two new panels, including the same object, but using a new grid of your choosing to show it from a different angles.
4. Experimenting with lighting for different moods.

Draw something (a scene, or some objects, or a face, whatever) and then illuminate the same motif in different ways. How does different lighting, i.e. more or fewer light sources, different kinds of light (like diffuse or discrete sources), quality of light (artificial, daylight, candle light....), and different directions of lighting (from above, below, behind etc) change the motif and its emotional impact? You could do a whole series of experiments changing the variables or just a few. Obviously with color the options are more varied, but you can also vary your light just with b/w for simplicity and fewer options.

Unfortunately the only example for systematic lighting changes I have on hand are various guides to facial shadows and rendering such, but these kind of illustrate that the mood changes, and to have these as reference is handy for other things too, so I included these as example. One set from Loomis' books (p. 78 / p. 79 / p. 80 / p. 81), another one from Gary Martin's "Comic Book Inking" (p. 37 / p. 38 / p. 39 / p. 40).

5. Drawing background detail.

It can be tricky to decide how much detail to include in a background. Too little detail, and the background looks flat and generic, too much detail and it overwhelms the main motif and detracts the attention like a "Where's Waldo?" crowd. (See this excerpt from a chapter of "Wizard How To Draw: Storytelling" on background detail for further illustration of this effect: p. 54, p. 55, p. 60.) Vary the level of detail for a background of your choice, and observe the effects the different level of detail in the background have.

Sep. 10th, 2007


ADMIN: Exercise Prompts -- Week #2

I know it's not been quite a week yet, but I'm not sure I can post tomorrow, and since the whole setup of this community is informal, it's okay to post responses to prompts from previous weeks even if new prompts are already up anyway. So if you have tried anything last week or want to draw anything for older prompts, please feel free to still post! Also, if you have any suggestions for drawing exercises and prompts, or comments/feedback on the ones I posted, please comment.

1. Drawing gestures/poses.

This is an exercise from Scott McCloud's comic Making Comics, it's taken from page 127 and is the companion piece to the facial expression exercise from last week:
Pick one or two attitudes from this list, and draw a body to match:
  • pompous
  • uneasy
  • impatient
  • aggressive
  • tired
  • humble
  • stubborn

No facial expression for this one, just a nose and ears to show head position.

Again, give the same list to a friend and ask him/her to guess which pose you were going for.
In case you have problems getting a handle on body language, I scanned a couple of pages for you from various drawing books. First four pages from Will Eisner's Comics and Sequential Art (p. 102 / p. 103 / p. 104 / p. 105), four pages from a chapter on body language from Wizard How To Draw (p. 14 / p. 15 / p. 16 / p. 17), and finally the first ten pages from McCloud's chapter on body language (sorry for the blurriness towards the spine side of these scans, I just didn't want to break the back of my comic completely, I can just recommend buying or borrowing the actual comic for a decent look -- p. 102 / p. 103 / p. 104 / p. 105 / p. 106 / p. 107 / p. 108 / p. 109 /p. 110 / p. 111).

2. Setting the mood with your backgrounds.

Another one from McCloud's comic (what can I say, it's convenient, and I like McCloud's suggestions). It's taken from page 183:
Choose one of the following themes:
  • abandoned
  • serene
  • forbidding
  • welcoming
  • official
  • exotic
  • innocent
Then make a single page, nine panel comic showing fragments of a place based on that theme, no characters and no words. Just images from a setting, real or imaginary, that you think expresses the theme.

Now give the list and your comic to a friend and see if he/she can guess which theme you were trying for.
Of course you don't have to do this exercise in comic form, you can just draw a regular background to evoke a mood just as well.

3. Drawing hands.

Hands are notoriously hard to draw. Far too many complicated moving parts, something is always seen at an odd angle with obnoxious perspective issues, it's hard to figure out what position they are supposed to be in to make a character look right in the first place, and four fingers never really fit onto one palm either (which is why so many cartoons only have three fingers and one thumb after all). Still, you can't always draw your characters hiding their hands or wearing mittens (though that's always an option to consider for winter pics *g*), so that leaves no choice but to deal with them.

The only bright spot is that at least you can always look at your left hand while drawing it with the right (or vise versa for left handed people), and it's far easier to put your hand into some position than to try to convince someone that they should serve as reference for that acrobatics pose you need (or attempts at self-photography achieve the same).

So practice drawing hands, not just in easy positions, but hands in gestures, hands doing things, hands seen from various angles... If you are at a loss how to start, take a look at glockgal's tutorial on hands for a basic introduction. Also, someone put a complete copy of Hogarth's Drawing Dynamic Hands up on, which I guess might not be entirely legal, since I don't think the copyright is expired yet, but if you don't have that book or a similar one looking at hands in detail, you can take a look there.

4. Drawing objects belonging to a character.

Pick (or create) a character, and draw five objects that they might carry on their person at an average moment. This can be either mundane (like you could empty your own pockets and draw what you find) or fantasy. For fun others could then guess what kind of person you had in mind.

5. Drawing clothes.

Unless your characters wear tight spandex which looks painted on or are naked, there's no way around drawing clothes, which come with their own problems, like folds that ideally have to match both the posture and the type of clothing and material. Do some sketches that show different types of clothing, whether fantasy costumes, historical or every day clothes, that display different kinds of material, e.g. heavier and thinner cloths that fold and flow differently, loose and tight clothing and so on. Maybe do some sketches of humans moving and how that affects the way the clothes look, or try to make a movement look more dramatic or interesting through the clothing (the obvious example for this are superheroes' capes and such, but regular coats, skirts and so on can also add flair).

Looking at clothing (whether in RL or on photos) it's at least for me not easy to judge which folds are the best to capture the clothes, so I looked for tutorials to simplify it. This is a manga tutorial site, but even if the style isn't your thing, the basic introduction to folds and how to draw clothing is quite neat to make sense of how clothing works.

Sep. 4th, 2007


ADMIN: Exercise Prompts -- Week #1

1. Drawing humans in motion.

One popular method to get a feeling for how a human body looks in action is to practice by drawing correctly proportioned stick figures, like it's illustrated in these pages from "Figure Drawing Without a Model" by Ron Tiner (p. 54 / p. 55) and these from Andrew Loomis book "Figure Drawing For All It's Worth" (p. 39 / p. 40 / p. 41). Of course if you like some other method to simplify humans better, you could use that, or maybe you are already comfortable with human proportions and mass distribution and prefer to draw solid humans right away. Just draw some lively, interesting looking humans in motion, or maybe displaying emotional poses. Or have your stick figures interact with each other, maybe play out a scene.

2. Drawing expressions.

This is an exercise from Scott McCloud's comic Making Comics, but really it's just a list of emotions to draw. It is intentional that this list doesn't consist of the basic facial expressions that are most clearly recognizable (like joy, sadness, fear, anger, surprise and disgust), but fuzzier ones, that are hard to convey unambiguously, especially just with a face and without added poses or gestures. It's taken from page 127:
Pick two expressions from this list, and draw a face to match each:
  • confident
  • uncertain
  • frustrated
  • hurt (emotionally)
  • flirtatious
  • mischievous
  • tired
Then give the same list to a friend, along with your drawings, and ask him/her to guess which expression you were going for.

We could do the guessing part in the community as well.

McCloud's overview of drawing expressions is largely based on Gary Faigin's The Artist's Complete Guide to Facial Expression, a book that I really recommend, but in case that you don't have either of these or any other reference on hand, Cedarseed has a useful overview and tutorial for facial expressions online that also breaks down expressions into their components.

3. Drawing objects.

This is another exercise from McCloud's book, from page 57:
Test your visual memory. Try making simple drawings of five complex items from memory (examples: a fire hydrant, your favorite skyscraper, a pair of scissors, a sneaker, a game controller...) Then find the real thing or check the web for photos. Study the differences. Then draw the same items again from memory and see if you can capture them more effectively.

4. Using silhouettes.

I'm always afraid to make any area in my drawings truly black, even when black areas would help set a mood or fit with the composition. One way to use black areas are silhouettes. I scanned a chapter from a Wizard How To Draw book to illustrate the technique and show examples for the use of silhouettes (p. 82 /p. 83 / p. 84 / p. 85). So for this prompt, draw something using a silhouette somewhere in the picture.

5. Drawing textures/materials.

Draw as many different textures/materials as you like, whether in realistic styles or with more abstract graphic renderings (e.g. like inking and crosshatching techniques that are "read" as certain materials). Make things look hard and smooth or soft and fuzzy, shiny metal, or reflecting or transparent, wood or cloth or stone, leather or fur...