Oct. 3rd, 2007


Week #4, Exercise #5: Spotting Blacks

Ok. I'm setting aside my neuroses, and giving one of the prompts a try. I had a lot of fun doing this. I thought I understood the whole negative spaces thing, but it's odd just how awkward it is until you try it.

Concrit not necessary.
Negative Spaces )

Sep. 24th, 2007


ADMIN: Exercise Prompts -- Week #4

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 different human body types.

While the standard "ideal proportions" approach to drawing anatomically correct humans is alright as a starting point, it does have the risk of all bodies one draws looking like the same default manikin. To avoid this trap, draw different body variations, that have real human proportions (not too exaggerated caricatures), but look visibly different from the "ideal human proportion" standard. As a starting point you can look at these two scans from Tiner's "Figure Drawing Without a Model" (p. 114 / p. 115) or at this tutorial by Cedarseed.

As a side note: I do find it problematic when drawing books turn rather dubious (or at least highly controversial) "scientific" classification systems from the 19th/early 20th century into artistic tools without any reflection, for example the craniometry with its cephalic index (I didn't scan the pages applying those). Unfortunately that is a rather common practice. I mean, it doesn't bother me per se to read a chapter explaining about height/width characteristics of the human face and if they want use the terms "dolichocephalic", "mesocephalic" and "brachycephalic" for it, whatever -- but considering that Tiner's book was first published 1992, it bothered me a lot that from just reading those paragraphs you'd think it was it was just an "neutral" anthropological measuring and classification tool, not invented to be central for a multitude of more or less racist theories, which construed skull measurements into all kinds of things. The same goes for the fact that he uses William Sheldon's somatotypes system (that was the basis for his strange anthropometry psychology, with things like predicting criminals from their body types and such) without finding it problematic at all. It's not that I don't find the examples of body types somewhat useful (hence the scans), and while I find it mostly silly to call them "endomorphic mesomorph" and such, I wouldn't care about that and just appreciate it that in this book not all bodies look the same, if there was some brief reflection that these body types weren't meant to merely describe bodies, but that the system was created in a much more problematic context. Anyway, I just didn't want to let these terms go entirely unremarked.

2. Trying different compositions.

Sketch the same scene/motif in different compositions to see how the drawing and its effect change. Possible options for changes are the perspective, viewpoint, different crops (showing everything in an overview, just showing a part in a close up...), and so on, or different arrangements of the same picture elements, anything that results in different picture compositions (e.g. the motif being centered and static or seen in a way that creates lots of diagonals and angles giving a dynamic impression, different moods, etc.). The sketches could be just thumbnails, as long as the different picture compositions are still recognizable.

3. Drawing a fantasy animal.

Create a fantasy animal, but one that could "work" in real life, or at least fakes "real" well enough to pass at first glance, i.e. base the fantastic elements on the common anatomy principles of real animals to make it work. If you aren't sure about the construction of animals, Cedarseed's tutorials (basic animal anatomy and drawing birds) cover the basics.

4. Foreshortening practice.

Draw one or more bodies (or body parts, whatever you like) in such a way that you create the 3D illusion in the drawing through foreshortening. If you don't know how foreshortening works, glockgal's tutorial is a good starting point.

5. Spotting blacks.

Draw an image with an interesting pattern of black areas and shadows, e.g. one that create a mood or works to guide the eye. This chapter by Mike Mignola illustrates how to distribute and use black effectively (p. 28 / p. 29 / p. 30 / p. 31).

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. 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...