ElJeffe Wants to Make a Art

ElJeffeElJeffe Roaming the streets, waving his mod gun around.Moderator, ClubPA Mod Emeritus
edited July 2018 in Artist's Corner
Hello, AC! How are you? I am fine.

I would like to be a better artist, and I don't know how best to proceed. About 18 months ago, or thereabouts, my co-workers saw me doodling and asked me to draw a picture of them surfing, but then one of them was also skateboarding off a ramp, and slurpees were involved, and... I did this. I think it was done in Sharpie?

My work since then has pretty much entirely been done at... well, actual work, generally in fifteen minute bursts during breaks. I grabbed a set of Faber-Castell pens, because they looked decent enough, and mostly just doodled stuff based on funny conversations we had at work.
This happened when one of my co-workers was sick for a week after we'd been talking about Oregon Trail:

This happened because we like Game of Thrones and someone kept touching my co-worker's @$!&? stuff:

I played around with a set of colored pencils I had, mostly just dicking around to see what would happen.
Because Porgs are #totesAdorbs:

Because my co-worker digs Olenna Tyrell:

Because... fuck it, don't ask:

I decided at this point that I liked markers, so I grabbed a few Artist's Loft markers because Michael's had a lot of individual colors available:
This just kind of started off with my friend as a unicorn and I basically doodled until the paper was full:

My daughter is an AT-AT and she's dabbing and quoting Taylor Swift - again, don't ask:

Me and my co-workers are the Beatles, apparently:

My co-worker's daughter wanted to see Mommy as Rosalina:

I've now started playing around with realism.
This is a pencil sketch of my daughter when she's not a dabbing AT-AT:

And this is a recreation of a photo of my daughter and her best friend:

That last one is done with a Faber-Castell superfine black pen and a pair of Artist's Loft alcohol-based gray markers.

I'm at the point where I feel I should stop doodling and try to improve in some sort of organized fashion, but I don't really know where to start in terms of building up fundamentals or anything. And I lack the artistic language to describe what I can or can't do, or what, specifically, I want to learn. I like working with markers, I like the boldness and contrast and posterized look. To the extent I have a system, I generally flesh things out in pencil, starting with basic shapes or a skeleton, then fill in detail work with a fine pen and go over it with some markers for color, if necessary.

I would like to get a better handle on color theory, I guess? And a better grasp of light and darkness and shading? I'm not too bad at looking at something, and then producing a something that resembles the something I'm looking at, but I'd like to move beyond that.

Like... here are some things I dig that kind of represent what it would be cool to do:

They're not necessarily done in marker, but they all have a boldness that I like, a kind of sketchy interpretation of reality rather than just straight-up drawing something to look exactly like the something.

So... how do I get from where I am to where those people am? How do I refer to what it is I'm trying to get better at? What sort of tools should I be looking at? I should note that I don't mind putting in effort, but I don't have the time or money to take formal classes. I don't mind buying some books or watching videos or just doodling the fuck out of stuff.

I submitted an entry to Lego Ideas, and if 10,000 people support me, it'll be turned into an actual Lego set!If you'd like to see and support my submission, follow this link.
ElJeffe on


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    ElJeffeElJeffe Roaming the streets, waving his mod gun around.Moderator, ClubPA Mod Emeritus
    Ugh, it looks like the forums rotated some of those pictures when I tried to upload them. I'm not sure how to fix them; the originals seem properly oriented. Sorry. :(

    I submitted an entry to Lego Ideas, and if 10,000 people support me, it'll be turned into an actual Lego set!If you'd like to see and support my submission, follow this link.
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    tynictynic PICNIC BADASS Registered User, ClubPA regular
    el JOFFE! awesome! I really like your marker lines, those oxen especially are adorbs.

    I think you've actually self-identified the areas you want to put some time into. It sounds like studying form might be a good place to start - really get to grips with representing 3D shapes on paper. You could look into getting an Asaro head (http://www.planesofthehead.com/) - that has the advantage of bundling overall 3D form/light and shade/rough anatomy into one tool. Or a cheaper option is to just set up some still life studies with things you have around the house. Course the trick here is to keep yourself interested, so if you find yourself flagging, think about building up weird shapes/using cloth and draping/inventing cool lighting setups.

    For colour (hell for anything) there's definitely no one right approach - personally I like to do master studies, because they help me break out of my preconceived assumptions about tones and shades. Another good exercise might be limited pallette paintings - try and restrict yourself to two complementary colours, or use colour but not value, to represent form.

    That's a bit quick and dirty and off the top of my head, because I'm at work, but hopefully someone else will swoop in shortly. Also there's a bunch of resources around in the resources subforum, it's worth giving those a quick scan and seeing what leaps out for you.

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    DoodmannDoodmann Registered User regular
    Doodling the fuck out of stuff is generally the best method.

    Sounds like you would like to move in a more impressionistic direction which is cool. Maybe look into that?

    Whippy wrote: »
    nope nope nope nope abort abort talk about anime
    I like to ART
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    Angel_of_BaconAngel_of_Bacon Moderator Mod Emeritus
    I don't mind buying some books or watching videos

    In terms of videos, the ProkoTV Youtube channel is probably the thing I'd suggest looking at first- it's all really well done and well-explained, and goes over basic fundamental principles in detail. I'd start with the Drawing Basics playlist, then move on to the figure drawing/anatomy playlists. (Even if the academic realistic figure drawing he's mostly dealing with here isn't your bag, the importance here is in acquiring the mental tools - the ability to use light and shade, construction. perspective, etc. at will - to be able then to apply those tools when where and how you wish. It just so happens that because drawing the human form believably requires a lot of exactness and diligence, it is a great means of honing those skills.)

    I would like to get a better handle on color theory, I guess?
    This is a pretty good primer on the subject:
    The same guy also has a very good blog that contains much of this information, but it's not as conveniently organized:

    I would caution that a lot of people starting out overestimate how much going over color theory is going to bring to their work- the workings of color theory are actually pretty simple (memorize the color wheel, realize that complimentary colors contrast the most with each other (ex:blue/orange), analogous contrast less with each other, (ex:blue/blue-green/green), and there's also contrast between the same color with different saturations (ex:dull gray-red/bright fire engine red). Once you know that, and figure out how to apply those ideas, ("The eye goes to the area of the greatest contrast. How do I want to use color contrast to draw the eye to the most important spot in my painting, and how am I going to use lesser color contrast elsewhere to move the eye away from those areas?"), you more or less have it.

    In fact, if you have the rest of the picture down in terms of shape, value, and edge, you can kinda get away with pretty simple- not necessarily realistic- color ideas and they'll still look pretty good. (ie: all those movie posters that are orange people on blue backgrounds.) It's when you want to get into areas of subtlety where it gets tricky, trying to balance a graphic color idea versus the reality of what you're seeing/the reality of how light/physics work, and figuring out what tradeoffs you want to make there- that's always determined on a case-by-case, picture-by-picture basis.

    This is why there's just a ton more material and emphasis on drawing over color in terms of books and videos and advice- color won't save a badly drawn painting, but you kinda have to work at it to actually ruin a well drawn painting using nothing but color.

    I can recommend a ton more books if you'd like, but it'd probably be best to start here and digest the Proko/Gurney stuff thoroughly, before I throw a whole bookshelf of stuff at you.
    I wouldn't necessarily recommend picking these up right this instant, but if after you get through the other stuff you're still looking for material that might relate to the kind of work you're looking to emulate, you might find these to be worth checking out:
    Nathan Fowkes's portrait work- his paintings are beautifully colored, but it's all based on having the command of structure he shows in his charcoal drawings.
    Henry Yan's book is a little lighter on instruction than I'd like, but for people with a pretty decent command of structure already, his painterly use of charcoal might give some ideas of how to start to get that kind of look.

    or just doodling the fuck out of stuff.

    Well, yes and no. The way I think of it, there are 3 modes of drawing that come with different mentalities and goals, and it helps if you know which you're employing at any given time, and why.
    1. Doodling. This is the default mode of drawing for most people; just freely drawing whatever comes to mind. Which is great for getting the creative juices flowing and having fun- but it's less good at honing actual drawing skills.
    2. Deliberate Practice. I'm taking this term from a book called Peak by Anders Ericsson https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B011H56MKS/ref=oh_aui_d_detailpage_o04_?ie=UTF8&psc=1 This book is not about drawing, but more generally how masters of their craft- professional athletes, chess players, concert violinists, artists, singers, basketball free-throw competition champions, etc.- got that way- to put it briefly, it's more of less entirely about how one practices.
    I wrote a big post about this awhile back, I'll excerpt it here:
    The key elements of what separate deliberate practice from general practice are:
    -Working exclusively on one aspect of they want to refine at a time- not trying to improve broadly at everything, or even a subset of things.
    -Making sure that their practice is designed to be objectively measurable, that the parameters of success or failure are defined, so it's clear what to strive for and it can be recognized if that goal is achieved.
    -Always working on something just beyond their current skill level- not being complacent to work only on things they are currently well capable of, but not reaching for something beyond their capabilities that succeeding would be almost impossible at the current point in time. Trying to cut a second off a lap time, or adding another rep to an exercise, not trying to cut 30 seconds or doubling the number of reps.
    -Giving full, undivided mental and physical concentration to the task at hand. They don't think about other things going on in their life, or listen to music, or let their mind wander- all their attention is placed on exactly what they are doing at that moment. As a result, deliberate practice is incredibly exhausting, even if the task isn't physical in nature- and he found that people were incapable of maintaining that level of concentration for more than an hour without taking a break. An examination of the habits of music students for that the best ones arranged their schedules to take a nap after their practice sessions, to recover and allow them to continue practice later on.
    -It's not fun. Executing the skills in performance (painting that big illustration, running the race you've been training for, performing the dance in front of the crowd, etc.) may be described as pleasurable and enjoyable and fun, but none of the top people thought the practice was fun, or had that expectation. (A study of a singing class comprised have of professionals and half of beginners/amateurs, found that all of the amateurs found it enjoyable because they came at it with the idea of "this is a time to express myself, let loose, do something fun away from work, etc.- while all the professionals did not find it enjoyable, because they were focused on narrowing in what they were doing wrong and fixing those things, at maximum concentration.)

    There's a couple more things of interest he mentions as well, such as having good coaching/teaching that uses/teaches deliberate practice makes a huge difference in effectiveness versus trying to learn on one's own or with coaching that it more vague about why they are practicing certain things, or doesn't do much to give individual attention to what each student needs to work on. They also found that individual solo practice in between sessions was a larger indicator of success than simply spending more time in classes, doing more performances, or working in groups- it's dedicating those a great deal of time focusing on those individual aspects at a high level of concentration, that makes the bigger difference beyond just doing one thing more.

    How this comes into play with drawing specifically, is making a point of setting very specific areas to work on at any given time, that you can measure if you are succeeding or not.
    Most people, without guidance, will simply say, "I'm going to practice! I'm going to draw an anime head out of my imagination, but it's gonna be like, better this time!"- which isn't deliberate practice, it's just doodling while sporting a furrowed brow.
    But if you say, "I want to practice improving my line weights", you can design a practice session around that idea; you can print out several copies of a line drawing, and then ink over each one, employing different line weight techniques and observing what's working better and why. If you want to improve your posing, you can draw a gesture from a model, and then take a few stab at exaggerating and pushing that pose further, to give it more life. If you want to improve your compositional skills, you can define a subject, (ex: "woman fending off alligator with a stick"), and quickly sketch 30 different ways you could compose that scene from different angles, with different poses, etc., and observe how those changes create different moods and feelings.
    This stuff is frustrating and doesn't give you the fun of having a real piece to show off at the end of it, most of the time; but then, an athlete doesn't need to have every pushup they've ever done broadcast to the world, either.

    3. Executing. This is where you bring together the creative parts of doodling, and combine it with the fruits and methodologies gleaned from practicing, and run that all through a process to create a real, actual, hang-it-on-the-wall piece of art. You've got an idea for a piece: but you're not just going to dash it off as a doodle and be done with it. You've gonna do 10 thumbnail sketches first to make sure that the composition is going to hold up, that what you're trying to get across is clear and interesting. You might take that final thumbnail and blob in a couple different potential color schemes- does it look better in day, or night, or sunset? White dress or blue? Where should my area of greatest color contrast be? And then maybe (probably) you gotta go hunt down some reference. What the hell does an alligator look like anyway? Maybe get out a camera and some lights and shoot some yourself- I don't know off the top of my head what shape a mouth makes when it's trying to express, "Get the hell away from me, alligator!", but I bet I can take a selfie and acquire that information pretty quick. Then you're gonna do a real detailed sketch to make sure all your figure drawing and perspective and alligators and wardrobe and whatever the heck else you need is solid as possible, before finally getting into that last phase of painting it to a finish.

    A lot of people who really sincerely want to improve their art skills, wind up going in circles because they mistake these things for each other; They think a finished piece is just a doodle, but...more so somehow. They think if they doodle the same thing a lot, that means they are practicing. They think their practice should result in beautiful finished pieces, and stop practicing when they realize their page of bicep studies isn't wall-hanging material.
    Or they'll fall short because there's an imbalance in how much they do each one thing- they might practice a lot, but when they go to make a finished piece, the result is dull and uncreative, or they're afraid to even start. They've neglected to keep their creative juices going with doodling. They might want to execute all the time, only to realize during their final sketch, they can't just start learning about perspective and anatomy right at that moment and have things work out.

    So my advice, as regards effectively training yourself, would be to maintain a balance between these 3 modes, and be conscious of which you are doing when you sit down to draw- don't try to combine them, or confuse one for another.

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    ElJeffeElJeffe Roaming the streets, waving his mod gun around.Moderator, ClubPA Mod Emeritus
    Thanks, you guys!

    @Doodmann - Impressionism definitely sounds like what I'm interested in moving towards, eventually. Thanks for putting a name to it! I'll keep that in mind as I'm practicing and exploring.

    @tynic - I am a dumb, because I completely forgot the AC Resource section exists. It looks like there's a lot of fantastic stuff in there, and I think it'll be super helpful to dig through the archives. Also, those Planes of the Head models look amazing. I will have to butter up the wife to see if I can get the okay to acquire some of their tools.

    @Angel_of_Bacon - I definitely plan to check out those ProkoTV videos, they look pretty cool. Fowkes' work looks great, as well, I'll have to pore over his stuff.

    And thanks to all of you for helping me put words to what I'm trying to do. Just that in itself will be invaluable, and I feel I have a much better idea of where to go from here.

    I submitted an entry to Lego Ideas, and if 10,000 people support me, it'll be turned into an actual Lego set!If you'd like to see and support my submission, follow this link.
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    SurfpossumSurfpossum A nonentity trying to preserve the anonymity he so richly deserves.Registered User regular
    So I’m not gonna be able to provide nearly the same level of info, but my two cents:

    First off, I was pretty struck by how well you capture volume (I don’t know my terms either), particularly on the AT-AT, the background of the Abbey Road one, and under the bridge. You seem to have a pretty dang good grasp of objects’ locations and how they cast shadows on each other. I get the feeling that your more immediate limitation is capturing the shape of things; a number of things suggest that you’re putting down lines based on what your brain tells you is there instead of what your eyes would actually see, if that makes sense.

    As someone who also is a big fan of that more impressionist style, one thing I’ve noticed is that getting better at doing boring old realistic stuff makes it much easier to do everything else. The first three of your style examples all show a great understanding of the shapes that make up a face (the fourth is a very intimidating display of light), and it’s that understanding that lets them throw down stuff that looks effortless or even careless but still right. Looking at the two realistic pieces you did, for example, there are a couple of places where it looks like you sorta listened to your brain telling you what a forearm or knee or toes look like.

    What I found super helpful (and why I’ve been trying to do more of it) is drawing from a reference with a grid. Focusing on where lines and shadows are in relation to a grid helps break the mental associations you have about what shape something should be and helps you draw what it actually is. There are a couple of other ways of practicing this, but the only one I can remember at the moment is to draw the negative space around something instead of the thing itself (here is a random google result).

    Anyway, hope some of that is useful, can’t wait to have another DMAC type person whose marker use makes me seethe gently with envy. I’m already getting a sense of it from the shadows on that last one.

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    ElJeffeElJeffe Roaming the streets, waving his mod gun around.Moderator, ClubPA Mod Emeritus
    When you say i'm starting what my brain says something should look like instead of what my eye actually sees, I think you're spot on.

    I went through a bunch of those Proko videos, and they're pretty great. I watched one where he drew and shaded a little plastic skull, which really helped me understand the process of blocking out shapes and laying down shapes in successive passes. (I think he referred to them as primary form versus secondary form and tertiary form.)

    I'm going around taking photos of simple objects with interesting lighting, and rendering them in two tones, basically just "light" and "shadow". I think it'll help me practice drawing what's actually there, and picking out the most basic shadow forms. I'll post some when I get a decent handful together.

    I submitted an entry to Lego Ideas, and if 10,000 people support me, it'll be turned into an actual Lego set!If you'd like to see and support my submission, follow this link.
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    ElJeffeElJeffe Roaming the streets, waving his mod gun around.Moderator, ClubPA Mod Emeritus
    edited August 2018
    So I've been sketching random crap on my desk at work, rendering the shading as just pure black and pure white, trying to get a feel for the volumes of the shadows. Except I left them at work, so I don't have them with me!

    Instead, here's a series of drawings I did for my coworker's upcoming baby shower invitations:

    There's something weird going on in the hip region that makes her look a little disjointed.

    Also, I really hate feet.

    ElJeffe on
    I submitted an entry to Lego Ideas, and if 10,000 people support me, it'll be turned into an actual Lego set!If you'd like to see and support my submission, follow this link.
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    Angel_of_BaconAngel_of_Bacon Moderator Mod Emeritus
    Something I'd try to keep in mind when drawing legs is the relative range of motion of each of the major joints- the hip, the knee, and the ankle. It's a common problem to overestimate the degree to which joints can rotate, and the directions which they can rotate.

    The biggest one that trips people up is that if you want to point a foot to the left or the right, the joint rotating to make that happen is not the closest joint, the ankle- rather, almost all of that rotation happens at the hip joint.

    For a practical demonstration, if you stand up and put your hand on your kneecap, and try pointing your foot to the left or the right, you'll see and feel that the direction of the kneecap and the foot are basically always aligned together, because the rotation happens at the hip. The knee and ankle offer almost no side-to-side rotation themselves- they basically only have enough leeway to not immediately break the bones there, should they be rotated by force a bit.

    Now looking at your drawing, trying to map out the rear leg shows the issue here; Assuming the direction of the hip and shin are correct as drawn, it means that the ankle is going through a pretty painful rotation (Left example on the drawover below). On the other hand, if you assume that the direction of the foot is correct, that would then mean the knee would be bending inward- like a thug just took a baseball bat to it from the side.


    By bringing the knee and foot direction into alignment (right example), the leg starts to look a lot more solid and sturdy.

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    ElJeffeElJeffe Roaming the streets, waving his mod gun around.Moderator, ClubPA Mod Emeritus
    That is actually an immensely helpful observation. Thanks! I'll start trying to visualize the leg joints in that way. (Unfortunately, this one's already gone to print, so to speak.)

    I submitted an entry to Lego Ideas, and if 10,000 people support me, it'll be turned into an actual Lego set!If you'd like to see and support my submission, follow this link.
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    ElJeffeElJeffe Roaming the streets, waving his mod gun around.Moderator, ClubPA Mod Emeritus
    Here are the promised "crap from my desk" drawings. I took the photos, converted them to grayscale, and then bumped up the contrast a bit to help with picking out the shadows, just as a way of trying to render the dark places versus the light places (ie, just two tones - black and white) and trying to capture the actual shapes I'm seeing.

    Here is a tape dispenser. The angle is a little too shallow, I believe, and the tape rolly part seems a little too small.

    This is my mug. There are many like it, but this one is mine. I'm a little happier with the proportions, though it still feels like the angle is too shallow.

    And then here's a drawing of my Funko Pop alien queen. I didn't do the two-tone thing on this one, and just drew it from sight instead of from a photo. I had to simplify some of the shapes behind the jaw and under the head shield because I was running out of lunch hour, but I'm generally pleased with how it came out.

    I submitted an entry to Lego Ideas, and if 10,000 people support me, it'll be turned into an actual Lego set!If you'd like to see and support my submission, follow this link.
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    SublimusSublimus Artist. nowhereRegistered User regular
    I don’t have anything to add except some encouragement. Keep up those studies!

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    gavindelgavindel The reason all your software is brokenRegistered User regular
    You should try to make sure to use the entire value scale when you do these shading exercises. For the two-tone ones, it doesn't matter since the focus isn't really on relative value aside from grouping and construction, but the Funko queen and the tape dispenser both hover on the lighter half of the scale except for a few tiny spots on the alien queen's head. Remember that shading tells us how the form is facing and how far away it is. You don't need to "match" the shade on the picture; you need to match the overall value relative to its companions.

    Note that a value scale doesn't need to be 10 distinct ones (though that is the most commonly recommended exercise). I started out with 4 distinct values and have been slowly building towards 10 as my hand grows, and I expect you'd benefit from something similar.

    Book - Royal road - Free! Seraphim === TTRPG - Wuxia - Free! Seln Alora
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    ElJeffeElJeffe Roaming the streets, waving his mod gun around.Moderator, ClubPA Mod Emeritus
    I definitely have a tendency to make everything towards the light side of the scale when i'm working in pencil. That's something I'll need to focus on. Thanks!

    I submitted an entry to Lego Ideas, and if 10,000 people support me, it'll be turned into an actual Lego set!If you'd like to see and support my submission, follow this link.
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    ElJeffeElJeffe Roaming the streets, waving his mod gun around.Moderator, ClubPA Mod Emeritus
    Did a pencil drawing of Funko Rick, and tried to make better use of a full range of values. If it looks like he's tipping over, it's because he was tipping over as I snapped the reference pic. I like to think of it as an action shot! Or maybe Rick is just super drunk!

    I submitted an entry to Lego Ideas, and if 10,000 people support me, it'll be turned into an actual Lego set!If you'd like to see and support my submission, follow this link.
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