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Didge Draws

DidgeridooDidgeridoo Registered User regular
edited November 30 in Artist's Corner
Hi!

I want to get better at drawing. I loved it when I was younger, and fell off for quite a while. It's been roughly 15-18 years since I've made any serious effort. My current offerings are displayed. As you can see, I've mostly been flailing. Either copying competent artists like Chuck Jones, or 'cartoonizing' pictures with minimal success.

I'd be super interested in an online course of study if y'all have suggestions. Preference definitely given to courses which have instructor feedback. I can spend a reasonable amount of money on this, so advise away.

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  • Angel_of_BaconAngel_of_Bacon Moderator mod
    @Didgeridoo
    Sorry it took me a few days to respond, but it took me awhile to type this all out. Hopefully it's of some use.

    I can't speak too much about online classes- I signed up for the Watts Atelier Online videos after having attended the physical school for awhile, but I can't attest to how good/effective the feedback for it is. The information is really solid, but starting out I'd start with Proko for that (he was taught by Watts, uses the same methodology, the videos are free). I know there's a bunch of classes on Udemy and Schoolism and Gnomon Workshop, if you want to go looking around there and see if anything strikes your fancy.


    In response to the images you've posted, I'd say right now you're doing what I'd expect from most people starting out- there's a sincere desire to want to study and get improve, and you've got some good information to study from- but you haven't picked up the metalearning aspect of how to study effectively yet, how to put that information to good use and really make the progress you're hoping for.


    The beginner's idea of practicing drawing is essentially, 'doodling, put with a serious face on'- which while it may be fun for awhile, is not terribly effective at improving one's drawing skill. So I'm looking at this, and seeing a lot scattershotting around with volumes and heads and birds and an a cartoon character. Drawing an idea once, maybe twice, then moving on to something entirely different.


    I'm going to do a little self-crib from an old post I made about the book "Peak" and what it describes as "deliberate practice", which was a consistent behavior this researcher found in examining the habits of high-performers of all types (artists, professional classical musicians, chess masters, athletes, etc.)

    Full post:
    https://forums.penny-arcade.com/discussion/comment/36660806/#Comment_36660806

    Excerpt:
    Peak: Secrets from the New Science of Expertise by And ers Ericsson
    https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B011H56MKS/ref=oh_aui_d_detailpage_o04_?ie=UTF8&psc=1

    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.)

    So looking through these criteria, I can start to make a few suggestions. I can't speak to certain things, obviously- the level of concentration, how beyond current skill level you're trying to work, etc.- you can make your own assessment there. But the others give us something to work with.


    -Making sure that the practice is objectively measurable. I draw a face out of my imagination- who can say if it's correct or not? I draw a face of a real person sitting in front of me, or from ref- EVERYONE can say if it's correct or not.
    I can overlay my drawing over a photo and see if it matches- doesn't match? I now can go about fixing it.
    I'm trying to draw a scene or a prop? The rules of perspective will keep me honest.
    Doodling out of your imagination can be fun, and is necessary when idea generation is a big part of your workload, but it's not where you make a lot improvement on the fundamentals needed to take an idea and develop it to a high level of fidelity.

    -Working on a single aspect to refine at a time. Generally, the more specific you can get about this the better, though you can throw yourself off doing this without enough information to really gauge what is and isn't important- that's why the book learning's important. EX: If you're struggling to construct a figure in basic volumes, you're probably not at a point where memorizing the number of ribs and vertebrae in a skeleton is going to be your best return on investment.


    So let's take an example of what you're doing currently- how do we make copying a Chuck Jones drawing a more effective practice? Or rather, how to we break down what we want to learn from this Chuck Jones drawing and design a series of practices to learn them individually?

    -To learn perspective and construction: Take the drawing and redraw it using cubes, cylinders, and spheres-so you understand the character not just as a series of lines, but a series of volumes that exist in space. (How to Draw Comics the Marvel Way is the best explainer I've seen of this idea) Check your drawing against an overlay of the original to see what you got wrong- then redraw a new drawing, that gets those things right. Then, redraw that same character in the same pose in the same constructive, cylinders-spheres-and-boxes fashion several times from different perspectives- what would the character look if I walk around them 45 degrees to the front? Or looking down at them from a balcony? Or from a worm's eye view?
    -To learn gesture: Draw that drawing stripped down to its most basic line of action- how simple can you make it and still retain the idea of the pose? How far can you push it and exaggerate it to strengthen it? If you're working from an animation clip, try to guess and draw out the gestures of the poses that come before and after the pose you're drawing- then check to see how close you got. Make new gesture drawings of those poses and compare to your guesses- make some red pen notes about what he did different- were the shoulders at more of a tilt? By how much? Did he exaggerate the length of the arm? Why? Etc. (Force:Dynamic Life Drawing For Animators or Walt Stanchfield's Drawn to Life books are good explainers about this work of thing)
    -To learn line quality: Maybe take one of those original construction drawings, put some tracing paper over it. Draw a more 'finished' copy of the original on your tracing paper, using the construction drawing as a guide. You'll pick it up and realize that while it might be a ok reproduction, it's probably going to be kind of lifeless. Throw another piece of tracing paper over your copy, and do another copy- this time taking explicit care just to focus on replicating the varying line weights of the original as accurately as possible. By isolating the drawing to just this one aspect, you can make a lot more progress on learning about line weights than if you were trying to learn gesture, construction, perspective, anatomy, etc. all at the same time.
    -To learn composition and staging- think of a specific event that you know happens in a Chuck Jones cartoon- better if you haven't seen it too recently. Draw from your imagination that event, as it would appear on screen (draw a 4:3 old timey TV aspect ratio box on your page and draw the action inside it). Fill in the characters as a flat black, so they are just silhouettes. Now, pull up a frame of the event from the actual cartoon- throw it into an image editor (If you don't have Photoshop, GIMP or Krita or even MS Paint will probably work fine here) and fill in the characters to be flat black silhouettes- now compare your version to the Chuck Jones version- where is he placing the characters on the screen? How big are they in the frame? What camera angle is he using? How is he communicating the acting of the scene with silhouette? Write down what the differences are between your version and his and why you think he made the decisions he did, then replicate his version in a new drawing. By repeating this exercise, you should be able to start to pick up why his staging and posing is so effective.


    Now, I could do this all day, making up ways to effectively drain all the educational juice out of a Chuck Jones drawing. And any one of these could take you a couple pages of work on their own to do once, and each attempt might take you a couple of hours. But while I'm giving you specific examples here, hopefully this can start to give you a sense of how to design your own practice for any area you may want to learn, even if you don't have the right teacher or book or video right in front of you to suggest a specific exercise for you (certainly those things all help, but sometimes the perfect resource won't be right at your fingertips when you need it). It's not just drawing, it's observing, checking and reassessing and comparing and redrawing and rechecking, curiously and persistently. Each task is a little puzzle for you to work out and internalize.

    (Aside: It's hard thing to impress upon a beginner- but an essential thing to learn- that simply increasing the volume of one's drawing efforts is not very effective practice on its own, making drawing after drawing after drawing without learning anything from it. You can get 100 times the value of a single drawing done patiently, where you had a plan of attack of what you wanted to learn, how you were going to learn it, and worked and checked and double checked and triple checked to make sure you learned it- than a whole sketchbook full of unplanned, dashed off drawings, done in a frenzy of attempting to learn.)


    Now, all practice is just that- practice. It's not making finished pieces.
    It's doing your pushups and jumping jacks and agility drills- not playing in the big game, where all those built up individual skills and training are all brought together at once.
    A lot of people will start out and grow frustrated, because they don't know to keep those two things separate- or if they do, they think they can kill two birds with one stone and try to combine the two, and not much progress gets made on either.
    So when you sit down to draw, you've got the sketchbook in front of you, pencil in hand, before you do anything, try to consciously make a decision whether you're:
    A) Doodling. Just drawing whatever comes to mind for fun, whatever is of interest to you.
    B) Practicing. Working on improving a specific aspect of your art with an exercise designed to accomplish that goal.
    C) Executing. Bringing your idea generation learned from doodling and all the skills built through practice, to create a finished piece for display.

    While I've been talking a lot about practice here, the doodling and executing shouldn't be neglected either- after all, the point of all this practice is ultimately to make work you enjoy, and enjoy making. Try not to lose sight of that as you practice, because that's what'll keep you going in the long run.





    PS: This is a much less important side note, but looking at these, I'm wondering it you are working on a course/rough/toothy sketchpad?
    Some of this comes down to personal preference I guess, but I find an overly rough sketchpad can drive me up the wall because it makes it impossible to get the sort of cleanliness/precision I'd like- I think a lot of people starting out working with these rough sketchpads don't realize just how bad the paper quality is screwing their efforts up.
    If you think that might be the case, I'd suggest getting something smoother- go to the art store and run your palm over the pages to check what you're getting (there's a lot of variance on how smooth a sketchbook labeled 'smooth' will actually turn out to be). Even a cheaper sketchbook or even just a stack of printer paper binder clipped to a clipboard may ultimately serve you better in terms of drawing quality- and if you're going to be tearing through a lot of paper just doing practice work, keeping the cost a bit lower is good. Maybe save a 'nicer' sketchbook or some smooth Bristol board for making more finished pieces.

    Didgeridoobombardier
  • DidgeridooDidgeridoo Registered User regular
    @Angel_of_Bacon thank you so much for the detailed post! I really do appreciate it, especially in response to my scattershot scribbles.

    I'm working through the Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain exercises (today is blind contour drawing), and have been checking out Proko, which you mentioned in the chat thread. I'll admit I've omitted several pages consisting of nothing but Loomis heads because, well, they're kind of boring to look at and my proportions are still wrong.

    The advice about breaking down the Chuck Jones animation is perfect-- relatively simple for me to grasp (I'm feeling a bit overwhelmed by the sheer volume of information out there) and it will make me think about what it is I really admire about certain artists. What skills they have that I do not, and that should help me decide where to focus my attention. With Chuck Jones, I've always admired the sensation of movement and flow he can coax out of a drawing, even when the character is standing perfectly still.

    I've been avoiding "How to Draw the Marvel Way" because I am not a huge fan of comic book aesthetics in general. But I will try and see if my local library has it for the 'basic shapes' breakdown strategies.

    My sketchbook is a freebie I got with my drawing pencil kit. The paper's got a small amount of texture, but not much. It's mostly smooth. The sketchy scratchy lines you see are because I am still very hesitant with my strokes. I've been trying to work on that for the last few days in particular- really committing to a line.

    And here's just a small update-- still been sketching, still jumping around to different subjects too much. I really need to grab a scanner.

    7xbf0xvny2cj.jpg

    Note that the priest character which looks way better than everything else is a poorly done copy of a comic from Hattersarts, an artist on tumblr. She rules, and you should follow her. The way she captures subtle expressions with only a few well-placed lines is just phenomenal.

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  • Angel_of_BaconAngel_of_Bacon Moderator mod
    Didgeridoo wrote: »
    I've been avoiding "How to Draw the Marvel Way" because I am not a huge fan of comic book aesthetics in general. But I will try and see if my local library has it for the 'basic shapes' breakdown strategies.

    I actually just remembered someone uploaded a (admittedly, pretty cheesy) VHS version of the book to Youtube- just know that whenever ol' Stan Lee tries to claim something as being trademark, "The Marvel Way!", he's really just putting a claim on art principles that date back to the Renaissance. I'd prefer the book personally, but this is free. I'd skip forward to the Figure, Foreshortening and Composition sections first and if you're still interested check out the rest.



    If it's any relief, I'm not advocating for this book because I'm trying to force a comic book style on you, and your chances of being exposed to this book accidentally turning you into Jim Lee is fairly low. It's kinda like worrying that a doctor recommending you do some post-op physical therapy time lifting some 5 pound weights, is suddenly going to turn you into Dave Bautista. Sure it's still weightlifting, but it would take a lot more doing for that to happen.


    I recommend it, because of the options I can think of, it's the most accessible articulation of fundamental figure construction.

    I took a picture of a bunch of books that I might have suggested instead- sort of the books that get recommended all the time at figure drawing and animation schools (Most of these I originally learned about from the Walt Disney Feature Animation Reading List way back in the 90's: https://forums.penny-arcade.com/discussion/196596/walt-disney-feature-animation-reading-list#latest)- just to give you an idea of why this seems to me the best place to start.
    Top: Force, Dynamic Life Drawing For Animators, How to Draw Comics the Marvel Way, Loomis's Figure Drawing For All Its Worth
    Bottom: Preston Blair's Cartoon Animation, Burne Hogarth's Dynamic Figure Drawing, Bridgman's Complete Guide to Drawing From Life
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    -Force gives a lot of great advice on how to make a figure lively- but without a grounding in basic construction or perspective going into it, you can wind up with a lot of funky shapes that don't come together, don't have the solidity of the examples given.
    -Loomis's mannequin figures are ok, but I've seen people try to copy it with ill effect- people start bending the bones and nobody who isn't already a master of perspective can pull off the '2 tilted CDs' version of the pelvis he prefers. It also makes working out the foreshortening difficult, because the volumes aren't drawn in a way that make it easy to understand the perspective of the figure. It's too wishy-washy and not solid enough IMO.
    -Cartoon Animation has it's place in how to draw cartoon character out of simple shapes- but even if all you want to draw is cartoons, there's a reason animators do a lot of figure drawing from human models- because it offers a more objective, measurable, and varied basis with which one can improve their skill, than a simple copy of a cartoon does. Make Mickey Mouse's ears an inch too big, and you'll probably accept that mistake- and not sharpen your sense of proportion in the process. Make a human's ears and inch too big, you'll know that's messed up enough that you've got to put the extra effort in to fix it.
    -Burne Hogarth 's Dynamic Figure Drawing offers some good construction, but rushes along to showing off his anatomy skills so quickly that a lot of people gloss over the important, simple parts to get to trying to replicate all the muscles in there.
    -Bridgman's Complete Drawing From Life again gives a lot good information, but the illustrations can be hard to make heads or tails of sometimes, and figuring out how to use that information usefully is a whole thing in and of itself. Hogarth and Bridgman also stick to their own preferred body shapes (Tarzans and chunky muscle folk, respectively), which can give you a skewed idea of what a human being is actually shaped like.

    -How to Draw Comic the Marvel Way offers a construction that's easy to understand and articulate in perspective, without getting too bogged down with specific anatomy. Sure you'll want to learn that specific anatomy at some point, but if you can make a solid box and tube man in proportion and in perspective, you're already 75% of the way there to a solid finished drawing- and the principles can be applied just as well to a very realistic figure, as they can be to a more cartoony figure- all that's changing there are the proportions and the roundness of the volumes, really.


    Now, I'd recommend all these books for the various things that they do well- each one has something to them that makes them better than the others at certain things, even if between them there may be a lot of redundant information. I'm just prioritizing this one-even knowing the title seems embarrassing and easy to dismiss- because I think it's going to be the most useful right now, and it'd be ridiculous for me to suggest you go blow what, $150? on a bunch of books right away on my word alone.

    That said, if you're looking at those pictures up there, or you're flipping through these books at the library and you're getting a lot more out of the Bridgman or the Loomis or what have you, something just jives a little better with how your brain works for whatever reason- more power to you, go ahead and start studying from that instead.


    As long as I'm talking about books and there's been a mention of Chuck Jones, if you read his autobio you'll probably come across the title The Natural Way to Draw by Kimon Nicolades, and think it's gonna be the light and the way forward, as I did way back in high school.
    And while there's quite a bit to recommend it (I like the 'here's how much time you should be spending drawing, and it's a lot' schedule aspect to it), but in retrospect I think it works better as a reaction to the rigid drawing schooling of the time, and needing to 'loosen up' students that already had a good deal of drawing experience under their belt- rather than a place to start. I'm still trying to get rid of some of the sloppy drawing habits I developed working from it.
    So if you check that one out, just a heads up that you'll want to counterbalance it by studying in a more restrained, academic fashion as well.

    DidgeridootynicYoshisummonsacadiabombardier
  • DidgeridooDidgeridoo Registered User regular
    Hey I found "How to Draw Comics the Marvel Way" online as a PDF! I'm not gonna link it just in case that's, er, frowned upon.

    But!

    If anyone else is interested, a quick google search would probably turn it up for ya.

    In drawing news, I attempted to sketch a golden retriever from a magazine yesterday and it turned into an abomination. It looks like Mr. Peanut Butter of Bojack Horseman was skinned and worn as a mask

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  • DidgeridooDidgeridoo Registered User regular
    X-posting from the doodle thread so I have a compiled record of my scribbles, don't mind me

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    Finished 'Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain' and have been working through 'Comics the Marvel Way.' Right Side of the Brain was interesting. Marvel Way has been helpful for breaking down movements and poses. I've got to practice breaking things down into basic shapes more-- as you can see I lose the thread a bit when trying.

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  • DidgeridooDidgeridoo Registered User regular
    Still drawing! It's not terribly exciting though, since I've mostly been doing Draw a Box exercises. Take the image below and imagine it a couple more times and you get the picture. I tire out pretty quick doing these, so it's slow going.

    mq1bv4ktt1qm.jpg

    And a couple random sketches from the last month. Please excuse the terrible cropping, I wanted to minimize the space this sketch dump took up to avoid making people scroll.

    8kxll1qx1ujh.png

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