Saturday, July 21, 2018

Introducing Iliya Mirochnik - Russian Academic Drawing Demo @ New Masters Academy


Really love this video - the guy is an amazing artist. He discusses the Russian academic approach to figure drawing and portraiture (which he learned at the Repin academy) and does a beautiful portrait live from the model. He is going to be doing a drawing course on New Masters Academy. Makes me want to get some Conte sanguine pencils and sticks and start drawing like this. Lol - I searched the basement - I know somewhere I do have a few sanguine pencils, but couldn't turn them up. I did find a few sticks though - I could do drawings just with them.

Friday, July 20, 2018


Working on modifying, combining and arranging the basic forms on my warmup sheets,


And for the figures I'm trying to develop my own way to do the little gesture thumbnails, so I'm not copying the way somebody else draws.



Now that I pushed a leg back on these figures the word balloon no longer makes sense. Tried putting a sack over the man's head suggesting an impending execution, but it looked more like a girl's hair, so I went with that. I like the way these figures all seem to stand on the same ground plane and even to be in the same image, though I drew them separately. Maybe my mind is starting to think in terms of whole compositions. I suppose that's a step up in the levels of complexity. And because the second figure is an echo of the first, with the same basic arm positioning and torso angle, they seem to be standing together, as if looking at the goat-demon or whatever it is.




Dave Finch said the key to being a comic book artist is to really learn the basic figures - the little comic gestures I've been drawing so much. That's where the magic really happens, not learning to draw muscles or faces in excruciating detail. All that surface stuff comes later - you need to be able to draw the figure dynamically and make it look right first. Any position, any viewing angle, any lighting. The outline/silhouette suggests most of the anatomy - very little need for any detail inside. And when you can do the outline right, everything else falls into place.

And I know - I'm doing Heroic Fantasy art, not comic books. But they're pretty similar - comics are just a lot more exaggerated.


And hey, ya gotta do the anatomy studies too...



Sunday, July 15, 2018


Starting off with a cup of coffee...


And a warmup sheet (not drawn in this order).


This one is in response to a head drawing from the previous upload where I placed the ears wrong. Just working out exactly where they go. Though I can see in the side view they need to go back slightly behind the jawline.


Starting to delve into anatomy - need to brush up on the forgotten knowledge and add some more.


More warmup.


Planes of the Head. 

Friday, June 29, 2018

Bodies and Heads...


After doing a couple of figures (which are separate drawings - I laughed when I saw what they look like together!) I decided it's time to start on heads. Started by just seeing what I can do from imagination. WTH -- I know I can do better than that!!! Looks like the way I used to draw a long time ago...


So I slowed down and put a lot more thought into it. Is it just me or is there something of Willem Dafoe in that first one? The second is done from a frame of the first X-Men movie. I can see I made the features too small for the head, and the shadow area needs some work. So I pulled up some of the screengrabs I snapped of the David Finch course on Gnomon. I took advantage of their 3 day free trial and watched all 4 of his videos, plus filled a folder with screenshots so I can draw from them.




Also did a couple from my Asaro head...


The Finch-style comic book heads seem to use a combination of certain elements from the Loomis head method, Reilly Abstractions, and maybe a bit of the Asaro head? Though I believe John Asaro based it on both of the above, if I remember right. So they're already sort of mixed in with each other to a large extent. They go together well.


Monday, June 25, 2018

Rough notes explaining the Levels of Complexity

These seem to be the levels of complexity in a piece of art - beginning with simple 2 dimensional shapes to the 3D projections of those shapes into forms, then combining modified forms to create figures and posing them to suggest a particular action. Then by combining multiple figures interactively you suggest a bigger action and the beginnings of story. Other elements in the composition also add to the idea of story.

I don’t mean to suggest that there’s some inflexible hierarchy that goes in this specific order all the time, it’s more flexible than that and really these things combine with each other in various ways at every level along the way. You might begin thinking about composition for instance before you completely work out the poses and interaction of figures. They all develop differently. 

I just listed the terms in this particular order because it does seem to represent increasing levels of complexity from the basic elements (shapes) all the way to the overarching idea of a story, which is hinted at partially by the piece. 

Each leveling-up along the hierarchy is a move from one state to the next in the creation of a piece of art. The ultimate end goal being an image representing a story, with characters engaging each other in some dramatic way. Well ok not always - could be just a character portrait but even then many of these levels still apply, and the secondary character being engaged with might be the viewer.

Example - if you start with a shape - let’s say you draw a rectangle. Project that from 2 dimensions into 3 - visually extrude it up from the surface of the paper and you end up with a block - a form rather than a shape. So it’s a step up in complexity to the next level (3 dimensions rather than 2), and it creates greater complexity, but never in a random way. It’s always very definite and with the end goal in mind. In other words, it’s an evolution toward the ultimate goal, not just added random complexity. 

To illustrate this with an example, let’s say you have a form - not just a rectangular block but a modified one that looks like a ribcage. Add some more modified basic forms to it. Depending on how you do this, you can end up with a meaningless jumble of forms that resembles a junkyard, or you could end up with something that looks a lot like a human body. 

But at this stage - the shift from form to figure, you need to do more than just make sure it resembles a human (or animal) body. It needs to be posed to suggest a definite action, which suggests some part of a story. And if this is a Heroic Fantasy painting or a panel in a comic book or some other type of art involving conflict, there’s also interaction, meaning the action of this character is in opposition to the counter-action of whoever it’s engaging with. 

So in the beginning you start with some idea of a story, and you choose a conflict from it (for this example I’m thinking strictly about sword fighting). The way I tend to work is to start from this basic point (at least a vague idea of an overarching story and a more firm idea of the specific conflict I’m depicting). And I try to visualize the pose of my main character, or maybe the secondary one. Or possibly both at the same time, though that can be a lot harder (sometimes it just pops into your head all at once). In the example of my Mouser above, I was reacting to the set of drawings I had already done with him doing a fencing lunge, where he ended up apparently jabbing at his opponent’s knees (need to angle the arm and sword upward to correct that). I wanted to do something less like formal fencing and more dramatic. I also wanted to include some type of grappling or punching or kicking, which makes it a lot more dramatic and personal than just clanging swords together. Street fighting while holding swords is pretty intense stuff! 

So I came up with the idea that he would be kicking his opponent in the chest, and at first I thought he should be holding his sword up to block a downswing from the opponent, but that straight arm looked really awkward (as did the straight legs and back-leaning torso). I doodled randomly a bit trying to find a way to get some nice curving gesture in and make it look more graceful, and after a couple of attempts (in which I demonstrate my tendency to scratch around a lot when I don’t understand what I’m drawing clearly) the pose resolved itself. The moment of clarity hit when I suddenly understood the pelvis needs to be in line with his legs - as soon as I sketched that in everything else began to quickly fall into place. 

What it means is, the pose needs to represent some kind of coordinated action - not just aimlessness. When his pelvis was at a 90 degree angle to the line of his legs, it worked against the forward action, but when I brought it into alignment, the forward thrust through the legs into the opponent’s (as yet invisible) chest became palpable and powerful, and the pose took on some kind of life. 

This is what you’re looking for at each stage - you’re moving to a new level of expression and it should bring a new sense of liveliness or life (need to find better words for it) or drama. It needs to increase the drama, not detract from it. 

Keep in mind, the order in which I listed the stages is only the order of complexity of them - not the order you move through. For example, in drawing this figure I began by thinking in loose general terms of a vague pose, and sketched in a sloppy gesture or stick figure suggesting some version of the pose. I had some notion of the action and interaction in mind as well, all very loosely. I made a few changes by drawing new versions, still very loose and gestural, until the idea suddenly solidified and I drew it again - this time it looked much better. As you can see though, I erased the back arm and changed it to suit the pose better (still not quite right). And though I like it, I see it needs a lot of development still. Proportioning is strange; he looks like a little boy with a big head and short skinny arms -- the farther hand is too big and the nearer one too small (should be reversed according to the rules of perspective). And that back heel needs to be down solidly on the ground. I also need to sketch in his opponent and see how they’re interacting with each other - that might suggest some further changes in the Mouser’s pose. 

Saturday, June 23, 2018

Levels of Complexity in Figure Development


Carried this one farther still using the mouse, but I think I'll let it go until I get a new tablet -- or maybe just let it go altogether. I realized what I'm doing is copying a picture, not developing this from my own mental mannikin that I've developed through my drawing of these little comic figures and quick-sketches. I'm beginning to understand that I need to work my way up from the little figures and gradually add on levels of detail. And by detail of course I don't mean pointless stuff that detracts from the main focus, but the increasing levels of complexity that you see as you get closer to a person - in the small figures you're seeing what you would see from across the street or even farther - just a simple body shape. Almost just a silhouette.  But when you put in more time and do more developed drawings you add levels of increasing detail - each limb takes on a bit more structure and form, and then at the level of a portrait or a waist up shot you get the full level of detail.


So I drew these yet again. I'm not sure it's particularly helpful though to keep doing the same drawings over and over - but it was by way of a warmup before doing a few posed figures from imagination below. Wanted to brush up and get myself thinking in figurative format - it's been a few days since I drew any of these and I felt like I had lost any progress I made. So I brushed up.


And I decided not to make pretty drawings, as I did at one point recently in copying these images (from How to Draw Comics the Marvel Way). Making pretty drawings hinders the process of developing an idea, because you don't want to mess them up. So keep them rough but serviceable.



Begin Imagination Work:

Here I started working from imagination, developing an idea for a pose. I suddenly realized this looks a lot like some similar poses I did in brown fountain pen in the long sketchbook back in 2014.


And as I mentioned on ConceptArt yesterday when I posted these last 2 sheets, I learned that I need to start with a simple pose, usually drawn from a basic viewing angle so there's no or very little foreshortening, and limbs are posed simply -- even awkwardly sometimes. I can't work out all the complexities of a difficult pose in my head before I start drawing - need to go through a few little thumbnails to work it out stage by stage. 

Interesting - I just realized this is working through levels of complexity of the idea for the pose, just like I said at the top about the levels of complexity of the body. This seems to be the new thing I've latched onto and am thinking about all the time now. 

I won't go into detail about this just now, but I had a thought about a sort of hierarchy of levels of complexity beginning with the simplest and working through the different levels in developing an image: 

Shape, Form, Figure, Pose, Action, Composition, Story. 

You don't necessarily go through it in exactly that order - in fact you would skip around and go back and forth a bit while developing the ideas for the image.


To develop individual figures you go through Shape, Form Figure, and Pose, but the last 3 terms branch out into larger realms. The Action is about how multiple figures are interacting with each other. Composition of course is an overall pictorial device or strategy. And Story moves outside the confines of the image itself - the image is a reference to some part of the story. Shape comes in at different points - it's the 2 dimensional aspect of a Form, which can become part of a figure, or part of the composition, or of any other part of the image (such as the landscape or an object). 

I'll develop this idea a bit more and write something up about it.