Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Fafsketch - forehead slap! Core shadow - what core shadow???

Hmm - it is unfortunate that this painting could well become another facepalm gif... but onward and upward!! It suddenly occurred to me that I had no core shadow on his torso at all! In fact there still isn't one for his face - what, his nose is shadow-proof material? It also occurred to me to visualize the lighting on a planar torso - that's when I decided his entire lighted pec needed to be lit almost flat (like a plane). I also thought about the painting advice I first got from Howard Pyle via Loomis - about keeping to strict value scales in light and shadow and never the twain shall meet. Mass light and mass shadow - wow, all this stuff I know really well  theoretically, and I hadn't actually used any of it in my painting!! 

Next I intend to do some leather pants studies and work out something for those wrist wraps too. I've decided going into the new year I need to begin special studies of heads hands and feet, clothing and weapons, and landscapes. If I can get all those together, than I'll be pretty darn close to being able to paint all passable-like!! 

Monday, December 29, 2014

Curse You Frank!!! You already did it!!

Don't you hate it when you're sketching along, creating random poses, and suddenly you realize you've seen them before - in Frazetta paintings!!

I've been using my reiteration technique, starting with just a random pose and then looking at it and making modifications to eventually arrive at better ones. Weirdly, I developed 2 very different strains of images from that first dark pose - one for somebody with hands bound overhead and the other crouching low defending against an overhead sword attack.

And suddenly I had to facepalm because I recognized - not only are they both Frazetta poses, but they're both from THE SAME PAINTING!!!

Even right down to the curve in the background behind the 'hanging, bound' figure!! It's the freaking BRAIN!!!

Oh well hey, at least I wasn't dumb enough to put horns on the top dude - how the heck is he gonna bring his sword down past them huh? Are they spring-loaded or something, they'll just fold out of the way and then pop right back in place? Or maybe they're like really soft and bendy? Heh yeah, it's good to know that even Frank wasn't perfect.. (as I sit here inadvertently copying him because most of the really great action poses in my visual library originally came from him... )

I think the way to get around this is to either keep on modifying until the poses are completely different, or start by thinking about something like movies I've seen.

Oh, and my first reiteration on the original sketch is also a Frazetta pose:

Well ok, a little different now that I check. At least I can take some comfort from how many times Frank himself used this Robert McGinnis arm thing..

Can't find the original by McGinnis, but I know I've seen it, and in fact I've seen somebody else acknowledge that Frank indeed took the gesture from him. So I guess it aint the end of the world, we all gotta start somewhere, and keep modifying and developing our pose libraries.

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Huston lec. 4 notes - head/torso connection, value gesture and pattern

Ribcage is like a bottle shape, attaching top of pelvis to bottom of head via the neck. In fact looking closely at my ecorche figure just now, I see several muscles nestled in between the traps and the collarbones that actually do follow this bottleneck shape, attaching to the top couple of ribs. Never noticed that before.

Pit of the neck is the most important landmark on the body - nexus of the head and torso as well as the shoulder girdle. Meeting place of sternocleidomastoids, throat, collarbones, sternum.

If you can see the throat in the pose, draw it in, from tip of chin to pit of neck. It's a center line, joining the center line of the face to the center line of the torso. Draw through the adam's apple, add it later.

The gesture of the head is the centerline of the face, which is somewhat curved. The top line of the head is another gesture line, also curved. This is why he draws the head as a curving triangle, it includes the 2 gesture lines.

Lots of gestures for the neck - there's the throat line (front center line), the sterno-cleidos, and the shrugging muscles (traps). He also draws a back centerline (the spine) - useful in some views. Shrugging muscles are independent of the neck and sit on top of it, outside of it.

Lines on a gesture drawing are useless if they don't provide certain information - gesture shows connection with the last form or the next form (moves along the form) structure wraps around the form to show dimensionality.

"Draw the gesture, complete the shape. Draw the gesture, complete the shape... " Sounds very Vilppu!

Draw the body using tubes, boxes and eggs.

You need to sometimes build enough structure to know where to place the next gesture line.

For gesture drawing the waist is the width of the entire torso tube. It's the connection directly from bottom of ribcage to top of pelvis, a sort of flattened cylinder. Then the shoulder girdle and the hips build out from there, so those are added on later.

"What we're really trying to do is fit a little tube (the neck) into a big tube (the torso)"

So it's the ribcage that widens from the bottleneck (base of the neck) to the wide point (waist).

For a side-on view, to connect the arm to the torso, get the connections to the pit of the neck, from there go ahead and draw the collarbone, which gives you the connection point for the arm (point of the shoulder). He really does use the bony landmarks and connect them with gesture lines.

For more of a back view, use the spine of the scapula the same way you use the collarbone for the side view (or front view).

3 important aspects to painting -

Tonal composition
Fundamental Design (gesture)

What do you group together? What do you separate? What do you keep, what do you lose? Let some values blend together, lose detail and definition - create extra contrast at important areas.

Value is the most important compositional tool for this, but there's also shape and pattern. The post impressionists played around  lot with pattern.

Simple value systems were strong through classical up to modern era. Post imps did away with that and made images more about pattern, like flat wallpaper. Surface of the canvas becomes the primary interest.

Old women like to block the camera.

Started with Titian, greatest portraitist of his time, who started off doing beautifully blended and glazed paintings, super smooth transitions, but later in life started roughly dabbing the paint on and scrubbing it around loosely. Rembrandt followed, doing the same, and leading eventually ip to modernism. Pattern becomes more important than the illusion of reality, lose things like atmospheric perspective, everything flattens out and it becomes more about the surface of the painting itslelf.

Friday, December 26, 2014

Namiki Falcon drawings, and fitting the pictures on the page

Ok, here are the drawings I've been doing with the Namiki Falcon. I've been hesitant to post them because - well, they sort of suck. I was pretty disappointed at first, and in fact I went through this thing where it didn't seem able to draw on any paper I have. Not sure what the problem was - it kept cutting out and just not making a line at all. But I discharged the ink back into the bottle, refilled it twice (to get out as much air as possible) and now it seems to be working fine, and handles insanely well, just as I expected. It's like it needed to be broken in or something, I don't know.

These are still from when I was having trouble with it, had to keep trying several times to make many of the lines. I reinforced some of them with black micron pens because I didn't like the weak, thin lines I was getting.

These are the ones I've done since refilling it. Damn, what a difference!! Now I seem to be experiencing exactly what you'd expect when switching from a backfiring Gremlin to a Ferarri - it's way too responsive to every thought - I'm used to some lag and some drag. But now it's like I just start to touch he gas and it jumps forward instantly, touch the brake and it jerks to a sudden halt. Going to take some getting used to. And I love that now I always dream about drawing. Not just making images appear apparently by dabbing mentally, as happens when I'm using the tablet a lot but actually drawing. With nice brown lines.

I read recently somewhere that one of the keys to learning composition is to learn how to make your drawings fit properly on the page. This is a trick I had read about and tried some time ago, related to the whole Ron Lemen/KChen approach to figure quicksketch. Mark off where you want the top of the head (pay attention if the arms are raised above it!) and the bottom of the lowest foot to be. I don't really draw the vertical line, that's just for demo purposes here. Visually divide the marked off space in half with just a tiny tickmark. This is where the crotch will go if it's a standing figure that isn't bent at an angle. Then divide the higher part in half again and once more. This gives you the height of the head and your figure will be 8 heads tall. If it's a weird pose, seated or reclining or with a lot of foreshortening or something then you need to modify - measure off how many heads tall the space itself needs to be, and how many wide if you want to be more precise. I tend to have a problem getting the crotch to actually end up at the halfway point - I usually draw it lower for some reason, though if I start with Vilppu's gesture lines I do much better, because that allows you to plan as you draw rather than beginning with the construction and going piece by piece. and I find that when I do a wash I can make lots of construction lines disappear.

Fafsketch reworked

Wednesday, December 24, 2014


The Falcon has landed

Wow - the Namiki Falcon is my Christmas present to myself, and it came in today - Christmas Eve!! It's a Christmas shipping miracle I tell ya!!! I just loaded it up with Pelikan Brilliant Brown and did a little scribbling in my tiny Pen&Ink sketchbook that I now use for such tests as well as little sketches, and I'm amazed at the quality of it!! The gold nib is far more flexible than the nibs in my Pen&Ink Sketch pens - it's literally like stepping up from a crappy AMC Gremlin that keeps backfiring to a finely tuned Ferrari (not that I really know what driving a Ferrari feels like, but I can IMAGINE). First, it draws a line no matter how fast I move it! The P&I pens cut out at a moderate speed - I had to learn to draw slowly with them. It also makes a much broader stroke with moderate pressure, though if I try to go too broad the inkflow suddenly stops and takes a moment to get started again. I need to get used to the fact that the lid screws on and off of the barrel - a couple of times I tried to just pop it on or off - better not break it!!

Hopefully now I'll be able to draw at the speed of thought, like I can with pencils.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Value and gesture studies for a painting - Proko and Xia

Just ran across a video with Xia Taptara interviewing Stan Prokopenko - two people who have excellent instructional videos, so naturally I checked it out. A little ways in Stan said something that made me take notice and decide to post it here.

He was talking about how he prepares for doing a painting, and said he first does maybe 10 hours of thumbnails, followed by opening photoshop and making a value study. Here's the part that grabbed my interest - he said he spends a lot of time pushing the shapes around and changing the values subtly on them, trying to create a composition that leads the eye.

Now THERE'S a great idea!! He also said if you don't do this then you'll begin painting with no idea of the visual story you want to tell, and you'll be trying to figure that out in the painting stage. Which is too late and will require you to keep changing it.

He also said he does a bunch of gesture studies - trying to figure out movement through the painting. I'm not entirely sure exactly what he means, if he's talking about the movement of just the figures, or of the entire composition, but it sounded like the latter, and that starts the wheels turning.

Fafhrdsketch - big process thread (will be adding to it as I go)

It began life as the pencil sketch in the previous post, then it got scanned and shopped. Began coloring process using a gradient map with three colors so I could manipulate the transition, as somebody in some tutorial said is vitally important. I can see that, yes. I also had to slap on more adjustment layers -  a Levels and a Hue/Sat.

Basically all I did here was paint the background semi-transparently. Oh wait - first I did some more adjustments to the colors. Going with Xia Taptara's advice to start @ around 30% opacity for sketching things in loosely, then switch to very opaque for main painting, and then back to nearly transparent toward the end for sweetening.

Mainly just sort-of covering up some of the pencil work with translucent layers of transition color. Keeping everything loose and rough - I want to try to keep the energy as long as I can. Man, starting with a pencil sketch was the shizzbomb, diggity!! The shadows are close enough to black, something I have so much trouble doing digitally. And the whole thing just vibrates with energy!

This is probably about as far as I'll go toward smoothing it all out - it's just a sketch.

Damn - what happened to his physique? I kinda like the black ants but they seem to be awfully blank and plain.

Hmm - the belt doesn't go with the pants, and the pants are drawing too much attention - too light in value and too much color to them. And I'm not liking the shoulder harness. 

Looks pretty contemporary - nothing about this says he's a barbarian. Although I always imagined since Fafhrd loves civilization and went to live in the big city that he sometimes wears city clothes. Should probably still have some brass bracelets and accoutrements of some kind. I think this is enough for this sketch though. Time to move on. And now the pants are blending into the background a little too much again. I think a few accents might be all they need. 

12 - 25

This is looking somewhat better - on the right track anyway now. It suddenly occurred to me - I can see how my conception for the whole body has changed thanks to my studies in gesture and anatomy Now I need to also including the pose and clothing (both were afterthoughts here - my concern was for Fafhrd's body shape). Need to conceive of it all at once. Must begin filling sketchpads with drawings of the characters.

lolwat - he's supposed to be more of a viking - not a celtic barbarian. Nehwon is not earth though. On top of that - geeze, what a scrawny looking bear tooth necklace!! 

Getting better. The leather club pants suit him better then the dockers. The standard medieval sword hilt is bugging me now though. I need to keep on drawing everything and learning how to stylize it all much better. Gradually this will all coalesce in my work into my own conception for Fafhrd and the Mouser. I need to familiarize myself more specifically with different shapes of the various muscles - their characters and proportions. Need to be able to visualize different types of muscles for different characters. 

Monday, December 22, 2014

fgrs & Fafsketch

Drawing with the fountain pen is really bringing me back to the surface after a long time away - I realized I've been drawing only gesture and structure - in other words vague abstract sketchy stuff. Except for a couple recent figure studies I haven't been drawing surface form in many years. So that's what I started doing. 

Hmm.. ok, it's fun to try to draw like Morty, but I guess I need to start with a basic head form to keep things from getting all screwed up, huh? And damn, it seems like the nose is always way too long!! Limit that sucker!!

Yep - this is what I needed alright! Almost didn't post this one, but I want to remember what process I used to draw it. It works reel gud. Oh damn - forgot to write in, right after finding the eyeline - and this is actually the IMPORTANT part - find the eyebrow ridge and ear, which then gives you the bottom of the nose. Drew it funky here, but it's just a schematic.

I guess all the scribbly vague anatomy drawing and gesture stuff is paying off. Started with a simple tall oval for the ribcage - envisioned him tall and fairly slender rather than musclebound, with broad shoulders, a V shaped back and long slender arms - no bulging biceps!! The outline of the arms carries the idea of strength - no need to labor every line.

Oh, and I decided the mouser head studies were looking too much like Fafhrd, and had the nose he should have - the pugilist's proboscis. So it's literally back to the drawing board for the poor Mouser. But at least now I've figured out how I'm approaching this all. Heads and bodies are actually looking strong and charismatic now - extremely different from any of the previous Fafhrd attempts. Definitely finding my way now! That left arm is a bit big though..

Drawin' like Morty

After doing the crappy Mort Drucker impression last night I decided it would actually make sense to copy him and then try to draw like him. It's clear he's fully trained in anatomy etc and could easily draw realistically if he chose - in fact he very nearly does - just with a little distortion and some simplification and those nifty squiggly lines. And I've decided to base the Mouser on Michael York, or at least partly.

I also decided to go ahead and treat myself to a Namiki Falcon fountain pen for Christmas - the choice of Glenn Vilppu and probably the finest fountain pen that's made for drawing (there are very few). A little research into inks turns up that the Higgins sepia calligraphy ink I've been using is terrible for fountain pens - even though that's what they market it for - apparently it clogs them up something awful. But the Pelikan Brilliant Brown is excellent. I also ordered some Pilot/Namiki black ink in case I want to try mixing it with the brown or just drawing in black from time to time.

I've been discovering just how much you can manipulate the washes, and the lines too - after everything is dry. A little clear water over a too-hard edge of wash and a quick finger-swipe in the right direction can soften an edge beautifully. Going in for washes a few minutes after the ink is dry will make much lighter washes, much more controllable. And an X-Acto knife is a great eraser - for lines or washes really. Just be careful, keep the blade as close to flat as possible, and scrape gently so as not to tear up the surface.

Now I just need to keep drawing like this and copying the Maestro until I gradually learn where to put lines and where not to - or maybe I can pick that up just from experience.

This is the beginning of a special study of heads hands and feet - my weakest points in figure drawing. I also think it's a great idea for me to be finally doing some careful, finished drawing rather than loose sketching. That precision and carefulness is what's been lacking in my work. Thank you fountain pens!

Sunday, December 21, 2014


I did these before deciding to scan the comic book art in the last post - in fact as I was drawing like this it reminded me of those guys, which prompted that post. Something I've been considering doing for a while anyway. I actually think Fafhrd and the Mouser will work better somewhat caricatured than straight heroic fantasy stuff. Fun to play around with anyway, and drawing with line in ink is so amazing for developing your skillz.