Sunday, February 15, 2015


I'm becoming aware that at least part of the reason for all my indecisive linework in these quicksketches is because I have too many ideas of what I'm trying to do and I don't choose one. What I mean is - I've delved a little ways into various approaches to gesture drawing (Proko, Vilppu, Huston, Stanchfield etc) and now I'm getting interested in contour, continuous line and rhythm drawing techniques. And when I sit down to do some figure sketches all these approaches are drifting through my head, and as I draw I seem to shift from one to another. Or worse, since I haven't developed complete proficiency in any of them yet, I'm shifting from half-formed notions of one to something consisting of bits and pieces of others. It's like if you step into the dojo knowing a little about karate, judo, jiu jitsu, and aikido, and have your head full of old movies with guys fighting, and no clear idea of what approach you're going to use. You'd be a mess!! You'd just hurt yourself.

I'm still thinking about what Sycra said (2 posts back) about drilling until you get the form down perfectly. It requires commitment to one discipline and a clear head. Focus.

Note - there's nothing wrong with restated lines - they can be a beautiful part of a drawing. It's the indecisive or hairy lines that have to go.

And of course part of the problem is that I'm still developing my ideas about the figure.

I think there's another reason as well - I'm searching for a very intuitive and fluid way to draw the figure, and trying to learn more about it as I go forward. I suspect those people who have a very specific way of doing gestures (for instance) and never vary from it don't learn anything from it, except how to make nice smooth lines.

There seems to be a certain way that a lot of today's digital artists conceive of the figure that's very materialistic, as if they see the body as a machine made of definite and unchanging parts hinged together. I think this comes from video games and CGI mostly. Maybe action figures too. Personally my influences come from drawing and painting of the past - key among them of course the heroic fantasy artists of the 60's/70's and lots of illustrators. The ones I'm drawn to, at least the ones I'm thinking of now, tended to draw in a loose intuitive way, and I'm sure they trained with a lot of contour and rhythm drawing exercises, including blind contour. A strong emphasis on intuition and fluidity. The really good artists (my opinion) blend materialism and intuition.

But see - I'm whaffling (being indecisive) - I have all these different ideas about why I make hairy sloppy drawings, and when I set out to think about it I come up with more ideas and end up writing an essay rather than focus on the actual problem and a clear solution. It's good to think about these things - hell it's necessary. Leonardo said something about an artist who doesn't theorize being like a sailor setting off on a journey without compass or charts. But I need to end it with a clear concise solution to the stated problem.

So here it is - designate an amount of time to doing one type of exercise. Be clear which it is. Look at tutorials or books about it, get an idea of how to practice it, and then go. And always keep in mind to get rid of those hairy insecure lines.

felt tip sketches

Thursday, February 12, 2015

How to learn

This is coming from Sycra's latest video, the 5th in his Pointy Chins series where he's detailing his growth over the last few years and how he's accomplished it:

He's been doing essentially the multiple reiterations method I did for designing swords, only he's been using it to find his own particular approach for figure drawing and shape language.  Basically whenever he realizes he's not very good at something in particular - like drawing the body from a certain angle or in a certain pose, he then launches into drawing it for a few days, over and over, making slight changes in his method until it starts to look good.

And I love the thing he said at one point - that when he feels defeated and just wants to throw up his arms and say "Oh crap - I can't do this!" he instead thinks "I'll bet Sinix can do this.. " and that spurs him to further effort and often breaks him right through the block. It's a sort of self-shaming through imaginary competition, so he doesn't actually compare notes with the other person, but he imagines the humiliation of it and also the triumph he would feel in being able to surpass him, or at least how good it would feel to NOT suffer that humiliation. This is what I call competition/camaraderie - it can either be explicit, done by literally comparing notes with somebody, or implicit, by using an imagined version of them, which seems to be just as effective (maybe more so because the real person doesn't always react the way you imagine he would, and you might not be able to get in contact with him when you want to).

He mentioned a book called The Art of Learning that I considered getting, but according to the Amazon reviews it's more of a biography about how this one guy learns and doesn't really go into much detail about how you can do it except in the introduction. But the author is both a chess champion and martial arts black belt who says when he encounters a problem he doesn't see it as an obstacle but as a potential boost instead. It's good to learn where your weaknesses are so you can then work on them more. He also said when he is learning for instance a new punch he practices it until he's got it down perfectly before moving on, where-as the less proficient practitioners just get it good enough, and then the kicks good enough, and the blocks good enough, etc. Practice via repetition, but making sure you've got the correct form worked out rather than practicing bad form. Until you've got it perfect. Then move on to the next thing. And a few days  later, practice that former move again for a while, drill it to keep it from fading out of your memory. You have to keep doing that with each thing you learn until it's embedded firmly in your subconscious. And even then you can't let your skills go unused too long or they get rusty and you need to practice for a long time again to get them up to par.