Monday, July 27, 2015

Catching up

Here are the pathetically few drawings and warmup sheets from the last few days. Some days all I did was a warmup, others I managed one drawing, and on some I did halfway decent little drawings on the warmup sheet! Lol - well, at least I'm starting to get used to the Conte pencils and not feel like I'm struggling with a totally unfamiliar tool anymore. The more technical stuff like lay-ins, abstractions and Asaro planes are really hard to draw or even figure out, unless I have a partially drawn head already, in which case it's easy to see where they go (well, not so much on today's Asaro head!) The computer completely randomizes the order of the drawings, and I'm not going to sort them out - so I've taken to (usually) writing the date on them. Should help keep them sorted a bit anyway.

Edit - these 2 requested to be seen bigger. Divas..

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Head Phase 1 Lay-ins quiz results

My Lay-ins quiz has been graded and I passed on all of them. Watts doesn't give letter grades, you either pass or you don't, but even though I passed the instructor told me my circles and ellipses were a bit off, as well as jaw shape, and that I should strive to more closely copy the way Jeff draws them - there are subtleties of shape and proportion that must be learned from close copying and repetition.

In fact, so I can remember exactly what was said, I'm going to copy/paste the responses here:

1 Good job! Try to keep the circle as even as possible and watch the shape of the jaw.

2 Good job! Watch the shape of the circle and the ellipse that represents the side plane of the head. Make sure that they are as even as possible. These shapes will affect the overall shape of the head and need to be correct from the very beginning. Try to copy Jeff’s examples as closely as possible.

3 Not bad but try to keep the lines as smooth and even as possible. Try to make the circle even and watch the shape of the jaw.

4 Not bad but try to copy Jeff’s example as closely as possible. There are specific measurements and proportions that need to be learned by copying his drawings. Watch the shape of the jaw and make sure the side planes of the head are the correct size and shape.

5 Good job! Watch the shape of the circle and the ellipse that represents the side plane of the head. Make sure that they are as even as possible. These shapes will affect the overall shape of the head and need to be correct from the very beginning. Try to copy Jeff’s examples as closely as possible.

Added the pictures to remind myself which comment was for which drawing. I've printed up the images from the workbook (Jeff's drawings) and will be tracing them in a bit, then drawing freehand to try to get closer.

Followup - I see that the responses saying "Not bad" are from my earliest drawings and "Good job!" from the later ones - I was really clumsy at first and my lines got better as I went.

Just dug up my old folder full of templates and found the circles, used it to draw a few perfect circles on a newsprint sheet and proceeded to fill the rest with my own freehand attempts. Mine started really bad (not warmed up yet for one thing) but I learned a few things from this:

1. It seems I do slightly better counterclockwise than clockwise. Opposite of Jeff. Not sure which way I went though on the ones where I slid my hand (see #3below).

2. When I correct mistakes in the circle I tend to overcompensate - go a little too far in the other direction.

3. Remember to lay my last 2 fingers completely flat against the drawing surface and slide my entire hand smoothly over it - this results in much better circles (well, they're still not really circles, but much smoother now and getting closer).

I'm not sure I'll ever attain Jeff's level of accuracy and precision, but I know the hard striving is important. It's equally important to think your way through problems - much better to come up with a plan of attack rather than just keep butting your head against the same wall endlessly. And if your plan isn't working, modify it. Mid-course corrections are vitally important.

Monday, July 20, 2015

Do It Like a Spaniard!!

Spent the afternoon watching a bunch of the videos on Watts again today - peeking ahead at what's to come a couple of phases down the road. And suddenly I got really excited, as soon as I stumbled across the videos for quicksketches and figure invention. These are a few screengrabs from the videos - and the ones I like the most are always the quickest - 15 and 30 second heads and 2 minute figures. The longer they get the less awesome they become - though of course you need massive skillz like Jeff has to pull this off so fast (or at all!)

What they immediately reminded me of are the drawings of a few of my favorite comic book artists - all Spaniards who used to draw for Warren publishing's big black-and-white horror comics in the 70's- guys like Luis Bermejo (a chameleon artist who could draw anything in any style, but The Rook from Eerie magazine was my favorite), Jose Ortiz, and Jose Gonzales (the main Vampirella artist). It's not easy to find any of their excellent comic work online - I've tried. Here is a sampling:

Jose Ortiz

Luis Bermejo

I absolutely LOVED those comics in my late high school years - I used to walk up to Shopland every month when the new issues came in and plunk down my thriftily-saved allowance. My favorite thing about them was the way they were drawn - so different from the American superhero comics. There was this quickly-stated elegance and a sort of controlled sketchiness, coupled with amazing design sense and knowledge, and they used a very different shape language than the superhero guys - more straight lines and open, airy shapes as opposed to the carefully closed-off, rounded forms of most of the superhero artists. And those Europeans - rather than just always use hatching or feathering for shading, they used decorative calligraphic marks that lent the artwork even more elegance. God how I wanted to be able to draw like that!! I tried and tried, but my skills just weren't up to the task. 

Tonight I tried again, all fired up on excitement that in the coming years I will be developing the ability to draw very much like those Spaniards! I scrawled off these poor attempts:

Actually they came out better than I thought they would - but I can see a lot of work lies ahead. Gotta get to work memorizing those Asaro planes and Reilly abstractions! That stuff (and completely memorizing it) is the basis for this kind of art. 

Most art schools don't teach this kind of drawing - what an amazing stroke of luck that I found one that does, and that also has an online course!! (.. and that I can AFFORD!)

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Progressing incrementally...

Well, suddenly toward the end of this drawing, the totally unexpected happened - I started getting the kind of line quality we're supposed to be going for. I thought it was never going to happen - try as I might, I was gritting my teeth and tensing up pretty hard on the pencil, and making slow-ish, wobbly, too-thick lines with all kinds of problems. But on the neck and shoulders, once all the pressure of that face was past, I loosened up and made quick, light, somewhat-accurate-ish lines, not quite as good as I think Jeff is looking for, but close. Then I was even able to go back and re-draw some of the worse lines on the face and make them better too. Apparently I'm now able to release my death-grip on the Conte pencil!!

And in related news, my B pencils came in today - I had started the warmup page below with the 2B's I've had all along, but was able to finish it up with a B, and it makes a noticeable difference. Easier to draw lighter, and to control shading - it doesn't automatically go all the way to solid, heavy blacks. Also, I'm pretty happy with the core shadow on that sphere. I noticed I always tend to do them wrong - the terminator should be an ellipse around the center of the sphere, like an equator line, and I always tend to make them too high. But this time it looks much better to me - though maybe I'll go all critical on it tomorrow, who knows? Pro tip - the drawing below got a lot of help from an eraser - otherwise the shading wouldn't be so smooth and nice. Not the way we're supposed to do it, but Im just playing around, and I felt like I need to start making some decent looking drawings, even if it means cheating. So good for the morale when working on something as difficult and frustrating as Asaro heads and Reilly abstractions!

And finally - I've had to go back and refresh my understanding of the Loomis head construction method. In particular, placement of eyes in profile view - how far back they sit, and placement of the hairline. I was pretty arbitrary with where I put it before, but it needs to be placed pretty carefully, since it gives you the standard of measurement you'll build the rest of the face from - a little bit off and you end up with a really long or short face.

Watched all but 2 of the videos from Figure phase 1 today. Looks like it isn't going to be as hard for the most part (he said arrogantly... ) - except for the planes and Reilly figure stuff. I'm starting to understand the approach Jeff is putting u through - first you get control over your drawing instrument. Then, once that's been established, you can loosen up again and get a bit sketchy - but without losing accuracy.

Ok, here's more pictures to look at:

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

"I have not failed - not once! I’ve eliminated ten thousand options."

That's Thomas Edison of course, on having to try apparently 10,000 different filament materials before he discovered carbonized bamboo fiber worked the best. I've seen it worded a few different ways - I've used my own slightly altered wording that I think works a bit better.

I'm in sort of the same place right now, though I've only 'failed' twice at drawing the Reilly head abstractions from memory. Or, as I prefer to think of it, I've identified the problem and now can begin on the solution.

Fortunately, I have Jack Faragasso's book Mastering Drawing the Human Figure, which does overcomplicate the abstractions, but presents them in a very precise way that's easy to understand. It's about hearing it put the way you need to hear it. The book by itself made it all too complicated and i wasn't sure how to simplify it, and the Watts approach  left me not sure what all the lines were (until I consulted the book). But they taste great together like peanut butter and chocolate!

Yeah, I won't be posting pics today...

Monday, July 13, 2015

Image dump

Here are the drawings from the last 2 days in no particular order - a few Reilly head abstractions, some basic form practice, and a lot of warmup pages. Wow, that little octagon on every picture is a little annoying, isn't it? It's because the camera was pointed almost directly into the light. Need to adjust the system slightly.

Sleep on it - daily practice, incremental growth

It's a well known fact that the brain processes new information while you're sleeping. Consequently, there's actually no point in doing too much on a given day, or trying to take in to much new info. Just take bite-sized chunks and chew on them all day (keep thinking about what you're learning) and digestion will occur in your sleep. It;s just like the way I've been learning speedbag - push yourself just a little beyond what you can already do each day and practice for a while, then the next day you'll be better at it. In a week or 2 you can get a lot of learning and growing done this way - it actually lets the new information get into your subconscious (eventually - for that you need to keep practicing for weeks if not a month or more) and when THAT happens then you can do it intuitively without needing to consciously think about it every time. That's the goal with all this drawing stuff - the subconscious is so much better and faster than the clumsy conscious mind.

Sorry no pics - I've been drawing each day (though yesterday I watched far too any of the Watts videos and downloaded ALL of the workbooks for the entire Drawing section) - but I just don't feel like lugging all these sheets of newsprint upstairs and taking pics of them all - not worth it yet. My dexterity is improving though, and I'm learning how to solve the common problems associated with drawing basic forms accurately and clearly.

Friday, July 10, 2015

Heads phase 1 --- lay-ins assignment done

1st assignment done. Heh - actually I sort of skipped ahead to the heads assignments because I'm eager to start learning the Reilly abstractions and the Asaro planes - I really was supposed to do both of the Fundamentals phases first, but I promise I'll do them! Anyway, in no particular order, here are my assignments, a bunch of practice heads, and my warmup pages:

I'm actually starting to get the feel for working with the pencil held backwards. Just like Jeff said in one of the videos, at first it feels like drawing with your left foot - but after a while I sort of found how to adjust my grip and make it do my bidding, and I'm starting to feel like I'm getting some control over now. It helps so much that you're allowed to lay your hand on the paper and slide it around - allows so much better precision!! I'm starting to draw extremely carefully and make all necessary corrections, the way I used to do long ago.

I'm starting to get it about the pierre noire pencils - they actually are the best pencils I've ever used. As I mentioned yesterday, you can go from the lightest feather mark to a solid dark in one stroke if you want - just by adjusting pressure. With graphite (my former favorite) you can't get a single pencil to do that - you need to use either a dark one or a light one. And to completely trump graphite - charcoal doesn't get shiny when you lay it on thick. You can scan a drawing even if it has heavy dark areas and it still comes out the way it's supposed to look! Yep - I understand now why they're the best pencils on planet earth. Now I just need to get used to holding them all backwards and upside-down..