Archive | September, 2009

The advantage of having a pencil sketch in between

26 Sep

Look at these sketches of some character that came out of my imagination.

More caricature prep, part 12

They are basically the same sketch, but the bottom one is a revision of the top one. While I was finishing the top sketch I saw the ear was too close to the eyes. I know the head can be seen as a cube, with the eyes on the front and the ears on each side (left and right). The first sketch didn’t take that into account.

This is just an exercise, practice, but it still shows that it is handy to do some preliminary sketches before you commit to a final look. That isn’t very “street artist-y” of me. As a street artist you’re supposed to think on both feet, and not have the convenience of making preliminary sketches before committing to a final version. Your first version is your only version, final or not. If you do a bad job, you’re going to starve (or at least not have a good income) that day, probably depending on handouts from people who take pity on you, rather than on payment by satisfied customers.

I’m sure many studio artists would have a hard time working like that, because they seem to be so busy fussing about their sketches, searching for the best approach, weighing between art and commerce, between what you like and what the client wants.

If, on the other hand, you only get one opportunity to get it right, if you don’t have a safety net, you’d better make something special, something unique, people can’t get anywhere else. And be quick about it too, because people aren’t going to wait too long for you to finish. You probably also need to be somewhat of a talker too, to keep people’s attention with showmanship while you’re working, and to attract new potential customers from the passersby.

And you know what? While you may think you stink, others, who have less trained eyes, may appreciate your rejects, because they are so unlike a photograph. Anyone can take a snapshot (not really, but that is what they assume), but only few can draw.

Still, I feel I need more practice, more learning how to use the tools and see the world through the eyes of an artist. Can you sense how little confidence I have in my skills? I really shouldn’t, but I can’t help myself being an always present art critic, always thinking I could do much better.

That is all.

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More caricature preparation (conclusion of B-series)

26 Sep

These are the last two sketches in my B-series of preparatory drawings for caricature drawing. The outlines are done with a thin Faber-Castell PITT artist brush pen and the coloring is done with Copic markers on copier paper, using a sheet of paper underneath to capture any of the bleed-through marker fluid.

More caricature prep, part 11 (version 14) More caricature prep, part 11 (version 15

You can clearly see I’m still struggling with the coloring. I guess I have to be doing this for many years before I can put the colors down with any perceived confidence. Yeah, that’s a nice way of putting it. I won’t say it in a straight manner, because that would be too self-deprecating and hurt my artistic soul.

While I see benefit in foregoing the drafting part of a drawing, namely that you are forced to work fast and be confident, I also see disadvantages, namely that you can become sloppy and prefer producing effects instead of doing some solid drawing.

I see I’ll have to do some serious practice with pencil drawing, perhaps even take the blue pencil route, because the direct method doesn’t really seem to work for me. I’m too concerned about messing it up. I guess that’s fine if you do it, say, once a week, but doing it every day just kills the art, at least, my art.

So I’ll take one step back, hopefully to take two steps forward once I’ve figured out this drawing-humans and having a fine-tuned feeling for proportions thing.

Back to the drawing board it is.

That is all.

Copic markers have arrived

25 Sep

So my Copic Ciao markers arrived by mail order, and I couldn’t resist trying them out. I only ordered the colors that are useful for coloring faces, so clothing and such have to be done with these colors as well, for now.

I only used a few colors on this sketch. Except the black from the Faber-Castell markers, I used E00, E11 and E35 for the face and ears, R20 and E35 for the lips and R20 and E04 for the shirt, if I recall correctly. I guess I should develop some kind of system to notate which colors I used, so I can refer to it later.

More caricature prep, part 11 (version 13)

After I had done the coloring, I noticed two things:

  1. it is easy to leave white spaces
  2. the color bleeds through the page

The first simply means you have to be meticulous about your coloring and don’t miss a spot, especially with the “foundation color” (the lightest color in the face). The second means you have to put a piece of paper underneath your drawing to prevent it from ruining the paper underneath. One could use thicker paper, but that would only suck marker fluid into the paper, bleaching the color from the surface. I think a disposable piece of paper underneath leads to better result.

That is all.

Imagined versus referenced

25 Sep

I decided to compare how I did pure from imagination versus from a photograph on the computer screen. The subject was laughter. Why? Because this week’s episode of the Art & Story podcast gave me the gift of laughter. I finally understand why Jerzy laughs so much on the show. If you start making stories in your head and come across absurd situations, you can’t help but laugh out loud. I have never laughed so much on one day. Thanks, Jerzy and Mark for pointing me in the right direction towards telling your own comics stories.

More caricature prep, part 11 (version 11)More caricature prep, part 11 (version 12)

Both drawings need a bit of exaggeration, a bit of that absurdity that made me laugh out loud several times. I guess it is the statement caricaturists like to put in their artwork, not to make fun of someone in a harmful way, but to entertain people, make them loose themselves for a brief moment in a situation that is completely outside what we perceive as reality and would classify as preposterous and laughable, but still conforms to logic and reasoning. Humor is a very serious business and requires a lot of thinking on the part of the creator. It has to make sense, but be impossible at the same time. It is this contradiction which gives humor life.

That is all.

For the longest time

23 Sep

So I wanted to do someone famous. I picked Billy Joel as my model.

More caricature prep, part 11 (version 10)

I also did some limited coloring. Nothing fancy, though.

If you had kept count, you’d missed number 9 of this series (B-13). Here it is. I drew it earlier today, but didn’t think it deserved its own blog post.

More caricature prep, part 11 (version 9)

You probably see why. It’s not the best I’ve ever done.

That is all.

Test for symmetrical drawing

23 Sep

I wanted to test how good I was at drawing shapes with horizontal symmetry.

More caricature prep, part 11 (version 8) More caricature prep, part 11 (version 8), compared

Instead of just doing a visual inspection, I tried to do it with the help of an image editor. After I scanned the drawing, I aligned each shape around the horizontal axis (horizontal axis of the shape coinciding with the horizontal axis of the page). Next, I copied the resulting layer, and mirrored it horizontally. Then I set the layer mode to display the difference between the original and the mirrored layer. This gave me a mostly black image, so I laid a white layer on top, with the layer mode set to display the difference between it and the layers below.

You can see I made a mistake in the fifth line (forgot the H).

Of course, normally you would use the mirror page horizontally feature to check for proper horizontal symmetry in an image editor. However, you can’t export that into a static image.

That is all.

Left is right and right is left

23 Sep

In my pursuit to improve my drawing skills for caricature and cartooning, I searched for a photo of Mike Myers to manipulate and use as a reference to draw. What I was particularly interested in was the difference between the left and right side of the face. We think they are the same, but in reality they seldom are.

Mike Myers left side mirrored Mike Myers right side mirrored

As you can see from both the photos above, the left and right side are really nothing alike.

I tried to draw these photos as an exercise to train my feeling for symmetry.

More caricature prep, part 11 (version 6) More caricature prep, part 11 (version 7)

As I already feared, that feeling isn’t very well developed.

At this point I had filled several A3 sheets with schematic drawings of eyes, in the form of mirrored parallelograms, and most of them weren’t really mirrored (I measured them). I don’t know what that means. It could mean I lack the skill, or perhaps even the discipline to draw a horizontally mirrored image. I hope it is just the former, and it will improve with practice.

However, I noticed that if you put your mind to it, the results get better. I guess that means you have to use your brain and think about what you draw, rather than just “doodle” (draw mechanically without thought). This differs from the school of thought that promotes drawing what you see, from direct observation, in other words, the drawing-with-the-right-side-of-the-brain method of self expression. Apparently, if you want to draw more stylized, you can’t just rely on that part of the brain, you need to use some other parts as well, especially the reasoning part.

As I wrote yesterday, before you can draw something asymmetrical with intent, you first should be able to draw symmetry. It is an important skill to have as an artist, because many things in nature have some kind of symmetry, although not perfect (as in the human face). However, to notice what degree of asymmetry something has, you need to have a mental image what the symmetrical version of that something would look like. If you do, you know where what you see in real life differs from the “ideal”.

That’s about all the thoughts I have to share on this at the moment.