Thursday, December 17, 2009

Thought of The Day Dec 17, 2009

This was posted in response to a fellow artist asking for advice.

"I want to have my own style. And I'm not quite sure how to develop that. I wonder if I should copy the greats for a while? Or if I should start all of my drawings with a grid for now?

Do you ever use a grid to start a drawing? I'm sure you've tried it ... but, what I'm wondering is: Will using a grid keep me from naturally distorting things? I like drawings that show a love for the medium, have a sense of realism but also have a bit of playfullness in them too.

So, grids or no grids?

Copying the greats? Frazetta, Kirby, You?


"Drawing from the right side of the brain" and its exercises ... drawing stuff upside down and what not ... what do you think of that book?"

I haven't seen any of your drawings so I don't know whether you need to develop your own style or if you need to learn how to draw from scratch, I mean, basic drawing, anatomy and such.

Searching for a style without at least understanding the fundamentals of how to draw the human figure makes absolutely no sense to me.

Since I don't know, I will attempt to answer your questions assuming you have a basic understanding of the female form:

First some sermonizing: In my opinion, style is a natural byproduct of years of relentless practice, observation and problem solving, it is a set of personal responses (solutions) to the many challenges an individual artist confronts while attempting to depict his/her subject and his/her individual needs. Style is by definition something unique to the individual. Copying someone else's "style" without first developing your own ways to solve designs problems, via your own personal experiences, careful observation and obsessive practice, is a counterproductive measure.

What I'm saying to you is not new, people way more qualified than yours truly have said and wrote pretty much the same stuff for as long as I can remember, it's common sense to me. Nothing qualifies me as a teacher so I will tell you this as a fellow student.

I don't advice anyone to copy other artists in order to develop their own style, maybe you can do that for fun if you are a child but for a grown man such as yourself, copying from comic books is a useless exercise. I am not a moralist so this is not an issue of theft or dishonesty. Copying from other artists just doesn't work as a learning tool when you're 41 years old.

Whenever you copy others you are only furthering their cause, not yours. If you, for instance, are successful at faithfully copying the way Frazetta draws, your drawings will inevitably look like Frazetta's, which may seem fine by you since he is such a great artist but people will see only Frazetta in your drawings, they won't see you and more importantly YOU will not see you.

You would, in fact, be perpetuating Frazetta's legacy, not your own. If you don't have a problem with that, perhaps you and I have less in common than you think.

To be influenced by others is not an excuse to become a clone, all clones are losers, they hide behind the word "influence" as if it's something to be proud of, when in fact, it's quite the contrary.

Another huge issue with mimicking someone else's style is that whatever flaws the original artist has, which are read as intrinsic parts of his/her unique character, are in a sense, camouflaged by his/her 'style'.

In your case, however, you would be copying his/her mistakes and flaws as well as his/her idiosyncrasies, without having arrived at them through the natural process of personal exploration and discovery. By doing this you will be amplifying his/her mistakes, which would then become more blatant, so that what may seem whimsical or cute in his/her drawings, in yours may be perceived as awkward, contrived and even grotesque.

This is true in any artistic endeavor, music, acting and such. If you are not serious about learning to draw, then discard all I said here and go have fun copying at will. Just don't ask me for advice again. There are some how-to books by Christopher Hart that can serve you better.

I say this with nothing but fondness and good will towards you.

Instead of copying someone else's style you should find artists who are great at drawing (interpreting) aspects of the figure which you have trouble depicting.

Let's say you have trouble drawing hands, then observe and study how other artists draw them by copying just their hands in an effort to understand how they are put together. You could do the same with other elements (body parts) such as feet and hair.

The best artists have already spent ungodly amounts of time, talent and brain power studying and decoding the human figure, their shapes and lines are streamlined and the complicated things are stripped to the bare essentials, that's why the best artists need just a few lines to explain complex objects, If you must, copy these elements, again, not to pass as your own art but to help you learn how to solve this issues in your own drawings.

On your own you should do lots of life drawing and plenty of keen observation. For example, pay attention at how women differ from men, even though we basically have the same skeleton and muscle structure; find the differences and exaggerate them. For instance, women have shorter torsos, which gives the appearance as if their legs are arms are longer and more slender, so make their torsos shorter and the extremities longer and thinner. Hips are wider so make them even wider, shoulders are narrower and so on and so forth. It's not rocket science but it takes lots of observation and practice to get these things right.

Observe how fatty tissue defines a woman. For instance, If you want to make a woman look younger, give her a rounder face, bigger eyes and a big head. Observe how women move about, how they stand, how they talk and what makes them so uniquely female. A woman accumulates more fatty tissue than a man in certain areas, like the back of the knees, the back of the arms (and other less obvious places) and slightly accentuate them. Women themselves do not appreciate this extra fat but you must live by it.

Once you have learnt these differences, visualize and identify them on every woman you want to draw and amplify them, rather than just copying what you have in front of you, whether live or photo reference.

Get familiar with your subject matter. If you have a wife or a girlfriend, treat her kindly, make her your goddess and your muse. Whenever you get a chance, run your fingers softly all over her fatty tissue and her extruding bones (and everything else) as if you were sculpting and molding the finest of clays so that when you draw her, your mind can make that emotional connection. If you don't know what a real woman feels like and smells like, there's no way you could ever learn to draw an imaginary one, convincingly and with confidence.

Now regarding the use of a grid— I don't see the point of a grid, unless you are transferring or scaling a drawing.

"Drawing from the right side of the brain" is for people who are not serious about drawing. This book is perfect for children with ADD, weekend hobbyists and ladies who live alone with at least 6 cats.

I'm going to post this reply on my blog, because I get these same questions all the time. Hopefully this will save me from typing this again :).

Have yourself a wonderful holiday season!