The interior shot of your tent concept is incredible. Can't wait to see it developed further. I just started back with art last year at age 30, so it's great to see that it isn't impossible to get some work at a later stage in life. I just have about five years of mileage to make up for
The download manager was working for me today, so maybe they sorted it?
anyway... someone has been asking for some drawing instruction online, so i did these to help explain some things. thought i would put them up here in case they're useful to anyone else.
chevy--Thanks man! I'm lucky to have a second shot at it. But it's been a long ride and i've been pursuing this pretty steadily in one form or another since about 1998. didn't have access to some opportunities until i moved to california, and even then the industry changed pretty drastically. but that's what's exciting about it. just grab the tiger's tail and hold on, yknow.
kingkostas--Thanks dude! much appreciated!
xinranliu, paberu, yemi775--thanks everyone! i'm gonna try to keep plugging away at it as time permits.
Thanks for those tracing tips. Crazy ... it never occurred to me to use tracing as drawing practice. I always figured it was cheating. I'll try this out! I'm slowly picking up tips for drawing likenesses, and this might help.
Did you use these tracing techniques when you were first learning to draw?
1) this is the "ball or egg" form of the cranium. if you ever learn how to sculpt, there's a certain way to look at it as an egg. from the front it looks more spherical/circular. as you turn to the side view it changes a bit more to a kind of horizontal-ish oval. anyway... make it a round, spherical/oval.elliptical line. this is the brain case. Most importantly--DRAW THROUGH! do not draw a C-shaped line and leave it open. you want to have the rhythm of a closed, complete circle. the only way to do that is to literally draw a circle/oval and then lighten up the part you want to erase. this is very important in everything you do.
2) the line of the jaw and chin. the exact placement can be a little complex. for now, just try to get a feel for it. on some people it has a soft "corner" at the corner of the jaw. In some people it is just more round. depends on whether male/female, fat/thin, old/young, etc. the only rule is to find a good line for it.
3) The center line of the head. Notice that it turns and follows that round curvature of the top of the head. imagine you are drawing on something solid. Where it travels down through the nose/mouth, pretend it is mostly a flat front facial plane. do NOT travel to the tip of the nose; stay on the front plane of the face.
NOTES: these three lines determine EVERYTHING. despite their simplicity, their importance can not be overestimated. everyone's head is--in an ideal sense--symmetrical. even if you are looking at a 3/4 angle, you absolutely must capture the illusion of drawing a symmetrical form in 3D space. place that center-line very accurately.
4) This is a little complicated. The line of the "brow ridge." the top of it is a curve, but the sides have a little "tail" to them. notice the placement: on the skull those little "tails" on the sides are the sides of the eye socket. Notice how that curve captures BOTH eyes. you are not drawing each eye separately at this stage. to reiterate: by making the shapes on both right and left relate to each other, you reinforce the idea of symmetry in the viewer's eye.
5) These are tick marks for the top and bottom of the ear. very simple. enough said.
NOTES: Notice how johnny depp is technically looking up at you with a downward turned head. how can you tell his head's orientation? compare his ears to his eyes and nose. as the head points downward, you see the illusion of the ears moving "up". compare that with john wayne's head. his head is level, or horizontal. his ears more or less line up with his eyes/nose. compare that with Beetlejuice... obviously his ears are "lower" than his eyes and nose. and then look at Robert Downey Jr... you can tell his head is tilted slightly up because his ears are slightly "low" compared to his eyes/nose.
As the head turns up, you see more of those side edges of the (4) line. And, it curves upwards more. there is a technical reason for this. The brow/eye socket plane is tipped down/forward. so as you look "up" and "into" it you see more of it; and as you look down onto it, you see less and less. if that doesn't make sense now, don't worry. just notice that the eye socket "opens up" when you have a face pointing upwards.
Notice that at this point you already have the direction of the head in space fixed. you can tell what direction it is facing and what direction you are looking at it from. sometimes you can see hints of line (5) on the forehead due to a change in lighting.
6) this line goes from the corners of the brow/eye socket up over the cranium and down along the sides of the face... usually kinda to the outside of the mouth a little bit. there is no had and fast rule. This line is important because it separates the front plane of the head/face from the side planes. it is more pronounced on men than on women. in fact, most of these structures are. that's the general reason most people learn to draw based on a male model. all of these structures are apparent on women, but they are very subtle. that subtlety is hard for beginners to capture though.
7) go from those corners of the brow line "tails" more or less straight to the corners of the nostrils.
8) draw a more or less straight line across the bottom of the "eye bags" or bottom of the "eye sockets". again, draw a CONTINUOUS line across and then lighten up the middle part
NOTES: Now you have more or less defined the eye socket and the side planes of the head. NOTICE that the face is technically ALWAYS less wide than the cranium. even if you are looking dead-straight-on, you can see the side planes of the head because the face is slightly narrower than the cranium. this is important to understand.
STAGE 4 (these are complicated)
9) draw a curving line from the top corner of the ear towards the corners of the nose and spiraling into the corners of the mouth with a tiny little loop there. the meaning of the line is complicated. don't worry about it for now. treat it pretty lightly for now and darker at the corners of the mouth. we will revisit this line later and what it means. it is important for doing rendering and figuring out shadows.
10) draw a curve from the top corner of the ear downward to show the "bottom of the cheek." if possible, the rhythm of this line should feel like it connects to the line coming down from the opposite ear kind of like line (1).
NOTES: at this point take away your reference and look at what you've drawn. you should see a very solid-feeling construction of the head. it should feel like something symmetrical tipped or turned in space. it should feel like it has a definite direction and orientation. you should be able to tell if you are looking down or up at it.
DIFFICULTIES: many of your reference images have half of their face obscured in shadow and the top of the head obscured by hair. this makes everything difficult, but it also makes these relationships all the more important. speaking metaphorically, they serve as guides through dark or ambiguous passages. they give that feeling of structure when you would be otherwise lost or confused by ambiguous lighting. they solve problems.
HOMEWORK: go back and do this to all 100 heads. i know you're trying hard, but do this very consciously. be observant. be critical of your own work. if it is messy, clean it up or do it over again. it will take a while. you will be confused in places. doesn't matter. you learn thru repetition of this. and you will someday be quite surprised at how quickly you will create a mental model of the head and face and how quickly you will eventually progress if you master this.
diamandis-- i didn't learn to draw by tracing so much. by the time i was told to do this to practice, i was halfway decent at drawing, but this kind of tracing explained a lot of things very quickly and taught me to "see and design shapes." like just about every tutorial or advice column you will ever see, there's an element of universal truth--actively take control of your shapes, there are things that will help "most" of the time, and there are things that will help once in a while. the nice thing about it is that for the right student at the right time, it can be a real eye-opener. i know it sure was for me.
but it's not good to dwell on the tracing thing for too long. it serves a purpose, and once you get it you get it. if you do 100-200 of them, it's time to switch up and try something else.
I absolutely love post #2618 ! Thank you so much Chris for these very inspirational tutorials.
I have been studying with Glen Orbik and Jeff Watts, never had the chance to take classes from Mark, but the lineage is evident when I read your instructions about designing shapes based on anatomy knowledge.
I particularly enjoyed the Yoda demo. I do have one question though : When the shadow pattern forms a clear unit (such as in the Yoda example), where all the lights can be carved out and all shadow shapes connect to each other, it can produce a very powerful statement.
Now, how do you approach a situation, in a life drawing scenario, where you end up at a spot where there isn't much shadow mapping to design and most of the face is strongly lit?
I found myself really enjoying poses where I can carve out and design shapes, and I do struggle when most of the face is lit ... I would love to hear your suggestions! Thanks again
Tony--Thanks man! i went through the exact same thing at a certain point in my studies with mark. mark was never really explicit about that, but i kind of pieced together how to do that from other stuff that he taught me. nathan fowkes' painting classes have helped me out too, but it took me a while to grok what he was saying. i have about 4-5 different answers for that, but i have to draw them out to explain them. if i get a break later today i'll try to draw some of that stuff out and type it up.
ps: you are mentioning Nathan, I loved his charcoal class I took a few years back, I learned a lot, but I felt like Nathan is more into the "simple statement". His portraits were more about tonal studies and how to simplify/group . It lacked a little bit the "design" aspect. I don't know if you would agree with that. Nevertheless, he has some of the most powerful portraits I have seen.
OK... glad to see the site is kind of working again... (knocks on wood)
Tony00 asked me what to do if you can't see a lot of shadow shapes. There are a couple of strategies for this, and they depend on several things:
A) What are you drawing with? if you're using pen and ink, your options are different than if you're using charcoal. if you're working on a bright white surface, it's different than working on a toned surface. your strategy will change accordingly
B) Your intent. If you are literally trying to do as photorealistic a drawing as you possibly can under the circumstances, that's a certain kind of goal. but there may be others. You might want to make something mid-contrast to change the "mood" of a piece. or you might want to bump the contrast to emphasize one particular feature of someone's face, etc. or any combination thereof.
...and there are other factors as well. the point i'm trying to make in this is that it's not just "shadow shapes" that you observe or design. you observe everything and you design everything that goes into a picture. from a certain point of view, this is what separates an experienced artist from a beginner--you take control of every aspect of a picture that you possibly can. sometimes you don't really think about it too consciously or overwork it, but you have that option if it suits your goals. so in the grand scheme of things, this kind of control and freedom is liberating. you are free to manipulate absolutely everything to make your point instead of just worrying about it "looking right."
disclaimer1: these drawings are shitty, but they're the best i can do on a tight schedule. don't take them too literally. just get the point and move on.
disclaimer2: i'm trying to over-explain this stuff. not like i'm all high and mighty or anything, but if i explain it 2 or 3 ways, it might give different ideas to more people.
ok, so let's say you start with something like this. caucasian female, young to ambiguous age, ambient light, not really any shadows to speak of. the "rim light" that you see here is not so much due to a light source behind her, but more due to the "shininess" of her skin and the tiny hairs on her skin. you'll see this on a lot of surfaces, and it helps to distinguish one material from another. i might have drawn it a little too intense on her head.
right away, you should take this as one strategy. if you are drawing on a bright white surface, you have to realize that your only direction is "down" in value. you're not going to get any brighter than that surface. the same thing happens when you are painting digitally. you will see a lot of examples of character art and industrial design on a white background. this lends itself to a certain style of rendering and drawing. the big shape here is the silhouette. one big skin tone shape on a white background. when you don't have a lot of "internal" shadow shapes to guide you, sometimes you have to go back to the silhouette.
anyway, let's take this as a kind of "sample" of what you observe in an ambient, ambiguous lighting situation.
STRATEGY 1--go back to lines and overlaps. the easiest way to show form is to have one flat shape partially obscure another flat shape. the easiest way to show that is with lines that kind of "T-intersect" to show that overlapping form. the easiest place to see that on this is where the jaw overlaps the neck. i won't give you any hard and fast "rule" for rendering here, but whenever you have overlapping lines like this, you should try to notice a value change or gradation. in your picture, you can simply use line, or if you want to be painterly, you can use tone with that line as the "border" between tones.
STRATEGY 2--line = shape. lines themselves are shapes. they have length and thickness. comic book inkers are masters of getting the most out of simple varying lines. if you want to work in a very graphic style, you can push these lines until they are shapes in their own right. a lot of information can be conveyed. even deciding where to let the line fade into "nothing" and pick up again conveys information--look along her jawline. letting that line at the corner fade and then pick up again at the chin shows how i perceive the softness and overlapping forms of her jaw. deciding to put in lines for her nostrils but not the bridge of her nose shows an understanding of that anatomy as well--the nostril is defined enough in this view to use a line, but the softness of the nose turning into her facial plane is too gradual for a line.
doing these linear studies for a while can help a lot when you decide to go back to working tonally.
STRATEGY 3--CONTRAST Again, if you are working on a white surface, skin pretty much automatically looks darker than your paper, the same way even a pale person's skin looks darker than a bleached white t-shirt. rendering can be a matter of very precise control of values in these situations. the variable that you can manipulate is contrast. all i did here was a pure "Levels" adjustment in photoshop, but you should not think of these kinds of adjustments as simply "make the whole thing brighter" or "make the whole thing darker." you can selectively choose to boost certain effects, or you can choose to bump things in certain areas of the face to emphasize different features. that said, you have to be careful that the picture still works as a whole.
This strategy also works with your concept of line. if you can't find pure shape, it might be because you are looking for something with a lot of clear definition. on soft, round forms, you generally get soft, curved shapes with very poorly defined edges. in cases like this, sometimes it is better to treat things as gradients rather than shapes. the gradients will meet at those overlapping intersecting lines, and that's where you kind of define form with them. this kind of turns into a crucial understanding when it comes to drawing--the ability to decide whether you should draw something using a line, or whether you should use a tone, or whether you should blur or ignore it. that understanding has a big impact on your personal style.
STRATEGY 4 WORK ON A TONED SURFACE
STRATEGY 5 LOOK FOR LIGHT SHAPES INSTEAD OF SHADOWS.
These are kind of self-explanatory, but there are some insights i want to pass on along the way. This is one way i have learned to love to draw.
1) mark out proportions lightly with darker lines. these are all just construction lines and guides for everything else.
2) in a bright, ambiguous lighting situation, find the pointlike highlights, the line-like highlights and "overlap lights" and mark them.
3)go back and develop the dark marks into dark shapes
4) develop the white marks into light shapes. Begin to indicate the light gradients. notice whether they spread outward in all directions from a highlight, or whether they only fade off in one direction, etc. this is closely related to the idea of overlapping shapes.
5) Continue to expand gradients as necessary.
6) restate the brightest highlights, make them as graphic or as subtle as you feel like.
the two new things here are the idea that you can "invert" what you are looking for. just like you can look for a negative shape in a silhouette, you can look for a light shape instead of a shadow shape. instead of looking for a dark overlap or a dark outline of form, you can look for the bright plane changes. when you combine the dark and the light observations, you wind up with twice as much information, and twice as many options for rendering. the other new idea is to treat highlights directionally--as gradients spreading out from highlight shapes and lines. how you decide to design these things becomes another part of your personal style. look at leyendecker or struzan and you see just how graphically you can treat them.
alright, i hope this helps. there are other ideas you can try too, but these few kind of represent different aspects of "rendering" that i switch back and forth between when i draw and paint.
Thanks a lot Chris, I have been desperately waiting for the site to be back up and running to see your response!
Lots of good ideas to ponder. I personally work with charcoal pencils on newsprint (cheap medium to learn shape recognition, edge work and value control). I have always been impressed with the sense of depth you were able to get with lines only. Especially in the eyes (the thickness of the lids, the nice overlap between highlight and upper lid, all beautifully designed). Your demo here here is another great example.
I will definitely try to refrain from rendering and do more of these line exercises, might allow me to free myself from the "shadow search" ...