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    Adding life to drawings

    One person on gamefaqs a while ago criticized my drawing as not having much life in it, and I found this to be an intriguing critique. How does one make their drawing have "character" and feel alive? I know mine aren't since I was just drawing from photographs but what about in general? And what would I be able to do to get my drawings to have life?

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    I don't speak out of experience or skill, but I bought this book and it helped with a lot of the thinking process of drawing, now I just have to learn how to apply the knowledge I got from this book to my drawings.

    I read the whole thing in two days, so if you sit down and read it through in a short amount of time you will learn a lot of stuff, take your time and follow everything in it.

    Also, a thread was recently made about this book and a bunch of people said it really helps. I will have to check it out myself.

    Drawing Lessons from the Great Masters, written by Robert Hale

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    first off, gamefaqs probably isnt the most reliable source for accurate feedback pertaining to art appraisal.

    several aspects can add 'life' to the image, there is no one universal answer.
    the reason for this is because such an aspect is subjective, and liable to change depending on the viewer.

    most 2D classes will have you do simple projects which deal with eliciting ideas with simple shapes (such as four black squares). it's remarkable how much life you can give to such a simple object, through orientation, size, scale, direction and placement you can create a variety of situations. i suggest you try with small tasks like this. seeing how you can create tension, balance, harmony, repitition, isolation, etc. with only basic elements.

    the purpose of assignments similar to this is to have the artist think critically about how formal objects work in relation to one another to convey an implied message. making a composition 'playful' for instance, does not need a cute child and crayon marks, anything can depict the right emotional quality if in the hands of a skilled artist.

    all of what i said is nothing to say of line, texture, color, form, and other aspects of design. this is why i said the is no single answer, the options available are near limitless.

    i would suggest posting your work in the Critique Center so that it may be more accurately appraised, as i'm taking wild guesses as to the nature of how a piece can be seen as 'lifeless'

    ps: are they zombie drawings? if so, that would explain much.

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    kev ferrara is offline Registered User Level 17 Gladiator: Spartacus' Dimachaeri
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    Quote Originally Posted by FlameDragon View Post
    One person on gamefaqs a while ago criticized my drawing as not having much life in it, and I found this to be an intriguing critique. How does one make their drawing have "character" and feel alive? I know mine aren't since I was just drawing from photographs but what about in general? And what would I be able to do to get my drawings to have life?

    Photographs capture the surface of things for one static moment.

    Art captures the artist and life force.

    Art exists by itself. You must invest dramatic spirit into your work. You cannot get this from a photograph because a photograph was "drawn" by mechanical means.

    You must feel emotional as you do art. You can be technical too, but never coldly technical.

    Try to get imbalance and tension in your work. Design the smallest items to the figures to the composition as a whole to have dynamic angles, lightning bolt shapes, spirals/helixes, stepping stairs, teetering shapes... have your figures caught in the act of moving, in between one movement and another (thus off balance), have torsional twist not just to the hips, but to every limb, the wrist the neck the shoulders the jaw, etc. Of course the torsional twist does not have to be a violent twist, it can be subtle... but investing your forms with torsional twist at all, will give it life, even in poses that would normally be static.

    Think of everything as silhouettes. And think of silhouettes as black ghosts in a disney film. Think how much expression, without words, a black ghost shape can have. Then apply that to every aspect of your art, from the stroke of your brush, to the largest compositional shapes in your pictures.

    Give everything character. Don't just render something so it looks like what its supposed to look like. Make everything personal. And your work will become personal. And this will automatically bring life to your work.

    kev

    At least Icarus tried!


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    Quote Originally Posted by kev ferrara View Post
    Photographs capture the surface of things for one static moment.

    Art captures the artist and life force.

    That's nicely said.

    www.tomvandewouwer.com

    "There is no such thing as 'accurate drawing'. There is beautiful
    drawing, and ugly, and nothing else." JAD Ingres, Ecrits sur l'art
    (1780-1865)"
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    Quote Originally Posted by kev ferrara View Post
    Photographs capture the surface of things for one static moment.

    Art captures the artist and life force.

    kev
    yes yes, but don't make it sound as though photography cannot be an art.
    in the proper hands it captures the very essence of the subject.
    it steals a bit of their soul *dun dun duuuun!*

    but i'd agree the vast (vast) majority of photography is thoughtless point-n-click documentation with no real concentration on quality of light, composition, formal relations, etc.

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    Saying that a drawing "lacks life" is a lousy critique on its own. A helpful critique will tell you something concrete enough that you can actually do something about it without consulting a mystic. Some examples of better critiques would be, “this drawing lacks life because the interesting patterns created by the silhouette of the potted plant are lost against the patterned background” or “this drawing lacks life because the figure is in a stiff frontal pose that doesn’t tell the story as well as it could if he were turning at the waist and reaching dramatically for the McGuffin”.

    I think you are awesome, and I wish you the best in your endeavors, but I am tired of repeating myself, I am very busy with my new baby, and I am no longer a regular participant here, so please do not contact me to ask for advice on your career or education. All of the advice that I have to offer can already be found in the following links. Thank you.

    Perspective 101, Concept Art 101, Games Industry info,Oil Paint info, Acrylic Paint info, my sketchbook.
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    Quote Originally Posted by FlameDragon View Post
    And what would I be able to do to get my drawings to have life?
    My 2 cents...

    Experience life first. This goes well beyond the idea of "draw from life". Sure, if you can sit in front of live nude models and bring a sketchbook to a park and sketch all you see that works but experiencing it is getting out there and really paying attention. Even if you don't have your sketchbook with you, just observe - constantly. Go to a club, a bar, a restaurant. Sit at a coffee shop. Walk around a mall. Go to places you don't normally go but where you still feel comfortable. Go to a Pet store and watch peoples reactions to the animals. Watch kids at play in a Chuck E Cheese. Hang around some old folks playing chess in a park. I have to believe that the small details and nuances of life as it goes by is rewarded at some point in your work. Just as people say the key to great communication is to shut up and just listen, sometimes you just want to stop doing and start watching. To watch though you have to be there. Don't sit in front of the tv or at a video game all the time. Don't just look at people in cool photos sitting along the beach. Drive to one and experience it. When you start drawing you will remember those little experiences and they will show in your work.

    As far as technical stuff goes, maybe focus on the hands and eyes. Hands show great emotion and are often neglected because they are difficult to nail down. Eyes show great emotion. If you draw something, think of the function behind it. Make it feel lived in and there for a purpose. Sure a gas mask is really cool but does his outfit reflect that? Does he have the marks of some chemical burn? Does his costume show his world is post-apocalyptic? A dude with a huge metal plate over his mouth might look cool and gritty but think about how he would eat? That might lead into other design choices (maybe tubes to absorb materials, etc.). Overall, it will make the piece feel more "real".

    Check out Pixar movies and their behind the scenes stuff where they talk about why they made the choices they made. They do a fabulous job of giving life and emotion into everything - fish, robots, cars, whatever.

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    Quote Originally Posted by FlameDragon View Post
    I know mine aren't since I was just drawing from photographs but what about in general?
    whos says you can't have lively drawings from photographs? we're not even talking about paintings, which with the addition of value and color are more susceptible to the faults of poor photography.

    if you carefully and accurately draw a person from a photo you will have 'life'. sure there are things you can tweak but if you are drawing lumpy, generic things obviously no one is going to associate with it.

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    Without an example, this is just kinda shooting in the dark here, but from what I understand, a dynamic picture is something that's rather exaggerated beyond what actually happens, but instead more represents how we percieve something to be happening. I read a lot of manga(wait, don't jump ship just yet), and one thing I noticed is that manga that feel faster paced and more action packed often grossly exaggerate the physically practical or even possible(in terms of movement not hair).

    But yeah, having that picture would help a lot since that critique can be interpreted as a lot of wildly different things.

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    lay into me as much as you like.
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    kev ferrara is offline Registered User Level 17 Gladiator: Spartacus' Dimachaeri
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    Quote Originally Posted by stevekim View Post
    whos says you can't have lively drawings from photographs? we're not even talking about paintings, which with the addition of value and color are more susceptible to the faults of poor photography.

    if you carefully and accurately draw a person from a photo you will have 'life'. sure there are things you can tweak but if you are drawing lumpy, generic things obviously no one is going to associate with it.
    In my opinion, photographs are at least as likely to enfeeble an artist, as enable him/her. It takes quite a trained artist to withstand the lure of surety that photographs supply. And that training, in my opinion, should come through the direct observation of the gamut of experience.

    This is not to say that one can't make fantastic drawings and paintings using photo reference. But the fantastic-ness would stem from the artist, not the photo.

    To just copy a photo would not bring "the life" that FlameDragon means. (Assuming I have understood him correctly). Life is manifested in art by the will of the artist. If the will is to craft a duplicate of a photograph, the consideration of the artwork as a manifestation of personal force is bound to be neglected.

    At least Icarus tried!


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    Quote Originally Posted by kev ferrara View Post
    In my opinion, photographs are at least as likely to enfeeble an artist, as enable him/her. It takes quite a trained artist to withstand the lure of surety that photographs supply. And that training, in my opinion, should come through the direct observation of the gamut of experience.

    This is not to say that one can't make fantastic drawings and paintings using photo reference. But the fantastic-ness would stem from the artist, not the photo.

    To just copy a photo would not bring "the life" that FlameDragon means. (Assuming I have understood him correctly). Life is manifested in art by the will of the artist. If the will is to craft a duplicate of a photograph, the consideration of the artwork as a manifestation of personal force is bound to be neglected.
    That's exactly what I mean. Since I draw from photographs so much, my art feels stiff and doesnt feel "my own" (well, it isnt since I'm drawing from something). I'm trying to get to the point where I can draw things from my mind to represent my perception and the way I feel about things.

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    kev ferrara is offline Registered User Level 17 Gladiator: Spartacus' Dimachaeri
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    I would suggest drawing from life a lot. And from your imagination a lot.

    Copying over Bridgman's anatomy books will be a great help in the latter.

    Maybe experiment and try out some styles of highly varied but all "alive" artists. Like Ralph Steadman, J.C. Leyendecker , Frazetta, Mignola, Djurjevic, Sienkiewicz, NC Wyeth, Fechin, etc.

    You can always go back to photography once you find out what kind of things truly interest you visually.

    At least Icarus tried!


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    My problem is that I find myself unable to draw from imagination. I look into my mind and try to think of things but I cant form a good mental image

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    kev ferrara is offline Registered User Level 17 Gladiator: Spartacus' Dimachaeri
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    Post some of your life drawings. Not from photos. But drawing from life. Shoes, tables, people, plants, buildings... etc.

    If you don't have 25 good life drawings of all kinds to show... that's your problem right there.

    At least Icarus tried!


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    Quote Originally Posted by kev ferrara View Post
    Post some of your life drawings. Not from photos. But drawing from life. Shoes, tables, people, plants, buildings... etc.

    If you don't have 25 good life drawings of all kinds to show... that's your problem right there.
    Yeah I dont have drawings of those, only drawings I did at the open life drawing sessions. Many times I'd go onto the bus and try drawing things outside as the bus passes by, but I dont see the object long enough to draw even an impression.

    So I should just draw everything I encounter in daily life?

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    kev ferrara is offline Registered User Level 17 Gladiator: Spartacus' Dimachaeri
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    Quote Originally Posted by FlameDragon View Post
    So I should just draw everything I encounter in daily life?
    Yes. And don't forget to have fun while you're doing it.

    At least Icarus tried!


    My Process: Dead Rider Graphic Novel (Dark Horse Comics) plus oil paintings, pencils and other goodies:
    http://www.conceptart.org/forums/sho...d.php?t=101106

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    Quote Originally Posted by FlameDragon View Post
    That's exactly what I mean. Since I draw from photographs so much, my art feels stiff and doesnt feel "my own" (well, it isnt since I'm drawing from something). I'm trying to get to the point where I can draw things from my mind to represent my perception and the way I feel about things.
    Kev makes some very good points and his advice is absolutely sound. However, if you must use photographs then try to draw about what the photograph is of and not the surface of the photograph. The problem you are having is almost certainly that you are just listlestly mapping the contrasts you see before you. Try to draw how you understand the structure of what the photograph is of. This will immediately start to put 'life' into what you are doing which no amount of 'working more freely' adding speed lines, 'more dynamic poses' can ever do.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Seedling View Post
    Saying that a drawing "lacks life" is a lousy critique on its own. A helpful critique will tell you something concrete enough that you can actually do something about it without consulting a mystic. Some examples of better critiques would be, “this drawing lacks life because the interesting patterns created by the silhouette of the potted plant are lost against the patterned background” or “this drawing lacks life because the figure is in a stiff frontal pose that doesn’t tell the story as well as it could if he were turning at the waist and reaching dramatically for the McGuffin”.

    Yep, that was what I was thinking. Recently read a comment like this from a friend given by his mentor and he wasn't even able to justify it. It not even worth to pay attention unless they give you directions in what to improve.

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    Quote Originally Posted by kev ferrara View Post
    You must feel emotional as you do art. You can be technical too, but never coldly technical.

    I agree with this completely. And also its no good for example in digital painting to have all the brushes you can think of when you don't know the basics ( composition, perspective, lightning, value etc...)

    Stunning and very lively artwork can be created with a few strokes of your pencil.

    Quote Originally Posted by FlameDragon View Post
    My problem is that I find myself unable to draw from imagination. I look into my mind and try to think of things but I cant form a good mental image
    I can't believe you say this. If no inspiration comes to you. look qt the world AROUND you. take your monitor and convert it into a space port into another dimension with cheese and cornflakes running around...I don't know. The world is filled with so many interesting things its impossible to be bored in it. So much to see, so much to learn from. You have the chance to live now and well if art is your passion then I have one word to give you (I also say this to me all the time!) DRAW



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    Quote Originally Posted by Chris Bennett View Post
    Kev makes some very good points and his advice is absolutely sound. However, if you must use photographs then try to draw about what the photograph is of and not the surface of the photograph. The problem you are having is almost certainly that you are just listlestly mapping the contrasts you see before you. Try to draw how you understand the structure of what the photograph is of. This will immediately start to put 'life' into what you are doing which no amount of 'working more freely' adding speed lines, 'more dynamic poses' can ever do.
    When I do, it starts coming out not proportional and such. It mainly looks good when I meticulously use a ruler to mark on my paper where all the forms are going to be

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    Quote Originally Posted by FlameDragon View Post
    When I do, it starts coming out not proportional and such. It mainly looks good when I meticulously use a ruler to mark on my paper where all the forms are going to be
    ah but no one can expect to create great artwork at their first few tries. it all comes down to the same thing. Practice and perseverance is something you must always have. Raise your head and look ahead. I also have that often, I see other talented artists work and so I get inspiration. I start out some artwork and I see its not as good so mu moral is down but that cannot happen. I have learned to admire their art and then improve mine also. if a painting looks ugly I still keep it so that I can look back at it later. I learn from my mistakes.

    So if the picture doesn't look good, put it in a folder and start again until you are satisfied. You'll improve in no time with hard work, practice and looking ahead

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    Quote Originally Posted by FlameDragon View Post
    When I do, it starts coming out not proportional and such. It mainly looks good when I meticulously use a ruler to mark on my paper where all the forms are going to be
    Take a look at some good cartoons of famous people. Absolutely full of life and certainly using reference material but taking huge liberties with where things are that do not relate to the proportions on the ref material at all. When people ask me how I get likeness it is all to do with sensing the internal rythms of the structure - if you get that working then the thing will look right no matter how odd the proportions are. Have a look at Modigliani, El Greco, Giacometti, - stuffs all over the place yet feels 'right' and alive. Nearer to home, look at some of the character designs on here - nobody has the proportions and physiques of these things yet some of them are marvelously alive and 'true'. Look at the characters on 'The Incredibles' - proportions all over the place yet utterly convincing even in the static publicity stuff.
    This is even going on in a Rembrandt or a John Jude Palencar, exactly the same principle, only it is a quieter version of it.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Chris Bennett View Post
    Take a look at some good cartoons of famous people. Absolutely full of life and certainly using reference material but taking huge liberties with where things are that do not relate to the proportions on the ref material at all. When people ask me how I get likeness it is all to do with sensing the internal rythms of the structure - if you get that working then the thing will look right no matter how odd the proportions are. Have a look at Modigliani, El Greco, Giacometti, - stuffs all over the place yet feels 'right' and alive. Nearer to home, look at some of the character designs on here - nobody has the proportions and physiques of these things yet some of them are marvelously alive and 'true'. Look at the characters on 'The Incredibles' - proportions all over the place yet utterly convincing even in the static publicity stuff.
    This is even going on in a Rembrandt or a John Jude Palencar, exactly the same principle, only it is a quieter version of it.

    You make a very good point

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