I don't know the "rules" of the mentoring forums. Maybe i should've looked for the Tutorials forums, but anyway I'm using this as a kind of classroom for things I get asked over and over.
So here are my rules/guidelines:
1. Please do not post your artwork here unless i give some kind of an assignment or experiment. If I don't ask for a character design of a bunny, don't post one here.
2.I will try to keep a theme for each lesson or group of lessons. Please stay on topic. (i.e. don't ask about oil painting if we're going to work on cross hatching.) Based on the natural progression of things we'll decide future topics together. Maybe I'll figure out how to set-up the vote/poll feature. If you have a question for a different topic, hold on to it for the time being. maybe i'll have to start a thread for suggestions...
3. By all means, share info with whoever you want. But please don't print this stuff out and try to pass it off as your own. I could easily go teach a class and charge money, but I want people who don't have access to a teacher due to where they live to have free access to what I know. At some point in the future maybe I'll want to make a book or something, you know... Don't be a dick or the karma police will come and get you.
4. don't be a jackass. you know what i mean. ...yes... you know what i mean. no shit-talking, no threats, no whining, no favoritism, none of that.
5. you don't have to enroll or sign up or ask me permission or anything like that. i help as my time and circumstances permit. you're free to come and go as you please.
Last edited by ccsears; February 9th, 2008 at 05:06 AM.
Anyway, you guys know how prone i am to rambling motivational speeches. Someone asked me the following question online the other day, and I tried to write a helpful, but honest response. There's a bunch of anectdotal rambling in there as well.
"I have only one question this time (expect more later ) and its probably very frequently asked one: Do you know any magic trick that would help me with my discipline (I feel shitty asking this)? I mean, without teachers I need a lot of self discipline and I kinda lack there. I set myself a goal on a new year that I would do at least a self portrait or a master study a day but it lasted about 20 days... so I'm trying now with schedule (with minimaly 2h of drawing a day) and hoping it will last."
It's a good question, but a difficult one to answer. A while back, I took a short seminar with Nathan Fowkes called "From Student to Professional" that was based on more or less the same question. He made several concrete suggestions. I'm including some of them here with my own thoughts.
Drawing or painting regularly is just as difficult as starting an exercise program or losing weight on a diet. In order to make it work, you have to make drawing/painting so convenient and enjoyable that you can't come up with an excuse not to do it. This is more or less what led Nathan to start painting those small landscapes with his portable watercolor/gouache kit. (If you haven't looked at his page, you really need to--http://nathanfowkes.blogspot.com) He miniaturized his paintings and tools so that he could take them everywhere. By concentrating on smaller bite-sized chunks of art, he made it possible to get a painting study done in 30 minutes during lunch, or in his car on the drive to or from work. He made it so easy and fun to put in mileage that it became impossible to not do it. And look at his work--it obviously paid off!
Nathan has a natural grasp on watercolor and gouache. Personally, i found it too frustrating to get much work done the same way. So, one lesson to keep in mind is that solutions to these problems can be very different from person to person, but the underlying problem remains the same.
One significant problem I have experienced is that I sometimes find it very difficult to concentrate if there are people I know around me. This doesn't apply for group life drawing sessions or whatever where a decent number of people makes it more comfortable, but more for personal work. Psychologically, it's just a sense of confinement--not enough space. And when you're not rich, maybe living at home, maybe renting a tiny, tiny room, it just makes you feel that much worse. When I was growing up, I used to skateboard a lot. At the time, I was living at a residential high school in a dorm, and I was a bit of a weird, shy, outcast kid on antidepressants. So I left every night at about 8pm and walked through the fields until I found some flat pavement I could skate on, and that was my personal space until 10pm curfew every night. It was close to a 2-3 mile walk/skate, so none of the other kids would bother following me. Skateboarding in general is a lot like that--you don't literally own the curb, the parking lot, the sidewalk, etc., but you make it your own when people aren't looking. Doing that at a young age taught me a lot about self-sufficiency, determination, and a healthy way to spend time by yourself without worrying about a lot of extra bullshit.
In college, I used to have certain "friends" and "acquaintances" who would bug me to help them write their essays and med school applications, etc. English wasn't their native language, so I helped them a lot, but eventually it turned into a situation where I wouldn't correct their English. On the contrary, I would end up doing it for them while they chatted on the phone to their girlfriends or whatever. I couldn't stay in my own apartment because they would come and bang on the fucking door if I didn't pick up the phone. So my solution was the same skateboarding one--I'd study or draw at a far-off, run-down McDonalds from 8pm till midnight. All it cost me was the price of a Coke. Not many people eat there after 8pm--mostly they go through the drive-thru. So you have a whole booth to yourself. A personal art studio. Granted, you've gotta make sure it's in a safe neighborhood and people won't steal your stuff if you go to the bathroom, but other than that it's yours for a buck a day. I did the same thing in Japan when I needed to study for my kanji character exam. I still do the same thing now.
In other words, feeling like you're trying to do a personal thing in someone else's space is going to fuck up your artwork. Do whatever it takes to find a way to make your space your own.
Understand that the stuff I'm talking about here doesn't work for large-scale oil paintings or whatever. But that's all polish and finish anyway. What's more important is getting your ideas down correctly and consistently. When you have 30 finished sketches that you can compose into a finished painting, then it's time to switch gears and paint at home. At that point, I kind of zone out anyway and run on auto-pilot. Most of the hard decisions come at the early stages of a drawing.
Another problem to think about is your materials. They have to work properly for what you want to do, but they have to be cheap and portable, easy-to-find if you move from city to city. For sketching out ideas and practicing, think about using typing paper. Get in the habit of using tracing paper or vellum to bring rough ideas in a sketch to a medium-level of finish. For drawing tools try ballpoint pen, pencil, mechanical pencil, drafting lead holders, sharpie markers, etc. Anything that's portable and not delicate. Charcoal doesn't work well on the road. For paints, acrylic and watercolor work best. I lean towards acrylic, but that's just me. If your materials are bulky, find a way to make them more compact. buy smaller tubes of paint, break your pencils in half and sharpen both ends. INVEST IN A GOOD ELECTRIC PORTABLE PENCIL SHARPENER--(that's very important in the long run).
Yet another problem is, quite frankly, ideas and the size of those ideas. People change their moods at different time scales. some things change from hour-to-hour, some things change from day-to-day, some things from month-to-month, etc. You might not always be in the mood to start working on a 200-hour painting, right? My general advice is to always start out with small ideas until you keep repeating yourself and you settle on something that you like. then take it to a medium-level. then finish it. usually, you will find that even more ideas pop into your head while you're working at that medium and larger level--it's a good habit to jot those down in a sketchbook so they don't clog up your brain. Usually they're pretty good ideas too. Understand that motivation comes in all kinds of sizes and shapes. As far as that goes--never compare yourself to other people. They might be at one part of their cycle while you're in an entirely different part of your own. Learn by watching them, of course, but don't let it frustrate you.
When you're working from imagination, realize that at least half of the time you're working from memory. If you don't draw regularly and consistently, your visual drawing memory will be weak at first. It works like a computer's RAM. you might have a ton of stuff stored in your head on the hard drive, but the drawing tools are stored in the RAM part of your head. needs to be instantly accessible. If you draw 100 heads, you can mix and match and exaggerate parts to come up with 1000 more. etc. etc. etc.
Psychologically, the worst thing about working from imagination is "writer's block." Staring at a blank piece of paper can drive you nuts. I had a friend in college who was doing graphic design work. She would get an assignment to do something she didn't really care about. "design a menu" or "design a logo" type stuff. she had trouble getting started even with thumbnails. As the deadline for her homework got closer and closer, she always wound up having to do last-minute stuff that she wasn't happy with. I used to tell her to look at the clock, and make a decision to spend 10 minutes drawing out ideas. If nothing worked, then stop. Look at the clock and come back in an hour and do another ten minutes. Only keep working if the "magic" is there. If you do that at work or at school daily, you might get a good 90 minutes of ideas over the course of the day, and you won't feel empty-handed at the end of it.
Whatever you decide to do, don't reinforce negative thinking about your artwork. It's better to stop drawing when you're just beating yourself up, and come back to it later. If you make a habit out of staring at a blank page, feeling confined about your drawing space or living situation, feeling poor because you don't have the cool art materials, etc. you're going to do some heavy damage to your motivation and it will take a lot more work to fix it.
As far as themes go... it's the same with the scale of your ideas. if you feel like you can take on the whole world, do something from imagination. if you want to just zone out and relax, pick a picture to copy. if you feel like seriously studying, pick an area to concentrate on. In the end, as long as you're making progress on mastering the fundamentals of composition, line, value, shape, form, color...you're doing the right thing. if you feel good about it, you'll do that much better at it.
As far as classes go... BE A GOOD STUDENT. If you were learning to play the piano, you would take lessons maybe once per week. But you would practice at home, memorize the pieces or scales and then get the teacher to correct them the next week. You would not ask the teacher to come home with you and spend 40 hours watching you practice, ignoring all of your other students. Teachers teach, students practice. You wouldn't believe how many rich kids and rich adults I've seen who still can't paint after being taught by the same teachers who taught me, some of them are truly legendary illustrators. You are supposed to show the results of your practice to the teacher. The teacher should then adjust your practice to correct your mistakes. That's the basics of forward progress as far as that goes. It's an easy, fundamental, human relationship. And it's one that should be respected and valued more. It's tragic that so many people fuck it up.
As far as long-term motivation goes... the rule of thumb that i've stated before is 10,000 hours before you're ready to start working professionally every day. some kids get that because they've been drawing non-stop since they were six years old. some people do that later. some people graduate college and still have to put in several years more work. but if you make it to that point where you're free to draw anything you want, however you want, in whatever style you want, then it's all worth it.
in a good way, 10,000 hours is a long time. there's more than enough time to spend some on thumbnails, and some on finished studies. Don't get in the habit of saying you're going to spend the next 10,000 hours doing 20 500-hour-long paintings. and don't defeat yourself by saying you're going to do 600,000 1-minute sketches either. you will eventually find the right mixture of practice and experimentation, quickness and deliberation to suit your needs and succeed.
Anyway, back to the beginning... it's a lot like exercise or dieting or learning a musical instrument. It's difficult because some aspects of it can be very lonely and private. It's difficult because many people have misconceptions that you have to be born an artistic "genius" to know how to do it. And it's difficult because so many people worry about making a living at it, worry about rankings in last man standing, worry about what some technical anatomist jerks off about, worry about uncovering the master techniques of 18th century France, etc. But in reality, it's the same as any other part of your life. You want to enjoy it, you want to express yourself in it, you want to be free in it.
That's the touchy-feely, feel-good, happy side of it.
The other side of it is. you're not meant to be a permanent prisoner of Art with a capital "A." Hey, kid. here's the same spoon i stole from the prison cafeteria. i dug a hole and broke out. now you dig a hole through that wall and break free. that pencil or that brush you're holding is your fucking spoon, man. that's all you've got, and you gotta break out using that. you can borrow a spoon from someone, but you've gotta dig that hole yourself.
Number777uknothing complicated. i just meant that you should use either a lightbox or tracing paper or vellum over your rough compositional ideas to clean them up as opposed to trying to re-do them completely. it's faster, and it keeps the spontanaeity of your original idea.
it's more for a medium-stage of work, although there are ways to make finished work from it. if you can find Seth Cole Dura-lene drafting acetate or the Graphix(?) Dura-lar stuff you can do finished black prismacolor tracings/sketches of your originals, and they will be pretty damn archival. those two surfaces have the advantage that they are incredibly erasable with no ghosting. you can literally erase black colored pencil right off the surface. sketching in prismacolor is very good for some kinds of artwork where you just want to scan in an image and pop some highlights in PS.
look at Mike Butkus' stuff. http://www.mikebutkus.net he's a very famous movie poster and DVD/game box illustrator. almost all of his finished black and white sketches are done like that. back in the 90's and 80's he used tracing paper and vellum. there are some other techniques you can use involving turpenoid to dissolve the prismacolor and blend it, etc.
basically, all i meant to say is that if you have to start over again from scratch every time you want to refine an idea, you're wasting a lot of time. sure, there's something to be said for persistence and practice making perfect, but once you reach a certain level of proficiency, it's just a waste of time.
Also, you should get in the habit of correcting your mistakes. A lot of teachers I've known have used tracing paper over students' drawings to show them how to correct their own work. If you feel like you've done a good job on something except for a mistake or two that would be difficult to repair--fix it on a sheet of tracing paper.
cheap tracing paper is usually shit. beware of generic stuff because it's meant for little kids to use. buy the medium grade stuff at least.
also, getting access to a cheap 24-hr xerox machine is a great resource. in the US we've got a bunch of Kinko's places everywhere. if you have a good thumbnail, blow it up to the size you want to work at and trace it to a finished state.
this gets back to the issue of being portable. you never know what crazy bullshit life may bring, so you want to be able to find basic drawing supplies wherever you wind up. it's a kind of survivalist approach. the more ability you have to get more finished work done under non-ideal circumstances, the better.
i deal with it when i fly back home to my parents' house for x-mas and holidays. i can't take my drafting table with me, and i usually forget to pack one thing or another. being able to walk into an office supply store and pick up 500 sheets of typing paper, ballpoint pens, tracing paper and some sharpie markers is a great comfort. with just that stuff you can get through the planning and prep stages for a finished 30x40 inch painting or more. and you can do as much quick sketching as you want. either way, no matter where you go, you can start from scratch for about 20$ US. That's pretty badass when you think about it.
if you rely on art stores for everything, you'll fall victim to certain luxuries. yeah, there are some things you can only get there--like oil paint. and unless you have a cool store near you, you're more or less just feeding a huge corporate outlet. and even in the good ones, you can easily spend more money on stuff you don't even have time to use. ordering stuff online is always cheaper, but it might take 2 weeks for the stuff to show up.
but the bottom line is that you should never let the absence of a good art supply store or lack of spending money prevent you from getting work done.
i learned all of this the hard way. i spent two and a half years bouncing around in a different hotel every two weeks for my job. you never know where life will take you, but you better know how to get some drawing done wherever you go.
hey ccesars, i love your work, yours was the first sb i saw upon joining ca, im 16 yrs old, studying art in the uk, and im just looking for new ideas, and id like it if i could join your mentoring group, i preffer pencil/ink and you can see some of my work in my sb, thanks
hi ccsears, after looking through your sketch book and your previous post in this thread you seem to have alot of wisdom and apparent skill, so i was wondering if you had chosen the mentorees already, if not is there any space for me?
pen/ink: let's say using any given pen (bic ballpoint. or finepoint sharpie) different techniques to render different materials. heck you were probably going to go over this anyway. but i'm thinking specific recognizable materials, i.e.: skin, chrome, glass, ... fiberous stuff (i.e. wool, jackets, jeans, etc). Tied into this is, i guess, generating the -right- level of details w/out going overboard and generating too much work for yourself to convey the idea/form/surface properly. (i guess that second one applies to every type of drawing medium.)
also i'm thinking techniques/strategies to improve line control. which, considering we're using pens this time would be important given in most cases you cannot just erase and try again.
pick and choose what you like. don't feel pressured to answer everything.
Thanx a lot for your time and effort mate, count me in in your mentoring group
i´m looking foward for the assigments
I would be very happy learning also the techniques to improving my line control.
Also some stuff that you mentioned in your sb thread like:
"getting to learn from the limitations on pen. like:
--how to make a soft edge with a "hard" media.
--how to commit to making a mark when you can't easily adjust it
--how to be comfortable leaving your construction lines as part of a piece.
--how to vary your hatching to suggest different planes
--how to indicate texture.
--how to lay in an even tone or a gradation"
think this is a very good starting point, imo.
Last edited by Azalin; February 9th, 2008 at 05:57 AM.
I. Considerations About Materials
Here's a huge understatement: pens vary greatly. With a ballpoint pen, I can get a faint scratching, printmaking kind of fine line or a smoothly varying line from light to dark. Speed across the paper and pressure on the paper control these things. But either way, the width doesn't change much. In other words, I can't use the side of the pen to get a big blur the same way I can use the side of a pencil. With other technical pens, there is no light-to-dark variation and no width variation. It's pretty much a static medium. At the other extreme is the old-fashioned nib pens that vary greatly. Beyond that, you can find a lot of examples where brush and ink are mixed in with pen work—but that's a bit outside the scope of what I'm talking about here.
Inks vary a lot too. You should always be "careful" in mixing different brand pens and inks in the same piece of work. Black is not always black. Ballpoint pen black ink is not the same as India ink or sumi-e style ink or Sharpie marker ink. Some are warm and look almost purplish, some are black as death. If you're just going to scan or Xerox your work anyway, it doesn't matter. But if you want to display something finished, you better be aware of that fact and know your materials well beforehand.
Paper plays a big role too. A rule for almost any type of paper drawing though is that you should draw on "stacks" of paper, probably at least 15-20 sheets thick. You want to have a little bit of "cushion" or "give" in the surface you work on. Some papers have more grain than others—that can affect how your pen performs on it. A few papers are actually abrasive—they will eat up a felt tip or plastic-nibbed pen. You should also check how stable the ink is on the paper, whether it smudges, if it takes time for the ink to dry on it, whether it bleeds, etc. It's a good habit for any medium to keep a scrap of the surface you're working on to test out marks—don't experiment on your finished work unless you can handle the risk of messing it up.
Exercise 1.1) Go to the art store or the office supply store and choose a pen you want to work with. Choose something cheap enough you can get a lot of and easy to find in case you want to buy more—at least a dozen pens. Buy more if you lose them easily or leave them in coat pockets like me.
Exercise 1.2) Go buy a pack of typing paper or a sketchbook. Avoid getting something expensive. Make sure it's compatible with the pen you want to use. Get a lot of it, get a stack of it, keep it on your desk, and keep more in a folder or sketchbook that you take with you.
II. Big Picture--"The Big Four" and how they relate to pen and ink…
According to my past teachers, there are four general technical aspects to all drawing, regardless of whether it's abstract or photorealistic, stylized or academic: 1)Line, 2)Shape, 3)Value, 4)Edges. These four parts more or less make up the language of drawing—just like you have the parts of speech in English—nouns, verbs, adjectives, adverbs, etc. When I learn a new medium, I try to figure out a kind of translation of these four ideas. The only difference between drawing and painting is that you have to add 5) Color to the list. …that's a whole other subject completely.
III. Line is King
The first thing you have to realize is that Line is King in pen and ink. You can't do a watercolor wash, you can't do a controlled smudge, you can't do a lot of things. What you can do well is obvious—you can draw lines. So you're first priority, before wondering how to do detailed shading and rendering is how to translate "The Big Four" into a world where all you've got is line.
For simplicity, I'm going to assume the most difficult situation: you've got a pen that isn't too responsive to pressure or speed and pretty much lays down even lines consistently. It's somewhat boring compared to other pens. It has a thin, brittle line and it would take all day to hatch a large picture.
Exercise 3.1) Lines & More Lines
This is the generic touchy-feely art school exercise. Make a bunch of different types of lines using your pen. Here is a non-exhaustive list of questions and experiments:
How easy is it to make a long (10") line with your pen? Can you move your hand smoothly to get a long line out of it? How about short lines? How fast do you have to move your hand to get a good line? If you move your hand quickly, can you get a lighter, thinner line out of it? What do the ends of the lines look like when you deliberately start and stop? Does ink pool up and bleed at the ends when you do? When you draw a sharp corner does the same thing happen? Is there a difference in your lines when you hold your pen at different angles? How easy is it to make a broken line, dashed line, dot, etc.?
(No need to save these doodle sheets or post 3.1 in this mentoring thread. I'm pretty sure most people can doodle. But if you're ever feeling bored or uninspired and can't think of something to draw, you can always experiment with your mark-making. Sometimes you'll come up with the inspiration for a whole piece of work just based on what you enjoy about making certain marks.)
IV. Edges Come Next.
When my teachers talked about painting, the most important of the big four were shape and value because that's how paint brushes work. For pen and ink, it's line and edges. If you've got a decent amount of experience and you read the CA.org forums a lot, you'll eventually pick up certain ideas about edges. Basically, the hardeness/softness ranges from non-existent to soft to medium to hard to knife-sharp; and the width varies from ultra thin to wide. Each edge has a use in a drawing or a painting. In painting, you usually don't use lines for this, you use the edges of the brush marks you make. For pen and ink, you use different types of lines.
The easiest thing to make with a pen is a solid line. It's probably relatively hard for an edge. You can make it sharper sometimes by retracing it over and over and trying to clean it up or make it very crisp. Anyway, that part is not what's difficult. Before you get too much deeper into a serious drawing, you need to find out what it takes to make a soft edge, a thin edge, a light edge and a dark edge. If you were drawing with pencil or charcoal, this wouldn't be too difficult because those marks can be made naturally. What you're doing here is reinterpreting and translating those ideas into linear pen marks.
Exercise IV.1) Find the range of edges your pen can produce. See the image below. It is even more helpful if you find two pens to compare and contrast. (Please DO NOT post your experiments here for the time being.)
Exercise IV.2) Copy any of these simple geometric forms and these heads and features, paying attention to the lines and edges I'm using. How you use line to lay in your shapes and how you organize your edges and linework is the framework that you're going to build your shapes and values. I know there are many ways to do this—what I've done is just a small sample of what's actually possible. But concentrate on organizing and thinking in your head "soft edge, hard edge, thin edge, thick edge." Being conscious of what you see in these drawings is the first step. Then you will be able to make your own conscious decisions in your own artwork.
Note: There are a few hatching and rendering examples in here. You guys know the drill. Copy these or invent your own. If you're nervous about "getting it right the first time", lightly sketch in the placement with a pencil.
Note: When using a pen like the one I am here, a big wide blurry edge gets lost and turns into a kind of hatched tone. It'll make more sense later.
Exercise IV.3) this is for fun... Invent the enigmatic floating elipsoid from outer space. These four photos show the process...
Step 1. Sketch something out in pencil, ink it with the pen, erase the pencil. Attachment 299490
Step 2. This is what I'm thinking about form and lighting in my head. I map out the size of the core shadows--where it is really important to understand edges. Notice how wide some of these core shadows are compared to my pen line thickness. It would be impossible to use just a simple broken set of lines to map out something that wide... Attachment 299491
Step 3. Map out the core shadows. When the edge becomes too wide and blurry, lose it and leave it blank. You can't do a gradation in an edge, just let the edge fade out into nothing for the time being. Attachment 299492
Step 4. Fill in the shadow side with an even tone. Since the area I'm filling in is so big and my pen is thin, I can't use uniform parallel lines to fill it in. So I just pick any regular random pattern and fill it in. Since there aren't any competing details at the same size scale as the hatching (e.g. leaves or grass), I can get away with using this pattern as just a stylistic decision. Next. reinforce some of the drawn contour lines where needed for visibility. Finally, handle the big blurry lost edge. Attachment 299493
I hatch the core shadows on large objects like this using a kind of cross-contour direction for the lines. How much you use and how dense depends on the value of the object and strength of the light. Even if you wind up doing washes of hatching over these, there will still be the feel of the cross contour showing through it, which can be important sometimes.
If you have any questions about this stuff, ask 'em here. The only pictures I'd like to see posted are the objects or the blob exercise.
wow, so much info, that´s exactly what i´ve been looking for.
i´ll start working on it right away.
Unfortunately didn´t have much time today, so i couldn't´t finish the whole tutorial, but made a some of the shapes and faces. Tried to keep in mind what kind of Edge i was doing while copying your exercises. but was hard because of my bad line control. Anyhow i´ll do the rest tomorrow, now i´m off to bed, very tired.
Last edited by Azalin; February 10th, 2008 at 06:37 PM.
(They recently had an exhibit of those portraits. I saw about 30 of them up close...)
If you have trouble finding these, check Dover Publishing's website for the Dore and Charles Dana Gibson books. You can also look at www.budplant.com--a great resource for all kinds of illustration books.