The Best ways to study.

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  1. #1
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    Talking The Best ways to study.

    I discovered that there are ways to study that are better than others, I'll try to share those better ways I have found, why not share yours so we can all learn?.

    Anatomy or anyting else you want to draw from memory:

    • Bad way: Copying reference as good as you can is not a great way to memorize anatomy, it will train your eye and hand coordination, but it won't necesarily make you learn the parts you are drawing. I have personally draw docens of sheets full of anatomy and I can assure you I learned almost nothing from it, beign unable to reproduce from my mind what I just drawn.
    • Good Way: Aim for memorization of simplified forms, part by part. For example, don't try to study the whole head at once, first try to memorize the shape of the eyes, try memorizing the proportions, the lines, the angles, when you have memorized that you can go on to learn the nose, the ears and so on.

      The most important thing is to know how to memorize. The best way I have found is, first copy the reference as best as you can, then forget about the reference and do your best to try to draw what you recall from memory, you will notice that there are certain things you do not remember, only when that happens you can go back to the reference to see how it is drawn, then when you know what to do, continue to work without reference until you encounter another part you do not know how to draw, and repeat this process.

      The important thing is that when you check the reference from time to time you have to try to "write" that small part of the reference in your mind, do not go back to drawing until you can clearly see that small portion of the reference in your imagination, our minds can memorize very simple forms much easier than complex ones, so try to memorize bit by bit.
      A good training/proof for this is to draw a small line in a paper, then try to memorize its lenght and angle, then put your hand on top of it so you cannot see it and then try to copy it from your imagination. You can do this as many times you want as a warmup for this method.

      When you finish the drawing you can make a mental check list of the parts you had problems with, and re-check them with the reference. Try to see which parts are done badly and try to correct them by making another drawing again without looking at the reference. Repeat the process you did the first time again and again until you can draw the image without any need to look at the reference (it won't take that long i assure you!).

      Doing this method you can learn things extremely quickly, but it is hard to the mind, so, no matter how much boring it gets, keep doing it until you memorize all the info. The smallest things you pick to memorize, the easier it gets. The simplest (forms without much details) things you memorize, the easier it gets. So try to learn something small step by small step until you get all the figure memorized.

      For example, with this method I got to memorize an image of the nose in 8 tries, in more or less than 1 hour.


    I try to add more things in the future, but this one is one of the biggest things I discovered, you should definetely try it.

    Last edited by Christian223; December 31st, 2009 at 11:09 PM.
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    Great thread!
    Though I can't share my wisdom since it lacks lots of knowledge, but I can say - Take time and practice, thats the key.

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    meh i learn this just because it was logical all by myself.. the harder stuff is color, and thats what i wanna figure out, and values..

    doing the same method might work.. copying a photo. then redoing it from memory... but seems tedious.. might work

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    I thought this was how everyone studies...

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    This is good advice, thanks!

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    I moved this to this section because I thought it deserved more traffic.
    Since it's gotten pretty much nothing but snark and useless replies, I guess that was a mistake.


    Tristan Elwell
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    I think you have some good suggestions but I would like to emphasize this is only in relation to photo reference. If you work from life you will learn things faster, because you are translating reality to a flat surface as opposed to copying something where all the decisions are made for you. Copying reference is just measuring, working from life teaches you to think about design, composition, contour, shape and values. Copying photos won't do that.

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    Quote Originally Posted by dpaint View Post
    I think you have some good suggestions but I would like to emphasize this is only in relation to photo reference. If you work from life you will learn things faster, because you are translating reality to a flat surface as opposed to copying something where all the decisions are made for you. Copying reference is just measuring, working from life teaches you to think about design, composition, contour, shape and values. Copying photos won't do that.
    Exactly - well said dpaint! I would just like to add that your points are on the right track except for the idea of "memorizing" individual features. The best approach is study the entire form as a whole - working from the broad structure to more and more refined information - the entire subject/piece should progress through stages in order to be sure that is is consistent and accurate overall. It is good to study individual features separately as well, because there is a great deal of complexity within a given feature - but in the end they have to work as a unit.

    Anyway - good idea for a thread (I'm trying not to be snarky because I don't want Elwell to be mean to me).

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    I think it is a good post, good information.

    What is obvious to one, is not obvious to another.

    Also, breaking down the figure, or any object, into its smallest parts and trying to memorize them, is a great way to learn.

    I don't believe Christian223, was implying that you should never study an object as a whole, but merely suggesting ways to memorize the shapes of the small parts, that can often be a thorn in the mind hindering the finish of the entire object.

    Also, drawing from life is great, and should be a big part of an artist's time, but it does have its faults. If you are trying to memorize the shape of an eye let's say, and build a mental library of the eye in different positions, you will have to spend many hours staring at the eye and drawing it. With a model, they will constantly shift, move, blink, twitch, rub, sneeze, turn, etc. making it harder to build this mental library. But with a photographic reference you can pin it down quickly, and move on the the next angle, without waiting for the model to get back into position. And this can, and is, a great place to start. And to apply when drawing from life, so that certain basics are not a sticking point. (And this doesn't even begin to address the question of a model's availability compared to a photograph.)

    Also, if we guess on the motives for Christian223, to even write this post, and get past our own arrogance and self superiority, we will realize that this has helped him, at least, to progress as an artist. And if it has helped him, then it will most likely help another.

    If any advice doesn't help you, or you feel that you are too good, or way too advanced to benefit from it, then do what your Momma should have taught you. "If you have nothing good to say, don't say anything at all."

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    Whoa - not sure where you're coming from there Brady. As I said "good idea for a thread" - and "it is good to study individual features as well".

    So why the antogonistic attitude? I was trying to reinforce some truths learned from experience that dpaint expressed very well. I believe dpaint's intent, and my own, was to be both supportive of Christian's OP while offereing further insight - all in an effort to help others. I believe it was very good to say or I wouldn't have bothered.

    Your claim that drawing from life has its faults is absurd. All the great representational artists, both historic and contemporary, work from life. So the notion that working from photos or your imagination is a great place to start actually misleads others and slows their progress.

    You've made some very strong statements as well as cast dispersions on other's posts. Could I ask as to your credentials and experience? I couldn't find any of your work here.

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    Hi JeffX99

    My post wasn't in response to your own, but to those further up the thread who seemed to imply that Christian223's thoughts were dumb or pointless.

    I didn't think my statements were that strong, but to each his own interpretation.

    But I will say, to state that any method has no faults is absurd.

    Yes, I know the masters never had photographs, and worked from life, but I also know they worked from casts, statues, corpses, and other master's works. Which are stationary, like a photograph, and I think is a good place to start for a beginner who is just trying to get the basic shapes of things down in their mind.

    I'm sure you know this, but to clarify my thoughts on the legitimacy of using photographs, the masters worked in a constructive manner. Basically, they learned how the different parts were formed and fit together, and could quite successfully draw without a model. And even if they had a model, they would often ignore what was in front of them to better state their personal intention.

    So, to use a photograph to learn the shapes of parts, seems to me to be a legitimate way of learning, especially if you have no access to models, have no willing friends or family, and maybe are shy, or have some sort of phobia.

    Do I think that you should never draw from life, or that photographs are superior? No, I said life drawing is great, and I encourage everyone to do it.

    But to say that life drawing has no faults is just as wrong as saying you should only work from photographs. Having drawn from live models, can you seriously say that the movements of the model would not seriously inhibit a beginner trying to learn the small details of an eye, or a finger? Especially considering the distance most figure drawing is done at?

    I hope this clarifies my thinking a bit more, and that my stronger statements were not directed at you.

    As far as my "credentials" are concerned, I read an article once about a semi truck trying to make it under a highway bridge. The semi truck was too tall and was stuck. It couldn't go forward or backwards. The city called in engineers, and construction crews to try to see how they could remove the truck, but they concluded that the only way, was to either cut off part of the truck or destroy part of the road bridge. So, they were about to decide which option to take, when a little boy came up to them, and asked them why they didn't just let the air out of the tires, so the truck could be easily removed.

    My point of the story is that it doesn't take those with the most experience or training to see the obvious. And sometimes the training gets in the way of the obvious.

    But, here you go just in case. I don't have anything great on here, nothing I would deem worthy of posting in a gallery, but here's my sketchbook. And some stuff on CGHub.

    I wouldn't say anything is exceptional, as I am still learning, and have a long way to go, but there are some "credentials" for those who require them.

    Last edited by a.k.a.Brady; January 4th, 2010 at 05:25 AM.
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  17. #13
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    This system sounds worthy of trying. I do agree that working from life is best but it does have its limits. When I'm working from a model, I'm usually drawing from 10 feet away which means I can't see the details of the face and the model is usually moving their eyes around and often talking so its hard to study/memorize the face from life. I do often use my face for reference but that too can be limiting, that only gives me access to a female face of my age and race. Studying from photos does have its uses.

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    Cool - I will say that after re-reading your post you seemed to take exception with every one of my points so you can understand how I felt your response was directed toward my post. Anyway - no hard feelings - all that aside...

    To get back on track - you mention the Masters and that they worked from casts, corpses, etc. This is still considered working from life - as dpaint pointed out copying just doesn't teach you that much because all of the important information has already been translated. Don't get me wrong, working from photos can be valid as well - once a person has a pretty thorough understanding of the fundamentals.

    In the end it boils down to a semantics and definition issue - yes working from photos can be very helpful - but you get a lot more out of it if you work hard at drawing from life - people can get pretty good at copying a photo and still have no clue what to do when working from the model or even nature.

    Thanks for posting your links, we're all still learning and we all have plenty of room to improve - that's part of the game.

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    This is a good idea. Here is some advice of mine.

    Copying the plaster cast.

    Non-recommended way: Don't try to be fast and gimmicky if you are a beginner. Too many art instructors have students jump into a medium too fast. You might be advised to try huge gestures with the side of your charcoal stick, rub the charcoal, use various types of medium with your paint etc, to achieve various textures, before you even have the confidence of a solid line drawing. Following this advice will give you the bad habit of being lazy, going too fast, giving you the illusion that you are being 'expressive', spending much time correcting your drawing and spending too much time figuring out the textures and their use.

    Recommended way: Concentrate on making a well drawn copy first, using the tip of your tool, be it a pencil, charcoal, pastel or a brush. Don't be gimmicky by throwing in mass and tone when you are a beginner, draw well first. As you get more accurate and faster, use your tool in the same, monotonous boring and tedious way, to render what you see. You may think that you can probably try using the side of your charcoal to get that whole grey tone in one stroke, but chances are that the texture created by the charcoal in combination with your inexperience in laying down tone, knowing the tone you need and comparing your tones on your surface and subject, will result in you either erasing your effort multiple times, hence not concentrating on learning and understanding how to build tone, planes and form.

    Learn to draw well and render your subject well first with one way of using your tools. Then learn how to render your subject well without using anything but your tool in the most simple way. This will teach you your fundamentals as well as basic control or your mind, arm and tool. Leave the rest for later, otherwise you will rely on 'happy accinents' and it will leave you full of frustration and bad habits.

    "Don't judge a book by it's cover" Frank Frazetta 1928-2010
    RIP Frank.

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    Thumbs up

    Some really good things to think about, thanks for your contributions.

    Here is another good advice for developing your creativity/ imagination/ style/ apreciation/ ability for analisis: try building a library of pictures of different things, cars, buildings, clothes, characters, styles, etc, if you see something you like or inspire you, don't let it go away, save it on your hard drive so you can later come back and study WHY you like it, is it the lines?, is it the colors?, is it the characters?. You can also save BAD examples (pictures you do not like) that seem to be bad attempts of the same things you have liked, bad cars, bad characters, bad clothing, etc, so you can compare them with things you like, in this way it will be much easier to notice what is done right and what is done wrong. Make sure you organize your folders in a ordered manner so it is easy to browse between images.

    Just to give you an idea, I have a main "Images for Reference" folder, and in that I have folders called "Photos" and "Paintings", in each one I have different categories like "characters", "armors", "vehicles", and in each one of them I have a folder called "Bad" to store bad examples.

    I have started doing this not too long ago and I have learned lots by analasing good and bad examples of the same subject.

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    Thumbs up setting specific and detailed goals

    Here is another one that will make you improve faster, which is a detailed look at an important part of the first tip I mentioned:

    Allways set goals, do not just draw what you know you can draw. Be as precise as possible when setting those goals, or else you would not know if you achieved something in your study session, you will not focus enough on any specific thing, so you won't learn anything specific or nothing.

    Set goals like "learn to do more feminine eye features", "learn a new way of drawing pupils", "learn how to draw elbows", "learn how saturated colors appear in reality to be able to draw more realistically", "learn to draw perspective applied to car drawing", "learn to apply perspective applied to architecture". These are specific for each subject, so you'll be able to know how close or far you are to achieving your goals.

    Do not just set goals like "learn colors", or "learn anatomy", or "learn to draw cars", try to go one step further and understand what is exactly you want to learn about colors or anatomy. Of course to do this you need to have a basic level of understanding on each subject to be able to define with more detail your goals.

    You could also say that you have to set small goals to be able to achieve bigger ones. Small goals are faster and easier to achieve than bigger ones, but when you achieve several small goals you will realise that you have learned a big one, for example, if you learn to draw pupils, eyes, hands, chests, legs, and so on, you will end up learning the whole human anatomy!

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    this is a wonderful thread.

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    Very well put, I've ended up using a similar study method too. There are many subjects for which photos (and video stills!) are the only practical reference, like exotic animals or vehicles which cannot be easily found in RL. Especially if you want to train daily on them but you have a day job like me.

    For such rare subjects it's even more important to try gaining some abstract knowledge from the photo, about the subject's forms etc. Else you might draw a hundred perfect parrots and then still need to use a photo to draw the next one, which is a bit silly.

    I think to some extent you can reason on composition, shapes, values etc. when using photos too, especially if they are non-professional shots where such things can use some improvement, slight corrections to the poses, etc. I guess the point is trying to get the most out of a photo by thinking about the scene in every possible way, rather than just copying the obvious.

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    Great thread.
    My humble contribution: while it's true that drawing from life is better that drawing from photos, there's also drawing (and especially studying) from videos. Videos has the disadvantage of the flatness of a photo, but has the advantage of movement, and it can be great for studying some specific areas.
    for example, right now I'm studying anatomy, and is very useful for me to understand not only the composition (bone, muscle) of the joints, but how they move, and how they change their looks according to the orientation of a moving camera.

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    Not sure if someone has already said this but I think instead of memorizing, LEARN what it is you are drawing. If for instance you decided to work on the human back for a term, learn how it functions, what it is capable of, then the parts that make the whole work...that then leads to the curiosity to find out what the anatomy is through what the muscles are DOING. What shapes do those muscles create when stretched or flexed etc...Through this process, you have a better shot at more quickly UNDERSTANDING what you are drawing if from life or from imagination.

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    THINK!

    The fastet way to learn (for me anyways) is to be aware about what you are doing. Every time you make a stroke you have to know why this stroke has to be there. You can draw 100 faces and learn only half as much or nothing as when you draw 10 faces and think about every thing you are doing.

    If you watch people like Gregory Manchess paint, they don't throw paint at the canvas. They think before every stroke and do it delibaretly and therefore they are quicker as someone who does make more strokes in a shorter amount of time, but have to correct the mistakes afterwards or paint themselves into corners.

    When you finish a picture analyze it afterwards. Where did you fail? If you make the same mistakes over and over you don't think enough. It's better to think one hour and paint 30 minutes than to not think enough and paint 4 hours.

    Last edited by Sascha Thau; January 12th, 2010 at 09:20 AM.
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    Exactly! Well said - that's one of the reasons they say "Look more - draw/paint less". If you think about it and try to learn something each time you draw or paint you can grow fairly quickly.

    Last edited by JeffX99; January 11th, 2010 at 05:09 PM. Reason: Typo city
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    "Aim for memorization of simplified forms, part by part. For example, don't try to study the whole head at once, first try to memorize the shape of the eyes, try memorizing the proportions, the lines, the angles, when you have memorized that you can go on to learn the nose, the ears and so on."

    I agree with half of what you're saying - copying a reference exactly will train your hand eye coordination, and not your anatomy skills. But when it comes to learning anatomy, I think it's much more useful to start broad and work your way down to the specifics - as in, start wtih proportions and masses of the whole body and head, then move down to the shapes and forms of the body, and then move down to the groups of muscles and bones, and then to the seperate muscles and bones. Learning piece by piece without knowing how the pieces are put together to form the whole is like trying to put together a jigsaw puzzle without being able to look at the picture - not impossible, but more difficult. There's no point in being able to draw a perfect eye if you can't place it correctly within the skull.


    "The fastet way to learn (for me anyways) is to be aware about what you are doing."

    Exactly people say 'practise' like art is as simple as jogging - you just need to keep doing the same repetetive motion to get better at it. But with art, if you don't think, then you learn next to nothing.


    People should also be questioning everything they learn - not only because a lot of tutorials and books contain misinformation that can seriously set you back (how to draw manga/horses/superheroes are generally full of it) but also because if you ask 'why' then you will learn 'how' as oppossed to just the 'what'. Like, if you read that you should never use dodge and burn to shade, and just accept it, you don't ever find out the colour theory behind that statement, and you never find out the possible useful uses of dodge and burn.

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    should never use dodge and burn to shade
    really? but I love these tools and have been employing them properly since I started going digital.

    Heres something I did to my co-exhibitor Veraat Singh's painting for the catalogue cover.
    I sorta like it.

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    This is really really great, I think it deserves a sticky.
    Anyone else want to share their studying methods?

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    Vinicam is offline Five percent inspiration and ninety five percent transpiration.
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    Yesterday I did a anatomy study that I found to be pretty helpfull.

    First I did 4 pages of poses from posemanics, the 45 seconds one, though the time don't matter. Then I picked 1 by 1 and tryed to do all the musculature without refference. When I got stuck at one point then I searched some books to understand how that muscle performs in different poses.
    Maybe it's not the best way to learn anatomy and muscles, but I found it to be way more beneficial than copying pages and pages of anatomy books.


    By the way, I have to do more of those.

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  41. #28
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    Quote Originally Posted by Vinicam View Post
    First I did 4 pages of poses from posemanics, the 45 seconds one, though the time don't matter. Then I picked 1 by 1 and tryed to do all the musculature without refference. When I got stuck at one point then I searched some books to understand how that muscle performs in different poses.
    Maybe it's not the best way to learn anatomy and muscles, but I found it to be way more beneficial than copying pages and pages of anatomy books.
    You do realize the musculature on Posemaniacs isn't accurate, yes?

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  42. #29
    Vinicam is offline Five percent inspiration and ninety five percent transpiration.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Nezumi Works View Post
    You do realize the musculature on Posemaniacs isn't accurate, yes?
    I dont use posemaniacs for the muscles, just for the poses. Then I draw the musculature on the poses. When I got problems with a especific muscle I look at some book like Bridgeman or Bammes.


    Anyway, I'm finding a lot of trouble to draw different angles of the forearm. So many muscles Interlace that I can't figure out which muscle is going in which direction according to the pose and end up having to "guess" how it is.

    Last edited by Vinicam; August 8th, 2010 at 12:52 AM.
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    Such great advice! I think memory's always been my big problem, so at least I'm happy to say that I set goals for what I want to draw, look up references and draw from life...

    I think what I've been learning more and more to do is to put everything down that's in my head as well. Whether the idea is a good one or not, look at it objectively and draw that out somewhere! O_O And if you have the means to draw out in town or wherever, and you see someone or something that catches your eye, try drawing as much of it as you can so you can remember a lot of that subject for later. I say it because SINCE my memory can be pretty bad, I see some neat stuff and forget it pretty quickly later in the day.

    Oh, and for drawing from life, I learned to try not to draw things I really can't see. As in, if I really can't make out a certain facial element, I shouldn't pretend that I see it. XD Save that imaginative stuff for later, I'd say!

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