Just a bit of wisdom I jotted in an old sketchbook. Here’s a big pile of images in no particular order, logic, or cleanliness.
Conventional artistic wisdom skews heavily against drawing from photography. Indeed, the oldest example I’ve found is from Solomon Solomon, arguing against it when cameras were still industrial monstrosities, rather than something we all have in our pocket.
I contend that part of the reason photo drawing sucks is that you have infinite leisure to use the photo. Thus, you dawdle and over-analyze, and it ends up stinky. A live model’s continually subtle shifts make the artist’s brain process the real essence of the pose, even if it’s an hours- long pose. Therefore, if your photo reference is held to a 30 second to 10 minute window, might you be forced to process it faster?
Other unorthodox sites let you fake it, with enjoyably more random results. At times my homepage has included Arkive.org’s random species, Flicker’s Interesting Photos from 7 Days, or Panoptikos, which jams a bunch of photo subreddits together. This lets you hit refresh until you see something you like, then draw it. But you get the two downsides: Choosing your subject (resulting in refreshing for 15 minutes) and no time constraints.
However, the best lifedrawing software out there is right behind this window! Right now! It’s your desktop.
First, spend some time on the internet hoarding pictures of interest. I tend to seek out pics with good costumes, interesting characters, nudes (get this: they’re all over the internet!), faces, and animals, but I try not to be picky. Save ’em all in a giant folder. Mine’s got over 14,000 pics!
Next, change your desktop background preferences to use that directory, and change randomly every 30 seconds, 1 minute, 5 minutes, etc. Set your computer down, and just draw whatever shows up as your new wallpaper.
Here’s a WIP shot of a guy I call “The broker.” Imagine him as a floormonger on some sci-fi commodities trading market. The final design will have red LED stock-tickers and news bulletins scrolling along his belt and shoulder apparati.
My modeling approach with this dude has been experimental and strange. Many methods exist for “sketching” a sculpt in 3D. Dynamic topology, Zspheres, Blender’s skin modifier. But all of these require under-the-hood nurturing that, in my opinion, makes you lose the effortless quickness that you can have with drawing by hand.
When you’re drawing in that way, a favorite technique is to just use big abstract circles and lines of action to represent a head, a muscle, a torso. Where is the equivalency in 3D? Here’s the modifier stack I came up with.
From here, you can just Shrinkwrap clothes onto the character, then begin retopology modeling what you actually want. I got something that felt really alive and stylish, and the model served as some baseline concept art.
Should I take this to sculpt first, then finish modeling? I don’t know. Instincts say yes, but I’m having fun with some old-fashioned modeling first, sculpt later pipeline.
Hiding out in the shelves of my books, I discovered a mysterious sketchbook that I never scanned! Probably because it was started 3 months before my baby was born, and thus existed in a very tertiary time. A bit of everything; some lifedrawing, some monsters, some animals, etc.
“Cuncant that another would finish his sentences for him, he druider would smilabit eggways.” Drawing brainstorm technique: pick a line at random from Finnegan’s Wake, and try to draw it. http://finwake.com/
Camera notes: photos taken in kitchen w/ light above them, settings : shutter speed 1/40, Fstops 5.6, ISO 800, WB tungsten light. Sketchbook’s white pages and reflective graphite is probably to blame, so the toned books I’ve been using are probably a lil different.
Come July, I was feeling stagnant in my sketchery, so I mixed it up with a toned sketchbook. It was slow going, and I was swimming in uncharted waters, but by the end I felt like I’d worked out lots of the kinks. Here’s the best stuff!
A lot of this was trying to figure out new mediums. Case in point, my beloved mechanical drafting pencils show up too light against the gray paper 😦 I still love ’em…time to experiment with cracking open some black watercolor pencils and sticking their pigment tube in a mechanical drafting pencil.
Black watercolor pencil plus a water brush work pretty good.
Life drawing. Mental note: I shouldn’t be wasting expensive sketchbook paper on 1-minute gesture drawings.
This guy was one of my fellow presenters at SeaGL this year. I’m looking forward to the next one!
Dino toys from the Burke Museum.
Breakthrough! With this guy I finally figured out Uniball white gel pens, which are super-annoying if you use ’em like a normal pen. Their ink flow is conspicuously cantankerous, but if you draw lightly in lil circles it flows out. You can do that until you have a lil pool of pigment, then smear it with a finger to get a gradient. Once I figured this out, it was my go-to white over charcoal and pencil. You can really stack the layers; white over black, over white over black overwhiteoverblackoverwhite. Goes on opaque, sticks around.
Ever wanna hang and draw with other Seattleites? Seth Goodkind runs the awesome Ballard Sketch Team. Good for the artistic humors; my last 3 weeks of sketching were better than my previous 3 months, and I gotta put the blame on BST.
My baby Susan, figuring this walking thingy out.
More stuff from Sketch Team. The guy with the computer hair was our most excellent server.
Learning from my watercolor exploits, I filled a second water brush with india ink. Awesomee!!! Blocks blacks (say that 10 times fast) right quick, but it lacks the nice gradients of the watercolor blacks.
That’s all. I photographed these rather than scanning it, saved a lot of work on processing time. Mental note: photos taken in kitchen w/ light above them, settings : shutter speed 1/40, Fstops 5.6, ISO 800, WB tungsten light,
It’s very nice to just leave Krita open on your computer with symmetry turned on. I played around with this through the day, in lil 10-20 minute increments.
Let’s face it, whippersnappers love their computers, and with my lovely newborn baby Susan it’s harder to get out the door for life drawing. There’s a couple websites out there that have cycling timed picture functions, but their success is mixed; the pictures aren’t full screen, and you’re limited to their selection, which might not have been updated since the site’s inception.
But never fear! You actually have a fantastic piece of software to solve this, and you see it multiple times per day. Your desktop! Get the full screen goodness, with an easy interface for “poses” that last 30 seconds to 20 minutes. Depending on your OS, you can even right-click on the desktop and choose the next image if you get one you don’t like.
But where to get pictures? The best option is without a doubt Tumblr. Any given subject will have some tumblr out there amassing a giant library of pictures on the subject. Here’s a few good ones:
Use your own Google Fu to find all sorts of good tumblrs of varying SFW and NSFW varieties. I find Tumblr to lean a bit porny, not to mention mainstream in model types, so consider searching for things like elderly nudes, hourglass, etc. But you don’t want to right-click-save-as on all these, amirite? So check out Tumblripper to do the work for you. Just enter a URL and a folder destination, and it will grab all the images on the whole tumblr for your use as a life drawing archive.
And of course, don’t forget the last step. Go draw something!
Tonight I was watching The Wire and doodling the occasional character, and thought I’d explain why I mostly sketch with an unusual tool.
Mechanical drafting pencils are awesome. They give you the softness and flexible line weight of a wood pencil. But unlike wood pencils, sharpening them has way less mess, and way less “dangit!” moments of breaking the lead right when you have the sharpness perfect. And who needs sharpening? These babies give you the instant lead benefits of a mechanical pencil. You can also use a favorite technique of mine for mechanical pencils: extend the lead overlong, shade at an angle, and the long lead will force you to draw light or break the tip. (This, IMHO, is an awesome way to learn how to draw on a bumpy bus ride.)
Nowadays I don’t often sharpen thanks to an economy of strokes. Here’s a McNolte caricature, and at this point my lead’s gone blunt.
At this point, I don’t grab my sharpener; rather, I start blocking in with an angled pencil.
(This is a blatant homage to J.C. Leyendecker. My theory is he blocked in to resharpen his tools as well.)
Once I’ve done a first pass I go in closer, refining my edges to be crisp. And what do I have at this point?
An incredibly sharp pencil tip, perfect for refining the silhouette and adding the final details.
There’s two downsides to mechanical drafting pencils. First, they’re expensive ($8) so don’t lose them. I bent this one’s arm out so its awkward shape would keep it conspicuous. Second, their lead choice is limited at most art stores, no darker than 2B. But I was able to find 4B lead on the internet, and that pack has lasted for ages.
Anyhoo, I’m writing and posting this from the WordPress android app, so forgive any horrible quirks.