Tuesday, January 06, 2009

FOWP Updatum: Let me talk about drawing

With all the brash confidence of a new employee you are given to train only to find them attempting to train you on day 2, I thought I would gather here some hot tips from an unqualified illustrator.
I am learning as I go, and seriously I don't think I've ever learned so much in such a short period of time about anything.

For one thing, can I just say that since I was a kid I have often been praised for my drawing ability. I think this praise is mislaid. For example the ability to look at a room you are in then draw the floor plain from a birds-eye-view perspective I think is elementary, to me I think surely everyone should be able to do that, people that are amazed at someone's ability to spacially represent a room in this way must be retarded.

That said, I feel constantly retarded, because I am unable to translate straightforward images in my brain, down my arm and onto the page. Being a lefty I'm in the habit of working left to right across the page, which is helpful for layout because that's how people read, but I also drag my hand through the drawings too, which If I was smart enough I'd be able to kick the habit and work right-to-left since I'm drawing images that make about as much sense construction wise bottom-to-top and top-to-bottom and right-to-left and left-to-right.

The second retardation I feel is proportion, some panels, the talking heads are fly throughs, I blink and they are done. Other panels such as looking up at someone falling down, I find impossible and on average erase and start from scratch about 8 times.

All that said, I feel confident these tips of mine might be of use to you simply because of all the people I've ever met I know one (who probably doesn't read this blog) that's actually been to art school, and I'm pretty sure they majored in photography.
When I applied unsuccessfully for an art scholarship at my high-school, (twice infact) I had said I wanted to be an illustrator when I grew up. Unfortunately for me, I didn't know at the time but I'd already reached my full height in year 8 and would grow up to remain a shortarse.
Anyway the past two weeks I have gotten to experience the lifestyle of an illustrator and I have to say it's been enlightening as well as uplifting to try and fulfill a dream of little (same size) tohm's back when he was just plain old Tom.

1. Drawing is a physically demanding job.

This may come as a surprise to you, but seriously it's changed my whole perspective of the world. I used to think a physically demanding job was being a fireman or some shit, a piano mover maybe. A Dutch farmer perhaps. But if you took Usain Bolt and told them their job was to sit in a chair for 8 hours a day and draw stuff, he'd go as crazy as if you had tied him down in the desert and put ants in his pants. I'm beginning to realise that a sloth like metabolism is as advantages to the artist who has to sit still for long periods of time as a humminbird like metabolism is to a marathon runner.

2. THAT's why pencils have erasers.

If it wasn't mathematically possible I swear I have used my eraser more than my pencil throughout the whole process. It is very close to being a chicken-egg scenario. Sometimes rarely I get something right the first time. Mostly though you have to throw down on paper what you are trying to draw so you can see precisely how your ability to construct the image in your head is wrong. Most times totally wrong. Sometimes I can draw and detail a whole person and then realise their feet don't actually sit on the floor and that I should have started constructing the character from the foot print up to maintain proper perspective and proportion. These I'm sure are elementary drawing techniques for somebody who is trained.
But every new frame is a new opportunity to fuck up and that's why my kitchen table is covered with little bits of high polymer eraser all twisted up into a tasty dandruff like blanket. Having the right eraser is as important as having the right pencil. The pen may be mightier than the sword but the eraser is mightier still.

3. Draw don't carve.

A light touch is all that's necessary, particularly since I'm doing pencil roughs. But sometimes I like something I've done so much I feel obliged to carve it into the page colour it in and whatnot.
This means it becomes impossible to completely erase. I make this mistake daily, and hopefully by writing it down I may actually learn something this time.

4. It is easier to draw what you know how to draw. My last update mentioned the magical page 23. My monster appears. My monster was the only character/object I had done and substantive practice in drawing, extensive development with numerous reference and even attempts at 3D wireframes. As such when I draw him I know exactly what I'm doing and he flies straight out of my wrist. Other central character's I've developed as a 'work in progress' only stopping to consider their features in close ups and then leaving myself the 'pigmy-mammoth' task of retrospectively fixing all the other representations.
I waited far too long to draw a city map which really would have helped with all the background shit and finally have my reference images on hand so I can look at them and study the composition.
It's like my old bass teacher told me 'the slower you go the faster you go' and the biggest slow down drawing is thinking, and the more prep work you've done the less you have to think. I envision if I kept this up as a profession in 5 years I could churn out 10 pages by midday. At the moment it takes me 9 hours a day to do 5 pages of roughs.

5. Make Sure Your Writer Knows What they Are Doing.

If you are drawing a comic from somebody elses script it's nice if that writer knows how much will realistically fit on a page, keeps the dialogue into short sharp sentances that can fit inconspicuously into bubbles and knows how to divide up action sequences so they make sense and maybe can achieve some level of immersion by the readers.
As my own writer I have to say reading my own instructions make about as much sense as 'Ben Stein's Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed'. I constantly find myself exclaiming 'what are you trying to say you fucktard?' when reading my own script. Oh well.

And finally my golden rule for art, drawing and life in general.

6. Do So With Confidence, and it will appear Confident!

Whilst eating a kransky bagel with tommy the other week he ran into his friend that had won a grant to decorate a section of the Melbourne City Library. We went to check out his designs and he was stenciling them onto the wall using an overhead projector. He had decided to use some Krink markers that wouldn't smudge and had a nice glossy finish to do the final piece but remarked to the effect that 'So permanent is Krink that I'm really nervous drawing the final layer because if I make a mistake it's not coming off.'
Not to say this guy was a bad artist, on the contrary unlike me he is an actual artist with really cool designs, but this statement captures perfectly the analysis paralysis people often feel with art.
When creating a thing of beauty (in the broadest sense of the term beauty what artists work with) you want to get it right. Here was a guy with outlines down and who new he could do something, of course he could draw it. Much like walking across a beam over a great chasm is essentially the same skill as walking in a straight line down your driveway, the consequences of making an error (you wouldn't normally make) are so great you get nervous.
Of course this artist pushed those markers smoothly on down the lines and finished his mural. I don't know what technique he uses. But for me, it is as simple as doing it and acting confident. Because acting confident is being confident. Confidence is a behaviour, and even if you fuck it up, people will still respond positively to the confidence.

And that's it. It's fun being an illustrater, If I could be an illustrater on a tread mill I would say I had found my calling.

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