Thursday, April 01, 2010

Study Study Study

I've recently found and fallen inlove with Sean 'Cheeks' Galloway. For all the bashing American's may get in the world it does seem to be the only country that can produce a particular type of nice guy, and that is the kind of nice guy personified by Cheeks. Well... Canada as well I guess. Perhaps I should just say the America's? Maybe I don't know shit.

Anyway, As I think I've posted before, I'm leaning heavily on Humberto Ramos and Francesco Herrara (I purchased their sketchbooks and now have them in my backpack) for the style I want for my next major comic project. I don't want to immitate them, they'll just join the long line of existing influences like Greg Cappullo, Tim Sale etc, etc.

But then I realised looking at my script after slaving away trying to get the design of my main character to 'feel right' (it took a month). I needed shortcuts, a simpler style to compensate for my planned workload (20 pages a week) and in the first week I had 6 or 7 characters appear. I didn't want what I will dub the 'fowp guard' effect where all these expendible characters are cut with the same cookie cutter and only made distinct by some jewellery, a changed hairstyle and so fourth.

I wanted my characters whether throaway or not to be distinctly recognisable and furthermore to achieve a consistency of style. Blah.

Long story short, the same website that sells Humberto Ramos and Herrara's sketchbooks: Brandstudio Press you should not (at time of this publication) is headed up by a bunch of 'sold-out' copies of Cheeks' sketchbooks.

Now questionable though the practice of headlining a website with 'sold out' products is, my bigger question was 'who is this cheeks guy?'

Well Cheeks is this guy:

He is a prolific producer and has a background in animation. He is heavily stylised and it is a pretty cool style.

I've pretty much spent the last two weeks, with any free time I had studying his drawings. Now the post isn't about Cheeks as such but about studying for drawing (incedently I've done almost no study for my actual course. That is thankfully yet to come). But the thing is I really wanted some anatomy lessons to inspire short cuts for my character design, ways to convey the same sort of style I want but that is simpler and easier to reproduce at the rate of 20 pages per week.

There's stuff that I like in Cheeks' work for example that I wouldn't try to imitate, like the thin line, I'm not sure if this is the product of using a Cintiq monitor to draw, or whether even his pencil work is in a thin line.

But there is a bunch of stuff to learn in construction from Cheeks. How do I study? By pretty much copying his work. I don't try to be exact, I just want to feel out the methodology. I have no idea if the methodology is the same either. In the same way you could reconstruct a chinese character by looking at it, with a completely different stroke order.

Most images I can obtain for any artist are finished, so you don't really see how they mass, in what order they place features etc. I always used to start with the head, but nowadays I start with the ribcage (the largest mass in a male physique, and on par with the pelvis in female).

My advice from one studier to another is - draw everything a given artist will give you. Drawing doesn't really follow the law of diminishing returns, that is...

Um, check out Cheeks' deviant art profile now you can see how prolific and generous Cheeks is with making digital copies freely available for private use by fans.

He has easily about 200 headshots, and about 100 full body profile character studies.

Now the law of diminishing returns would suggest that after 20 headshots, and 10 full body studies, you'd probably already learned half of what you would get out of copying/studying the further 90/180 whatever.

I'm saying it doesn't work like that, you will learn quickly the 'fundamentals' from about the first 10% you do, but then when you are thinking 'Surely I've done enough' you will be hit with a sudden quantum insight that may just double your drawing ability.

So the returns on practicing drawing are not normalised, they aren't even a pareto distribution (80/20 for pareto, 20% of the drawings will yeild 80% of the artists secrets in this context, 'normal distribution' means that the majority of the learning will be clustered around some 'average' magic number of drawings to copy.)

Not so I say, furthermore, when I'm planning to do a series predominantly focussed on drawing people, you may think, well then reject all the lizard like, cat like whatever characters from your studies.

Not so again, you will learn things about construction from all different types of examples, everything increases your repertoir. So treat everything as a learning opportunity and do it.

You just can't predict when you will learn something new. This is kind of a truism, if you were able to predict what you will learn, you will have effectively already learned it.

The thing with learning in general is that you just don't know, what you don't know. So that's why I say, if you want to be a better drawer, try drawing everything you can get your hands on.

If you like somebodies style, neglect nothing when you study it. Anything could yeild 'secrets' to you. Drawing is in essence problem solving, often the least appealing things to draw end up being the most rewarding (like a composition of 10 different characters of all different shapes in 10 different dynamic poses).

Often the shortcuts I (you) are trying to learn will force themselves upon you. Try drawing to a time line if it seems tedious, just say 'okay I need to reproduce this in 5 minutes'. Drawing is one of those things where you can learn from anything.

Infact even if you are reading this and have had no interest whatsoever in drawing, somebody crushed it out of you when you are 5, I may as well throw in here, YOU should try drawing too. It opens your eyes to life, beautiful becomes more beautiful (and is a pain in the arse to draw, as it often involves the least details/wiggle room) but ugly ALSO becomes beautiful. Everything is beautiful to the artists eye...

Okay I'm getting carried away, look just pick up a pencil and start studying.

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