Saturday, March 29, 2008

My First Tutorial... Thing

For the past few months, Tom has been hosting sessions where an artist from work spends an hour showing other artists tips and tricks they've picked up over the years. I'm usually caught up in meetings and have a difficult time attending, but he puts together videos I can watch later. Since I go drawing with Tom, he asked if I would be interested in hosting a session, and I agreed. Since I'm not talking about anything work-related, I thought it would be cool to put up on the web as a tutorial of sorts. It's extremely unfocused -- just me rattling off my thoughts as I doodle -- but maybe something in there will be helpful to someone. Hopefully, there will be more vids to share, and they might get more organized. The vid is compressed for Google Video, as hosting an MOV file ~700M is beyond my scope.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Ink Press

We had a big turnout this week at drawing night. The list included Derek, Rachel, Ryan, Manfred, Jon, Tom, Dillon, and two newcomers: a designer buddy from work, Erin Reynolds; and a student, friend of Dillon's, and brother to a guy I know, Rob James. I decided to press on the ink brush tonight. I really feel like my drawings lose something when I try to take them from pencil to inks, so I wanted to see if I could figure out why, and whether I could get a better approximation of what the pencils look like when the inking was done. On the first page, I started without pencil with the face in the upper-left. Doing inks without pencil seems to produce okay results, but I just flow with mistakes and ultimately don't feel remotely as "in control" as I do with a pencil. The next face (top-mid) was done in pencil first, but when I put down inks and erased the pencil, I thought it was missing something. It got smudged, too; I hate waiting to see what it looks like, so I get impatient, not really caring if it's super-smudgy. Ryan was watching me, and he said that he doesn't use the long brushy part of the pen except for the outer-edges, and he fills in the center with a smaller, simpler pen. So I tried to do that with the guy on the lower-left. I think I messed up the balance of thick lines to thin, but I liked the results of the smaller pen. It made me wonder if I could just "draw" with the thin pen, and the mid-low head was the result of that thought. Inks just don't work like pencils despite best intentions, so I went back and tried one more brush-edge, pen interior drawing with the guy on the right. The head was feeling a bit empty, but I chose a few pencil lines to emphasize and sketched them back in with pen, and I thought it turned out rather well. I started doing the rest of the body very sketchily as a last attempt of "sketching" with the pen, but gave up again. It just looks weird and lazy -- like it's not taking advantage of what a pen brings to the table.

The best results came from using two separate pens, but I still wished that I could use just one. I gave it one last try with the left guy, but couldn't get enough control of the lines, and liked the original pencil sketch much more. (I wish I had some way to scan in the drawings while we sit at the table. Maybe if I get the webcam thing working you can see what I'm talking about.) The next guy (top) was probably my closest approximation to the sketch, using the brush-edge, pen-interior technique. I also used a smaller interior pen. Encouraged, I did the guy with the black hair. He turned out pretty decent but the bags under his eyes never quite worked the way the pencil did. I began a woman next, but screwed up halfway through and tabled it for a bit. I went back to what was working for encouragement, attempting another guy head (right-mid), but it never looked right. Ah well. I figured I just needed a lot more practice, so I went back to trying another woman (lower-left). She turned out well, but I got less confident around the breasts and just sort of gave up. I draw a lot of breasts, but can usually get away with loose lines and usually never put much detail there. I think inking women is a little nicer, though. I always want to represent them with less and cleaner lines, so I think the transition to inks is less tricky. But you can see how smudgy she is due to my impatience (again).

I tried one more head on the last page and thought it turned out pretty decent. I expressed some of my frustration with wrangling the brush-pen to Ryan, and he talked about how he has a rough time doing "feathering," where you make several lines go from thick to thin, that connect in thickness to a black. I tried doing it myself and could never get it looking right. Thinking about inks and the brush pen Ryan gave me, I wonder if the length of the brush (it's long) gives me too little control. Maybe if I found one that goes from thick to thin with less brush I would feel more control over it. The more I mess with inks, the more my respect keeps growing for the great ink wranglers out there. Some of the work of folks like Eric Canete and Connor Willumsen just blow my mind. I love how they and many others maintain flow and life with their inks. I say hats off to 'em all.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Handful of Lizard

A modest group came to drawing night on Tuesday, including Derek, Jon, Manfred, and Tom. Warm-up was fun, but I kept being bothered by the girl on the left's leg until I marked it with a paranoid "WTF." I caught myself thinking about how my drawings almost always follow the same structure, and so I decided to see where my brain wanted to lead me, and ended up with only a mild variant of the same structure in the lower-right. Ah well.

I looked over to my right where Jon was sitting and saw that he had put in this really beautiful, flowing line and shape that I found myself wanting to draw over, so I covetously suggested that I finish the "pose" for him, and I was lucky he agreed. It was the girl in the foreground that had this nice swirly line that I think became the basis for her ponytail. And I wanted her to have a friend, so I doodled the other girl in a way that I thought blended with the flow of the other girl's lines. Jon asked where she was flying from, and I decided that the first girl was flipping her in circles. There are no swoosh lines to suggest it, but I enjoyed the thought.

My favorite of the night, though, was this kid. He had strange facial features and hair that was boring me, so I decided to add a kind of hair explosion, not caring how the hair might actually work. It was fun to doodle out his body from there, and I enjoyed the angle of the legs and feet. When I finished his right hand, I kept thinking of something he could hold, and thought some round living thing would work. As I played with the lines, it became a lizard head, and I just doodled out the body in a curve from head to tail. I liked the swirl, so I decided it was a swirl-emitting lizard. In the end, I enjoyed the drawing enough that I asked the guys to rate it on whatever scale they wanted to, and they all left very useful comments that will help shape my art in the future. It also offers proof that my friends are more vulgar than they might have you believe.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Kevin Keele's Alan Tew's Totoro

My buddy Kevin Keele did a painting of Totoro from my last update, but I can't figure out how to get it to thumbnail here because I'm a goddamned idiot. But rad! I wish this sort of thing happened more often. Check out Kevin's blog!

Wednesday, March 12, 2008


These drawings came from a smaller drawing night, with Dillon, Tom, Ryan, Virginia, Manfred, Brent, and a newcomer (since I started this blog) Kelly Murphy, a fellow designer at work. I guess that's not that small, but it felt so. Dillon seemed to want a little more structure on his second visit to draw night since last time it freaked him out to just sit down and draw whatever. I recommended that he just grab some character reference from online and do his own interpretations. An image popped in my head of Eric Canete's Mononoke, and I suggested to Dillon that he do something like Mononoke or Totoro. After mentioning Totoro, I had this vivid image in my head of a Totoro in the wild. Not the cute Totoro that Miyazaki depicted, but an actual Totoro, in all his fearsome glory. So when I sat down, I said that I wanted to do something with Totoro, but Ryan had never heard of it. So I drew a ridiculous Totoro from memory and Ryan suggested I ink it.

It was nice to have Tom on hand because he's a fancy lad with an iPhone, and he was able to look up actual reference for Totoro and show one of the most awesome moments from the movie to Ryan. Using his iPhone, I drew some Totoro reference in the upper-left and proceeded to do my rendition of a feral Totoro. Two thoughts crossed my mind while drawing it. The first was that this might reveal the difference between how Totoro treats little girls and little boys. The second was just that all wild Totoros are just this mean. This was a crazy fun drawing to do.

The final page was just random stuff from my head. Tonight felt a little reverse-order, where my last drawings seemed like warmup drawings. And that's it! It was a simple night.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Happy Hulk

Draw night was one person more successful than the last: Dillon Thompson joined Tom, Jon, Ryan, Derek, Rachel, Virginia, Brent, and me. I don't think Dillon knew what to think when he first got there; we all just sort of sit there and doodle. So I asked him to draw some cartoony looking dudes so we could do "real-life" versions of them, and then we never got to the real-life part. (Sorry about that, Dillon.) But the cartoony dudes were good for loosening up, and I decided to litter the bottom of the page with heads. The guy with the Amish-ish beard catches my eye because his head/neck mass is weird.

Next up, more ink barfing. Ryan and Derek seemed encouraging, telling me that my brush control seemed to be getting better, but I don't really feel any more in control. I've been trying to learn the guitar lately, and I just assume it's a little like that; I can't tell when the hell I'll be able to do bar chords and stuff, but I just keep messing with it and eventually it just starts happening. Similarly, at the end of a programming book I once got through, the message at the end was that the key to learning programming is to be really kind and patient with yourself, and this seems applicable to the brush-pen thing.

So while I was doodling and inking, Ryan was doing these killer Hulk pics (see his site) that made me laugh out loud because the Hulk was happy in them. He made the comment that you never see the Hulk happy (because he's only the Hulk when he's mad), and I thought that was astute. So I had to join in the fun and render my own version of Happy Hulk. I originally intended for his legs to be a lot smaller so he looked a little more Looney Toony, but it didn't work out that way; maybe next time.

Pose-swapping is basically an addiction at this point. I asked Ryan to come up with the theme, and he said that we should give each other hard poses with muscle-heads. Even when I draw muscle-people like Ahnuld, I tend to try to keep in mind their real bones and such, so I think my poses didn't suggest a lot of mass. The stuff Ryan gave me definitely suggested some fun mass to draw, so I think Ryan got the short end of the pose stick. I particularly liked the muscle guy on the right, who I imagined with a bit of a gut.

The next page started with the face of a cute lady, but her body started looking wrong to me, so I kinda gave up and did the guy head. Then I returned to her body and kinda mushed shapes around until it didn't look too bad to me, and I decided to make her seem all watery. I was happy with her flow in the end.

Keeping with the good feeling of flowing lines, I started the guy with the goggles. I thought his lines felt good, and I was having fun with him. Ryan saw the way I drew his arm and made a comment about how I seemed to approach it with the outer edge, and how weird that was. It didn't strike me as odd, so we got into a discussion about how we put shapes together. I think I gave him the impression that I always approach drawings with silhouettes, which isn't true, but that conversation led to foreshortening. On that topic, I found myself thinking about the Street Fighter illustrations that Capcom does, and how my favorite ones always has a body part greatly foreshortened. Sometimes they choose unusual things to foreshorten, like a knee or elbow. With unusual foreshortening thrown out there, Ryan suggested an extreme ear shot. We had the same basic angle (I'm not sure what other to try, really), but Ryan's was a truer ear shot. (I cheated with burst marks.)

Before we took off for pizza, I fiddled around and ended up with this girlie stretching gum. :-)