I feel like a little introduction is at place here, so here goes.
My 'career' has been filled with ups and downs, sadly, when I look back at those periods I can instantly point out the cause of the downs; drawing from imagination. I think I can say I understand drawing from life, I'm far from mastery but if I take my time I can draw the subject I'm looking at.
However, I obviously want more than that, I want to create rather than copy. Perhaps I'm mistaken, but it seems like, for most people, drawing from imagination just happens over time, they did their studies, they spent vast amounts of time drawing from life, and built their mental library up to a point where they can start inventing their own stuff. I feel like I'm just not getting there... I draw every day, I vary the things I do but I do 30 second drawings every day, anatomy pretty much every day as well as drawing from life. On mondays I have a figure drawing class which lasts 4 hours, I enjoy it a lot and there is obvious improvement, but I'm just not satisfied with just that... Besides the studies I like to scribble in my sketchbook but those sessions usually don't last long, nothing I produce is up to the standards I demand from myself so I quickly turn back to doing more studies. Perhaps I should start the stuff from imagination differently and, for example, first collect reference and merge it together (by drawing) to end up with the idea I have in my head? Reference for the pose combined with reference for the props on the character etc for example...
So to make this short; why does it feel like there is barely any improvement in my stuff from imagination, when in my opinion the improvement in my life drawings is blatantly obvious? Should I really just draw more and more and more and will it eventually happen some day, or am I doing something wrong?
Perhaps I already answered my own question but it would help to hear other people's opinions on this.
Thanks a lot for any replies!
Because it is easier to draw something you can reference, than pull reference out of your head. This is why most artists have reference even working with drawing from imagination. Sometimes you can pull an idea to fruition, and a lot of times you may need help getting there.
Life drawing helps combine things and using your artist's mind you work with a vision you have.
There is no shame in using reference and it's encouraged that you take your own, or have it from a professional who makes a living on making reference pictures for artists (it's a win win and recognizes the functions of photographers as well as illustrators).
imo Life drawing classes and studies are there to develop and refine your skills. But when it comes to imagination pieces, I think, that's where your philosophy and spiritual energy come in.
Your focus, your stories, your story telling techniques along with the skills that you've learned.
In a commercial sense, like as a concept artist, you're working under a guideline just like the other artists in the group.
In personal and or commission pieces, your essentially creating a moody piece. With focuses on what you deem important.
I personally like pieces that nicely lit. Whether it be architecture or characters, the light will always grab my retina.
Random thoughts -
- I can look at a thousand different portrait pieces and the only ones that will stick to me are the ones with a deeper story behind it.
- some sketches say more than an over rendered piece of the same subject/theme.
Random answer I know, but there's got to be a distinction somewhere.
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"Work is more fun than fun."
"Art is supposed to punch you in the brain, and it's supposed to stay punched."
How are you doing these "studies"? For example let's say you're at a life drawing class and drawing a study of a model's arm. When drawing the arm, do you just copy what you're seeing, in a purely technical sense? Meaning you draw it from the perspective of form, value, or contour, etc. Or, do you look at the arm, understand what you're looking at - how the muscles and sinew bind and wrap around the arm, how the pieces are put together, and draw from life, and as you draw you learn and understand more about just what exactly makes an arm an arm?
I had a very outstanding professor who once told us, during a life drawing class, "It's drawing what you see ... but it's also drawing what you know." I don't think I fully understood what she meant back then, which is ironic since at that point I was very comfortable with life studies and "seeing" and had good results doing those, but the things I drew from imagination were nothing near the same level.
I realize now that it's because when I was drawing from life, I did it in a "purely technical sense" - form, value, I was drawing what I saw - which is what they do teach you when you first start out. But I've learned now that the step after that (and I think this process comes more naturally to some people and not to others) is to have the process of drawing also be one of learning about the object you are drawing - not just copying its form. Because copying its form will improve your shading, your mark-making, your line weight, your etc. - it will not teach you how to draw an arm if you are focused only on the form and value and not the arm itself. You need to focus on both. Once you learn to see, you have to learn to know.
I don't know if I'm conveying this clearly. It might sound insignificant but it's quite a different mental shift. I used to be atrocious at looking at something and remembering how to draw it later - even seconds later - but simply thinking about it in this different way, my understanding has strengthened and my visual memory has already improved more than I thought it ever could. This makes drawing from imagination much easier and a lot less frustrating.
Of course, even when drawing from imagination, always look up reference when you come across something you can't figure out or understand on your own.
tl; dr: You need to understand what you're drawing. Once you do that, you will find it so much easier to draw from imagination.
@ Arshes Nei: Thanks! Brings to mind the thread with all the pics of Rockwell's images where he shows how he manipulated ref to create his works. Guess I shouldn't be so afraid of using ref because that's really what's holding me back from creating original work, the idea of having to build everything from my own mind..
@ vardoburrito: Agreed, just having troubles putting on paper what I have learned, feels like it's nothing coming out, yet. Need more practice!
@ Elwell: Thank you! Is sketching the idea always beneficial? (I know it's necessary) Even if it's completely wrong? Say I want to create a realistic character, first I sketch the pose I imagine him/her in, but the anatomy etc. is all completely off,...
@ landylachs: I understand, that's why I study anatomy whenever I get the chance. For now, drawing what's underneath is not possible in the figure drawing class, short time span and the teacher decides what we put on paper, for now it's the entire figure so doing an intimate study of the arm would go against what we're expected to do, for now. The second part of figure drawing (in a couple of months) will focus on what WE want to do though, and I've already mentioned that I will be focusing on anatomy to which the teacher replied that that's not a problem, so that's definitely good news. I've got a good amount of books on figure construction as well, love practicing the stuff but it's hard to make it stick though, I guess eventually it will stay up there :p
I also didn't mean drawing the actual muscles and structure underneath - I meant drawing the surface of the arm while keeping in mind how the understructure is built.
Oh yeah absolutely, it's not just contour drawings I'm doing But I think the anatomy part is important for imaginative figure drawing, just haven't gotten there yet
Doing it the other way around is what tends to hurt artists because they try to copy the reference instead of using it to help them with their idea.
In most cases, people who create something original and creative have doe a lot of base work to start with. One of the ways of defining creativity is the ability to link and present something you know in a new and interesting way.
You can't connect something in a new and interesting way, if you don't know it well enough.
Working from imagination is very simple. You go and tell a story.
If you don't tell a story with your picture, then it will be bland and boring. All these life studies are just giving you the tools to tell the story; like learning the alphabet, spelling and grammar. But you cannot write anything meaningful without having something to write about; it might as well be random alphabet soup.
When you decide what story to tell, though, you can figure out the ways to tell it. Some ways will be better than others, so you experiment and try them out and pick the best ones and so develop your story.
From not just from reading it in my psychology textbook, but I can say from experience that satisfaction is relative to your achievements. You can see your improvement just by comparing your drawings now and to those in the past (which has a greater percentage of skill disparity). But you will be constantly dissatisfied shortly after you have achieved even your greatest works, because you always want to do better. This is how our brain works. The same is for why rich people don't feel that they are rich. An explanation can be derived from the generalization of Weber's Law, which specifically says that to sense a change in any stimulus, it depends on a proportional or percentage of change rather than a fixed amount. Proportional changes are relatively constant, so the fixed amount of change varies. Wine tasters can taste the difference in sweetness if the percentage of sweetness is changed by just 20% (20% change in sweetness would be the absolute threshold for a wine taster, a threshold for JND, or just noticeable difference). Now, you don't jump from 1% change in your current drawing skill directly to 100% of it, instead you are climbing slowly, which is why you don't notice a difference until a noticeable proportion of your skill level has changed, or that it has passed a difference threshold and approached JND. The problem here is that each percentage of improvement is set as a relative standard, and when it becomes the new standard for improvement, you tend to make the past improvements obsolete. So what you care about is what is happening now and so you always want to improve and you feel no improvement. This is what is meant by achievement being relative, or richness being relative. This is also the basis for how withdrawal symptoms work; a drug addict needs more and more drugs to become satisfied, because a change of increase in levels of "high" needs to correspond to a percentage-the percentage of just noticeable difference-rather than a fixed amount.
It also helps to see some of your work, as always.
Last edited by Vay; October 26th, 2011 at 07:16 AM.
Twinkle, twinkle little star
I don't wonder what you are
For by spectroscopic ken
I know that you are hydrogen - Ian D.
Thanks a lot everyone for the great answers!
Cranberry: Could you post up a couple of your life drawings? Some of us might be able to answer your question a little better by seeing them. Thanks.
From Gegarin's point of view
OK, Just had a look at the sketches:
Cranberry: You are still largely drawing from concept diagrams of objects and parts of objects you can name and this is where your problem from drawing from imagination is coming from.
You need to get to grips with a visual grammer of evoking form on a fundamental level without the crutch of illustrative clues to annouce 'what it is'. Being able to do his will give you the language to speak of what your imagination whispers in your ear.
So, I recommend a strict regime of drawing screwed up pieces of paper, handfuls of broken rocks and piled up bedsheets... until you feel you are making the paper buckle with the pure language of form suggested by linked shapes.
Turn the drawings you do upside down to see if they still 'read' as the forms you have drawn them from.
From Gegarin's point of view
But if you're questioning whether I think form and structure are separate from each other, I think it's a problem of semantics ... by "form" I meant the surface form, and "structure" the underlying, internal form - the bones, how muscles are bound - the things you can't necessarily see all of but should be familiar with. You probably will still say they're the same, and yes, I know they are - but the OP seems like a relatively new student of art, and perhaps it's just the teachers I encountered early on but the really early classes I took didn't stress the underlying structure because students were not at that level of understanding yet. Those early classes were purely to teach us how to see, they were only for observational skills and to train our eye, and to get us comfortable with simply drawing. At that early level (ie: blind contour drawings) you aren't really considering the underlying structure as much yet, you're still developing your technical mechanical skills of sight and pencil/charcoal. And possibly (I can't know for sure of course) the OP is still doing their studies in that mindset (whether copying from life or out of an anatomy book without an understanding of the subject matter).
I think I didn't explain myself very well, I pretty much meant exactly what ConnieKat said, who said it much better than I did:
Last edited by landylachs; October 26th, 2011 at 03:37 PM. Reason: typos