For the past few years (around 4) I have been working my butt off to get my fundamentals in place. I usually go for 3 hour figure drawing sessions 3 times a week, Ive been studying anatomy and perspective. Lately I have been trying to get deeper into color and painting too. My figure drawing teacher keeps telling me "Drawing from life is the only way to go." And I do understand this, but I have been wondering.. When do I get to do more than that? I feel like all my time is spent doing very uncreative work. I DO see the value in the work that I am doing and I see very clear improvement. But in the long-run what I really want to be doing is illustration. The thing is when I am working on, say, drawing from my imagination I feel like I am wasting time and not getting any better.
I guess my question to the more skilled artists here is when should i start getting into more creative work? Or better, how do I create a bridge between my creative work and all the fine arts training I am doing?
Right now I am working towards a liberal arts degree and doing a part-time art foundation program at an art college. That means painting, figure drawing, composition, etc, but I don't really have classes like illustration, animation, etc. My individuals skills are getting much better, but I feel clueless when I have to compose an image.
Any tips would be great.
Please stop by my sketchbook!
In your figure class during the long poses add some armor to the model or some other fantasy element from your imagination. Try to make the imagined part as good as the observed part. You can do this with all of your stuff; I do this with my plein air paintings. A lot of them are used as the basis for an illustration idea. Its easier to add imagined things to real world observed settings or figures than it is to make up everything.
I would say you should be working on creative challenges in parallel as well. Any "creative" work better hit on all fundamental cylinders anyway. I think Gurney is king when it comes to bridging the two.
If you're having trouble composing images I would recommend Jack Hamm's "Drawing Scenery"...it's actually got great info on composition theory.
Coming up with compositions out of your head is as much a skill as any of the observational techniques you're learning right now--and one that needs to be practiced and developed. If you want to do illustration work someday, then do illustration work. They might be bad. They might be terrible, even. But by taking on these practical exercises you'll finally understand the point behind the fundamentals you've been studying.
**Finished Work Thread **Process Thread **Edges Tutorial
Crash Course for Artists, Illustrators, and Cartoonists, NYC, the 2013 Edition!
"Work is more fun than fun."
"Art is supposed to punch you in the brain, and it's supposed to stay punched."
Drawing exclusively from your imagination is ultimately what you are after. It's like the ability to play the piano without the crutch of sheet music.
It is the difference between composing and performing. The difference between musicianship and the musical equivalent of copy typing.
Last edited by Chris Bennett; February 16th, 2012 at 09:03 AM.
If you spend too much time studying a specific area, you will reach a plateau, or a point of diminishing returns. I think the brain can only absorb so much of a particular topic at a time, before it just needs to sink in and become second nature. You won't do yourself any favors by sticking to only one topic of study. Keep coming back to it of course, but study across a spectrum of skills.
Also, go ahead and draw from your imagination and for the pure fun of it sometimes. It's a good way to see the progress you've made, and how much of it has become second nature. Or at the very least, it reminds you why you wanted to draw better in the first place.
Painting or drawing from something in front of you is not bad in itself. I started out as a life painter, exclusively, and some of the artists I admire most deeply are in that camp - Uglow, Coldrstream, Garcea Lopez and Cezanne.
So what am I going on about?
When you really 'get the hang' of painting from life (painting from photos is painting from life, but with a visual condom on - not wrong, just... you know.) you realise that you are in fact painting from your imagination. You are intensly aware that you are visualising a painting in your mind's eye and that the facts before you are submitting to it; their role to supply information at the imagination's behest. This happens even in the most literal or 'conservative' of interpretations and there is absolutely no difference in the principle whatsoever.
I can't stress the importance of this. It's the hardest thing to get across to students. And it is the most bitter. Because although I can teach methods of construction, ways of measuring, tips on how to blot out textual or 'literary looking', I can't teach them how to grip an image as a painting in their mind and hold onto it like the apple of their eye, gloriously and confidently taking from what's in front of them for their own artistic purpose.
It's bitter because... you either have it or you don't.
When teaching you are dealing with somebody’s life. Whilst you are advising, correcting and informing them about technical matters everything is fine. But addressing the primal importance of imagination in everything we do is to go to the core of self worth.
And I stay right away from it, because I do not want to risk hurting them by mentioning something they, or I, can do nothing about.
I'm sure all the teachers here feel like this. It's the most important damn thing in the box and yet you can't mention it as specific to a person’s technical problems if you suspect they do not have a strong suit in this gift.
Talking with pros is a different thing. If their work has gone off the boil or looks laboured or embalmed or listless or... any of the things that besiege us all from time to time – it is because of a mistrust of our imagination.
Last edited by Chris Bennett; February 17th, 2012 at 07:25 AM.
I self-published a book on the fundamentals of drawing from life.
Lately, when drawing from life, I've been trying to look at the subject and retain parts of the information I see, in my mind, and then translate it to the paper. It's been quite difficult. Its only some times that I can retain some information, but feels good and right, when I do. Is this the same thing you are saying? In a more complex way maybe.
I haven't read anything about it, just thought that's a good way to approach the subject. Before approaching like this, I just looked to the subject and would rapidly put a mark on the paper and after that I would compare the mark I made with the subject, make adjustments until it was right to me.
Are you explaining that every pro artist has, or should have, the ability to see an image and retain that image in his mind eye? at what level? And also, your saying that, either you have it, either you don't. But doesn't this skill get better with training? Or is it an aptitude of the individual?
It would be great to be able to understand this.
If Chris doesn't mind I'll add my two cents on the idea of "gripping the image in the mind's eye". The vision, ability, or whatever you want to call it that allows one to "see" or work toward a specific image in their head is what Chris is talking about. I think it is what separates the artist from the technician. It takes a great deal of experience to get there in a meaningful way (usually). Along the way we have to practice seeing and observing so our work can reach the level of realism or communication we're after. For some that is very representational...for others it is more expressive, magical, whimsical, etc.
Richard Schmid describes it very well when he says (wildly paraphrasing): "Basically I just see the subject as a finished painting and all I have to do is follow the steps necessary to realize it."
So basically what you're doing, whether working from life, a photo or imagination, is visualizing (or trying to) what you want your image to be, and using every ounce of skill, sensitivity and ability you've developed to that point to say what you want to say.
Edit: I hope that adds to Chris's comment and helps a bit.
Even if you mostly work from life and not from imagination, you still might want to think in terms of story and staging. You can go outside and paint the first house you see, as you find it. Or you can imagine what sorts of people live in that house, the story the house has to tell. If you want to show it as a family home you can paint it in warm evening light with the children's toys scattered all over the driveway, and if you want to show off the soullessness of suburban life you can stick in the painting with five other houses exactly like it. You can show it looking dull and abandoned in the rain, or looming over the viewer or in whatever way you want in order to support the idea that you want the painting to display.
You might want to read some books on cinematography and visual storytelling. It's well and good to sit in class drawing figures but in the end you have to use that knowledge to say something, whether it's "war is hell" or "boobs are neat" or whatever.
Originally Posted by Noah Bradley
If you want to do illustration work someday, then do illustration work.
This is what I'm starting to realize, only with what I enjoy. Comics.
Studies are good, but if I want to do comics, I should do comics as well.
There's things just by practicing even if the pages are shit you learn.
Things you might not learn just doing observational drawings of people and things. For comics as an example, usage of font, text bubbles, page layouts, practicing basic consistency, finding the balance between complex detailed rendering and a rendering style that doesn't change every page, story boarding and cinematography, as well as just the story itself.
I don't know a lot about Illustration but it seems to have it's own particulars that go beyond drawing a pretty picture, if it's a book cover for instance it has to capture elements of the book obviously to give the viewer an interest to read and basic information on what might be the contents (Without spoilers usually lol). There are actual illustrators here that probably have given advice on all that jazz.
Either way just my 2 cent opinion.
read the brief and draw
find challenges, read brief and draw
Get a book, read a few lines of text and convert into an image.
All the best.
Last edited by Charlie D; February 18th, 2012 at 08:28 AM.
Learning to see
"...the ideas are what matter most" Doug Chiang
At the Illustraton Master Class, last year, Iain Mccaig gave a great suggestion (which is what I'm currently working on).
He says to just do the drawing that you want to do (lots of them). Doesn't matter how bad it is. Once the drawing is done, take each piece of the drawing and find the necessary reference images and correct the drawing. As you gain more experience, you will have to rely less and less on the reference images.
When I first worked on landscape paintings, they were awful. But, I still drew the scenes that I thought were interesting. Adding plein-air painting and lots and lots of paintings of trees, mountains, water, etc.. I can now do a decent job simulating the landscape out of my head. In the future, I'll start incorporating people into the landscape.
JeffX99 pretty much summed up what I meant.
Certainly the ability to access the imaginative image gets better with experience, mainly because you come to trust it as the only way of producing work that has that 'something'.
The thing is, you don't really see this imagine in your mind's eye in the same way you see things 'out there'. It's not the same as looking at a photograph.
It's a sort of corner of the eye thing, a sense of what you are after that, although it undergoes a flux in your mind (changes) as the painting developes, is consistent in its thrust.
Like trusting where a compass will take you.
Like the bones of the land - The seasons change, the snow is followed by spring and summer leaves, the fields bloom green, they fade with autumn, the sky heaves and settles, wet and dry...
But it is always the same land.
I think I got the concept, thanks Chris, and Jeff, your two reply's were very enlightening. As it's really difficult to put into words such a subjective concept.
I feel that some times I can get a glimpse of that "feeling" towards the paper. Maybe to some this is already developed in them, but I believe that with practice I will get there too. But it might be an amazing feeling to be able to accomplish that. I think I've got another mid term goal to achieve.