Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Frank Stockton’s Drawing from Your Imagination tutorial

This is good :http://www.frankstockton.com/2009/06/teaching-yourself-to-draw-from-your.html

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Teaching Yourself to Draw from Your Imagination -- part 1

Over the next few months I'm going to be posting some articles about teaching yourself to draw from your imagination. These ideas expressed on the subject of drawing come from both my own observations and from lectures from several fantastic drawing teachers I have had the privilege of studying with, such as Kevin Chen, Dallas Good, Steve Huston and Bob Kato.

Keep in mind that this is general theory and not to be taken as hard, fast rules about what makes a drawing "good." In fact, when it comes to making art, it's the ways in which we diverge from the principles that gives artwork its originality, style, and charm.

Also keep in mind that nothing I or anyone else says are going to make you instantly better; that's only going to come gradually and with a lot of hard work drawing people on your own and from life.


There are two elements present in all kinds of art: IDEA and FORM.

The IDEA is what you want to express, and the FORM is the different elements that make up the piece.

Another way of saying that is the form is like the notes on a piano, and the idea is how you string them together. And as in music, the quality comes not from how well you hit the keys but how they all relate to one another to form a song.

The GESTURE is the IDEA of a figurative drawing.

This can also be described as the "story," or the "pose." When related to drawing, these terms can be used interchangeably, and in fact I prefer to use the word "story" instead of gesture when talking about drawing because it is often much clearer as to what the goal is.


If gesture means the same thing as story, then it should be clear that a "gesture drawing" isn't just a bunch of scribbles done in 30 or 60 seconds from the model, as was my understanding of it from the earliest days of figure drawing.

A gesture is any line or set of lines that gets the story across.

The gesture the most important element in drawing figures by far, because if you fail to tell a convincing story, no amount of style, anatomy, or rendering will ever be able to fix it.

A good draftsman can tell a complex story with stick figures because of his or her grasp of this concept.

I've chosen to use stick figures here to illustrate the point that people will forgive 95% of all your other artistic shortcomings if you can tell the story well.

This is where a lot of drawings fall apart, either in the beginning or in the later stages as you get farther away from the core message of what you're trying to say.

When in the early stages of learning to draw, it's often a good idea to start your gesture off with a single, usually swooping "action line" essentially serves as the "theme" of the figure. This concept is described in greater detail and with many fantastic examples in John Buscema's "How To Draw Comics the Marvel Way."

Also, I should note that the example drawings posted here don't necessarily represent my personal process of drawing; for that, you can look through older blog posts and get an idea of how I come up with my poses; it's a lot more organic and scribbly most times than it looks here. You're going to want to develop your own process, which I will talk about in another post.

Every line you put down should serve to strengthen the basic idea of the pose. If you're drawing a person who is tired or depressed, not only should your initial first few lines get that point across, but subsequent design decisions you make should reinforce that message. The reason being is that every time you put down a mark that gets away from the core idea, the less effectively it communicates its intended message.

In my opinion, the people who are the best at drawing from their imagination are usually animators. It's an animator's job to tell stories through pose. If the storytelling is just the slightest bit "off," everyone can tell. Therefore, it's extremely important that your drawings always focus on the story.

In addition to the initial sketch of a drawing where you get the general idea of the pose down, getting the details right is also important. As I mentioned before, any line you put down that doesn't strengthen the basic story of the drawing you're making serves to weaken it.

This is just another way of saying that to draw is to design.

In drawing just as in storytelling, you're usually going to want to communicate as clearly as possible. Silhouettes offer the fastest, clearest communication of gesture. Will Eisner explained silhouettes in his book "Graphic Storytelling and Visual Narrative," which I highly recommend.


Obviously it is often more difficult to show the gesture on a foreshortened figure than on one shown at a more conservative angle, because a strong grasp of three-dimensional form and basic anatomy come immediately into play in such cases.

Consider your pose in such instances; it may be possible to tilt the angle of the viewer so that there is a clearer story expressed in the silhouette.

The biggest challenge with designing foreshortened figures (after the actual foreshortening part) is keeping the silhouette from being a "bean" and losing all the dynamism of the pose.

Also, you can use a digital camera and a self-timer, or a friend to quickly check and adjust accordingly the way you've designed the pose and make necessary adjustments.

It's essential to use reference while drawing. Failing to use a camera, mirror, or something else when you need it is like not using a dictionary to first look up a word you don't know the meaning of that you want to use in an essay.

Designing for the page

A key difference between the way an illustrator draws and an animator or cartoonist draws is in designing for the page.

Often times in illustration there isn't as strong of a need to stay "on model" as there usually is in comics, cartooning and animation.

Letting go of the principles you've practiced over and over in the drawing workshops to make more interesting illustration can be both extremely daunting and exciting at the same time.

The key to making this work is realizing that there are no limits to what the figure can do when you put it down on paper; as long as you are able to communicate the idea, the possibilities are as endless and free as you permit yourself to imagine.

Always push your design. It's much easier to take a step back from going too far than it is to push forward when you haven't gone far enough.

If you've noticed, this is just "design" in a broader sense, not just figure invention.

The ultimate truth of drawing figures or anything else is that it comes down to your skills as a designer; if it looks good, it's because you designed it well, and if it looks bad, it's because you didn't design it well; it has nothing to do with how much anatomy you know or how well you understand the principles of drawing.

All that knowledge is helpful for informing your design choices, but it doesn't guarantee you a good drawing.

It's important that no matter what teacher you are learning from that you practice drawing out of your imagination on your own, AS WELL AS from life.

You MUST set aside time on a regular basis if you want to improve. It's more beneficial to spend 30 minutes studying the figure on a daily basis than it is to spend four hours in a workshop once a week.

Life drawing should be thought of essentially as "the lab" where you test out ideas and try to figure out what works for you.

Drawing from life is a key component of the over-all equation of learning to draw, as is drawing from your imagination and studying the drawings of other artists.

Do whatever you have to do to make practicing interesting and fun for yourself. If the idea of practicing the figure sounds boring to you, your brain will essentially shut off and you'll just be wasting your time. Find a way to make it fun.

Do not strive to copy exactly the way any one teacher explains to you to draw. It MUST be a process of trial and error. You are essentially trying to find out your own way to do things. This is how you will engage your brain so that you learn quickly.

Practice on your own. Your deficiencies in figure invention will become immediately apparent. Make note of your weaknesses and attack them when you draw from life. You are working to develop your own understanding of the figure.

One way to practice figure invention is to draw comics, which can give you scenarios you never thought of to illustrate.

Listen to different teachers and find out where their ideas overlap. Strive to find the principles and the core messages they are delivering; don't get wrapped up in their process.

Any teacher is explaining to you their own unique understanding. You cannot understand things exactly the same way they do, so you must strive to find your understanding. You must walk your own path parallel to your heroes, but not try to follow in their footsteps.

Monday, August 9, 2010



Illustrators are finding inspiration and tips on how to improve their technique on the web. From cartoonists to those exploring digital art, illustrators can learn a lot from each other. Many illustrators are using blogs to show off their commercial work, while others have a niche following for their quirky drawings.
Tutorial and Illustration History Blogs
These blogs aim at helping artists new and old learn how to draw with a creative edge.
    1. Drawn : Arguably the ultimate online resource for illustrators this site is packed with tips on drawing, improving your craft and learning how to make images come together. 2. Today’s Inspiration : This blog focuses on illustrations from the 1940s and ‘50s and also moves into the ‘60s at times. It makes for a great lesson in art for aspiring illustrators or those who want a refresher on techniques of the past. 3. The Comics Journal : This is the place for cartoonists to get an insider’s perspective on everything from classic comics to more modern graphic novels. 4. Animation Archive : Check out this amazing site that’s packed with cartoons and illustrations from the days of yore, plus countless pointers for improving your own technique when drawing. 5. Drawger : Get ready to be inspired and laugh like crazy at this site for illustrators of every kind. 6. Sea Nursery : This fascinating blog will keep you busy for hours as it explains the importance of taking care of our oceans and how sea life is managing major changes. 7. Tiny Showcase : Developed in 2004, this site is devoted to putting small illustrators in the spotlight. It’s a tiny gallery with a whole lot of talent. 8. 100 Years of Illustration : This blog is a massive retrospect of cartoons and illustrations over the past 100 years. There’s tons of World War II images and great comments from folks all over the world who own authentic posters from the era. 9. The Little Chimp Society : Whether you’re an artist or not, you’ll be drawn to this illustration blog with amazing drawings for everything from emerging artists to album art. 10. BibliOdyssey : If the obscure grabs your interest, head over to this blog that tracks remote illustrations on book covers and music albums. 11. Cartoon Brew : It’s all cartoons at this blog with tons of animated shorts and interviews with cartoonists. 12. Illustration Art : Sometimes less is more and this site celebrates the forgotten artists that worked on posters and ads that shaped the 20th century. 13. Pencil Test Depot : If you’re an illustrator who works mainly with pencil or charcoal, you’ll go nuts for this blog where simple sketches become jaw dropping images in motion. 14. Ape on the Moon : This site provides a look at modern comics. The best thing is there’s publications from all over the globe, giving you a taste of what’s out there without leaving home. 15. Motionographer : It’s all movies at this blog where the writer analyzes typography and animation. 16. AniPages Daily : Pull up a chair and sink into the lengthy posts found on this blog that discuss everything anime, including some of the first anime films ever made. 17. Illustration Class : Learn the tricks of the trade at this fantastic illustration site that makes drawing seem easy. 18. Illustration Friday This site has all types of clever art, but the drawings really take the cake. 19. Illustrophile : A team of illustrators contribute to this blog. Get ready for everything from quirky to breathtaking, proving the word”illustrator” has a very broad range. 20. Journalista : Find all of the news that’s fit to print for illustrators and cartoonists. 21. Meathaus : Illustrators will love this blog because it’s packed with drawing tips, but also showcases inspiration from photographers and video artists. 22. Animation Backgrounds : Read interesting commentary on the background animation of famed cartoons like Disney movies and classic TV shows. 23. Animation Blast : This is an animation site that has delved into the world of print successfully. See some of the artwork featured in the magazine here. 24. Chris Wahl Art : If you want to caricatures of celebrities, this is your blog. Check out cool illustrations of Thom Yorke and Megan Fox. 25. Pikaland : If quirky illustrations are your thing, you’ll fall in love fast with this blog that also features goodies on Etsy.
General Illustration Blogs
Check out these illustration blogs for inspiration and tips on how to market yourself as an illustrator.
    26. Creative Opera : This site provides business help for designers and those in the creative field.. This is a great resource for those who deal with freelancing contracts. 27. Vandelay Desgin : This blog is aimed at designers, but illustrators will appreciate the open advice about selling your services online. 28. Escape from Illustration Island : This blog has the best of both worlds – plenty of creative inspiration as well as business-minded posts to help you make a living at illustrating. 29. Illustration-Design : Illustrators and designers can check this blog for updates on job openings around the world and the web. 30. Illustration Pages : Tracking the talent on Facebook, this site is full of art from amazing artists that draw for the love of art. 32. Booooooom : Get ready for some serious inspiration from this neat blog that’s chock full of the strange and surreal when it comes to many mediums of art. 33. Hai! : The name is short for”hire an illustrator” and the site is packed with portfolios to get your creative juices flowing. 34. Sugar Frosted Goodness : If you’re a beginner, this is a good site to check out that will make the illustrating game feel approachable. 35. Illustration House : This is an auction house for vintage illustrations. The techniques and concepts behind these old images will inspire you. 36. The Art Department : With occasional auctions for charity, this site is devoted to creating book cover art for new wave sci-fi novels that will amaze you. 37. Illustration Mundo : Ever wonder what it’s like to matter in the world of art? This site takes a look at the heavy hitters in the industry and the future of illustrating and publishing. 38. Zero 2 Illo : While this site no longer updates, the archived material is worth a look for beginner illustrators or those looking to make a career out of their hobby. 39. Editorial Anonymous : This secretive children’s book editor shares his or her’s woes on the job and solid tips for those looking to break into the biz. 40. The Daily Cartoonist : News for the modern cartoonist. There’s everything from commercial animation to web comics and classic panels and storyboards. 41. Lines and Colors : The art at this site will stun even the most seasoned illustrator. Be prepared for serious inspiration from the amazing artists featured on this blog. 42. Signature Illustration Blog : Another homerun of an illustration site with exceptional work from artists. Some images are so startling, you’ll find yourself thinking of them throughout the day. It’s that intense.. 43. Fuel Your Illustration : Be prepared for inspiration galore at this site. There are featured illustrators and archives posts that will improve your craft. 44. Thunder Chunky : It’s illustration, design and even screenprinting at this ridiculously addictive site that will make you channel your inner artist (even if it’s just a remote part of you). 45. The Illustrator Academy : This site is full of tips for illustrators and comes to you from the pros. 46. The Illustration Site : Real tips for people who want to work in illustrating. Sit down and take in the great tips that illustrator Lorraine Dey has to offer. 47. Art and Story : Listen to these podcasts which examine the relationship between a storyline and the images that bring it to life. 48. Character Design : A look at all of your favorite characters, re-interpreted by illustrators who bend the rules. The site gets especially busy during events like Comic Con when readers submit work they’ll be selling at the iconic convention. 49. Illustration Magazine : This magazine tracks illustrations throughout the 20th century, giving yo a taste of what once was. While there aren’t many images available online, there’s info on how to subscribe to and order back issues of this exceptional publication for illustrators. 50. How Design : This is an excellent site for artists looking to improve the business side of their services.