Wednesday, April 24, 2019

Exact copying procedure

Close Scrutiny (copying of existing work)

Once you are convinced that having better (more accurate) memories of the way things look will help you to draw better, the next step is the building up your store of  memories (Mental Constructs).  Our emphasis in this class is in becoming more skillful at depicting the human form  and thus we use great drawings from the past to not only train our eye-hand skills but to increase our knowledge. Then, when we work from the live form we can summon enhanced knowledge (how others have dealt with drawing contours; what anatomical conventions they used) and produce better results.  This does not happen all at once, so we must be persistent, and approach each “copy” as a valuable learning experience.

Close Scrutiny as I define it relative to learning to draw is to copy works that are pertinent to our area of interest.  It is not enough to simply look longingly at work we admire we must “get into it”, “make it a part of ourselves”, and we can only do this by trying to reproduce it in our own hand.  If you wanted to learn to play the guitar you wouldn't just study chord diagrams in a manual;  you would actually try to imitate and test these diagrams by working with the instrument; over, and over, and over again.  And if the first few times you couldn't get the fingering correct, you would persist until your fingers and hands, “did what you wanted them to”.  You could probably learn to play the guitar without the manual and study of previous music, but it would be a much longer process.  In a like manner we must train our hands and enhance our memories if we wish to improve drawing abilities.  Think of the copying of the work of the Masters as a “manual”, and that by using the “manual” correctly you will make the most rapid progress.

To gain the most benefit from Close Scrutiny:
1.Copy drawings using the same or similar media  ---  We are trying to learn how the Master made his/her marks.  If we say, make a drawing copy of a painting then we are wasting that (learning how the master made marks) aspect of the learning experience.  Use good paper (quality sketch pad paper is adequate).

2.Use exact same proportions as the original  ---  To avoid distortions based on page shape.  For example, if the original illustration is 5”w x 7”h, and you want to make a slightly larger drawing that is say, 6”w, then use the simple formula 5 is to 6 as 7 is to X;  , cross multiply so that 5x = 42, and , or x = 8.4 so your new dimensions are  6”w x 8.2”h

3.Set up drawing BEFORE you start to render  ---  Use very light pencil lines  to set locations of key parts of the drawing before you start.  Then use very light, loose “shape volumes ”  to “block in” the figure. (See the "Touch" definition in an earlier post)

4.Note and Try to capture the “Spirit” of contours and shading technique  --- Also pay attention to “conventions for anatomy “ that show up and recur.  By drawing in "the spirit" of the original I mean you should not try to copy every line precisely as the original lines were done quickly and deftly.  Rather ty to emulate the quality of the line or shading without having to slow down so much that your copy looks "labored"

5.Make the current copy the “Best” you've ever done.  By that I mean, incorporate the knowledge of mistakes or missteps you made in a previous copies to help you avoid these problems in your current work.

6.More advanced copying to learn different styles and techniques should come later.  Try to copy at a level you can handle.  The knowledge you gain with each succeeding copy builds, so that more difficult projects become possible.

Monday, November 21, 2016

Useful Definitions

Below are definitions and descriptions for some terms I use

Drawing definitions                       2016

Learning to draw is the process of acquiring an Eye-Hand coordination skill.  It can be likened to learning to play the guitar or piano or learning to shoot a basketball.   But, in addition to that skill, drawing uniquely requires that we learn a trick of visualization and then, build better memories for the things we wish to draw.   Once better visualization (Artistic Seeing or Seeing Flat) is established, It is a combination of the Eye–hand skill and improved knowledge that causes our drawing skill to increase.
There is no innate ability possessed by a chosen few, which enables them to draw better than the rest of us. The difference, once correct Seeing is established, is a willingness to put in the necessary time.  It takes “X” number of repetitions to develop an eye-hand skill, to train our muscle memory.  We cannot bypass this need to do the repetitions, but we can discover a way to speed up the learning process.


Seeing Flat: When I use this term I am referring to the acquired ability to look at a three dimensional scene, and see it’s various components as if they were on a flat surface (as though you had taken a photograph of the scene).  This is a major stumbling block for many people trying to learn to draw.
Cone of Focus: normal persons eyes only focus in a cone of about 6-8 degrees! And with a very limited depth of field.  This means that though we think we are seeing an in-focus environment, we are really seeing a pieced together construct made up of a series of brief snapshots as our eyes dart around from one point of interest to another.

Relationships: are: parallel lines, similar or exact shapes within a scene, lines which flow or lead into other lines, and other less well defined consistencies that our right side brain picks up on and which help us to “organize” complex visual material.  Relationships become apparent once we learn to “see Flat”.  They are the basis for more advanced and interesting composition.

Subliminal: this refers to information which we constantly process that doesn’t intrude into our conscious thoughts.  Finding and exploiting Relationships  on a subliminal level is a powerful way of making our compositions more interesting.

Left side/Right side: This refers to the differentiation of tasks by the left and right sides of our brain.  Understanding how this works is important to rapid improvement of drawing skills.

Focus in Depth: This is, along with Cone of Focus is a vital concept to understand when interpreting Three-dimensional material in two dimensions.
Proportional and Angular measurement: This is a fundamental skill that all persons desiring to draw what they see accurately must acquire.  Initially it seems a cumbersome and mechanical procedure, but once mastered (a week at most) it becomes a natural and integral part of the drawing process.

Touch and how you hold the pencil: Touch is the ability of the Draftsman to control the intensity of a line by the amount of pressure applied.  Being sensitive to this concept and attempting to apply it will greatly improve your drawing.  A lack of touch is the main reason I recommend that beginning draftsmen use a medium grade pencil like an HB or a B.   How you hold your pencil has a critical effect on touch.   By holding the pencil way back from the tip (loosely between the thumb, index and middle finger), it is possible to draw very loose, almost imperceptible, lines that allow you to establish correct relationships of size, direction and spatial positioning while preventing you from  reverting to seeing edges and contours.  Touch is a critical component of Blocking In.

Fast Drawing and Slow Drawing: Both ways of drawing are essential to developing skill as a draftsman.  Fast drawing teaches you to see gesture and to put down the overall picture, if you will, without focusing on detail.  It also relies on your current knowledge of the subject.  Slow drawing is the process of learning new details, techniques and conventions, and training your hand to the shapes.  The Slow drawing process allows us to input and upgrade data in our memory bank so that we have it available to improve our skill  the next time we see a related situation. Rembrandt could draw with such seeming ease, especially in his later years, because he had developed such detailed knowledge of his subjects.

Negative Spaces-Gaps:  Untrained people don’t pay much attention to the gaps between objects, but as an artist you should consider the spaces between objects just as important as the objects themselves.   To perceive a negative space you had to have seen a relationship!

Slick Drawing This is drawing quickly to affect a style, but without an underlying knowledge based upon study of basics (Slow Drawing).

Mental Construct: The current level of visual knowledge/memory we possess about a given subject.  So, for example, when you begin to draw the human figure, your mental construct is not very strong, but as you draw more and really study the shapes and proportions your memories of those elements are enhanced and your mental construct improves.  If you approach each attempt seriously (by that I mean if you really try to be accurate about your current subject as opposed to relying on your already internalized memories), your knowledge (mental construct) will improve more rapidly.  If you study the drawings of very skilled draftsmen, picking up the subtleties of they way they make marks and the conventions they use for describing anatomical shapes your knowledge will improve even faster.

Blocking in:  This is the second stage of a drawing and refers to the process of using a very light touch to roughly place the major elements in a scene as they relate to the gesture or flow.  It should be the basis for any representational drawing.

Imaginative Range: This is a term to describe the amount of visual information you have acquired, with sufficient detail, to be able to utilize it for your own creative efforts.  When your instructor says you must “draw, draw, draw” or you should be drawing all of the time, or “you aren’t drawing enough” he or she isn’t just referring to the advancement of your muscle memory or even to your improved mental constructs.  As much as anything you are building knowledge, particularly of things with which you are not familiar so that you expand the possibilities of your imagination.  If you haven’t built strong memories into your imagination then they won’t be there for you when you try to create.  You can only draw,/paint/sculpt a convincing Dragon to the extent that you have internalized knowledge (through close study [drawing] of subjects and details relevant to the appearance of a dragon.

Gesture or Flow: Seeing a gesture, particularly in figure drawing is a desirable skill but it is not always easily perceived.  Often the gesture is only a raised arm or a cocked hip or in a seated figure just the hint of a lean to the side.  These are the critical elements of a pose that the beginner never sees because he is so intent on the details of the scene.  It is the same with landscape and still life.  Gesture and flow are neglected in the rush to get at the details. It is only with experience that the artist understands the critical importance of imposing the details on the gesture or

The stages of a drawing:
1.  Gesture or flow

2.  Blocking in- very loosely and lightly establishing relationships of the objects you choose to include in your composition – holding the pencil well back from the tip so your mind doesn’t shift into the detail drawing mode.

3.  Contours (details – only now do you start to see the exact shape of contours)

4.  Finish (tone application etc.)


The Three basic kinds of poses:
1. Standing: divide the body in half at the pubis.  Divide the upper half into thirds: head and neck, Rib cage, and pelvis plus waist.  Divide the lower half in half at the knee joint. Thigh (femur) upper half, lower leg (tibia f/fibula) and foot, the lower half.   I think this is much more logical than the “heads” method. 
2. Seated, as in a chair.  Distance from top of shoulder to base of rear end is roughly equal to the top of the knee to the bottom of the foot (middle, not toes).  Depending on foreshortening, can also be equal to the back of the rear end to the front of the knee (but these are basic dimensions to check when setting up a seated pose).
3. Scrunched up poses – Use a simplified basic shape (four or five lines at most to establish the mass – maybe leave off the head but leave room for it)  Use this to establish locations and directions before drawing any details

Friday, October 28, 2016

As I See it

If we are talking about the process of being able to draw what you see accurately, nothing slows the process down more than not being able to “see” and analyze what you see accurately.  Any rapid progress you might wish to make will be severely hampered if you try to avoid or leapfrog this essential step.  Learn how to see at the outset, or if more advanced, retrofit this skill into your knowledge base as soon as possible. This process is not stressed enough and is critical to rapid advancement in drawing skill.  Seeing accurately is a key part of the process. 

Artistic Seeing, as I define it, is made up of two main components.  First, the ability (easily learned) to look at a 3D scene or subject without focusing; almost as if you used your peripheral vision only, enabling you to establish the distance, size and shape relationships among the components of the scene.  And, second, the ability to control the influence your left-brain memories have on your interpretation (drawing) of what you are looking at.

More to follow

Saturday, September 24, 2016

To copy or not to copy...that is the....

Thoughts on copying

Most of us, a one time or another, have been admonished not to copy.  In its pejorative sense, the word copy implies plagiarism, or, putting forward something done by someone else and implying it is our own.  That is not the kind of copying I advocate, rather, you should use copying (which I sometimes term Close Scrutiny) to learn.  As anyone who has made copies of their favorite comic book character, or fantasy superhero will attest, you can learn how to draw your own fantasy figures by copying some examples.  You are, in effect, building the conventional  mental constructs (how to draw spiky hair, what Viking swords look like, the subtleties of dragon teeth) of these objects that you can then reproduce from memory.  Some people are satisfied to learn only in a relatively narrow spectrum, building their mental constructs from fairly limited material.  In this instance and I see it occasionally in my students, the drawings produced, though highly finished and capable of producing ooohs and aahhs from the untrained masses do little to further the artistic development of those in question.  The point being, the process is sound; it is up to the individual to use it as a constructive learning tool that furthers their knowledge base.   But this  kind of narrow adherence to a particular style or technique brings up a common issue.
There is an old chestnut in which an art teacher claims, “if I teach you how to draw (or anyone teaches you, for that matter including copying) you will end up drawing like me (or them) and your personal artistic growth will have been stunted”.  In the best case I think this is a misguided but heartfelt concern for the student, in the worst case I think it is a rationalization for the inadequate skill levels possessed by the teacher.  If a student does not intend to become an artist but rather wants to develop personal skills of visual expression, then skill with any style is better than no skill at all! 
If a student aspires to becoming an artist, whether in the applied or fine arts my experience has been that beyond developing professional skill they always want to also develop a personal style, after all self-expression is the initial impetus for becoming an artist in the first place!  So a student that picks up on the personal quirks and approaches used by a teacher is just pausing to amass information on a much broader and longer journey of discovery in which they will copy many styles and try many approaches before homing in on their personal expressive idiom.  A great percentage of that journey will happen, not in a classroom, but, will come from personal study and will take the form of copying from references, whether they be photographic, from life or from the works of other artists from whom they wish to learn.  The artist’s own style will emerge as an amalgamation of all he or she have studied in the classroom, plus, in far greater measure, their own personal input  which will rely heavily upon the learning approach of copying the work of others.  .  
If you have ten or twenty years along with the resources to attend drawing classes, you can improve incrementally and will probably eventually gain competence without ever having to make copies of other materials to aid in the process.  But the reality of doing this is that you are relying to a substantial degree on observing your fellow students and on the finite knowledge capabilities of your instructors and this limited approach is going to take you a while.  I don’t mean to denigrate the skills of your instructors, after all, I’m one of them! but missing the chance to actually see how masters of the craft did things will speed up your learning curve immeasurably.  And, beyond that, it is unrealistic to suppose that you will be taking endless drawing courses – you must learn on your own, and copying is a major component of that process! 

Carl Jackson, 2008

Saturday, September 17, 2016

So you want to be an Animator or make 3D Games...

High  school students who want to be animators

Animators, whether 2D or 3D need strong drawing skills.  If they are really serious about a career in the Animation Industry and not just interested because they like Anime or enjoy playing video games, then they need to really get serious about developing realistic (by Western standards) drawing skills including learning a lot about human anatomy.  Copying the work  (drawings) of highly skilled artists to learn as much as possible; not only the anatomy but the nuance of line quality and shading technique is by far the quickest way to begin to develop personal skills.

If a person has gotten good at fantasy drawing or Anime they have probably done a lot of copying to internalize the various stylistic elements common to each of these areas, and this is a good thing.  The only problem I have noticed at the post secondary level is that some individuals who have developed these skills want to continue to utilize only what they have already learned rather than ADDING TO their knowledge and skill set. 

Imaginative Range (all the ideas, images, memories, experiences) that an individual possess can only come as he or she experiences the world.  And this takes time.  But, High school students can jump start the process (especially in the visual realm) by drawing and copying things that are outside their comfort zone.  That is, not just being satisfied to copy and draw their favorite characters and in their favorite genres, but branching out and learning about new, unfamiliar things.  Everything new and previously unexplored that we delve into will expand our imaginative range and increase our basis for creative output.

So, My advice for those who seriously want to be animators is to work on their realistic drawing skills, move on from already established competencies, and explore ideas outside their favorites or comfort zone.

Carl Jackson, Instructor, Seattle Art Institute

Sunday, July 31, 2016

Move completed; had to shut down studio but still have a drawing table.  I hope to post some new images soon.

Friday, June 10, 2016

Thoughts on art.

A camera is just a tool that can be used to create Art (with a capital A) just as a pencil, piece of charcoal etc. can be used for the same purpose. The amount of time it takes to gain facility with a pencil does not insure that the product is Art. Just as buying a 5000 dollar camera doesn't necessarily give the owner artistic credibility. Almost all, so called, visual art is, in fact, craft and interior decoration that is palatable to an uneducated mass. With a camera, the craft, the technique of making an in-focus image is much easier to acquire then for most other media, but an in-focus closeup of a flower is still just an in-focus closeup of a flower, and has nothing to do with art whether done with colored pencils, oil paint, pastel, a computer program or a digital camera. 

 I took photography with a guy named Harry Callahan and his approach to the photographic image was both arcane and illusive. There are photographic images that are Art (with a capital A) but developing the skill and sensibility to capture those images is just as difficult as developing the hand skills.