Back when I first started this iteration of my blog I mentioned I was taking figure drawing classes. I’m in the minority of comic book creators, coming from dramatic writing/law/Howard Stern intern background as opposed to having aptitude or training for the visual arts. I harbor no illusions of taking any artist’s jobs, but I’m hoping it will help me better understand and communicate with my artists.
Maybe in the not to distant future I’ll be able to do a con sketch or try laying out pages before I script them (I realize I could do that now with stick figures). And someday it would be cool to try and put together some kind of DIY zine. But for now it’s mostly fun, and hopefully a tax write off.
The class was at UCLA extension and was taught by Jay Stuckey. Great artist and even better teacher. Infectious enthusiam, he ran each session like an exercise class…90% drawing. Can’t recommend him more highly if you have the chance to take any class by him.
Anyway…I think my last class was back in March, and if you search you should be able to find some of my early work there. I had hoped to update this more frequently so you could see my progress (or lack thereof), but I was off to China and New York and San Diego Comic Con.
I’ve been to few uninstructed figure drawing classes since then, so I thought I’d throw some work up from there. So, without further ado, here’s some work from me from last month and last night. Remember that there was a 2-3 month layoff between my last instructed class and these drawing sessions. They were taken with my iphone camera indoors in less than ideal lighting conditions.
From July 11, 2011:
I’m not sure if that’s from a 2 or 5 minute pose, or it’s a 2nd drawing I did during a 15 or 25 minute pose. It’s in charcoal (soft or medium vine, best I can recall), which I’m most comfortable using, although often less than pleased with the results. I like using it - and gesture drawing in general - because it frees me up creatively. I find when I’m figure drawing I can shut off the critical side of my brain much more easily than I can while writing. The lack of precision in the end result is frustrating, but I guess that’s the tradeoff.
(If someone has suggestions for something that’s a bit more precise but still feels “loose” to use I’m all ears).
Something fun I picked up in class was this technique of doing three drawings on top of one another using three different shades of the same color pastel, starting from dark to light. You get a chance to refine the drawing and add a little depth. Again, not precise, but I like the expressionistic end result.
Back to charcoal (maybe charcoal pencil? I really need to keep track). The most “polished” drawing of that evening. It’s the same woman in all three of the above poses…if you can tell that I’m not as awful as I thought. Perspective and proportion still remain a huge challenge to me (as well as a hundred other things I’m not aware of).
It’s funny…when I first did those drawing I was just going to post the last one. Looking back I think I like the first, least finished one, the best.
Last night (8/4/11):
Different woman! Back to vine charcoal. I’d like to say this was a 2 minute gesture, but it may have been 5 minutes. What do I like about it? One of the best pieces of advice imparted by Jay was “draw from the inside out”. In other words…don’t just do a shitty outline of the human form - find the lines within, the muscles or hints of bone or creases in the flesh and work your way outwards to create a more three dimensional figure. It’s made me appreciate less than perfect bodies. It also means I sometimes grab onto girl parts like the vagina or nipples because they stand out and because I’m still a teenage boy at heart. Boobies!
I like the pose here. I like that I captured the contortion in her arms, and it’s not a horrible face given the time limit and my abilities (but helped by the fact it’s obscured). As a drawing could benefit from what she was leaning on.
Right before class I decided I wanted to experiment with a different medium. I went to Meltdown Comics and bought a black marker and then three different shades of grey paint/brush marker. This is just he black marker, my first time using it. You can see that I’d used the other side for a drawing back in my first class using ink. Ink scares me. Very fluid but the end result looks even less like what I’m trying to capture than charcoal. The brush markers are a baby step towards confronting that fear.
Here, an experiment: I used those three different shades of brush marker in much the same way I did the pastels. Essentially, three different sketches on top of each other starting from light to dark.
And…back to the safety of vine charcoal. Probably the most aesthetically pleasing to me of the drawings I did last night. It was a 25 minute pose but I think it took me about 15 minutes.
If I was really brave, I’d post what I did in the other 10 minutes - and attempt to use the brush markers (is that even the right term?). That drawing was just too difficult - it was right in front of the model, so I was grappling with what appeared to be giant hands coming at me, and not enough time to do the 3 drawings on top of each other. Instead:
A final retreat to charcoal, this time charcoal pencil, which gives me a little more precision. Finished in 10 or 15 minutes. I’m not sure how I feel about it. At the time I felt it was the drawing that captured the model the best. She’s on the stout side (for an LA model) and I got some of her cellulite (that’s not a knock on her…much more interesting to draw someone with folds or pockmarks than someone plastic and smooth). Proportions feel off.
I’m not sure I’m really capturing my progress here. I’m not sure if I am progressing, but I’m also not putting the work in. If I went back and was able to put together a week by week from the course I took back in March, you’d be able to see a definite progression. After a huge layoff, doing this once a month is closer to going back to the gym when you are out of shape than to riding a bike.
But part of why I’m doing this is to become less results oriented. That’s something I don’t have the chance to do in my writing because almost everything I write is either published or being pitched, and it’s becoming harder for my mistakes to become more public.
That’s not to say that I’m not open to critiques. If you are a professional artist and reading this comment away.
I still don’t feel like any of this has translated into my comics writing. If anyone has any suggestions as to what I could study that would push me in that direction, I’m all ears.