Friday, October 28, 2016

Gesture Drawing—"Spaghetti Noodle"

In this previous post, I talked about breaking my gesture drawing studies into two areas—"scribble" gestures and "spaghetti" noodle gestures—and discussed the scribble method in detail.

Now about the spaghetti noodle method…

I use the term "spaghetti noodle" instead of "stick figure" because stick figure implies straight, stiff lines, the opposite of what we're trying to achieve.

Instead, we want to draw curvy, rhythmic lines that quickly capture the action and feeling of the figure.

Stan Prokopenko's "spaghetti noodle" 30 second gesture.

Steps in the Samantha Youssef gesture drawing method.

With only one full week of practicing these two approaches, I feel that I'm seeing the figure more clearly. The blocking exercise has me seeing the various shapes that make up the figure and the gesture exercises have me capturing the figure's body language quickly.

If you want to improve your figure drawing, I recommend practicing gesture drawing until it becomes second nature. This will most likely take years or months but you'll be a better draftsperson as a result.

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Monday, October 24, 2016

Gesture Drawing—"Scribbles"

As I progressed with my drawing instruction, I hit a wall. I traced that problem to having gone through Stan Prokopenko's Figure Drawing Fundamentals series too quickly.

I'm now reviewing that series with an improved mindset of PATIENCE. 

Although I took the time to practice gesture drawing when I first started these lessons, I didn't keep in mind the CONCEPT that was being taught with the lesson. Appreciating the concept of gesture is just as important as doing the gesture drawings.

This time, while watching the full version of the Proko gesture lesson, I took FIVE pages of notes as a reminder of how to do the exercise and its purpose.

Here's a summary of why gesture is the single most important part of the drawing:
  1. Gesture is: the movement between things; the motion, action body language, energy, story idea, message. It describes the relationship among the forms.
  2. Gesture is NOT the contours, forms nor the tone but the movement that connects the contours, forms and tone.
  3. The goal is to practice gesture so that it becomes second nature.
  4. Gesture is in everything. Without it, the drawing is static and boring.
  5. Gesture is more about how the object feels than how it looks.
  6. The concept to be learned from gesture: I'm training my mind to see rhythm in everything I draw; training my mind to consider more than just contours when I draw and shade.
Here's an example of how gesture is in everything—a Frank Gehry architecture gesture drawing:

After reviewing the Proko approach to gesture, I was reminded of the gesture lessons of Kimon Nicolaides, Samantha Youssef and Glenn Vilppu. Proko, Youssef and Vilppu have similar, spaghetti-noodle approaches to gesture.

But Nicolaides teaches a scribble method that the others don't teach that I thought would be valuable to practice. Both methods require quickly recording the feeling of the pose but the scribbling involves a faster, even more visceral response to the pose. Plus, I like all of those moving, energetic lines.

I'm dedicating four weeks to practicing just gesture. My daily drawing practice now looks like this:
  1. Warmup circles (1-2 pages)
  2. Warmup ellipses  (1-2 pages)
  3. Warmup straight lines  (1 page)
  4. 50 drawings of 5 second "scribble" gestures
  5. 50 drawings of 30 second "spaghetti noodle" gestures
  6. Youssef blocking exercise (1 pose)
I start with the Watts warmup of circles, ellipses and straight lines using a charcoal pencil. Then I switch to a Tombow fine point and brush pen for the 5 second scribble drawings. I found free-flowing ink to work better than charcoal for those particular drawings. I then switch back to a blunt charcoal pencil for the 30 second gestures. For the blocking exercise, I use a well-sharpened charcoal pencil. All of these exercises are done on smooth newsprint.

In her book Movement and Form, Youssef describes blocking as "…the practice of training our eyes to recognize the individual shapes of the objects in our picture plane…It is meant to train your eyes to graphically translate what you see onto paper with accuracy."

This idea of blocking is similar to that of concept artist Robh Ruppel's in his book Graphic L.A. He talks about how drawing is symbol-making; that the way to make a drawing look real is the use of basic shapes, basic brushes and getting the relative values right. He recommends—like Youssef—reducing everything we see into simple geometric shapes and the fewest values. Youssef recommends daily blocking practice so that's exactly what I'm going to do. 

My goal in life is to be able to paint like THIS!

Friday, October 21, 2016

Oops! I Went Too Fast!

Student gesture drawing from Kimon Nicolaides' "The Natural Way to Draw."

Building a drawing foundation is proving to be more difficult than I originally imagined.

I've had so many starts and stops that I've lost count.

I've studied from numerous instructors, courses and books, too many to list.

But you can go TOO fast.

My problem is that I practice consistently for a brief period then…nothing. I come to a complete stop and never return.

This keeps happening because after about one week of practice, I start to second-guess why I'm doing that particular exercise. And the reason I question the exercise I'm doing is because it's so damn boring!

Gesture drawing, blind contours and other pure seeing/drawing exercises are necessary. But the reality is that these exercises quickly become dull. This is true of any drill, like practicing scales or layups. And with drawing, it's natural to want to get to the good part of creating completed art.

But like scales and layups, drawing exercises are ESSENTIAL to building a solid foundation.

The Lesson: don't rush your drawing studies!

Being studious means taking the time to genuinely understand each lesson AND apply that lesson to practice and final work.

I went through Stan Prokopenko's Figure Drawing Fundamentals series too quickly, not truly instilling each lesson.

And it shows every time I sit down to draw something.

So now I'm going all the way back to basics, to gesture drawing.

NEXT: more on gesture drawing.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

How Not to Be a "Cover Band" Visual Artist

Artist Michael Mentler is know as The Bone Doctor for his knowledge of the human skeleton. He recently came to mind as I was struggling to draw the skull in the Watts Head drawing curriculum.

Awhile ago I downloaded an iPhone app of Mentler's book but the drawings and his handwriting were too small to be of any real use.

But after checking online, it turns out that he has a book and a video focusing on…THE SKULL!

Talk about synchronicity!

I immediately bought both and watched the section of the video related to drawing a frontal view of the skull (the video starts with the profile but it makes more sense to me to start with the front.)

This video shows clips from the lessons:

I'm still amazed that I found this just as I was struggling with this same topic!

The beauty of Mentler's approach is that he's taken the lessons of George Bridgman, Andrew Loomis and Robert Beverly Hale and combined them into a process of measuring accurately the drawing of the skull and skeleton, a method that works for him. Per Mentler:
"If you take any one master and try to follow that person exclusively, you become nothing more than a cover band for that artist. I don't care how well you play The Beatles, you're still a cover band for The Beatles."
Thanks to Mentler's skull measuring method, I am no longer aimlessly trying to learn how to draw the skull. Instead, I'm learning to draw the skull deliberately.

Since I have found no other method for accurately drawing a skull, I recommend Mentler's approach.

Do you have a method for drawing the skull? If so, please share in the comments. Thanks!