Friday, August 26, 2016

Combining Watts Atelier and Proko Drawing Practice

With a limited amount of time and a lot to learn, it's important to be strategic about drawing practice.

The last post provided specific ways to improve one's drawing quickly and correctly.

Here's some of my practice:

I start with the Watts Atelier drawing fundamentals warmup, freehand circles using a conte charcoal pencil on smooth newsprint:

After the circles, I do free hand ovals/ellipses:

After the ovals are straight lines and curved lines:

Next it's applying tone. This is a challenge because if the pencil doesn't have a good taper from the wood to the charcoal, it leaves streaks. Becoming proficient at this is definitely going to take some time:

That concludes the Watts warmup.

Here I've combined the Proko lesson of reducing bones into basic shapes with the Watts lessons of negative space and drawing through the forms. Hopefully by doing that I'm learning twice as much in half the time!

Are you working to improve your drawing? If so, how? Have you considered taking the Jazza approach? Post in the comments below. Thanks!

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Improving Your Art Skills the Smart Way

I'm 47-years-old.

I'm past the halfway mark of my life. And there's still a TON of stories I want to tell!

Therefore,  I'm constantly looking for ways to improve my drawing skills quickly YET thoroughly.

After much reading combined with trial and error, I realized that I could neither focus solely on skills improvement nor solely on project creation without something suffering. It's essential that I do both simultaneously.

My revelation was confirmed when I saw this video by Jazza that breaks down how to improve one's art skills into three main areas—Innate Practice, Inspired Practice and Developmental Practice. I was thrilled when I realized I was almost already doing this method!

Here's the approach:
Innate Practice—practice that is inherent in what you’re doing. Though you may not be sitting down with the intention of improving oneself, you’re working at a level that’s comfortable for your abilities and over time, doing this in repetition, inevitably approves your abilities. This usually involves projects. Less about the intensity and more about the volume, repetition.

Inspired Practice—it’s the most fun, feels the most impactful. The heart of improvement comes from rapid bursts of learning from observation and enthusiasm. Burns bright and briefly so it’s hard to maintain over a long period. Although it may be the easiest way to motivate and push oneself, it’s the most difficult to start and maintain.

Developmental Practice—the easiest one to assign exercises to. Intentionally acquired skills and developmental progress. This is often the most frustrating and boring of the three types of practices. It’s constructive, mechanical but shows the improvement.

The ultimate form of practice is to combine all three of these methods.

For me it's:
Innate Practice—A Universe of Trouble web series. I'm painting, drawing and learning how to use about 8 different programs.

Inspired Practice—OK, I admit, I'm not actually doing this at this time. I discovered that with my fundamentals skills being weak, this type of practice was simply taking away from the time I could use to build my fundamentals.

Developmental Practice—Watts Atelier instruction and Proko human anatomy studies.

That's it, folks! As someone who's been following this plan, I can strongly recommend it. Check out Jazza's videos and see how they can help you improve your skills, too.

Monday, August 22, 2016

Gary Vaynerchuk's P.H.C.C.

I love this acronym:


I've already embraced Patience and Content and am now focused on Hustle. Specifically, in order to get more form drawing into my day, I've switched from reading during my commute to drawing. I also keep a charcoal pencil on my desk and regularly practice holding it the Watts Way. Muscle memory!

I'll let Gary Vee explain the rest:


Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Using Video Reference

Since buying my first digital camera, I've relied on my own photo reference for drawing.

What I accidentally discovered while studying the bones is that video reference is just as good, if not better than photo reference.

Per Robert Beverly Hale's suggestion, and as I go through the Stan Prokopenko artistic anatomy curriculum, I'm drawing the bones from every angle in the hope of being able to draw them from memory.

When commuting to work, I've discovered that having a video on my phone of the bone rotating 360° allows me to pause at every angle and analyze the position for drawing. I can scrub back and force and get an accurate idea of how the bone's shape changes and the point of view changes. Here's a recent video I made of a scapula from which I draw while riding the bus:


Consider shooting or finding videos of the bones to help in understanding their intricacies.

Monday, August 15, 2016

Stock Video from Videohive

It wasn't until I started production on Episode 03 of "A Universe of Trouble" that I realized that I needed some serious help.

I had a scene in which a spaceship lands at a spaceport. And I had no idea how I could create that quickly and convincingly.

But I found the answer…!

Part of the Envato Market site, it's a huge source of stock video.

It's where I found this landing spaceship which fit my scene perfectly (ship animation by SpaceStockFootage):


Since then, I've made it my only source for stock video. What I like most about the site is when creators include After Effects files with your purchase (there's nothing free on this site which is OK with me since the files are inexpensive. Besides, the quality of the work on this site deserves compensation.) This allows me to customize the video while also dissecting how it was created. If I can learn how someone else did something, I can do it myself next time and save some money!

The files are in HD, 1920 x 1080 and often have alpha channels for compositing. You can contact a creator for help or information regarding their files. Both single-use and multi-use licenses are available.

If you need a professional-grade piece of stock video, check out

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Making the Web Series—Toon Boom Animate Pro 3

Goodbye, my friend. You served me well!

I'm using NINE different programs to make the animated web series "A Universe of Trouble."

I counted.

And the main program of the nine is Toon Boom Animate Pro 3.

This program was discontinued this year and replaced with Toon Boom's Harmony program. This makes good business sense and is also good for the customer but…a few complaints.

First, I would have appreciated a formal notification from Toon Boom regarding them discontinuing my expensive software. I learned about it accidentally while searching for something. Needless to say…I was FREAKED OUT!

Second, it shows a surprising lack of foresight that Animate Pro and Harmony are incompatible! Yep, the only way for me to get my Animate Pro files converted to be opened in Harmony is to send Toon Boom the files. And there's a size limit for this conversion.

Not. Cool.

Hello, Gorgeous!

Having said that, I HAVE fallen in love with this program and I've only scratched the surface of what it can do. Since I'm in the middle of production, I'll use Animate Pro until completion; then I'll use Harmony going forward. This means possibly re-animating in Harmony the numerous "Adult Toy Story" scenes already completed in Animate Pro. Although time-consuming, it will be an excellent way to learn this powerful program. Learning while creating!

One of the many features I like about this program is the ease at which I can add effects. Transparencies/fades, blurs and other effects are easily applied and manipulated. Easy camera movement is another feature I like.

I've never used Flash but many animators, including Nick Cross, John K and Adam Philips have switched to Toon Boom from Flash. Harmony has also been used on tv and film projects from Film Roman, Disney and Dreamworks.

I also like their support. There's both a user forum full of helpful information and a highly responsive professional team to promptly answer your questions (just remember the company is based in Canada so be mindful of their holidays!)

PLUS their new subscription service makes a once pricey product much more affordable especially if you're a student. By having the option to pay monthly, you're only paying for what you use.

If you're interested in creating 2D animation that can include 3D elements, I strongly recommend using Toon Boom Harmony.

Monday, August 8, 2016

If You Can Draw a Form, You Can Draw EVERYTHING

As I mentioned before, FULLY grasping the basic yet essential idea of form—in contrast to knowing it but not fully getting it—has changed the way I draw.

Before I continue, let's distinguish form from shape. Per artist and instructor Marshall Vandruff, the simple difference is: a shape is flat; a form is thick. Here's how Andrew Loomis illustrates the difference in his "Fun With a Pencil" book:

Throughout all of my studying of accomplished artists, this same concept is stressed.

Pages from Glenn Vilppu's "The Drawing Manual":

A page from the original Famous Artists Course:

Screenshots from Stan Prokopenko's free Drawing Basics series:

From the Watts Atelier drawing course:

Clearly, the understanding of forms should NOT be overlooked. I'll be spending a lot of time drawing these basic forms and training my eye to reduce everything I see into those forms.