Sunday, May 30, 2010

Nicolaides—Schedule 2 complete

A fruitful furlough day & Memorial Day weekend. I managed to complete 6 1/2 hours of Nicolaides's curriculum both yesterday and today. That means:

I'm done with Schedule 2! And that means…NO MORE BLIND CONTOURS!!!!

Woo hoo! Admittedly, I'll still continue to do ten minute blind contours daily. But as I said before, ten minutes isn't nearly as painful as ONE HOUR! Sheesh!

So not only am I determined to complete this curriculum by Dec. 31, 2010, but I was determined to get past that particular exercise. And if I can survive that, the rest will be easy.

Here's the next schedule:

As you see, the gesture exercises continue as they will, in some form, for the entire curriculum. Luckily I've come to enjoy those exercises and to see their benefit. For example, I did so many gesture drawings yesterday that last night I couldn't stop dreaming about all of the gestures I wanted to do for my film! It took me a couple of hours to fall asleep because all of the drawing I'm doing fueled all kinds of new ideas for my next film. That ALONE is worth all of the work I've put in!

I also figured out today that in order to complete this by Dec. 31, I should finish one schedule per week. That means I'll need to spend two hours per weekday on it while using the weekends (and furlough days) to complete the last of the 15 hours. That's definitely a doable schedule.

On to Schedule 3!

Surviving Nicolaides—suggestion #1

I see why people have either started the Nicolaides curriculum and stopped it soon after or haven't gotten far. The first two schedules of 15 hours are full of a tedious exercise—blind contour drawings. I have read elsewhere, however, that doing regular blind contour drawings is a genuinely helpful exercise in training one's eye-hand coordination. Now that I've completed about ten hours of blind contours, I can offer some suggestions on how to get through them without losing your mind.

First, choose an object with a lot of texture. For example, one of my favorite blind contour subjects is a crumpled paper bag. With all of those lines and folds, neither your eye nor your brain will become bored, at least not too quickly. Other options: a bumpy rock (I use a volcanic rock I found in Colorado), wilted lettuce, bones (I have a real cow's head a full-sized fake human skeleton. I like to use the foot and hand bones in particular), tree bark, your hand. Usually an organic object that has texture works best.

Second, keep in the back of your mind as you're drawing that—despite the seeming uselessness of this exercise—ultimately it will improve your drawing.

Just keep going!

Friday, May 28, 2010

Nicolaides—Schedule 1 complete

I've completed—for possibly the SIXTH TIME!—Schedule 1 of Kimon Nicolaides's "The Natural Way to Draw." One of the reasons that I wanted to get through those 15 hours quickly—and the same with the 15 hours of Schedule 2—is that the one hour blind contours are PAINFUL!


I was happily doing 10 minute blind contours as a daily exercise. But one whole freakin' hour?!?! It's so bloody painful doing them that I found myself becoming loudly exasperated and shouting…in my apartment BY MYSELF! In other words, doing a one hour blind contour drawing will cause INSANITY!!

Luckily, with Schedule 2, there's only one half hour of cross contours (slightly less boring than a standard contour) and one full hour of the standard contour. Then, starting with Schedule 3, there's no more contour drawings. So that's a huge incentive for me complete this entire schedule this holiday weekend. As of this writing, I've done 1 of the 15 hours so I'm on my way.

And it's soooo much fun updating my little progress charts! Woo hoo!

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

I'm on the right track?!

I just came across this post at the Animation Illustration Art blog. You can imagine how thrilled I was when the very books listed—considered to be the best to follow when trying to improve one's drawing ability—are the SAME books I am currently studying!

I'm feeling good right now!

Not to mention that I'm in the last two hours of Schedule 1 of the Nicolaides book.

I've learned to love doing gesture drawings but these ONE HOUR blind contours are painful! I'll be glad when I'm past that exercise or at least doing it for that length of time. Ten minutes, OK. One hour, not so OK.

Ultimately, I'm on track to improving my drawing and eventually returning to the production of my ideas.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Art instruction books—1 down!

Completed studying and copying the head section from Andrew Loomis's "Drawing the Head & Hands" (I'm doing something I don't normally do. The link for the Loomis book is for a full download of the book. All of Loomis's other books are also available from that site, just do a search. The rumor is that Loomis's family is uninterested in putting the books back into print, that there's an issue with the 'nudity' of some of his drawings. I don't know if that's true but if it is, it's a shame, his lessons are invaluable. In any case, enjoy the link.) My goal was to complete this by the end of the month so I'm particularly proud of myself for finishing it eight days early.

I thought it best to start with and concentrate on the head. So much of my next film involves the characters's faces and expressions that I wanted to become better at drawing them. Not to mention being able to turn the head properly and have all of the features be where they're supposed to be!

Now I'm on to Burne Hogarth's "Drawing the Human Head" and the head section of George Bridgman's "Bridgman's Complete Guide to Drawing From Life." I predict getting through Hogarth quickly since I've studied it before. Bridgman…I don't know. I bought the book a decade ago but found his approach took complicated for my taste. But I'll give it another look. At the least, there might be one small nugget of information that could revolutionize how I see and draw.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Looney Indeed!

Warner Bros. has discovered that a generation of kids is unfamiliar with its classic cartoon characters which I agree is a travesty.

But their solution to this problem—explained here—is dopey.

Instead of showing more of the classic 40's and 50's cartoons, they're "modernizing" the characters. Personalities have been changed (Bugs and Daffy are friends who live together in a cul-de-sac?! WTF?! What, are they now a gay, inter-species couple?!) Motivations have been changed. Even the DESIGNS have been changed (see above) because, you know, the designs done in the 40's and 50's sucked (see model sheets below.) NOT! Notice how in the model sheets Bugs's feet do NOT look like blocks of cement.

Now, I know I'm not the greatest draftsman, but I do know about something called PROPORTIONS! And the size of Bugs's feet indicates that Warner Bros. has never heard of the word. And wasn't Bugs taller and thinner than he is here? Cartoon Brew readers comment about this here.

So sad. Children will be introduced to an unimaginative, poorly designed Bugs Bunny.

I weep for the future…

Saturday, May 15, 2010

In Honor of Frank Frazetta

I once worked for someone who described one of her employees as having "talented hands." That comment made me chuckle to myself because this individual obviously didn't know (despite being the co-owner of an animation studio specializing in hand-drawn animation) that the ability to draw is a skill and not an inborn talent. Of course, learned skills doesn't mean equal results (I can develop the skill of playing basketball but I will never be as good as Lisa Leslie.) But, personally, I have rarely described people as being "naturally talented."

One of the possible exceptions to the no-natural-talent rule was Frank Frazetta. His formal art training can't possibly explain his incredible work. It's not just his beautiful execution; it's also the incredible imagination on display. No amount of art classes can fully explain the rich visuals on display in Frazetta's work. That's GOT to be some special talent at work!

In a documentary about Frazetta, a colleague explained how Frazetta wanted to draw a rabbit running across a path. He said that Frazetta—unfamiliar with exactly how a rabbit looked—closed his eyes for a minute and then drew an excellent rabbit!

Clearly, Frazetta tapped into something special inside of himself in order to create his art.

Here's my current collection of Frazetta books:

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Raiding My Bookshelves

Since elementary school, I have been collecting art instruction books. As mentioned in my eBook "3 Newbie Not-To-Do's: Getting Started with Toon Boom's Storyboard Pro," my father photocopied for me—in its ENTIRETY!—the book "Animating Films Without a Camera." I still have those photocopies today along with a host of other books.

I'm now completely focused on improving my drawing skills. In the past when I've tried to do this, I felt overwhelmed about what I should be doing and how.

I finally got smart and decided to combine the exercises in the Nicolaides book with a thorough examination of ALL of the art instruction books I have. Yep, ALL of them! Because what's the point of having an instruction book if you don't at least give it one solid look. And I spent quite a bit on some of them so I BETTER look at them!

Here's my prized Andrew Loomis collection (I spent many a late night on eBay outbidding folks for some of these):

The Burne Hogarth collection:

The Will Eisner collection:

Some others:

These books and collections I was lucky enough to download before copyright issues banned them from the web:

PLUS I have ten binders full of drawing and animation tips and tricks.

This ambitious plan is currently scheduled to take me into 2013 (!) I look at these books and binders of notes every day and it drives me crazy that they're full of potentially life-altering insights that I simply haven't accessed yet.

No more wondering, I'm ready to start raiding.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Back to Basics

From my favorite DIY graphic novel site, reMIND:

"I don’t believe you can just jump in and start doing this [drawing a graphic novel] from the start. If you don’t have a good understanding of anatomy and perspective and other fundamental skills then you will spend more time focusing on learning these things then you will one getting the job at hand done. So if you're just starting out then take your time to learn your skill."

knew I was on the right path by putting my projects aside and focusing on improving my drawing skills but it's always nice to have it confirmed by another. What Jason Brubaker describes above is exactly the problem I was encountering while trying to draw a storyboard and a graphic novel. I was spending way more time muddling through each drawing to make it look correct than anything else. It became abundantly clear that I simply lack the skill to draw quickly and correctly.

Drawing well is like playing a sport well, one must practice.

I am confident of two things: that my story ideas are cool and have a lot of potential and that with consistent effort, I can develop above-average drawing skills.

My first step is to return to the exercises outlined in Kimon Nicolaides's "The Natural Way to Draw." I've tried his exercises twice before—the first time I got as far as Schedule 3 and the second time, to Schedule 9, in 2006 & 2007. I read my diaries from back then and discovered that the reason I junked this program the second time was due to rumors I heard at my job. They got me so rattled that I dropped my studies and decided I needed to produce a project ASAP in case things became impossible at my day job!

Now it's THREE YEARS LATER (!) and you know what? If I had stuck with that program back then, I'd be DONE with it by now and drawing better! So by listening to fools, I lost THREE YEARS of improvement time. Nice! (not)

Lesson learned: stop listening to rumors and listen to my gut instead!

Second, I came up with a separate routine to do during the work week. One good thing about having attempted the Nicolaides program in the past is that I know it can become tedious (but aren't all exercises tedious?) So if I'm up at 4am, I will NOT want to do a blind contour for 30 minutes! In other words, I can better handle the Nicolaides program on the weekend and will do a different but related program during the week, one that I feel will develop my skills while also being more fun and keeping me interested.

My intention is to do the entire 375 hours of the program. Here's one person who has tried this, too, but I'm not sure if the entire program was completed.

Off to draw...

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Bullish on Boxes

In my seemingly neverending attempts to lift my drawing from the realm of poor to better-than-average, I have collected a myriad of approaches and techniques from an array of talented people (Glenn Vilppu, Walt Stanchfield, Andrew Loomis, Burne Hogarth, Will Eisner, John K., etc.)

One particular approach that I see has had an immediate improvement on my drawing is the idea of picturing forms as boxes. When forms are "boxed out", it clearly establishes the angle and planes of the form. This is especially helpful for complicated angles.

So instead of my usual confusion when sketching out a pose, by using boxes, there's less guesswork and I more quickly arrive at the desired position.

Here's how Glenn Vilppu describes it.