Saturday, April 28, 2012

Make Your Drawings Solid

Unless you like your cartoons to look flat and lifeless…

…it's important to understand how to create on paper the perception of three-dimensionality. Follow the Kimon Nicolaides (modelled drawing exercises) and Florian Satzinger method of drawing interior contour lines. These make you FEEL the 3-dimensionality of the object you're drawing on your 2-dimensional paper.

It's sculpting with a pencil. As Al Hirshfeld said, a sculpture is a drawing you trip over in the dark.

Friday, April 20, 2012

How to Beat Creative Resistance—Part II

Despite our schedules, commitments and responsibilities, we can all find at least 10 minutes each day to improve our skills and ultimately, our lives. Here's my plan for improving my drawing:

This curriculum is simple and based on what I've read online, in books and was taught in classes: 15 minutes per weekday each on gesture, art instruction book (to be explained below), copying from other artists (also to be explained below) and anatomy. On weekends, I do 30 minutes each. I'm focusing on my deficient areas so as not to waste my practice time. Your needs may vary but the keys are to do a little every day AND to focus on the areas where you're lacking.

Gesture—If Glen Vilppu stresses getting the gesture right, it MUST be important. Not to mention that every figure drawing class I've ever taken began with 1–5 minute gesture drawings. It's not only a great way to warm up but is THE essential element of a good pose in a drawing.

My gesture drawings

Art Instruction Book—What do you call it when you buy endless books on drawing and animation and don't bother to read any of them or follow any of the suggestions? Resistance!

Starting with Andrew Loomis' "Drawing the Head and Hands," I came up with a plan to carefully study every how-to book I own. It's an ambitious goal but, as Robert Beverly Hale said (I think), if every book has just one helpful nugget, it's worth reading.

Copying—I read that one way to improve one's drawing is to copy other artists' work. Isn't that how people learned during the Renaissance?

I've always loved the drawing in the classic MAD Magazines. Armed with a DVD of pdf files of every MAD issue from the first until the 1980's or 1990's, every day I copy the drawings in those magazines, absorbing the basics of those artists' brilliance.

Some MAD magazine copying (plus a Preston Blair cute kitty copy!)

Anatomy—Since about 1993, I've gotten as far as learning the anatomy of the head down the body to the arms BUT have always abandoned it thereby forgetting EVERYTHING I've learned. This time, armed with two excellent books—Stephen Rogers Peck's "Atlas of Human Anatomy for the Artist" and Robert Beverly Hale's "Albinus on Anatomy"—I'm confident that I'll successfully learn the human musculature in its entirety. The Albinus book is unique in this it's the only one I've found that isolates each muscle so you can clearly see the origin and insertion points. VERY helpful!

I'm convinced that daily use of this routine will produce results. Whether you use this routine, someone else's or your own is not important. All that matters is consistently working to improve your own deficient areas (by the way, the same approach applies to physical workouts, too!)

Next post: a suggestion for ensuring solidity in your drawing.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

How to Beat Creative Resistance—Part I

Hiatus is over. Back to work!

Are you trying to improve your skills in some area? Have you spent YEARS doing this? I've spent TWENTY years (!) trying to improve my drawing and learn artistic anatomy.

I haven't succeeded because I'm stuck in this crazy, illogical catch-22: my skills are poor because I don't practice them enough BUT I don't practice my skills enough because the results are poor. Crazy, right?

This situation is what author/screenwriter Steven Pressfield calls the "Resistance" in his insightful book The War of Art.

Man vs. Art host Raul Aguirre, Jr. recommended this book in one of his podcasts and it's one of the best I've read about the struggle of creativity. Professional visualizer Sunni Brown even made a helpful visual summary of the book which I also recommend you check out.

Art courtesy of

I'm confident that this book will help you get past the Resistance. The first step is to recognize it. Actually, embrace it! The more you try to ignore it, the more it will win.

The second step is to accept that being a creative person is a lifelong struggle against the Resistance.


Remind yourself that every creative person experiences Resistance on a daily basis.


The trick is to be one of the strong ones who doesn't give in but fights past it and creates ANYWAY.

Next post I'll show specific steps on how to improve your drawing!