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vicmonty
02-12-2010, 05:00 PM
I have been in this study mode lately. Every chance I get I'm either reading, viewing instructional videos or drawing and applying what I've learned. Last night I tried to break from that. I had my sketchbook and just like always, I had nothing to draw. Before I started studying the figure, I really had no direction. Even in my own personal "free" drawing. My mind was directed into all these different things to explore. So I decided to pick one path. I chose anatomy. Last night I decided to just draw whatever. I tried to draw, but I couldn't come up with anything to draw. I guess I'm not at the point where I can't draw without reference yet. Is my mine too focused on studying. Here's my question. Is it normal to be so focused on one area of study? Maybe it depends on each person? Perhaps that's the way that works best for me? I see artist who go from one thing to another in their studies. Maybe I'm the type that needs to take on one challenge at a time with all my energy? To mix things up, I figured I'll work on one of the monthly contest that are going on on the various art sites. This gives me opportunity to work on the other foundations of art. Still, I've turned the my current entry into a figure study. I took Lunatiques advice and I'm also using that figure to practice my painting.
The more and more I think about it, I'll probably never be out of "study mode". There is so much to explore. Out of everything to learn, there are so many things to chose to become great at. Right now I want to become great at anatomy. I also want to be a great painter. There will be more things I'll reach for I'm sure. Just some thoughts here. I was curious how other artist dealt with their ambitions in their journeys on becoming great or even masters of their crafts. If the question is unclear, forgive me. I go on and on a lot of times. Is it normal to get stuck on one thing for a while? I'm learniing anatomy and that's all I can think about and draw! Thanks.

Lunatique
02-13-2010, 04:37 AM
Interesting you brought this up, since I was just polling the students for my upcoming workshop on how they feel about the topic of creative vision, and they all felt it was very important to them.

The answer to your question will likely surprise you, because it forces you to pull back and look at your artistic aspiration from a top-down view instead of such narrow focus--in fact it's a 10,000 feet view of not only your artistic aspirations, but your life's journey in whole. That is what creative vision is all about, and that is what too many artists don't think about--especially the novice artists. It would take too long for me to explain it in detail--after all, that's why I spend over a year creating the course material for the workshop--to address issues like this.

I think I can help point you in the right direction by describing my own formative years as an artist. When I first got serious about art around puberty, I wasn't just interested in drawing/painting--I was also in love with music, writing, film, animation, and storytelling in general (comic books, novels, film/television). Although I spent a fair amount of time learning anatomy/figure, drawing/painting techniques, and other academic aspects of art, I also spent just as much time using my art to tell stories. I was writing short stories, novels, screenplays, and I would draw storyboards for those stories. I would also draw comic book page for those stories, as well as concept art for the characters, environments, props, vehicles, weapons, design cover illustrations for promo ads...etc. Many of the illustrations I did were for those stories, and when sometimes I'd also mix things up a bit by adapting scenes from my favorite novels into storyboards or comics. I think by mixing storytelling with visual art was extremely important, because it allowed my endless inspirations and possibilities. Even just one story could inspire a huge collection of artworks, as there would be so many things I'd want to design and illustrate for that story--especially if it's a big sci-fi or fantasy epic story. Doing storyboard and comic pages also forced me to learn perspective and also to draw people in many different angles and poses--most of them are approaches I'd never have thought of if I wasn't trying to tell visual stories. Visual story telling also forces you to try your hand at drawing anything and everything that appears in the stories--you'd never run out of stuff to draw for the rest of your life.

So my answer is--marry visual storytelling with your drawing/painting/figure studies, and you will never run out of stuff to draw. The added benefit is that the stories will present endless opportunities for you to draw/paint/design things you otherwise would never have thought of. Although you might feel overwhelmed by the vast world of possibilities this opens up for you, fearing it'll demand too much of you, but don't freak out. Tackle one scene at a time. Make the characters the main focus and concentrate on them, and then the backgrounds and props as secondary focus. This will provide enough variety to keep things interesting, and will also expand your range as an artist. For example, if the scene involves the main characters at the beach enjoy themselves when the alien invaders attacked, you get to do studies of the figures at the beach, then, you get to study how to properly portray ocean--the way the waves reflect light. You also get to study cloud formations and how/why clouds look a certain way on a typical sunny warm weather. You can also study sailboats or jet skies and learn how they are designed. And or course, the fun of imagining what the aliens would look like--their appearance, their clothing, their weapons, their vehicles...etc. That's what's so wonderful about visual storytelling--every story is an opportunity to try your hands at a wide range of possibilities. Historical epics, high fantasy, gothic horror, science-fiction, comedy, drama, war, mystery--it goes on and on.

halen
02-13-2010, 09:53 AM
I pretty mutch just agree with lunatique. Just one comment on this one:

The more and more I think about it, I'll probably never be out of "study mode". There is so much to explore.

I'm allways in somekind of study mode, since I enjoy knowing more, but strength of these these "modes" come and go. There are also some very intence times of "sucking the knowledge". It might start when I've found something new or realised that there is a "next level" I need to reach. Love that, even if it keeps me awake too late. :D Usually after these times there comes kind of saturation point, when I just have to actually do something with that knowledge and skattered set of new skills, before it settles part of my bag of tricks and I can continue searching for more.

Lunatique
02-13-2010, 10:07 AM
To put things in perspective, EVERYONE is always in study mode. When someone becomes a professional and starts making a living as an artist, he's still learning new things on the job, and if he's inclined to keep doing personal art in his free time, he'll keep on learn that way too. Even those who retired and are just painting for pleasure still have goals and trying to improve--we're talking about retired illustrators who's been drawing/painting professionally their entire lives, now enjoying their golden years at home--they are still learning and improving every time they pick up a pencil or a brush. The only difference between you and them is that the focus of your learning is different. You may be working on the basic foundations, while they are working on very advanced concepts in aesthetics or expressiveness. So yes, it is a life-long journey.

halen
02-13-2010, 03:15 PM
^tried to say something like that. ;)

vicmonty
02-16-2010, 01:40 AM
Lunatique, that's a great way to look at the whole learning process. It all leads to one outcome, yet it consist of several goals. Keeping it fresh and still productive. Thanks for that perspective.
Should I brush off the script and take it scene by scene then? I still can't help to feel crippled. I think about the first scene and then think about capturing the characters perfectly. Then I consier my limited knowledge of anatomy and think off all those studies I'll have to do. At the same time, it excites me because it's a whole new approach with a goal other than just doing figure studies.
So start with the characters? Develop them and then their world, or the scene they're in? I'll search around for concept art or the process of developing characters. Should I do the old turnaround of each character? This is how I also hurt myself in my studies. I want to be so perfect! I don't want to waste a second practicing the wrong way. As if there is a template for this sort of thing! I know I am guilty of thinking too much and not doing enough. By doing that I end up wasting so much practice time! I hope other artist go through this.

Lunatique
02-16-2010, 05:32 AM
I understand how you feel very well, since that's how I felt in my early years. Back then, I didn't have enough understanding of of foundation knowledge, so whenever I tried to draw/paint out of my head, the quality of the work didn't look nearly as good as when I was doing anatomy/figure/still life studies or master copies, since I had something to refer to. I would imagine these awesome epic scenes in my head but unable to execute them because I lacked the knowledge--not just in anatomy/figure, but also in lighting, color theory, composition, perspective, stylization, aesthetics...etc (the very things my workshop focuses on). Although there was some frustration, but I think the excitement of creating my own worlds, characters, stories...etc was far more powerful than any frustration.

If the frustration of being a novice is really that crippling, then the world would never have any musicians, writers, dancers...etc. As novices, they all sucked, and the level of frustration they felt was just as strong if not stronger than artists. Imagine having all those melodies and harmonies in your head, but your fingers just can't play those notes on your instrument of choice, or wanting badly to write a good song but any melody you come up with sounds trite and boring. Writers are some of the worst when it comes to frustration--having an interesting story but your grammar is not up to par or your prose styling and vocabulary are just very stale and utilitarian, without any poetic sense. Or, you can write beautiful prose, but you haven't got a single interesting idea or story to tell. And novice dancers? Fahgettaboudit--they just flop around on stage, without any of the muscle memory or physical strength to pull off any of the gorgeous choreography--at the most they can do is shake their asses.

You see where I'm going with this? The love you feel and the enjoyment you get out of being creative and expressive should be far more powerful than any frustration, because that is what will drive you forward. If the frustration becomes crippling, you will get stuck. Sure, your early efforts will not be world-class, but that's expected, and you should expect it and accept it. Allow yourself the rite of passage and get that first 100+ crappy pieces of artwork out of your system. It's just paying your dues. The thing is, even when you know you suck, you can still have fun. The fun part is being imaginative and expressive.

When I dig up that big box filled with all the stuff I did in my teenage years, I can see the passion and the love. Dozens and dozens of stories with concept art, storyboards, comic pages, illustrations...etc. Some of the ideas weren't half bad either--I could easily find something that still holds up and update it with my current level of skill and knowledge. You often hear about how some director's big film was actually a story he had written many years ago while still in college or something--that's what I'm talking about. The creative vision will outlast your awkward and fumbling years as a novice artist, and when you become a mature and skilled artist, that creative vision is still there.

As far as the actual process, it really depends on the person. You might use photo references of celebrities that you think would fit the roles you created and draw them in the context of your story, and you could reference a wide range of concept art, "the art of" books of films/animation, or real life counterparts and get ideas for your own designs for environments, props, vehicles, costumes, weapons...etc. If you prefer a more stylized look, you can reference your favorite animation character designer or comic book artist's work and perhaps borrow that stylization and then alter it according to your own taste. Sometimes it's a mix and match thing where you like the way an artist draws the eyes but hate the way he draw the mouth, so you reference another artist who you think depicts mouths much better.

In a way, my mentality back then was that my academic studies of anatomy/figure/clothing folds...etc served two different purpose--to satisfy my desire to do more academic works, and to improve my skills/knowledge so I can apply them to my stylized works for my stories. It was very obvious that the more academic studies I did, the better I got at drawing out of my head. But I also spent a lot of time analyzing the stylization approaches of my favorite animation/comic book artists. Stylization is a whole different world and in a way far more complex than the academic side of things, because there's a universe of possibilities in how you can stylize. For me, that was/is part of the fun.

vapsman88
02-16-2010, 08:18 PM
As far as the actual process, it really depends on the person. You might use photo references of celebrities that you think would fit the roles you created and draw them in the context of your story, and you could reference a wide range of concept art, "the art of" books of films/animation, or real life counterparts and get ideas for your own designs for environments, props, vehicles, costumes, weapons...etc. If you prefer a more stylized look, you can reference your favorite animation character designer or comic book artist's work and perhaps borrow that stylization and then alter it according to your own taste. Sometimes it's a mix and match thing where you like the way an artist draws the eyes but hate the way he draw the mouth, so you reference another artist who you think depicts mouths much better.


That was a great analysis, Rob!

That reminds me of an artist who started in comics, Barry Windsor Smith. At first he was not very good and had a meld of Jack Kirby and Jim Steranko's styles, but eventually he came up with his own style and has a wonderfully unique style and became a great artist.

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