Sketchbook Thread of DriftingEmber


I recently took part in Robert Chang’s “Becoming a Better Artist” workshop here on CGSociety. It was an extraordinary workshop and experience. One of the books suggested to me was Drawing the Head and Figure by Jack Hamm. I am currently going through the book to sketch copies and do the exercises to better retain the information. There are a few life studies, drawing from imagination, etc. as well.


Working with profiles and age.


You have a nice line and a good sense of proportions. Try to work more on shading.


I agree w/ AbuAmir- your construction and line-work are really strong, and the next step is pushing the lights and darks. Have you ever seen anyone use a “value guide” type of tool, where they will draw a few boxes (as few as 3 or as many as 10) and shade them in to make a scale from black to white? This can be a helpful reference for trying to get a full value range in your drawings. Here are a couple of posts that I quickly dug up that show this:

An example from one of redpandafire’s posts:

Something from Rebeccak’s recommended shading tutorial:

I have this problem a lot too…with me, a lot of my work gets stuck near the mid values.

You’ve got a great foundation to build upon :slight_smile: Keep it coming.


Thank you for the feedback! I am familiar with values, but I greatly dislike drawing dark values in a sketchbook due to how it smudges onto the facing page when I close it. Are there ways to prevent this?


Hi Heather! nice to see you’ve started a sketchbook here :slight_smile: the drawings look good, especially your studies!

I have the same issue with pencil smudges in sketchbooks. When I was doing lots of figure/anatomy drawing this would drive me crazy, especially with the charcoal. You could try a spray fixative - or if you do a drawing you really like, tear it out (yet another reason to love digital - no smudges :slight_smile: )


Thanks Del! I guess my current plan is to buy some fixative and convince myself to lay the graphite on thicker.


A woman’s pelvis reminds me of a butterfly.


I greatly dislike drawing dark values in a sketchbook due to how it smudges onto the facing page when I close it. Are there ways to prevent this?

One thing that I like to do a lot is to use a colored pencil instead of a graphite pencil. Use a black, dark gray, brown, etc. colored pencil from a quality manufacturer (Prismacolor or similar…Crayola won’t give you the best results!) and you’ll find that it is basically the same as drawing with a regular pencil, yet no smudging! :slight_smile: Works for me, at least. Over the weekend I bought a pastel pencil and was surprised to find that it was very similar. I would have expected it to smudge, but it didn’t. These are usually the same price as any drawing pencil: certainly more than regular writing pencils, but at about a buck a pop, I think it’s worth it. A lot of people have recommended spray fixative to me as well, but I’ve never really tried it.

Your drawings are looking great! The male torso one post up is fantastic! Great work. I don’t know if you’re looking for critiques or not, but my only comment is that the unfinished head on the top left female torso is a bit big. But in general these are all looking really nice! :applause:


I think at this point rendering and style should be of the least important elements in your work. What you really want to do now is to knock out thousands of drawings of your subject of choice (which seems to be the human figure).

Here are things I think you should work on:

  1. 3-Dimensionality - Stop drawing outlines and countours and concentrate on drawing completely through the forms as if they were made of glass. Use simplified forms like boxes, spheres, and cones as your mass conceptions and only after you have a gesture drawings on the first layer, a completely conciving 3D simplified model on top of that should you attempt to work the smaller forms and apply your anatomical knowledge.

  2. Anatomy - I like that you have done some anatomical studies but you need to spend some serious time doing it. I don’t know what your anatomy sources are but I recommend Artistic Anatomy by Richer and Bridgman’s series published cheaply now by Dover.

  3. Source - Try to work 1/3 from the masters, 1/3 from life, and 1/3 from imagination.

Overall, I think you’re work is good but you’re concentrating on the finish line where you should be focusing on fundamentals.


Jabuhrer - I never thought of Prismacolors! I actually have some in my closet. Critiques are always great to receive.

Joshua - Thank you for the help! I was taught that being able to copy something to the point that you cannot tell the copy from the source material would be a basic skill that I would need. Having not done this much, I planned to do it for 4-5 photographs while I looked for a life drawing class or friends to model for me for gesture drawing or something. So the reason for the higher rendered images was to test how well I could copy.

Aside from the diagrams in the Hamm book, the anatomy sources I have are the internet and a book I bought almost a decade ago called Anatomy for the Artist published by Barron's. After referring to it for some of the studies, I'm suspecting it's not a very good book. I eventually dug up my old high school anatomy and physiology course book. I'll look into that book and try your suggestions.



Welcome. I know I am not one to comment or critique because there are actual artist in this forum to learn from. One thing I see you need to work on more is proportions and One thing I see you excelling in is your shading. Keep posting.


@Ember - Yes, I am familiar with that idea. I think that it is a most misguided falsehood (along with many of the ideas taught in art education today). The truth is that a subject as infinitely complex as the human figure cannot be learned by memorizing its infinite variations and aspects. There simply isn’t enough time in our lifespans to do that.

The key is to be able to simplify. Eg: treat the pelvis as a box mass conception and indicate it’s important points relative to that simple form in perspective. You can spend the rest of your life refining these simplifications but the difference is that you’ll be able to draw these forms in any position that you wish. There’s nothing wrong with the occasional “observational” or schematic drawing but I think that it is much more important to learn how to simplify and then reconstruct the forms of the human body than it is to memorize detailed and often orthographic schematics.


As as addendum to my last comment I want to share this translation (by Richer) of Leonardo Da Vinci:

[I]Those who are in love with practice without knowledge are like the sailor who gets into a ship without rudder or compass and who never can be certain whether he is going. Practice must always be founded on sound theory, and to this Perspective is the guide and gateway; and without this nothing can be done well in the matter of drawing.

The painter who draws merely by practice and by eye, without any reason, is like a mirror which copies every thing placed in front of it without being conscious of their existence.[/I]


-Aggie, thanks for for response. :slight_smile:

-Joshua, I apologise, since I am not good at explaining myself. I understood the copying as having more to do with measuring one’s eye-hand coordination and ability to correctly judge proportions and alignment, not that it should be the study method I rely on. Thank you for your insight.


-More Hamm for learning neck with life study
-Found a friend to pose for me - first gesture drawings
-Started reading Loomis’s figure drawing book and played around with his mannequin - husband, daughter, couple photographs


Nice drawings, I like your shading alot. I’m curious to see where your journey will take you.


Didn’t read the whole thread, but jjacobo’s advice is solid and his work proves it. Though I must add that “copying” is a bad idea in itself, BUT it doesn’t mean you won’t learn things from it. At first you must not be copying every study you do, you should learn how to build the model from bone to skin, and understand the fundamentals. If you can afford it, Glen Vilppu has been a phenominal teacher for me. I haven’t completely studied his videos, but check them out, they are top notch.

Only after learning from him will you understand the difference between copying and analyzing the model.

Good luck! Keep it up!


-runn, thanks. I’m expecting it will be a long and bumpy one.

-redpanda, thank you. It’s always great to get advice.

Family’s been keeping me busy.
-Arm and elbow bones
-Few Hamm diagrams, life studies with attempts to visualise the bones, life study.


Hi Heather, you have some great anatomy studies happening here. Lovely shading skills! I’ve been using one of Jack Hamm’s book too, but I’m currently focusing on animal anatomy. I’ve found his book very useful. I look forward to seeing you progress with your studies. :slight_smile: