ratcreature: RatCreature at the drawing board. (drawing)
I'm not sure whether anyone is interested, seeing how the art itself got very little reaction (only two comments and one kudo so far *sulk*), but since I took the pictures of the in-between stages, I might as well post them.

many images of the work in progress )
ratcreature: RL? What RL? RatCreature is a net addict.  (what rl?)
My latest tedious digital experience made me curious about the "time efficiency" of digital vs. traditional media for people overall. Obviously there are some things that are really easy/fast digitally compared to doing it by hand, e.g. messing with the color balance, or after you are almost finished with the details it becomes apparent that you failed to notice that a head is disproportionately large. Select and scale with some minor re-merging effort is all fixing the latter takes digitally, whereas you have to start over by hand. But when looking at the whole process I often find that doing something digitally takes me longer than on paper (and I'm slow there already), even if I take into account the beloved undo and that corrections go much faster. Of course that could be just a matter of practice, but then it's not as if I paint traditionally all that often either, and digital stuff seems to have a really steep and frustrating learning curve.

Of course you can always mix both to take advantage, e.g. do a sketch in pencil, scan it, resize and rearrange stuff digitally, then base the drawing on that, or do an initial rough color sketch digitally, mess around with color sliders until you like the mood, then do the painting traditionally, then scan it and do a touch up digitally etc. But still, a poll about when you don't mix the two.

Poll #5337 traditional vs. digital
Open to: Registered Users, detailed results viewable to: All, participants: 5

for initial sketching (whether a study or the base of later picture), what is faster for you?

View Answers

traditional media (i.e. physical pigments applied to surfaces in some manner)
3 (60.0%)

digital (i.e. whatever software you like best for a task: GIMP, Photoshop, Painter, ArtRage...)
1 (20.0%)

no difference
1 (20.0%)

don't know/can't say (b/c you never keep track of time, have only ever used one method for this, always mix both...)
0 (0.0%)

for a fully rendered drawing, what is faster for you? (presuming about equally detailed/skilled results are the goal)

View Answers

1 (20.0%)

3 (60.0%)

no difference
1 (20.0%)

don't know
0 (0.0%)

for inking line art, what is faster for you?

View Answers

2 (40.0%)

3 (60.0%)

no difference
0 (0.0%)

don't know
0 (0.0%)

for coloring line art, what is faster for you?

View Answers

1 (20.0%)

4 (80.0%)

no difference
0 (0.0%)

don't know
0 (0.0%)

for a fully rendered painting, what is faster for you?

View Answers

2 (40.0%)

1 (20.0%)

no difference
0 (0.0%)

don't know
2 (40.0%)

how important is such time/effort efficiency on average when choosing your medium for an artwork? 10 meaning "most important", 0 meaning "not important" compared to other consideration (e.g. wanting to have a physical object, not wanting to have a mess with paints everywhere, having some effect you can only get digitally etc.)

View Answers
Mean: 3.20 Median: 3 Std. Dev 1.33
00 (0.0%)
11 (20.0%)
20 (0.0%)
32 (40.0%)
41 (20.0%)
51 (20.0%)
60 (0.0%)
70 (0.0%)
80 (0.0%)
90 (0.0%)
100 (0.0%)


Apr. 8th, 2010 10:33
ratcreature: Who needs talent? Enthusiasm is fun!  (talent/enthusiasm)
I was attempting to do a grayscale value thumbnail for my Trekreversebang artwork as preliminary to painting it, and couldn't figure out how the shadows would look, not even in so far as to roughly fake it. So now I have resorted to trying to make a rough pseudo-maquette simulating at least the broad masses. Of course I don't model or sculpt, so I do not have any of the materials or skills needed for actual maquette making. Instead I am making a contraption from some old cardboard, toiletpaper rolls and play-do. >.<

Unrelated to this, I still do not have the newest Dresden Files book, because I ordered the UK edition (which was sold about four euro cheaper than the US edition by the German Amazon), and that apparently came out a few days after the US one. But I did just get a notification that it's in the mail, so it will arrive soonish. I hope.
ratcreature: headdesk (headdesk)
I'm beginning to feel oddly understanding about the stupid "sex kitten" poses female characters are so often stuck with on covers and such. It's not that I'm getting fond of the sexism, but it is frelling hard to come up with engaging poses when you just want to draw some character, portrait-like I mean rather than some scene with an inherent action. And while the message isn't great, at least the stripper body language says something rather than having the character stand around dumbly, looking very boring.

How do people who are good at portraits figure out how to arrange the character? I totally fail at this. My attempts always look stiff or stupid or both.
ratcreature: FAIL! (fail!)
I hate, hate, hate when supposedly water resistant ink turns out to be not water-resistant at all when you use it. I know, I know you should test every contingency, but I unwisely (very, very unwisely) assumed that when I put that black ink on paper with paint (the goal was to then scratch in the black ink) it would then be possible to paint some water-soluble color on top of the scratched off areas.

However it turns out that this black ink will get liquid again when painted on if it is painted over other paint. So the black seeped back into the areas that I spent hours carefully scratching and crosshatching a picture into with a razor blade. It was a Robin portrait that looked rather cool with the white on black, and I just wanted to give it some red and yellow color highlight effects. Now it is a blotch. Well, not completely a blotch, I may be able to rescue something, but it certainly won't look like I wanted it to... waaah!

Of course I should know by now that it always comes back to bite you if you are too lazy to actually test how different colors react onto each other, and just assume that they behave in a certain way, but still.
ratcreature: RatCreature as a sloth (sloth)
Once upon a time -- as reckoned in internet years, in reality in September 2007 -- I started a community called [insanejournal.com profile] slothsdraw on IJ as a place for regular drawing practice, especially for people who have trouble sticking with their resolutions to draw more often. The reason I started it on IJ was that this was in the wake of LJ's Strikethrough debacle, and LJ's policies over what counted as unacceptable artwork (then even murkier and unclear than now) made me uncomfortable with the idea of creating a drawing community on LJ. Anyway, it never really took off -- I guess in part due to the target group being people who lack motivation *G* -- and has been inactive for a long time now.

I still thought that some of the exercise prompts and resources posted there might be interesting for others, however IJ has a policy to delete inactive accounts and though I reactivated the community there last time this happened, that's less than ideal to archive stuff. So I reposted these to a comm on DW, also called [community profile] slothsdraw, for a more permanent home. (Obviously for all past responses not made by me you need to head over the IJ comm.)

I actually have no concrete plans for [community profile] slothsdraw on DW, but the last days people joined (I assume they did an interest search or the like and the comm came up), so maybe activity there could revive. In any case for now there are seven sets of drawing prompts to pick from, so people can post responses to those if they like. And if there is some actual activity there also could be new prompts or discussion of a more open format as just a place to post practice drawings.

Anyway [community profile] slothsdraw is present on DW now. Maybe it will be less dead than the IJ counterpart. Or not. But at least it won't get into trouble for its sloth-like inactivity. Membership is just moderated so that posters who prefer to show their practice drawings locked can have that option, without immediate and open joining undermining this, but anyone can join. More details are listed in its profile.
ratcreature: navel-gazing RatCreature (navel-gazing)
When I was drawing my latest piece, i.e. the SGA/Avatar fusion with Teyla as Waterbender, I was reminded again why I'm rather reluctant to try drawing fanart for tv/movie fandoms, my recent forays into SGA notwithstanding: I have a hard time with character-likeness if the character has to look like a real person.

Because my style of drawing is more comic/illustration-like than truly realist, e.g. that I like to have lineart, it needs a certain amount of simplification in facial features. Which then presents the problem of how to get there from the starting point of a realistic and fully rendered face. (Not that I can do realistic portraits, but in theory I mean.)

The first thing that usually comes to mind for trying to get a handle on how a character looks is to start with a photo of the character's actor or a screenshot of the character, and then somehow simplify from there. The reasoning is that after all basing your art on a decent photo works well enough for realistic character portraits in fanart, which are often recognizably based on promo pics and such. Yet this approach is somewhat hazardous as anyone who has seen a bad tv comic, one where the artist visibly just traced screenshots, can attest to. It's the phenomenon that in its extreme is lineart that you could even actually map over a screenshot and the lines "fit," yet if you look at the lineart alone it doesn't really look like the character at all.

The problem is of course in the nature of lineart. If you have ever tried to trace a photo, you've run into the problem that there aren't really any "lines", so usually you tend pick mostly the "high contrast borders" with a bit of abstract knowledge of how the form of the thing is thrown in. And this works okay if you have say the contrast of a leg against a bright background, but much less for things like facial features. And it is not merely distortions due to a specific photo, i.e. that depending on the light and angle your best guess for lines may not emphasize the really prominent features, but put stress on the wrong parts. It's that any reduction of photos to lines with a face makes it a caricature, even if you don't add intentional "distortions," simply because having just one line where there used to be color gradients introduces emphasis, and likeness decreases if you put that emphasis "wrong", i.e. not on the recognizable, outstanding features.

In theory this is not much of a problem, after all the goal all along is to draw the character, not to trace photos, and you just have to adjust your degree of caricature to compensate for the reduction of rendering, that is to figure out which facial features of said person deviate from the average proportion, the mean of facial features in a way, and exaggerate. I've read that even computers can do this with algorithms based on photos and make caricatures of people.

The problem I'm having is that so many actors are pretty people. See, I'm not that good with faces. It's one thing to spot how someone differs from "average" if they have huge ears (think all the Prince Charles caricatures), or a big nose, or a very distinct skull shape, but humans tend to find regular, even features more attractive, so tv characters are hard to figure out. It's not that there are no differences, obviously I recognize these people when I see them (well for the most part anyway, like I said, I'm not that good at memorizing faces), but I have no idea which features are the ones standing out most to me on a conscious level with faces like that.

I think it would be really cool if one of those caricature algorithms was made into a webtoy somewhere, and I could just give it a photo and it would warp the features to point out how it differs from the average face. Then, even though my style doesn't need outright caricature, I could use those hints for more subtle exaggeration suited for my purposes.

I guess I just wish some technology could help make up for my lack of talent/practice in character portrayal/caricature. *sigh*
ratcreature: RatCreature is thinking: hmm...? (hmm...?)
Though I don't draw professionally or even all that often, I still have a habit of collecting interesting visual things for reference or inspiration. Even with libraries and these days internet image searches it is not easy to find the exact kind of interesting picture you need when you need it, or sometimes you don't even know what exactly it would be you need to realize some vague idea. Or at least it is like that for me, so if I come across something that is visually stunning, unusual, interesting, seems like a good inspiration, or a possible reference for something I might draw some day I keep it.

Like, if I'm at a used book store, I habitually look if there's a bin of old cheap National Geographic or other travel magazines and leaf through them to see whether any have cool photographs, if I see an interesting picture on the internet I will safe it, and so on.

Obviously after a time this results in an organizational problem if you ever want to find anything again. So I'm wondering how others deal with this.

It's not so bad with the books, I just have a shelf with books I got for their pictures, like for example collections of photographs from the 1920s, 30s and so on, books of animals, places, people, cars, design... It's harder for the magazines because things like National Geographic aren't topic specific, so I never know whether I decided to keep some issue for pictures of some place or some animal, or even whether it was in the title article. Which makes finding things again a bit harder.

Digital stuff is the least problematic in some respects, because I have created a bunch of folders labeled by topic for photos (reference for buildings & cityscapes, landscapes, actions, clothing, animals, plants, objects, symbols, textures,... with some having subfolders) and some other folders for art by other people, and yet another set of folders for fandom character reference, so it's not hard to find which folders to browse. The main problem is that I don't always know where I got some image from, because it's so much easier to just save a picture than to save it and add something to its meta-info field. That isn't a big problem if I just use it as inspiration or reference some parts of it, but if say a landscape photo was to serve as main reference for a drawn background I might want to acknowledge that, yet often by the time I use something I have no idea where it came from anymore.

Photos I've taken myself before having a digital camera are more of a mess, because those are mostly in big boxes, and most are kind of boring holiday photos with some cool landscapes and animals scattered inbetween. But the worst are the boxes of, well I guess "junk" fits, i.e. stuff I've kept for because it seemed like a good idea at the time. Much of that is also paper, like exhibition catalogs, flyers that looked interesting, clippings from newspapers or magazines, posters, but there's also stuff like feathers with a nice pattern, stones, tins, even some bit of metal that rusted in an interesting way, and so on. I mean, I try to keep the non-paper junk down to one box or so, because I really don't need to go down the road of people who end up smothered by their packrat piles collapsing on them, but well, I'm not a very tidy person to begin with, so it's an uphill battle. I guess what I really need would be del.icio.us tagging for RL objects and/or a physical search engine, but I fear that level of virtual home and computer merging is still a way off into the future.

So, how do you deal with organizing your reference and inspirational collection so that is actually useful for you rather than a pile of messy clutter? Do you have some kind of system? Or just really good spatial memory?
ratcreature: navel-gazing RatCreature (navel-gazing)
I'm not sure whether there's even any interest, because the painting itself got less comments than usual for my fanart posts, so I guess there will be ever fewer interested in the unfinished inbetween stages. But I already made the photographs after all, so I decided to go ahead with the art process post.

very image heavy )
ratcreature: headdesk (headdesk)
Gah, I hate clothing folds so much. Maybe even more than foreshortened limbs, though it's a close call. Also, why did I bother to waste ages trying to arrange these limbs and body parts correctly when it's all buried beneath all this cloth anyway? I have resorted to draping rags over a wooden puppet to see how folds may fall, and it is not even helping.
ratcreature: RatCreature at the drawing board. (drawing)
Because some people find the production process interesting, I decided to do a sort of "making of" post. If you'd just like to see the finished fanart, go here.

very image heavy )
ratcreature: Woe! RatCreature feels emo. (woe!)
Sigh. I know why I like coloring digitally. I think I shouldn't have gone with turning the background dark. I thought the red Iskierka would look more dramatic against a dark background, kind of like on the book cover, but I don't think it really works. However-- no undo for coloring with acrylics. Woe! :(
ratcreature: RatCreature at the drawing board. (drawing)
Does anyone have tips or links to a tutorial or something that shows how to make things look not just wet but kind of slimy?

See, I'm attempting to draw some Temeraire fanart, namely the freshly hatched Iskierka. And I mostly have the dragon as a pencil drawing now, half out of its eggshell, though a bunch of spikes are still missing and I figure it ought to look a bit slimy still from hatching. Which somehow is harder to realize than I imagined.

This whole thing is turning out to be so much more trouble than its worth: first it took like a dozen or so thumbnail tries to get the posture not to suck completely, not to mention two attempts to make a small one work larger that failed, and I had to resort to a silly, foldable dragon wing model I made from bits of wire and paper, because I just couldn't visualize what you'd still see of the stupid wings (and they don't even show that much, though I guess that's part of the problem). Argh. </whining>
ratcreature: Who needs talent? Enthusiasm is fun!  (talent/enthusiasm)
Subject: some random dragon
Media: pencil, fine liner pen with waterproof indian ink, acrylic paint, a bit of color pencil
Rating/warnings: G, none
Notes/comments: lengthy notes on my process, because this is the first time I used acrylics to color a drawing and felt rambly, feel free to skip if you just want to look at the picture. )

Preview: preview of a dragon drawing

the finished drawing and a detail of the head in a larger size are behind the cut )
ratcreature: Who needs talent? Enthusiasm is fun!  (talent/enthusiasm)
I'm terribly uncreative. :( I'm not even decided whether I should go for a simply practical and descriptive name, say "drawingpractice" (luckily still barely within the 15 character limit) or something more whimsical like say "slothsdraw" (I feel a deep kinship towards sloths in my drawing habits...*g*)

Feel free to offer names even if you are not interested in joining.

[Poll #1049330]
ratcreature: Who needs talent? Enthusiasm is fun!  (talent/enthusiasm)
...which of course conveniently procrastinates any actual drawing practice. *g*

Anyway, after my last post I thought a bit more about getting back into the habit of drawing regularly, and I don't think just looking for a random list of prompts somewhere is going to work for me. When talking about this in the comments of my previous post I realized that I'm kind of looking for the online equivalent of an informal drawing group.

cut for length, to spare the uninterested f-list )

So I thought I could do a poll to gauge the interest in such a community (btw, if I were to create such a comm it would be most likely on IJ because of 6A/LJ's recent polices wrt artwork, that make me uncomfortable with the idea of creating a drawing community on LJ).

[Poll #1049048]

cut for another, more lengthy poll about the possible community options, for those potentially interested in participating )
ratcreature: RatCreature as a sloth (sloth)
So, I always have this vague resolution that I should get back to daily drawing. I used to draw something almost every day once, not necessarily anything elaborate, sometimes just a doodle, but still -- then at some point that I don't even recall anymore I apparently turned into an inert sloth about that too (rather than just being a sloth with non-fun stuff).

Anyway, because of my chronic sloth-like condition my resolutions to draw more regularly never seem to work out so well, so I've been wondering whether there were any fandom communities for art to encourage daily drawing, like maybe with prompts or something? I think I've seen such comms for writing exercises? I just thought some more incentive or supportive framework or something like that might be useful to get back into the habit of doodling, or worth a try at least. Does anyone on my f-list know of such communities?
ratcreature: navel-gazing RatCreature (navel-gazing)
In my previous post a couple of commenters said that they find commentary on the process for art and fic interesting, and don't mind the creator expressing their "these things suck in my work" lists as part of that as long as that isn't all they talk about.

So in light of that I decided to do a kind of commentary on my recent picture of Dresden Files' Bob, which is also interesting to do for me, because I worked a bit differently here than usual. I did more of the work and also effects digitally than I usually do, resulting in some things that worked and others that didn't.

long navel-gazing, also very image heavy )
ratcreature: hiding under my blanket (hiding under my blanket)
I just decided to be finished with my drawing of Bob and go ahead an post it (see my previous post). Considering how much time I spent on it, it kind of sucks, partly because I tried new (to me) things, like surface textures, gradients and such digital stuff. It's not horrid or anything (well at least I don't think so) but just now I had the urge to put some disclaimer thing in the notes, i.e. listing all the things I know that are wrong with it like "I know the lightening doesn't look like firelight and the shadows are all wrong for that! and that the various metal textures suck! and the wood too! and that the candle light is all wrong, that that one candlestick turned out a bit too small and the other candle a bit too large..."

But I suspect that kind of thing doesn't go over any better for art than it does for fanfic. I myself quite dislike it when an author tells me at length all the ways their story sucks, and often I won't read it then, and with art I'll probably still look, but inevitably my attention will be drawn to all that is wrong (in the artist's mind) with the drawing, so that doesn't improve its impact any, though depending on how the artists talks about it it can be interesting from a technical viewpoint. Obviously I could have just not posted, but I spent hours on it and it's not that bad.

Beyond just being sick of the drawing after spending many, many hours on it, part of the problem is of course that I lack the skills to correct what I see is wrong with the drawing. I mean, okay, the size issues of that candlestick I could have easily corrected had I noticed earlier, not just towards the end, but it is far easier to see that the lightening and shadows don't look like what you want than to create the effects you want. So I get the urge to say that I know of the problems to not appear stupid/inept/oblivious/whatever to technical issues and give a "better" impression (well in theory, even if the realization lacks), but it's not like that makes the drawing any better, and in fact may even influence perception of the drawing negatively. Though I'm not sure whether people mind notes like that for art as much as for fic.

Anyway, I compromised by dumping my disclaiming in an extra LJ entry afterwards. And out of curiosity, a poll:

[Poll #975503]
ratcreature: eyeroll (eyeroll)
So I haven't been updating the last couple of days, because as it is I could only barely refrain from oversharing at length various gross details of the cough I had. Actually the cough still lingers but now it's just a plain one, also it doesn't hurt as much.

Anyway, I was looking at the Marvel solicitations for May and it occurred to me that sometimes I find inaccuracies in drawings annoying, even if it is just little details, like my annoyance is disproportionate to the inaccuracy. For example this Ultimate X-Men cover: You can't see it as well in the online version as in the paper catalog, because there's a Marvel logo bar covering a part of it, but the rats are drawn really bizarrely. It's not just that the rats' legs don't look like rat legs in some weird way, but that the rat in the foreground is actually drawn with pointy canine teeth (!), and far too many of them too. Like most rodents (or possibly all of them, I'm not sure), rats don't have canines, they have the long front teeth and then a large gap, and the front teeth look like rodent teeth, i.e. while they are sharp they are not pointy. Think "Bugs Bunny." It's rats, not Jaws. I'd let the red, glowing eyes in black rats pass as dramatic license (though I don't think rats can have red eyes unless their coat is lightly colored either as a full albino white, a light cream color or mostly white patterns like Himalayan) if the rest of the rats didn't look so odd in the first place.

Does that happen to other people that they are completely distracted by a minor detail in a drawing that is just wrong?
ratcreature: RatCreature is buried in comics, with the text: There's no such thing as too many comics.  (comics)
I liked Scott McCloud's Making Comics a lot better than the previous Reinventing Comics. I didn't find it as cool as I did Understanding Comics way back in the mid-90s, though that's probably also because I hadn't read a lot of other comic meta yet, and also the format was really unusual then.

Anyway, I didn't learn anything really great or new about comics, but I did have several of those moments were you find yourself nodding along, and things become a bit clearer while you read something laid out in a certain way. While I don't quite agree with him completely on a number of points, I mostly liked his practical illustrations of certain techniques. Overall he's more of a manga fan than I am, and sees manga influence in Western comics differently, not just the adoption of a really manga-like style, but how for example he credits a number of general narrative techniques (e.g. slow and wordless scene setting by showing details of the surroundings in close-up in favor of an establishing shot) and their proliferation in comics mainly to manga popularity even when the comics in question aren't much like manga in the end, whereas I'm pretty sure I've read a bunch of comics whose artists weren't influenced by Japanese stuff, but for example by movies, and in the end used similar kinds of panel transitions, if not in exactly the same style.

I mean, obviously it's hard to tell where exactly influences are coming from unless you know through artists interviews or whatever, and I don't doubt that manga influences are present in some comics that don't look like manga, but seriously, if you imitate a camera and start in a closeup, roam silently over your location before zooming out you may end up with establishing sequences like that without having ever opened any manga doing the same kind of thing.

Overall the comic was a good read. Even in the chapters where he mostly summarizes from other sources and I was already familiar with those, like in the section on facial expressions that heavily relies on Gary Faigin's book The Artist's Complete Guide to Facial Expression (which I talked about here), I still wasn't bored. I also liked his idea of exercise suggestion at the end of the chapters and I may do some of them, since several seem like they could be fun.

As in the previous books I found the more "philosophical" parts about his views on artists' motivations and comic community rather more boring than the analysis of comics and how to make them, but there was a lot more of the latter than the former, so I didn't mind much.

If you've already read a lot about comics, most will seem familiar to you in one way or another, but I really liked how he played his examples through to show the effects of graphic storytelling choices in a kind of variable by variable way. For example in the section of what he calls "clarity vs. intensity" of graphic choices (with "intensity" being graphic effects like extreme perspectives and depth cues, breaking of panel borders and unusual panel shapes, lots of diagonals in composition, exaggerated poses and facial expressions, etc.) he shows varying degrees of these added dramatic choices for the same page, and how it affects the narrative, its readability, emotional impact and such.

Throughout the book I found several good ideas that I hadn't seen quite like this, like for example to add typical gestures, expression and body language to your model sheets for a character not just different perspectives. I liked his section on character design in general, though again I had several seen several suggestions before, because I've read the books he refers to, like for example Eisner's. I mean, I know from experience how difficult it is to make your characters look recognizable and different from each other, but too often, especially in some superhero comics, artists don't even bother to try and you end up with Oracle looking like Black Canary only with a different hair color and in a wheelchair. It certainly couldn't hurt for example Greg Land any to do some character design and expression/body language exercises. I'm just saying.

I also thought the section on body language was useful. It made me understand stances and how you can vary them a lot better, because it broke aspects down into several variable factors, and again showed the effects. Like similar stances, but one symmetrical one asymmetrical and how that changes things, open and closed stances, distances and gestures etc. and he illustration these principles with an example narration of adding gestures and body language to a conversation.

Other parts were a bit of repetition from what I remember from Understanding Comics, though from a more practical viewpoint. For example in the first chapter Writing with Pictures he revisits his classification of different kinds of panel to panel transitions and in the third chapter The Power of Words his categories of word/picture combinations, but you don't have to have read the former to follow his storytelling examples.

Overall I think it's well worth reading.

ETA: Does anyone else keep loosing icon and tag choices after doing a spellcheck and/or preview in the LJ update editor? This is annoying.
ratcreature: grumpy (grumpy)
A while back I posted about women characters in the Wizard How To Draw: Character Creation, however what I didn't really notice at the time (and that says a lot about my own blind spots), but which leapt out to me today when I happened to leaf through it, is that once again there are no non-white characters in the whole thing. Okay, that is not quite true, there is one black guy in Gene Ha's chapter on "Brutes", and in Scott McDaniel's chapter on "Costumed Vigilantes" a bunch of gang members could conceivably be non-white, though with McDaniel's stylized drawings it's hard to tell for sure without coloring. But otherwise, nothing.

Seriously, wtf? I mean, as I have noted in an earlier rant it's not that unusual to find drawing books that show only white people, but most of the "classics" have at least the excuse that they're reprints from some time between 1920 and 1960, this book has been published in 2006. And worse, it's not just about anatomy, but about character creation for comics, and not even mainstream comics are that bad. I suspect that unlike with the women characters (see my post linked above), they might have been reluctant to include the most cringe-worthy cliches and thus ended up with sticking just with white characters, but I think even an Asian ninja guy would have been better than this.
ratcreature: RatCreature at the drawing board. (drawing)
Getting facial expressions, especially more subtle ones right, drawing them so that they are immediately recognizable as exactly what you want is really hard. There's a couple of reasons for that, for example that we are very well trained to read facial expressions and the slightest changes will make an immediately recognizable difference, while at the same time the subtle clues in faces (things beyond the smile/frown line of the mouth and perhaps eyebrow position) aren't something one is all that aware of. Also, not all "stages" of facial movements are equally recognizable, that is, sometimes facial expressions without more context clues like body language don't look like much of anything, so you have to "freeze" the right moment for a drawing. I mean, if you have a series of photos showing a laugh some might just as well look like someone crying and not a recognizable happy crying either. OTOH if you exaggerate too much it will look fake and ridiculous, even in comic-like drawings.

So a lot of the time, at least for me, it's trial and error, like, I have a vague idea what the face would look like, and then if I'm lucky I manage at some point an expression that looks right. Sadly by that point it's likely to be one smudged pencil line in a whole bunch of former attempts that finally makes it look good, and then when I try to trace it in a clean copy using a lightbox or clean it with the computer, or ink it...the expression suddenly is lost again.

Anyway, so I wanted to know more and have a systematic approach as a reference for expressions, and Gary Faigin's The Artist's Complete Guide to Facial Expression does exactly that. I haven't fully read through all the sections yet, but what I have read so far is really helpful, because the illustrations point out step by step which part of the face changes, which muscles do what, analyzes failed and successful examples of artistic representations of emotion and explains why one failed, while the other invokes true emotion, and there's lots of attention to detail. Like what exactly makes the difference in lowered upper eyelids between a lowered gaze, and varying degrees of sleepyness. Or like how you can make eyes look in the distance, look at something nearer, or into an inattentive "inward gaze". Or like explanations how age affects the face and details of expressions.

The book has three main parts: The Structure of the Head, The Muscles of Expression, and the Six Basic Expressions. The first part briefly recaps the proportions of the head, the bones in the skull and how those reflect in the facial planes, and how to construct facial features. That section had mostly things that I already knew, and that I guess most people who have had a portraiture lesson in high school, or read a decent book on drawing humans will also know, but he's clearer than many others with his descriptions and explanations, and I haven't seen some effects of age explained quite as clearly before, either.

The second part, The Muscles of Expressions, lists eleven key muscles of facial expression and then examines what each muscle does to the face separately, as this are the elements he comes back to later when the full expressions are analyzed. The sections look at a muscle group, first showing it in a drawing of a skull so you can see where it attaches, then show it overlaid on an actual face (like here for the sneering muscle), and then show it in action, i.e. first how the face looks with the muscle relaxed, then how it creates expression, in different degrees of contraction. What I found helpful is that it also shows this from different angles, like not just how a frontal frown looks like, but also how it looks from the side (to see this for the sneering muscle look here, here, here and here). And it's really detailed, for example the section of the muscles of the eye and brow is 24 pages, the one explaining the mouth 36 pages (also covering different neutral/resting looks these features have in different people).

The third part, making up more than half of the book, finally covers complete facial expressions, those are sorted into six basic expressions, which are then further divided. He intentionally leaves out expressions that he calls "subjective and circumstantial" because showing the face only people ask to name the emotion in photographs won't agree what it show. Examples Faigin gives for this are greed, vanity, shyness, jealousy, pity, disappointment, remorse, suspicion, stupidity... because the face without any body language (or other context) will be ambiguous. He calls those "circumstantial expressions".

Anyway, the basic ones he distinguishes are sadness, anger, joy, fear, disgust and surprise. He then covers variants, and degrees to each of those. For sadness he distinguishes: crying with open and closed mouth, nearly crying and suppressed sadness (I found it particularly interesting how the tight lip stifling an emotion looks slightly different for tight-lipped anger, a suppressed smile and suppressed sadness, I wasn't aware of that difference), then the pout, and sad expressions involving only the eyes with a neutral mouth (sad smiles are covered later in the "complex smiles" section).

Anger is grouped into: rage (with different versions of angry shouting mouth, and clenched teeth and snarl), anger with compressed lips, anger with angry eyes, but not-angry mouths, lesser angry expressions that then come across as stern and intense. I found it really interesting when he pointed out how the widening of the eyes combined with the angry eyebrows causes the shape of the visible white in the eye to change into an distinct shape so that we can recognize anger just from that, and also the degrees of the angry glare that make eyes go from neutral, to just intense to truly angry.

For joy he covers laughing, overjoyed, open mouthed smile, then varying degrees down to the slight smile, stifled smile and stifled laugh, complex smiles , i.e. mostly those having different eyebrows than pure smiles (happy/sad, eager, ingratiating, sly, debauched, closed eye), and stresses the importance of making eyes and mouth match to express joy, because otherwise you get a fake smile or forced laugh. I found the eye details pointed out helpful too.

Fear is covered from most intense through least intense, i.e. terror, very frightened, frightened and worried. Disgust likewise, from extreme physical disgust with retching, to physical repulsion, mild disgust, and finally disdain. Surprise is covered last and has fewer variants, just open mouthed/slack-jawed, the mouth forming an O, open-mouthed but joyful, and merely in the brows.

Finally he concludes with a table showing all covered emotions and the involved muscles and signature wrinkles in brief (this is an example page from that table), and in that section also gives a tabular overview of expressions of physical not emotional states, like pain, exertion, yawning, drowsiness and such.

It's a very cool book. My only quibble with it is that the green overlaid color is on some pages slightly out of alignment in my copy, as you can see in some of the scan. It's only a few millimeters but that kind of printing fault shouldn't happen in an art book. It's nowhere bad enough to impede usefulness or legibility, though.

Anyway, I'm really pleased with this book and I hope the example scans give an impression of why it's worth buying.
ratcreature: headdesk (headdesk)
I'm in the process to color that Snape picture, and drawing bright sunshine just sucks. Why? Because for bright sunshine to look like bright sunshine you have to draw clearly defined shadows. You'd think it was simpler to draw shadows in such a relatively simple light, where you have just the one main light source to consider. But in reality, if you don't set out for very realistic styles, where indeed several light sources and/or diffuse lightening makes things increasingly complicated, you can get away with just faking shadows in vaguely appropriate places much more easily if the lightening itself comes from several light sources and ambient light. I mean obviously if someone looks closely they'll still notice the errors, but well, you don't notice them like you do if there's just one bright light casting one clearly defined shadow per object. Or at least I don't.

In theory of course drawing any shadows is not difficult, like say if you have a plane and a cube and a light you just draw a couple of easily determined lines like in this tutorial and you have your shadow, like everybody learned in eight grade or whenever you had do basic perspective constructions for a while in high school art lessons. Unfortunately in practice it is much more hassle when you have irregular shaped stuff (inconveniently things like people rarely come in neat cubes, well maybe Spongebob comes close *g*), shadows falling against objects, and surfaces that are not neat rectangular floors and walls, because even though the principles remain the same applying them is just not fun anymore.

Also I suck at it (which possibly explains why I don't think it's fun). *sigh*
ratcreature: headdesk (headdesk)
When I read the epilogue of [livejournal.com profile] bethbethbeth's story In From the Cold, I really liked that image of Snape. So I wanted to draw that, and it was supposed to be this quick funny thing, you know, Snape in shorts and a parrot shirt?

Only once I had my preliminary rough sketch of Snape I decided that it would be cooler if you'd see a bit of the porch he's sitting on, and I forgot to consider that I suck at backgrounds. I mean, there's a reason I often avoid them altogether and just draw the characters. Anyway, I didn't bother with a proper two point perspective construction, seeing how I just wanted to show this little bit of porch, and really perspective construction is a pain anyway, especially if the vanishing points are well outside your paper (and you have to do a smaller sketch just for perspective construction and enlarge the relevant part or other bothersome stuff). So I tried to fudge the perspective. And of course now it looks all wonky, because I am crap at fudging perspective.

The proper thing would be to just start over and do it right, construct the background properly, then redraw Snape into it, but I'm not feeling really motivated to do that, because I'm lazy, and not all that interested in the felling porch. I just wanted Snape in a parrot shirt, you know? Of course I could ignore that it looks all wrong and just finish with the details, which would be more fun, but not bothering to fix stuff when you know it's wrong feels kind of like posting without spellcheck because fixing typos is tedious or something like that. *headdesk*

Maybe I'll just read some fanfic instead...
ratcreature: RatCreature at the drawing board. (drawing)
Remember a while ago back when I posted this scan of a kind of terrifying smiling Wolverine that was an example in the Wizard How to Draw: Heroic Anatomy book? Well, back when I first leafed through the book I was also pissed off at the chapters on drawing women (at some chapters more than others), but I couldn't quite figure out what exactly annoyed me so much, since it wasn't just straightforward sexism bothered me.

Not that that is absent, but it is a Wizard publication, and those chapters are explaining how to draw conventionally "beautiful" and "attractive" women for comic books, so it's not like I expected much in the way of feminist consciousness or anything. The mere fact that there are four chapters in the anatomy section on drawing women that have no equivalent for drawing men in their book is quite telling. The chapters in question are "Women" (by Joe Linsner), "Sultry Women" (by Adam Hughes), "Realistic Women" (by Terry Moore) and "Sex Appeal" (by Michael Turner). And yes, the one on sex appeal doesn't mention men at all. There's another one called "Superheroic Women" but there's also a chapter "Superheroic Men". Since the book is actually not that bad with including women as examples in the other chapters dealing with "regular" anatomy (hand, feet, faces, muscles, etc) compared to some other drawing books I've seen (like I mentioned in an earlier entry), it's unsurprising that the "special" chapters deal with women as sex objects.

I found the presentation somewhat bizarre in places, because clearly a lot of those sections were intended to come across as a bit self-mocking, only, well... I think an example will show what I mean. Here's a page from the chapter "Women" with the subsection for some reason called "The Triple Threat" (threat? wtf?!?), pointing out that main areas of interest in the blunt approach to creating attractiveness (from the heterosexual male POV) would be breasts, ass (they printed "butt" of course *eyeroll*) and legs. Duh. Who would have thought. I mean, that paragraph doesn't even explain anything about drawing any of these, so why include this? Actually Linsner explains at the beginning of the chapter that he's just going to explain what features he finds attractive in women, and is not actually going to talk about, you know, drawing these features. He continues for two more pages in a similar way, pointing out that eyes, hands, lips and hips were also attractive, and at the end I was mostly "whatever", but not all that aggravated.

That changed with the next chapter "Sultry Women", in particular with this page. The point this is trying to make about breast size and that larger breasts won't necessarily look better is fair enough, however it could have been done in a less offensive manner, that doesn't point to the example that fat women also have large breasts and of course "fat=ugly" is assumed as a given. I mean, in his chapter Terry Moore managed to draw examples that exaggerate the same problem (unrealistic breasts) along with some others, like here and here, and show how it doesn't really look good to draw women this way, without being that offensive.

But I realized that what aggravated me so much wasn't just the "fat is obviously ugly" aspect of that picture. While I'm not into the anorexic look and also think that what looks good in terms of weight, build, curves... whatever, depends a lot on the individual woman (or man), I'm not above conventional ideas of attractiveness either. I think what got to me is that she's a) eating and from the litter around her and the fact that it's not like she's sitting down for a meal it seems implied that she does so constantly (going with the cliche that fat people are fat because they have no self-control etc) and b) she's not even enjoying to eat, but looks very much unhappy. Combine that with the image that mocked the fanboy on the earlier page from Linsner's chapter which used "fat" among other things to evoke the impression of "ungroomed" and "unattractive" (though OTOH it also shows definite similarities with the artist, except for the hair-length, so there's the element of irony again), and you get this thread that fat is not just ugly, but comes with undesirable personality traits as well. Meh.

Anyway, this got me thinking about how bodies in general are depicted in drawing books, and I think often too little attention is paid to how different bodies look, when bodies are conceptualized in books on drawing humans. I mean, the obvious thing every drawing book will tell you is to study humans, draw from life, carry a sketchbook with you, blablablah, which is of course as true as it is supremely unhelpful. Nobody needs a book to know that to draw and study real people is good practice, OTOH drawing from life has also limitations, which is most likely the reason why you got the drawing book in the first place. Maybe the sketches from RL just won't turn out right and you want to figure out what you're doing wrong, or maybe you're at at a point when you need to "construct" and arrange a bunch of humans without direct reference to get the picture you want with reasonable effort. (Obviously you could try to convince a friend to crouch and jump with a fake sword while you study this or take pictures with a motion sensitive camera from exactly the angle you want, but you probably end up quickly with friends who get suspicious when you invite them over for "dinner".)

Depending on the focus of the drawing book it will more about the first or the second scenario, but in any case they usually break down humans in easier shapes, point out underlying functions, give a general sense of proportions, the usual, and as a part of that a more or less "generic human" tends to figure rather prominently in this. and unsurprisingly that "generic" human is usually a young(ish), white man, though young, white women appear too, and they are usually drawn in a way that is considered "well-proportioned" at the time, which fluctuates a bit, e.g in Georg Bridgeman's books (written in the first half of the 20th century) women are quite likely to have bellies that curve slightly outward, and are generally curvy (they'd probably count as "plump" these days).

Anyway, obviously when you look at this from a critical viewpoint this set-up is problematic to say the least, though considering the publication date of a lot of the "classics" I have in mind it's not surprising, but if you just want to use the book it's not that bothersome as long as your main "construction problem" is to arrage a body in space. A great example for this is Burne Hogarth's Dynamic Figure Drawing, which I own in a German edition (I don't think there are significant differences to the English one, but I'm not certain) and which is basically 170 pages explaining techniques how to arrange this "generic" human (obviously he's nude though not with detailed genitals, still some might consider the scans NWS) in space with the help of geometric constructions/visualizations like this one (it's kind of like virtually moving a ken doll). A couple of times a woman's body makes an appearance (while he has no distinctive face, she doesn't get a head at all in the bunch of drawings explaining how structures with women are different, mostly in the section on reclining poses, some in the sitting poses, none in the action poses...), but it's a negligible number of drawings compared to the male ones.

I actually like Hogarth's book quite a bit, like IMO he explains foreshortening really well, he explains how to draw humans from unusual perspectives, how you can draw human motion, and a bunch of other stuff that causes this book to be so widely recced. What it falls short on is the step to turn the ken doll you arranged in space into an actual human being with a distinct body. To be fair, I don't think it's the topic of the book, and I've never actually read all the text beyond that what was necessary to make sense of the constructions, so I have no idea whether or not he points out the issues of making bodies real.

A lot of drawing books seem to assume that that step, to make the human distinct isn't one that benefits from the same "constructionist" approach as the spatial arrangement, and that just observing enough different humans will work well enough to make the underlying principles clear. However, I found it rather helpful to have the ways in which bodies gain individuality laid out to me, because while that won't cover everybody either, it helps to make sense of the common variations. E.g. I wasn't aware that the area between the shoulderblades was all that noticeable in terms of body fat before reading this page (from Figure Drawing Without a Model by Ron Tiner).

OTOH with that book I frequently ran into the problem that rather dubious (or at least highly controversial) "scientific" classification systems from the 19th/early 20th century were turned into artistic tools without any reflection, for example the craniometry with its cephalic index (I didn't scan the pages applying those). I mean, it didn't bother me to read a chapter explaining about height/width characteristics of the human face and if he wants to use the terms "dolichocephalic", "mesocephalic" and "brachycephalic", okay, whatever, but considering that the book was first published 1992, it bothered me a lot that from just reading those paragraphs you'd think it was it was just an "neutral" anthropological measuring and classification tool, not invented to be central for a multitude of more or less racist theories, which construed skull measurements into all kinds of things. The same goes for the fact that he uses William Sheldon's somatotypes system (that was the basis for his strange anthropometry psychology, with things like predicting criminals from their body types and such) without finding it problematic at all. It's not that I didn't find the examples of body types somewhat useful (like here and here), and while I find it mostly silly to call them "endomorphic mesomorph" and such, I wouldn't care about that and just appreciate it that in this book not all bodies look the same, if there was some brief reflection that these body types weren't created to merely describe bodies, but that the system was created in a much more problematic context.

I mean, I like Tiner's book, it has a bunch of insightful observations and useful stuff, but as it was, my reaction was WTF? a lot as well, only over more complicated issues than say in the Wizard How To book. Clearly drawing books are bound to be aggravating in one way or another.
ratcreature: WTF!? (WTF!?)
So I was wasting my time on the internet idly browsing for photo references and came across these two sites from the same company which offers paid access for photo references, which I am not interested in, but the thing is they have one site with photographs of men in various poses called human-anatomy-for-artist.com and one with photographs of women called female-anatomy-for-artist.com. And it's not that the first one covers both men and women as I first thought and they just have an extra one for women, at least from their free samples and the content overview it's really only men. WTF?!? It's like feminism illustrated or something. I'm vacillating between amused and aggravated. >.<
ratcreature: RatCreature at the drawing board. (drawing)
So I'm in the process of making some more icons, seeing how I'm still far from filling the 100 icon slots I have (right now I have 37). I collected a bunch of more or less useful or amusing icon ideas: Besides the recent yum!/Eating!RatCreature which I have already uploaded, I have finished the drawing for a huh??/Clueless!RatCreature, and in the queue of vague ideas are right now MemeSheep!RatCreature, kill!kill!/Enraged-Axe-Wielding!RatCreature (it's not that I have that much need for a rage icon, but I like to doodle cartoon violence *grin*), *heart*/Glomming!RatCreature, a grim Robin!RatCreature, a bouncing Tigger!RatCreature, maybe a Numb3ers!RatCreature and a bunch of others. However the one I'm drawing right now is supposed to become an evil/Sith!RatCreature. Which is where the ears and the hoods come in.

See, at first I thought I might do Vader!RatCreature, however the mask doesn't really work with the nose, so I thought fine, I'll do a more generic Sith instead. Looking at pictures of Sith you'll notice that hoods covering part of their faces figure rather prominently in their image. Okay, Darth Maul has his hood down in some of his more iconic shots, but Anakin once he's evil and Sidious both love the hooded look, which is fine for human ears. Yet for someone with ears like my avatar? Not so much.

No matter what I tried, large ears beneath the hood of a robe just don't work that well without looking ridiculous and not Sith-like. Seeing how Yoda's ears have similar characteristics (i.e. largish and extending outwards from the head), I searched for pictures that show Yoda with his hood drawn up, but all images I've found always show him with the hood down. What really stands between Yoda and the Dark Side is not merely the Jedi Code, he's incompatible with sithly fashion sense -- no way could he be all dark and mysterious with his hood concealing his head without looking bizarre because of the ears, they'd totally ruin the drapery lines of the hood. And while I'm considering to just have the ears stick out in my drawing, clearly that wouldn't work for a "real" Sith: Imagine he wants to throw of the robe with a dramatic flourish, but has to untangle the ears from their holes first.
ratcreature: RatCreature as Batman (batman)
Sometimes I think it's unfair that when you try to create some piece of fan art it's not really possible to post in progress snippets or paragraphs or lines of dialogs like authors of fanfiction can. I mean, I guess I could scan the most recent halfway decent looking gargoyle, which was preceeded by half a dozen failed, awful, hideous ones (and not hideous in an intentional gargoyle hideousness sense either) before I found some photo reference specifically for gargoyles, but really that's not something that could be posted without the rest of the picture. (*)

In case anyone's wondering why I spent so much time on frelling gargoyles, it's because I didn't want the obligatory gargoyle in a Gotham scene look like the boring, nondescript standard gargoyle #1 you see so often in recent Batman comics. You know, the thing which is more or less just a protruding beam with a sort of beak-thing at the end? That standardized Gotham gargoyle is really starting to annoy me, it is like a fanon cliché...or like a gargoyle chain store thing.

Anyway, no more gargoyles or disproportionate looking superheroes for tonight.

(*) In my head (opposed to the reality on paper which currently is not even close to this) it is a scene with a brooding Batman squatting on top of said gargoyle and a Nightwing jump sequence, i.e. one of those typical Nightwing pictures where you see the progress of one of his jumps/somersaults all in one panel, which ends with Nightwing landing behind Batman. Set into this large picture are two smaller panels showing close-ups of Nightwing touching Batman's shoulder, and Batman turning and subtly smiling at Nightwing in contrast to the former grim expression. Perhaps a "comic drabble" or something like that, not really a story, but not a single illustration either. In my head it's sort of a subtext piece, with just a slightly different feel than canon (because there most likely you wouldn't see the turning and smiling) but still gen textually. Well that's the concept anyway. And of course now that I've written that down, if I ever finish that piece of artwork everybody will know that it doesn't look like it was supposed to be (I'm fairly certain it won't because it never looks like in my head).

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