30 October 2010

Hands and Feet

Here are simplified, rotatable solids for feet and shoes. Sketch your own versions to populate your mental library of SRSs ("Simplified Rotatable Solids").

When the heel is raised, the ball of the foot and toes will be pressed firmly down. Study how the smaller toes react to the stress of having weight put on them. It’s absolutely necessary to periodically draw some feet from photos or life to study them. This can help you avoid amateur errors like drawing the four smaller toes as identical little square Chiclet things, or having the ends of the toes lined up all in a straight row.

Feet are superimportant. It takes a long time to get feet to touch the ground believably, in perspective, and longer to get them to look like they are supporting weight.

Skip down to the bottom of this post to see helpful foot pointers from Jack Hamm.

Hands are too flexible and complex for us to get much use out of out our SRSs (simplified rotatable solids). We must resort to a more situational set of observations. Let’s bullet back to basics to review things we know about hands. There are a few you may not yet know to keep you on your, uh, toes.

• Half the length of the hand is palm, half fingers.
• Palm is a wedge shape (Look at its outer edge).
• Outer edge of palm is straighter in women and kids, fully curvaceous in dangerous, muscular men like Dan Cooney and me.
• No set of knuckles exists in a straight line. All are arrayed along curves, with the middle finger’s knuckles most advanced.
• The fingers only taper in the outermost two bones (toward the finger tips). This is seen most clearly in a fist, where the base bones of the fingers--the punching surface of the fist--are parallel (though of unequal length), and the last two bones of the fingers taper and crowd together near the center of the palm.
• Straight wrists and straight fingers make poor gestures for talking characters. The result is a distracting “spear hand.” Great for the Silver Surfer firing a bolt of energy, pretty awful for a conversing human. Much more natural to have the wrist bent a bit and each finger bent a bit more than the one next to it. Usually the index finger will be the most extended, the pinkie the most closed, in such progressions.
• The poses of each of the four fingers should be closely related. The center two fingers are the most passive, echoing the index finger. The pinkie is more of an outlier, naturally bowing out the most and sometimes posed in a way that’s more extended than its mates, especially in feminine poses.
• Study smoking poses; they are natural and graceful.
• Don’t bend the outermost knuckles (the ones closest to the nails) more than a little bit--it suggests arthritis.
• To place a hand believably, very quickly and lightly sketch the whole arm, even outside the panel. Does it look like the upper arms and forearms are proportional? Is the elbow in a natural position, or is it awkwardly in front of the torso?
• When trying to fit hand gestures into a closeup panel, consider that some gestures look more natural close to the face than others. (Most of our gestures are roughly in the vicinity of the chest or shoulders, not the face.)
• GOOD: Drawing fingers with a mix of curved and straight lines and really deciding where the knuckles are.
• NOT SO GOOD: Drawing fingers with all curved lines, which makes them look pudgy and soft.
• KINDA BAD: Drawing female hands that are too angular, that lack a graceful, continuous “flow.”
• BAD: Drawing fingers whose individual poses are unrelated to the closest finger(s) and whose knuckle spacing and fingertip shape vary. Fingers should look like they are shaped the same as each other, and cooperating--imitating each other a bit.
• Please don’t skip the lines between fingers to give them that fused look. This is a silly affectation, not a cornerstone of your style.
• To draw hands better, get reference or a mirror and sketch some studies every couple years!


P.S.: Here attached, some better material on feet and legs, courtesy of the great Jack Hamm.

09 September 2010

Ellipses: The "Implied Cylinder"

So here is that video I made--actually a series of four short videos.

I reckon the key to working with ellipses is visualizing where the "implied cylinder" is, as a guide to how to orient the minor axis of the ellipse template. What's that mean? Imagine a plate on a table in a one- or two-point perspective drawing. Now imagine a cylinder of equal width projecting straight up and straight down from the plate. This is the implied cylinder. We would make the minor axis of our ellipse template point straight up and down to conform. The video explains.

The attached videos cover a slightly more involved example, in that here the implied cylinder points toward a VP.  (The car is drawn to a particular pair of VPs so the wheels must be too. Perspective is all about relating like to like--that is, one thing to a similar thing, such as the left rear wheel of a car with the right rear or left front wheel.)

(BTW, for simplicity the front wheels are pointed straight ahead in this example.)

Another note: My red underdrawing reads too strongly in the final videos. I'm sorry. Try to ignore it--your attention is best directed instead to the black pencil lines.


30 July 2010

That Darn Shadow Plotting

Note that this version is natural light, unlike the one we tried in class, which was local. (That not-insignificant distinction was lost to my shite memory.) The placement of the SVP and, straight below it, the STP are both dictated by the direction and length of the shadow of the post. Note that the rightward direction of the cast shadows of 1, 2, and 3 seems to contradict the direction of the shadow of the post! Completely counter-intuitive. Perhaps it is possible to know too much...

Click on it to see it animate. You may have to watch it a few times to grasp it.



The week-by-week breakdown of the rest of the semester's assignments:

Complete an illustration 12" x 16", or larger at the same scale, to accompany the text below, either Snow White or Sleeping Beauty. Your image must be as realistic as you can make it and very detailed. Grades will depend on the communication of the narrative, drama, drawing, accurate perspective, reflection and shadow plotting. It is your responsibility to ensure that your illustration demonstrates as much as possible of what you have learned during this course.

For Meeting 13
Submit 2 roughs using 2-point perspective,  2-point vertical  or  3-point perspective. Different perspective in both. Use each perspective to its best advantage to bring drama to your concept. These can be freehand but should be clear and easy to read as you would send to your client. Value/shadows should be indicated but not plotted accurately. 8 1/2" x 11" or bigger.

Decide where the horizon and VP(s) are at the earliest opportunity. It is suggested that you treat several ideas in thumbnail form before settling on two.

For Meeting 14
Draw up the chosen visual at full size, accurately, in line, using a square grid, correctly ruled perspective and foreshortening. All constructions must be shown on a separate overlay/copy (VPs, DVPs, horizon, reflections, projections lines, a- and d-lines).  There must be a demonstration of accurately plotted perspective. Flap your overlays.

For Meeting 15
Alter according to Wk14 critique. Add value/shadows accurately – color rendering is optional. You may work in any medium.

Direct reference is not permitted for this homework, except that you may reference the fashions of a particular period and the architecture.

A B-/C+ example-- VPs in too close, looks unfinished, stiff!
hard not to love this one--its lack of realism helped
Option #1 - Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs

Inside the dwarfs’ tiny cottage stood seven little beds with seven pairs of slippers. On the wall were seven mirrors and seven hooks with seven little coats and seven little hats. The long table had seven little plates and seven little mugs, one for each little man. And when they had finished supper and every dwarf was contented, round and full, the seven dwarfs - standing no higher than her waist - danced with Snow White to the jolly strains of the fiddle. They were all too happy to notice the ugly old hag that glared at them bitterly through the window. Show all nine characters.

Option #2 - Beauty and the Beast
Pick the most dramatic moment from this short scene: 
C- Final. Lacks shadow plotting, uses sampled art, lacks feeling
This one got an A+ even though it underplayed the drama

Every night Beauty and the Beast would sit by the hearth in the ornamental great hall and talk. The Beast's stories were fascinating to Beauty and his smile was kind in the firelight. Soon she found that she was anticipating her evenings with the Beast all day long.

One, summer night the Beast dropped to one knee and looked into the eyes of his companion.
"I know I am ugly - horribly ugly - but I have to ask. Do you think that a lady as beautiful as you could ever marry a Beast?"
"Never,” Beauty said with a tear in her eye. "I love you for the honest, gentle soul you are but no, I could never marry a Beast."

At that, the Beast fled the hall and Beauty did not see him again for many nights.

BONUS THIRD option!  School Trip
An unusual "B" example. Back view of zombie kids "buries the lead."
Miss Blake dragged herself out of the twisted school bus, stumbled across the waterlogged street and collapsed. Her thoughts were snarled by the collision. What was that decaying, faltering thing she had swerved to avoid a minute earlier… and where was everyone from the town, and why had no one come out to help?
The rain had finally stopped. She looked around her. The lifeless bodies of her students were scattered about the wreckage like rag dolls: some strewn across the asphalt, some hanging from windows, some hidden inside, but all were broken and still.
Rough by Chad Weatherford
Final by Chad Weatherford (A) Some problems with where "up" is.

Was she the sole survivor? As the town clock struck twelve there was a shifting from inside the bus. She froze - the children! Miss Blake watched in terror as the ruined corpses of thirty eight year olds pulled themselves from the school bus and began to limp hungrily towards her…


28 July 2010

Hamm on Feet and Shoes

Hamm is the man! Many useful tips here.Only the first page or two repeats material from my recent handout.


27 July 2010


Here's the text of this week's assignment, followed by a tip to aid accuracy in your reflections.



    Create an illustration for the story of Snow White. Research and design your characters and locations to fit the country/era in which you decide to set the story.

    Your style must be 100% literal/realistic.

    Illustrate the passage below using the 2-point perspective mirror construction you learned in class. We should see both the Queen and her environment reflected accurately in the mirror.

    She must be shown from head to toe - and at least three other items must be seen in the room as well as reflected in the mirror. Don't forget: this illustration must show as much accurate reflection of objects as possible and will be graded accordingly.

    Important Tip: Use the whole wall as the mirror until you get your reflections in place, then decide where to place the mirror frame to fit with your reflection.

    Your line drawing should be 9" x 12" or larger at the same proportion. Keep it neat, clean, and accurate. A single line should indicate edges; straight edges should be straight and organic shapes clear and effective. Ensure that this drawing is as professional and precise as you are capable of producing. Add no value at this time.


    Snow White Text

        News of Snow White's death sent the Queen rushing to consult her magic mirror. She fled to the top of the tallest tower and entered the secret chamber where all her terrible spells were boiled and bred.

        Lighting a candle she locked the chamber door and turned to question the mirror that watched her silently from the far wall.

        'Mirror, Mirror on the wall, who is the fairest of them all?'

        There was a long silence as her reflection scowled back at her from within the glass.

        Then, finally, the mirror spoke...

Here below, an animated GIF that shows an already plotted reflection and uses its VPs to refine the positions of that reflection. Click on it to watch it animate. It starts slowly to give you a chance to read.


P.S.: the GIF I posted didn't animate for some reason. Let me try this one, above.. Yeah, it works. You have to wait a few seconds for it so start--it cycles slowly, repeats.

18 July 2010

Reccommended reading

This is the pdf I recommended for making your "Combat!" drawings dynamic.  Download now-- I will de-post in a couple days. It takes about 6 minutes--worth it.


17 July 2010

Assignment 8: Combat!

    •    In preparation for Homework #9, read the text: Drawing Drapery from Head to Toe, by Cliff Young, Dover.
    •    Complete 1 line drawing in good proportion.

Your drawing must show two people in hand to hand combat. Your characters may be engaged in a fist fight, a play fight, brawl or wrestling match. There should be no weapons involved. Poses should feel authentic and have movement. Identify the general thrust/direction line to your attacking and defensive poses.
Your characters should be drawn without clothes.

You may use reference as inspiration for the pose you choose but make your drawing in different perspective from your source. I would suggest looking over a lot of ref, sketchbook in hand, to pick up salient anatomical details. Thus to avoid the "Made-Up"-looking bodies that plagued many Assignment Sevens.

This drawing should be roughly 10" x 10", neat with, strong simple contour lines. Take the time you need to perfect the anatomy, proportion and foreshortening of various body parts. When finished, set your drawing aside and reassess it the next day.

Please amuse and enlighten yourself with the attached illustrations of combat both faked and real! Notice that Line of Action is a huge factor in the differences between real and fake.

P.S.: Note the foreshortened limbs in the last photo!

10 July 2010

More Help on Facial Structure

From a blog for my comics class:
Thanks to pornstar Daisy for her help, albeit unwitting, in creating one of these instructional jpegs!


Heads in Boxes

For Assignment 6:
The GIF here will replay automatically. The resulting face is, I'll admit, kind of odd, with its pulled-in, feminine mouth. But I'm claiming that it's the idea that counts! :)  Note the red centerline of the face and how it only touches the centerline of the box at the tip of the nose, and how there is maximum distance between round head and square box at the corners, which distance is exhibited to maximum effect on the left side. (Overplayed, possibly, but it depends on the type of face and how close the subject is to the observer. The face rounds away more serverely in close-up, wide-angle views and is relatively flattened in more distant, long-lensed views.)

Below, I did find one example of this assignment. It's a good job on the perspective setup, and a nicely human-looking human. The box is unsubdivided and too loose to really guide proportion, but it does seem a good match with the view of the head. I don't recall the grade, naturally, but I'm sure it earned a B+ at the very least, more likely an A-.

Here's the brief for the assignment:

Draw a human head in 1-point, 2-point, 2-point vertical and 3-point perspective. Make each head as realistic as possible. Use the methods you have learned so far to show the relationship between various features. Be aware that the face works on different planes and depths, the eyes and mouth are not on the same vertical plane for instance. This homework is a test of your knowledge of perspective and head proportion and anatomy.

Each head should be shown in a transparent box that shows the accurate use of the type of perspective used. Choose varying angles from below, above and the side, that show the details of the face as clearly as possible. Do NOT include beards, hats, spectacles etc. Keep hair short or away from face.

Each of your 4 line drawings should be 9" x 12" or larger.



Your grade will depend on your understanding of the principles and constructions involved in the assignment as well as the complexity, accuracy and detail of your drawing. Composition, line quality, clarity and cleanliness will also be factors. Going beyond the call of duty is strongly encouraged as long as you remain true to the brief. Show what you are capable of.

Feel free to draw the characters as bald to save time and show your credible handling of head shape.


06 July 2010

This stuff fascinates me...

...you too?


Heard of the "Uncanny Valley"? This is the idea, advanced--incredibly--about 40 years ago by a Japanese theorist. He suggested that as simulations of humans approached perfection, that there would be a sudden drop-off in apparent human-ness near the more realistic end of the scale.

This effect is best exemplified by the creepy, soulless, vacant quality seen in Final Fantasy, Polar Express, Beowulf and Heidi Montag. Ha ha -- too easy.

Scientists have been reliant on using this kind of sampling (detailed scans, motion and performance capture) to claw partway up the far side of the Valley--and approach something that is recognizably human.

I suppose that such performance capture data will be subjected to mathematical pattern analysis so that common facial expressions can be placed in series in a plug-and-play way, even blended into one another. Thus we may doom the performance smarts that we can see in the best Disney and Pixar animators, who can make emotions--strong or subtle--ripple over characters faces so relatably that they seem to reveal the characters' thoughts. The skills that animators took a century building may be replaced with samples ...


Distortion in a Photo

Here's a little jpeg from a real estate site that shows exactly the same kind of distortion that comes from having vanishing points in too close. How does it look to you? Weird? Nothing out-of-the-way? Notice that the squares of the tile floor are taller than square near the bottom.

My theory is that we can accept this distortion near the edge of a photo or drawing. But this is quite a lot! (The truth is, I didn't know this could occur in a photo -- at least to such a degree -- till I noticed this photo.)

This is the result of the poor real estate agent's trying to make the dingy little bathroom in this place look roomy by using a very wide angle lens. Short lenses "force" perspective, exaggerating scale differences between near and far, and provide a greater feeling of depth. In theory.

(BTW, the photographer's use of available light has put the shadow of someone's arm and side in the frame--possibly his own. A flash naturally creates only shadows that are about 99.9% concealed from the lens.)

This lens is short enough that it gives a fisheye effect: the long verticals at the left edge of the frame bow outward very slightly. You can actually see this in a lot of snapshots if you look for it, as in the storefront pic.

Remember that the degree of fishy "bowing out" has nothing to do with the distance of the object from the lens, and everything to do with how far the object is from the center of vision, laterally, in the picture plane.


05 July 2010

Assignment 5 -- PLEASE MAKE IT BORING!

I swear I've never assigned this in such a way, but one couldn't prove it by the results. Completed assignment 5s generally range from serviceable to sleep-inducing.  Maybe it's because I used to call for "inanimate" objects instead of man-made. I've refined the wording, at great cost to brevity, to try to spur you all to finer work. Below is the text.

The accompanying Assignment 5 examples are file-named for the grade each earned. The B one would have been an A but the VP for the slats of the table top wasn't on the horizon. Perspective assignments often go bad because the artist, wittingly or no, introduces unneeded VPs or --worse-- an extra horizon, as in this case. Go with the horizon you've got. One was enough for the world; it should suffice for your drawing.


Homework #5

Using both two-point vertical and 3-point perspective, complete a drawing of three manmade objects. For some reason everyone always reads that as “household objects” and produces their most boring, unfinished drawing of the semester. Remember these objects can be any size. They can be race-cars, spaceships. Anything man-made and interesting that has some straight lines (Extra points for handling ellipses properly). 

The objects can be anything you please but each must be different from the other two.

Two objects should be drawn in three point and the third in two point vertical. All three objects must work together IN THE SAME DRAWING, same reality. The key to this is: They must share the same horizon and the same nadir or zenith. Please contact me ASAP if you don’t know what that means.

Remember that in 2-point vertical, one vanishing point must be at the center of vision on the horizon the other should be directly above or below.

With 3-point perspective, two points must be on the horizon and the third should be above or beneath, placed an equal distance from the other two forming a triangle with equal sides. For more advanced students, the Chelsea handout shows how a 3Pt setup alters when the center of vision is moved closer to one of the VPs.


Special attention should be paid to the scale of objects in relation to each other. Please produce a drawing that is complete and interesting on its own terms. That is, if it is just a line drawing, make sure the lines are neatly drawn and there are indications of texture and that the objects are not depicted as blank and boring, but rather have some features of interest.

Your drawing should be 9" x 12" or larger. You may add value if you wish. Please provide at least minimal background to put the objects in context.



Your grade will depend on your understanding of the principles and constructions involved in the assignment as well as the complexity, accuracy and detail of your drawing. Composition, line quality, clarity and cleanliness will also be factors. Going beyond the call of duty is strongly encouraged as long as you remain true to the brief. Show what you are capable of.

21 June 2010

Welcome to Drawing from the Imagination!

Deep breath, and we're off, double-time, into the worlds of perspective, shadow plotting, figure proportions and a few other disciplines. All to make sure that will make sure you leave the Academy actually knowing how to draw, really draw.
Here's a screencap I made from Ghost in the Shell 2 this morning. This background nicely illustrates three of the major areas we'll be getting into this semester: perspective, shadow plotting and reflection. While you won't need to finish your work to this degree, this is otherwise a nice example of an artist making a somewhat fanciful, futuristic scene look believable and impressive.

Ask yourself, would you know how to draw the shadows on the floor of this room? By the time you've completed this course, you'll know. (You might even be able to say why the horizon is not in the right place and why the shoulders are incorrectly oriented in the standing woman's shadow. Even now you may rightly wonder how a curving structural element could cast a straight shadow!)

My background is in comic books. To be really good, a comic book artist must be able to convince the reader he or she knows how to draw almost everything. The same can be said, probably even more truly, of illustrators like yourselves. So I'll be teaching you all how to construct heads that look dimensional and attractive, to form and pose bodies that look graceful and convincing. We'll learn how to draw the folds in clothing too.

This is a tough course for most, but I think it ends up being enjoyable for a lot of people. Check in here often--I'll often post the assignment details and helpful illustrations here.

Pencils ready!