It’s been a while since my last blog post….and since my last addition to my Artstation portfolio. I’ve been doing a lot of portraits and concept art over the last year. It’s been a lot of fun, and I feel that I’ve been growing in my art, but as I look around at some of the work that I really admire, there seems to be this kind of chasm between where my work is, and where I want it to be. Shocker, right?
A couple of things I’ve noticed in the artwork that really inspires me: Really nice, confident, gestural lines. Yes, there’s a lot of energy and life in those lines, but also, there is a brilliantly refined deliberateness. Together, the two create an astonishingly sexy effect. The second thing I see when it comes to portraits, is an accuracy and fidelity of likeness that I have yet to achieve.
I’ve spent a good amount of time focusing on the anatomy of the head, and anatomy of the body in general. I learned about perspective and shading in art school- how to draw heads in perspective boxes, etc. I’ve done a few online courses, going back again and again to the very basics of drawing and color in an effort to find that illusive something.
Then my wife suggested I try a mentorship of some kind. That got me thinking. I know that there are a number of artists that I admire who offer some form of art mentorship via Patreon. So, I’ve decided to become a Patron of one of these artists. Apparently, a lot of people want to be learn how to make portraits like this guy (Angel Ganev). This is NOT appealing to my inner hipster! He’s tipping. I sense a sell-out on the horizon! He’s got a pretty nice actual course laid out though that doesn’t assume a lot. That’s good for me! Even though I’ve been at this (drawing/painting/sculpting/pixel pushing) for more years than I care to admit, I’ve found that my best bet is to maintain ‘a beginner’s mind’. I am clay in your hands, master! Teach me!!
What has happened so far…
In the early going so far I’ve learned some photoshop basics. I know that a LOT of digital artists use Photoshop, but I’ve been pretty exclusively a Procreate guy, mostly because it is so freaking awesome on my ipad, and I take that everywhere. I do however have a tablet monitor on my PC and a Creative Cloud license ( I know… I’m an over-privileged piece of shit!) . So now I’m learning how to actually use some of the brush settings and all of the incredible advantages of Photoshop like being able to lock layers so that I don’t accidentally start drawing only to discover after 15 minutes that I’ve been working on the WRONG LAYER!
I’m also learning a little bit about how far I’ve drifted from some of my basic art skills and how to get back ‘in line’ (see what I did there?). One of the first exercises has been to ‘build up’ lines. In order to do that, I have to draw over the same line over and over again. Well, that isn’t going to happen drawing with my wrist the way I have been for the last couple of years (Ok, most of my life) . I am rediscovering the power of drawing with my shoulder (that I learned in art school, where the guy literally stood over me with a stick!). With this fundamental tweak, it is now possible for me to do, what was impossible only a week ago. My Shoulder is a MUCH more capable drawing device than my wrist. I must somehow learn to keep the ‘wrist weasel’ at bay!
I have been told this by no less than a dozen art teachers. What’s the saying? When the student is FINALLY ready, the teacher appears? As hungry as I have been for knowledge, I have been resistant to certain pieces of advice for some reason. I won’t spend 15 minutes doing it the RIGHT way, but I’ll spend countess hours correcting my jacked-up painting! DON’T be like me. I’m 52 years old and learning how to draw finally.
As they say however, If nothing changes, nothing changes… I am committing here today publicly before God and anyone reading this, while I can still draw breath, I am going to draw with my flipping shoulder!!
Along with my mechanical fixes I am now beginning to look at the form of the head even more analytically. I’m taking a geometrically uber simplified version of a head, I am looking at it from various angles and working to draw what I’m seeing exactly. I’m doing this in a simple line sketch using what’s called the Reilly method.
The Reilly method breaks the head down into a few basic landmarks and connecting ‘Rhythm lines’. Tying this new knowledge back to drawing heads in boxes is starting to give me a better framework for finding the landmarks of the head. It’s allowing me to approach the process in a more orderly way.
In addition, drawing this basic head 30-40 times from different angles has really begun to cement in my mind the basic geometry of the head. I literally now SEE something different than I used to when I look at somebody’s face! This very basic form study also allows me to train my eye with the fewest possible distracting minor forms. After all, we always want to work from the most general of forms, to the most specific. A drawing should look good throughout the process as the good teachers say. This has been a good indication to me that my process has needed some adjustment! My anatomical sketches have looked pretty decent throughout, but my portraits, not as much.
My goal over the last few weeks has been to secure a very confident generality to build on.
My journey continues! Next I’m moving on to finding these rhythm lines in photographic reference. I’ll report back soon!