Recently on this site’s Facebook page, an artist named Tony asked about why it was important to draw from life, since what he’s doing is cartooning (drawing in his own stylized way). I explained as best I could, but wanted to expound a bit on the subject.
Art students are often told to “draw from life” (as opposed to drawing from photos, or your imagination) because our art should, even if it’s highly stylized, emulate life. You can’t make a convincing “cartoon hand” if you don’t know what a real one looks like. Your stylized, artistically modified drawings look more convincing (even if they are not remotely “realistic” anymore) when you understand what you’re stylizing.
First, the “drawing from life” part. (As contrasted with drawing from photos.)
I drew a lot of portraits from photos, starting when I was a young teenager. I’d draw my favorite actors and actresses. (Like a lot of kids do.) That meant drawing from photos. I became pretty good at it, for my age. I occasionally drew from life (my friends would pose for me) but not nearly as much as from photos.
When I first took a Life Drawing class (drawing the figure) in college, it was extremely difficult at first. A serious adjustment, and a grave blow to my ego at the beginning! I had always assumed that I drew pretty well, because I was doing a decent job of it with photos. But I still had a long way to go in developing my drawing skills. Continue reading Why Drawing From Life (and Studying “Realism”) is Important
I write this for all the kids (of any age) who get grief from family members, loved ones, or anyone else for being a geek who does “fan art.” They act like fan art is a dead end, and that you’re some pathetic nerd and not a “true” artist. Well, come on. I think they should stop sucking the joy out of life.
I did fan art. Sometimes I still do. When I was a teenager, everyone did! I got all kinds of disapproval for it, especially from my mom, who once said she’d prefer I’d quit art completely rather than continue with that nonsense. (She didn’t really mean it, but I heard it nonetheless!)
I’ll always consider fan art a good thing in my life. Whether or not it was “artsy” enough or serious, I don’t care. I refuse to be ashamed of it. Due to my involvement in fan art, I loved art at a young age. Because I was deriving enjoyment from it, I did more of it. I even sold art to fellow geeks, also while still at a young age. It was great and it helped my confidence and self-esteem.
Here’s an example of some fan art I did way back. It was a cover for a “fanzine” (pre-internet publication with fanfiction). One of my friends kinda-sorta commissioned me into doing it. Thank you to the person who posted their picture of it on the Internet. I’d lost my own scan of the artwork.
I don’t consider that time of doing fan art to be wasted time. What I learned from my years of doing that kind of art, easily translated into other less geeky types of art. Even types of art that my mom approves of! Who would have thought?
I was editing the main (circa 2002) tutorial pages on portrait-artist.org, and came to the oil painting page. And froze! There is waaaaay too much I want to say about oil painting! I can’t do it in just one page.
So I’m going to start a series of posts here about oil painting, then will link to them from main site.
GETTING STARTED WITH OIL PAINTING
I started painting when I was a kid, still in middle school. It’s not that hard or scary. If it were, I would have never kept with it. (Hey! I was just a kid!) So if you’ve heard that oil painting is complex, or “scary,” don’t believe it. Yes there are “rules,” yes, there are things you need to know. But you can do it. And the rewards are wonderful!
First I’m going to tell you a bit about oil paints, set you up with what to buy. (Just the barebones.) Then I’ll tell you more about the painting I’m showing here, and its significance.
DISPELLING SOME MYTHS ABOUT OIL PAINTING:
“It’s so nasty and toxic!”
No, not that much more than acrylics. Both oils and acrylics use some pigments (like cobalt and cadmium) that must be handled with care. Oils do often need to be thinned with paint thinner or mineral spirits. But some of these thinners are pretty mild and will work fine with reasonable care. Or you can work around using them, by getting a completely non-toxic solvent/thinner. (I recommend it later in this post.)
“It takes weeks and weeks to dry!”
If you paint thickly, live in a humid area, and use some painting medium that slows drying, yeah, I guess so. But if you don’t paint too thickly (most of us don’t) and use a painting medium which accelerates drying, usually the paint is dry to the touch overnight (or within 24 hours). That’s usually how it works for me.
“They’re so hard to learn!”
Not any harder than acrylics, really. And oils are more forgiving, easier to blend, and richer. But that’s not to say that there’s anything wrong with acrylics. They have their charms too.
So as I said in this previous post about anime, I am a former kid artist, and I know how it is. You want to draw what you want to draw, not what your teacher or your parents think you should draw. And I’m in total agreement that a kid should draw what they want. Otherwise, art—something they supposedly love—will become a chore, something tedious, and they’ll start to feel resentment. Towards those pressuring them to stop drawing what they want to draw, as well as towards the art itself.
But (there’s always a but!) things change once a kid says they want to go to art school and become a pro. And I don’t care what kind of artist they want to become—illustrator, animator, fine artist—whatever. If they are a big fan of anime and they are talking seriously about a career in art, there are some things that they should realize.
You can’t build a professional career on drawing anime alone (unless you live in Japan!).
There is probably some small, small, infinitesimally small exceptions to this, but that’s the gist of it. Don’t delude yourself otherwise. It’s all fine and good to love anime and love drawing manga and anime art, but once you say that art is what you want to do professionally, you must realize that you’re going to compete with other students who can do all sorts of art, not just anime. Continue reading So you (or your kid) loves anime and wants to be a professional artist. . .
Sailor Moon, a very popular anime character—so well-known that even I have heard of her!
Your kid and anime:
Oy! Since I first started this site (TEN YEARS AGO as I write this) the anime thing has really taken off. And I’ve heard all sorts of pros and cons about kids wanting to draw anime. So here I weigh in with my opinion, and it’s actually very simple and uncomplicated (but with some caveats). Continue reading Parents: Your kid and anime