a personal art course, but with too many words and not enough drawings

Archive for the ‘Inspiration’ Category

James Gurney on creative block

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Source: Birge Harrison's Landscape Painting, reposted from Gurney Journey

Somewhat related to the last incomprehensible post about being crippled by uncertainty, here’s a reply from James Gurney from his blog. Yes, I quote him often and I should really look into diversification. Call me a fangirl but it’s truly a treasure trove of excellent advice and inspiration. After you finish reading the posts – I for one don’t think I’ll ever be able to finish reading everything there (goodness knows I’ve tried) – look in the comments for even more discussion from the other artists that frequent his blog.

A comment from me. I’ve really got to start putting what I say into practice more.

I need more people like Tom Hart to remind me to stop worrying and start drawing! It’s good advice. I feel like it’s too easy – especially for beginners – to read all the advice there is but not actually apply it, because after seeing the generally splendid work that comes with such advice you are paralyzed with the fear that your work will never be able to match up to that standard. Every mark you put down on canvas makes you feel like a failure. At these times it’s important to remind yourself that every mistake you make is going to help you improve on your next work.

My favorite art-related quote now is the oft-paraphrased “everyone has a hundred thousand bad drawings in them, so start drawing now and get them done with”.

A few days later I went back to save the post in Evernote. To my delight I found a reply:

Jess, what you say is so universal to everyone who wants to do art after spending time being a fan of art. The critical facility gets sharpened to a high degree, but the practical, intuitive, hand-skill side of us takes a while to catch up. I think it helps to lock the internal critic in another room for a while to let yourself play and take a few chances.

To this I add one caveat: Make sure not to lose the key.

Click here for the full post in which he answers some questions from a diligent high school student.


Written by krysjez

December 17, 2010 at 2:57 pm

Digital vs. Traditional

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The fantastic Paul Lasaine has put up an interesting acrylic vs. digital post. The most interesting bit for me was how so little detail can suggest so much, something I just can’t get to grips with yet. I know that less is more, but it’s so very hard to avoid the temptation to use a tiny brush and start detailing one portion of the work while ignoring how everything fits together in the big picture.

Can you tell which is which?

Edit Of course you couldn’t. I uploaded the same image twice by accident. Fixed now.

(C) Paul Lasaine

I remember always going ‘hmm, this is probably Photoshop‘ whenever I saw concept art in ‘The Making Of…’ art books in the past. Then I looked more closely at the LOTR ones and realized they weren’t. I don’t quite know why, but it had a pretty profound impact on me at that moment. Maybe it’s because I was still thinking of art media as ends, not means.

Original post: PAUL LASAINE

Written by krysjez

October 24, 2010 at 9:38 pm

Ignore the clutter!

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tl;dr – read the blockquote

I’ve got a viva voce-type thing tomorrow, where I’m supposed to talk about (“pitch”, apparently) my art coursework for this year. Except most of the class is only in the middle of coursework, and we’re at that stage where we haven’t got enough material to present for fifteen minutes yet. They couldn’t have held it right at the start, when everyone was relaxing after the holidays, or after everything is over, when we’d have a substantial body of visual work to present. No, instead we’ll just be showing sketchbooks and somehow turning 30-odd (probably around 15, considering that my style is to move to the next page once the previous one has markings on it, no matter how few) A5 pages of sketchy pencil doodles into a 15-minute sales pitch.


Anyway, the point of this post is something I discovered only today, and far too late. I stumbled upon this revelation while desperately trying to pump out studies this evening – I’ve only done three small ones (less than 10x10cm) – in preparation for tomorrow. It seems to me as though the system here places more emphasis on blindly copying photographs in vast numbers than any form of visual study that engages you on a more practical or artistic level.

I’m not saying that photographs are bad – I don’t think I could ever bring myself around to that stand, considering how useful they have been to both amateurs like me and countless other accomplished artists. Rather, it’s how being a photocopy machine gets you grades around here that irks me.

Great, I’ve managed to add another few paragraphs between “the point of this” and the actual thing that I wanted to share. Well, I shall tarry no further; here it is:

When gathering visual reference (with an idea of the final work already growing in your mind), your studies don’t necessarily have to be a slavish copy of your model. Gather what is useful to you, and omit visual clutter. Especially when you’re on a tight deadline.

To me, “visual clutter” encompasses a variety of things:

  • When gathering conceptual reference (for lack of a better term)
  • For costume reference, if I can tell that the original artist didn’t use reference for the drapery, then I’ll save myself the trouble of painstakingly replicating the folds and just note down the style and kind of fabric that’s on my model. I can always do my own drapery studies later, when I know how exactly the clothes are to interact with the surrounding forms.
  • If I’m trying to work out how the planes of, say, a face, should be (to help me with lighting it from imagination, for example) then my shading doesn’t have to be that photorealistic – just enough details and value separation for me to understand the way the form turns.
  • Architecture obviously has to be more detailed in some regards, and it’s a pain in the ass for me to draw. When short of time, I find it useful to just take note of the general structure and make one or two detailed texture/structure studies of things like roof tiles.

I guess what I’m trying to say is that I feel it’s silly and a massive waste of time to expect information-gathering studies (as opposed to, say, technical or figure studies) to contain every bit of detail that was in the original. The kind of visual shorthand that I prefer – sketchy and incomplete but rife with the information I need (just noting down one tile of a repeated pattern on a dress, maybe, or reducing an elaborate carved pattern to its basic lines) – is what I feel makes the most sense for time-starved students like us who just can’t afford to spend a disproportionate amount of time on art.

Perhaps if you work mad fast and draw like a man possessed it would be a different story. But this is my take.

(Or maybe I just have bad time management. I read a fairly long novel in one sitting this afternoon. Probably should have spent it drawing.)

Written by krysjez

September 15, 2010 at 10:47 pm

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Tribes of [comic book] Artists

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From Scott McCloud‘s Making Comics, all the warring artist factions summarized:

The first category is The Classicists. Artists defined by values of “excellence, hard work, mastery of craft, the quest for enduring beauty.” “First is the devotion to beauty, craftsmanship and a tradition of excellence and mastery. The desire to create art that our descendants could dig up in a thousand years and still think: ‘Hey! This is good stuff!’ The understanding that perfection may not be attainable in this life–but that that’s no reason not to strive for it.

The second category is The Animists. Artists defined by values of “putting content first, creating life through art, trusting one’s intuition.” “Then there’s the devotion to the content of a work, putting craft entirely in service of its subject. The belief that if the power of the stories and characters come through then nothing else matters. The willingness to tell stories so seamlessly that the teller of the story all but vanishes in the telling.”

The third category is The Formalists. Artists defined by values of “understanding of, experimentation with, and loyalty to the comics form.” “The devotion to comics itself, to figuring out what the form of comics is capable of. The eagerness to turn comics inside out and upside down in an effort to understand the form’s potential more fully. The willingness to let craft and story take a back seat if necessary, in pursuit of new ideas that could change comics for the better.”

The fourth category is The Iconoclasts. Artists defined by values of “honesty, vitality, authenticity, and unpretentiousness. Putting life first.” “The desire for honesty, authenticity, and a connection to real life. The determination to hold up a mirror to life’s face–warts and all–and to resist pandering or selling out. The conviction of artists to remain true to themselves while never taking themselves too seriously. To fly no one’s flag–not even their own.

Which one are you? I’m under the first category, firmly in the “Hey! This is good stuff!” camp.

Written by krysjez

June 16, 2010 at 3:08 pm

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You have this great idea (or even a not-so-great idea, but it would probably look good) and set out excitedly to draw it, only to discover to your eternal disappointment ten minutes later that your drawing sucks too much and you can’t realize the vision in your mind.

What should you do then? The options are limited:

  1. Give up completely
  2. Write down the idea and hope you’ll remember it one day when your skills have reached the desired level of leetness
  3. Just do it anyway, but hide it in a deep dark corner of your hard drive/closet so no one ever sees the evil that you have brought into this world

#1 is what I end up doing 90% of the time. #2 hardly ever happens – it’s usually the other way around, with me writing down some idea and getting all excited about it again when I re-read the concept at home. And then I go back to #1.

#3 seems to be the choice that will actually help you on your way to attaining your goal of being able to realize whatever cool ideas you have though. But it’s so very hard to do. Sigh.

Written by krysjez

March 13, 2010 at 10:13 pm

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Museums of Failed Art

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There should be a Museum of Failed Art. It would exhibit all the terrible art that would have ended up in trash bins and garbage cans, lost and unknown to the public. My museum would give a true picture of the artist’s life, and provide much consolation to fellow artists.

R. O. Blechman, Dear James

Written by krysjez

March 9, 2010 at 4:15 pm

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Figure Drawing #4

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Can’t be bothered to do cuts. Anyway, this is an art blog, so it is right and proper that some nudes should pop up once in a while.

This session was about value: start with a light-valued ground, and then build up the form using values.Vine charcoal gives a lighter tone but smudges very nicely, so I used it most of the time, but compressed (medium) charcoal was used to black in the darkest shadows.

As usual, I put too much emphasis on line – I can’t detach myself from line, it seems: I do the same with my paintings. Too much influence from an Ingres quote I saw when I was 13?

Draw lines, young man, many lines; from memory or from nature-it is in this way that you will become a good artist.

Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres

and this too:

A thing well drawn is always adequately painted.

Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres

So, anyway, the point was that charcoal is great for value drawings and that your kneaded eraser can be used to draw. Unfortunately my eraser was dirty as hell and couldn’t lift out much charcoal anyway (perhaps also because the paper ate the charcoal).

DSC08883 (Small)

The first drawing of the lot. I tried to start by drawing the contour of the entire form, and you can see where I went really off – the shape on the right, for example, was the original position for her foot and the cloth. I’m not very good at drawing the entire form in one go, because this deprives me of a unit of reference. I guess that’s why drawings get more accurate the longer you draw: you are more able to consider if the relationships between objects in your drawing match what you see.

DSC08885 (Small)

Drawing is about relationships, then.

DSC08886 (Small)

35 minutes, “cannot make it” – this was the last drawing of the session. I finished early, so kept reworking her back (overworking a bit, I think).

All the proportions of my figures were quite off in this session. I think I was somewhat thrown off course by the notion of not having lines, heh.

Note to self: I need to buy fixative!

Written by krysjez

March 1, 2010 at 1:11 pm