October Art Dare: From Brainstorming to Thumbnail Sketches

by Clara Lieu

Follow the videos above for how to get started brainstorming and sketching our your idea for our October Art Dare:  “Your Future Self.”

Many of my students have told me in the past that they want to be able to develop artworks that have beefier subjects, express a specific opinion, or portray a narrative. Students are always asking me “How do I get my ideas?” While technique is a significant part of creating art,ultimately, it’s the ideas behind the artwork that really matter. Learning how to think about you artwork is a critical part of being an artist I find is frequently not addressed.  This month’s Art Dare is a terrific opportunity to stretch your artistic thinking muscles and push your artwork beyond just your drawing technique.

jademagpie

Mind map of “Your Future Self” by @jademagpie


The prompt “Your Future Self” is very open to interpretation, and therefore challenges you to think about your subject matter and creating original imagery. In many ways, open ended prompts can be more difficult because there’s so much to choose from. In the above videos, I demonstrate how to pour your ideas on paper and then whittle them down to more focused sketches. I discuss how to transition from the brainstorming process to drawing thumbnail sketches to prepare the compositions for the final drawing.

@ashleighroserobb.png

Final Drawing of “Your Future Self” by @ashleighroserob


Create your own mind map/thumbnail sketches in response to “Your Future Self”, and it counts as a submission for this month’s Art Dare!  More videos to guide you through every step of this Art Dare are coming.  We hope you’ll follow along and complete this month’s Art Dare with us.

Submit your brainstorming/thumbnail sketches on Instagram using #artprofdare and tag us @art.prof!  If you don’t have Instagram, you can post your image on our Facebook page. Get more info on the October Art Dare/prizes/tips here.

michaelbuesking

Final Drawing of “Your Future Self” by @michaelbuesking


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ART PROF is a free, online educational platform for visual arts for people of all ages and means. artprof.org features video courses, art critiques, an encyclopedia of art supplies, and more.

FB    Youtube    Pinterest     Instagram    Twitter    email    etsy


PORTFOLIO VIDEO CRITIQUES
Prof Lieu offers video critiques on portfolios for students applying to art school and working artists. More info.


ART DARES
Every month, we assign a topic for you to respond to with an artwork. We give out prizes in several categories!  More info.


ASK THE ART PROF was a written column in the Huffington Post from about art related topics. Visit our Pro Development page.

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Ask the Art Prof: When and How Should You use Photo References to Draw?

Tone project

Newly updated version of this popular Ask the Art Prof column!

by Clara Lieu

“When and how you should use photo references to draw?”

Too often I find that people use photo references out of laziness.  Be careful that if you decide to work with photo references, that it’s for a very specific need, not because of convenience. Photographs should only be used when direct observation of a subject is absolutely impossible. If you’re an illustrator and you’re creating a illustration about dinosaurs, obviously that’s not an image you can draw from life. However, there are many subjects where it’s very possible, and in some cases very easy. For a still life drawing, get the actual objects and set them so you can directly observe them from life. I’ve literally seen students search for a photo of an apple online so that they can draw an apple.  Is it really that hard to buy an apple to draw from life?!?

If you are drawing a self-portrait, it’s easy enough to get a mirror and draw from that. The 15 minutes it takes to figure out how to set up your mirror and drawing board to draw a self-portrait are seriously worth the time. Anything that you can possibly observe from life should be done in this way. Nothing can substitute experiencing a subject in real life: being able to touch it, smell it, walk around it, inspect it, experience it, etc. Staunchly set direct observation as your number one priority whenever possible.

Illustrator James Gurney

Illustrator James Gurney

I’ve also seen many professional artists work with a variety of other references that are just as effective, if not more so, than photo references.  Artist James Gurney fabricates sculptures of dinosaurs for his paintings. After sculpting the dinosaur in clay, he paints the sculpture and then draws from the sculpture as his reference. You can watch him go through this process in this terrific video below.  It goes to show that photographs are not the only option, and that other methods can provide a level of depth and understanding of a subject that photographs are incapable of providing.

Artist James Gurney  on how he paints dinosaurs by sculpting clay models.


My RISD colleague and former professor Andrew Raftery painstakingly creates complex 3D models of interior spaces using wood and wax figures as references for his incredible engravings.

raftery_13

You can visibly see in this side-by-side comparison of Raftery’s 3D model  and finished engraving how critical the creation of the 3D model is in constructing the interior scene. The lighting and spatial relationships are literally re-created in the 3D model and are thus incredibly convincing in the completed engraving.

download

If you’ve decided that photographs are indeed the only option for your drawing, the next stage is to do everything in your power to shoot the photographs yourself. If that means taking a trip to the zoo to take photographs of the gorillas, then do it.  I know it’s very tempting and easy to go on Google Images and simply pull a photograph off the Internet. However, when you use someone else’s photograph, your drawing will be vastly limited. You won’t be able to control the point of view, you can’t zoom in to get more details, and most likely the resolution of the photograph will be poor.  Take the initiative to go to your subject and photograph it from every point of view.  Shoot close up shots of specific areas so that you have all of the information you need.

The only time I would advocate using someone else’s photograph as a reference is if there is absolutely, one hundred percent, no other way to get the visual information you need. For example, if you are doing an illustration of an elephant, and you need details of the wrinkles in the skin, that’s a circumstance where you’ll need to use someone else’s photograph. In general though, someone else’s photograph should be the last resort in terms of references.

ar5d

When you do get to the point where you are working from a photograph, think about it as a process of gathering raw information which you then edit and manipulate. There is nothing artistic or creative about copying a photograph verbatim.  If that is your intent, you might as well xerox the photograph and be done with it.

Instead, take the raw information from the photograph and process it and shift it. change that raw information into something new and engaging. Be highly selective about what visual information you choose to use.  Just because something is in the photograph, it doesn’t mean that you necessarily have to use it in your drawing. Think about yourself as an editor, where you get to choose from a vast buffet of visual information. Comb through all of the visual information in the photograph and use only what is going to help facilitate your drawing in a positive manner. I also find that it’s very helpful to work from multiple photographs, so that you are not so reliant on a single photograph for all of your information. You can take visual portions from each reference photo and mix them together according to your needs.

mw5d

Drawings that use photo references successfully always look better than the photo reference.  If the reference photo is more engaging than the drawing, then it means that the drawing hasn’t done anything to fully manipulate beyond just copying the reference photo.

In the above image, you can see that the drawing at the figure gripping it’s face has very aggressive charcoal marks that are not apparent in the reference photo.  The reference photo looks static, flat, and posed.  The drawing took major liberties with the charcoal marks and therefore is much more full of action and tension.

In the image below, you can see the student’s reference photos that he shot at the bottom.  The reference photos provide raw information, but the two drawings are far more interesting than the reference photos.  The reference photos have very flat, boring black backgrounds and the facial expressions are not very dynamic.  In the final drawings, the student greatly manipulated and distorted the facial expressions to make them much more dramatic and exaggerated.

cc5d

It’s extremely difficult to use a photographic reference well, very few people do it successfully.  In my drawing classes at RISD, I spend half the course giving assignments that must be done from direct observation the entire time. In the second half of the course, I open up references so that students can work from a variety of visual references:  imagination, from photos they shot for the specific drawing, from photos online. When I switch over to open references in my courses, the reaction of pretty much all the students is: “Thank goodness, this is going to be so much easier now that I don’t have to draw from life and I can work from photos!”

Actually, the complete opposite happens: students realize after the first critique that creating excellent reference photos is an art in itself.  I critique their photo references:  we talk about their light source, choice of location, their choice of models, what their models are wearing, the posing of the models-the works. So many problems emerge in the reference photos: tons of factors distract in the reference photo, the set up looks fake, etc. Making the transition from the reference photo to the drawing presents its own unique set of challenges which is not nearly as straightforward as many people initially think. Personally, I find drawing from a reference photo much more difficult than drawing from life, because the temptation to simply copy the photo is always there.  When you draw from observation, you have to visually interpret and innovate.

I firmly believe that the only way to truly learn how to draw from a photograph well is to establish a solid understanding of fundamentals in drawing with years and years of experience drawing from direct observation. Once you have solid skills drawing from direct observation, these skills will allow you to draw from a photograph successfully. This article talks about how direct observation will provide the basic foundation to be able to work from any visual references successfully.


ART PROF is a free, online educational platform for visual arts for people of all ages and means. artprof.org features video courses, art critiques, an encyclopedia of art supplies, and more.

FB    Youtube    Pinterest     Instagram    Twitter    email    etsy


PORTFOLIO VIDEO CRITIQUES
Prof Lieu offers video critiques on portfolios for students applying to art school and working artists. More info.


ART DARES
Every month, we assign a topic for you to respond to with an artwork. We give out prizes in several categories!  More info.


ASK THE ART PROF was a written column in the Huffington Post from about art related topics. Visit our Pro Development page.


Related Videos
Youtube Playlist: Video Critiques on Art School Admissions Portfolios
Youtube Playlist:  How to Draw a Portrait with Charcoal and Cross-Hatching
Youtube Playlist:  Crit Quickies, 1 min. critiques on artworks


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Ask the Art Prof: What Does it Take to Get a Job at an Animation Studio?

pixar-logo

I’m a beginning art student studying graphic design, and I’ve always wanted to work in a cartoon studio setting. Places like Nickelodeon or Cartoon Network that are not your normal work places per say. All my life, my family has always said that it was impossible to get a job like that, and to not even try.

Well, here I am going into graphic design, but I want to know: What exactly does it take to land that kind of job, what should my art portfolio have, and is it even worth trying???”

Animation studio jobs are insanely competitive, as there are thousands and thousands of people out there who desperately want to be working in that field. You would be competing with people who have completed professional degrees in animation and illustration, and many others who not only have degrees, but who have been working professionally in the field for some time.

Getting a job would require an enormous commitment on your part, and would require years of hard work and rigorous training. I have a number of acquaintances from RISD who went on to work at studios like Pixar, Disney, and Nickelodeon.  My memories of them during my undergraduate years at RISD is that they obsessively did gesture drawings around the clock like there was no tomorrow, and were both highly disciplined and incredibly industrious workers. You have to be prepared to devote every part of your life to this initiative, it’s that competitive.

Gesture Drawing

Gesture drawing from a life model


If all of the above sounds intimidating to you, then I would say that it’s not worth trying.  If hearing that makes you feel enthusiastic, motivated, and revved up to go, then I think it’s totally worth trying.  Do your research in advance and make sure that you know what you would be getting yourself into. This is not a job that you can work towards occasionally, it practically has to be in your blood.

One basic requirement of an animation studio position is a solid grounding in traditional art. That means having really strong drawing skills, especially in gesture drawings of the human figure and of animals. The expectation is that all of the drawings are executed from direct observation, which means multiple trips to the zoo to draw animals in person, and countless hours drawing from a live nude model. Most animation degree programs require that students take courses in all areas of animation, to build a basic grounding of the overall process of making animation.

Inside Out by Pixar

Inside Out by Pixar

Jobs in animation studios are often times very specialized, so you would apply for a position in a specific area, like storyboards, character design, backgrounds, animation, etc. Technically speaking a portfolio would generally consist of artwork that highlights that area of specialization, as well as a reel of a number of your animated works. I’m not in the field, so I’m not able to provide accurate specifics, but that’s a fairly good approximation of what would be expected in an application.


ART PROF is a free, online educational platform for visual arts for people of all ages and means. artprof.org features video courses, art critiques, an encyclopedia of art supplies, and more.

FB    Youtube    Pinterest     Instagram    Twitter    email    etsy


PORTFOLIO VIDEO CRITIQUES
Prof Lieu offers video critiques on portfolios for students applying to art school and working artists. More info.


ART DARES
Every month, we assign a topic for you to respond to with an artwork. We give out prizes in several categories!  More info.


ASK THE ART PROF was a written column in the Huffington Post from about art related topics. Visit our Pro Development page.


Related Videos
Youtube Playlist: Video Critiques on Art School Admissions Portfolios
Youtube Playlist:  How to Draw a Portrait with Charcoal and Cross-Hatching
Youtube Playlist:  Crit Quickies, 1 min. critiques on artworks


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