I just started making some references for myself, but got carried away hahah… ha :’D
I figured I’d share. I’m hoping to make a series of these things for all the drawing bits that give me trouble: woman torsos, hands, wings, different body types, etc.
I hope you also find them useful!
Cal everything you touch is beautiful :’I
LOOK AT THE NOTES, CAL
So I was chatting with the lovely Justin Oaksford yesterday, and he casually asked if I used photo reference for my recent Rolemodels piece- not as a bad thing, but because the pose and the camera angle read well. Pretty sure I grinned like an idiot when he brought it up because, goddammit, I’m proud that the work shows! I’ve felt like my work has been somewhat stilted as of late- I could feel myself subconsciously trending towards easier angles, easier poses, easier expressions just because it’s slightly less frustrating for my brain to process- so getting that confirmation from a colleague was pretty damn satisfying.
I think there’s a tendency for artists to take pride in being able to draw out of your head, and, while that’s an admittedly important skill, what’s actually important is what that skill implies- it implies that you’ve internalized reference. That you’ve spent so much time looking at the world around you, studying it, drawing from it, breaking it down, that you’ve amassed an extensive mental library that you can draw from. You are Google reborn in the shallow husk of a human being.
But heck, the world’s a big place- what are the chances that you ever get to a point that you’ve internalized all of it? Internalized it AND ALSO are never going to forget it ever? Probably no chance at all. Sorry buddy. So rather than bemoaning the fact that we don’t have impenetrable search engine cyborg brains- yet- you sure as hell better still be using reference to fill in/refresh those empty shelves in your mental library. You shouldn’t have worm-ridden books about dinosaur anatomy from the 60’s in there. Stegosauruses with brains in their tails? CLEAN THAT SHIT OUT.
So my general process for using reference of any sort is:
- loose thumbnails and brainstorming. If you have an idea, get that raw thing- unadulterated in it’s potential shittiness- onto paper. Good art is a combination of both instinct and discipline, so you don’t want to entirely discount those lightning strikes of brilliance. Or idiocy. Happens to all of us.
- research and reference. Start gathering and internalizing whatever reference is pertinent to your piece- could be diagrams, art, photos, good old-fashioned READIN’, whathaveyou. Please note that this doesn’t mean find one picture of a giraffe- this means find tons of photos of giraffes, read about giraffes, understand giraffes, and learn how to incorporate that knowledge into your art with purpose and intent (Justin uses the word “intent” a lot so I’m stealing it). Don’t blindly copy what you see, but understand how to integrate it in an interesting and informed manner.
- studies and practice. Could be lumped in with the previous step, granted, but it’s worth reiterating- if you’re drawing something new, it’s worth doing some studies. You discover things that you wouldn’t otherwise by just staring at them. It’s weird how I’m still learning this- “Gee golly, six-shooters are way easier to draw now that I’ve drawn a ton of them!” Yes wow Claire BRILLIANT. Gold star.
- go for the gold. Finally, I’m sure it goes without saying, you integrate all of that research and knowledge into your initial thumbnails. If you learned something about anatomy, or fashion, or color, or butts, now you can drastically improve your original idea with this newfound knowledge. Also, per the images above, this is also your chance to improve on the reference- photos are a fantastic tool, but trust your instincts. Cameras can’t make informed decisions.
…So that’s my soapbox- it’s pretty easy, and it’s totally worth it. Research and reference lets you stand on the shoulders of giants- it lends legitimacy, specificity, and allure to your work that wouldn’t be there if you were just drawing out of your head 100% of the time. To put it simply- it makes your work ownable. It makes you stand out.
It makes you a better artist. :)
BUT NO in all seriousness, thank you! You’re a sweetheart! ;O; Proportions are pretty awful to get down when you’re just starting out, and while there are a bunch of ways you can start practicing with it, it’ll be difficult to be absolutely precise. I still struggle with proportions occasionally. Fun fact: I don’t post all of my work. I only post the work that turned out okay aHA. So basically don’t be frustrated when every single piece doesn’t turn out. Here are a few tips.
Let’s use this picture of Laurence and Hugh because why not.
They’ve both got eyes, a nose, and a mouth, so why do they look different?
These lines are the generic way of mapping out where to put things together. I used this when I was starting out and it’s a helpful way of getting your hand and wrist to work together. At this point they both nearly look the same. I say this a lot, but I think it’s important: shape is what puts a drawing together.
Compare features of the face to help you figure out placement.
The bottom of his ear lines up right to the middle of his nostril. His tear ducts line up right at the corners of his mouth. Then you can get super technical and say, oh, the outer corner of his eye lines up with that fold in his collar and then from there you can see other things like the approximate distance from the edge of his mouth to that connecting line from the eye to the collar. They don’t meet so his mouth is smaller than the width of his eyes, etc, etc. Whatever works, man.
This is a favorite technique of mine so lemme use another example:
Eventually you get to the point where most of your proportional accuracy will come from just looking. You will eventually adjust your eye to see what makes a person who they are by the shape of their features.
Laurence has narrow, oval shaped eyes, while Hugh has more of a diamond shape. Not everyone has perfect almond shaped eyes. You can capture an entire character personality through their eyes alone, so shaping them out is extremely important.
The way you draw your lines is also important. Sharp and smooth lines will give your drawing personality. Reveals the character, in a sense.
Other things to consider: the shape of the nose.
Mads’ is flat and goes down in a steady slope, while Hugh’s juts out in a smooth, almost concave curve.
SHAPES SHAPES SHAPES. Use shapes and structure to find proportion.
I did a lot more than I anticipated omg. Oh gosh and I have a feeling I kinda just rambled and didn’T MAKE ANY SENSE AH. Let me know if you need more help or if I was speaking gibberish I am so bad at putting my thoughts into words aHHHH. But gosh I hope this was at least vaguely helpful. You’re a darling and thank you for your kind words!
Good luck on your artistic endeavors! /hugs
Tuesday Tips SUPER WEEK - Feet
I don’t often have to draw bare feet, unless I’m doing Life Drawing. When storyboarding, the focus is generally not on the feet. They also are usually covered (shoes, socks), or just not shown on screen that much. Nonetheless, it’s important to understand their functionality and general appeal. Keep details to a minimum, unless the character uses its bare feet to grasp things or do things with them most humans don’t. The best example of pushing feet to an extreme degree of functionality would be Disney’s Tarzan (one of my all time favorite). Other than that, don’t draw too much attention to them, but find appeal in its shapes.
Tuesday Tips - Clothing
As always, simple is best. Clothing and fabric can be wonderful to explore in an illustration or detailed sketch, but it tends to get tiresome to overdo it in storyboarding.
If you have questions or requests, message us. We might just addresses those in future Tuesday Tips!