Becoming a Better Artist - The Neverending Process of Learning - Figure Drawing Resources
"If you always put limit on everything you do, physical or anything else. It will spread into your work and into your life. There are no limits. There are only plateaus, and you must not stay there, you must go beyond them."
Bruce Lee said it well, concisely explaining the importance of striving to succeed. I've been an artist most of my life, I'm not going to reveal my age, but I began my career drawing comic books in the 1990's when there was a boom in the independent, black and white comic book industry and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles was popular. Back then, my artwork had an unbridled passion from the energy of youth and enthusiasm. Over two decades later, it's difficult to maintain that spark for life that motivated my creativity. I married, but had no children, (only two dogs), so my lifestyle is largely unchanged. I mislead people into thinking I am much younger than I am; I smile frequently, cynicism hasn't crept into my psyche. I run around in kung fu with the other 15-year-olds, jumping and doing butterfly kicks (yes, I can finally to a pretty decent one consistently after trying for 14 years, although I would benefit from a more flexible spine) and pretending my joints don't ache. I also began studying tai chi this year, after years of denying my age. I only took tai chi to improve my balance and strength in kung fu. But I digress, the point I'm trying to make is that I'm in a constant flux of learning, of always trying to improve myself, whether it's my art, kung fu or fencing.
As we grow older, it's easy to fall into a state of inertia. The worst thing for a human being is to be satisfied with one's achievements, because it is the bane to learning. I've always wondered why brilliant people like Nikola Tesla and Marlon Brando become a mockery of themselves when they were old (I hope I don't offend people with that statement). They believed their own press and didn't continue to pursue things that were unattainable. I am never content with my art, shortly after completing my painting; I'll study it and see many things wrong. The lighting isn't plausible; the colors aren't the right temperature and so on. Perhaps I am overly critical of my own work, but it keeps me forging ahead to improve my art abilities. With 3D computer animation and generations of emerging artists painting gorgeous environments in technically correct lighting, I have to keep working at perfecting my art techniques. Someone once said my art looked like Boris Vallejo. That is a compliment, but on the other hand, it means that my art is reminiscent of 80's fantasy book cover art. That is a far cry from the awesome anime and video game inspired art that the slew of young artists is producing. The Internet has made the world much smaller and you can see from the plethora of online art galleries, that wonderful talent far exceeds my own. I have to embrace change and as a result, keep motivated and improving. In these blogs, I will share with you the experiences and insights I've learned about sharpening my art abilities.
I hate to say that my comic book drawings look similar to the ones I drew when I began Achilles Storm, (my first self-published comic), but I hope my sense of perspective and figure drawing is better. Perhaps it lacks the intensity of my younger self, but I try to maintain my enthusiasm. To help with my characters, I began doing figure drawing again this year. Many people don't have time to take classes, but you have a great resource at your fingertips: the Internet. I have found some great website links with timed photographs. If you want to practice figure drawing, you can set aside 30 minutes to an hour. If you are serious and devoted, you can aim for doing it daily. I try to do an hour in the mornings when I can.
Figure Drawing Resource Websites and Youtube Channels:
Short, timed intervals you can set yourself, 30 – 120 seconds or a custom time you can determine yourself. This is a great resource for gesture drawings and quick sketching. You can pick your subject from several categories: athletes, erotica, females, people seated, etc. My favorite is the "One for the ladies" or males. There is even an upside down mode that I have never tried.
A class mode lets you warm up with quick gesture drawings, then ease you into longer poses. They include built-in break times. You can pick from both genders, nude or clothed models. You can choose among other subject matter: animal drawing, hands and feet, and faces and expression drawings.
This Youtube channel features free timed Art Model Reference for nude and non-nude figures. Like a normal class, the sessions begin with short quick poses and slowly ease you into longer poses. There's usually a soothing, classical or jazz musical track that accompanies the poses. Sometimes the gorgeous chiaroscuro lighting obscures part of the body in dark shadows. There are also other instructional art videos as well.
This Youtube channel also houses timed art model Reference sessions that is organized from shorter time segments to protracted ones, so you can practice quick gesture poses and longer poses. The lighting is rather flat, which is good so you can see the entirety of the figure. There are also basic art instructional videos contained in this channel.
I'm sure there are many other art resources online. I'm only listing the ones I use personally. Remember practicing art is part of the enjoyment of art. A great book to inspire you is "Talent is Overrated: What Really Separates World-Class Performers from Everybody Else" by Geoff Colvin. He explains why only a few people truly excel; it's not because of some natural talent, but focused, concentrated study and hard work. The more hours you spend with deliberate practice, the more you will succeed at perfecting your skills. I am still working on being the quintessential illustrator as well as being a better martial artist. I hope this short blog I've written inspires you to keep pursuing your goals. I will end with another quote from the legendary Jeet Kune Do Master.
"The greatest help is self-help; there is no other help but self-help–doing one's best, dedicating oneself wholeheartedly to a given task, which happens to have no end but is an ongoing process."