Knight's sketchbook
#1
Hey there,

I don't know what's more shocking: That I completely forgot Crimson Daggers existed or finding out it's still around!
I've been wanting to create a digital sketchbook to go with the real thing lately but had nowhere to do go, until today that is. Eons ago I used to haunt CA.org, but I lacked time and courage to join CD when it went up.

I've worked as an illustrator and concept artist for many years, then moved on to a parallel area when my hands could take no more abuse. Although I managed to keep up for some years after the first substantial issues like occasionally losing all my grip strength—and being told I just got frail hands and  little can be done about it—I'm not getting any younger. It became obvious I can't cope with concepting workload anymore and the struggle would repeatedly burn me out. So I moved to a different area, took a long break from 2D art...

...until I found old blank sketchbooks I never touched because I suck at drawing. I'm more of a painter; I've always had a really hard time visualizing things in my mind, making working with lines a chore, and there's no "blocks of color" approach to be taken with a pencil and paper. Not taking failure well and being self-taught I used to savagely self-critique, considering myself lazy and undisciplined the times I couldn't make common approaches work for me. So without realizing it I eventually gave up on drawing, too busy with making a living out of painting and everything else.

Well, now I'm no longer under pressure to be the super top notch artists I'm supposed to be I'm drawing again because it's fun. It's wonderful to just explore different methods at my own pace and take on old challenges from new angles of attack. My goal is not to "get out of my comfort zone" but to get comfortable and happy and efficient with my work. I don't have the luxury of being able to do 2k drawings of the same thing after all, and I'm doing my best to not get overwhelmed too.




Week 1

Focus: Faces, values, technique

I've studied mostly people in the first week since taking the pencil again because they're fun and I wanted to figure a method to draw faces that felt natural. I found it I guess, and that's to sketch a skull under every face. It's amazing how features started to slide less and less once I had something I perceived as a proper mass to anchor them on instead of arbitrary lines. The slight accuracy gains let me focus more on technique and getting used to the tools, so I explored values on the side.

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This is a bit embarrassing but might be useful to someone: Three different takes on same person a few days apart. Left one was the very first sketch I did in years. I'm not very accurate yet and I did that thing of messing up values midway, heh, but the difference in the amount of effort I had to pour into those sketches is stark nonetheless.

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I'm very tact-oriented and will often sketch fat pads and relevant muscle masses.

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It turns out that starting from nose and mouth and leaving eyes for later instead of the usual approach of eyes/brow first also greatly improves my accuracy. I mean, not ending up with tiny weirdly-placed eyes on gigantic heads is a hell of an improvement in my book at least, hah.

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Rendering an actual skull using the same skull-building method:

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+ quick figure studies from today. Digital because I need something thicker than 0.5mm lead to get shapes across without murdering my tendons. I sit on the stiff and unnatural end when it comes to gestures, so I'll likely be doing entire sheets of these in the near future to loosen up in addition to another exercise to build confidence for limbs and fingers and foreshortening.

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#2
These are awesome studies! Very nice masses, especially the skulls. Are your hands doing better now enabling you to draw this much?

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#3
Welcome! Great to hear you getting back to fun and chillaxin with drawing. Uber important. Interesting that we all find preferences on doing things a certain way like your mouth and nose first thing. I may have to give that a go. It was a pleasure to see your sketches. Keep em coming

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#4
Woah..the sketchbook fill with each pages is quite impressive.

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Devianart

Sketchbook

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Artstation


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#5
(04-16-2021, 08:24 AM)JosephCow Wrote: These are awesome studies! Very nice masses, especially the skulls. Are your hands doing better now enabling you to draw this much?

Thanks! I used to be afraid of drawing skulls, but having a method that clicks turned them into a fun warm up.

They're not super long drawing sections so my hands can manage most days. Although I still experience some stiffness and pain I fully recovered grip strength once moving on from pro work.

That said I had to let my hands rest for week midway these dailes (I'm on week 4 now) because they started to go into the red zone. The dip in quality/time spent is noticeable. Lol

(04-16-2021, 02:01 PM)cicakkia Wrote: Woah..the sketchbook fill with each pages is quite impressive.

I've got to make good use of them before they fully rot!

(04-16-2021, 09:50 AM)Who Wrote: Welcome!  Great to hear you getting back to fun and chillaxin with drawing. Uber important.  Interesting that we all find preferences on doing things a certain way like your mouth and nose first thing. I may have to give that a go. It was a pleasure to see your sketches. Keep em coming

Glad you liked these. Not gonna lie, it feels weird to start by the middle. I'm still wrapping my head around ignoring eyes for as long as I can but it also makes sense from a construction angle.

Eye sockets are important and I am ghosting them right away. The eyes themselves don't have much weight in the head structure, they're a product of it. They're the first detail to go when you see a face from a distance. Eyelids got a little more mass to them but again can't change the head silhouette in most cases and when they do it's a localized effect. Eyebrows are a product of forehead, nose and temples.

But the nose? The nose is one of the last details to be abstracted away from a distance. It's right in the middle of all cool things going on with the surrounding bone. The mouth is pure structure; save for moustaches obscuring it you won't have an upper lip that doesn't hug the skull. Thus for someone struggling with building a solid structure focusing on features more intimately tied to the underlying bone yields better results than fussing too soon about the features we obsess over for cultural reasons that actually have little impact on the general object shape.



Minor update since I need natural light to take photos of the sketchbook.

Confidence Building Practice

The way I struggled with the head of the fat guy yesterday made me realize I have little idea of how to hang flesh from bones you can barely see (and that I struggle with bald people too heh). I mostly know what's going on under the skin, it's just that drawing this sort of curve and volume pile-up in this region feels unnatural. So I picked the same thick brush to try to avoid going into details and looked for heads that aren't angular bony like I'm used to.

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Sketches are numbered in chronological order. I hid each one after done and it's interesting how they increased in size without me realizing. Talk about confidence-building exercises.


More gestures. Really set out to exaggerate poses, hence they ended up truer to the ref than when I don't. That's how stiff my poses usually are. :'D

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Plus the bane of every artist: Hands!

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Sanity check to see if this type of scribble has any use. Yeaaah I think I can jump to shading from these reasonably well.

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#6
Woooah, these are really gorgeous sketches ♥

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#7
Gorgeous indeed! Love the style of your digis especially, they have a very unique look to them - great style and your line weight and values is on point! Well done!

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#8
aere cgmythology Thanks, I'm happy you liked these!

I'm still working on getting values under control—they're so harder to analyze than hues!—but for someone who a month ago had no clue about how to convey them with a pencil I now feel comfortable enough to start chipping at other weak points.

One is lines. I'm still figuring out what I like in them, but most importantly I'm still figuring how to draw them. :'D


Suggestions Request!

Before burying this post in pics I'd like to ask you guys for exercises suggestions to increase spatial awareness and line accuracy. I'd love to hear not exactly what is done in schools but what you like to do, the weirder the better.

Judging distances, angles in 3D shapes and curvatures are hands down my weakest points. They don't come naturally and so far I have not much success in cultivating muscle memory for these.




Finally, the update. Nearly all of these precede the digital sketches.

Weeks 02-04

Things that happened:

- Found an eraser and a cache of 2B pencil leads.
- Accidentally killed my hand.
- Discovered I love drawing fish, the spookier the better. Case in point:

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- Bailed on drawing loose stylized stuff.
- Came up with a silly exercise to build up confidence to draw hands and limbs: Tree roots.

To expand on that a bit, they're pretty nice for keeping the frustration of getting things wrong in check. They also have foreshortening, get you used to taper shapes, and feel way closer to what you'll need to do for limbs than drawing cylinders. While I can't use this for every situation that's where that previewing fingers with wavy lines came from. Straight lines never helped me much, wavy give me the approximate silhouette and angle in addition to length.

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+ a detail from a page spread I intend to fill with up more skulls. Eventually.

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Two new digital things. First one is in fact a bit old, a previous sketch from imagination I fluffed up and scribbled on with a reminder about best ways to slice people in comics. I'm doing a short one for fun and to learn how to tell stories in this medium. Sharing because it's the type of sloppy indulgence I like to work on, hah.

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90s gestures (except for the 5min guy in mid-kick, you'll know which one).

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I'm pretty sure I'm not ready to do these yet. They're not honing a single aspect of my skills, they're just stressful. My bet is on the lack of spatial awareness I mentioned. Do you know when you're know something is wrong, you understand what is off, yet it's almost as if you're physically unable to not repeat the same mistake?

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#9
aare Wrote:Before burying this post in pics I'd like to ask you guys for exercises suggestions to increase spatial awareness and line accuracy. I'd love to hear not exactly what is done in schools but what you like to do, the weirder the better.
aare Wrote:Judging distances, angles in 3D shapes and curvatures are hands down my weakest points. They don't come naturally and so far I have not much success in cultivating muscle memory for these."

Do you mean in terms of drawing things at different angles like rotating them, or drawing what you see from ref? I feel like it's two separate goals because if you are trying to get the accuracy drawing from ref or life, there are techniques and stuff to 'flatten' the image so you can look at angles and shapes objectively. But then if you mean instances of trying to figure out how a curved form would look at a certain angle, or in space I would do different stuff, but that's probably my biggest weakness as well.

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#10
(04-19-2021, 04:31 AM)JosephCow Wrote: Do you mean in terms of drawing things at different angles like rotating them, or drawing what you see from ref? I feel like it's two separate goals because if you are trying to get the accuracy drawing from ref or life, there are techniques and stuff to 'flatten' the image so you can look at angles and shapes objectively. But then if you mean instances of trying to figure out how a curved form would look at a certain angle, or in space I would do different stuff, but that's probably my biggest weakness as well.

Potentially both? I'd say flattening and unflattening before anything because while rotating things doesn't feel as uncomfortable I'll only be able to judge how challenging it truly is once I start to lay down lines correctly.

Given how I grossly misjudge dimensions and angles every time I don't have a "surface" reference to latch on I'll gladly take these techniques!

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#11
I really enjoy checking your sketchbook! The way you approach your drawing interesting for me. In my eyes it looks more like "technical" way, if i can say so. I'd like to ask you one thing: when I'm drawing from reference, my brain is just turns off and i start to draw unconsciously, i guess, almost just coping. This all comes to distorted result, it actually looks super weird. I tried to look at reference just once in a while, hid it from myself, and it actually works better. But it's not the best solution. I just wonder if you had something like that before, like when u started to draw.(Mb you can give me any suggestions)

Also looking forward to see ur painting and comic! Keep great work up!

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#12
(04-19-2021, 05:20 AM)Delorias Wrote: I really enjoy checking your sketchbook! The way you approach your drawing interesting for me. In my eyes it looks more like "technical" way, if i can say so. I'd like to ask you one thing: when I'm drawing from reference, my brain is just turns off and i start to draw unconsciously, i guess, almost just coping. This all comes to distorted result, it actually looks super weird. I tried to look at reference just once in a while, hid it from myself, and it actually works better. But it's not the best solution. I just wonder if you had something like that before, like when u started to draw.(Mb you can give me any suggestions)

Also looking forward to see ur painting and comic! Keep great work up!

Thanks! My advice is to wait for replies to my request and poach the proposed exercises. Shock

I have similar accuracy issues, haha. I start increase in precision once I've draw enough of a subject but this is more retracing a well-worn path with this specific subject than getting better at the general skill of drawing. As soon I try to draw something outside those familiar areas everything quickly falls apart. I return to that state of wildly misplacing my lines until I learn through repetition where they're supposed to go in this new very narrow case. That's where the tree roots exercise came from for example, I picked a quicker and more chill subject to practice the motions I use for limbs.

I suspect—and I can't be entirely sure about it until I tackle these particular issues—that this happens because I'm a poor judge of angles etc like described in the other post. Every time I draw I'm not flattening the image, I'm uncovering the surface bit by bit. That's how I've been coping with this so far, I cultivated something else I was naturally better at: break things into planes; perceive the subject with my imaginary fingertips. It helps with light, volume and a few other things but it's a truly poor substitute for the lack of drawing skills in the long run. It makes me inefficient.

That said I have a suggestion for studying in general: Draw things that make you happy.

Eg I used all those portraits more to practice values than faces. You don't have to draw vases if drawing... err... fish feels more fun. As long it's improving the same skills the subject barely matters. A big part of practicing is keeping yourself motivated. To do so you need to avoid getting overwhelmed (don't constantly throw yourself completely outside your comfort zone, drag things into it instead) and having fun (like, if a good payoff for you is getting a beautiful result then make it part of the goal).

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#13
[font=Tahoma, Verdana, Arial, sans-serif]Honestly you have a very good eye, and your drawings look pretty good to me, so Idk if this will help, I'm not trying to give you a drawing lesson or anything. This is stuff that is going through my head when I draw, though. And some of it is kind of strange.[/font]

[font=Tahoma, Verdana, Arial, sans-serif]My general process is to 1. Draw some lines. 2. Draw the rest of the f*cking owl. 3. do the lines again.[/font]
[font=Tahoma, Verdana, Arial, sans-serif]Like I spend a lot of time in the beginning figuring out where things are supposed to go, and then either erase or reduce opacity of all that mess, and express the form how I want it to be. And then go and analyze those shapes again now that it's been expressed. So you basically consider the thing you're trying to draw in as many different ways as you can, not just the obvious ones, going back and forth between flattening and unflattening the form. [/font]

[font=Tahoma, Verdana, Arial, sans-serif] Like if most people are looking at a figure, they are going to first be trying to draw just the outline, right? and just go around the contour and when the contour goes in, they go in, and when it goes it, they bulge it out. That's fine, but it's not gonna be accurate. it only looks at one limited aspect, not how those lines relate to each other. So I try to find more ways to relate things together than that, especially if something can relate across the object to a part on the other side.[/font]


[font=Tahoma, Verdana, Arial, sans-serif]So for example:[/font]
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[font=Tahoma, Verdana, Arial, sans-serif]Starting with some kind of sketch. It looks really bad honestly :(. Should have started with a better gesture, oh well.  If you drop a vertical line, you can see the heel, knee, hip, elbow, and nipple all line up. Bam, just related 5 things that otherwise would have no relationship. Then that line creates new negative spaces to look at, like the triangle to the left, and that angle of his groin leads right into the angle of his back. And the angle of the leg leads into the foot and the armpit, and crosses through the navel. So I can correct all of that now.[/font]

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[font=Tahoma, Verdana, Arial, sans-serif]And then I also like to look at 'positive blobs' I guess I would call them, as opposed to negative shapes. Just looking at the light shapes of forms as just a blob and judging if I have the same shape in my drawing. I have a tendency to draw things without enough volume, or bulge to the form, for example the right bicep is way too small. so this corrects that.[/font]

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[font=Tahoma, Verdana, Arial, sans-serif]Now I've looked at those three things, and corrected the sketch, it still doesn't really look like anything much. But it suggests an idea of what is supposed to be there. So I reduce the opacity and redraw it, except trying to express it as forms overlapping, and consider how things work with anatomy, construction and so on. I think a lot of people would start with constructing forms, and I would, too... except i wouldn't know where to draw it, or how big since there would be nothing to go on. [/font]

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[font=Tahoma, Verdana, Arial, sans-serif]And then i basically repeat the process now that something is established, looking at the shapes in different combinations, how the lines flow into each other and so on. It's kind of a reverse approach, where now I'll consider the form and gesture once some kind of placement and proportion is established. A weirdly helpful thing is to find shapes in there that look like something you can name, even if it doesn't really. I tend to see a lot of birds with beaks, and for some reason that instantly shows me what's wrong with the corresponding shape in my drawing. Especially helps with faces, since they are complex and there are so many preconceptions about them.[/font]

[font=Tahoma, Verdana, Arial, sans-serif][font=Tahoma, Verdana, Arial, sans-serif] A lot of this sounds kind of like weird Da Vinci Code stuff, like why would it matter if some random angle lines up with the armpit?  but I honestly think it helps a lot to examine things in ways that aren't immediately obvious. if in your ref it does line up, but in yours it doesn't, then that instantly reveals that the angle must be wrong. We get really used to always trying to draw stuff in the way we first learned, or in the way that is habitual, and then we just ignore mistakes.[/font][/font]

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#14
Wow Joseph! Thank you so much for taking the time to create those examples and for the thorough explanation. You're amazing!

Your weird helpful thing? Bring it on, I'm all for weird methods! It in fact makes a lot of sense, both as an approach for when you don't know how to approach an area and for those times you're getting too hung on the information you're seeing, as when you know there's a curvature happening there and there's this muscle connecting to whatever and etc. It lets you judge relationships between different points without interference from this information excess.

I don't know exactly how I'll incorporate it in my own possibly weird measurement method yet but you've certainly inspired me to try a few different things and take bigger risks by referencing farther points in the image. I tend to be very localized otherwise, what produces tighter and believable results but amplifies distortions by compounding inaccuracies.

Thanks again!

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#15
Yeah no prob. Hope that helped. It's exactly that; removing excess info and looking at things in various abstract ways so you don't get stuck. I want to know, though, how do you go about drawing/measuring? Maybe it's something that would help me.

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#16
(04-21-2021, 08:36 AM)JosephCow Wrote: I want to know, though, how do you go about drawing/measuring?

I don't. *prepares to dodge incoming flying objects*

This is a good question. I can't vouch for the answer since I don't fully understand it yet either but a thing is certain: It's heavily perceptual.

I'm not really outlining anything, I'm representing super angled planes and shadows. Everything is done in the service of volume, and the initial faint shading I sometimes do could be described as a sonar ping. It's a way to discover how far and in which directions an area stretches from the original point A where the pencil was. This is one of an umbrella of surface-seeking methods: Casting wavy lines into the nothingness trying to find the silhouette and angle of something is another one; so is sketching small bundles of volumes like cheeks. The funny thing is that I never set out to find the surface, I'm either holding the place for a detail so I can judge the entire object dimensions or evaluating the perspective or whatever, yet looking beyond the immediate goals all of these approaches are ultimately about surface.

I know if it's accurate enough if the resulting object has the "weight" I expect to see, not quite angles in the silhouette but approximate dimensions and mass feel and center of gravity.

I instinctively further check it using what I know about the subject. Faces are relatively easy: I know many things about them. I know what possible glabellas this forehead inclination and eye depth and that nose type can create, and where eyebrows peak and turn, the ways chins connect to mouths and more. When a drawing doesn't have room (or has too much room) for something I'll know immediately a mistake was made.

Yeah, I'm not drawing what I see. I pretty much only draw what I see when I can't understand what I'm seeing, and in most cases it's possible to at least understand what a surface is doing—if it's a depression or protrusion—even you don't know what the hell you're looking at.

Two interesting data points here: I'm used to drawing from imagination. That's pretty much all you do as an illustrator and concept artist. I'm also extremely weak at conjuring mental images. That's why I started to draw, I can only see the things in my mind once I create them, otherwise they're just words and unsubstantial close-ups. Plain line art drawings are pretty but confusing. I can't project volume into a line drawing and every distance I measure by eye is either by unfocusing and judging the negative spaces between blobs or by tracing the distance with my eyes.

Sooo, in short this is handy for tight deadlines and imagination stuff. It has a few pros:

- Solid-looking objects
- Easier to light up dramatically as you have all planes info needed
- Fewer passes when you know your subject: Your "sketch" is part of the final shading
- Easier to rotate stuff, maybe? I don't know how hard it is from the POV of someone used to a flattened 2D approach. It's not easy but tends to look structurally sound
- Easier to stylize and enhance mood, you just branch out from a same set of base assumptions about the subject, playing up or down stuff at will

Cons:

- Very distortion-prone. We all got biases (eg I pull things to top left and tend shy away from edges of objects). Those little mistakes build up as you progress and without abstract/distant points of reference checks you either compensate by doing things like slightly rotating the subject so the shape still holds or do more passes to keep it from falling apart
- Flimsier accuracy checks for things outside your visual library
- Doesn't cultivate eye accuracy in general, not for angles and distances nor for absolute values


It's no wonder I struggle with 1:1 reproductions. In any case I'm raiding other sketchbooks for tips on books covering developing eye accuracy etc.




Minor update!

Two studies angling for position accuracy. Digital paintings since the goal is stressful enough without me fumbling with the medium. I mixed and matched my usual approaches with conscious long-range checks (when I remember to perform these...) and while I don't know if I'm internalizing them yet it's an interesting change of pace.

Don't mind the hues, values not hues were the secondary goal:

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The reinterpretation of light to fluff up the atmosphere was on purpose, but the change in angle and rotation and even a bit of the FOV are most definitively not. 
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No idea if the time lapse reveals anything useful but here it is:

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#17
That's great! thanks. I think I will try out your way of thinking for a bit, honestly. I agree with your assessment of the pros and cons as well. There's a lot of downfalls of 2D, optical kind of drawing too of course. The most obvious being you have to see something to draw it. Can't really rotate or invent stuff with that method alone, the best you could do is enhance what you're seeing and edit it slightly.

But on the other hand, the ability to make something look naturalistic is pretty awesome. It's also an advantage sometime to be able to draw complex things, the form of which you don't or cannot understand. Like if you can paint what you see, you can get natural effects of light and atmosphere from nature and use that.

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#18
I really appreciate the guide about framing characters in comics. I used to have a pretty intuitive knack for compositions in a horizontal format, but the vertical format that's popular these days has been hard to adjust to. (I'm sure there are video guides, but my attention span is short and brief visual guides are my favorite).
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#19
(04-22-2021, 12:41 PM)Anomily Wrote: I really appreciate the guide about framing characters in comics. I used to have a pretty intuitive knack for compositions in a horizontal format, but the vertical format that's popular these days has been hard to adjust to. (I'm sure there are video guides, but my attention span is short and brief visual guides are my favorite).

I have zero intuition for sequential art. Setting out to consciously categorizing everything in my favorite works seems the most effective way to start going about it. I'm happy you found this helpful!

To add a couple of info I didn't include there: When it comes to head shots it's common to slice the top of the head off since we don't need this information to understand the perspective (nor there's much going there at all in first place) and it makes for a pleasant composition.

I'm also seeing a lot of panels with cuts on clavicles and slightly above, making use of the collars and clothing articles to establish it's not a floating head, with close ups like this being really common in small talking and reaction panels. As long the chin tip doesn't touch the panel edge in a weird way it looks fine. Speaking of clothing people tend to avoid cutting where their natural "modular" boundaries are, like belts and segmented edges. It keeps the character from looking like one of these dolls you can take apart, I guess.



A few more gestures, looking for ways to incorporate abstract checks (thanks Joseph!). I don't know what I'm doing but it's pretty interesting, hah! I'd have never thought of trying to draw the negative space around figures if not for this thread. I'm glad to see it shaking me from tired line angles and thought patterns I tend to fall into. 

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It might not look neat but any person that doesn't look like if made out of tubes is an accomplishment for me. :D

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#20
Great update. I resonated a lot with your description of "sonar pings" when it comes to placing testing marks at smaller plane changes to aid in placement. I think when I was digitally painting I would intuitively do something similar, almost like a shorthand for judging without actually measuring specifically and putting down distinct shapes? I think it aligns somewhat with the idea of tracing surfaces and volumes like with contours but without the continuity of lines. If I get what you said, I dig it. I might also try this again but with my trad drawing :)

I think for someone who "doesn't know what they are doing" your figures are quite charming and express a feeling of weight and balance. Even the scribbles you push within the forms, somehow feel to aid the overall, rather than make a mess, so obviously there's intent behind them. Keep it up! I'd be curious to see what you do with bigger drawings in trad. With your figures , but ofc that's harder with pencil and a limited hand health window so I understand if you don't.

The portrait sketches are great.
Sorry I don't have much helpful feedback, but take that as a good sign I guess :)

Edit: Oh actually I do have a tip I was told with where to cut figures in compositions recently. The idea was to only cut off forms at their widest width. Eg. the widest point of the calf or hips or any form where a decision needs to be made where it will go off page. Not sure why, but on reflection, it might be that it aids flow into the page and also the suggestion of existing thing continuing movement out of the page? Maybe it works, but I haven't explored that yet.

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