We’re continuing to draw our way through the animal kingdom. Each week’s assignment follows the same pattern – block out the geometric shapes, then draw animal gestures. We’re also doing a skeleton study and ecorche / muscle drawing, so it’s busy. Having done an ecorche for each group helps in making a fantasy hybrid animal (WIP). These are just a few of the sketches from the past weeks.
This week’s assignment are gestures of bears, wolves, and dogs. Using a envelope for the animals and simplifying geometric shapes helps with simplifying. The class is setting into a routine of drawing gestures with a little value added in some, skeleton and ecorche version, and discussion post which looks at different rendering of animals characters and how they can be portrayed as protagonists or antagonists in a story. It’s fun seeing the examples that my classmates come up with.
I’m finding I really like drawing with the Procreate app on the iPad pro and Apple pencil. It’s close to drawing with a real pencil. When I want this soft effect with pencil, I usually prefer to use mylar (Dura-lar) which comes in huge rolls from Dick Blick and erases cleanly.
My discussion post:
There’s some amount of range when it comes to how sympathetically bear characters are portrayed. On the sympathetic side, there are characters such as teddy bears, and related characters such as the Care Bears and Winnie the Pooh, which are modeled more on the stuffed animal than the actual animal.
More realistic sympathetic bears include Baloo from any of the multiple adaptations of The Jungle Book, Smokey the Bear, and the bear family of Maurice Sendak’s Little Bear.
On the more antipathetic side, there are characters such as the bear in the film version of The Fox and the Hound, and the grizzly bear from the film Balto, which are portrayed as bestial, inhuman predators.
When wolves are portrayed positively, they tend to come off as majestic, intelligent, loyal, embodying the nobility of nature; the wolf family in The Jungle Book, Moro in Princess Mononoke.
Negatively, wolves are portrayed as crafty predators, as with the classical fairytale archetype of the Big Bad Wolf.
The main example I can think of when it comes to neutral/background characters is how, in Donald Duck etc. comics, otherwise “human” side/background characters tend to be given dog noses, and occasionally ears. Here, the use of animal characteristics basically just signifies that these stories take place in a completely unreal fantasy world.
In general, I would say that completely realistic renderings of animals, as you might find in an educational book, often have less strong emotional expressivity, and are less immediately emotionally accessible as a result. Even mostly realistic designs often “cheat” when it comes to faces, adding human elements such as humanoid scleras, eyebrow muscles, and mouth expressions.
I had my first week of Animal Anatomy and Drawing and the assignments were all on Big Cats. Last week I also had a chance to go to Cougar Mountain, a small zoo in Issaquah. We shot some nice photo reference, though.
The first assignment was to break down the animals into 3D geometric shapes. It was a bit hard at first, but I can see that it helps simplify and visualizes the 3D forms when you see them in the live animals. The idea of drawing the envelope is to get the general shape of the animal or figure before working on details. Here are some of my gesture drawings. For me, it’s easier working out the forms when watching a video loop of animals moving. The book for the course is Joe Weatherly’s Drawing Animals. We also had to do skeleton and ecorche versions.
I’ve had a week off before heading into the new quarter and Concept Illustration. I know a lot of animal artists talk about visiting the zoo to draw animals from life, but the zoo has its limitations – including the fact the animals are usually pretty far away. Yesterday I went to a Kangaroo farm and had a chance to hold a baby kangaroo and get close to a variety of animals I don’t normally see.
Besides kangaroos, there were lemurs, emus, donkeys, alpacas, Patagonian Cavies, and more. Plenty to see. It was neat to see the differences between animals and their different temperaments.
I had heard that Disney and Pixar animators work with live animals to capture their gestures and expressions.
Ralph Eggleston of Pixar said he watched a lot of National Geographic videos to get the correct shivers of birds for his For the Birds video (below). He also videotaped his bird for a few hours and he and his team studied its movements. The team also brought in Cornish game hens to study volume and weight.
I mostly took reference video and I’m going to practice sketching animals from different perspectives. I’ve heard it’s better trying to sketch from a looping video than relying on still photos alone…I can see why. James Gurney shared his tip about sketching a pony from life. He chose the time to draw it when he knew it would be sleeping.
This past week my class has been looking at the drawing of expressive hands. We’re still working for the most part in charcoal which is getting easier to handle for me. I like Strathmore Toned Paper and I’m finding it easier to get darker tones with a softer Nitram charcoal. I had started with Strathmore 500 charcoal, but it doesn’t have the smooth look of toned paper.
Besides drawing practice (whole body gestures) and these hand drawings, we also have a discussion post where we post examples of expressive hands. Everyone always shares very different examples – it’s a great part of the class.
The three I shaerd this past week were from Rackham, Wyeth, and Earl Oliver Hurst. In the Rackham, I thought it was an interesting contrast between the knobby hands of the old woman and the simple open hands of the children. The Wyeth also showcases contrasts in this Heidi picture. The grandfather is tanned and has a commanding gesture. It’s contrasted with Heidi’s fairer and more tentative post. The Hurst I liked because he seemed to contrast the confident face of the man with the nervous lines in his jacket and hands.
I dropped my Hornblower in the Crisis of at the Washington State Convention Center on Wednesday and got a sneak peek at other work that will be on display from the Society for Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators now until September 30th. It’s a fantastic show and I’m honored to have work in it. We’re going to go down tomorrow with our family and my grandparents and take it all it. There’s also a Meet the Illustrators and Family Draw Along September 17th which I know will be great.
Art History III is over for me now and it’s nice to get more drawing together. The past week I’ve been trying out new methods of adding color to my pencil drawings. This crow (we like crows in house) was based on an old photo of Fred Astaire.
I’m trying watercolor, colored pencil, and pastel over printed versions from the Artisan 1430 printer.
My new course this quarter is Life Drawing IV. It feels good to be working in traditional media again. I’m also started working with charcoal powder for the first time. It’s messy, but I really like what can be done with a light touch. I’m also seeing what a difference it makes using a fine grade of charcoal paper.
Here’s a skull that was this week’s homework. This holiday weekend I’m going to be traveling down to Monterey for the annual meeting of the Guild of Natural Science Illustrators. Looking forward to it! It’ll be my first art conference. Jack Laws is one of the keynotes. I admire both of their work.
I just heard today that Hornblower During the Crisis has been accepted in the SCBWI Western Washington Illustrators Exhibit at the Washington State Convention Center! This will be my first juried group exhibition. It runs from July 1- September 30th. I also just dropped off some art for the Best of the Gage Exhibition. The exhibition and sale there is June 17th, and of course the Clymer Museum exhibition goes through June 25th.
In addition to school, I’ve been experimenting with different ways of adding color. This past week I did some colored pencil work with the black and white owl and frog drawing. I like really like Faber-Castell Polychromos. They are oil-based, so blend with baby oil and can work side-by-side with watercolor paints or pencils.
I’ve also been doing some sketching and thinking about doing some illustrations for Hans Christian Anderson’s Snow Queen. There are two good crow characters that are part of the story so I thought it would be nice to do. We get a lot of crow visitors in the backyard.
I also saw an inspiring video today. Sargy Mann is a painter who became blind when he was his 30’s. See his story below.
Just finished this – it’s my last week in Basic Illustration. It’s been a great class. It’s been a learning curve going to ink from pencil. The assignment was to choose a fortune cookie fortune and make a drawing from it. My fortune was “You are wise to keep your eyes open at all times.”
We weren’t allowed to use ink washes so it was a change for me as I had to focus on line art.
The ink drawing was first done in pencil then inked using micron pens, a Lamy fountain pen, and a little Copic marker for blocking in the grass. I also use Duralar mylar which helped a lot with my learning curve for ink. Duralar is very forgiving with ink – because it erases cleanly with alcohol or the colorless Copic marker blender.
Here’s my pencil illustration for the the thumbnail I previously uploaded. I went with the underwater city. I took some of my inspiration loosely from those great Jules Verne books, 20,000 Leagues under the Sea, and all the vintage diver stories. I’ll also post my inked / copic tone marker version at the bottom. Ink and copic markers are new media for me. I also am working on Mylar / Dura-lar, which is helpful for making frequent revisions, especially with ink.
Here’s my Ecorche final for Life Drawing III. It was challenging to work from a photograph and then imagine all the muscles underneath.
I found it helpful working with an Ecorche app on my iPad. Another helpful app is Skelly for skeletal work. If you frequently rotate the model in the app it helps get a 3D sense of where the muscles are in space.
I’m enjoy Life Drawing this quarter. We’ve been working on 3D ecorche models which show figures without skin (emphasizing musculature). An additional challenge was to draw bones in a similar position. Working on lots of these is giving me a much better three-dimensional sense of the figure.
My other course this semester is Western Civilization, so not much to show there.
This Christmas break, I’ve been doing more sketching to improve my skills. I’m trying to make each single piece tell more of a story and I’m also working on more backgrounds and landscape elements. For my birthday, I went sketching at the zoo (cold, but could be worse) and took some advice from David Rankin who wrote the book Fast Sketching Techniques. I heard about him from a wildlife artist that I admire. He made the distinction between drawing and sketching – and pointed out the frustration of wanting to draw from wildlife, but difficult because it’s always moving.
We started some of the exercises in the book and put some of his advice into practice at the zoo. I still would like to touch up some of the sketches I did there, but’ll I’ll share them in a future post. He recommended staying longer with one animal and taking in all the little mannerisms. It becomes easier after you’ve drawn the same animal many times from different positions and doing different things.
The drawing of the girl is from a foreign movie based on a children’s fairytale. The man with the mustache is more my own invention and I titled it Admonition. The other photo is a sketch of Albert Schweitzer from a vintage photo.
This is a WIP (work in progress). Assignment this week for Typography is designing a book cover using a previous drawing. This is Jeremy – The Rabbit Who Wanted to Fly. Lots of possibilities for how this story could go.
As much as I liked traditional atelier instruction like at the Gage Academy, I’ve really wanted to get more experience drawing imaginatively and using drawing to tell stories. One great exercise we had to do in my Mastering the Pencil class at RMCAD last quarter was drawing multiple thumbnails to tell a story.
The prompt was an old suitcase. We had to make a story out of it. Here are some thumbnails sketching out potential characters, locations, and sequences. From the brainstorm, I created an Agatha Christie Miss Marple-like character, Emmeline Duck who solves mysteries like the suitcase at the bottom of Bolger Pond.
Last week when I was writing a paper on the great illustrator Howard Pyle, I was struck by this quote from him: “If the first sketch looks like the one I want to do, to make sure—I always make the other forty-nine anyway.”
Here’s a final project from my 3D design class. We had to create a balancing sculpture and I balanced a mama barn swallow made out of sculpey clay on a baby. I’m glad it worked! I chose to use sculpey, because I know a lot of 2D artists use sculpey to make maquettes that help them with composition and lighting.
Also instead of the Windy Shrews (see my prior Balderdash assignment post), I decided the final Mowburnt project would be a burnt sort of elephant shrew who thought he was Horatio Hornblower.
My classes this quarter are History of American Illustration and Typography. I’ll update more soon.
As a prompt for creativity, my teacher had an assignment based on the word game Balderdash. She assigned everyone an obscure word where we were to come up with different drawings for what the word could be. My word was ‘mowburnt’. The definition I gave a mowburnt was a small singe black shrew-like creature. We had to draw 30 thumbnail possibilities and then narrow them down.
This is just a preliminary sketch / WIP. Another possibility has a Horatio Hornblower-like shrew paddling a sardine can, and another, an urban shrew dreaming up a better life.
Last week, I also had chance to volunteer at the Burke Museum‘s Bird Day part of a small group from the Guild of Natural Science Illustrators. Every one was very nice and welcoming, though I was just a college student. Several explained that they had more of a science background than art when they first became illustrators.
I found out the Burke museum has a close relationship to science illustrators at the University of Washington. They hold an exhibit of new graduates from the UW program in scientific illustration every year.
In James Gurney‘s tutorials I learned that he does a lot of sketching and exhibiting in museums of natural history because of his interest in dinosaurs and birds. Because birds and a lot of other animals move so quickly, having time to study the structure of different and similar animals in a natural history museum can be very helpful for field work. At the Burke, I was also told that artists are at the museum almost every day working with the different departments. Apparently the museum employs some artists to help with their design needs and educational exhibits, but community artists are also welcome to come into the museum and work with their different animal specimens for free.