Thoughts on Life Drawing

The human form is one of the hardest things for an artist to master. It is incredibly complex—the hundreds of bones and muscles in the body can twist and pull into an infinite combination of expressive poses. In addition, people come in all sorts of shapes and sizes. It’s important for an artist to study different body types so he can convincingly illustrate characters with variety and personality

The best way to master the human form is simply to draw it…again and again and again. To keep my skills from getting dull I regularly attend drawing co-ops in my city (a co-op is simply a group of artists getting together to draw real live models). Although I’m a cartoonist, I consider life drawing to be one of the most important and helpful exercises I can do. The more I understand the human form, the easier it is for me to simplify and exaggerate it with cartooning.

It’s hard to understate the value of drawing from life. Photographs can be helpful, and there are some good reference books out there for artists. But because photos are 2D they tend to flatten the form. Also, because a photograph is permanently frozen it can suck some of the life out of a pose. For the serious artist, nothing beats the freshness and energy of drawing from a live model. Drawing from a photo is like eating reheated leftovers rather than fresh food hot off the stove.

However, as much as I believe in it there’s one part of the life drawing tradition I’ve never understood. Continue reading


Misc. Links

This is shaping up to be one of my busiest weeks as a freelancer in quite a while. This blog is a big priority for me, but clients always come first. In lieu of writing a fresh post today, I’m forced to do some recycling.

Here’s a few interesting links I originally posted way back in 2005/2006, which you may or may not have seen. Hopefully I can write up a fresh blog post tomorrow:

Animation Podcast – A terrific collection of interviews with some of the industry’s top animators, past and present. New episodes are few and far between, but they are always worth waiting for.

How To Be A Cartoonist – A helpful article by Chris Browne, the artist behind “Hagar the Horrible”.

Evolution: The Case Of The Exploding Bugs – Piggy-backing on last week’s post about Expelled!, Ben Stien’s excellent new documentary about the battle between evolution and intelligent design, here’s a short but fascinating video clip from a series called “Incredible Creatures That Defy Evolution”.

Fi-Fi’s Mind Reading Tricks – See if you can figure out how it’s done!

Photoshop Contest – Participants were asked to “update” iconic or classic photos using Photoshop. Fun stuff!

Interactive Facial Anatomy for ArtistsArtnatomy is a fascinating website that uses Flash to help artists understand how the muscles of the face communicate emotion.

Deadline Crunch

I’ve got a mountain of freelance work to do this week, so unfortunately there is no blog post today. Should have something tomorrow, though.

Before you leave, don’t forget to visit some of the fantastically awesome Art Blogs listed over in the left-hand column.

Illustration Friday: Wrinkles

Illustration Friday is a fun website for artists. Every Friday a new topic or keyword is posted, and artists are encouraged to sketch or illustrate anything they want to based on that topic. Some artists (such as Guy Francis) will really get creative and treat it like a professional assignment, putting a clever or goofy twist on the theme. There aren’t really any rules, so you can take any twist on the theme that you’d like.

I wish I had time to take part regularly, but I don’t. This week’s theme is “Wrinkles”, and I couldn’t pass it up. I love drawing old guys; their faces are so full of character. So I’ve cobbled together some misc. sketches of elderly men from my various sketchbooks. Some have appeared on this blog before, but at least one (upper left) is new.

Hopefully in the near future things will slow down enough for me to really sink my teeth into an Illustration Friday project. It would be loads of fun.

Copyright or Copywrong?

In case you haven’t heard, there’s legislation moving through Congress that could have serious negative consequences for artists. It’s called the Orphan Works Act, and if passed it would radically change copyright law and seriously water down the legal protections artists currently enjoy.

My friend and fellow blogger Tom Richmond did a terrific job explaining the dangers of the Orphan Works Act when it first came before Congress in 2006. It’s back again, and at the risk of sounding like Chicken Little let me say that if you make a living as an artist you need to educate yourself about this serious issue.

The Illustrator’s Partnership is a group of artists and illustrators dedicated to fighting the Orphan Works Act. I strongly urge you to visit their website. You might also want to listen to a recent audio interview with award-winning illustrator Brad Holland as he explains what’s going on and why the Orphan Work Act is serious.

(EDIT: Tom Richmond has just written a post clearing up six “myths” about the Orphan Works Act. Worth reading!)

Networking For Dummies

As the saying goes, it’s not just what you know; it’s who you know.

When it comes to making connections and finding new clients, there is only so much you can do online or through the mail. At some point every freelancer needs to get out there and make face-to-face connections with potential clients. If you aren’t networking, you should be.

Many creative types struggle with networking, myself included. I’m shy and introverted. I’m much happier alone in my cave than out there mingling with people. I don’t like making small talk, and there are many things I would rather do than spend my time shaking the hands of strangers and trying to sell my services.

I do it anyway, because networking is one of the most effective ways I know of to make connections and land new clients.

I’m still a beginner at networking, so I’ve been researching what works and what doesn’t and learning how I can make the process less stressful, even fun. Here’s a few tips and tricks I’ve learned that have worked for me: Continue reading