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Art Critique Request-Character Illustrations

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OddBerryCreations

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Hi all. These are some beginning sketches I've done and am working on improving my drawing skills. I love drawing and I love illustrating and I would love to know what you think. I'm trying to figure out what I need to work on and where my strengths are.
#1 - December 03, 2012, 06:00 PM

OddBerryCreations

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Few others...
#2 - December 03, 2012, 06:01 PM

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Hi OddBerry, I'm no pro but you could do with more shading on all of these. They're very flat. Also it looks as though you're struggling to find a style. Rather than trying to draw in a specific style at this stage, you might be better off trying to draw/sketch realistic faces first and then the style will come more naturally.

When I did my art course (non-pro) they asked us to draw eight different shapes (triangle, square, oblong etc) on a page and then make them into different faces with different expressions. I found it a really useful starter exercise.

But drawing from life has been the best improver for me. If I've got no one in front of me I'll use a photo. It's so difficult to render a realistic image or sketch but you learn so much each time you do it.

Hope that helps!
#3 - December 03, 2012, 06:48 PM

OddBerryCreations

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Thank you so much Franzilla. I was trying to find my own style but right now I'm trying to figure out how to start off drawing and learning from it. I've lost my creative edge simply because I can't draw the way I want to yet. I start off drawing something awesome in my head and when I can't execute it out on paper, I get frustrated so I stop. I lose ambition in the drawing itself but never in my drive to draw. I'm torn in so many directions and I want to do so much I get overwhelmed and don't do any of them. So I've come to my blue-board family in hopes you will give me exactly what you did...sound, solid advice.  :thankyou
#4 - December 03, 2012, 07:24 PM

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I'll add that if you think you might want to illustrate for children (I know you aren't sure yet) that practicing children and animals is something to give a lot of attention to. Kids and babies have very different proportions than adults, in face and in body. And animals, whether they serve as an anthropomorphic main character, or as an animal in the natural world, or a pet friend to a human character, etc, are very prevalent in children's books as well.

And I totally understand the awesome idea in head doesn't always turn out how you thought on paper scenario. I've learned to try and accept what does come on paper and just go with it. Sometimes I surprise myself and find that it turned out just as good or better, but different, than my original vision. When I first started working on children's illustration with a passion, it had been many years since I had drawn anything. Kids and work got in the way. I found I was a little rusty, didn't have what I thought of as a style, and had no idea how I was going to do color (that turned out to be a matter of trial and error) but it didn't take long before my skills were much improved from even what I had done before when I was immersed in art all the time, just from working at it every day. Have patience with yourself, be forgiving of things that didn't turn out (I think I've learned a lot more from my pieces that didn't work than from the ones that did!) and just know that it's all steps to where you want to be.
#5 - December 03, 2012, 07:49 PM
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Hi Oddberry,

If you are going for a more stylized approach, go with what feels natural to you. It looks as if the first two pieces may be trying for a style while the third piece, Maggie, may be what comes out of your hands and on to the paper. (May favorite of the four). The hand is good! That's a difficult thing to get down. And though it may be stylized, joints and arms need to look as if they naturally belong in their positioning and proportions.

Think of Dori while she's swimming through the Jellies in Finding Nemo "Just keep swimming, just keep swimming.  "Just keep drawing, just keep drawing."
 
You've got some things down, just keep going.  :paint
#6 - December 04, 2012, 07:10 AM
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I'm with Cynthia - the third drawing, Maggie, is by far the strongest. The first two look like you're trying for something (realism? not sure) but not quite getting there, and they're caught sort of in-between, if that makes any sense. The only thing for that is to keep practicing.

One thing that may help is to start a sketch by blocking in basic shapes to get your overall layout and proportions. For instance, just using a loose oval for the head, and a few simple lines for feature placement. Get those simple shapes sized, balanced, and placed right. Then start adding detail and refining, starting with broader details and working your way to smaller details. Here's a neat example of that sort of technique (probably not the style any of us are going for, but still informative):

http://gurneyjourney.blogspot.com/2012/06/chinese-step-by-step-portrait.html

Look at how simple the initial sketch is. There's barely anything to it, but it sets up the framework for the whole drawing by making sure the proportions and layout look right first.

The important thing is to keep at it!
#7 - December 04, 2012, 10:26 AM

Jacqueline Buffinet

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Yep. Maggie is definitely the best.

Here's my two cents worth, use reference material, lots of it. Even highly stylized characters need to have a "rightness" about them that can only come from knowing people and faces in all manner of expression and gestures. Even when I know how I want my art to look, I drum up copious amounts of references that are at least close to what's in my head. I never really find it exactly how it is in my mind and that is good. It means my piece will be original. But take the girl on the swing in my blog for instance. Hours, maybe, of bringing up images of girls on swings, from photography to cartoons. None of them the way I wanted her. But somehow those images helped me know what I needed in order to put her there the way I wanted her. The go cart-I knew exactly how I wanted it to be, but I don't know what makes a go cart, a go cart, "visually speaking". Once again, references.

Listen, when I was younger, I thought artists just knew how to draw right out of their head. I felt like I was somehow less, because I didn't have that skill. Then I saw something that changed my mind entirely on it. An article on the well established by then, Norman Rockwell, showed him in his studio with pictures of his models plastered everywhere around his canvas. The light came on! Study faces and people and whatever subjects you want to draw and just when you think you know exactly what they look like, study some more. There is always something new that you didn't know about your subject.

As for style, and I'll try to be as brief as possible on this, I don't believe you "find" your style. You may be asked to define it at some point, but it is not something you have to discover in order to have it. (I've written three novels and an artist's style is like a writer's voice so this is how I have come to this conclusion.) Style is what you are, the choices you make. The colors, form and subject that you gravitate to, the way YOU package everything together in a work of art. It flows from you naturally. It sharpens and becomes more easily defined as your skills grow. You can only make it happen by sharpening your skills.

So focus on skill building, inspiration and your characters. Your style will define itself.
#8 - December 04, 2012, 11:49 AM

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Listen, when I was younger, I thought artists just knew how to draw right out of their head. I felt like I was somehow less, because I didn't have that skill. Then I saw something that changed my mind entirely on it. An article on the well established by then, Norman Rockwell, showed him in his studio with pictures of his models plastered everywhere around his canvas. The light came on! Study faces and people and whatever subjects you want to draw and just when you think you know exactly what they look like, study some more. There is always something new that you didn't know about your subject.

I had a similar experience. I also thought all pro artists drew from their own heads...when I learned that this is not the case and how important visual references are, it was kind of freeing.
#9 - December 04, 2012, 12:00 PM
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Totally agree 100% with Jacqueline's post,... and Arte's, Cynthia's and Siski's posts... my illustrator peeps!  (waves!--hi girls!) And Anthony's post is also right-on! You're getting excellent advice here.

"So focus on skill building, inspiration and your characters. Your style will define itself." YES, this!!!!!

I'm one of those illustrators that don't illustrate in the same art style with each book. I tend to let the book/concept dictate what direction I'd like to go. The story, the intended audience, the character(s) help me determine this for myself. But I still consider all of my various methods as MY style, even though they may vary from book to book.

As you hone in on your drawing skills, like Jacqeline said, a style will emerge, whether you realize it or not. And don't think you'd be locked into one style. Styles grow, develop and vary, ... much like an author's voice.

If you're interested in drawing people, try drawing just one character, but in various moods and perspectives. Characters are easy to draw, but they are difficult to develop. And look at a lot of illustrations! See what moves you. This might help you discover how you'd like to apply your illustrations in the future. (children's books? graphic novels? comic books? commercial illustration? editorial illustration? fantasy art? etc....)

 Good luck and have fun!

#10 - December 04, 2012, 12:48 PM

OddBerryCreations

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Awesome, awesome feedback. What makes Maggie the best out of all of them? I used reference for each of these pieces. What does that say??
#11 - December 04, 2012, 04:37 PM

OddBerryCreations

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also, any suggestions on awesome figure drawing books?  :grin3
#12 - December 04, 2012, 06:55 PM

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I'm not sure if the other thread on book references has something that may help, but it may be a good start.

Because Maggie has a more whimsical look to her, she's immediately more endearing. The top two look a bit static, but Maggie's pose and sideways grin give her a sense of motion and liveliness. I'm also with Anthony, the other renderings look like you may have tried a more realistic approach. With realistic art, proportions and placement need to be spot on. If they are not, it's obvious. Whereas a more stylized approach gives you room for making things up a bit . . . though it still needs to look natural and placement of arms/elbows/legs, etc., should work. In the first two pieces, the eyes seem a bit too large because the style lends itself to realism and the exaggeration may be a few steps over what works for them.

In your work "Flower" the mouth could be flipped as the perspective is focused on her left side, our right and the half of the face that's farther away should be a bit smaller. The placement of her shoulders seems uncomfortable.

When Jacqueline spoke of references . . . I also was thinking YES!! An example would be a work I did of a dog that was flying and I wanted him in head-on perspective. I looked online at pictures of people skydiving and studied many poses. It gave me the perspective I wanted to show with the rest of the body behind the face falling at an even pace. The view was perfect and I filled it in with my character with a good sense of what he would look like after all those studies.

If you sketch, you can keep going over the faint lines until you see a line that works, make it darker and keep going to the next area.

#13 - December 04, 2012, 07:25 PM
« Last Edit: December 04, 2012, 07:28 PM by Cynthia Kremsner »
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Your drawings are very sweet and I can easily see them being nicely polished one day. ::-) With enough practice, your style will definitely shape itself. I've seen it happen countless times, even to people who never studied anatomy or done life drawing (my husband!). If you repeat an exercise long enough, you will become a master... but it takes years of daily sketching/drawing. You have to draw every day, and not get precious about what you're drawing.

Give yourself small assignments and small deadlines to achieve them, and it can go a long way (ie two small drawings a day, or 1 finished piece a week). ::-)

As for figure drawing, I always turn to Jack Hamm's book. It's a thin volume but covers all the basics very quickly and makes a great starting point, at least it did for me when I was a teenager.  :yup

Here's a link: http://www.amazon.com/Drawing-Head-Figure-Perigee-Jack/dp/0399507914/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1354694392&sr=8-1&keywords=jack+hamm
#14 - December 05, 2012, 12:13 AM
« Last Edit: December 05, 2012, 12:15 AM by whibbage »
Rema - an illustrated sci-fi novel, serialized online at http://remanmyth.blogspot.com

Jacqueline Buffinet

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The reason Maggie stands out to me, is because the lines are more confident. Also she's more expressive. Both line and expressiveness are important in Children's art. I agree with Evilrobot about the features being too high in the face. Mainly, for me, the eyes need to come down closer to the nose and mouth. As you study faces, notice that the features group together closer than you think. Also you need to anchor the eyes with a hint of an eyelid over them and a line or shadow around them to indicate the hollow that eyes sit in, otherwise they seem to float over the face rather than be part of it.

I do see merit in the other drawings. They just need polish, more confident lines and and a little understanding of the genre you are emulating. For instance the first drawing reminds us very much of Anime. Therefore it should follow certain expectations of an Anime drawing, especially since Anime is one of the genres where you need to understand consumer expectations. For help with that look up Mark Crilley on Youtube. He has some very good instructional videos on Anime and they are free. Your second drawing, reminds me of a certain genre of art that I don't know the name of, maybe Art Deco? In that art, the lines are bold and dark, with very little shading, bold lips, bold lining in the eyes. Otherwise that one just looks like it's not finished yet. The old man, is cartoonish. Cartoons have inked lines for the most part, not that you can't get that with a pencil but you need to deepen the lines. Also when a cartoon is done in black and white then there is a certain way of using lines for shading, otherwise it might look better with some color. Again, he looks unfinished. They all need their eyes adjusted and anchored. 

When you draw in established genres of art do a little study on the basics that apply to that genre. Sometimes it's only one or two little things that are off that will make all the difference.

You asked what it means that you drew these from references. It means you are on the right track, keep it up! Practice daily. Drawing is an eye-hand coordination talent, like playing an instrument, the more you practice the better you get. You are teaching your hand to draw what your eyes and brain see, so it is a physical exercise just as much as it is a mental one.

And everything Whibbage said. 
#15 - December 05, 2012, 12:16 PM

OddBerryCreations

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You guys are amazing with the advice and tips but I need some more help (I know...I'm so needy  :goldstar). Last night I sat down to do some sketching because that's what I do when I don't want to do anything else. However, I became frustrated. Now i haven't sketched in a few days because of a family crisis but now that that is over, I want to get back into my old routine. How do you get past being angry at your drawings? i'm trying to practice like everyone suggested but nothing i did turned out right. It all looked funky and just not what I wanted to do. It seems when I create something straight out of my head, I like it better even if I'm using a reference model (which i was) but when I try to study something and practice from that, i get very frustrated. Is it because I'm learning or because at that point I'm not enjoying it...a combo?? I don't know. I just became very annoyed with my drawings last night. I couldn't get anything started. Have I lost my mojo??  :eyeballs:
#16 - December 06, 2012, 03:21 AM

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I'm not sure whether this is good advice or not, or whether it's perhaps even considered a no-no in the illustrating world but what I do when my imagination and my hands aren't working as a team (ie what I see in my head just will not come out right on the page) is I copy. I get one of my favourite picture book illustrations and then I copy it. Usually I'll do that and then because it's easier and the result looks reasonable it'll inspire me to get on with something that's in my own head... and I'm back on track again.

Of course, those copies that I do only end up on my wall at home (if they make it that far!) I would never use one on a website or present it as my own. But it's a great exercise and a great way to make yourself feel better because copying is far easier than trying to do it from your head!
#17 - December 06, 2012, 05:48 AM

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Practice makes perfect. As frustrating as that may sound, we've all started out that way, unhappy with our first sketches, too; but were driven to keep drawing. Just like you. :)

Here's an example of another "wanting to improve" artist who kept practicing -- he posted his progress starting from 2002 to around 2006.  The leaps he made just from practicing and studying, much as yourself, show in the artwork he posted in this thread: "Journey of an Absolute Rookie -- Paintings and Sketches".  And it's still inspiring other aspiring artists to keep on drawing and painting. 

http://conceptart.org/forums/showthread.php?870-Journey-of-an-Absolute-Rookie-Paintings-and-Sketches

You can do it, too!

- t
#18 - December 06, 2012, 08:11 AM

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I saw that link before too. It is SO inspiring to see that transformation.
#19 - December 06, 2012, 10:12 AM

Jacqueline Buffinet

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Tanja I went to your link and found it as inspiring as Franzilla said. Though I admit I could not go through all 73 pages in one day! I will over time though.

OddBerry, I think all creatives feel the way you described every now and then.  I particularly tend to get frustrated to the point of performing badly when I have been comparing my work to others. Naturally, because I set high goals for myself, I look at those whose work I admire and who are far more advanced in their skill applications than I am. I think working through that frustration is what helps you grow. I also find that sometimes it seems like you are just creeping along, trying to get at least a little edge up in talent, then suddenly there is a breakthrough and a leap to a higher level. I work in more than one creative interest and have found this to be true for all of them. 

Let me share this too in case it applies. A while back, I heard that when you are multi-creative that working in one area of talent and improving it  brings along a natural improvement in the rest of them. It has to do with the physical growth in our brain as we create. (And there is that too to remember as to why it takes time and practice to grow a talent.) I'm not a brain scientist so I can't tell you many more details than that about the subject. But I will say that I tend to believe it by my own experiences with the wide swings I take between my creative interests, two of which I strive to make my profession. So hang in there. Nurture your creativity like the garden it is and give it time to grow.

 You might find this helpful: Will Terry's Blog on "Have you ever cried over your art?" http://willterry.blogspot.com/2012/11/have-you-ever-cried-over-your-art.html
#20 - December 07, 2012, 09:29 AM

Hm well, we all get frustrated with our work now and then. The important thing is to draw through it, as hard as it is! Because even when you've achieve a professional level, you still get frustrated, but only now you get frustrated with DEADLINES and there is no sympathy! Just with writing artists need to develop thick skins... but here are some tricks that helped me:

-I know this is really taboo, but it helped me immensely when I was at your stage in drawing. For practice, sometimes I would actually TRACE parts of that Jack Hamm book I linked to back when I was a teen. I did it very slowly, making mental note of where my mind tended to stray. Those were my weak spots, and the spots I worked on the most. I figured drawing was like a dance, and the only way I could memorize the moves was to follow the lead of someone who knew what they were doing.

-Another great exercise that my husband taught me is to draw a "field of cubes." They don't have to make sense, just draw a cube at any angle or size, then another one, and another, etc. until you've filled a page. The only rule is that the cubes have to be touching each other or overlapping somehow. It doesn't have to make physical sense, but it helps put your mind in a more three-dimensional mindset.

-Hatching. On the borders of all my comic pages and paintings you'll find a patch of lines that I've done repeatedly, like drawing stripes in quick strokes. This warms up the hand to create a steady line. Sometimes if my hands start to shake, I pause and hatch for a bit on a scrap piece of paper.

-Have a "sanctuary" sketchbook. This is where you draw things from your head and has no pressure to be good looking or perfect. No one has to see this sketchbook. It's your drawing diary, where your imagination can be free and you can remember why you started drawing in the first place. Fostering that love of drawing is important. Everyone needs it, even my friends that work at Dreamworks and Pixar, even the ones that have Caldecotts. Just because you can draw, doesn't mean you're always going to love it, and one of the best ways to get over a drawing slump is to reconnect with your roots!

I hope some of this helped? ::-)
#21 - December 07, 2012, 10:44 AM
Rema - an illustrated sci-fi novel, serialized online at http://remanmyth.blogspot.com

Jacqueline Buffinet

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I have a sanctuary sketchbook-and sometimes wish it had a lock and key like a diary! ;)   

Whibbage, I love your exercise ideas and will keep them in mind for myself. Thanks!
#22 - December 07, 2012, 11:13 AM

Jacqueline I hope you'll find them helpful! The field of cubes exercise changed my life haha~

And yeah... if people saw half the stuff in my secret sketchbooks I'd never leave my house again. Okay maybe not THAT extreme but I'd be mortified!
#23 - December 07, 2012, 11:27 AM
Rema - an illustrated sci-fi novel, serialized online at http://remanmyth.blogspot.com

OddBerryCreations

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You guys are awesome. I did a short little sketch last night and have come to realize that if I can finish a drawing in a short amount of time and it actually comes out looking good, I'm happy with it. It's the stuff that takes me forever to get done that drives me insane. I did a good little sketch last night and I like it. I'll post it later once I get home and can get it scanned in. At least I found one of my little quirks right?  :grouphug2:
#24 - December 07, 2012, 11:57 AM

OddBerryCreations

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What do you think about this one??  :grin3
#25 - December 08, 2012, 11:35 AM
« Last Edit: December 08, 2012, 11:37 AM by OddBerryCreations »

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I think there is potential with this one. What I'd advise now is taking it further and developing it. Sketch her from different angles, with different expressions. Do a lot of them. Try some full body sketches with different poses, standing, sitting, walking, mid-action, etc. Then try putting her in a scene. And do try giving more form to the sketches, a tiny hint of shadow goes a long way. At this point just experiment. Anything that doesn't work the way you wanted doesn't ever have to be shown to anyone, but it will teach you a lot.
#26 - December 08, 2012, 01:16 PM
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OddBerryCreations

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You can't see it very well but there are some shadows. I'll go with it but I think different poses and angles are going to be tricky. Should be fun...and by fun I mean a lot of  :yeah and  :banghead.
#27 - December 08, 2012, 01:48 PM

This is adorable! I really like it! But you know.. it does look unfinished. Have you thought of developing a more finished style, whether that be rendering her out more in pencil, coloring it somehow, or (my favorite) cleanly inked linework?

Also do you have Photoshop or some other image software? I'd recommend flipping the image so you can see what it looks like backwards. OR... the low-fi version is to hold the paper up to a light with the back of the page facing you. You'll notice certain areas that lean or that one eye looks bigger than the other. DO NOT BE ALARMED. This happens all the time, even with pros.

To fix it you can simply trace the flipped image on a lightbox. If you don't have a lightbox, you can sort of make one if you have a glass table. I used to just tape my drawings to my glass coffee table and stick a lamp underneath. Ta-da! Instant lightbox. ::-)

Hmm I'm not sure if I'm making sense here XD I wish I could just show you in person! Anyway, I think your idea and sensibility is great in this drawing. You just need to finish it! ::-)
#28 - December 09, 2012, 09:00 PM
Rema - an illustrated sci-fi novel, serialized online at http://remanmyth.blogspot.com

Also I was curious if you had an artist that influences you? When I see your work somehow I think of people like Edward Gorey or Carson Ellis? Maybe not their subject matter exactly, but their style.
#29 - December 09, 2012, 09:09 PM
Rema - an illustrated sci-fi novel, serialized online at http://remanmyth.blogspot.com

OddBerryCreations

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Thank you so much and ummmm yes, I understand all that you are saying. I have the entire Adobe Master Suite package (I'm a design student afterall  :dancer) and so yes, I'm actually working on making her vector art. I want them all to have color and that's an entirely different process. No I do not have a lightbox and no glass table. It's on the list for Santa.  :grin3

There are a few artists that inspire me...like Helen Huang and ChewedKandi for example. Both fantastic vector artists. Also adore Lost-Fish who is an awesome digital artist. I've never heard of those artists but I'll definitely check them out. Thank you so much!!  :grouphug2:
#30 - December 10, 2012, 02:56 AM

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