Battling “same face”
I’ve been painfully aware of my worsening case. “Same face” is when an artist gets lazy (or busy!) and starts using the same old features again and again and again. The only cure: research.
japrince asked: Just curious on how you approach composition and perspective. I feel as if sometimes I think too hard, not really about what to draw but how to draw it and make it look interesting. The comic panels you have been doing are amazing. Any tips/references on improving my knowledge of composition and perspective? What do you think about as you lay your pencil on the drawing paper? what goes through your mind?
*STANDARD DISCLAIMER* I’m not handing down life lessons or trying to assert that there’s a ‘correct way’ to draw. I’m just trying to make perspective more approachable for thems that want to tackle it.
Okay. Let’s do this.
1. Understand what perspective is and what it’s for. Stay away from rulers while you get comfortable.
Everyone struggles with perspective because 1. it’s not well or widely taught and 2. artists tend to see linear perspective as a set of rules rather than a set of tools.
Linear perspective is a TOOL we use to create and depict SPACE. That’s it. That’s all it is. Your goal is not to draw in ‘accurate linear perspective.’ Stay away from the ruler and precision for as long as you can. Your goal is to create the illusion of three-dimensional space on a two-dimensional surface. Perspective is just a tool to help you construct and correct that space.
2. Know in your bones that you can ONLY learn to draw in perspective through physical practice. There is no other way.
Grab some paper and draw with me. If you match me drawing for drawing you will be more fluent in linear perspective and spatial drawing by the end of this post. Unfortunately if you don’t, you won’t be.
3. Sketch around in rough perspective. NO RULERS.
So let’s make some simple space. let’s start with a two dimensional surface…
K. We have a flat, 2D surface. Let’s create some depth by putting a vanishing point in the middle, and having parallel lines converge towards it. Make a gridded plane inside that space.
Good. Let’s make that space meaningful by adding a dude and a road or something. (Again, parallel ‘depth lines’ will converge into the vanishing point along the horizon)
And now we have the rough illusion of some space. I didn’t use any rulers, and it’s not perfectly accurate, but we got our depth from that vanishing point right in the middle of the page. And since we have a little dude in there, we’ve got human scale, which allows us to gauge the size of the space we’ve created. Gives it meaning.
You need people or cars or some recognizable, human-scale THING in there as a frame of reference or your space won’t mean much to your viewer. Watch. We can make that same basic space a whole lot bigger like this:
Same vanishing point in the same place, completely different scale, and a totally different feeling of space. Cool, right?
3. Sketch around in rough perspective MORE. STAY LOOSE.
See what sort of spaces and feelings you can create with vanishing points and gridded planes on a post-it or something. Super small, super rough. Feel it out. Pick a vanishing point or lay out a grid in perspective, and MAKE SOME SPACE. Do it. Draw, I don’t know, a lady and her dog in a desert. I’ll do it, too.
Good job. LOOK AT YOU creating the illusion of space! This is how you’ll thumbnail and plan anything you want to draw in space. All of my drawings start this way. I think about how I want the viewer to feel and then play around with space and composition until I find something that works.
Once you have a sketch you like, and space that you feel, THEN you can take out the ruler and make it more accurate and convincing.
4. Draw environments from life.
I cannot stress this enough. Draw the world around you, try to draw the shapes and angles as you see them, and you will ‘get’ how and why perspective is used. Use something permanent so that you’ll move fast and commit. I usually use black prismacolor pencil.
You’ll learn or reinforce something with every drawing. I learned a lot about multiple vanishing points from this drawing:
Learned from the receding, winding space I tired to draw here:
Layered, interior spaces:
You get the idea.
Life drawing will also help you develop your own shorthand and language for depicting textures, materials, details, natural and architectural features, etc. Do it. Do it all the time. Go to pretty or interesting places just to draw them.
Take a second and just draw a quick sketch of whatever room you’re in.
5. Perspective in formal Illustration: apply what you’ve learned.
1. I always start with research. For this particular location I looked at Angkor Wat.
2. Once I had enough reference, I did a bunch of little thumbnail sketches with a very loose sense of space and picked the one I liked best.
3. Scanned the thumbnail and drew a little more clearly over it. Worked out the rough space before using formal perspective.
4. Reinforced the space with formal perspective. I dropped in pre-made vanishing points over my drawing. If I were drawing in real media here’s where I’d get out the ruler to sketch in some accurate space.
5. Drew the damn thing. Because I do my research, draw from life, and am comfortable drawing in perspective, I can wing it. I just sort of ‘build’ the ruins freehand in the space I’ve established, keeping it more or less accurate, experimenting and playing with details along the way. I erase a lot, too, both in PS and when drawing in pencil. Keeps it fun for me.
And that’s what I know about composition and perspective. If you want more formal instruction on perspective and it’s uses, you can use John Buscema’s How to Draw Comics the Marvel Way. Or If you want to get really intense about it, Andrew Loomis can help you
I drew this Bizarro Sephiroth (from the boss battle in Final Fantasy VII, you remember) in Sketchbook Pro 6, it was about 70 minutes. Here’s a sped-up video of the process!
Afterwards I added some quick colour overlays in Photoshop and drew a hint of his other arm in there.
I’ve been using a couple of Sketchbook Pro brushes by one of my favourite concept artists, the amazing Calum Alexander Watt. You can download the same set and watch some of his process here. I feel like I learn so much just from looking at his work, and especially from watching his videos. So that kind of inspired me to post my own video, even though I’m just beginning to learn this program!
I didn’t want to do a voiceover (my dental hygienist yesterday said I was “nasally”) so here are some notes about what I’m doing:
- This was just a sketch with no background or action, and I didn’t even get creative with the pose. Pretty simple stuff… so I didn’t mess around too much with creating a composition. I just started! If this was “for” something, like a cover, I’d do a fairly precise drawing first.
- Here’s the reference I was using:
- I love digital painting because you can paint dark on light OR light on dark with equal ease. Meaning you can start with a dark form and build up the highlights, then put more shadows on, then put more highlights on, then put more shadows on, etc… it means you can go in without a plan of action, haha.
- I only used one brush for this- a big soft watercolour brush with a lot of pressure sensitivity, so I can generally enlarge it just by pressing harder instead of messing with the brush controls.
- The button on my Cintiq pen is set to bring up the eyedropper, and I’m using that to pick up the colours I want. I’m choosing colours from the painting itself rather than from the colour wheel/palette.
- I don’t use a ton of layers. On my layers palette to the right, you can see the main painting on the bottom, and the layer that I’m using on top of it. I create a new layer for each bit that I paint, and merge it down when I feel confident about it.
- at 4:04 I’m flipping the image to make sure everything on the face is aligned okay
- at 4:53 I’m selecting his head, copying it to a new layer, and shrinking it to the size I want. I like to do this as a new layer so the background is still behind it, filling in any gaps left behind after shrinking the shape. It’s easier to blend in the new small head now. Although I forgot to blend in the line where it joins his neck. That’s ok, it’s a tendon or whatever.
- around 6:05 I’m painting the “Jenova hat” on a new layer, then I make that layer invisible so I can fix the horn underneath it. Then I go back to the Jenova Hat, complete it, and erase the bit that was covering the horn.
- Bright white highlights are a nice finishing touch! Don’t use them everywhere, though!
You can also get this amazing Battle of the Bands collectors cover of ARCHIE #650 by Fiona Staples at your local comic shop today!