Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Sorry, no comic tomorrow. I've been cleaning all weekend and making pierogis for the past two evenings to feed the family tomorrow. I'm bushed and my hands hurt. Since the page is partially done, it will likely be up before the end of the week.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Hi there! The comic will be up later tonight. Half my usual comic-making time has been consumed by Christmas-related madness. Can you believe that Christmas is a week away? I assure you it came as the greatest of surprises to me. And yet, it's on the same damn day EVERY YEAR.

This year, I'm dealing with it by faking my own death. Please don't tell anyone. IT WILL BE OUR SECRET. Wink wink.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Okay, this has just taken the #1 spot on my List of Things I Need to Own. It's an autonomous paintball turret! I don't know what nefarious use I'd put it to (apart from getting myself fired from my job) but it would be awesome to have one.

Also, it's interesting to note that walking through a field full of rabbits bears a disturbing resemblance to walking through a field full of crickets.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

This is perhaps not my best-written page ever, but at least I'm happy with the art.


Read Evil Diva! It's cute! (Stole the link from Josh Lesnick).

Also also:

Disapproving rabbits disapprove. This is why I've always liked rabbits so much. The attitude.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Drawing from Your Head

About once a year I get the urge to write a semi-helpful art essay for newer artists and post it to my dA journal. Since I now have a blargh and I need to keep it fed, I might as well repost it here.

Drawing from Your Head, or "Hey -- Why Doesn't This Look Like I Imagined It?"

So you're a newer artist and you're pretty good, as long as you've got a picture in front of you to copy from. And you have this COOL idea for a monster deer with stars shining through its hide and coral branches sprouting from its head instead of antlers. Unfortunately, you don't have a photo of one of those in front of you -- but you see the picture in your head SO CLEARLY and you're sure you can draw it! You get to scribbling away and the inevitable happens -- you draw something that doesn't look anything like you imagined it. You toss the picture into your wastebasket in disappointment and question your abilities. What's going on? All those other artists just sit there and knock out picture after perfect picture. Why not you?

First off, your brain is not a photo album. It's good at all sorts of clever tricks, including giving you the impression that you're imagining something solid while actually glossing over all sorts of details. Like, say you're dreaming that you just told the funniest joke in the world, and in your dream you're laughing like crazy. Then you wake up and you try to remember the joke and it's not all that funny. In fact, it's not funny at all. That's because your brain didn't produce a funny joke, it produced the feeling of something being funny. So when you look at that deer picture in your head, your brain might be producing the impression of "deer" and "coral", but it's not actually giving you anything real to work with.

So how do those other artists do it?

Most of them don't go around telling you "this isn't like I imagined it". And if they do, half the time you're not paying attention anyway. "This picture looks so good!" you think. "Who cares if it's not exactly how the artist imagined it?" That's an important point, though -- drawing from imagination and having it look like what you imagined is not automatic or natural for the vast majority of artists. You're trying to do something difficult, failing at it is not a sign that you should give up drawing forever.

Next, your brain is going to fail you unless you have a photographic memory. In order to draw something well, you need to know all the details of its appearance. When you imagine that deer's pose you need to know what shape its head is, how its legs attach to the body, how wide the coral branches are and how tall. You need to know how you're going to get that glow around its body. If you've developed an artist's eye for noticing and remembering details, you might be able to observe many of the things you need to in your mental image before it changes or fades away. If not, you're going to have to figure out all those details before you do the finished piece.

Of course, most of the time we don't actually know all the details and never did. If you've never spent much time looking at deer then your brain isn't going to know that a deer's head has such and such dimensions and such and such a shape. Just because you can imagine something doesn't mean you know anything about it. Imagine page 33 from the last novel you read. I bet you can see a page in your mind. Unless you happen to have a photographic memory or happened to memorize that book, you're not going to be able to read the words off that exact page merely because you can imagine it.

There is no shame in getting reference and looking things up. Newer artists hate to do this because they don't think they have to. More experienced artists know that if you don't put serious time into figuring out what things look like, you're likely to end up with dogs that look like goats. Newer artists think that means they don't have talent. Experienced artists know that if they don't want dogs that look like goats, and if they have to look at photos to achieve that then by God they're going to look at photos. Nobody knows whether you looked at a photo or not, unless you tell them. They only know whether your dog looks like a dog or not.

So: when you have a mental image, try to figure out what the important bits are (deer in a certain pose, stars, coral, night sky, etc.) Then plan your drawing out. Instead of trying to use that mental image as a photo to copy from, use it as inspiration. Think about the basics of art. Is there a background behind the deer? Rather than trying to copy it out of your head, use your knowledge of perspective to set it up. Draw out a few different, simple versions of the image. Would it be better if you were looking up at the deer from below or straight on? Should it be framed by trees? After you've decided on the basic composition, look for reference. Do some studies of deer and coral. Work out some colour schemes. When you feel ready, do up a composite and if you like how it looks then do a finished image.

It sounds like a lot more work than just closing your eyes and scribbling, but this is the way many (if not most) artists work. Just like most people will write better essays if they research the topic and write an outline first, so most people will draw a better picture if they plan it out first. And when you're done it might not look *exactly* what it looked like in your head, but you will have done everything you can in order to make the best picture you can. A good artist might actually make a *better* picture by planning it out first. They might decide that their mental image of a pose was good but the lighting and colours were boring. In planning things out, they might hit on a colour combination they like much better, or decide that giraffes are cooler than deer, or whatever.