11 October 2009

[art] How To Draw A Good Looking Eye

2232.Here's looking at you, kid.

I find a lot of people who aspire to draw and are disappointed at the result become disappointed because they are not drawing what they see, but what they think they see.

Here's an example. Say you want to draw an eye (go ahead, say it. I'll wait … okay. Back.). You might want to try it now. How did you do it? Did you think of eyes you have seen, remember what  you saw, or did you put down an up-curve, a down-curve, and a couple of circles in the middle?

If you did, you did what I think of as iconic drawing. I have a theory, based on my own experience in drawing, that what we do when we draw things from life like faces and rocks and trees and such is we all have this visual library of icons that we "draw" on when we want to draw something. Before we learn how to see things as an artist does, though, that visual library overrides whatever skill we have, and we either cough up the icon or some odd hybrid of the icon and what we see.

This is not a sin. As a matter of fact, as creatures who have to survive on a visual level, I think it's a pure survival skill. But it's something that will sabotage you as an artist, because if you have to try and try and try to override your visual librarian, you'll get discouraged. That librarian is very good at its job, and it doesn't lay down placidly and take a break. Maybe it heard there's a recession on, who knows.

This is why drawing from life is something everyone who aspires to art should attempt. It's painful at first. I remember the first few times, how it felt to force myself to make the motions (life drawing is a physical thing) and how it felt to disconnect from that visual librarian (in the end it was a necessity; the librarian wasn't writing my grade for the course, the instructor was, so the instructor had veto power). Also, for a lot of people, it's awkward standing in a room of strangers, looking at this nekkid stranger come up and then learning to draw what you see, learning the kinesthetic motions. But then you get in the zone and it's pure, and you realize you're learning the same thing that artists over a thousand years do, and it's liberating.

I told you all that to tell you this: Manga-ka Mark Crilley has a great short video I wanted to share (via here) that combines the two. It stars from observations from life and puts the visual librarian at their service, instead of the other way around, but even though it uses the icon library for bits, the whole thing is based on life drawing observations and experience (as the artist himself makes plain at the front of the thing). If anyone should know about drawing eyes, it's a Manga-ka, but the life drawing referent makes sure it all stays true and realistic:

There you have it. Realism and knowing short-cuts. You probably learned a quick skill or two if you followed him.

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1 comment:

pril said...

my mom always drew really fantastic, perfect eyes. Sometimes faces, but she had pages and pages of eyes drawn. They were everywhere in the house. She doodled them while she was on the phone.