DRAWING - THE SHORTHAND OF THE
For some reason, artistic talent is valued by the photo real. I find this amazing. I had a friend who was an amazing artist and he said that all he did was copy photos he had taken of landscapes. Yes, this is fine art. Standards in fine art were set before the invention of the camera. Some people valued the style on top of the art, the brushwork, the personality of the strokes, etc, but much of the freshest art was in sketches. The Impressionists broke the camera valuation, which became "uneducated valuation." People still consider you to be a good artist is what you draw looks like the photo you have copied or the scene that they have seen or see before them. Photo real art takes weeks of hours. By the time it is finished it often lacks any freshness or immediacy that people enjoy with Plein Air painting or sketch work. Don't get me wrong, it is amazing art, but for illustration it takes way too long. Most illustrators develop some signature style or short cuts to help with the deadlines. Some doe caricature or merely indicate at the things which they are illustrating. I wanted to do a more representational style, so I had to learn drawing shorthand.
My problem in "Thorn" was a boy who ages from five years old to twenty. He had a definite feeling in writing, but was not abnormal as an illustration. He had cat eyes, a medium nose, heavy, level eyebrows, a pointed chin and sharp cheeks, and very messy, curly hair. You can see my models here, of which Leonard Whiting (Romeo and Juliet) came very close in some photos, but was very far in other photos. The second from the left was an Icelander who had the right eyes. The far right models had the right chin and Donovan on the right, had the right hair and face shape. I ended up with a blend of Whiting and Donovan, both British types. He also had to be a blend of his parents, who show up in the book.
My other issue was in the sheer volume of drawing. Usually a comic is about 20 spreads, my books are 100 spreads. I could not do fine drawings, inked drawings, macchia drawings, or color drawings because I want to do one book a year. I do layout, backgrounds, writing, text and work with a line editor. Everything is done by hand. Somewhat daunting! I also did not like the heavy inked art in comics for my own work. I thought Manga style might be closer.
When I was first planning the book, I worked up Teig's head in macchia. You can see me
adjusting here a bit in the second step for personality and structure. This shadow
layer is where I would stop if I were doing a comic. It continues in a portrait with
more layers of detail added.
Here is my head in a fairly realistic form. Took several hours to do this little drawing. But it gives a very good indication of personality and a blend of his two parents. He is a boy astronomer, extremely gifted, nerdy, and almost incapable of human social poise. He has a singular attention and comes out of it only during times of stress.
Here in these drawing details you may begin to see the shorthand. The shorthand is the essential structure of the shadows of the face. The lower is a eight point head with very little else except an indication of features. He is young, so the cheeks have more fat, but the essential head is already there. Above, you can see the older Teig, the shadows indicating some stress but also just the essential structure of the nose and cast eye shadows. Shorthand works only if you can use the structure first, not the features. I will show you more below. Here is a sample of 200 pages of Teig.
You WILL have continuity problems without indicating structure. You can see in most of these a bare-boned approach. The shadow of the cheek sharpes as he gets older. His nose gets longer, but the small wings and straight bridge stay there. The sharp, thin lips never change chape except to indicate emotion. I even draw lines around the essential shadows to sharpen them. And, again, you can change media with ease, add color, stylize, do all the after effects with ease and confidence once you have the structure.
One way to find out if the lighting works is to turn up the contrast all the way. You can now see that Natalie looks strange, whereas Ava still has the essentials the make her beautiful.
Here on the right is a demo of how to take a photo and make it into a character. The woman has had her distinctive features averaged and the light has been changed to a front flash. I quickly drew up a drawing of this woman, showing the essential shadows that indicate the features, without changing the lighting, which is from the side with a front flash. She has a lowered septum in her narrow nose and deep-set eyes. Her lip is sharp and the both the lip and the lobes are short with a sharp corner that is always smiling. Rather than focus on the overly dark eyes, I have indicated them with the beautiful sharp lid. She ahd a nice jaw and good cheekbones. As you see from the Assassins picture, they have picked out features.
Here I have taken out the distracting color and adjust the contrast. There is nothing wrong with the Assassins picture, it's just boring. They have averaged the head so that none of the distinctive features show, but also taken out the lighting. The problem here is not this, it's that the features have almost vanished. The full-on lighting makes the picture look fake. It's really awful when used as a drawing reference. I have tried to stylize the woman, keeping here unique features, but using structural shadows to indicate form. But I could draw this woman over and over, spending about ten minutes on each drawing rather than letting the computer do it, or spending hours trying to chase features. Different emphasis. Lesson is know your media. One works for a comic or a graphic treatment, the other for a computer game.
In this sketch of Odetta, you can see again where I am picking out structural shadows. I want the essentials of my eight point head. I want the two shadows cast by the brows, the two shadows cast by the eyes, the nose, the upper lip, the cast shadow of the mouth, and the cast shadow of the head. The other shadows, including feature shadows are of less interest. I exaggerated her photo, and then drew around in red and yellow the cast shadows versus the secondary feature shadows. The shorthand with all drawing is to grasp and draw the underlying structure first and then indicate briefly the features on top.
These pictures should make it clear. The middle drawing captures the shadow then adds in the features. The drawing on the right shadows the features without much in the way of structure.
Here is a sketch of a tree, to show you this shorthand on an easier subject. Draw the basic tree structure: trunk, branches and the leaf shadow. Then work into it. This drawing took about twenty minutes. If you fiddle with leaves, you're in for a long process. Put in the shadow by squinting at the tree, like an impressionist!