Today on Shrinemaiden.org, I was talking with a gentleman who was having trouble making progress with his art. That is, he was stagnating--drawing every day, yet not getting better. I guessed--correctly, as it turns out--that his problem was sameness
. Line drawing, anime style, #2 pencil, day in, day out. How did I know? Because that used to be me.
Some artists can put pen to paper and draw from nothing, just put down a couple eyes and scrit-scrit-scrit, next thing you know, there's a cute girl where once there was naught but white space. That's not how I operate, and in my view it's not how beginners should learn.
We've all fantasized about being able to beam images straight from our mind onto paper. But if we could, we'd quickly find out that our mental images aren't as precise as we give them credit for. Why? Because our brains are wired to retain only enough information about an object to recognize it when we see it. From an evolutionary standpoint, this makes sense; 99.9% of individuals will never need to know more about a hand than 'it's got five fingers on it', and any extraneous information about the makeup of a hand is wasted brain storage.
For the other 0.1% of us, though, our task as growing artists is to train up our mental images.
That's why we must start from fruits and tables and simple shapes that are actually in front of us--because it's shapes that make up the things we see. Experienced artists can draw without a sketch, can skip the steps I'm about to show you, precisely because they already have a profound understanding of fundamentals, how a given configuration of shapes will look from a given perspective in given lighting. Or consider Galileo, a trained classical artist--and it's likely that artist's understanding of light and shadow helped him discover the mountains and valleys of the Moon.
That's what is meant by the artist's eye
All that to say that this is the first half of my drawing process, from concept to lines, as I showed said gentleman today. It relies on a buildup of shapes because I don't have the artist's eye yet--but I post it in hopes that it helps some of you who don't have that mastery either.What is meant by grasping the fundamentals is to see a cute girl, or a dinosaur, or a house not as a collection of lines, but as an amalgam of simpler shapes. Although a drawing is made of lines, it's not the lines that you're drawing. As the above linked shadow exercise shows, sometimes you can do away with lines entirely--because it's ultimately volume that you're trying to show, the peaks where light gathers and the valleys where light can't get in. As an illustrative example, and these links are slightly NSFW:
I start with a basic stick figure to get the pose down. At this point I'm not worried about details at all, as long as the joints are in the right places and proportions are about correct (torso and arms 2 heads long, each half of the leg a little less). For further guidance, I draw in a ball and plane for the head, a cut-off egg for the rib cage, and a couple angled ovals at crotch level to represent the pelvic bones.
Second, I start adding volume to my stick figure. In this, art books provide useful practice - these studies come from Loomis's Figure Drawing for All It's Worth.
Only here, with the underlying form, pose and shapes laid out, do I concern myself with hair and eyes and other details.
e: Finished product.
(And yes, I'll post that picture--later, when the alternate version is done. Simul-post on dA and Pixiv, watch out for it.)