Posts Tagged ‘drawing’

Ten years ago Neil Gaiman gave a brilliant commencement speech which became knows as the “Make good art” speech. It’s on YouTube. It is thoughtful and funny and wise and not just for artists. Go watch it.

But he was talking to graduating art students who are presumably already good at making art. They just need to go forth into the world and keep doing what they already do and get better.

What about those who are just starting out and who are not at the point of making good or even consistent art?

Last night I watched livestream of the countdown to the end of the Brandon Sanderson Kickstarter.  For a good part of the two hour live stream, the artist Steve Argyle was the special guest.  He is the artist for one of the books included in the Kickstarter, and he spent a fair amount of time talking about process, and much of what he said doesn’t apply only to drawing and painting.

Someone asked for advice about learning to draw when you can’t even draw a straight line.  I was not surprised when his recommendation was to just draw.  Accept that it will be frustrating, but just start drawing.  Do a little bit each day.  If you try to do some big marathon session, you will only be discouraged and quit.  He also recommended drawing the same subject – person, object, pet, landscape, whatever – over and over and over.  If you do, you will keep discovering new things about that subject, which I thought sounded really cool (as well as making a lot of sense).

Someone asked about reference, and he mentioned that insects were some of his reference for armor drawings.  He wanted something more organic.

Then he talked about about figuring out how to draw something in the first place — how to even get started transforming the idea in your head into lines and shapes on the page.  He referenced the artist Iain McCaig as the source of this approach.  McCaig has some YouTube videos but also interviews and classes.  His particular art isn’t quite my thing, but his enthusiasm definitely appeals to me.  He reminds me a little bit of knitting designer Stephen West as far as making challenging undertakings fun and accessible to anyone and everyone who is willing to take the chance and put in the effort.

Argyle recommended breaking down what you want to draw into components.  Write all of those down.  Then look around the room (or wherever you are) and pick out random objects.  Write those down.  Take elements of those objects and apply them to the thing that you want to draw.

For example, say you want to draw a dragon.  What does your dragon need?  Horns?  Wings?  A breath power (which I am assuming means fire but I am sure could mean other things)? Tail? Scales? Four legs?

Great.  So you look around the room at random things – a fish sculpture, a can of energy drink, a lamp, a coffee mug.  Then you take elements from each thing and use those to make a part of the dragon.

The fish sculpture is curved and smooth but kind of scaly and iridescent, so you use those elements for the horns.  The horns don’t look like fish, but they are iridescent, smooth, and curved, with a bit of scaled texture.  Maybe the scales are only at the base of the horns where they meet the head of the dragon.

Then the textured looking graphic design on the can looks like shark skin, and the font looks kind of torn, so maybe the wings are a little worse for wear and have more of a thick, heavy skin than any scales.

And so on.

I think there are lessons in there for writing stories.

It was all fascinating. I would have happily listened to Steve Argyle for two hours.

Click this link to visit his web site.

Be inspired. Start drawing. Even if you can’t draw a straight line. ESPECIALLY if you can’t draw a straight line.

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It’s getting late, and it is a work night, so I need to get to sleep, but I am going to sneak in a quick post and hope that I can stay on track because even though I am going to post about what I was planning to post about, there are other things running around in my head which are trying to take over the post (and are apparently encouraging me to try out a Marcel Proust imitation).

In the book Sourdough by Robin Sloan, the great, unsolvable problem at the robotics company which employs the heroine Lois is the “egg problem” — teaching a robotic arm to properly crack an egg into a bowl.


When Lois decides to scale up her bread making enterprise, she enlists the help of a robotic arm, and there is a wonderful chaotic scene in which the arm recreates her own initial breadmaking attempts with great accuracy. The flour sprays everywhere. Dough ends up on the counter, the floor, the cabinets as she tries to configure proper, effective stirring technique. Ultimately she tackles the egg problem, and, as so many great discoveries are, the solution is an example of less being more.

Today I learned that some fine folks in the field of robotics are teaching (read: programming) robots to make pizza dough!

To really get the whole picture, I think you need to read the book and the article, but the article is shorter, so maybe start there.

And I need to stop here. Otherwise I will be up much later writing much longer about robots and technology which will somehow segue into electricity and waste, and then I will make an abrupt leap into being inspired by an artist talking about process which led me to think that there were lessons in there about story building which could be used for Camp NaNoWriMo, which officially kicks off in about 25 minutes.

Posts could be interesting for the next few days. Or maybe just rambling. Time will tell.

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