Eyeballs, eyeballs, eyeballs
Hofan's systematic adventures into realistic sketching
Recently I have begun to study eyeballs.
I don’t quite know how I fell down this rabbit-hole…. I’ve always loved drawing, but never quite had the discipline to be technical about it. You see, I am predominantly feeling person; and as such, my art - up until now - has been more Rothko than da Vinci.
But the other reason is because I have never devoted the time to realism. I mean, why go there when there is photography ?
Answer: Because without it, my art will never have any range. Picasso was know to have said, “It took me four years to paint like Raphael, but a lifetime to paint like a child.” But kindergarten paintings are a dime a dozen, but Picasso’s influence in the art world is now enshrined in history. As such, this rite-of-passage of accurate draftsmanship seems quite key to a growth of any serious artist who wishes to go beyond repeated improvisations.
I think behind all this is a deep love of anime. We never had a TV in our household, but occasionally we would get a chance to spend the weekend at my cousins’ where lo and behold, we could watch TV. Aside from watching “The Sound of Music” on VHS tape over and over again, and the afternoon serials like《魔神英雄傳》, one piece that made an indelible mark on me was the full length feature, “Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind.” At some point in my life, it made me go: “I want to make something like that.” I think it was partly the freedom of animation, where it seemed like one could actualise the craziness of one’s inner world into a form that could be shared. These days of course, the special effects technology in movie-making has completely blurred the line between realism and the fantastical; but growing up, animation seemed to have the freedom that movie-making didn’t. As long as you could draw it, it was valid.
Back to my eyeballs.
So this whole side-quest started because I saw a friend use a software called Procreate, and it seemed like something that was easy to use. Hahahaha.. I was conned into this because I thought it would be easy. And it is true, it is a very powerful software that can render illustrations into a very life-like manner in a very short time.
Here’s what I could do following a video tutorial on day two of using the software
Impressive, right ? But producing this was not a creative process. It was a copying process. It would be if Van Gogh had pre-mixed your paints and showed you where to dab. Of course, there is a little bit of spatial judgment involved, but the level of difficulty is like those meals where they ship you all the ingredients pre-cut and pre-mixed and you just have to throw it into a wok/ toss the salad and serve on a beautiful plate. This, and the ability to create a meal, are two different things.
(It was however, completely valuable in helping me understand the software, and I throughly recommend these sort of tutorial videos to anyone starting up. I’ve compiled a list of my favourites below.)
As I dove further into the video tutorials, I began to realise that I really wanted to create, and in order to create I really needed to go back to the basics. If I wanted to draw people from imagination, I needed to go back to anatomy. I needed to understand perspective, light source, etc. Not because it is my ultimate goal to draw hyper-realistic figures, but only through this understanding could I go beyond copying photos or references. And technically, improving one’s draftsmanship is good because there’s an objective standard by which you can judge your own hand-eye coordination and your ability to analyse, memorise and reproduce shapes.
At the back of my mind of course, I do wonder: will this diet of technical drawing result in bad habits ? By drawing the standard Loomis head from all angles will my understanding of the human head become robotic ? So even though I’m using a lot of modelling software that doesn’t account for the complexity and range of variation in human bodies, I am aware that this is a stage in my development. I know that I am vibrant, alive; and there will come a point where I will break this mould. But I first need to build something up so that I have something to break. I need to give myself choice, so that I have range.
Standing on the Shoulders of Giants
Here’s a list of things resources that I have found helpful....
Proko with Stan Prokopenko - I started on the youtube channel, but ended up actually signing up for the Portrait Drawing & Figure Drawing fundamentals. There’s something nice and systematic about following a course.
Magic Poser - 3D modelling with human figures. You can manipulate it to decide the pose and the light source. Gender and weight changes requires a one-off payment but the general male body is free. Web browser version (lite) here.
Krenz 繪畫地圖：一節課建立對繪畫學習的正確認知 I found this Taiwanese teacher because people kept recommending his cube rotation exercises. Here in his 3 hour lecture he gives a very systematic outline of what he considers to be essential to learn drawing accurately. (with English subtitles)
"Classic Human Anatomy in Motion: The Artist's Guide to the Dynamics of Figure Drawing" - actually this is too detailed, but the eyeball sketches at the top of the page are from there.
When it comes to procreate tutorials:
Art with Flo - this introduces you to a lot of key concepts to procreate very fast. I recommend starting with her Moonscape and then the Goldfish tutorial but there are many others videos in her channel.
If you are into watercolour, I highly recommend Calvin at DrifterStudio's channel and his watercolour papers / brushes. If you are willing to invest, the support for his products is really amazing.