Welcome to Sketch Round-Up! This will be a place for a couple of artists to trade ideas and share them with anyone who might find that interesting.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Round-up Review: Drawing People by Joumana Medlej

Today I want to talk about another jewel in my art book collection, called Drawing People. I'm sure you've seen a title like this many times before. This time, it's a slender, spiral-bound book (a standard paperback version is also available) with a colorful cover which hints at the contents inside. But don't let the thickness of the book fool you. This is not your typical 'How to Draw' book by a long shot. Sure, it has advice on proportions for face and body, tips on how to draw muscles and many other of the tried-and-true basics most art books have, but it's the overall approach to the process which makes this book stand out from among the rest.

First of all, the author begins with some sage advice on the artistic process itself. She discusses a method for developing drawing skills and how theory and observation work together to create the finished work. The advice is definitely helpful if you want some tips on how to focus your efforts for maximum benefit.

And now, let's take a look at some of her advice on anatomy - like how to draw hands and feet. These rank among the most difficult things to draw for just about any artist, but Joumana makes it easy with a very thorough explanation of the mechanics behind these two intricate parts. She goes into great detail to describe not only how the hand works, but what happens when it does various things, like curling around an object. See the sample below:


Tell me you didn't learn at least one good tip for drawing hands just from reading this. I dare you.

For drawing feet, the details are just as involved. Clenched toes. Padding on the sole of the foot. Feet at various angles. The shape of men's feet as compared to women's. The angles of the toes for different ethnic types. It's all here.

Did you stop to look at your bare foot to see what angle your toes are at? Bet you did. I did...

Then there's a detailed discussion about the flexibility of the body. It's one thing to know that the arm is joined at the shoulder. It's another to understand its range of movement so you don't draw an unnatural pose. Joumana describes how many of the trickier poses work, like a full split or one person trapping another in an arm lock. And if you want to create a pose that's not covered in this section, you will certainly learn enough about the body's flexibility to work it out on your own.

Following this is a section on emotions and expressions. Again, Joumana doesn't disappoint with her discourse on the subject. Her emotional 'color wheel' covers an extensive array of expression, with pointers to how the features are involved.  She also touches upon additional details, such as body gesture and how it relates to facial expression. Armed with this knowledge, you can unify both to create visual impact in an image.

Then the author moves on to aspects like aging and how it affects both face and body. Attention to detail on this level can make or break an image. Your old woman isn't going to look convincing if she's carrying herself like a teenager. There are other aspects you won't find in other books, like drawing babies. There really aren't a lot of books that cover this in depth. Most have something concerning a baby's height compared to a child and an adult but not a whole lot more than that. I personally think that's why you don't see a lot of babies in illustrated works, especially comics. How many times have you seen an infant in a comic book and it just looks like a tiny adult with stubby arms and legs? The information in this section can help change all that in your own work when the subject arises.

Wait, there's still more. The Catalog of Human Features covers body types, head shapes, noses, lips, hair types, hair colors, eye colors, skin tones - everything you need to create a multitude of different looks. Here's a sampling of what's covered in this section:

And last, but not least, the section which really sets this book apart from the rest - Human Types. This section covers a broad range of ethnicity for people from around the world with each entry covering facial details, hair color, eye color and additional insights for each. I think this is what makes the book truly shine. It takes the artist beyond simply changing the color of a figure's hair, skin and eyes to create a different ethnic look.

In conclusion, if you want to draw not just people, but truly diverse people, this is the book for you. Following Joumana's advice is the difference between looking under the hood of a car and saying 'This is the engine, and the wires are here and there' and being told 'This is the fuel injector and it pumps fuel through a small nozzle under high pressure to force the fuel into the airstream.' The first statement will let you identify a car engine. The second will send you on your way to becoming a mechanic, if you're so inclined. 

Do you want to be an art mechanic? Then buy this book. It won't disappoint you. You can find it at Lulu.com. Or, to see more of the amazing Joumana at work, you can visit her site at Cedarseed.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Fun With Copics

I have Copic markers.  And for the longest time, they've been sitting on a shelf of my computer desk.  I've sat and watched all kinds of tutorials on how to use them, and kept telling myself "Yeah, I'm going to use these soon!"  And then I do lots of...nothing.

I guess I figure they look too pretty to use.  Or something.  I think I've always done that in some way or another, buying nifty art supplies because they're popular and then I just sit them aside because some silly notion inside me believes I'll get proficient through osmosis.  But that's not how it works, however much I'd like to believe it.

So I went through my collection and picked out the colors most people use for flesh, chose some random colors for hair, eyes and lips, and simply started playing.  Now, normally Prismacolor pencils have been my medium of choice for just about everything, so this marker business is a whole new ball of wax.  Makes me wonder why I invested in Copics.  Maybe I'll blame it on The Marker [see first blog entry ever].


Copics have a learning curve.  Blending color is a process that I won't necessarily call slow, but it is methodical.  The process is much like watercolors, working from light to dark.  Type of paper makes a big difference in how the colors blend.  I was using Strathmore Bristol 100 lb. smooth for the image I was working on, as shown below:

The hair was done with a 'feathering' technique using the brush end of a Copic Sketch marker.  And before I continue, here's a brief rundown on a Copic Sketch marker and what the big deal is.  A Copic Sketch is a double-ended marker with a brush tip on one end and a marker-style chisel end on the other.

[photo taken from McCallister's Art Supplies]

The brush tip is the end used for most detailing for obvious reasons.  The feathering technique involves taking the brush tip and touching it to the paper, lifting up as the stroke is made.  The video capture below shows some examples of how the end result will look:

[Full video can be found on YouTube]

The finer strokes are what I used for the hair.  I first applied a light base color for the highlights and built up the details gradually, using The Marker and the base color back and forth.  Re-infusing The Marker with fresh ink made for the darker accents.  I think the hair was mostly successful, but laying down smooth flesh tones was another matter entirely.  The flaws were much more evident when I scanned the image at 300 dpi.  But I'm confident these problems will be worked out with practice.

Colors used in the drawing were as follows:

HAIR - E33 [Sand], E37 [Sepia - specifically The Marker That Will Not Die]
SKIN - E000 [Pale Fruit Pink], E00 [Skin White], E11 [Bareley Beige], E21 [Baby Skin Pink]
EYES - BG10 [Cool Shadow], G07 [Nile Green]
LIPS - R21 [Sardonyx]
Lashes done with Faber-Castell PITT Artist Pen, type "B" [brush]
Eye Highlights done with White Sakura Gelly Roll  
Stay tuned for more Copic craziness, to come soon.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Slackeroonies...! Well, not entirely...

Okay, so my last post was in March...that does qualify for slacking.  However, I'm pleased to note that I was actively engaged in an art project recently, as in end-of-June recent.  I was asked to create a design for the cover of a program booklet for an anime-oriented con.  A request was made to give it a Leji Matsumoto look and feel.  In case you don't know who that fellow is, he's the creator of several popular anime stories, among them being Galaxy Express 999 and Captain Harlock.  An example of his work is below:

In a nutshell, he's an epic space opera kind of fellow.  So I thought up a basic concept of a pilot, his computer AI which takes on the form of a woman, and the unusual ship he flies, which is called the Space Bird.  My initial rough pencil came out like this:

Expanding on the idea required me to do some research on Mr. Matsumoto's style to get the appropriate 'look and feel' for the image.  The Pilot, the girl and the bird were each rendered as separate black and white line art images.  These images were then scanned, sized, retouched and colored.  The girl required several layers for the many aspects of her costume, which is kind of funny since she appears semi-transparent in the final image and some of the detail is lost as a result. But it turned out well and the reaction was very positive.  For those of you who are curious, here it is:

Needless to say, there's a long series of steps to get from the initial pencil to the final product.  In my next entry, I'll try doing a step-by-step explanation of the five W's as I develop the image that I will post.  And I'll try not to take several months in between entries.  Promise.

Thursday, March 15, 2012


Oy.  I just took a gander at the last time I blogged here.  Has it really been that long...?

Wow, talk about slacking.  Well, not entirely slacking.  During the time I've been absent, I've done the following:

1) Repaired a 40" Samsung flatscreen TV for a friend.  It wouldn't power on, and after some online research I discovered that the problem was due to some bad capacitors on the power board.  So we opened the TV up, I removed the power board, ordered and replaced the bad caps, and ta-daa:

Needless to say, my friend is happy and is indulging his BG habit once more.

2) Repaired my old 19" Samsung flatscreen monitor.  I opened it up - mostly out of curiosity after dealing with problem #1 above.  It was actually more difficult to take apart than the TV was.  But the problem was similar.  Turns out that Samsung monitors in general seem to have this problem, with bad caps on the power supply board.  Again, ordered replacements, soldered them in, am currently using that very monitor now as i type this blog entry.

3) Refurbished a Dell Inspiron 1501 laptop for one of my goddaughters.  It was having heat issues (a common problem for Dell laptops in general).  Cleaned out the fan, made some other fixes, sent it back just this Tuesday.

3) Refurbished a Compaq Desktop computer for a neighbor in my apartment building.  He ordered a Dell computer from one of those catalogs (Fingerhut or something like that), and they charged him an outrageous amount of money for a refurbished dinosaur.  I bought a much better unit from a friend, got it up and running with all the requisite headaches involved.

4) Refurbished a second Compaq computer for a friend who lives across town.  This one just needed a purge of the hard drive.  Seems to be okay now.

But hey, what the heck am I doing, going on like this????

This isn't an electronics repair blog.  It's a sketch blog. 

Seriously, though.  Now that all the tinkering is behind me, I'm eager to get back to the drawing tablet.  In particular, I've been trying to refine my skills with drawing the anatomy.  I've never been happy with my renderings of people.  They tend to leave a lot to be desired, but I think I'm finally beginning to make some headway at last.  Stay tuned for posts of recent sketches, plus a new Fantasy Genesis challenge.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Fantasy Genesis Challenge #1 - Answered (also)

Well, Here's my first official contribution to Sketch Round-Up! (finally!!). I jumped off of Nadine's Fantasy Genesis challenge and this is where I landed.

This was created in Adobe Illustrator, but I wanted a different look from all my recent stuff.

When I purchased my Wacom tablet a while back, it came with a demo version of Corel Painter Essentials 4. I've never really used it much, but I thought it had some nice features. One of them is called an Auto Painter, which is designed to make photos look like some other form of art, such as an oil painting or chalk drawing, among others.

I'm usually not big on just throwing a texture filter on something. I try to use them in unusual ways when I do. But like I said, I'm not too familiar with this program yet, so I just let it do its thing.

Here is an oil painting

...and a chalk drawing.

There are all kind of ways to customize the results and the program has a toolbox filled with a wide and varied array of brushes and styles available. There's anything from a thick wet impasto brush to felt tip markers to chalk to watercolors and more.

Of course, you don't have to import any photo or other art. You can start from scratch. I was really intrigued by how much the tools look so natural and the ease with which they can be used. I am anxious to try some new stuff!

Thanks fer lookin'!


Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Fantasy Genesis Challenge #1 - Answered.

As mentioned in the previous post, the first challenge I picked from the Fantasy Genesis Basic Game system was a Caterpillar/Eel combination.  I did some research and collected images of both creatures for a final image.  I found it interesting and enlightening to see all the varieties of caterpillar out there (note to self: looking at photos of caterpillars too long makes my skin itchy).  Some didn't even look like a caterpillar at all - some actually reminded me of lizards and snakes, much much different from the fat pipe cleaners I'm used to seeing.  The eels, on the other hand, were mostly consistent, a lot like long, scaled ribbons with fins.  But a blend of the two escaped me for a while.  After looking at the pictures and doing some thinking, I came up with I thought was a decent combination.  Unfortunately, I drew it low on the page so I couldn't finish the body.

The tail would taper off to a large fin.  I may try to piece something together to get a full body.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Fantasy Genesis: Challenge #1

As I've already stated in a previous blog post, Fantasy Genesis by Chuck Lukacs is a great book for sparking the imagination to create images of all kinds.  The book uses a game-style system for generating a series of word concepts which in turn are used as references for an illustration idea.  Eric and I were planning to do a challenge series on this blog, choosing a subject and each of us creating our own versions of it.  And what better to use as our source than a concept generated by one of my favorite books?

So I grabbed my dice and a copy of a game sheet, and went to work.  I decided to use the simplest category of Basic for my first 'game'.  Basic has two sets of the categories Animal, Vegetable, Elemental and Tech.  One category from each set is chosen for a Major form and a Minor form, and these define the final concept.  Here's what I got:

By the way, I didn't really have to select just from the Animal category for the forms.  Anything goes if you can find a way to make it work.  I also think the Machine/Saw/Cycle combination could be interesting.  But the Caterpillar/Eel is what I personally chose for my combination this time.  Stay tuned for upcoming work in progress sketches.