Saturday, May 24, 2008

Puttin' The Two Sticks Together!

If you're wondering how I came up with that title, watch this


Bradley said...

Hi Mark, I'm a 14 year old in the U.S. and want some advice.
I am currently reading an Andrew Loomis book (Successful Drawing) and a book on perspective (I have all the Andrew Loomis books in .pdf). Is self-teaching sufficient for people who want to become great artists? Can you recommend anymore books for me?

Mark Chong said...

Hey Bradley,

Nice to know you're getting an early start. I've found that great art teachers are usually good artists, but good artists are not usually good teachers. Putting information into a book makes it easy to acquire and makes it permanent, but it doesn't necessarily improve it.

I have one of Loomis' books, and I've read several others, and I have no shortage of drawing books. Unfortunately, I can't really recommend one that stands out in particular as the one that catapulted me forwards into understanding.

Most drawing books I picked up were good in the sense that they were inspiring examples of good artists, but they were often infuriatingly vague or they don't approach the subject from the viewpoint of someone who's never drawn before. They used too many words like "style" and "aesthetic" and "spirit" and "soul" -- things you can't get from mushing pigment onto paper! They cannot be touched, and they can't be bought or seen.

Most artists I meet just don't talk about the problems that plagued them and what they did to fix it. They don't speak of what they're trying to do in a painting even though they do disclose their methods. It's not easy to connect their skills and actions with what they're trying to do.

The best way to learn is to first find out what you need to do, in specific terms! Not: "I want to draw a great picture." How about: "I want my drawings to be more CONVINCING!" Now we can go about trying to discover what makes a drawing convincing. Now, about that book on perspective... It may include many different rules and regulations on perspective, but hopefully it will explain why perspective is important.

Not that a book should say that "perspective will make your images more convincing" but rather it should say something like this:

"We draw on flat paper. Our drawings are FLAT! This is no good! We need to find a way to fool our viewers into thinking that what we're drawing has depth, and while we're at it, maybe we should find a way to fool ourselves into thinking the paper has depth, so that we may better understand how we want our viewer to see our images.

When we manage to convey the illusion that one object is closer than another, or that an object is sitting a certain distance away from us, and if we can control that sense of distance to a precise degree, then we have learnt something useful! After all, drawings are illusions.

Whether the drawing is a convincing illusion of objects sitting at varying distances behind the flat surface of the page, or a convincing illusion of flat scribbles sitting on the flat surface of the page is up to our mastery of perspective."

Find what you're trying to do, in certain terms. Find how it improves the image. Find out what the consequences of neglecting it are. Now you can try to find ways to deal with the problem, find ways of controlling it in every possible situation, find ways of incorporating it into your drawing process, and find ways to remember to do it every single time!

The thing that a potential great artist has that others do not is the capacity to teach oneself not only from books, but from the analysis of one's own objectives and the obstacles that stand the way!

Best of luck! And brains! =D

- Mark Chong

David said...

I understand perspetive pretty well from a theoretical point of view. I know how to derive a projection matrix from a 3D scene into a 2D plane. I've programmed a raytracer. But I find drawing objects with perspective on-the-fly on paper or tablet, relying only on intuition and vanishing-point tricks quite challenging. It reminds me school: I understand the theory perfectly well but I just can't work out the exercises... I find your morning crazy-boxes warm-up very hard to do, but fun nervertheless.

By the way I think you're an amazing teacher, Mark. You speak a language I understand. This is something I've been hoping to find for quite a while. Well, my native language is French, anyway I really mean it. Thanks for doing that. I appreciate a lot and I'll be following.