Homework #3, and a new book

This past week I have spent time on a handful of "creativity exercises."  I tend to do things from Drawing Lab at home and things from IllustrationClass.com during free moments at work. Despite having the exact same scanner at work and at home, I am more likely to scan at work.

This week's IllustrationClass activity was to draw a robot, pirate, monkey, and ninja using just shapes.  this is harder than you might think since the very nature of a pen or pencil is to create line.  So I would sketch the thing, then trace over that sketch as shapes, then trace again to make more shapey. I made one all black on photoshop.  That was lazy of me -- I should have retraced it in Illustrator and really cleaned it up a bit, then used some colors, then taken it back into Photoshop to color blend with some nice texture.

Meanwhile, I have started in on a new book: One Drawing a Day by Veronica Lawlor. Plenty of reviews out there (here's one with some good photos).  It seems pretty good.  Day one was to draw a still life made up of stuff right around you, using a pretty loose style (semi-continuous line, more looking at the stuff than the paper, etc.).

This is the corner of my desk, right in front of me.

By next week, I should theoretically have six more drawings to post!

On an unrelated note, I went to another bookbinding class last night so I am now ready to make more blank books.


Homework #2

So far so good, but I am not doing quite as much as I had hoped to (maybe about half of my original plan).  I have completed two more activities from Drawing Lab.  One was doing contour line drawing of a giraffe and one was to draw the same dog 20 times on index cards. Both had interesting results.  My giraffe contours were not so hot, but I did get the urge to just draw for a while without looking at the page and I came up with some interesting pictures that way.  The dogs were also not so great, but I did  find that after a while I started experimenting with not caring if the dog looked right or not and then it started getting fun.  See if you can figure out which of these is my favorite.


Bezier Curve Practice

I am pretty excited. It turns out that if you just sit down and try something a few times, especially if you have some good instructions, stuff gets done (as opposed to how much gets done when you just read about stuff)!  I admitted in my last post that I really couldn't use the pen tool well in Illustrator.  It's hard to explain exactly why this is so hard if you've never seen this kind of graphic tool. Imagine trying to draw a picture by placing traffic cones on the ground, running rope between them, then pulling rope from various locations until the lines are curved the way you want. It's nothing like paint-style tools where the line goes where you move your mouse. So yesterday I spent a few minutes re-reading a few pertinent chapters in Vector Basic Training and trying to trace some lines using the methods described there.  A lightbulb finally went off in my head and I came the closest I've come to accurately tracing along a series of curved paths. Today I spent 15 minutes watching a video screencast that came with the book (basically, about how to best place your traffic cones) so then when I tried again I came up with a near perfect trace. Woohoo! The screen shot below shows my curvy drawing with visible points (traffic cones), paths (rope), and handles (extra rope on pulleys attached to the cones to make it possible to shape the rope paths).


Homework #1: Monster

Over this past week I have completed:
1) the first of the exercises in the Drawing Lab book.  This was a simple one -- draw 30 cats.  I only drew 24 in one sitting because I got tired of my funny looking cats.  I didn't scan the image or anything (just picture 24 cartoony-looking cats, mostly facing forward, drawn with a black pen on white paper).

2) the first two of the creative exercises posted in the illustrationclass.com tutorials. These are not about vector work, but just get-things-flowing kind of creativity exercises.  The first one was a sheet of little squiggles to finish.  Made me think of some of Taro Gomi's doodle books.  I should use one of those for homework! The second was to draw a few objects with one continuous line.  These were just quick things, but I am posting them because I did actually scan them (while testing a new scanner) and to prove that I am actually doing something.

    I started, but haven't finished the first full tutorial in the illustrationclass.com tutorials.  I have read all of these, I have read his books.  I have thought about his style and method quite a bit.  I play around in Adobe Illustrator all the time, and am fairly competent at using it for layout, typography, and basic shape-formed graphics.  But I am not good with the pen tool which is really what vector stuff is all about.  So for the first time I really tried to make something and discovered that it is very very hard. This particular tutorial is designed to get you thinking about drawing by hand then recreating (tracing over) with the pen tool. But there's not much in the way of how to actually use Illustrator -- not as much as in his later tutorials or his books.  I am not giving up on the monster I started, but did learn something that he repeats over and over -- it's better to work out the illustration completely on paper first because drawing on paper is easier than fiddling around in the software.   At one point I accidentally turned on a perspective grid and couldn't figure out how to turn it off.  That's when I gave up for the day.

      For the coming week:  more creative exercises, and to start over on this monster assignment but first practice and master anchor points with the pen tool in Illustrator.


      Plans for Now

      There are so many things I could study, experiment with, practice doing.  I am starting with two topics: basic creative drawing and better vector illustration skills.

      Drawing Lab for Mixed Media Artists
      I got this book as a gift last Christmas (I think) and it has been surprisingly helpful.  So my plan is to systematically work through all 52 exercises, doing three or four a week.

      Von Glitschka's Illustration Class
      I own this guy’s most recent book, and at one point I bought the pdf collection of his online tutorials. But for years before that, I simply downloaded the tutorials that he made freely available on his site. These tutorials are only partially about digital tools for vector artwork -- the real crux of the instruction is on the process of being a illustrative designer and how to make vector artwork look really good. So I plan on actually working my way through his online tutorials, picking two a month to complete.


      Everything is a work in progress

      Becoming better at anything requires practice and commitment. I want to be a better artist and illustrator, a better writer and comic-maker. Most of this is just accomplished by actually doing more art and drawing and writing. But I am intrigued with the idea of a very self-designed educational process, made up of resources available via the web or from a library (one with good inter-library loan services). Essentially I would be my own instructional designer and instructor, just using all these other resources. So then I got to thinking how doing this in a public environment would be a motivator for me to actually stick with it and do daily work (regardless of the fact that it is possible that no one would be reading my stuff).  I'm not throwing in the towel on my other blog (Digital Garden Gnome) and I will still continue to post new work there (or, at least, post as often as I do now which is not that often).  This blog will be about specific goals and the resources I am using. Lesson plans and homework, if that makes sense.