Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Things I've Learned (Things I AM Learning?)

I’ve been reading through the ’60s “Famous Artist Course” as well as watching illustrator demos on the Visual Literacy Program. I feel like I’ve learned a lot lately and have added some “things to keep in mind” to my “things to keep in mind while drawing” list. many of these are “obvious” and get said over and over again. but sometimes, it just takes hearing it ONE more time before it clicks and really makes a difference. There are a lot, but here are jusr some of the new ones that I’ve been trying to apply…which is easier said than done.

- Think in big shapes first. This one is hard for me. I need to start developing thumbnails that reflect this idea. Design with shapes. Gary Kelley is GREAT at shape. Tagged along with this sorta goes the idea of strong silhouette. for instant, powerful reads, the image will be most effectively designed if i consider my large groups of values.
-Not every image needs a full value range. and not everything in an image needs dramatic value range. applying a simpler value structure to my big shapes will better help me design and image and create better focal points. Again, another difficult one for me.
-Detail can kill you. guys like mignola and Al Hirschfeld and alex toth got this nailed. describing things in as few marks as necessary (again, silhouette comes in here). ? put detail where you need it to reinforce focal points, but leave it out where it doesnt matter.
-Use saturation wisely. im’ a sucker for super-saturated images, so this one is tricky for me.
-Make a confident mark and LEAVE IT ALONE. it’s better to be slightly wrong, but made confidently than to have meticulously slaved over, indecisive lines that try to be perfect.
-embrace the medium. let digital look digital. dont try to make digital look like watercolor. just use watercolor. dont try to make inks look like vector art. let them be inks.
-Trust your instincts and embrace failure. there isn’t necessarily a “right’ way to do things. you can’t please everyone. George Pratt often says something along the lines of: if you aren’t screwing up, you aren’t doing it right.
-Every part of an illustration matters. think about how every piece is impacting the drawing. pay attention to every part and resolve it appropriately.
-You can’t save a poor drawing. you can polish a good drawing in a billion different ways. but if the foundation stinks, style can’t save it.

These sound so easy, and right now it's more of a checklist in my mind, but I'm hoping it becomes more intuition as I practice. John English recommends thumbnails to be 3 values, no line so it's really shape design. I've only played around and it's already so helpful to establish a good read.
Any other ideas?


  1. That's a great checklist!
    BTW, Oliver, you should be banned from posting on this blog until you include an illustration. ;-)

  2. Oliver, did you buy a month-long membership to the VLP or an annual one? Give us a review!

    (and post some artwork)

  3. Ooh! I need to 'Think in big shapes first' more often!

  4. Agreed Chuck. Oliver is holding out on us ;)

  5. Haha, sorry Chuck. I should try harder to include an image with every post! Visuals always make for a more exciting read!

    The VLP site is a little "tricky" with its wording. You can't just get a one month subscription...you can basically pay monthly (minimum subscription of a year), or pay for the year all at once for at a lower lump amount.

    My opinion of it so far is very positive. To be honest, it seems that your membership fee is mostly getting you access to their collection of artist lectures and demos. Since teaming up with ConceptArt.org, they're granting access to more and more of their videos as well. If you're a visual learner like me, watching George Pratt and Jon Foster talk/paint is quite a pleasure and definitely worth the pay. I find them really inspirational, and to hear/see their thought process is amazing to me.

    The forums are also really nice, but the "faculty" don't have an overwhelming presence. Sterling Hundley and John English are the most prolific posters and Chris Payne stops by every now and again. Their knowledge is great though, and their short, to the point posts are usually amazingly helpful. I wish they could be more involved critiques with them, but they have to get around to everyone with the limited forum time I'm sure they have. I've already learned a great deal from their responses to my posts, and also their responses to others.

    Besides the videos, it really seems like you get out of it what you put in. If you're dedicated to putting images up and helping other people, you'll be repaid with similar attention. There are some very talented members as well. The videos are really spectacular and in a very short while, I really feel like I've learned a heck of a lot.

    When you consider the "faculty" are busy illustrators/painters, teachers and have things like the Illustration Academy going on, etc. you can understand that they don't have hours to kill every day online. However, I would love to see more of the faculty on there more often if I had a "wish-for" for the remainder of my subscription.

  6. I remember learning to compose with shapes from one line of an interview with Howard Chaykin - his thumbnails were literally created with rectangles, circles and triangles. It improved my clarity immensely and eliminated my dread of thumbnails.

    I've got to try composing with three tones. It sounds equally valuable.

  7. "I've got to try composing with three tones. It sounds equally valuable."

    That tip jumped out at me too, Brian!
    My work is very line-oriented, and I often consider values after the sketch has been approved. This habit doesn't usually doom an illustration, but it often causes me headaches down the road.

  8. Thought this was an interesting breakdown by artist Mike Weaver http://grab.by/5pZF