So about two weeks ago I blogged about attempting #Inktober despite having pretty much no art skill. If you didn’t catch that post, you probably should, because it’s about a lot more than just drawing badly, but here’s what you need to know for today’s post: I have pretty much no art skill, I’m doing Inktober (drawing in ink and sharing online) anyway, and I can only improve with practice.
This past weekend I was teaching cosplay and mythology/folklore (Japanese and Norse) sessions at Quest Con, and between sessions I joined a one-hour art lesson, taught by artist Steven Moore. I figured I would learn something useful, and at worst I’d make someone else at my table feel better about their own work.
I assumed most people attending an art class have some previous background in art, so I was upfront with Steven about my skills and expectations. He asked me, “Are you an artist who can’t draw?”
Boom. That’s it, exactly. Because often I can see exactly what I want, I just have no idea how to get it down on paper. “Yes!”
“Then this is for you.”
Okay, I’m in.
I forgot my glasses, which I use for screens and close work, so I knew the class was going to be something of an adventure. But I had a really good time!
We each got a copy of his beginners’ book, How to Draw Sci-Fi and Fantasy for Artists Who Can’t Draw, and in my behavior and learning day job professional opinion, it’s a great introduction and progression. The book breaks down — “splits,” in the professional parlance — the overwhelming task of copying an image by using a grid. I’d seen this before, but Steven’s book splits even more finely by starting the first grid for you, leaving only a small number of squares to fill in and rewarding the budding artist with quick and visible success.
Then we learned to break an existing image into basic shapes for copying, circles and ellipses and lines. He called these “bubble people.” Each of these basic shapes then became the guideline for replicating the original, again focusing on one small area at a time instead of the overwhelming task of drawing a whole person. I called this a “bubble grid,” a phrase which he liked. Still splitting a big task into small, manageable parts!
And finally we turned stick people into bubble people, creating our own bubble grids to make our own images.
So that’s what I did for today’s Inktober. I knew a kneeling figure would be hard, since I really should have some foreshortening on the forearm and such, but what the hey, this month is all about going hard and pushing far beyond the boundary of my current skill.
I skipped trying to make the hands reasonable — focus on one improvement at a time, my day job reminds me — and his laced shoes kind of look like cartoon ballet slippers, and the whole thing has a sort of medieval margin doodle two-dimensionality about it, but I’m actually pleased, because this beats some of my earlier work with a stick.
Inktober is wrapping up at the end of the month, but overall, I’ve been pleased with my participation.
The book we used for the workshop is not available online, but you can find its larger companion at Amazon or on his website with Steven Moore’s comics. Even the shorter workshop book has more guided practice than I mentioned here, so try the full version! And if you find yourself near one of his workshops, consider joining.
To end, let me share a related video I found, a TEDx talk on how people can indeed draw despite their inhibitions and beliefs to the contrary. I followed along with the video and produced a page full of cartoon people:
You can try it yourself below!