February 28, 2015

General Kael

Since the Avalanche Software blog appears to have died, I've turned to jumping on to other themes and challenges where I can find them.  Fellow Avalanche artist Mathew Armstrong started drawing fan art from Willow, and I couldn't resist a General Kael.

I wouldn't mind some more stories from that world. -please no remakes.  Give me something original.  ;)

February 13, 2015

Little sketch gems: part 2

Another bunch of little sketches from my 100 sketchbook pages in a month goal.
I got bored with a pencil and tried some portrait sketching with a brush pen -no under-drawing!
These were pretty fun.

February 3, 2015

Why You Should Try to Fill 100 Sketchbook Pages in a Month

Go on, scroll all the way to the bottom!

That there is 100 pages of sketchbook!  -All done during the month of January.

Going hand in hand with my Inktober goal last year, this was another exercise I gave myself to improve my art skills.

Here's a post about my experience and hopefully it will inspire and give you some helpful advice if you haven't done anything like this before.


1.)  Greater ability to retain in memory the things I am drawing.  Whether studying from another artist or sketching something from life, the daily practice of drawing (and really studying things when I draw them) improves my ability to retain what I've seen when I start sketching.
As a bonus, I also found this improved my ability to retain what I've conjured up in my imagination when drawing purely from imagination as well.

2.)  Greater familiarity and sense of ease with my drawing tools and the surface I am drawing on.  The tools I use start to feel more like an extension of myself rather than a separate thing. I become more comfortable and familiar with how they move across a piece of paper, what kinds of marks they make depending on what angle I hold them, and at what pressure I need to use them to achieve the richness I desire.  My lines become looser, my gestures become more fluid, and drawing starts to feel more like a graceful dance rather than trying to pull a heavy wagon with square wheels up a hill.

3.)  Greater fascination and appreciation of the things around me as I study and draw them.  Do you have artwork you've really admired, but really want to dig deep and find out why?  Sketch away!

I studied several artist's drawings during this exercise, and while I knew I really liked them before, sketching and studying them really opened up a whole new level of appreciate for them.  It wasn't until I took the time to sketch them that I was really able to dissect and see what was really going on in those images which I found so appealing in the first place.  Highly recommended!!

Towards the end of my 100 pages, I found myself in an art presentation by another artist.  The presentation lasted 7 hours -and was fantastic.  I filled up 7 pages in my sketchbook too.  Several of those pages were filled by drawing ordinary things like everyone's water bottles, cell phones, the electrical outlets, light switches, dry erase markers, all the little fixtures and the projector on the ceiling, and the spring hinges on the doors to the room.
Each little drawing presented me with a little challenge.  Could I pull it off?  To the casual observer, even drawing an electrical outlet might seem juvenile, but I squashed every challenge and laid them out in my sketchbook like a collection of rare and valuable beetles. (Cough. . .  Ahem . . . I'm . .uh . . . getting a little excited here.)

4.) Greater hand/eye co-ordination. 

5.)  More drawing equals better drawing skills period.

See my post on Inktober for more explanation on those last two.


1.) Start with a sketchbook size you believe you can easily handle.  Are you paying attention?  I'll say it again:  Start with a sketchbook size you believe you can EASILY handle.

The sketchbook I used for this was 8.5x5.5in.  I have a larger sketchbook twice this size, but wanted to make sure I started with something smaller first.  This seemed like a good size for me by the time I finished the last page.  For you, you may want to go even smaller.  Draw on Post-it notes if that's all you think you'll be able to handle!!  There's no shame in that.  Start smaller than you believe you can.  If you find yourself saying to yourself, "Oh, that's too easy, I can do that," then you're on the right track.  Remember, you haven't done this before, so start much easier than you think you can.  Plus, accomplishing goals, even really 'super easy' ones, does wonders for your confidence.

Making a goal easier than you think also will benefit you when you hit snags and other life setbacks such as illness, fluctuating work hours, or other family events which might take precedence.  I encountered two of these:  A cold which knocked me out for several days, and a week of long hours at work.  Trying to stay on top of this goal during those times made me grateful of the 'easy' goal I'd set myself at the start.

2.)  Your daily allotment of pages are much easier to fill if you spread them out through the day rather than trying to do them all in one sitting.
Towards the end, it becomes easier to do multiple pages at once, but at the beginning, spread them out or you may start to feel a little overwhelmed at the end of each day trying to fill three pages at once.
Do one page first thing in the morning.  You'll be energized then, and once you finish breakfast, you'll have the satisfaction of knowing you'll already have a page done before you've even started your day.

3.)  100 sketchbook pages don't divide up evenly throughout any month.  You'll realize there will be several days you'll need to do a couple extra pages.  Don't make the mistake I made, and instead, try to finish the extra pages you'll need early in the month.
Try even doing a least one extra page per day when you can. That way, you create a 'savings' of pages for when you run into those days when life requires more of your attention and you can't seem to get your daily allotment finished.

4.)  Allow yourself the freedom to fill your sketchbook pages anyway you desire.
I found it a challenge to tell myself I didn't need to do a 'finished' or 'nice' drawing each page, or that all the sketches needed to be from the same direction, or that all my sketches needed to be done with the same drawing tool(s), or they could only be studies from other artists, or only portraits, etc.  Give yourself the freedom to simply do whatever you want.
The goals is just that: To fill up 100 pages in a month.  That's all.  How you do this is completely boundless.  Keep your mind (very) open to all sorts of possibilities.  Here's a couple links for inspiration:  Inspiration 1Inspiration 2.

5.) When you see something neat during the day, or have a cool idea pop into your head, take a second to make a sketch of it.  The sketch doesn't need to fill up a whole page, but a bunch of little sketches can fill up a page really quick.  This is good practice whether you have set yourself a sketching goal or not.

6.)  As in my post about Inktober, this is an excellent way to 'break in' those 'precious' art supplies, or rid yourself of mental blocks which hold you back from using them.  The one I discovered and squashed during this exercise was my reluctance to sharpen pencils 'because that wastes lead.'  (I have no idea where that mental block originated)  HA!  squashed!!  As soon as I realized I was doing that, it was every pencil into the sharpener every time I wanted a nice sharp point to draw with.  Haha!  Take that!

Some Thoughts

1.)  I recently read the Mistborn Series, by Brandon Sanderson.  (Have you read it?  It was good, wasn't it!!)
In this story, there are a race of people who can store up their natural abilities, such as sight, smell, strength, knowledge, health, and weight, etc, in metal ornaments they wear.  Once they've stored one of their abilities, they can later extract that ability to use, boosting their normal abilities far beyond what they normally can do.  The catch is, they don't get their power from nowhere.  In able to use their power, they have to first go without that ability to a lesser degree for a while as they store it in their metal ornaments.  Some abilities take much longer to build up.

How much is this like any creative talent!  It seems to me that too many people, artists included, have yet to understand that in able to be great, you have to spend time building up that ability first before it can be used in astounding ways.  If you want to draw something really well, you have to spend time first 'filling your mental library' about it.  The more time you spend in learning, sketching, drawing, a particular subject, the better you will get at it.
Those amazing successful artists you see out there all understand this.  They aren't supermen and superwomen.  They aren't 'born' that way.  They've just learned that to get better, they have to spend the time now doing work behind the scenes to get there.  Their sights aren't set on the present work, but where they believe and know they can be in the future by doing it.

2.)  Quantity over Quality.  Several years ago, I read this story:

A pottery teacher split her class into two halves. 

To the first half she said, "You will spend the semester studying pottery, planning, designing, and creating your perfect pot.  At the end of the semester, there will be a competition to see who's pot is the best".

To the other half she said, "You will spend your semester making lots of pots.  Your grade will be based on the number of completed pots you finish.  At the end of the semester, you'll also have the opportunity to enter your best pot into a competition."

The first half of the class threw themselves into their research, planning, and design.  Then they set about creating their one, perfect pot for the competition.

The second half of the class immediately grabbed fistfuls of clay and started churning out pots.  They made big ones, small ones, simple ones, and intricate ones.  Their muscles ached for weeks as they gained the strength needed to throw so many pots.

At the end of class, both halves were invited to enter their most perfect pot into the competition.  Once the votes were counted, all of the best pots came from the students that were tasked with quantity.  The practice they gained made them significantly better potters than the planners on a quest for a single, perfect pot.

Be assured that making a lot of drawings (and lot of mistakes) is much more beneficial than trying to make a perfect or nice drawing every time.  Expect poor drawings!  Expect pages you will be ashamed of!  Be assured, that every page you feel hasn't turned out like you've wanted, is one less in your system you have to draw in the future.

Coincidentally, the more bad drawings you make, the more experience you gain, and as a result, the better you beccome.

Best of luck!