I always try to help people coming to me for art advice; if you’ve ever asked me for some advice or a critique, you know I’ve given it. I try very hard to be helpful to people coming to me, because I know I really appreciated any help I got when I was younger in getting better. Hell, I still appreciate that when I get a really skilled person giving me some honest-to-god feedback!
What I don’t like is when people invent a million reasons why my advice specifically does not apply to them and their situation. Nothing is more frustrating than that. I could understand if I was trying to give some feedback that actually did not apply to them or didn’t take their art in the direction they wanted to go, though! That’s fine, sometimes I get remarks about how I should work that I don’t agree with. Everyone does.
It’s just really frustrating to explain why life studies are vital. I know, I’ve been on the other side; when I was 12 I had no interest in drawing people. I just wanted to draw cute Pokemon or animals or whatever was on my mind at the time. I was not concerned with how I could render people really. I did want to get better with pencil techniques and colors and whatnot though, but I had no interest in people at the time. I feel like some people never grow out of this, and then… then they get into furry art or anime art.
Don’t get me wrong, like half of my commissioners get their furry/anime character drawn. I don’t care, that’s fine. There’s nothing wrong with it. Where the problem lies, however, is when art is held lower in importance than the thing being represented. If it’s really important that you work in an anime style, or draw a furry, rather than make a good piece of art… well, can you see where I’m going with this?
It’s extremely important to do life studies, to draw people from life, to have a good photo collection of people to reference from, to have a mirror you sit in front of and draw from, to take pictures of people in poses you want to learn about… I mean if you really can’t go out and join a nude model drawing class, then use a mirror. Get a big life-sized one. Get a little handheld mirror for faces. GET ANY MIRROR. Or a camera. You don’t even need a mirror to draw your hands and feet. Find a friend. Find SOMEONE.
As it turns out, I always have people arguing with that step. A million reasons are formed for why they cannot (read: do not) want to do this step. As it turns out, art takes them a really long time, too. Do you know why? You struggle with things you don’t know how to do. If a mediocre drawing takes 12 hours, it’s because you didn’t really understand what you were drawing… so of course it will take so long! You’re trying to think about something you just do not know how to represent, so a lot of fudging the details makes for a drawing that takes ages and doesn’t look very good.
That’s usually when I give up trying to help a person. If they cannot understand the importance of actually drawing people, they’re still stuck in this mindset where it’s important to them that they draw this LION MAN/NARUTO over actually understanding how to simplify and stylize something.
Please understand where styles come from. Anime/furry whatever isn’t bad. There are a lot of skilled artists who can draw that type of stuff and make it look amazing. But, you have to understand: it came from stylizing what exists in real life. If you’re drawing based off of things you like, you’re making a caricature of a style. Your drawings will look very amateurish and uninformed, because it’s a copy of a copy of real life. You have to go straight to the source and simplify it for how YOU understand it. You can’t understand how noses actually look and when to put the lines down to represent that if you don’t even understand form and all you have to reference is Ken Sugimori’s drawing of Misty. We all know his noses are not exactly realistic, but he has a reason for drawing them like that. How can you begin to understand his line placement if you haven’t drawn real noses yourself? How can you draw a cat person if you’ve drawn neither any real cats nor any real people? Well, you can draw it crappily, that’s how.
I don’t want to rag on anyone in particular, I just want to rant a little because I ran into someone who asked for help and then refused every instance of advice I gave him. This has happened more frequently than normal lately, which is no good.
Don’t claim life studies don’t help. That just means you’re not trying hard enough. Don’t say ‘well I’m just weird like that,’ because that means you’re purposely setting your limits to not let experimentation even be an option.
It’s like anything else. You don’t get good at things just because you want to be; you get good at them via critical thinking and study and experimenting and trying really damn hard for a really long time. I don’t like people asking me for quick methods to get good. There is none. At all. Ever. I would know; I’m super impatient, so if a quick method existed I’d be all over that shit. There’s no way to speed this up except to draw more and keep drawing. It requires a ton of effort, no lie! So does ANYTHING ELSE skill-based! I didn’t just decide to be any good at drawing, I do it every single day for many hours!
In short: I absolutely cannot help you if you cannot help yourself. Go work hard, learn how to draw things from life, and then stylize the fuck out of it if you want. Don’t ask me for help if you don’t want to learn the rules before breaking them.