Thursday, December 1, 2011

Late Night Philosophy on Pretty

I don't think Pretty is in the eye of the beholder. I think it's everywhere else.
I no longer think we have a predisposition to any certain kind of Pretty. I think we train ourselves to find it in certain places.
For instance, say you woke up one morning, opened your cupboard and found a cookie. And it's really super tasty. You open another cupboard and find another cookie. If you wanted to find a third cookie, where would you look? In the oven? NO. We don't need to go looking weird places like that for cookies! Cookies live in cupboards!
But there are only so many cupboards, and cookies are so good. So you go looking in places that look like cupboards; cabinets and armories. Pretty soon, you've got a constant flow of cookies from every piece of hinged wooden furniture in the house. But only that. You're little sister gets her cookies from under mattresses and squishy cloth things, how stupid is that? Right... ?


Saturday, February 19, 2011

The Raccoon Eye Effect

Raccoon eye: when the makeup designed to widen the eye fails, and instead, you look like a beady eyed raccoon. I attempted to demonstrate the horrible affliction that plagues many of our young people today. I hypothesized that if the eyeliner surrounding the eye had total height that was as great as the eye opening itself, that the Raccoon Effect would show itself.

But now that I've drawn it, I'm not so sure. Can I ask you all out there a favor? Will you tell me which rectangle looks bigger?

Monday, January 3, 2011

Assumption Will Kill Your Portraits, and Destroy Your Soul

The second you think you know better than what your eyes tell you, that's the second your mature and manly prince starts looking like all those flouncy anime chicks he's been eying.

(The irony is that my own habits made this illustration nearly impossible to draw.)

That's the second you start drawing a profile nose on your 3/4 veiw picture.


That's the second you start drawing stupid eyes with stupid things on them that don't exist.


We have assumptions about what looks good, the way things are supposed to be, and our own abilities.

One of the first, and easiest assumptions to break when we start drawing, is our color choice. The ocean isn't always blue, leaves aren't always green, and faces aren't always pink.


The world isn't made out of homogeneous masses of self-illuminating pigment.
It's a mess of opaque and semi-transparent layers that can be lit by an infinite array of different colors.

I think this assumption was cured around seventh grade after that Chuck Close assignment. I liked that self portrait. Though it doesn't look like me at all.

Something awful happens when I like what I've drawn.


Instead of picking it apart and finding what's wrong, like I would with a bad image, I simply call it good and internalize everything I just did.

I've picked up some really bad habits, just by liking my own work.


I drew the following in high school. At first blush, I had trouble with flat noses. You can see this in a lot of my stuff. If you look a bit longer, you can see that I'm just desperate to line things up like things are at a "normal" front view.


I remember drawing this in class, I was trying to "bring more light into his eyes". This ultimately meant that his eyes aren't as tired.

Also telling, there's no hair on his arm. Whether this was a choice, or an oversight, it was no doubt influenced by the fact that the men (or man, as the case was) who I found attractive, wasn't hairy.

I have a theory that we all carry around a personal impression of what the average face looks like. By this, we measure what we think is possible, or matches our feelings about some one.

We all tend to like these generic, average faces better.
Conversely, when we find some one more attractive, we see them as more average than they are.


So we draw them that way. Then we get confused if it doesn't look like them.


I found this picture of Sharky--Gareth Bale--while googling images of him. It intrigues me.
If we look back at the original study of what makes Sharky look like Sharky, how many of those characteristics has she put in here?

How many of Bale's characteristics fit this generic, "attractive" architype?


How much of Bale has been distorted?

Pretend A. that you trust me and B. that I just told you Bale looks generic, can you trick your eye into making him look more like Mr. Attractive up there?

The moral of the story is, if you're having trouble with a picture, give yourself a rest. It's not your eyes that need it, it's just that your judgmental smart-ass brain needs to shut the hell up.


Symptoms of a Chronic Assumption Infection (CAI) include over generalized statements like ",I totally figured out how to draw eyes"; frustration with unusual subjects; and receiving neutral or negative responses to images the artist feels positively about.

If you or some one you, or some one you care about has been affected by CAI, ask your doctor about Humility. Used as directed with a regimen of Actually Trying, you too can regularly feel like an idiot but ultimately be far better.

Monday, November 29, 2010

I Cheat Towards the Pretty


A few years back, I refused to do digital art at all. I considered it "cheating".
After all, "the materials don't make the artist", right? Or at least they shouldn't. I resented the praise that digital artists got for "smooth lines" and all that shiny crap you can do so easily with a computer and tablet.

I didn't download gimp until I felt really good about pixels.

(Some weird thing for a pixel site I was active on)

I refused to get a tablet until I knew I could work with the touchpad on my laptop.

("The Last Great Touchpad Project")

I denied myself use of pressure sensitivity, a undo/redo button, by using that silly little paint program on facebook.


But I've realized that in the end, no one cares about the process but me. My job is to serve the end result, and find The Pretty.
I can make more, and better pictures if I use the tools I have.

So let's draw a weird-ass baby!


First, I make a trace a little map for myself. I've used gridding before, but I have problems keeping things feeling three dimensional that way.

Then I create a new document, and start blocking in general areas of color and shadow, using the original as a reference.


Then I spend a million years layering, and relayering, until the form is solid enough to remove the lines.

That's when the real cheating starts.
I've gotten to the point where my free hand sketch will almost line up with the original anyway. But why go through the trouble? I know I can do it, so at this point, I just overlay the drawing with the original and fix all the proportions from there.

At some point, I get distracted by some amusing detail. At which I switch to my tiny brush and detail it. It takes about an hour for every 100x100px box I detail. Slightly less for eyes.

I'm not going to finish this baby because it break my number one rule in my art: the painting has to be better than the reference. Otherwise, I'd be a super cheat and just take pictures. ;)

Monday, November 15, 2010

Why Gareth Bale looks like a Shark

If you're a football aficionado, you're probably familiar with the "Gareth Bale/Monkey" theory.
Though fairly accurate as far as proportions go, it's also completely uninteresting to me.

According to the internet, if you wear glasses, have a low brow, stick out ears, a larger nose, a shorter nose, thin lips, or have ever opened your mouth in public, you look like a monkey.

So what? Humans are built nearly the same as monkeys anyway.

Myself, my first thought when I saw him was "Shark". My friend agreed, and demanded that I study this further.


I began by mapping out our two subjects.

The first, a young 21-year-old welsh human.
The second, a fearsome great-white-shark, of indeterminate age and gender.


The similarities are striking, right?

Okay, so it's not as pronounced as monkey is.

Here's Bale, reduced down to a cartoon. Just enough to keep him looking like himself.
This is what I know about him.


1. There's a weird dip between his cheekbones and brows from front and 3/4 veiws.

2. This is partly due to his low, heavy brow line.

3. There's just barely enough room for an eye-width between his eyes.

4. At rest, his mouth is of average size, as near as I can figure (the corners fall under mid-eye). But when we look at it with the rest of his face (the narrower back part of his jaw, his tiny nose, his small close-set eyes to name a few) it sure does seem massive, doesn't it? I guess he has a narrow face or something.

5. We can fit a hole eye-height between the bottom of his nose, and the top of his upper lip.

6. The form of the muscles around the mouth is huge. It makes crazy lumps.

Additionally, it's worth noting that he has a jutting jaw to the front, and his neck is super thick.

What happens if we measure these things on a shark?


1. Although the sharks eye sockets are formed differently, which kind of destroys any brow line, the shape is still present. At least to me. This kind of thing is like cloud watching: I'm like "Oh look! That one looks like a shark!" and maybe you think it looks like a duffle bag.

2. Sharks don't have to shade their eyes from the sun, so they don't have little bony crests up there like we do. Also, they don't have eyebrows.

3. This time, we can fit many, many eye-widths in. Bale doesn't have Shark-ish eyes, that's for sure.

4. Massive mouth of doom. No lips to speak of. Also, this shark has dimples like Bale. Aw...

5. From some angles, shark noses look huge. From others, they're humorously tiny pointy bits. Bale looks more like a Shark as viewed from below. Just before it devours you.

6. Massive mouth of doom requires massive muscles.

Four out of six. That's not bad.

The moral of the story: His mouth takes up too much room and his head is lumpy.


And he gets bonus points for his giant muscled neck that would allow him to glide through the water with minimal drag.

(Dear Mr. Bale, sharks are awesome. You're face is awesome. You're awesome.)

Friday, October 22, 2010

My Noses Keep Falling Off

Somewhere between drawing the eyes and drawing the mouth, I always lose my way. I just can't connect the mouth to the nose properly.
These are some scribbles of the stuff that's been going through my head lately.
The gray is symbolic of my lack of insight into the situation. The noses symbolize that I like noses a lot.