Monday, May 17, 2010

The Evolution of the Face Map: Part 1, Overcomplicating Ed Emberley

(I have no excuse anymore! I have way too many discoveries that I've failed to post while my life was a bowl of nasty rotten curry. It sucked for a while, but now I need to get over it.)

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In the beginning, Ed Emberly taught me to draw an Aligator.
In case you're not familiar with Ed and his drawing books Here. I used to draw out of his books all the time as a kid. He's a genius, and he's influenced the way I think about drawing at the most basic level.
You can see that best when I first sketch out a picture.

When I first sat down to try to draw people proper I would set up my reproduction kind of like this:

I'd start with the old divided up ball thing. This is the "easy" way people say to do it. (They're crazy.)
I've found that if I start with a frame that doesn't really look like the person I want, the final is far less likely to work. Or at the very least, it's going to give me shit all through the process. I had hoped never to share the following image.

For the good of the masses, Alfi's terrifying fail demons have been released! Agh.
As you can see. His facial features are floating around unpleasantly through the versions. I know I marked them out, just like people say to. Technically my fault, I know. But still... that can't be the best way for a beginner to mark up the page. It leaves too many variables and relies on visualizing skills that a beginner just doesn't have.

Chopped up circles can be all sorts of shapes. I know, faces do too, whatever. But if you're looking for a certain face, what good is a framework that shifts around so freely?

It's kind of like alligators. They'll bite your face off. No. You can make a variety of different kinds of alligators, just by shifting the sizes of a few of the shapes Emberley gave us.

And the chopped up circle thing isn't even half as specific as an alligator! At least with alligators, we know for sure that the point bits of the tail shape have to connect to the point bits of the rectangle body, right? All we know about that jaw-ish shape is that it ends somewhere.

Ok, there are tricks to make that work right. Tricks that are mostly eyeballing ratios of sizes and angles and other things that I couldn't do two years ago.

I'd then mark out the eye sockets, assuming that they'd be the darkest area. Which isn't always true, because of lighting. More problems. Though it did help me visualize...

After that, I'd start marking out simple geometric shapes in the shadows and highlights.

I used geometric shapes at first so I could see exactly how things lined up. It was useful then, as I didn't have the eyeballing skills to line it up the way I do now.

My poor brain would have imploded trying to see all those weird curvy lines.

I think maybe it's like fractals. Shapes within shapes, you know? I can use curvy lines now because I break them down automatically.

Art is a lot of hand/eye coordination. But I think the eye is the more important half*. Or at least, the more difficult. Everything else is just shipping your brain fruit out to the masses.

Join us next time as Alfi explains exactly what she's doing with all those weird-ass curvy lines nowadays. For reals! And it's not going to take three months either!

Ps, don't go telling me your Brain Fruit is awesome, and your fruit pickers suck. They're squishy, and no amount of preservatives will get squishy fruits from Cuba to Cali.

Sorry, I'm making a lot of assumptions there. Some people actually do have crappy workers. But most likely,: SQUISHY. The end.

(*Politically Correct Police! Blind people still conceptualize space, and Art around like the rest of us.)


  1. Hi Alfred, here is Sonne from GoS. Dunno if you remind me, but anyway:

    It may sound creepy, but I think I'm doing something that could be classified as "stalking". Really, I've spent the last fifteen minutes?...half an hour?...forty-five minutes? Dunno. But I'm in awe with your drawings, the aesthetics of your artwork, the amusing way you explain visual concepts, your simming style. It is exactly the kind of things I like.

    I started majoring arts five years ago but dropped out - and how I repent it. Used to draw a lot too, but I stopped at that same time, when my father died. But seeing your art really inspires me to start drawing again, maybe because I kind of see myself in you. Actually, you seem a bit like me when I was younger.

    Thank you for being such an inspiration and apologies if anything I've said sounded creepy, but it is wholeheartedly sincere.


    - Sonne

  2. Hello Sonne! I think I remember some eyes of yours... (Double checks) Yes, I have officially gone through that forum too many times. Ha.

    Thanks so much! I'm a little too Pot-ish to be calling a Kettle black.
    Nah, it'll take a lot more than a nice thank you to weird me out.

    Now I get to have warm-fuzzies all day.
    Thanks and cheers to you too!