Friday, August 10, 2012

Lesson 3 - About realism

Hello everyone. Let’s face with a sort of classic in the world of YouTube how-to videos: drawing a realistic eye.
This time I started by following the classical approach that I explained in one of my first tutorials. I used no reference picture at all, but of course you can’t do without having well observed live models before. Only after that you can proceed by memory. You’d better study also a bit of anatomy, because once you know how the human body works inside, you can better represent it on its outside.
As you can see, I use cross hatching for my shading, even if I plan to smooth it after, because I like to have a rough idea of how my drawing will look like in the end. Moreover, it's easier to correctly balance shadows and lights, and it's useful to avoid ending up with a too dark drawing.
I suggest you to choose what to blend and which parts and shades you want to make sharper. Don't smudge everything if you don't want your drawing to look somewhat rubbery and unrealistic, even if very detailed.
Remember that there are two types of shadows: the object’s own shadows and those ones cast by surrounding elements (or by extruded parts of the same object). Every surface also reflects on the nearest ones, so you have an additional gradation of shading: highlight - light – mid tone – shadow – reflection.
I already said that realism is a matter of correctly balancing shadows and lights. After all, even when using a very rough technique, good shading can give your work a great realistic look. Furthermore, this depends a lot on the distance of the observer. Is perfectly useless to thoroughly blend a painting or a drawing, if you'll put it on a high ceiling or you'll be looking at it from a great distance, because the eye will ignore all tiny details, and perceive your hatching as a smooth surface, but of course, you have to pay great attention to all tone gradations, shadows and lights intensity, reflections, deep blacks and bright highlights.
If you are working on a small drawing or painting and you’re still aiming to photorealistic results, you have to smooth your shadows in order to make all lines and strokes disappear. You can do it using your fingers, but be careful because if you have oily skin you can stain your work irreparably. For large areas you can use a piece of fabric, while for smaller ones and for details you can use a blending stump.
In this video, you see how I draw a quite realistic eye. As it may seem strange – and after all, this is not a how-to video – my advice is: if you want to do the same, don’t copy what I’m doing but look in the mirror and try to do it by yourself! Drawing self-portraits is a great way of training, never underestimate it, because it helps to achieve high observation ability, and you can work for hours with a definitely inexpensive model!
A few more words about details: when we look at a drawings made by a child we often think that it’s wrong or unrealistic. Indeed it is just incomplete. The more our mental idea of something lacks in details, the more we tend to draw it in a simplified way. The best example is the stick figure we use to represent the human body. Just think about it, a stick figure is already correct: it has arms, legs, body, head, and sometimes even elbows and knees. The more details we add (thickness, muscles, face features, hands, fingers), the more or figure will look realistic. So, it’s all about adding details, but adding details needs observation. And this is the key for better drawings: observation. Better doesn’t mean realistic, better means complete, correct, close to the idea we want to represent. And this is another central point of my approach. If you need any further info, please feel free to contact me here, through my website or on my Facebook page. I hope my tutorials can be somewhat useful for you.
Have fun with drawing! And thanks for watching!

Saturday, August 04, 2012

How I did it - PEGASUS

Hello everyone!
Have you seen my drawing “Pegasus”? Ok, I’m going to show you how this work has been done.This is a good example of how I’m used to proceed. Let me tell you before, that it often happens that the idea comes to life while I’m actually working on it. This is the case.
I started with a fast sketch based on a reference picture. Initially, I just wanted to draw a white horse with a some trees in the background.I proceeded then with a very light hatching in order to define some volumes.At this time, I had the idea to turn the horse into a winged one, a Pegasus flying on a cloudy sky.  So I added the wing and a few lines where I would have approximately drawn the clouds.
Since I wanted to work on a more realistic drawing, I decided to use a blending stump, in addition to my fingers, to smudge my hatching. I also changed the hind legs position, in fact, I wanted my horse to fly, and then, I darkened the whole picture a bit. But I was not happy with the result, because the wing looked too small and static. So I changed the wings position, and kept on shading the whole drawing.
Before starting to smudge, I wanted to have an idea of how it would have looked. The lower part seemed a bit poor, but I decided not to care, for now. I started then to smudge with my fingers and with the blending stump.
While I was shading, I thought that, instead of aiming to hyper-realistic results, I wanted to give my drawing an epic look, and the classical approach would have perfectly suited the needs. So I stopped to look at the reference pictures for shadows, but only for some details.
The more we want a drawing to look realistic, the more we must pay attention to the relationship between the various shadows gradations. The outlines should disappear: in fact, they only have to be suggested by the contrasts between tones.
For details such as the mane, I definitely left the reference picture, because I preferred to give the various locks the shape I wanted, in order to achieve a more classical feel.
I proceeded gradually, darkening the various areas, step by step. I used a kneaded eraser to obtain the highlights, and a thin slice of a common eraser for the very sharp ones.  The lower part was definitely poor, so I changed my mind again, and decided to add some grass.
Rather than a flat terrain, I decided to play with different heights, in order to create a kind of basin, which would have given some emphasis to the movement of the wings (in fact the outline repeats the wings direction)
Ok, the drawing was almost done, it was just time to add some further details, and make shadows a bit smoother here and there. I choose to leave some blurriness at certain points, to suggest a bit of movement, but most of all, to ensure that the observer focuses on those details that I want.
As you can see, realism is just a matter of working a lot on tiny details, smooth nuances, tones relationships and slight variations. Or better said, a matter of patience. Well, I hope this helped a bit, feel free to contact me for any question, here, on my Facebook page, or through my website.
Have fun with drawing!

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Lesson 2 - About Imitation

Hello everyone!
In this second lesson I want to spend a few words about a basic concept of the classical approach (and therefore of my style). I’m talking about what the ancient Greeks called MIMESIS (μίμησις), a word that we use to translate with “imitation”. 
For a great number of artists, the more a piece of work correctly imitates the nature, the more it can be considered true art.
After all, we somewhat inherited that same vision, since we very often use to say: “it looks real!” when we appreciate a drawing, a painting or a sculpture. 
So, shall we say that something is art, if it just looks “hyper-realistic”? Well, not exactly.  That sort of “perfect imitation”, in fact, has not to be intended as the exact copy, of what we can find in nature, but it’s about imitating the nature, in its whole “creating process”. In other words, we don’t have, e.g., to simply copy a human body, but we should try, to re-create it on our canvas, sheet, or plastic material.
That’s why, understanding proportions and knowing the human anatomy, is essential, because we have to give life to a new creature, even if only a “virtual” one.
Aside that, the final result can be far from being photorealistic, nevertheless our figure will look alive!
A little example: there are two ways of representing a simple blade of grass (as well as a single hair). The non-mimetic one, in which we just copy the shape, regardless to its “nature”; and the mimetic one, in which we know (and follow) the direction where it grows. Both results may look similar, but the second one is also conceptually correct.
About figure drawing, the outline of a body tells us a lot about its nature, because it suggests inner structures and forms, and a very slight variation of the contour, can give life to the whole drawing. So pay attention to those small bulges and depressions, because the strength of your drawing may depend a lot on them.
The cross hatching can be another way to perform our analysis, since we can use it to investigate, and better understand, shapes and volumes. Furthermore, it gives to our work that vibrating look that imitates those slight variations of the light, or those small movements of a living creature, but also the real yet  invisible swarming of cells, atoms and particles.
So the basic idea is to understand the nature and structure of what we are going to represent the best we can. On my blog, you can find a few suggestions about good books on Art Anatomy, but if you feel like studying quantum mechanics, or botanic, or astronomy, just do it: feel free to investigate the reality in such directions, Leonardo Da Vinci would be proud of you!
Happy drawing!
And thanks for watching!

Monday, July 16, 2012

Exercise 2 - Cross Hatching (Transcription)

Hello everyone!
In my first exercise video, I put the basis for the technique of cross hatching.
So, let’s spend a few more words on it!
You can shade your picture in many different ways. The very basic one is just called hatching, or sometimes 45 degrees hatching. The direction of the strokes never changes and the angle is about 45 degrees. Darker tones are obtained overlaying layer upon layer, always striving to obtain a regular texture.
Rough and spaced strokes give your drawing a fresh and sketchy effect, while fine strokes and delicate passages may help you achieve more realistic results. Let’s take a fast look at how it works. The angle of the strokes must be the most comfortable for you, so if you are left-handed, you may want to do it in the opposite way. It actually doesn’t need to be in a particular angle. Feel free to try also other solutions,  e.g. a horizontal, or a vertical hatching. The finest your hatching will be, the most realistic, yet vibrant, your drawing will look.  To put some highlights you can use a kneaded eraser (also known as “putty rubber”), like I always do.
About cross hatching, the basic idea is very simple: just as for the classic hatching, we have to proceed layer by layer, but this time we must change the angle on every pass.
In case of curved surfaces, the hatching can also ideally follow the shape of the drawn object, creating a sort of curved grid.
Shade like you were actually drawing on the real surface of the model.  That’s the reason why the best thing would be to draw from life: because you can observe your model from different angles, understanding shapes and volumes. Furthermore, you can better realize if a dark area is a shadow, or simply a differently colored zone. In any case, try to fully understand what you are going to draw. This is the way I do it.
So, In this exercise, we want to copy a bas relief using the technique of cross hatching.
For optimal results, I suggest you to copy from a black and white sculpture (either a real one, or a photo), because color can be misleading, for now.
Try to capture and reproduce the different shadow tones and, remember: always get to black step by step.
You can look at what I do, but feel free to do everything in a different order.  Just try to work on the picture as a whole; complete it gradually, make it emerge from the sheet, as if you were actually carving a stone.
If you wish you can comment on my blog and post a link to your picture, so everyone can see it... and maybe I can give you a few more tips.
Have a great time with drawing! And thanks for watching!