The past weekend I decided to go back to basics and do some human figure studies in my sketchbook. I want to get quicker at drawing the female figure in interesting poses because, for the longest time, I drew very stiff and boring bodies. I really admire comic book artists because they have to know how to draw pretty much every pose imaginable super fast!
I initially started learning about human body proportions around six years ago, when I came up with the idea of giving a Fashion Sketching Extracurricular class at the school I was working at. Even though back then I was focusing much more on creating templates that my students and I could use to design clothes on, I learned as much as I could about proportions of the human body and how to go about drawing one. I learned that even though in reality there are a million different body shapes and sizes, there are certain measurements that have to be kept in mind when drawing a believable human figure. Usually, realistic (adult) figures are around 7.5-8 heads tall whereas the fashion figure is elongated to around 9 heads tall. There are also other measurements that have to be considered like arm length, shoulder width, feet size, etc.
With this information in mind, I took out my ruler and created templates that I could use to start practicing an over-simplified skeleton of the human shape using simple lines and shapes. You can find a lot of different ways of drawing this skeleton, and in my opinion it doesn't really matter how you do it, as long as it represents realistic proportions and it allows you to visualize your drawing so you can eventually work from it.
By taking time to practice drawing this skeleton and (when your ready) using it to flesh out your humans, you'll eventually be able to develop an eye for what looks right in an artwork and what doesn't. After some practice, you'll be able to draw any pose that you see in pictures or real life and you'll become faster and faster!
The sketches below are recreations of what I used to start practicing all those years ago and an empty template that you can use to practice yourself! If you have never tried this before, I suggest beginning with the forward view. When you've got that down, start moving that skeleton around more and more! What would it look like dancing? Sitting down? Kicking a ball?
Once you can do this, it will be time to look into how to draw each bodily element!
Drag these .jpgs onto your desktop or download them below to use them as you'd like!
I am enjoying this time of experimentation with different supplies very VERY much. I had the opportunity this week to play around with oil paint, which I am totally a beginner at. I have not finished the large canvas landscape painting that I am working on, mostly because I am making sure to allow each layer to dry completely before applying the next. I will share that as soon as I am done. Today, what I will be sharing is this grayscale oil paint portrait which I finished last night. It is the first portrait I have ever painted in oils.
Here are three suggestions for those beginners out there looking to start painting portraits. Most of these can apply for gouache or acrylics as well.
1. Always use a good reference photo and take a few minutes to really observe it. Try to find one that has a good image resolution and interesting lighting. Even if your goal is not to create a painting or a drawing that looks like a specific person, it is always going to be helpful to have an image to look at throughout the process. This will help you establish realistic values and proportions.
2. It is ESSENTIAL for you to have a good amount of practice drawing realistic faces before attempting to paint a portrait. The only reason why I did a semi-decent job in my first portrait oil painting is because I have studied facial proportions for years and have a relatively good amount of practice drawing them. Only through time spent observing and practicing will one start developing an eye for what looks good and what is off. I once read that, since we humans look at faces probably more than anything else on a daily basis, anyone would be able to tell if something is slightly off with a portrait when they see it, even if they can't exactly pinpoint what it is. You NEED an effective sketch to start a painting off with. Or be such a pro that you have realistic proportions/angles engrained in your head so well that you can go in with your paintbrush right away. I wish to get to this point someday!
3. Once you feel ready to try your luck at your first portrait painting, do it in grayscale. This takes away the need to create realistic skin tones if you are not yet at this point. It is better to take the learning process step-by-step! Keep in mind that, aside from facial proportions, the other important element behind creating realistic art is the effective use of color values. I recommend focusing on setting up a palette with a variety of gray values, from lightest or darkest, and then making sure to place the different tonal values in appropriate places. I used odorless mineral spirits and Gamsol to thin out my paints and do blending. I really recommend this grayscale exercise. Once you succeed at this, go ahead and go for the color!
I am going to travel to the U.S. to pick up a few Amazon art supply orders very soon. I've ordered a set of gouache paints which I am super excited to experiment with!
Have a wonderful weekend and I hope to see you around soon! :)
Here are a few little paintings I did last week in my efforts to step out of my comfort zone. I felt like it was time to challenge myself with new subjects that I don't usually choose to draw or paint. I think it is essential for artists to schedule in time every now and then for experimentation with different types of techniques, supplies and/or subjects because throughout these we are able not only to expand our abilities, but we are also able to learn about our own likes, dislikes and possible areas of opportunity. In my opinion, an artist should never stop learning and improving. We are creatives and most of us are innately curious creatures. We should use this curiosity to propel us to learn.
Here are my five suggestions to break out of an artistic rut:
1. Try drawing/painting an object, person, landscape (or whatever it is you usually create) in a different perspective. Do you always draw things from side view? Try doing a top view! Try doing extreme close-ups! It's impressive how much we can learn when we try to draw or paint a subject we've done a million times before, only in a different angle or arrangement!
2. Use different supplies to create your artwork. Do you usually create pencil drawings? Try a drawing with pens or charcoal sticks! Do you usually paint with watercolors? Try acrylics or gouache! You can even create a mixed-media artwork with a combination of supplies! You'll notice that in the boat and sofa studies I used my LePen Drawing pen which I had never used with watercolors before.
3. Pick a different subject all-together. Are you usually drawn to painting faces? Create a landscape or a still life piece! How can your current style translate into an artwork with a different kind of primary subject?
4. Plan and prepare a limited color palette that includes colors you wouldn't normally use. Take a look at the work you have created lately. Do you mostly use warm colors? Try using mostly cool (or vice versa)! Is there a specific color you usually leave out? Try creating a palette that includes it! Do you usually like a lot of color in your paintings? Try selecting a triad or analogous colors in the color wheel and only work with those! You can also try to select one color and use it as undertone for all the other colors you use in your painting.
5. Create Pinterest boards (or a folder in your computer) to collect artwork that calls to you for your own reference/inspiration. Check mine out here! You can then go back to it in times of experimentation and pinpoint specific things you'd like to try out. You feel attracted to these artworks for a reason! Try to target and make notes of specific characteristics you like (maybe it's the colors the artist used, the line work, how effectively emotions are transmitted, etc.) and try to implement it in your own original artwork.
Lastly, just do it! Don't sit there hours on end trying to decide. Just take action! And remember, these studies aren't meant to be masterpieces. It's more about what you learn during the process than the end product. I suggest trying your best to power through the drawing or painting so that your study reaches some form of conclusion. Make notes of what was difficult, what you have to make sure to do differently next time, or any new ideas that you'd like to try.
I leave you with a great quote by French artist Eugene Delacroix:
“The artist who aims at perfection in everything achieves it in nothing."
Are you an artist? Have you always known you wanted to dedicate your life to creating art? I didn't until quite recently.
I've been extremely creative since I was a little girl. Not only did I like to draw, but I also liked to do all sorts of DIY's, collaging and writing. I wrote A LOT. I kept journals, wrote short stories and also poetry in both English and Spanish. I've always had my head full of different ideas and never really paid any mind to doing things the way others around me did them. At an early age I already knew that life is too short to spend doing things that we don't really want to do.
That said, I've also always known that it takes hard work, determination and patience to get to where we want to be in life. Most of us have to be willing to ¨pay our dues¨ and do whatever it takes to eventually get there (within reason). Of course, before any of that happens, we have to find out what our life goals truly are and make sure that they are coming from within ourselves and not external factors that are pressuring us to be specific types of people. This journey, in itself, takes time and courage. It is not easy to find out what will truly make us happy. The lucky ones are able to figure out their goals early in life and start paving their road towards success early on, others take longer. We are all different. Personally, I had to experience a lot of different things before realizing that what truly makes me happy is to create art and to feel the confidence that I can make something of this gift that I have been given.
When I finished High School I decided Graphic Design would be the best option for me because, in my head, it was Art-related and I would have more of a chance to pursue steadier job opportunities as opposed to the Fine/Studio Arts Major. I have a wonderful mother who always supported my decisions and taught me that I could achieve anything that I put my mind and effort to, but I never really saw becoming a ¨Fine Artist¨ per se as a serious option for my future. I guess I bought into the whole ¨starving artist" mentality somehow and thought of it more as a hobby than something that could actually generate an income to life off of.
I maintained a scholarship while in university and went off to work at Graphic Design and Advertising agencies after graduation. I enjoyed it and learned A LOT from very talented people but eventually I started to feel like something was missing. Though I enjoy Graphic Design and will probably always do design work in some way, I discovered through those job experiences that I didn't want to spend all day in front of a computer. I wanted to experiment with supplies, get my hands dirty and create something from scratch. And though I firmly believe that the best Graphic Design work initiates with hand-drawn sketches, in day-to-day agency life the workload, tight timeframes, and the need to use pre-determined style guidelines doesn't allow for much experimentation and creation as I would have liked. So after a while I decided to resign and look for something that would make me happier, though I was completely lost at that point and had no idea what that might be. Sure, I sketched every now and then, but that was pretty much it. I don't regret choosing Graphic Design as a major. What I learned in university and these first Graphic Design jobs will forever be engrained in my head and will probably always influence my artwork in some way. Also, what I learned regarding design software and technology will only improve my work.
After resigning, I spent several months doing freelance work just to keep some money coming in and my portfolio fresh, but I was really confused as to what to do next. Part of me felt like I had wasted 6+ years (between my studies and first jobs) in a field that would end up draining me out. I had a little devil standing on my shoulder telling me that I was never going to find a job that would make me happy and I was simply going to have to accept that work is not meant to be enjoyed.
I was running out of the money I had saved up and, out of nowhere, came this opportunity to work as a First Grade Teacher's Assistant at a great private school. I went for it and I really enjoyed it. Later on in the year I became interested in the Art Teaching position and started learning more about what the job entailed. It seemed like a blast, but I surely didn't have the experience of organizing and managing a functional Art room for over 250 students at a time. A new campus of the same school was opening in a different part of the city and, with it, came the possibility of applying for the job. So I did and that is how I ended up in the position I was in for the last five years. I honestly lucked-out big time and thank my lucky stars for the opportunity I was given!
I quickly learned that teaching Art in a school environment is extremely difficult. I have posted about it before (read my post about Arts Advocacy in the School Environment/My Ideas for Effective Student Art Exhibits here and my post about The Dangers of Striving for Artistic Perfection here). Obviously, when you are teaching its more about what your students learn and experience during your classes that what you do personally, so you firstly have to love children and education. Between class planning, grading, meetings, professional developments, communicating with parents, and organizing/mounting student Art Exhibits, there is little time for anything else. When my work days ended I felt completely exhausted, but fulfilled. I felt like I was leaving something positive in others by using my own gifts and there's simply nothing like it. I was on my feet for most of the day, using my hands to experiment with a wide array of supplies and it seemed like my mind had to be working non-stop throughout the day to solve a million things at once in creative ways.
Throughout those five years I not only developed both personal and professional skills that are extremely valuable to have, but once more I got closer to what I really wanted to dedicate my life to. I was able to conclude that I enjoyed Art more than I enjoyed Graphic Design. Of course, the art I was making was mostly for class purposes or for school events and I did little to no art for myself probably until my last year teaching. During my first few years in the position I didn't have the usual teaching vacation periods because I was studying to get my Master in Education degree during times off from work (sometimes even simultaneously), so I didn't even have that. Most Art Teachers I got to know (especially school Art Teachers), stopped making Art for themselves because they simply didn't have time to between keeping up with job responsibilities and/or taking care of their families. All of these things started to bother me more and more.
At the end of the last school year I had made the decision to get serious about my art and that I wasn't going to approach it as a hobby or something secondary. I discovered that I adored teaching but, at a personal level, I NEEDED to make art for myself. I YEARNED to have the time to experiment with different techniques, improve my skills and find a personal art style that I could eventually share with the world. I KNEW that if I made time for this, I would not only be much happier, but I would also be able to offer a lot more to my students in the future. I knew that I had to make a decision about what to do soon, especially because I was already over 30.
And thus came my decision to resign from my wonderful full-time teaching position and only teach part time. It took me around 14 years of studies and jobs to discover what is important to me and what I need to do to be happy, but I realize that those years were not lost. I personally needed to go through that time of self-discovery. I also needed to build up those personal and professional skills that will help me pave the road towards success. I can honestly say that my true objectives in life became clear to me until recently and it isn't until now that I actually have the courage to ignore other people's expectations and dedicate my time/energy to becoming an artist.
There are people that live their whole lives and never pay any special attention to what they TRULY want. Many of us are too pressured by external factors (time, money, OTHER PEOPLE, difficult situations in our living environments, etc.) that we simply give in to the idea that life has to be lived a certain specific way. We ignore that little voice in our heads that asks ¨What if I had....?" every now and then, doing what is safe and what is expected. I am extremely thankful that I finally have discovered what makes me happy and that, after a lot of hard work (and perhaps some luck), I am in a position to be able to work towards my dreams.
Thank you for reading this extremely long and personal post. I'd LOVE to hear from you! Did you decide to go for a ¨safe¨ career choice due to external pressures? Was it always clear for you that you wanted to dedicate every available moment to make art and that you wanted to make a career of it? Are you an artist that is struggling to live from your art? Drop me a line and I'll write back!
Hey! Nice to see you!
Here is a little mixed-media piece I just finished today and it is based on one of the pictures I took during my pastry photo shoot last week. Below I will be explaining a bit about the process I followed to get to this.
Here is the initial picture I took and on the right is what I actually used as I was painting. I used my handy-dandy Photoshop skills to clean it up so that my eyes didn't get distracted by the background. I also rotated the doughnut a tiny bit counterclockwise.
Once again, I used a gray water-soluble pencil to create this initial sketch. I like using water-soluble pencils because the lines completely disappear as I am doing the painting. However, a lot of artists like using straight up pencils. At this point, I try to get the proportions as close as possible to the reference picture, but I don't get super paranoid about it being identical to the picture. I also add in shapes that map out where the lightest and darkest values will be. For me, it is still a challenge to leave the lightest areas white since the beginning!
Here is what it looked like after about three layers of watercolor textures/values.
Here is the painting after about 5 layers of watercolor paints. After this I couldn't help myself and I took out my Soft-Core Prismacolor pencils and went in to add more textures/values until I was satisfied.
-Strathmore Cold Press Watercolor Paper Series 400
-Sakura Koi Pocket Field Watercolor Set
-Prismacolor Soft-Core Pencils
-Combination of Rodin and Artify paintbrushes
I just finished this watercolor piece today, which is meant to be the second part of my "Things I Eat Everyday" painting I did some months ago (here's the link to that post). This was fun and I worked on it on and off over the last 3 days. I am very big into health and usually eat pretty healthy.
It may be hard to believe, but I rarely eat things that I paint like fast food and sweets. In fact, this morning I went out to buy some sweet breads to photograph them for future reference images and, as difficult as it was, I saved them all for my husband to take to his friends later. Except a chocolate doughnut that I broke in half because I wanted to have a reference picture of a half-eaten doughnut (these make for challenging paintings!). That one I threw away.
Below are a couple of pictures I took during the process. I wanted to challenge myself and use only watercolors in this one. I helped myself with acrylic paint for final highlights in the first version.
This has been the first week of relative peace after finally settling into our new home and my painting studio/office is in a workable state for me, which is wonderful. I am in the process of establishing new work routines for myself, which I was in desperate need for after all that craziness, though I feel like my brain is in a state of denial because I'm finally enjoying my new home and all its new spaces. I really needed this. I am, however, making sure to make advances towards my goal of improvement and finding my style every-single-day.
Two days ago I started what is probably the biggest oil painting I have worked on so far. I decided to re-purpose an old painting that was going to be thrown out (not mine) by gesso-ing it and painting over it. I'm approaching it as an experimentation and will share the process with you later. :)
Thanks for reading!
I've been so busy setting up at our new place and doing errands that it took me three days to finish this face drawing. I had drawn portraits before, but lately I had been practicing the different facial elements separately in my sketchbook so that my drawings could turn out a bit more realistic overall. I think these studies have helped. Later on I am planning on making a post giving some tips about drawing realistic faces.
I haven't been able to get my paints out in a couple of days, but here are a couple of watercolor pieces I did several months ago that I hadn't posted. The first was based on a picture that I selected because I thought it would be a great opportunity to practice hand postures and I hadn't painted a hand in watercolors before. The second painting was a quick warm-up experiment I did before starting a bigger painting.
Thanks for the visit and I hope to see you around soon!
Hey there! Here is a mixed-media painting I finished yesterday, with a couple of pictures I took throughout the process. The bread was probably the most challenging in this one, although the leafy greens came up pretty close.
As I am advancing in my art journey, I am noticing things that I need more practice in and just tweeks in general I have to make in my art. One of the things that I've noticed is that I have to be more careful in order to keep my work cleaner. I regretted adding gray shadow to the background once I finished the sandwich and I decided to clean that up in Photoshop, leaving it completely white. From now on I am going to keep the backgrounds of this type of illustration work with minimal or no background shadow.
That said, I am not a minimalist in any way, shape or form. My other drawings and oil paintings are going to have backgrounds and are going to keep the sketchy/unfinished quality to them because I really like how this looks in art.
Have a great Sunday!