Thursday, 9 July 2015

Drawing Myths and Tips

While recapping Anime North 2015, I decided the drawing panels needed their own post. Because it's more than anime drawing, and it's important. Why? Consider this a companion post to Draw Your Story (explaining why you should) and Drawing for a Webcomic (actually web serial, explaining my own process). This post pulls it back to basics.

The three panels I attended were "How to Draw Manga and Anime: The Artbook Industry" by Helen McCarthy, then "How to Draw a Head, Loomis Style" & "Comic Book Basic Training", both by Kent Burles. They took place on Sunday May 24th, at noon, 1pm and 2pm.


Helen started with “a brief history of manga”, as far back as 1861. A lot of earlier stuff was in Tokyo, and lost. She then shifted to her new book “How to Draw Manga Made Easy”.
MYTH: Only talented people can draw.
REALITY: It takes commitment and practice.
MYTH: It takes ages to learn to draw well.
REALITY: It’s not going to take years to make good drawings - but be unashamed of your bad drawings. “Work will not make you great. It will make you better.” Even 10 minutes per day will show improvement - write the dates, look back later.

Interesting story about her book too - the original guy walked and took his artists. Helen was approached by the company because she had a good reputation and was asked: Can you get this together in six weeks? “That’s the thing about being freelance. You don’t turn down work. But after you’ve said yes, you HAVE to deliver. The worst thing you can say about a freelancer is they didn’t deliver on time.” She had people she could call in favours from, and it was the professional debut for one of the artists in the book - the daughter of an artist she contacted.

A lot of the remaining time was looking at the various anime art styles; check out the link to her book. In Conclusion: Draw by REALLY LOOKING at something. As long as you can do real art, you can do fantasy art.

From there it was off to the “How to Draw a Head, Loomis Style” workshop. Kent Burles says he says he’s seen every grip under the sun - the trick is have a delicate touch. He should be able to pull the pencil out of your hand as you draw. “You can’t pull back from hard lines, probably can’t even erase it.” DON’T erase though! It’s guaranteed to create inhibitions - like going to a party but staying in the kitchen. “You want to make as many mistakes as you can possibly make. How else can you know where you’re going?”

I suppose I'm ahead of the game here, in that I've been doing that without really thinking about it. Not to the same degree, but I never press hard - that's what inking is for. I also learned about pencil types! The HB pencil is mid-range. 2H, 3H and so on are very hard pencils. 2B, 3B and so forth are lighter pencil... and you can always press harder with them once you have something you like.

One more general tip: Draw from the inside going out - don’t start with a silhouette and work in. Build the head, correct as you go, and if you want a person, don’t start with the head. Kent Burles then got into the style used by Andrew Loomis.


DON’T buy any book that says draw heads as an oval! (Unless you want drawing samples.) You can’t turn an oval. You're stuck. The 'Loomis' style comes from a series of books. Here's the idea: Begin with a sphere ("circle"). Draw a vertical midline, to know how things are turned, and a horizontal midline, which will be the browline (not the eyeline). Bring up two planes at a 45 degree angle, this creates the hairline, and slices off the sides of the sphere. Put in the chin. “Don’t start with eyes or nose. It’s like building a house and starting with the flowers on the fourth floor.”

I'm sure that's hard to visualize, but at this point we have something like the image in the upper left corner:

These are the sketches I made during the workshop itself.

At this point, the bridge of the nose is at the eyeline, so make a nose pyramid. Ears are roughly from the browline to the bottom of the nose. The mouthline is about 1/3 the way down, from bottom of nose to chin. Now, the edge of the nose pyramid should line up with the tear duct (corner) of the eye. (This gives the lower left image, above.) Eyebrows are a basic shape, avoid “field of grass syndrome”. Also avoid the “egyptian eye” when putting eyes in, an eye is a ball. Finally, put in a hairline.

Never overlook drawing from life, it gives a sense of structure. And if you draw with hesitation, it shows. “Don’t wait for confidence to come. Go get it.” Kent then showed a profile view; it's more or less the same, except the part of the sphere you slice off is facing you. (That's the circle you can see.) The neck should angle, and ears are tipped slightly to the back of the head. If you're drawing a full body, the spine should curve like an elongated S, and the head comes out of that.

I hadn’t intended to stay for his second workshop “Comic Book Basic Training”, but he was so engaging, plus I’ve been considering the four panel style for when personified math returns. Apparently he ran these workshops last year too, and there was less attendance - is this becoming a popular thing?


Start with a thumbnail sketch! Size 2-3 inches. “Leaping in is a good way to cut your own throat.” Avoid the “domino approach”, eg. five separate panels randomly scattered on your page. Have your overall page design from the beginning, be it 6 panel, 9 panel, whatever. Work as small as you comfortably can. It’s quicker, and you don’t get lost in detail. Your first conception is usually your worst, that’s standard fare. “Don’t draw. Design.”

Design from a dominant panel, which gives your page a visual focus. “If you have two characters in a room, you have three": there’s the room itself. There's Three Types of Shots: Long shot (where are we), Medium shot (who is here), and Closeup shot. Mix them up. Even if it’s people talking in a room for four pages, re-establish the scene from another perspective.

He then gave us a five panel "plot" to thumbnail, and circulated among people to provide feedback. More people were here for this one than his last, I ended up next to someone who drew more with silhouettes. I thought that was great - I couldn't turn off the part of me that wanted to put in facial features. Conversely, he said the detail I was doing would take him so much longer. Go figure.

I ended up drawing two pages in the half hour or so we had, just to contrast female/male and different locations. It's below. If you can't read Kent's scaffolding in the upper right, it was: (1) Closeup - person sleeping. (2) Medium - against a tree. (3) Medium - waking up. (4) Closeup - surprise. (5) Long/establishing shot - person is surrounded by hooded figures.

Again, this is scanned from the page I had that day.

I even stuck around an additional 15 minutes after that to listen to some other tips Kent gave people, and then talk to him personally. Other tips: Don’t let the types of shot be pulling in and out like a zoom, you can pivot to another angle. If you do a diagonal split, that implies both scenes are equally valuable - are they? Design speech balloons from the start, and NEVER put them between two people talking: that’s a mood breaker, the reader becomes aware that they’re reading. You can’t go wrong at the top of the panel. He also mentioned the rule of thirds, and inclusion of negative space.

When Kent looked at mine, he made the remarks I put into those little thought bubbles on my scan, above. (I fell victim to the zoom in and out trap: not varied enough.) He said I seemed to have a good ability to transmit my vision onto the page. Also noteworthy, Kent Burles is part of the “character a day” challenge, where you draw a person every day for a year. After several years, he now has over 1400 characters, and brought his sketchbook with him. Whoa.


There's not much more to say. I'm hoping to have time to practice drawing this month (and with this post cued a week in advance, hopefully I already have). I'm hoping YOU do some practice too! The main message through all this is that it's a process. Be patient. You'll get there.

The full recap of Anime North 2015 will be next week. 

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