Thursday, September 27, 2007

The Best Figure Drawing Books Ever

I put together this list of my favorite figure drawing, sketching and anatomy books for fellow artists and student friends. You can download any and all of these books for free. I hope you'll find them useful.

Alone At Number One
Topping my list of the best drawing books ever, stands THE PRACTICE & SCIENCE OF DRAWING by Harold Speed. Quite possibly the most influential book I have ever read, and you know I don't throw the "i" word around that freely. I bought this book when I was seventeen years old hoping to find a few pointers and some nifty tips on how to draw but instead I found an epiphany. To say that this book changed my life is not an exaggeration in the least but an actual understatement.

For those of you who have attended or are currently attending an Art College, these teachings may not be such a revelation, it is no secret that most art teachers use Harold Speed's book like a preacher uses the Holy Bible but judging from the overall mediocrity of today's 'high' art education, I would dare say this book is worth ten years of any decent art school's body of knowledge. The one truly remarkable thing about this book is its timelessness; this edition was first published in London in 1917, yet everything this man wrote in this volume holds true to this day and at times, it seems as if it was written just a few months ago, nothing here is dated but the Victorian flavor of the writing.

I read this book every once in a while (the same old beat up copy you see in the above picture) and it never ceases to amaze me, I discover something new and helpful to me, every single time. More than a mere technical, how-to, instructional manual, this book deals intelligently and concisely with the meaning, psychology and science of art, and in particular, the art of drawing.

You can download it for free by clicking on this link:
The Practice and Science of Drawing

The Andrew Loomis Collection
Loomis was a great artist, but he was a better teacher. For the most part his art remained academic in the good sense of the word but at the same time, it never trascended that label. His books, however, are indispensable resources on art technique. I first downloaded these beauties back in 2001 from the 'Save Loomis Foundation" which no longer hosts them, most every artist friend I know has these books in pdf format, if the links ever go bad I'm sure you'll have no trouble finding someone who has them. I've read in some forums some douchebags attacking Loomis for being boring, (usually the attack is perpetrated by horrible teenage comic book artists) it's quite easy to spot these idiots, because they prefer Hogarth's made-up bullshit anatomy, they find it more "dynamic" but if you really want to acquire solid drawing skills, Loomis is your man, for sure. You know my motto: Learn how to put something together the right way before you take it apart, the wrong way.

You can download it for free by clicking on this link:
Drawing the Head and Hands

You can download it for free by clicking on this link:
Figure Drawing for All Its Worth

You can download it for free by clicking on this link:
Successful Drawing

You can download it for free by clicking on this link:
Creative Illustration

You can download it for free by clicking on this link:
Fun With The Pencil

You can download it for free by clicking on this link:
Eye of the Painter

The Best Anatomy for Artists Book, Period!!
In my not so humble opinion, this is the best tool you have, to decode the human figure. Never mind it is written in German, use the google translator if you must but make an effort to follow this wonderful set of instructions. Some people migh be put off by a few of the crude line drawings but I think they are accurately depicted and full of stylish charm. Just by looking at the simplified forms depicting the mechanics of the body parts you will learn how things are put together in relation to each other. George Bridgman's anatomy books are essential but Gottfried Bammes' is necessary because it makes anatomy fun and easy to learn, he rocks my drawing world for reals.

You can download it for free by clicking on this link:
Der Nackte Mensch
by Gottfried Bammes

The George Bridgman Collection

You can download it for free courtesy of the Universal Digital Library by clicking on this link:
Constructive Anatomy

You can download it for free courtesy of the Universal Digital Library by clicking on this link:
The Human Machine

You can download it for free by clicking on this link:
Bridgman's Complete Guide To Drawing From Life
Note: After download add the .pdf extension to the name of the file

Edit: At the time I was putting this post together my friend Barry emailed me two recommendations: 'Drawing the Head' by William Maughan and 'The Human Figure' by J.H. Vanderpoel, the Vanderpoel book I've seen before and I strongly recommend, I just ordered the William Maughan's one, I'll give you my impressions after I take a gander at it.
Added 3 George Bridgman books.


Sunday, September 23, 2007

More of The Same part 2

Process Junk
For me —and this is a disclaimer I feel necessary because what works for me may not work for you and viceversa, there is no definitive way to achieve a particular outcome but there's a rule of thumb here and there— the "trick" lies in rendering the whole thing with the least amount of broad strokes, applying pressure at the beginning or at the end of the stroke, following the form thus creating instant volume. I usually start from dark to light, holding the pencil, as I've said before, like a stick of charcoal, pushing hard and lifting as I glide the pencil.

After a very basic underdrawing I start rendering, making every effort to establish a wide range of values by bearing down and lifting, applying varying degrees of pressure. I don't worry too much about getting it perfect, the main thing is to lay down this "foundation" sort of speak.

Next, I adjust the values by finding the darkest and lightest parts of the figure, this is when I draw the hair and 'frame' the face. Once the darkest values are down the rest of the drawing will seem light by contrast, this helps me figure out where I need to darken.

After experimenting with many different brands, I found the best paper to be used with Col-Erase pencils for this purpose is the 60 lb. Strathmore Sketch 400 series, premium recycled, acid free a few reasons for this: it has a medium tooth, enough to achieve a nice texture, is made of recycled materials so it's not ultra white, this is important for me because once I scan the drawing into Photoshop I can pick up more highlights digitally if need be, using the 'Dodge' tool, it's also reasonably inexpensive, the 100 page 11"x14" sketchbook only costs $6.59.

Col-Erase pencils are not like charcoal, the wax builds up and if you press too hard you'll end up with a "satin" finish and that can make it difficult to obtain the darkest value possible, save the satin finish for certain areas such as the lips, shiny nose or glassy eyes which you could define later by applying short and thin strokes, holding the pencil as if you're writing. The general idea is to retain some of the texture by gradually applying "coats"of pigment.

I finished the sketch by picking up highlights with the eraser and drawing in the fine line details and edges.


Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Images Of Dignity: The Drawings of Charles White

Charles was born on April 2, 1918, to Ethel Gary and Charles White, Sr., a Creek Indian, in Chicago, where the family had migrated from the South. He was their only child. Mr. White was a railroad and construction worker.

Monday, September 17, 2007

William Wray's Dirty Beauty Book

Bill Wray's book is finally here, is available now at the Brandstudio Press Online Store
This volume is a bit different from most of the books we publish, not just because it sports a fancy 'dust jacket' but also because this book is all about oil painting, amazing paintings I must say. I don't think William "Bill" Wray needs an introduction but for those of you who haven't heard of him, here's the heading and the "About Me" blurb from his blog:

"If Thomas Kincaid is the painter of light, I'm the painter of blight. Whether it's old an Drive–in or trailer park, trains or sun bleached Gremlins, my subjects are bound to be demoed, towed to the junkyard or explode when the Meth chemicals combust. As a founding member of the L.A. River School of painting, I chronicle the fast disappearing pockets or industry, urban decay and run down rural areas. Places most consider not worth remembering, let alone turning them into works of art."

"After traveling his entire childhood as an Army brat Bill Wray began working in the animation business as a teen-ager. Being mostly self-taught and shunning California’s conceptual oriented art schools, he eventually enrolled in The Art Students League located in New York to reinforce his spotty art foundation. Bill went on to work in writing and drawing comic books, animation and illustration. He is mostly known for his painting style on the Ren and Stimpy Show, his work in Mad Magazine and his collaborations with Mike Mignola on Hellboy Jr. Bill is currently concentrating on fine art oil painting."

Dirty Beauty
By William Wray

Price: $25.95 US Dollars
ISBN: 13 978-1-934623-06-0
8 3/4x12 3/8, 48 pages Full-Color, Full-Bleed, Hardcover, Perfect bound-Sewn Pages, Dust Jacket.

Available Now. Click on the button below to order your copy:

William Wray's Blog

All images are copyright © 2007 William Wray, please don't reproduce without permission.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Quick Col-Erase Tonal Sketches

Mass Drawing Vs. Line Drawing

Something done for fun using the "side" of the pencil's lead, just like one would hold a stick of chalk or charcoal or pastel. Bearing down and lifting to create shadow "humps" and long planes of shading and texture. "Pressure Sensitive" stuff :)

Loose line drawing, for these I hold the pencil way up high, as if I were to puncture a balloon. The higher I hold the pencil the lighter the strokes.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

The Fun is Over, Back to Work!

Dear Diary,

'Labor Day' weekend came and went, signaling the end of the 2007 convention season (at least for me) I won't be able to attend the Baltimore show due to an unavoidable family event and the Texas Wizardworld con is pretty doubtful at this point. Quite frankly, I'm exhausted from having such a good time day after day, after day, after day, after day . . . . I feel like the Bill Murray character in 'Groundhog Day'.

The fuckin' fun just never fuckin' ends!! Enough already I say! 'Matter of fact, I've had it with having fun, from now on I want nothing but suffering and grief, yeah, that's it! The fun is over, move along people, there's nothing to see here. Let's get back to putting books together . . . . . Aww, Fuck it!! More fun . . . Oh, well!

In all seriousness, Diary, you know I love mindless fun, I was just fuckin' with you. Don't act all offended and shit, C'mon man, grow up. Let me tell you more about the trip, shall I? my tour of Canada yielded tons of new friends and plenty of adventures; No, silly, not those types of adventures.

Anywaaaay, Toronto was nothing less than stellar and Calgary didn't disappoint either. Good friends, good times, etc., etc., etc.
I know I won't ever be able to name and individually thank each and every kind person who stopped by our booths and shared their art, bought our products and had good things to say about our work but at least let me give those people a huge virtual hug and a heartfelt 'Thank You'.

Honorable mentions should go to the following individuals:

In Toronto, To my dearest friend Jeremy McCraken and the super awesome Mikayla Carson for being such great hosts and even better friends. To James Armstrong for inviting me to the FanExpo. To my buddies, Stephen Silver & Matt Stewart for putting up with my nonsense. To Dan Merisanu and his lovely wife for putting my drawings up on the walls of his book store/gallery. To Dale and Shan. To Fez and his charming girl for sharing war stories, stay strong, my friend, you're an inspiration.

In Calgary, to Kandrix & Laurie Bee for welcoming me into their home and treating me like royalty. To Steve Peace for inviting me to the Tattoo and Art Festival, I'll be back next year for sure. To Zoe for being so cute and kind. To Dylan and his lovely girlfriend, I had a blast hanging out with you guys and talking art all day long. To Dan Van Cool and his adorable gf. To Stewart's girlfriend, very clever of you, mister to send Michelle to be drawn, best one yet. To Peter, you're such a gentleman, thank you for the Lime-flavored Tostitos.

I'll see you all next year, hopefully in April at the Calgary Comic & Entertainment Expo.

Fight or Flight
Fez and I were chatting in Toronto at a very nice Thai restaurant and somehow the conversation turned to high school fighting or such, my memorable scuffle with Andrés immediately came to mind. I was a scrawny kid, never had fought a "real" fight, not a physical fight anyways.

As far as I can recall, I've been involved in only 3 significant brawls from elementary school all the way up to high school, all of them combined couldn't have lasted more than one full minute, in the first two I took a walloping, I wouldn't even call them fights because I didn't get to throw a single punch, I was just soundly beaten to a golden crisp.

I made it through childhood and most of adolescence without major incidents for various reasons, mainly avoidance. In elementary school my kid brother was practically my bodyguard. Man, he loved to fight! he was a tornado.

I always thought thugs were stupid and easy to manipulate, at least the ones I befriended were; actually, I have never met a big bully that wasn't dumb and gullible, in fact, many were ultra sensitive and sentimental.

From kindergarten to tenth grade I attended 8 different schools, I collected bullies everywhere I went, that was my tactic, I used to tell them stories and did favors for them and they did favors for me, namely, they allowed me to tag along which was good for my street cred, not much different than what I do now.

This practice afforded me certain level of protection while in school. In the neighborhood, my male cousins and uncles were old, hardened criminals who had seen jail time at one point of another, they were respected in the community, so not that many people wanted any of that kind of trouble. My cousins were some of those sentimental thugs I'm talking about, Tommy Boyd was a merchant marine, he looked like Robert De Niro in Cape Fear, Ruperto (Aunt Lucia's son) was a petty thief and a pot head, he was always in and out of the correctional facilities on a regular basis, in fact, he died while serving time for a robbery or such. He was tall and built like a tank. Ruperto could take home a stray puppy or an injured bird and cry over a sappy breakup song but he was a relentless pit bull in a fight.

The major drawback, however, was that every time shit went down in school, even if I had nothing to do with the transgressions, I was always found guilty by association. Academically, I was a good student so teachers couldn't understand how I got into trouble so frequently. I wasn't a badass by any definition, quite the opposite, I just hung out with the "wrong element".

The third fight was my awakening, I suppose. Andrés Oceguera, this neighbor of mine, same age as me, the son of our white trash landlord. A walking 1930's cartoon of a child, used to make fun of me night and day because of my name at first and later because I liked this twig-legged girl from across the street and even later, for shit I don't even remember and so forth. He just had it in for me and I assume now, in retrospect and after all these years that he really thought I was easy prey because I never challenged him to a fight, all I did was humiliate him verbally, which I'm sure irked him even more. He had a rep as a street thug, nothing would have given me more pleasure than to hurt this boy in public, for the whole neighborhood to see, perhaps by doing so I would have made a name for myself but the fact that I never won a fight before hunted me and demoralized me.

I avoided the unavoidable for the longest because I really thought the kid could fuck me up in a 'toe-to-toe'. I was really afraid of him for sure or at best, afraid of having my nose broken again, that pain stuck with me for a while. I often thought to myself: "if I ever fight him I better win because the alternative would be disastrous" it would most probably mean daily beatings for free, for ever.

I remember staying up late some days, carefully planning, calculating and visualizing this rumble, I studied his moves and his weaknesses when I saw him fight other kids, he was very predictable and I considered all sorts of technical aspects involved in a fight so as to not end up in the hospital, or worst, the laughing stock of the neighborhood. Out there in the boondocks, it was already painful to be thought of as a sissy for drawing pretty pictures and writing poetry. People in the hood didn't necessarily respect me, I guess because I have never "proven myself" as a street goon by winning a street fight, they didn't mess with me because of my family's reputation. I'm sure they all considered me a mama's boy and they were not too far from the truth. Fact is I didn't take after my mom's side of the family, I am my father's son a carbon copy of my dad, who was a geek, a nerd, an artist and a lover, positively not a fighter.

I wanted so bad to win that fight, after all, I saw what had happened to Federico, a.k.a. Mosquito, the skinny girl's brother, who oddly enough was also shaped like his sister. Basically, two half-cooked spaghetti sticks for legs and an afro, only taller. His father, a short and chubby man in direct contrast to his kids, forced him one day to confront and challenge my cousin Thomas to a fist fight in the middle of the street. Thomas, who, as I have told you already, was a real asshole, taunted Mosquito to no end.

The outcome of that particular bout was sad and brutal: nerd confronts bully, crowd gets behind nerd and bully beats the smelly stuff out of nerd. All the more painfully sad because it was in front of the whole world as we knew it, a fucking Roman coliseum for cripe's sakes!

Mosquito rushed out of his house and called Thomas a "motherfucker", both kids squared off as if they were in a Golden Gloves competition and stared at each other without blinking for a few seconds, with the crowd almost overwhelmingly egging the underdog on. Federico had the look of fear and regret in his eyes, deep inside he was thinking "How did I ever let my dad talked me into committing suicide?" He knew this was a fight he couldn't possibly win but there was no turning back. He jumped out at Thomas, swinging mad like a windmill in the midst of a monsoon season, wearing his father's pointy 'steel toe' shoes. I guess part of the strategy Federico's corner had devised was to kick Thomas into submission, a really bad idea given the fact that Thomas was a star athlete and by all accounts an unconventional fighter with cat-like reflexes, "Langaruto" (enlongated) was always our designated goalie because he was tall and agile but an unrefined brute prone to violence nonetheless, after watching him brawl, it was pretty apparent he had never met the Marquis of Queensberry.

As soon as Fede (as he was affectionately called by his family) lifted his skinny right leg to attempt what could only be described as a half-hearted roundhouse kick, Thomas grabbed his ankle, brought him to the ground and pummeled Fede like it was December 31st 1999.

Federico was never the same, even way after we kissed puberty goodbye and reached adulthood, long after Thomas became a successful businessman and helped Fede's father financially. He'd always get agitated when anyone would bring up 'the fight' in a conversation. He hated Thomas with a passion for bullying him prior to fighting him —most people did— but most of all, he hated him for making him look like a clown in front of his own house, with his family watching, it bothered him until his death, at the age of 25.

On the fateful afternoon I went berserk on the Oceguera kid, all my careful planning went to shit. In an emotional street fight, I discovered, technique and common sense have no place, only instinct. This coctail of hate and revenge had been brewing for years and I just went postal on the poor kid. Postal workers have cushy jobs, the benefits are great and you can't get fired if you tried. It is kind of hard to get in but once you're working for the USPS you'll be there until you die, retire or decide to quit. The unions are strong and so, you would have to fuck up royally in order to get yourself fired, you'd probably have to steal at least 5 years worth of daily mail or something as ridiculous to be given the pink slip. It stands to reason that some mentally disturbed and disgruntled postal workers who lose their jobs, resort to go on killing sprees every once in a while, after being let go by the government, their lives are pretty much ruined.

I discovered a really 'postal' side to my otherwise introverted nature, I grabbed the kid by the neck, from behind and twisted his head as hard as I could, his body gave way and he fell awkwardly on his back, I pulled him by his hair and shoved my knee to his face repeatedly, 2 or 3 times, perhaps more, I honestly don't remember, I saw the blood streaming down only after I dropped him, but it was done, no one but a single person saw us. The kid never touched me, he didn't see it coming. Ironically, the fight I had been conditioning myself for, both mentally and physically, for years, the event I wanted the whole world to watch, that 10 round boxing match fantasy I created in my mind was over in less than ten seconds and nobody even fuckin' saw it.

After I walked away all kinds of thoughts crept into my head, mostly guilt and sadness but also the scary idea of how much I enjoyed the brutality I perpetrated on this human being. I thought that beating him up would somehow make me happy but it didn't, it did change me though, for the worse. I can see why some —otherwise peaceful— person, given the circumstances, can viciously kill another, there is a primal rush in beating somebody up, I had no idea I harbored that feeling.

The fight with Andrés taught me a valuable lesson, a lesson I would apply in everyday life, in everything I do, that there is no fair fight, someone always has an advantage, whatever that may be, physical or mental, or both. You have to attack first, be brutal and heartless because there is no room for sentiment or compassion, use any means necessary and end it quickly, no time for posing or squaring off like Chuck Norris or any of that macho bullshit. There are no rules, it's just self preservation, you run if you have to, it doesn't matter how manly and tough you think you are, no one is manly enough to stop a bullet or an unexpected knife in your kidney.

In tenth grade people thought I was crazy because I stabbed another kid with a sharp pencil and broke the led inside his forearm, I learned that from Marcos Salinas, he would be laughing with you one minute and smashing your face with a stapler or whatever was at hand, the next. He told me he was always afraid to death of getting into an actual fight because he new he couldn't win and that by acting like a sociopath once or twice, he avoided them altogether, simply because nobody wanted to mess with an unpredictable mental case who could snap dangerously at any time and with minor provocation. If you were to fight me one-on-one you would definitely win, everyone who knows me since childhood knows but all too well I can't fight and I can't dance (sorry ladies). It wouldn't be over though, even if you'd beat me to a bloody purée because I would come back some time later and jam a pair of scissors in your back or something stupid like that when you least expect.

I haven't gotten myself into any physical fights in a long while and I do hope to be able to avoid them at all costs, but in business as in real life sometimes I feel I'm fighting the same bullies with pretty much the same unconventional methods.