Forum posts by Aunt Herbert

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    It's a question of how much you want to go into detail, and how much detail you know to avoid. First step is to get the proportions and relations of skull, ribcage and hip right, to get a convincing torso, then you need decent shortcuts for major limbs, joints, feet and hand. At that level you will be able to draw quite convincing outlines of pretty much all figures, which is not a small feat. If you are able to do this with clean lines, you will be at the level, that is used in a lot of older comic books.

    It's only once you want to add a lot of details and shading, that you get into the problem of having to understand in more detail what muscles and bones underneath the skin exactly cause all those little bumps and ditches to appear (and then you also need to look into details of lighting, like core shades, reflected lights, highlights, etc.). Adding more details also gives the viewer more comparison points to spot where your proportions are slightly off. It looks great if you can pull it off, and probably everyone dreams about being able to add a thousand perfect details, but it's also the way to ruin perfectly decent drawings by "overworking" them.

    Learning landmarks and improving your understanding of anatomy is essentially the same process. If you really have no clue at all how the bone structures look, that these landmarks indicate, you should probably look them up, and maybe try to simplify and draw them a few times just as geometric shapes from several angles. If you have troubles simplifying them (the hip bone is a bugger for example) search for other artists simplification.

    Finding those landmarks on the reference, and starting to visualize how the underlying structure must be placed, still takes a lot of practice, and starts with quite an amount of guesswork. The end goal isn't to draw pretty landmarks, but to improve your understanding of anatomy by searching for them. Most of them won't be visible anyway once people wear clothes, or when they are simply behind other parts of the body, etc. So, when you feel like you have troubles learning the landmarks due to lack of anatomy skills, you are approaching the horse from the wrong side. Landmarks are just a tool towards learning anatomy.


    I am not 100% certain, but I think you are drawing on a pad, and aren't quite used to/ comfortable with how it feels, yet? Straight lines seem to work OK, but you probably should also spend some practice time just drawing circles, ovals and curves. Like, put 3 points down and try to find a smooth oval that connects them. Or just draw two lines, then fill the space in between with a row of ovals, that exactly touch each other and both of the lines. It's boring and frustrating, but it helps with manual dexterity, and if you fill an entire page, it actually produces decorative patterns.

    You do follow a methodical approach towards figure drawing, which is actually good, but the resulting lines and the 25 minute time both give the impression, that something intimidates you. Just drawing a lot, and then after a session sorting through the results and enjoying the best ones might help, but if you draw digitally, that means off course, that you have to save all your results until the end of the session for comparison. The reason why I mention the 25 minutes is, that if you cut down the time per attempt, you will probably learn more atm. I think 2 30 minute classes would be more useful for now than the 1 hour class.

    Your end result isn't that bad. One more line for the neck, to connect the head with the shoulders would have given the upper torso more logic. Obviously on the model, the neck was obscured by the hair, but the neckline would have been very close to were you indicated the outline of the hair.

    The belly is actually better on the second layer than the third, you didn't trust the construction here, and fell back on falsely "correcting" old habits into the draft.

    The way the arm connects to the ribcage indicates that you missed the shoulder joint a bit. It is somewhat independent of the ribcage, and not just a point in space, but an actual object, which can be shortcut as a fistsized ball.


    I would recommend extending your focus from the eye to the complete eye socket in the skull. a) it helps positioning in the face, and b) it takes account of most of the muscles, wrinkles and tissue sacks around the eye, that make up the expression.

    It also follows the general best practice to start constructing the head from the underlying bone structure. Huge help once you extend towards capturing the planes of the face to get towards proper shading.

    After two weeks is maybe also a good time to go back to full portraits. Your eyes and noses aren't perfect yet, but you probably learn more by applying what you learned so far, and returning to more detailed problems later.


    I am definitely jealous of your tight and clean finish.

    The guy sitting in the middle's upper torso looks a bit "assembled". His shoulders are a bit too high up, and the way his shoulder muscles show, look like he is leaning forward, while his belly section seems to indicate a very upright posture, and his hips would either indicate leaning backwards a bit or being hunched together lazily. Sometimes models assume quite strange poses, but your figure still doesn't seem to come together 100%.

    As for the two ladies, they look quite immaculate.


    I think this may be the link you are looking for:

    I would be happy to see the portrait library getting some new additions.


    OK, let's address the feeling of being stuck first: Say hello to your new friend and be prepared, that they will never leave again. I think I drew at some level my whole live, but I started to develop some real ambition about 3 years ago, and "You are stuck" and "You don't really improve at all" have been more or less constant guests in my head at least since then. Sometimes they leave me for a few moments, when I finished a new piece, but they certainly will be back, when I look at it 10 minutes later. I heard Norman Rockwell suffered from imposter syndrom throughout his life, and he earned big money with his work and defined a whole generation of illustrators' works. "you are stuck" is just the dark shadow of the ambition that drives you to get better as an artist, and it regularly misbehaves.

    The link shows quite a large number of drafts, which is good in itself, and they vary in quality, which is just the way it goes. If I had to find a common theme on where to focus your attention next, I think getting an even clearer idea of the anatomy of ribcage and hip next could lend your sketches some more substance in their construction. Especially the tendency to overestimate the distance between ribcage and hips shows up in some of your weaker sketches.

    As you generally include hands and feet in your drafts, you might look out for finding a simplified construction for them too. Especially feet aren't very complicated, once you overcome the urge to assemble them from details and look at their simplified geometric shapes instead. They usually aren't the star of the show, but they can bring down the final result until you found a set of clean lines to handle them.


    OK, your fondness for Charles Bargue explains the expert finish on your foot sketches.

    A bit of a warning, so, the teaching method of the French Academy is,... a bit special. You wouldn't even be allowed next to live models before you painstakingly copied about a hundred expert drawings of greek plaster statues, all with an instructor peering over your shoulder and telling you what exactly to take away from those plates. After that you are meant to spend half a lifetime drawing those same statues yourself.

    Croquis Cafe, with its focus on quick sketches, would have been seen as complete heresy!

    Given your experience with Atelier drawing, you probably know how much of what I said is true, and how much was exaggerated for dramatic purpose, but the actual point I want to make is, that you probably gain more from Croquis Cafe if you take a look at some quick sketching theory and a constructional approach to drawing. My alltime recommendation would be, the free courses. It's quite systematic in explaining the approach, follows it through all the way to detailed studies of anatomy, and Stan Prokopenko has by far enough experience with this technique to show off its promises.

    Another popular approach to quick sketching would be Mike Matessi's force method. The method is about the polar opposite of the Atelier technique, with its total focus on movement, focus and dynamique. It's frankly a bit alien to me, but the results of those who study it are undeniable. This one might be interesting to you, exactly because it's so different from what you done so far.

    Generally with Atelier drawing as your introduction to art, you have already decided for a spicy mix of techniques. Finding the perfect blend will be up to you, but what I seen so far from you looks promising.


    The hands look good, their 3-D structure works in perspective, and the anatomy is convincing.

    I have no silver bullet to the problem you are describing, mostly because I suffer very much from the same problem.

    I believe it stems from "meassuring", i.e. comparing the relations and proportions of everything that is already drawn to itself and the reference. The more details are added, the more relations become visible, and suddenly proportions that looked right a few strokes ago start to look off, because the relations to the latest detail no longer match.

    I hope it gets better with experience. If I am frustrated about, say, the distance between eye and ear often enough, I'll start to pay more attention to that specific relation while planning my lines. Deciding after the fact, whether the eye or the ear is placed wrong, or too big, or too small, or if its really the fault of the cheekbone, that I indicated in between and that made the conundrum obvious, is quite frustrating, and takes me out of the flow a lot.

    If everyone else has a better answer to your problem, I'll be the first one to try it out.

    BTW, links work well, no problem.


    About those searching lines: Given, that you did them in 30 secs, those are really a lot of them. Which means, you mostly scribbled them down incredibly fast. Take a breath, even in a 30 secs sketch, and learn to plan your lines. In analogue drawing, there is the trick of shadowing your lines, i.e. moving with your pen over the paper a few times before you put it down and draw. I don't know how well that works with a digital pad, as it is a different object from the screen, which displays the result, though.

    Also, I don't know how long you have your pad. I had one once a long time ago, and threw it out frustrated one day. Later someone told me, that getting used to it, by spending a good amount of time drawing simple geometric forms, might have been the better idea for me instead.

    On the upside, the figures that you found with your searching lines show a good eye for gesture and proportions. Probably the life drawing classes from college pay off. If you find a way to get over the problem with your line quality, you might be further along the path than is visible now.


    You are making one mistake, that I am trying hard to beat out of myself atm. You fall in love with all the nice details of those pretty shadows, and try to assemble the pose out of them, instead of first constructing a clear foundation.

    Your indication of the ribcage melts unclear into the shoulders. Look up a few images of a ribcage, and notice, how it is eggshaped, with a pointy top. The shoulder joints, and muscles move quite independent of it.

    Your indication of the hip is way too small to really indicate much. Possibly, find some anatomically correct images of skeletons or the appropriate bones. Once you start to understand, what the muscle parts, that cast all those pretty shadows actually do, your shading will improve miraculously.


    Your instinct is to draw the upper torso outlines, producing a rectangular pillar, that rises up from the hip. Try instead to draw the ribcage as an egg-shaped form, that starts just above the hip, with a cut-out for the belly on the front. The shoulder joints to the left and right of the "tip" of the egg are better indicated by drawing a shoulder line, than by merging them and the ribcage into a square.

    That way you will avoid the typical beginner mistake of slimming and lengthening the torso, and will achieve an overall more solid construction of the torso. It will also help to focus more on construction than outline, and help you understand the movement of the shoulders as distinct from the chest.


    OK, those are 15 individual sketches, which is a lot to critique. I'll try a general overview of my impressions instead. I like the curves, and I find your lines mostly very readable and deliberate, but sometimes you end up with a bundle of lines, where a single line would have been more convincing.

    Anatomy and proportions work mostly well, with minor mistakes sprinkled in between now and then. You emphasize the big forms, and avoid getting lost in details, which makes your bodies appear quite compact and gives them a pleasing stylized appearance.


    I am aware, that the owners of this site do not so much shoot their own photographies, so this isn't as much a suggestion to them, but to photo artists maybe looking for inspiration on what images this site could profit from.

    And that is really the portrait library. There seem to be a lot less portraits than poses available. And furthermore, all the portraits have a lot in common. There is the one fact, that almost all portraits stem from the same 7 or 8 models, which is unfortunate, but maybe can't be changed. But on top of that, about 95% of all the portraits are shot in a very similar manner. Shoulders are almost exclusively relaxed and parallel to the camera. The lighting is pretty much universally soft room lighting from above and to one of the sides, background is always neutral.

    When you are already in the business of shooting images of poses, could you just occassionally zoom in on the heads and shoot a set of "portraits" in the same go? Fullbody acting and posing really has a stark effect on the facial expression.

    Or just be more inventive with the lighting situations? Stark direct lighting, natural lighting, atmospheric lighting, backlit portraits, there are so many possibilities to experiment with and to explore the planes of the human face.

    In hope of having given someone a few ideas



    You show a decent understanding of abstracting simple lines and forms, and draw clean and readable poses. I suggest you try to include anatomical observations next.

    I think the next step forward for you is to understand how the ribcage actually looks and functions in the chest, and try to "see" it in a reference before drawing. Short description: a flattened egg-like form, with the "pointy" top ending between the shoulder joints, just underneath the neck, and the bottom cut off along the line of the lower ribbs. That cut-off extends on the back down to about a hand-width above the hip, about two handwidth on the front, where the belly is. Understanding the ribcage is also the first step towards observing shoulder and breast muscles, as they are mostly what obscures the ribcage. Be aware, overestimating the distance between hips and ribcage is a very common mistake, which tends to lead to unproportionally long torsos.

    In your drawings the chest area has a tendency to be a bit slimmer than natural and looks like a simple tube. Finding the ribcage would add more substance to the construction.

    Btw, female breasts are best imagined as formed like an inverted heart shape, hanging over the ribcage with the tip attached underneath the throat. A good shortcut to look for is the line underneath the breaths. Finding that line and the center line of the heartshape is often more indicative than starting with sketching out one of the spheres and then finding the other one. In constructing the foundation consider even ignoring them, as they don't actually influence the pose a lot, but merely feature in drawing the outline.

    Also, check out for better explanations and examples.


    Not a 100% silver bullet, but some steps that helped me to somehow overcome the problem (Also only somehow, it still keeps creeping up on me)

    The first step is meassuring. That doesn't necessarily involve holding a pencil in front of you and making a smart face, what it does involve is finding a habit to check what you already have drawn during drawing. Usually we are good at checking horizontal lines and vertical lines. So when you plan your next line, compare the point where you want it to end, to the lines you have already drawn. Should it end a bit deeper or a bit higher or at the same height as that line you already drew over there?

    When I mess up a drawing, the cause is usually not that I meassured wrong, but that I didn't meassure at all. I was so concentrated on that details of how the shadows on that right knee looked, that I not once looked left to check how long I already drew the other leg, and such stuff. Or I didn't look at the torso above for more than a minute and now the leg is broader than the entire chest.

    In my experience the "meassuring" part falls in two areas: Really building the habit to do it regularly while drawing, and also sort of a training effect to just develop more capacity to keep more relationships on the page in mind while drawing. It's a bit like, once you pay attention to it, it's really easy, but learning to keep paying attention to it while concentrating hard on all the other stuff, like forms, shapes, line quality, controlling your pen, analysing the reference, etc.. is really hard.

    A second step is training specific methods. For heads and faces, the Loomis construction is by far the most well known, for bodies, there is for example the O'Reilly method. You basically just grind to know the proportions of such specific objects as the human head or body by heart. It's good to have at least a basic grasp of this methods, and when you find, that you keep struggling with the same parts of your sketches over and over again you can always go back to the foundation to find out more about what mistakes actually keep bugging you.

    Then, generally the advice to learn to draw big forms first, before you concentrate on details. Sounds extremely easy, but it absolutely isn't, as it runs a bit counter to our intuition of looking at art. When we look at art naively, we tend to be impressed by all the pretty, pretty details first, and that is what we want to copy. Then we end up with a page of multiple mediocre details, that are somewhat randomly scattered over the page, and just don't form a cohesive image.

    Foreshortening or drawing stuff in angles... well there is a quite famous and good page, named It focuses on perspectivic drawing first and foremost, and does it in a very methodical way. If you do the lessons, and the homeworks, you will have a good idea on how geometric shapes behave in perspective. One of the homeworks, probably the most famous one, and the one the site is named after is: Draw 100 boxes and check each of them for correct perspective! Definitely check the site out. And try it out. Doing it yourself is less gruesome than it sounds, and it feels great, when you are done.

    Here is a freebie tip from me, if you ever venture into urban sketching or architectural drawing: Drawing horizontal lines horizontally greatly enhances the final result of your image! I keep repeating it to myself when drawing outside, as my righthanded body has a biomechanical tendency to let horizontal lines tumble more and more to the right when drawing on the right side of a page. I assume lefties have the same problem on the left side of the page.