How to untrain my brain?

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This topic contains 8 replies, has 6 voices, and was last updated by Keruliu325 5 years ago.

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    After recently picking gesture drawing back up, I noticed that animals are easier for me to draw than humans. This is strange, because I've always focused a lot of human anatomy and less on animals.

    A bit of reflection later, I realized that I struggle with human anatomy still because I learned manga/anime style first, instead of the real foundation of actual anatomy. My brain feels almost hardwired to draw what I think I see (in a warped perspective because of the wrong style) instead of what I actually see (real anatomy in the model), so every stroke feels like a fight against instinct.

    It's difficult to deal with. I like my human gestures considerably less because they're harder for me. Has anyone figured out a way to undo this sort of training of the brain and retrain it with the real info?

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    It's funny you ask this question today of all days, because my suggestion would be to flip the source material upside down -- try to trick your brain into seeing the figure as a collection of shapes instead of instantly going, "Oh, that's a human, and here's my set of pre-defined symbols I use for a human."


    *cough* new feature just released will help with this *cough cough*


    I agree with the previous post. Think of people as just a collection of shapes. I grew up drawing in a manga style too so I understand this problem. Drawing in that style is not necessarily a bad thing and its ok to exagerate, but a strong understanding of anatomy is still required so that things don't look weird. What helped me is drawing the torso first and ignoring the head. This helps me focus on the body more and less on the stylization of the eyes, hair ect. Once you have an understanding of the human body you can then simplify it down again if you want things more stylized. I really hope that all made sense. I also recommend doing the gesture practices with only 30 seconds so that your brain only has time to see the general shapes.


    @Kim: Haaaah, that is an amazing coincidence! I LOVE it though, I'm very excited to try upside down gestures!

    @Madammallow: Thank you for the advice! Do you mean drawing gestures with no head at all, or avoiding to draw the details of the head until much later?


    Copying other artists can help with this, I'm currently struggling with my own echochamber, too much of my own drawing without influences tends to make me draw worse the longer I draw, at least that's how I feel


    An exercise I found helpful is to try drawing around the subject. Faces without faces is what got me trying this. It’s written around a particular iPad app but it works with physical media just fine. If you’re familiar with digital art, the “watercolor” and “pencil” brushes mentioned are fairly soft. The “ink” is a standard hard round brush. The main point of focus on the negative space around your subject still holds. Most art advice talking about negative drawing or painting is focused on more botanical stuff, but it works on people too. This one doesn’t work great with a more art focused reference photo with a very plain background, but it works great with complex references.

    Blind contour line drawing, continuous line drawing and cinq á sept drawing can all work too. There you’re focusing on the physical feeling and getting it to match up with what you see. Blind contour is pretty frustrating in many ways, but it’s a great alternate to gesture drawing for fast poses. Continuous line you’re allowed to look at what you’re doing, but it takes a lot of thought to not lift the pen or pencil and a fair bit of planning to get the most you can out of that one line. Going up to 5 or 7 lines feels very free after sticking with just one. The link is with ink, but I first learned blind contour with a pencil. Very few exercises really require a specific tool.

    Drawing upside down definitely works, but can feel a bit frustrating if you’re trying to work right side up. It doesn’t always carry over for me, and it’s not great for composing an original idea. It’s more a kick in the pants reminder that of course I can observe.

    Another thing to try is grab a tool for figure drawing that feels “wrong”. A big fat brush pen. Watercolor. Marker. Something way out of your comfort zone. The first practice session or two with the different tool will feel really upsetting. But when you get a bit farther in, you’ll start finding marks you like with the new tool and things you couldn’t do easily with your regular tool. You have to make a point to look for the good parts with this. Every art tool has strengths and weaknesses. Focus on the strong part, don’t beat yourself up over stuff where it’s easy with your favorite tool.


    The question can be transtlated as "my hands wouldn't follow my eyes but the image in my brain". To solve this problem, you can start with a two step training which I found useful for myself:

    Step one: Draw some "C" or "S" lines as you like, make them cross randomly. Make sure it's not too complicated. Then get a new piece of paper and try to "duplicate" the shape. Keep doing this until it looks 95% alike the random shape.

    Tips: You can simplify the shape as points and polygons with certain angles, make sure to measure everything with your eyes only. This will force your brain to focus on the shape and measure everything more accurate.

    Step two: Instead of draw a whole body figure, try start with parts of bodies. Find realistic photos and do it as step one. Your brain will gradually used to the real propotion rather than the manga style.

    It takes time to retrain your brain and hands, but I have faith on you~Good luck~

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