Figure one week one – comicbook style

Figure one week one – comicbook style

Back to school! And back to this blog!

This semester, I’m studying with Glenn Vilppu in two classes (I’ll sleep in my grave): figure one, which I have already done several times (this is – I think – my fifth time) and the special one-on-one class which will be about making my comicbook.

In this blog I’m going to cover the figure class. I think that will be the most interesting of the two (strangely).

Figure one is in fact learning the very basis of drawing, as distilled by Glenn Vilppu in his “Drawing Manual” book ( – do yourself a favour: get the book!).

Why “figure” if it’s about the general basis of drawing? well, for one, figure is a challenge (if you can draw a ballet dancer dancing without a model, from imagination, you can draw anything!) plus it’s the subject of most art you’ll have to draw during your professional life as an artist: cartoon, animation, cereal boxes, logos for fashion stores, comicbooks, fine art painting, sculpting, all have a common point: figures – almost all drawings these days include people. So why not start with that dastardedly complex and mindboglingly simple object: the human form? (plus if you can draw the figure, you are three questers of the way to drawing all animals just as well!)

But why take the same class over and over? Well, I’m really a kid in this game, I know some working pros who have been studying after their day’s work for 25 years with Glenn, the same set of courses (plus any new way of presenting things that he regularly finds – for example, we get new videos courses added to the class all the time, so it’s never exactly the same class).

The answer is simple: each time you learn something new, you evolve and he next time you take the class, you hear not another new thing, but something you had not noticed – or even known the existence of.

This week’s topic is gesture, the energy line of the mouvement of the figure – one line of pencil and that’s enough. And if you get that first step wrong, no fine rendering, finishing, glazing, fussing over your drawing, will make it right. Gesture is the make or brake or a drawing. And guess what: it looks super easy – NAAAAAAH! it’s the hardest, freakingly most difficult step of all forms of visual art! Some people never get it, most people fill sketchbooks with better and better gesture work – that progression is sped up of course when you have feedback on your work by a master like Glenn (his “crits” are long draw-over-you  videos in which he explain what can be improved and how to proceed.

“Improved”doesn’t mean “made perfect”. Get rid of one problem, you’ll surely find out another, and Glenn will tell you what to do about it. I do believe that this is the key to the fast progression of all of the students in the online : Glenn’s feedback.

I remember the second time I did the head class. My first time had been frustrating, I fancied myself a good portrait draughtsman, and while I have vastly improved at the end of the class, I had also learned that my fantasies and reality were separated by one big chasm: hard work. But that chasm could be crossed: hard work a bit everyday and you get to the other side.

I took head class again soon after that. I still remembered clearly the course videos (I watched them daily during the first go at the class). I told myself “oh ok, I’ll watch them again but I know them by heart I guess”.

I swear to you I wrote to Glenn thanking him for posting new video material to the course page and asking him: “where is the old stuff, I’d like to watch it again”. His answer was: “there is only the old stuff on the page, I’ll be adding new videos in a few days.”

I had been watching the same vids I knew by heart and suddenly I did not hear the same content: the video talked about a topic that I did not know existed before!

This to say: if you learn and grow, you see and hear things differently.

To come back to this course, my 5th “figure one” course, I just had the same experience with week one (plus, there was indeed some new material – lots of videos, great).

To me, gesture so far, was all about arms and fingers pointing, legs moving, gesture was laying a map of movements. Guess what: gesture is 3D! if you incorporate a bit of curves to let guess depth, it can be a fold on a sleeve, half a fold, a touch is enough if well placed, and your gesture takes life. The paper is no longer flat, the gesture also shows the energy movement – or whatever you want to call it – in the depth (Z axis) direction.

As I’m super concentrating on my comic, I decided to make this go at figure all about cartoony characters.

If you look at the left side middle portion of the sheet, you’ll see a blue dot, it is to point out a figure that IS 3D next to one that is NOT.

And if you think you recognise an André Franquin influence in my work, well, you are, as we say in French, bursting open a gaping door 😀

Here is my submission:

assignment figure1 week1marie

Glenn’s comment were that indeed some were 3D some were not. And he discussed at length and again during our two hours weekly chat the way to trick the eye into seeing depth (“trick” yes, drawing is creating an illusion: these are stains on a flat piece of paper, but that can make you see vast landscapes, oceans without end, streets filled with people from under you nose to far, far away from you – we are illusionists!)

Next week will be about spheres, which is perfect as it means I’m going to discover something new about the tool – spheres or circles bits) that can be used to help give depth.

This is going to be an interesting 5th time!!

Draw everyday!

(ps: The planet Earth is blue and there is nothing I can do.)

(pps: did you know Alan Rickman’s first profesion was as a graphic designer and that he himself came up with the look of Snape in the movies? He should have been given a prize for the acting and one for the designing)

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