Head 3rd week, black ink by any other name…..

Head 3rd week, black ink by any other name…..

Black and white, ink and paper, nothing grey, nothing in between, just black and white, working and having fun together (could the person suddenly humming “ebony and ivory” please tune it down? Thank you: we are talking ink, not skin!)

Following last week (read it now!) and Glenn’s excellent advice, I decided this week to concentrate on the modelling tone: what faces you is in light, what goes away is dark – I would add: the faster it goes away (the steeper the angle) the darker it is). Imagine if you will that you are looking at your model with only one light source: a head lamp you are wearing.

I took some random photos and ignored the lighting in them, looking instead for plane changes: the front of the nose, the sides of the nose, the underside of the nose etc.

On two of them I felt a bit daring and pushed the light, exaggerating it on one side, thus giving hopefully the impression that the light came from the side a bit. But again, not respecting the light that was in the photo (I dont post the photos here for copyright reasons but trust me, they were not lite like this!)

here is the thing of the week:


It took me a while looking for planes in the faces – and before you ask: yes I did a rough construction in pencil before going ink-crazy…. I erased the said pencil construction because….. because Michelangelo, Leonardo and Rafael erased theirs! I don’t see why I should show my secrets when they don’t show theirs – more seriously, a study of their originals shows the pencil was indeed there. And by the way: no I’m not talking about turtles here.

A question came to me: ok the forehead bit that is facing me perfectly is white, the bit of the ear that is not facing me at all is black, and the bits in shadows are black (they often happen to be going away from me so double reason to blacken them).

But what about the in-between bits? Take the guy at the bottom left (if you recognise him – my favourite actor – you win the right to brag about it) his cheeks…. if I blacken them where they go back it will make his face hard, if I don’t blacken them, his face will look flat at the cheek level.

The usual problem of the comicbook inker! Crosshatching (little black lines side by side or crossing each other) can be considered as grey…. I want black and white.

I asked Glenn (in a note on my assignment) what to do (he has done comicbook inking – I think he’s done every job that’s related to drawing so his experience is immense).

His answer: yes black and white is possible! but for that you have to know your planes of the face so well you can see things that are not obvious to the non-artist in the face you are drawing.

Don’t draw an eye: draw the shadow of it. Where grey appears in real life, reconstruct the planes in your brain an go black and white.

And as for my assignment he critiqued the lack of coherence in most of the faces – the woman on the lower right side: if her right (to us) cheek is that dark, why is the side of her nose so light?

In short: know you planes of the head (of the skull too!!!) be able to draw them from imagination in any angle any lighting. Then simplify your model. The likeness will come easily, just a bit of exaggeration (not caricature but in that direction, even in super-realistic art) will do the trick.

I know what to do for next week, and i’m begining to understand something: all this Glenn explained in detail to me (he took his time in my critic and explained more during the two hours live chat, drawing on the topic) sketching IS thinking like this, not just for faces but also for buildings, trees, anything!

Ok, back to work now that I know in which direction to work.

And you guys: draw a lot and get a skull! either a medical student-grade plastic one from ebay (cheap) or a good ipad app allowing you to rotate skull and lights, and go for it! And if you find that hard – well do it again and again until it becomes easier, then move to your next weak point! it works, it’s rather fast, all it takes is will and a pencil!

see you next week!

Head week two: define “realistic”

Head week two: define “realistic”

You draw a realistic head, render it a bit, using the usual realistic methods of shading in order to show the planes.

OK so far so good.

But what happens if you try to apply these methods – or should I say techniques – to a cartoony or slightly cartoony head, such as could be found in a comic book (and as you’ll remember…. I hope :c lol…. I’m currently drawing a comic).

I can’t resist a challenge, and as I always say: If I must fail, then I want to fail real hard! “Do or do not do, there is no trying” as a green friend of mine says (no, not Kermit the frog!).

I tried several degrees of cartooning from “no cartooning” to “really zany” (I also did a few ugly drawings in these, but they are not part of the experiment, just the proof that I’m still able to do crappy drawings and will for a long time!)

On all of them I applied the same light rendering I would apply on a quickly done realistic head drawing, and I sent the result to Glenn. I knew he would spot at once what I was trying to do, and ignore the bad drawings – or tell me with one sentence how to repair them.

Here is the “thing” of the week:

head week2


Glenn commented first on the guy in the top right corner (with the disk-like eyes), saying that this is a mix of 2d (the eyes are flat) and 3d (an attempt at it anyway) re: the tones used. As usual he was not judgmental at all, and even said that this could be a design style (it would need some more work obviously).

It’s true that that character looks strange (now that I look at it). Glenn then moved to the next guy (top row, middle, the one with the “I boxed a lot and was bad at protecting my nose” face). He amplified and simplified the planes, using tones to show a simple plane change each time, almost reducing the character to the minimum tones and lines – the result looked very much like a standard type of comics character.


Tone shows a change in direction in the planes. I think now I sort of know the planes of the head, the problem is showing them in a way that is compatible with comics, especially with cartoon comics.

And yes, you guessed it if you read my blog old entries: we are back to my search for the black-and-white no-grey style – not one I would use in my current comic (which is very French-Belgian in style – hey, I’m French and I grew up on those comics!) but for a future one I’m thinking about already: dark, no color, no grey, with a violent story – think Sin City.


Ok, I know what direction to work in, and that is the advantage of having a mentor who is respecting your personality, and helps you find your style (instead of trying to make you a “Mini Me” like many teachers out there tend to do).


So get ready to see the world in black and white next week!

I keep working on my current comic, I’m doing the storyboarding of it – camera placement, text fitting in the panels etc. and so far it works ok.


See you next week for more unrealistic realism (and the reverse… er, no, there is no reverse, sorry lol)


Draw draw draw!



I’mmmmmmm back!

I’m back!

And I’m of course still studying with Glenn Vilppu online, with live chat and live crits etc, and this semester is going to be super-special.

We’ve had almost two months off, the first month I spent entirely copying and analysing great masters (including masters of comics, since that’s what I’m particularly interested in). For a month I studied and copied and copied again, about ten hours a day – yes I know I’m crazy, but I plan on making a living out of being  crazy!

More seriously, this has taught me a tons of things, not only do I draw better and faster due to the mere mileage of ten hours a day multiplied by a month, but I’m committing tons of things to memory from my favourite artists.

The following month was very special: I live in Paris, and Glenn came here  to teach a 5 day workshop about animal drawing, one day at the natural history museum (which I like to call the “bones museum”) and 4 days at the brand new and super modern Paris zoo. Finally meeting my mentor after working two years with himonline  was quite something. I also met – of course – his wife (a dear online friend) and some classmates plus new people – if I had ever entertained any doubt, now I can rest assured: artists are family. We all got along wonderfully.

You are probably wondering: now that I have done a live class with Glenn, what is the difference with the online academy (vilppuacademy.com) where you meet, two hours a week, face to face via video, while Glenn draws for you to illustrate is answers to your questions, where crits are recorded and where we have a very lively facebook private group that allows us students to encourage each other and be generally silly, like in a real class.

Well, there are two differences: seeing Glenn draw, correct your drawing, and being able to say “wooo stop right there: why that line?) is invaluable. On the other hand I feel (and I’m not the only one) that the online crits give each of us more “me” time. In real-life situation there are more students, also there are material considerations: wind, Glenn’s Nomad’s tripod sliding off the mossy ground – oops, should we have lunch now or later?… So I’d say that both life and online classes have their strong points. But the difference is not that big. So, online class IS a complete, perfect solution for anybody who is living far from where Glenn lives (L.A.), or is too busy to go to regular courses during the week.

And now the new semester has started, and this time I’m going to do Head drawing (my 5th time!), and the new special class reserved for those who have completed all the drawing classes. The special class is a one-on-one focused on working on a personal project with Glenn: one hour every other week, just the two of us, via zoom (a video and screen sharing system). I am finally going to get my comic book started.

In this blog I’m mainly going to talk about the “head” class, as it will show what a 5th time can bring, is relevant to many people’s interest, plus I don’t want to disclose  bits of my comic before it’s ready to go online – but I’ll also be talking about the special class, in that it will cover some topics that are related to all types of art.

Head week one….. this time I allowed myself a few cartoony drawings considering Glenn knows my cartoony style from my comic preparation. Even a cartoon must have a strong structure, *particularly* a cartoon or a caricature, because it’s necessarily done from imagination.

Here is my submission for the week:

assignment head oct 15 week one marie

Glenn immediately recognized the back view of the head of Mad magazine’s idiotic red-haired kid (can’t remember his name) and indeed that silly drawing is there just because I had an old issue of Mad next to me and wondered what the cover would look like seen from behind (the kind of odd questions only artists ask themselves, I know).

Glenn’s main comment was about consistency: the cheekbones and eyes and all-important corner of the eye socket are not exactly aligned (the left one with the right one), and it being disturbing.  I have a tendency to put the right side (right for me) higher than it should).

Also I have forgotten one plane of the face: from the side edge of the chin plane to the masseter plane.

The lower left head looking down however had some qualities of simplified realism he liked.

I know what to work on for next week. That’s the beauty of having your work critiqued by a master: you are told what is wrong and why (and generally you see it when you are told about it, not before) and you only have to correct it!

Next week some more consistency in left-right relationships.

And no Mad magazine insert, I promise (it was totally unrelated to the submission).

Now go back to drawing, and never give up!

See you next week



Sketching week 10: From photo but not from photo, penguins!

Sketching week 10: From photo but not from photo, penguins!

What are the pros of working from a photo?

1/ it doesn’t move.

2/ the weather in it is just an image, meaning a photograph of the north pole won’t make you freeze, you can take your time.

3/ it won’t fall on you, contrary to some models who stand in a pose for half an hour, fall asleep and collapse off the stand – if they are lucky they fall onto the students who catch them before they break a bone (then the model has to help looking for the pencils and watercolour minuscule tubes that flew everywhere during operation “catch the muscular guy”). (I’ve seen this happen twice, plus the classic lying pose “dead roman soldier” style and suddenly hearing “rrrr…zzzzz….rrrr…” in which case well, we let the model sleep as long as he/she doesn’t move, and we keep drawing… lol.

4/ if you use a picture you have taken yourself, you have no worries about copyright or someone coming to say: “it’s from a picture – look, I found it on internet too”

At this point you would probably say working from a photo is pretty cool and positive. Now, the topic has come often in the two years I’ve studied with Glenn, and the following is **MY** understanding of what he thinks about… what happens to be the topic of the week.

Photo? Yes it is cool in some way, you can draw a church that is in Rome while being in Paris. It’s used all the time as reference by most professionals in animation, comics, you name it.

But, and it’s an enormous BUT, if you copy the photograph you get into big trouble and you’d be better off working from imagination.

The cons of working from photos:

1/ you have to check for copyright first, of course

2/ it’s deformed, almost no photo, unless taken with an old fashioned “accordeon type” view camera with tilt / shift settings, will have massive distortion in the verticals, but we don’t see all the other aberrations because we are so used to watching photos.

3/ photos are (unless done by a pro) poorly lit, no sense of “the box” – the side of the building and people don’t look any different from the front, a photo is super flat, but again it’s a photo so we don’t question it (trace a bad photo and people will say “this drawing is wrong!” but the photo will look right to them ). In one case (photo) the brain will auto-correct the perception because the photo “must” be true, whereas it will not correct the perception of a drawing because it’s already labeled as a “interpretation”.

In short: drawing from a photo is in fact much more difficult than drawing from life or imagination, you have to unplug the bit of your brain that says: “it’s a photo everything on it is normal” and ask yourself questions about everything, you must simplify (are you going to draw each tile on that roof – huh? each one???) in a way that fools the eye, invent a light if there is none, calculating it in your imagination – you’d better know forms quite well before doing that, tough!

you can’t always change the point of view – you can if you know the place well, or have tons of photos of the same place.

A photo is a tool, and being dependent on it would be like taking a cab driven by a blind man and thinking “I can relax, I’m in a cab”. (apologies to blind people I was thinking of that old ad with the great Ray Charles driving a car on the dead sea and obviously having the time of his life)

In short: you want to draw a penguin – what do penguin’s feet look like? you are not too sure (neither am I – lol), so you dig out reference: photos and photos of penguins and you draw your own penguin, you don’t copy just any photo, you draw the image created in your head, “your” penguin.

It’s all drawing from imagination in the end.

I chose to take an old picture I took in Rome when I lived there, and painted digitally from it. Here it is:



The original image was very dark (crappy photo), no clear light direction. I had to simplify the architecture (which in real life is full of little itty bitty thick “lines” things that I don’t know the architectural name for.

The windows were black, I chose to invent what they looked like. Also I decided to indicate only a few bricks and a few tiles of the roof (your eye got fooled, I’m ready to bet: you think this building is all brick…. even though there are only a few showing, whereas on the photo there were bricks showing everywhere on the building!)

Glenn liked it but thought I could add to the 3D aspect of the building by playing with the light. there is no real light in the photo or in my painting, and I could invent one. he painted over it, during the critic and yes, of course, having one side lighter, roof walls shadows and all made the building pop out in a magnificent way. Glenn is not scared of changing things, I am, I am in fact confused by reality, he looks at it as just a starting point, all he does is really from imagination.

This was the last week of the sketching class! I can’t recommend it enough, I learned tons, and had really a lot of fun doing it. I’m going to do it again soon.

The next class session is at the end of september (writing this in 2015) check out vilppuacademy.com to find out more.

In the meantime Glenn is doing a sketching tour in London and Dublin, I can’t go but I wish I did, they are going to have such fun!!! He’s also going to teach in Santorini (a greek island that look like paradise on earth, Portugal and…. do some animal drawing in Paris (and i’ll be there!!!).

Look at the academy page for details, and if you really live too far from Europe, sign on now for the next semester, for there are a lot of people who want to sign up and only a limited number of places.

I can’t give any better advice to anyone than “work with Glenn, you’ll learn more in a week than in a year in a good school”. Everybody agrees with me (and I’m not getting paid to type this – don’t I wish I were! lol, I just want more great artists around cause I want to see great art, read good comics etc).

Make the most of your summer, change between media (I will), discover new ways of drawing and have fun!.

And see you in September, I’ll be redoing head drawing for the fifth time but from a comic book, cartoon point of view, it should be fun (hopefully it should be fun for Glenn too, I’ll do my best to draw fun characters).

And if you need something to read on the beach:

Herrigel: “art of Zen archery” (I’m not kidding) it’s public domain

Stephen Pressfield: “war of art” (and NOT “art of war”)

and of course Glenn Vilppu’s Sketchbook of drawing manual (on vilppustore.com)

Best wishes and see you soon, all sunburnt and relaxed!

Sketching week 9: Atmosphere, do I look like an “atmosphere”?

Sketching week 9: Atmosphere, do I look like an “atmosphere”?

If you are not French you wont get the joke in the title of this entry: “do I look like an atmosphere” is one of old french movies’ most famous lines, and everybody knows that line in France, including people who never saw the movie – so don’t worry about it – inside joke 😀

(Arletty in “Hotel du Nord” (1932), not sure about the year-  a dark, realistic depressing movie)

Atmosphere….. there is no atmosphere in space so if you paint a scene from “Gravity”, you’ll have to find a way to show what is near the viewer and  what is not (with overlapping most of the time). In fact, people making movies like Gravity have to take into account the lack of atmosphere quite a lot: no fog, no dust, no smog, not even air to show that that “cowboy” is afar in the distance.

Let’s concentrate on down to earth (or any earth-like planet) scenes, and use atmosphere. The Chinese did it so well, so early: mist between two mountains, shown by a lack of ink between the mountains (themselves painted in ink) and the reverse can be done too: a railroad track starting under the virtual feet of the viewer, in the distance there is a layer of dust and desaturation (so to speak) that is added, painted by the artist.

So add or take away, but put atmosphere.

And  this is where I failed miserably this week: at sketching with atmosphere. Why on earth did I choose to draw at length two ladies seated at a café table? So close together, so little atmosphere! Glenn says I could have done “atmosphere” but… ok there is my thing (the dog was not there, I added it just because I love drawing dogs -teehee!)



What did Glenn say? First of all it’s overworked for a sketch, this looks like an illustration (good or bad) not a sketch. Second: Where is the atmosphere? people on both sides of the tables looks exactly the same in terms of clarity: no atmosphere!. Third: why the biiiig space around them? The bit of café behind them is so tall that it makes them look smaller, and therefore closer to each other and therefore… even atmosphere less!

What did I write about bruised knees?

In any case Glenn seem to think I made a bad choice of media by using a pen (translated in my language: Anton you moron!) and he would once more like to see some brush and wash work – wash is so great for creating atmospheric perspective.

I think I’m going to have to do it soon, weather permitting.

Meanwhile draw a lot, you people and see you soon.

Sketching week 8 3d round and round! …and old masters on top

Sketching week 8 3d round and round! …and old masters on top

Exhausted, the heat is particularly hard on me and 100°F in Paris is horrible: we are not equipped for this: no air conditioning no fan (well, I finally found one in a shop, almost had to fight for it,  but it’s a pretty useless thing) no pool and most of all no air – no wind at all just pollution, red alert for small particles.

I started the week feeling like a 90 year-old and wondering how the hell I was going to do any assignment for Glenn.

Of course this week is a tough one: 2D giving the illusion of 3D in our drawings of people – done on flat paper.

Drawing is a trick, who needs 3D movies and glasses when you can give a sense of depth with a simple pencil?

I decided to try and be intelligent and humble (“for a change” …. who thought that? I heard it!). And look at one of the masters of tri-dimensional characters: André Franquin.

If you are European you know him, if you are American you don’t. Suffice it to say the man was a master, a god to many (me included) the quality of his drawing, the quality of his stories and jokes made him a star of french-belgian comics. (Belgian actually, but french-speaking belgian – sometimes it’s hard to say who is French who is Belgian in a French-Belgian comic, hence the name, plus the fact that you get mixed up countries: the streets of Paris with postmen in Belgian uniform, that kind of thing).

In any case I unearthed my old hard back comics from when I was a kid (well worn books, I read them so many times) and started copying…. and laughing, I have to confess.

When I was 9 years old, I used to do this already: copy Franquin’s work. I’m back at it, but now I know what I’m doing, and I can see the reason behind each line. Not one line is random, every line has a meaning a usefulness. I have to say Franquin went even higher in my esteem, though I did not think there was any room left in the up direction!

I ended up so fascinated and learning quite a few things from pages I knew by heart (or thought I knew by heart) that I copied the characters of about 3 albums (which are 40 pages each).

There is something soothing in copying: you analyse the original, you draw, you correct, you realise the gesture is behind every line…. I woke up from my copying trance on Sunday with a pile of copies and an assignment to send!

I chose the best copies (or least bad), scanned them and put them together in photoshop and sent them as an assignment.

And here it is.

Bear in mind Franquin is a hundred times better than these poor copies:



A crowded page hey? and it’s only a tiny part of what I did during the week lol. I seem to have a manic obsessive streak (of course I have: I draw!).

I was worried Glenn would say “this is not an assignment, these are copies” but he did not. He first expressed his admiration for Franquin, then commented on the fact that I clearly tried to get the why and how behind each line. The quality of gesture (lower right: the guy with the M shaped legs) of the action poses works and that shows I “got” what I was reproducing.

I have to say it takes a pretty fierce hand to get those dashing lines – took me a while to get that! And I’m still copying some Franquin as I type. It seems it’s good for me, even if sometimes I laugh so much I almost fall off my chair (some expressions of his characters are incredibly funny).

All legs and arms and trunks have lines going round them, indicating they are 3d….. Saying it is easy, but feeling it and doing it are quite another thing, and thanks to Glenn’s classes I seem to start understanding “something” about it all – I must draw more, sketch more, do more old masters studies (Franquin sadly left us a few years ago, I count him among the great masters).

For those interested: read Gaston volume 13 and Spirou et Fantasio: QRN on Bretzelburg even if you don’t understand French. The series were continued by other artists after Franquin left, forget them.

Funny, I read on facebook a meme saying: “if your 9 year old self saw you today what would he/she say?”

Mine would say: “oh, still copying Franquin? hey, you got really better!!” – thanks to Glenn’s dedication to have us, his students, improve. In the critic, he analysed some of my copies, commenting on why Franquin had done this line, why I had seen it and reproduced it, very comforting to know I got something right. I know that, six months ago I would have missed half of what I saw this time.

I happened to come across some six months old drawings not long ago. I was shocked: they are ok, construction ok, I clearly knew what I did, (after a year and a half with Glenn that is not surprising :-D) but since then I’ve learned a great deal too – and looking at the same time period on my blog (this one you are reading) I realised I made a lot of mistakes that Glenn helped me get over – you can’t learn without making mistakes, you can’t learn to walk without falling first.

The important thing is to have someone pointing you in the right direction so you can pick yourself up and get walking again, even if you have bruised knees.

More soon (more entries in the blog and bruised knees too lol)

Draw everyday boys and girls!.

see you soon.

Sketching week 7 silhouettes are made of these….

Sketching week 7 silhouettes are made of these….

Imagine you are drawing a silhouette, with your finger, ok, a stickman in frontal view, not difficult, everybody will see it’s a human. Well done!

Lets up the game a bit: draw, with your finger, the silhouette of your frontal stickman eating a sandwich….. now that becomes a bit of a problem: if he’s biting into the sandwich you can’t tell, because his chest and the sandwich are one and a single spot in the silhouette!

What to do? If you want it to be clear that this is a man eating a sandwich, let’s put him in three quarters, open his mouth, teeth showing, and put a sandwich in his hand… all this in silhouette, but it should be far more readable and understandable.

You have guessed what the topic of the week is, and yes, a shape with no inside detail forces you to think more about what you want the viewer to notice.

There are lots of good texts and examples about this in animation books and articles, google for them. But for now, let’s concentrate on what Glenn want us to do: silhouette, but mainly with wash.

Of course with my luck this is the week when the heat becomes intolerable (and at levels never experienced before) in Paris where I live (100°F -nothing to a californian I’m sure, but to a parisian with no pool, no air conditioning and no fan…. I’ve never seen so many people going for a walk in the frozen food shop next door!).

I decided to forget about wash and use my usual tools – if, when you take a shower, you don’t need to dry yourself cause you are dry the moment you step out of the bathroom, it means your wash will dry the minute it touches the paper!)

Here is “the thing”



Glenn’s verdict was: not spontaneous enough, the bum with the rucksack and heavy coat (in this heat!!!) reminds him of WWII sketches but it’s far too elaborate to be a mere sketch. The others, done in marker, are also not spontaneous enough.

In short: Glenn reminds me that I did years of sumi painting (asian brush) and asian calligraphy and it would be interesting to see what I could to with a brush – any brush – and free wash, carefree, spontaneous.

Was the heat an excuse to avoid using wash? well….. probably a bit, I used to be quite proficient with a Chinese or Japanese brush but that was years ago and I may be afraid of seeing how much I’ve forgotten.

In any case: I must use the brush and wash! even with a water brush (brush pen with the handle containing water or ink or whatever you want).

I guess there is no escaping what scares us – Glenn sees through our work and in this case once again saw what would be beneficial for me: going back to my “roots” (I’m not asian at all – unless I’m in front of asian food :-D) meaning my years of dedicated calligraphy and brush painting. Got to make the link between now and then.

Scary? yes.

Is that good? well it’s uncomfortable, so I’d say…. yes it is!

See you next time and…

Draw draw draw!

… and have fun doing it!

Sketching Week 6 Quick!!! faster, quick, no time…. quick sketches!

The topic of the week is “quick sketches” and Glenn starts his video (of teaching and demonstrating – an hour plus, worth looking at several times) by asking: what is quick sketching?

Being the idiot I am, upon hearing that question I immediately saw a  Roadrunner, equipped with a sketchbook and a pen, zoom towards an innocent coyote, sketch him in a second, then zoom away “beep beep! flblflbl!” leaving the coyote in shock: “Gosh, sketched again! Curse those roadrunners!”

Of course Glenn’s answer to his own question made far more sense. And this is what I understood with my silly yet avid brain:

any sketching is fast, you get to the essential, in quick sketching you make sure you don’t accidentally start refining a sketch, you go for wash (and pen or water-soluble pencils etc) and work with a model that moves all the time. Anyone who has kids, kitties, doggies, or lives in a war zone, has natural models all around them. (guess the bit Glenn did not say and I added…. ahum, I’m 7 years old, inside, I can’t help it).

More seriously, quick sketch is to sketching what expresso is to coffee. Work from imagination and memory,  because your model will be gone, or will have moved almost as soon as you start drawing.

This said, and to quote an old Greek philosopher whose name escapes me: make slow haste! No panic, no rush, put down every line carefully, for every line counts in this game, as does every stroke of the waterbrush for the wash.

You can also do quick sketching with something that won’t move, like a building (imagining a building dancing the Can-can while you draw it, just to annoy you). You then really reduce it to the essential, to what makes it a special building, gives it its “personality”.

Of course I had to be unwell one day of the week, and I had not finished my assignment, so 2 of the following drawings are from  photos and not from the street next to my place. (with the photos I did what I always do: look at the picture 5 seconds, close the page – thus loosing the name of the photographer and being unable to say “thanks” – and then I draw only from memory and imagination, from what I “felt” watching the image. But live sketches, the rest of this page, are mainly done in the same way, humans having the nasty natural tendency to move all the time :-D)

Here is my assignment: (the white rectangle hides some personal info, not a drawing)


Glenn immediately commented on the girl walking towards me on the left: “she is great”, he said: you can see the construction in it, simple but there, the thicker line on the outside makes the form immediately read.

The rest is ok, somme good simplified “gestures”, nice feeling of wet ground for the two old people climbing the stairs (old? They were not THAT slow, I assure you), all in all a good submission. I may have gone overboard with details in some places, but working in pen again means doing a lot of lines so a lot of details come naturally (bazinga! I’m back to pen, last week’s “you must use a pencil this time” made me long to go back to pen).

Talking of  “I hate anything but pen”….. my submission for this week in anatomy class (not shown here) got the following reaction from Glenn: “next week use anything BUT pen”. (insert image of Terminator sinking into molten metal without moving or saying a word)

Ooops. How annoying to have a master who reads your mind! LOL in fact : how *wonderful* to have a master who sees where you are, what you are doing, and even what you are thinking while you draw, and can tell you what to do to get better. Glenn has so much experience, I guess he could “read” my thoughts in my  drawing if I sent him a drawing done with my foot (a standard way of drawing for some, but a very very difficult one for me, if I tried).

He can see behind the symptoms in the drawing – straight to the underlying cause and work on it. Other teachers work only on the symptoms and don’t help you at all or so slowly you lose your nerve very quickly.

With Glenn, from one week to the other you progress, yes if you draw during the week, applying what he told you during the “crit”: you progress, one week to the other. It’s….. exhilarating!

Go back to drawing, reader! And draw a lot, and see you next week!

Cheers (back to…. “something other than pen” for me……..)

Sketching week 5: it’s the pit… YEEPPEEH! (really!)

Have you ever had that sensation that you can’t draw anymore, that all your efforts make you draw worse than before, that you are shmidt (politically correct word, borrowed from an episode of Boston legal: Schmidt Happens) that your art is schmidt and the bully at school who told you “your drawing sucks”, thus making you stop drawing for several years, was in fact right?

Well this is important: this happens regularly to each and every artist before a major breakthrough. I’ve experienced it several times, now I know what it means, but I still hate it.

The tragedy is that a lot of people actually stop when in that phase, because nobody is there to tell them it’s a very good sign!

If you feel like that – my compassion, ‘cause it’s an horrible sensation – don’t give up!!!!! Your brain is trying to catch up with all you’ve learned, it’s about to catch up, you are about to climb higher on your podium: don’t give up, be happy, rejoice (as Glenn says) ‘cause if you feel lost and useless, then it means your hard work is about to bear it’s fruits.

I truly wish someone put sign on all art forums and groups to say this, for many artist stop when they should certainly not!

If you wonder “I can’t draw any more what should I do?”, the answer is: if you have lived through this crisis several times already you just go on drawing: judging your art is something only your teacher can do, certainly not you. If you are new to this crisis, you should go on drawing, or if it’s too painful, go jogging, or, if you want to do something useful for you art, sculpt whether in zbrush or with a bit of clay and a basic armature, you’ll approach forms from another point of view, and your art will benefit from it (a change is as good as a rest they say :-D)

In any case, for the umpteenth time, I hate everything, I hate my drawings this week, I hate myself and…. ok the usual, now back to business. Well, that’s the way I deal with it.

In anatomy class, I drew like schmidt this week (sincere apologies to any one called Schmidt, but I guess you are, sadly, used to such idiots as me misusing your name, apologies anyway).

In sketching, THIS class, the one I’m covering here, I have drawn this week with the same “yuk” feeling as I did in Anatomy, but I have a little extra horror added: this week it’s “pencil technic”.

Now, I hate pencils, I started very young to have a bad relationship with pencils “2B is the same as H – with H, just press harder” said one of my early “art” teacher, when I was about 7. Add to that the fact that my parents seemed to have been brought up in the same idea and always refused to buy me a 2H to 6B box of pencils, buying me a H pencil instead and nothing more, and you get why I suffer from compulsive pencil drawing avoidance! I avoid drawing with a pencil by using any trick I can think of….. but no escaping it this week.

Of course, being the smart-ass I am, I *did* find a trick, and of course Glenn saw right trough it in a second – I’m really as stupid as Homer Simpson and Cookie Monster playing three dimensional chess with Mr Spock!

I used a polychromos “pencil” – ahah, I used a “pencil”!

Except, of course polychromos are not regular pencils, I don’t know their exact chemical content, but they are not pure graphite like your regular 2B is (2B or not 2b, ok – there, I said it, happy? grrrr!)

All of this did not put me in a relaxed mood, I felt I could not find anything to draw this week, took me hours, threw away lots of drawings – and the two heads I did (see below) are from imagination, which has not much to do with a sketching class.

OK, ready? Here is the Horror of the Century (I feel I’m back in Composition class for the first time. If you don’t know what I mean, read the start of this blog, my work was pitiful, and of the purest “facepalm” quality).

Here is this week assignment:




Glenn immediately saw (of course!) that I had used polychromos, not graphite pencils, he kindly did not dwell on it, but commented on my drawings:

The heads he found quite good (knowing they were from imagination). The top left bench under the tree ok, the rest sort of ok….. except for the one at the lower left: he could not even tell what it was supposed to represent…. and you know what? A week later I’m not sure myself! I know where I did it,  but as I did many drawing which ended up in a bin I don’t remember which one it is…. and what it is supposed to represent!

In a perfect world, I should try again with a REAL pencil, but we are following a cursus and next week is pencil-free (yeah!) so I’ll have to fight the pencil monster in my spare time (and if you see a double meaning in that sentence, go see a shrink! lol).

Thankfully, Glenn did, during our weekly two-hour online video-drawing-chat a demo of pencil drawing that sort of gave me hope: I think I see what I do wrong!

I’m still in the “pit”, what sculptor Ryan Kingslien calls “the valley of the suck”, it will pass, I know it for a fact. But as I have unplugged the “self assessment” plugin from my brain’s CPU in order to survive this time, I won’t be able to say if and when I have finally reached the other side of the river and made the progress heralded by the pitiful drawings I did this week. Glenn will tell me where I am next week.

Will I be back to normal condition next week? For that matter: do I have a ”normal condition” LOL (joke stolen from Asterix the Gaul).

New entry of this blog will tell all, good or bad!

Meanwhile draw and never give up!!!!

sketching week 4: black is a color and so is paper-white

Black and white, dark and light…. even if the world is made of shades of grey, both physically and philosophically, light and dark are keys to giving depth to a drawing, we saw that last week already, and this week we are going to go more in depth (haha: pun!) on the topic.

If you’ve been reading this blog for a while you might remember that, during the composition class, I tried my hand at a totally black and white (very “Sin City” like) style of comics. I temporarily gave up on it, feeling I did not master the form (the drawing of object showing their 3D aspect) to draw in such a limited-tools style for pages and pages (plus, I found that zany cartoony comics come so easily to me that it would be a pity not to explore toon-like comic making).

I confess the topic of the week brought the idea of black/white comic back, but I did not dwell on it as I went out sketching.  After all: this is a sketching class, you draw what you find in the street.

I started by doing a series (only one of them made it to the assignment, as you’ll see below) of colour marker sketches, playing with dark and light (not really black and white) and also my new friend “warm and cool”.

As I walked back home I chanced on someone taking pictures of kids (some relatives: they spoke to him while playing) having fun in the inner courtyard of a building. The hunter instinct woke up in me: bingo! This guy had not seen me, had his back on me, and was likely to stay there for a little while. He was mine!

The pattern of the prison-like bars, and the dark clothing were easy to exaggerate and make into black/paper-white patterns: the light in the street plus the light from the courtyard were violent enough that by half-closing my eyes I could “see” the image I wanted to draw.

Enough description, here is my assignment, I’ll tell about the third image (the people in the street) later.



I had to “cheat” a bit (in love, war and art, all is fair) and actually took drawn “notes” (that’s what sketching is about) as to what the bars looked like, what the clothing could be reduced to, etc. Back home, I filled the black areas (which I had marked with an “x” in good comic and manga tradition – except normally it’s an assistant who fills with solid black the x zones – I’m my own assistant :c) and cleaned the drawing. So as it is now, it’s, to me at least, a little more than a sketch, a slightly more finished or sophisticated that a street sketch.

Before I tell about Glenn’s verdict, let’s talk about image 3, the crowd and their shadows.

No, in my neighbourhood men don’t war hats (except hipsters…) and women are rarely in tight business ensemble with skirt and lovely hat (not even female hipsters! Women have more common sense than men!). So why do people on this image obviously have hats and… look like they are out of the 50s?

I confess: I looked for another opportunity to draw in pure black and paper-white and found an archived image in the Library of Congress public stock (in shades of grey, your standard plain photo) that was easily turned by my wicked eye-squinting into an extreme image – plus the shadows were fun to play with: if the shadow touches the foot, then the foot if on the ground, if there is a space between the shadow of the foot and the foot itself, then the foot is not in contact with the ground… fun, fun!

But let’s step back a minute here:  the girls are in skirts and pretty little hats, the men have old fashioned hats…. how do we know that on my image? Cause…. hey, look closely (click to make it bigger) the shapes of those people are totally abstract! Add to each person his or her shadow and look even more closely: it’s total abstraction! Yet, when you look at the drawing you see clearly men and women dressed in 50s style. And yet I only made stains on the paper (and this time I’m not talking figuratively: these shapes could be ink stains, accidentally made).

So how does the abstract shapes turn into, not only people, but people wearing specific types of clothing?

It happens in your brain, buddy! lol. You have see enough 50s movies, images, comics etc that the clothing is familiar to you (even if you try to escape “It’s A Wonderful Life” round christmas time you wont be able to: the movie is public domain, you are doomed to see Jimmy Steward and co in 1946 gear!).

Also, humans see humans everywhere (look at a power socket and try not to see a face there!).

The shadows are imperfect inverse images of the people – easily recognisable as ”almost people”. And when our brain sees an upside-down “almost person” under a person it thinks “shadow!”

I’m rather happy with myself on this one: I made something while taking into consideration the eye and brain and experience of the viewer.

OK, end of the minute of self-satisfaction. Let’s see what Glenn had to tell me:

Clearly the one image that interested him on this assignment was my colour marker one (he had seen me do the other style before and knew I’d try it again, I had warned him lol).

Before his critic video comments and draw-over, I did not think much of this colour marker sketch, but then Glenn pointed out the interesting points: large “boring” brown green plane on the left, a vertical white band, making the main character stand out, a complex set of steps contrasting well with the boring wall, two characters up the steps in the distance, who could remain unnoticed, if it weren’t for the green bush on their right that echoes the green above the boring wall (but in a desaturated way that says “this is far away from you”) and the touch of warm colour next to them that attracts your eye and makes you notice them.

If he had not analysed all this, I would frankly have thought very little of this sketch. That is why it’s so important to have the feedback of a master: he spots everything: the good, the bad, the ugly, the “how to improve”, the “what to go on” with.

As for next week, it’s going to be a nightmare: pencil only!

I hate pencil, I despise pencil (hey, pencils do despise me, the feeling has to be mutual) I never find a paper that seems to work, I don’t even know what I want from a paper, or from a pencil. I was taught at school when I was a kid that a 2B and an HB were the same thing, you only have to press harder with the HB (and damage the paper) I can’t draw lightly in pencil as a result. I might need a psychotherapy to come and make peace with pencils! (oooh expensive! lol)

So expect a self-deprecating blog next week!

Translated into plain english: I HAVE to work more often in pencil only!

Glenn has a bad influence on me: I’m beginning to like working on my weaknesses! 😀

See you next week, and keep drawing!