Thursday, November 11, 2010

Pandora's Box O' Crap

I always hated drawing self-portraits, actually I hated drawing portraits in general. No matter how hard I tried, no matter how closely I paid attention to the details, my drawings never looked like the subject.   Whenever I had an art project in school, I would do everything I could to avoid drawing faces.

This week's project reminded me why I avoided drawing faces and why I stopped drawing...WHAT A PAIN IN THE ASS!!  As frustrating as this drawing was, I learned a lot of things that many of us take for granted; the most important of which is how unique we all are. I know it sounds rather obvious ...we hear it everyday in commercials, on billboards, and from family members, etc. However, when you draw a portrait, you truly see how the sum of our unique features identify us as who we are. If just one of those features is off just slightly, it ruins the portrait and changes the piece entirely.  
Original Charles Schulz drawing
A good exercise to illustrate my point is to draw a picture of Snoopy. It seems like a rather simple exercise, there are so few lines and it's rather simplistic looking. However, don't be fooled, if the nose is off slightly, or the ears are too long, or the eye is set too far back, it won't look right. Sure, you'll be able to identify the character as Snoopy, but it will look like a poorly drawn Snoopy.

Batman and Robin #5 Cover art by Jim Lee

This week I used a picture by my favorite comic book artist, Jim Lee. In a lot of ways, copying this drawing was a lot like drawing Snoopy. I threw out several versions of the below image, my wife yelled at me for this and in retrospect, I wish I saved those pieces of crap because they illustrate my point perfectly. The classic mistake that every young artist (including yours truly) makes is that they use the standard proportion rules of the face and don't deviate from it.

I learned that what makes the Batman character unique is not so much the proportions of the face but his mask. The facial features aren't necessarily in proportion and if the ears, nose, or eyes off, it looks wrong. The mask exaggerates not only the facial features it covers, it also  highlights what's not covered: the chin and mouth. Surprisingly, these two items gave me the most trouble. What I learned was that the chin is not your standard everyday's the classic comic book heroic chin. It makes Batman, Batman. Without that chin, he looks like some poor schlep dressed up as Batman for Halloween.

My version of Jim Lee's drawing
Here is my interpretation of the Jim Lee drawing (Please excuse the crappy job done by my doesn't pick up all of the shading thus making it look rather stark). It took me three tries to get the face correct but overall, I feel that I have made significant progress from last week. There are still things I need to work on...drawing hands, foreshortening, comic style shading, etc. The one thing I did differently than last week was I loosened up. I trusted my instincts and looked at the original drawing less than the previous week. Slowly but surely I am starting to become more confident in my abilities

This drawing was in a way a Pandora's unleashed several artistic challenges that exposed some pretty substantial weaknesses. UGH! Humbling? Yes. Of course this blog is meant to be humbling so I shouldn't at all be surprised. However, I will not do what I did when I was younger. I will not avoid this; in fact, I see this as a challenge and will keep at it until I get it right.


  1. Very nice! I enjoy seeing your progress! This is inspiring me to get back to work on my own blog. Thanks!

  2. Thanks Tara! Let me know when you get your blog going....I'd love to read it.