Sunday, November 15, 2015

It Never Fails

I'm interested in just too many things. I seem to work at a skill until I get relatively facile at it, use it for a relatively short while, then move on to something different.

Partly I can blame future shock. Software, in particular, moves so quickly, by the time you learn how to use something and work around the flaws and have finally set up everything so you can actually do productive work with it...the software changes. I can't name how many times I re-organized patch libraries on my many generations of synthesizers, but I'd guess it is comparable to the number of songs I actually wrote over the same interval!

As usual, Randall said it better:

So every now and then, I gather up all the tools and supplies and parts, and as much of the mental baggage as I can manage, for one specific field and put it away in the back of a closet. "I just don't see having time to do electronics again," I said -- just before the Arduino and the AVR made it possible for me to start doing things I'd only dreamed were possible.

This week, a random question by a friend in another forum got me thinking about drawing again. Drawing, which I said last post I was going to put away in the back of the closet and try not to begrudge the hours I spent trying to learn it.

And, yes; I dusted off my drafting machine, found my pencil leads, and indeed have been drawing this week. Or at least trying to. I struggled to get beyond scribbles for the whole week and most of the weekend, and only really on Sunday afternoon did it break and I started to pencil.

I draw lousy. Basically, I'm a plodder. I can construct a drawing using all the technical tools, but I can't capture a gesture or do a caricature or otherwise do a sketch. Not one that has any life to it. I pretty much fell into pen-and-ink through a love of fantasy book interior illustrations and similar, and developed this in the direction of comic book art of a particular era; the kind of clean lines and vigor and simplicity of Herge and John Byrne and Alex Raymond and so forth.

I was never terribly attracted by the broken-felt-tip look of many underground comics (and currently, many web comics), and as I said I totally lack the kind of brain that can do true cartooning in the Schultz or Mort Walker mode.

But this kind of careful anatomy and drapery and detailed machinery and above all strong emphasis on line is horrible for my particular faults. I get lost in the line, I draw and erase and draw and erase chasing the line, and I lose all track of the actual form that line is supposed to be describing.

So for quite a while every drawing I've made has been one more plodding step with my shoulder behind it, trying to work with forms and shadows and what Hogarth (an otherwise useless teacher) calls "Deep Space."

Not helped by the fact that I have a not-so-sneaking love for the constructionist methods, and that these are necessary tools for the experts I'm trying to emulate...and these are of course the tools I wanted to talk about to my friend.

Constructing perspective, gridding it out even, working up figures with action lines and proportion tricks (like the stack-of-heads method), plotting shadow directions even. These are the sorts of problems that caused me before I put down the drawing tools the previous time to load up mechanical pencils with red and blue leads; the red for panel borders and perspective guidelines, the blue for anatomical studies underlying the final detailed figure.

I'm also working with two grades of pencil lead; one hard (in an attempt to sketch out the shapes and rough in everything without turning the paper all dark and smudgy) and a softer one to cut in the final details.

So I'm getting a little better at holding back on lines and drafting mostly shapes, to solve the actual linework when I come back and ink. And, yes; this is part of the problem of having focused in the direction of comic book art. I think in practically Marvel Method terms; story, pencil, ink, dialog, color. Although at least I've learned to plan in the dialog balloons during the pencil stage!

This is "fun" stuff because there is just so much to watch. Like writing fiction, it is like juggling cats. There's just so much in the air you really have no hope of catching it all. Or not getting scratched. Although the more you work at it, the more you are tracking various issues without having to consciously remind yourself to do so.

In writing, I'm almost where I instinctively pace out dialog and description and page count, work my way towards beats and the build to intermediate climaxes, and hold in my head multiple lines I'm trying to thread at the same time.

In drawing, I'm hoping to eventually be able to internalize where I think in deep space, am conscious of light and where the color blocks are going to fall in the final composition, keep within the perspective, keep figures in scale, watch both the action line and the Line of Action, avoid tangents, etc.

At the moment, it is hardly internalized. So I'm missing stuff all the time. The best I can do is just try to keep drawing. To keep pushing myself not to get bogged down in detail but to move on and do better the next time.

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