Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Thoughts On Drawing Different Ages (part two)

A few more things I find useful to keep in mind when you're trying to draw characters at different ages.

Babies have a very distinctive profile, particularly the way their nose turns up and the way the upper lip sticks out and up. The reason our noses stick up this way when we're born is so we can breastfeed and still breathe (or so I read somewhere). So these two qualities tend to give any character a more youthful quality, and are helpful features to emphasize when you're drawing people and you want them to look young.

As we all know, full lips and an upturned nose are considered classic beautiful attributes on women. I assume it's because (in our minds) those things equate youthfulness. It seems to me that many people (especially females) retain the upturned nose and full lips well into their teens and even into their twenties, thirties and beyond, depending on the genetics of the person.

There seems to be some debate about whether our noses and ears continue to grow as we age. Read both opinions for yourself here and here.

The overall consensus seems to be that, yes, our noses and ears (which are cartilage) keep growing our whole lives (unlike bones, which stop at some point).

So drawing larger ears and noses definitely make a character look older.

Also, gravity begins to have an effect on our noses as well. At some point, the upturned nose begins to droop downward and the upturned cute nose disappears, replaced by the lower hanging, larger nose of an adult or older person.

Another thing that happens as we age is that our lips pull inward and lose their plumpness. They don't jut out so far anymore. If anything, the opposite happens, and the line of our mouth becomes more concave...

...particularly as we lose teeth and there's nothing to push them outwards anymore. And we lose that baby fat that made our cheeks so chubby. We can begin to look gaunt, with our cheeks sucking in instead of expanding out like they did when we were younger. They can sink in so far that you can see the cheekbones and other planes of the skull underneath.

All images from corbis.com

Monday, March 14, 2011

Resources for Drawing Different Ages

One thing I always find tricky is drawing people at different ages. So I've collected a few resources here - selected pages from books about the subject - and let me know if you are aware of any other good ones I've missed.

Also in a future post I will jot down a few I have observed myself over the years and that I find helpful.

WARNING - there are drawings of naked people (at different ages) below! If you are offended by such things, you've been warned...

This one is from The Famous Artists Course and it's a good breakdown of how the head changes at different ages.

This page is from Andrew Loomis's "Figure Drawing For All It's Worth".

And here's another page from Loomis's book where he talks specifically about baby heads.

These are from "Atlas of Human Anatomy for the Artist" by Stephen Rogers Peck.

Both Loomis and Peck make the point that the "center line" (where the midpoint of our bodies lies) changes as we grow older. Loomis represents it in his drawing with a cross at the midpoint; in Peck's drawings it is represented by a dotted line.

Here's one by Peck that's a map to where wrinkles form.

Saturday, March 05, 2011

Popularity and Critical Approval

I don't know anything about Art History, but I always find it interesting to read about how artists were popular (or unpopular) during their lifetimes, and how many of them are more (or less) popular today than they were in their lifetimes. I guess I find it comforting to know that we never really have a sense, while we're alive, of whether the work we are doing is truly good work that will stand the test of time or poor work that will fail to connect with future generations. I find it freeing because it reminds me that we should, above all, rely on our own instincts to tell us when our work is good and what we could do to improve our work.

My favorite quote about being an artist is what Bo Bartlett, a friend of Andrew Wyeth, once said was Wyeth's opinion on criticism:

"People only make you swerve. I won’t show anybody anything I’m working on. If they hate it, it’s a bad thing, and if they like it, it’s a bad thing. An artist has to be ingrown to be any good."

Robert Fawcett is one of my favorite illustrators of the 40s and 50s and I was glad to see his work recently collected in a book. As I was reading through it, I came across the passage below and it reminded me, once again, how difficult it can be for us to tell how our work will be regarded by our audience, and how more difficult still it is to know how history will judge our work. So we might as well work to please ourselves. After all, that's hard enough.

 [Fawcett] urged young artists not to satisfy popular taste. "Young illustrators will not find guidance by studying the currently popular. The popular is usually just on its way out...

  Contrast Fawcett's warning with this opposite advice offered by the successful and prosperous Jon Whitcomb, whose pictures were wildly popular: "I don't think of myself as an artist. I'm a manufacturer, supplying something editors want to buy. Somewhere I discovered what these people want and through a fortunate chain of circumstances I find myself able to produce it." To guide young artists who wished to follow in his footsteps, Whitcomb urged young artist to come up with a gimmick, saying "If you can come up with a new gimmick, clients are waiting for it". The best way to achieve that, according to Whitcomb, was to focus on the latest trends: "You have to guess the trend that's coming up. Since magazines work four to six months ahead of publication, anything can happen to public taste between the time you turn in your illustration and when the magazine hits the newsstands. You try to spot future trends by looking at what is popular in the magazines."

 Whitcomb's glamorous illustrations appeared on the cover of Collier's while Fawcett's only illustrated the stories inside. Whitcomb earned more money n became something of a celebrity; his face was featured in cigarette advertisements and he was called upon to judge beauty contests. Yet, Fawcett seemed quite comfortable with the path he had chosen. His illustrations were not designed to grab the attention of the casual viewer from a crowded magazine rack. He insisted that an excellent picture is "Much more likely to be characterized by the restraint of self-confidence. The artist who has resources does not need to announce this fact from the housetops - it will be apparent." Fawcett urged young artists to avoid fashionable gimmicks and hold fast to what their own eyes and artistic integrity told them: "To anyone for whom drawing is a passion, and whose eyes are constantly searching and evaluating even when he has no pencil in hand - to that man tricks and techniques have no appeal...he seems them for the superficialities they are...[I]f we had been content...polishing simple figure studies they might now be blinding in their degree of finish, dazzling as exercises of virtuosity, but we ourselves would be neatly trapped in that comfortable corner from which so many students fail to find the exit.

 There could be little doubt which types of illustrators Fawcett was talking about.

 As the 1950s ended, so did the demand for Whitcomb's stylized glamour girls and Whitcomb exited the stage.

Friday, March 04, 2011

Five Years

It just hit me that, as of today, I've been writing this blog for five years.

There have been 314 posts and there are 147 that I've written (or partially written) but not published for whatever reason.

More to come soon.....thanks for reading.