Got a stack of painted sketch cards ready to hide in Oceanside/Encinitas tomorrow for #artdropday Who’s gonna find them?
Drawing from films
Drawing from films is a ridiculously useful exercise. It’s not enough to watch films; it’s not enough to look at someone else’s drawings from films. If you want to be in story, there’s no excuse for not doing this.
The way this works: you draw tons of tiny little panels, tiny enough that you won’t be tempted to fuss about drawing details. You put on a movie - I recommend Raiders, E.T., or Jaws… but honestly if there’s some other movie you love enough to freeze frame the shit out of, do what works for you. It’s good to do this with a movie you already know by heart.
Hit play. Every time there’s a cut, you hit pause, draw the frame, and hit play til it cuts again. If there’s a pan or camera move, draw the first and last frames.
Note on movies: Spielberg is great for this because he’s both evocative and efficient. Michael Bay is good at what he does, but part of what he does is cut so often that you will be sorry you picked his movie to draw from. Haneke is magnificent at what he does, but cuts so little that you will wind up with three drawings of a chair. Peter Jackson… he’s great, but not efficient. If you love a Spielberg movie enough to spend a month with it, do yourself a favor and use Spielberg.
What to look for:
- Foreground, middle ground, background: where is the character? What is the point of the shot? What is it showing? What’s being used as a framing device? How does that help tie this shot into the geography of the scene? Is the background flat, or a location that lends itself to depth?
- Composition: How is the frame divided? What takes up most of the space? How are the angles and lines in the shot leading your eye?
- Reusing setups, economy: Does the film keep coming back to the same shot? The way liveaction works, that means they set up the camera and filmed one long take from that angle. Sometimes this includes a camera move, recomposing one long take into what look like separate shots. If you pay attention, you can catch them.
- Camera position, angle, height: Is the camera fixed at shoulder height? Eye height? Sitting on the floor? Angled up? Down? Is it shooting straight on towards a wall, or at an angle? Does it favor the floor or the ceiling?
- Lenses: wide-angle lens or long lens? Basic rule of thumb: If the character is large in frame and you can still see plenty of their surroundings, the lens is wide and the character is very close to camera. If the character’s surroundings seem to dwarf them, the lens is long (zoomed in).
- Lighting: Notice it, but don’t draw it. What in the scene is lit? How is this directing your eye? How many lights? Do they make sense in the scene, or do they just FEEL right?
This seems like a lot to keep in mind, and honestly, don’t worry about any of that. Draw 100 thumbnails at a time, pat yourself on the back, and you will start to notice these things as you go.
Don’t worry about the drawings, either. You can see from my drawings that these aren’t for show. They’re notes to yourself. They’re strictly for learning.
Now get out there and do a set! Tweet me at @lawnrocket and I’ll give you extra backpats for actually following through on it. Just be aware - your friends will look at you super weird when you start going off about how that one shot in Raiders was a pickup - it HAD to be - because it doesn’t make sense except for to string these other two shots together…
"Stan Lee, 1968:
” … And we talk it out. Lately, I’ve had Roy Thomas come in, and he sits and makes notes while we discuss it. Then he types them up which gives us a written synopsis. Originally-I have a little tape recorder-I had tried taping it, but then I found no one on staff has time to listen to the tape again later. But this way he makes notes, types it quickly, I get a carbon, the artist gets a carbon…so we don’t have to worry that we’ll forget what we’ve said. Then the artist goes home…or wherever he goes…and he draws the thing out, brings it back, and I put the copy in after he’s drawn the story based on the plot I’ve given him. Now this varies with the different artists. Some artists, of course, need a more detailed plot than others. Some artists, such as Jack Kirby, need no plot at all. I mean I’ll just say to Jack, ‘Let’s make the next villain be Dr. Doom’… or I may not even say that. He may tell me. And then he goes home and does it. He’s good at plots. I’m sure he’s a thousand times better than I. He just about makes up the plots for these stories. All I do is a little editing… I may tell him he’s gone too far in one direction or another. Of course, occasionally I’ll give him a plot, but we’re practically both the writers on the things. “"
Well, last day of class. I really enjoyed being back at the Watts Atelier for a bit. I can’t wait to take what I got out of these five weeks and keep learning from it. This was an invented sketch from class today. About an hour.
Hayao Miyazaki Interview →
Miyazaki responded: “To have a film where there’s an evil figure and a good person fights against the evil figure and everything becomes a happy ending, that’s one way to make a film. But then that means you have to draw, as an animator, the evil figure. And it’s not very pleasant to draw evil figures. So I decided against evil figures in my films.”
One reason for fascination with Miyazaki may be his contradictions. The director whose films typically end with an uplifting affirmation of humanity suitable for children is the same director who told his Berkeley audience, “It would be wonderful if I could see the end of civilization during my lifetime.” The man who is able to entrance children, and adults, with his animation is the same one who complains about children spending too much time with virtual reality instead of being outdoors in nature.
Mo Tip #1: Always Have a Sketchbook →
I’m going to be doing a series of what I’ve dubbed ‘Mo Tips.’ A period of my life where I was soo utterly lucky to soak in the wisdom of a wise wise man. Some will be art related, some will be life related. Eventually I’ll post about how I got to have this experience, but for now, tip number…
Did a quick gouache study of an Ian McQue illustration. I love his art.
Do you think you can be a good comic artist and raise a family and kid in the same time or you have to choose ?
sure, lots of great artists have kids. I feel like it would only give you more to talk about in your work.
not that I’m gonna have kids though.
Yeah, it is possible but it changes your entire life. I finished the third North World book in anticipation of my first born, however I got about 75 pages into a planned four book series and I completely and literally lost the plot. My daughter would typically take 20 minutes of outright sobbing to get to sleep, and that on top of working at a soul-crushing job equaled that I just could not do it. The story was shelved and I rediscovered video games for a few years.
Then she started sleeping better, I started working nights and being alone for hours in silence and io9 did a review of North World and kicked my butt into gear. Penultimate Quest 1 was drawn in anticipation of my son and the second volume was drawn despite his occasional sleepless nights (but he goes to sleep great, thank you, Lord).
Because I drew before and through this time I feel far more confident about continuing to draw even as I have now passed the 30 year mark. Also thanks to my son I can reflect on the lost years as being pretty understandable. Kids are draining, but also wonderful. Similar to comics.