Saturday, December 09, 2006

December 9, 2006
About a month ago (Nov. 15) I made a list of my weakest drawing skills as it relates to The Top Secret Project. My logic being one cannot improve if one doesn’t know where to put effort. Here’s the list of my weaknesses in terms of rendering:

• hands There are some forty bones in each hand, and they are extremely hard to draw, especially in action, or in foreshortened situations, like holding a pistol which is pointed at the viewer (Where do all those knuckles go?!). When I was a freshman at the University of Arizona (1965) we had a Fine Arts teacher, Mr. Scott, who would come around behind us as we drew and sometimes yell out, “Platypus Hands!” which is unfortunately what most artist’s attempts look like. Pudgy, cartoon-like goofiness. More than one girl student ran crying from the room. He was definitely Old School, and was subsequently pushed out of the college for being such a Brute, but I learned more from him than any other teacher I had. However, in spite of his excellent instruction, hands are still a definite challenge, and I need to work on it if our story is going to be convincing. The new Lone Ranger comic has a scene of the Ranger pointing a pistol out at us and I took one look at it and yelled out, “Platypus Hand!” Several employees walking by my office shook their heads in dismay, but I knew what I was talking about.

• eyes The liquid pool around the pupil is not white! In fact it’s everything but white! The Old Masters tended to put strong grays in there and it certainly helps when you add the glistening highlights. In fact, I've been studying and copying them to some good efffect (thanks for the great poster references Fred Nolan!)

• ears An extremely complicated terrain with bumps and rippling plains of pinkish skin that picks up light in extraordinary ways (it gets bright pink and translucent when sunlight hits it), and is maddeningly different on every person! One of my cartoon heroes, Gus Arriola (Gordo) eventually eliminated the inner ear squiggles that most cartoonists put in, because he believed it subtracted from the visual shorthand needed to convey emotion. I tend to believe him, although in realistic rendering one needs to find a happy medium. I’m currently looking hard at everyone's ears, so if you find me staring at you in traffic or at the office party, it's not a gay fetish thing (honest!)..

• holsters Very few artists get this unique and complicated piece of equipment correct—of course, Remington and Russell being the exceptions. The Mexican loop holster is an intricate booger and reflects light in very specific ways, and seen at a distance, the shine of the belt, with bullets on top is confusing (to me) and kicks my ass every time. I need to take the time to study the effects and get it right, rather than continue to muddle through and fake it.

• horse legs Horses have very unique veins and knobby protrusions running down their hind legs and when they are moving in a trot or lope, it’s extremely difficult to position them correctly, especially when a horse is coming straight on. Most artists tend to hide the fourth leg (I know I do) because it gets too crowded in there and muddies up the effect of the run. This is also why most cartoonists from Disney to the Simpsons only use four fingers on a hand (it's too hard to draw five and viewers don't seem to notice or mind the exclusion).

So, that said, I added a new item to my morning regimen today. I carried my sketchbook under my arm on my bike ride, and stopped on the way back at Barro’s horse farm and sketched the legs of every reddish horse in the joint. Got some good stuff which I’ll post later.

Harvey Fergusson Excerpt De Jour
“Lying quiet he became aware of the voice of the valley, which was mostly a hum of bees, a droning of locusts and a soft chuckle of water over a sandy bed. It was like a lullaby sent to soothe him. He was full fed, supremely relaxed and comfortable. In moments such as this he always felt at home on earth, even though he was a homeless man, and at peace with himself, however difficult his fellow beings might become. What more could a man ask of life? But he knew he was now asking something more, and something other than peace. Otherwise he would not be here, camped on the edge of a settlement like an invader waiting the moment to strike.”
—Harvey Fergusson, The Conquest of Don Pedro

”You could trust him with anything but a woman.”
—Harvey Fergusson, The Conquest of Don Pedro

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