Emperor Moloch

Art Everything

Not much here yet, just gathering my thoughts whenever I remember something fresh. This is going to be a mess until I find some structure. I was ambitious and wanted to add a Table of Contents but I shift information around so much that I just dropped the idea.

Absolute basics - Iteration and Breaking Things Down

It was hard to find a true starting point for so much knowledge, but I would say if there’s one magical key, it’s iteration and breaking things down. Combined. I tried separating the concepts but at least at the moment it doesn’t make much sense to me, they’re so dependent on each other in practice.

Iteration Example

You break things down into smaller steps, and attempt them multiple times until you get it if not right, then at least close enough. An iterative approach has strong benefits:

  • It reduces the cognitive load, helps you stay in that sweet spot of “not boring, not overwhelming”.
  • Also reduces performance anxiety, freeing you up to try things.
  • You make less decisions per step, allowing each decision to be better.

Iteration Example

3D Sketching / The Cube

In this example, by increasing the number of steps you decrease the decisions needed with each one. The problem with perspective is that even drawing a simple cube requires you to make a lot of choices at once: size, porportions, how far are the vanishing points, is it above or below the horizon line etc. With practice this can be done at once, but when learning it’s best to break it up a bit.

Using iteration to draw a cube

Why cubes by the way? Because if you can place them in 3-dimensional space, you can basically place any primitive by using the cube as base.

Primitives fit into cubes

2D Sketching

By “2D Sketching” I mean seeing an image purely as a set of 2D shapes. Ultimately that’s what a lot of painting and drawing is - creating an illusion of life and depth and vitality on a 2D surface.

I wanted to say this is the first thing to learn…but is it? There are definitely aspects of it that are crucial, such as seeing angles, proportions.

2D Sketching

  • Simplifying shapes to straight lines (curves are difficult to get just right)
  • “Dropping Verticals / Horizontals”
  • Enveloping the subject in a simple shape
  • Focusing on 2D shapes exclusively and ignoring the dimensional context.
  • Seeing angles between lines.

And some “mechanical” ways to make it easier:

  • Quickly flicking your eyes back and forth between the subject and drawing
  • Mirroring the canvas (when working digitially)
  • Flipping the image upside down, especially when working with faces.

I wanted to start with this, but really…it trains you to observe more closely, but if mastered “only” makes you basically a human printer, you can copy 2d surfaces. It’s much more practical to develop spatial imagination.

Unorganized Thoughts

Sometimes an idea/thought/observation pops into my head, and I’m not yet sure where it fits in the rest of my little “theory of everything” =) so it lands here until I figure it out. Sometimes it’s really, really rough and unformed so proceed with caution.

There’s also a reasonable chance I’m plain wrong. So take care, here be dragons.

Left Brain / Right Brain

So there’s definitely a kind of shift that happens when you start sketching. I suspect it’s like blood flowing to the “right hemisphere”. The left/right brain thing popularized by Betty Edwards is probably not very scientifically accurate but changing your brains’ “mode of operation” when you draw definitely feels like a thing. It can be taught, for sure. I also suspect the “flexibility” (as in: shifting between modes of operation) of this process can be very different between artists (and again: can be practiced). For me personally I always felt a lot of inertia - it takes me a looong time to get going (20+ minutes) so once I’m there I want to get out of the session as much as I can (and it gets hard to slow down…which is another story completely). It used to cause me a lot of anxiety, when I would panic “I CANNOT DRAW” for the first 20 minutes. And a lot of grief where I would be hungry, tired and ineffective but refuse to “let go” of this state. (It sounds kind of ADHD-ish…but I never felt like ADHD was something I struggle with).

I really don’t have any better or more precise terms so I’ll stick with “left brain / right brain”

There’s not really such thing as learning art

There are universal guidelines such as the rules of composition, but a lot of “learning art” especially if you want any kind of substantial output is learning a particular process. So learning to draw Marvel style comic book characters won’t make you a childrens’ book illustrator.

Learning art - the aspects

  • Purely mechanical ability to make marks
  • Seeing. Our “left brain” tends to “override” what we really see. This causes problems especially with foreshortening.
  • Mind-body connection - your ability to make marks combined with your ability to see.
  • Theory of what actually makes an image attractive, related to how the human visual perception works.
  • Experience applying all of these in practice and learning what works for that particular artist.
  • Mental/psychological aspect. There’s a lot of fear and doubt around creating art for some reason.
  • Emotional impact. Art causes emotion. Knowing how images influence emotions is a powerful tool.

For the image itself:

  • Composition
  • Value
  • Color
  • Form