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Nsio explains: Constructing and Analysing

It's already ninth tutorial in my "Nsio explains" series. This time I'll talk a little about constructing and analysing your drawings.

Why should you construct and analyse your drawings?
First of all, if you are an artist with no prior experience about drawing, it's unlikely that you can draw anything right in first go, yet alone in one go. It takes a lot of practice and experience to be able to draw things without sketching first.

Let's imagine, that you are drawing a human figure. You start from one eye, then draw the other. You keep going and draw the cheek and chin. At this point you might already have done a mistake. If you spend some time to analyse your work now, you can probably still save it. However, you just keep going, drawing more individual details. And if you are really fond of details, you might have spent a lot of time on a detail which may not even be right. If your great detail doesn't contribute or causes problems, it needs to be sacrificed. However, the time and effort you spent on that fine detail makes you unwilling to sacrifice it. The next details you draw are forced to follow the wrong detail, accumulating issues one after another. When you finally look what you have done, it's already too late to fix the drawing. It would take too much effort and the results wouldn't probably be satisfying either.

This is why constructing and analysing your drawings is so important. If you construct your drawings in logical manner, you can save a lot of time and effort in fixing your drawings. Analysing your work in regular intevals as you keep working on your drawing ensures that you won't be putting too much effort on something wrong.

Self-analysis is the foundation of improving yourself. You will need to evaluate your actions and be able to see what you are doing wrong. Once you know our issues, you can start working on getting better at them.

Here I compiled few common issues, but seriously, the amount of possible issues are numerous. And even the matters I have covered are explained in very general level. Also the source of the issue isn't always as obvious as it may seem. For example, the character head may look too small in comparison to the body. However, you can also consider that the body appears too large when compared to the head. Either the head or the body needs to be fixed. It can also be, that the scale and proportions of the torso just makes the head look smaller. That said, there may be only one or several factors affecting the perceived issue. You will need to decide which feature you will sacrifice for the greater good.

I'll talk about few issues I tend to struggle most.
  1. Symmetry: It's fairly easy to draw something perfectly symmetric by drawing one half and then mirroring it. The problem emerges when you need to draw something symmetric in 3D space. To see the symmetry, you need to understand how perspective works. Also, you need to know that human body is rather symmetric, even if the pose isn't symmetric. Most common issues with symmetry tend to emerge around the head. The neck may appear to start from the shoulder, the mouth and nose have taken the liberty to locate themselves indiscriminately and the eyes are not from this world. You will need to learn to see the relative positions of the bodily features and make decent guesses when drawing them.
  2. Proportions: You will need to learn seeing the body proportions in perspective. Probably most common issues are arms and legs that differ in length. Even when foreshortened, the arms and legs need to look equal in length. I usually compare the body parts together to see which is longer. Then I evaluate whether it's enough if I fix only the other, or do they both need fixing.
  3. Scales: Often accompanying proportional issues, it's quite common to draw some body parts larger or smaller than it should be.
  4. Orientation: This is very important and hard. To see the orientation, you first need to see the perspective. Then you will need to know how each body part can move around and how the other body parts are affected. Drawing the hand in certain orientation will restrict arm positioning. If you fail with the orientation check, you may have poses that are physically impossible.
  5. Dynamism: Here we have the dynamism yet again. Without dynamism, everything looks plain and boring. Having been dabbling with dynamism for years, I can already come up with quite good dynamism. It gives reason for the element in your drawing, making them not only natural, but also justified.
  6. Patterns: These are often really annoying. There are two types of patterns: wanted and unwanted. Usually unintentional patterns are unwanted, for example starry sky with rational star placement. Unintentional patterns usually manifest themselves on elements where a lot of similar features are drawn next to each other. Such things are wrinkles and drapes on clothing, strands of hair and frill to mention some.
  7. Logic: This is neglected very often. Even if it's possible for the character to take a certain pose, it may not always make much of sense. Usually these poses are unnatural and stiff.

If you keep working on your drawing for quite some time, you will become blinded to it. If you mirror your drawing, it will look like a completely new drawing, making it a lot easier to see the issues. Digital artist have it easy, but traditional artist can use a real mirror and rotate the canvas as well.

When you trace your sketch, remember that your goal isn't copying it. The sketch is there only to give you some rough idea of the final results. That said, you don't have to follow the sketch too strictly, especially if it's not perfect.

Example of constructing and analysing
I though an example would be most useful way to explain how to work on your drawing.

When I draw, I work on phases. Each phase has it's own focus points and goals to achieve. The benefit of working on these phases is that I can focus only on few things at time. The phases are
1. Idea
2. Rough Sketch
3. Refined Sketch
4. Lineart
5. Post-processing

The first phase is useful for trying out many alternatives without using too much time or effort on the drawing. If I don't like the pose, I can easily discard it. I can also try to find a pose that's more fitting or justified for the character I'm going to draw. I went with the third. The fourth is there just to "pre-evaluate possible errors with the drawing".

Second phase is the most important of all of the phases. All major issues should be fixed on this phase. Well done work here will pay off on later phases. At first I draw the full body without paying too much of attention to the issues. After I'm done in 5 mins or so, I start analysing the errors. I use lasso selection to relocate and rotate body parts. I also redraw many parts to fix major issues. I have included my quick rendition and it's fixings. Drawing the character naked is important, because that's the only way you can truly test where the body parts go. Also, naked sketch will serve as a base for the clothing. If the drawing requires major changes, they can still be done. However, a good rule of thumb is that "when you have chosen a pose, stick to it".

I really recommend spending a lot of time on rough sketching. I used to draw at least two or three rough sketches of the same body, because drawing the body from scratch was often easier than fixing the faulty one.

On third phase, it's time to make a preview of the final drawing. All important details and features should be present here. The line quality doesn't matter though. I often draw most important and hard details (such as fingers) quite detailed already in order to make it easier to draw them on next phase. I usually draw some sort of shading as well, and often I won't take the drawing further than this. It has already served as valuable practice work.

On fourth phase, it's time to draw the final lineart. On this phase, the focus should be solely on the linework. While issues should be fixed when they emerge, the point of the two earlier phases is to get rid of them so that the focus can be put solely on making pretty lines. If I'm going to color the piece, this is enough work for now.

Fifth phase is either coloring or inking. Here i just went with solid black and one bluish shade. When the work is done, I usually appreciate it for some time and then after few days I do post-analysis. This piece came out pretty neat, though the legs could have benefited from some extra attention, especially the armor parts and feet.

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Roninwolf1981's avatar
I could learn from this.
ExudeArt's avatar
WT-Dampy's avatar
I love how you make these tutorials comical yet so informative! I make many of these mistakes and even though I’m getting better and better, I STILL make these mistakes lol.
Of all of the tutorials on dynamism, these are, by far, the greatest ones. Thank you so much!
Maestro-Tomy's avatar
I never did the checklist #9 when I was a kid due to lack of necessary tools and supplies for rough draft underdrawing technique that utilizes multiple layer of papers. I omit checklist #8 even when you say this checklist is recommended simply because coincidentally, my drawings happened to be okay even when flipped horizontally and vertically, coupled with the fact that most of my drawings never involve unorthodox orientation, but let me try this #8 checklist to see if some of my drawings have overlooked mistake as well as some symmetry issues. Just kidding, testing checklist #8 shows that there are still issues, but it's only minor so it's up to me if it requires further tweaking. But seriously, checklist #4 is what I struggle the most, so I often have to use Designdoll software as some sort of assistance for dealing with complex human anatomy and foreshortening. The rest of the checklist shown are done in a decent manner, even with minuscule issues.
Thanks for all the art lessons, I hope to put them to good use.
FantasyRebirth96's avatar
I really enjoyed this certain tutorial~ I'd love to see more proportion tutorials like this. I tried to practice this myself. Goodness I can tell I have to work on the legs.
MrRemoraman's avatar
Your art tips are SO helpful!  Thank you so much!  You've been a big boon to me and my own work.

I still, y'know, SUCK, but...I try.  thanks for all your help!
MissLunaRose's avatar
Thank you for this. It's really detailed and helpful. I'll definitely be referencing this as I work on improving my artwork.
Devu7's avatar
I wonder... What are your views of anchoring the base of your visual illustration skills into human illustrations? As in, practicing human figures to learn about 3D perspective drawing, dynamism etc...
Nsio's avatar
Am I not doing it already?

The same concepts are applicable on anything. It's just about understanding the subject and capturing its idea. It's possible to practice perspective with human figures, in fact, it's a good form of "passive practice": You choose to practice either perspective or human figures and then include the other field with lesser importance. That allows you to practice some things simultaneously without sacrificing too much attention on each field.

However, it's easier to start with simpler forms and start applying them on human figures later.
Devu7's avatar
Yes, that may have needed some clarification for me. Thanks!
Kariru851's avatar
Hello, you seem to have made a lot of cool drawing lessons, can I download some of them please??? They're really gonna help me out.
Nsio's avatar
Sure, there should be a download link on the right column :)
Kariru851's avatar
Awesome!! Thank you so much they'll help a lot :D
dcofjapan's avatar
kukuro-kun's avatar
Wow. This is very useful! Thank you for sharing this one!
sheblush's avatar
do you have clothes tutorial? folds and all
PersonInGinkgoForest's avatar
This is very usefull, i have a question, at least for you, what is the best way to get better when you draw in perspective?
Nsio's avatar
To get better in perspective, you will need to learn understanding what kind of visual cues invoke depth perception. Perspective guidelines are just tools, so you will need to be able to read the visual cues to place the guidelines in right positions.

For example, you know that a cube is a cube, regardless the viewing angle. When you know how a cube behaves, you can apply that to more complex things, like human figures. Everything follows the same rules, it's just that forms with sharp edges and flat faces (such as cubes) makes it easier to see the perspective.

So, whenever you are drawing perspective, analyze what was your intention and how it really looks to you. Study real life objects and spaces to figure out the where the guidelines should be placed.
Nsio's avatar
Size in perspective? Not really, but it's the relationship between objects that's important. If you have two characters, one tall and one short, in different distances, you need to mind their height even in perspective. That said, tall guy at distance may look smaller than short fellow at the front, but he still needs to look taller than the shorter guy. Drawing characters 7,8 or 9 heads tall is just about proportional differences. Nothing prevents 7 head tall character from being taller than 8 heads tall character. Of course, if both characters have exact the same head size, then 8 head tall characters are obviously taller than 7 head tall characters.

Also, the distance between beholder and the object is important, because the closer the object is, the more the beholder needs to look around or move her eyes to see the object. That causes some distortion when drawn on flat canvas. Classic perspective with straight guidelines doesn't take this viewpoint movement in account though.

Analysis is most important part in drawing practice. That allows the artist to judge her strengths and weaknesses.
Azifri's avatar
I still have so much to learn. Thanks for sharing this, it's very useful for me :) <3
MarcDaArtist's avatar
I often find myself overly critical of myself real early in the process. Sometimes I just stare at the page, too afraid to make mistakes. You see, I'm self taught, and I've developed a terrible habit of getting in my own way when drawing. This post has helped me somewhat, in making drawing a practical, constructive, and analytic process, but I can't even seem to shake the doubt and frustration. I'm drawing less and less because of it. 

I've read this post dozens of times, in hopes of finding a different mindset, but to no avail. I even printed it out, to be honest...

I've no idea where I'm going with this, so I'll just ask a few questions.

1) Is it better to start quickly or slowly?

2) Should I start with the head or body?

3) Any ways to deal with doubt or frustration?

I'm really sorry to bug you with all this, but you're the most concise and specific artist I've ever seen. Anything you say will likely be of great help. 

Thanks in advance,

Marc (who is now wondering whether he should've sent this as a note)
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