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Nsio explains: Know the Rules

By Nsio
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Time for the second part in my tutorial series. This one will still explain things rather than show how to actually do them.

Know the rules
Of course you can break any rule without knowing them, that's what all beginner artists do spontaneously.

Some may say that there are no rules in art. So essentially there are no right or wrong solutions. However, some solutions are simply better than others. There are many reasons why some drawings just look a lot better than others. And I believe that the reason here is that the artists have followed certain rules.

If you don't know basic concepts how things work, you can't draw anything in satisfactory way. Reality has many things that when followed, can spice up your drawings a lot, even if you don't aim in realism. The funny thing is that even though many of these rules are present in our reality, people can't seem to get them. Neither did I when I started drawing.

On the contrary, when you know the rules, you can intentionally do things differently and apply completely new overriding rules on your own. For example, you can draw more justified proportions for your characters without making them look wonky.

For example there are technical rules that include anatomy, proportions, physics, mass, form, depth, view point, space, execution... and then there are artistic rules, like dynamism, composition, style, flow, mood, idea, simplifying, exaggerating, justifying.... There are surely even more rules, but these are what I could come up for now and I dare to claim that these will take you far enough. An artist in training should focus on technical rules at first, because you can build your art upon them later.

Right and wrong: absolute beginner
As I already mentioned, there isn't really right or wrong solutions. But even seemingly right things can sometimes be wrong. For some weird reason, many people fail to understand such a basic concept as obstructed view. For example, let's say that your character has a bunny tail, but she is seen from the front. You simply can't draw the bunny tail, no matter how much you would love to do that. If you draw it peeking behind her, it's just wrong. So if you really need to get that feature in you drawing, choose the viewing angle accordingly. Make it justified.

Okay, this is another thing people seem to ignore. What ever you draw, it needs to have a reason so that it will be justified. This is evident with the poses people draw. There isn't really any idea behind anything. I don't go into details here just yet, but there are ways to construct your drawing so that the elements will make sense. And this is done by following the rules.

People also tend to hide elements that are hard to draw, such as hands, behind the character. Well this isn't necessarily wrong, but it depends on execution. If it's evident that you are trying to hide your lack of skill, it's an error. While doing that, you may make even more errors that arouse the critical eye. And what's worse, you will be crippling your learning. If you keep hiding those hands all the time, you will never learn drawing them.

Another common issue is that you may have drawn extremely good detail, but it just doesn't contribute to the rest of the drawing. It's an error (or the rest of the drawing is an error, works either way). You need to do sacrifices to make your drawing consistent and sometimes it means erasing that cool detail.

What I find very interesting is that the edges of the paper or canvas seem to hamper the progression of the artists in training. This is commonly seen as weird image cropping, fitting the drawing forcefully withing the canvas or leaving a lot of empty space around. Those working digitally have it easy though: if the canvas is too small, extend it. Once you are done, crop the empty space. This same "fear of edges" as I call it is also present in manga comic panels people draw. Forget the edges. In reality, there are no edges or borders. Draw the drawing first fully and then fit it in the panel. Also, it's good to remember that making the drawing look bigger than the panel usually makes it more interesting.

Realize your ignorance, accept your weaknesses and see what you are doing wrong. Learn from critics, challenge yourself and keep looking forward. It may sound a bit harsh, but it's not my intent to make you feel bad.

Introduction to sketching
Okay now we are really close to get to the real thing. I can't possibly emphasize the importance of sketching enough. A sketch is a visualized form of your mind. A good sketch has all the fundamental things that you will need to construct the final image. I always spend a lot of time just sketching.

Most beginners start from one feature (such as eyes) and then moves to another (chin). It's possible to do it like this, but it takes a lot of skill to pull it off and I can tell you that if you are a beginner, you won't be able to do it, yet. I can do it only to some extent. I still prefer drawing things in phases instead of finishing one feature at time, because that makes it possible to keep the drawing consistent.

A sketch represents one possible solution for the final image. It's a sort of a quick note, so that you remember what you're doing. If you are not happy with it, you can easily discard it without worrying about the effort used in it and draw a new quick one. This allows you to try out various of possibilities and to find the ideal solution for your drawing. Sketches are also ideal for practicing, because you can draw them a lot in a short time lapse.

Remember that the sketch is there to help you out. It's fine if other people can't understand it, but make sure you do. That said, make clear sketches and focus on important things.

In my next tutorial, I will be covering human figure drawing, simplifying things with basic shapes and human proportions.
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Comments66
anonymous's avatar
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danny3xeer's avatar
danny3xeerHobbyist Digital Artist
The what not to do drawing looks exactly like my art style
A
lambnoodles's avatar
lambnoodlesHobbyist General Artist

F

supercat765's avatar
supercat765Hobbyist Traditional Artist
"Hair on diferent layer just in case"
well, that does not work for me I only have one layer when I sketch...
the layer of paper I put the pencil to
Maestro-Tomy's avatar
Maestro-TomyHobbyist General Artist
I suffered the same issue that you have when I was a teenager, drawing whatever I have from my mind in a traditional method, until I discovered the way of drawing an artwork using a multiple layers of paper. Try the "tracing light box" method. You can even rip 1 sheet from the sketchbook and use rough draft as a guide for the sophisticated outline.
Naughty-b-Nature's avatar
Naughty-b-NatureHobbyist Traditional Artist
Hmm, I don´t sketch so much. :-? (Confused) 2-3 Times at the most, because I have the visualization (I´m a certified visual artist) in my head already.

Can it be that that´s also the main problem?
I think in motion, not in stills. A sketch is a frozen still, if you know what I mean? Should I make more sketches to be on the save side, or stick to what I do? Confused 

Anyone who can help, please comment or note me. I want to learn and progress.
Nsio's avatar
NsioHobbyist Digital Artist
I would say it's still for the best to sketch few ideas down before going for the real thing. It's not given that your first idea is the most appropriate for the situation, despite the abilities you claim to have. The point is that drawing sketches is much faster than drawing a finished drawing, so you can avoid putting too much effort on a piece that just won't cut it in the end.

Anyway, that's not to say you shouldn't work on your ability to visualize things in your head. I would say that drawing several sketches will only strengthen that ability so that in the future you don't have to draw many sketches to capture the most impacting scene.
Technemancer's avatar
TechnemancerHobbyist Digital Artist
This helped me so much as a budding artist, I basically realized I was doing everything wrong. Sincere thank you for this.
Yangcat's avatar
No.3 Haha that's me all the time, I hate drawing hands. But hey, gotta learn it eventually... Awesome tutorial btw, this is a godsend!
SirIronD's avatar
SirIronDHobbyist Digital Artist
 Realize your ignorance, accept your weaknesses and see what you are doing wrong. Learn from critics, challenge yourself and keep looking forward.
this is just the way i live life mate, your tutorials are so cool and informing, ive been using this along with some others to improve in my art, always trying new things, keep it up!!!!
4-X-S's avatar
4-X-SHobbyist Artist
You magnified those mistake on purpose, to allow people to see what they did wrong. No one in RL would make those mistakes with intention, they cannot correct, and did all they can to hide.
ToddNTheShiningSword's avatar
ToddNTheShiningSwordHobbyist Traditional Artist
Another common issue is that you may have drawn extremely good detail, but it just doesn't contribute to the rest of the drawing. It's an error (or the rest of the drawing is an error, works either way). You need to do sacrifices to make your drawing consistent and sometimes it means erasing that cool detail.

HOLY CRAP I have never been called out for that before! I didn't even know there were people who know that that actually happens in drawing!! :wow:
This thing here is pretty impressive. :clap:
Laugh-Butts's avatar
Laugh-ButtsProfessional Digital Artist
HAHAHAHAHHAH THE SPY
Howso-ARTlee's avatar
Howso-ARTleeStudent General Artist
Why is drawing from imagination so difficult? What was your experience like, how long did it take for you to get to where you are now? Please share your wisdom, Thanks in advance.
Nsio's avatar
NsioHobbyist Digital Artist
It's difficult just because people have very scarce visual library in their mind. Basically people already know "everything" (expect things they haven't seen before), but it's hard to remember every visual aspect clearly. If you need to draw a castle for instance, you may recall only naive images from children books. Artists who draw a lot have spent most of their time just on observing. In fact, drawing is more about observing than it's about drawing.

Experienced artists are also good at applying what they already know on something they don't know. That's why it's especially useful to be able to draw basic shapes and forms, because everything can be broken into these basic shapes. So when artist looks at something she hasn't seen before, she immediately looks for easily identifiable forms. Horns are cones, tires are discs and so on.

I've been drawing almost 11 years by now, but it took me 6 years to realize that I needed to address my weaknesses. I drew almost every day for hours. When I wasn't drawing, I spent the time on observing (while doing something else). For example, I made intensive observations on wrinkles on clothing while traveling by bus.

I focused on general knowledge and understanding, rather than individual details. With human characters, I'm more interested in proportions than anatomy. This allowed me to focus on the essentials and get good at drawing earlier. Now that I have a good foundation, I can update my knowledge about anatomy and details and apply them on what I already know.
Howso-ARTlee's avatar
Howso-ARTleeStudent General Artist
I'm starting to notice a "shift" in my brain state when I draw now. Instead of putting random lines on the paper, I'm able to feel the perspective of what I'm drawing. It's hard to explain, but I feel like My brain is definitely changing. 
Nsio's avatar
NsioHobbyist Digital Artist
Yeah, "shift" and "feeling" are hard to explain properly, but the difference can be felt. It's fascinating feeling when you can read the image correctly and just know where the lines are to be drawn.
Howso-ARTlee's avatar
Howso-ARTleeStudent General Artist
I think I'm understanding more and more about what it means to see things for what they are. When I do exercises like abstract 3D objects, and flipping them upside down and mirroring, I see things like cliffs, buildings and things i can't describe. before, I would just see a bunch of lines.

I almost forgot to ask- what are the weaknesses you needed to address?
KrimPi's avatar
KrimPiHobbyist General Artist
This is really great work
Thank you for sharing
GothicChains's avatar
GothicChainsStudent Digital Artist
Okay now I'm mad because I spent a year and a half staring at ref photos trying to figure out how to draw humans when I could have figured it out in five minutes by looking at your tutorials T-T

Your drawings are fantastic :)
Sonicfanx1's avatar
You probably needed a guide.  Studying static images can only do so much.
ObviouslyNat's avatar
These are phenomenal.  c:  I like to draw, and am trying to improve, and these tips are excellent.  They're in depth and are just really awesome.  Thanks for making these.  You're great! ;v;
Nsio's avatar
NsioHobbyist Digital Artist
Thank you. I have been doing these because they are helpful for me as well :)
NadiaThePanda's avatar
NadiaThePandaHobbyist General Artist
I really need all of these tips!Umi Nervous Icon
Fantastic tutorial!!
AngelKite's avatar
AngelKiteHobbyist Digital Artist
I've been trying more full body pictures and the thumbnail sketches really do help! (: I'm glad to see that I'm doing something right, but I need loads and loads more practice to start doing dynamic poses TvT
anonymous's avatar
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