Lessons That Are No Help

You know how someone does an amazing trick, and then they show you how, and you say, "Oh, I see, that was easy once you know the trick."  Well, that is not the case with this art, at least for me.  

One problem with art books is they will have some exercise to draw a face, and step one will be an oval and step two will be a few more ovals, and I am following along well, and then step three the whole face is suddenly drawn in where the ovals were.   Art books all do this and it drives me crazy.    Well, at least the guy in the linked video shows every single little step.  And it still seems a miracle that the picture emerges.



  1. TJIC:

    Interesting perceptual footnote:

    I was clicking to advance the video by ten seconds at a clip, and suddenly there were REFLECTIONS right on the shiny bag. OMG! How did he do that? Some sort of clear reflective glaze?

    I backed up and watched the video...and saw that he'd just used a white marker.

    Now that I knew the secret it didn't look remotely the same to me.

    It's funny how the human mind jumps from the raw photon data to complete conceptual models, and when the trick is revealed, sometimes the conceptual model is not so easily resummoned.

  2. cltby:

    Just in case anyone is curious about the key principle behind creating the illusion of volume in two dimensions:

    Consider a single light source (this seems to be the case for the bag of chips, from top left). Imagine the object's surface is not smooth but is instead broken up into small, flat planes. The planes *most perpendicular* to the light's rays are the lightest in value. The planes get progressively darker as they turn away from the light.

    That's it. Execution, per usual, is somewhat harder.

  3. Another_Brian:

    I was going to say something similar. With my limited experience, one of the most important things to get right when creating realistic looking artwork is the shading. You can have something that's just a general mish-mash of colors become a realistic looking bag of chips or bowl of fruit by just understanding how lighting and shading works. I think I read somewhere it was da Vinci who draped a sheet over a chair and spent hours or days studying nothing but the light and shadow effects.

    Knowing and doing are of course two very separate schools.

  4. James:

    When I was much younger and had nothing to do during summer break from school, I would be able to watch Painting With Ross or whatever it was on PBS. I always marveled at how a simple stroke with a fan brush would make pine needles. And 3 strokes with a knife would put snow on the limbs. The paintings looked very realistic when he was done and it was fascinating how simply he did it. I also thought it was funny that he would spend a bunch of time painting a big mountain and sky across the whole canvas and then cover most of it up with forest, lake, cabin, etc.

  5. Matthew Slyfield:

    Since you mentioned him using a knife, I assume he was using one of the thicker types of paints. Very likely the reason for painting a full background is because with the thick paints that gives the painting some actual physical depth like a bas-relief.

  6. JKB:

    Pick up a copy of 'Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain'. I didn't complete it but I was amazed at how it helped me actually draw. They have techniques to bore your left brain into letting the right (visual) brain see and draw what is there. I still use the techniques when I need to stop thinking and just see. To much math as a child, I guess.

    I assume after you get accustomed to going right brained, then the drawing techniques come into play to improve your reproductions of what you see.

    I found this with dancing as well. Once I stopped thinking, I improved. Of course, when you are in lessons, you are thinking so it is hard to do what they showed you. It's some kind of Zen thing, I think. By explaining and correcting, the teacher is actually keeping the student in the left brain preventing the right brain from asserting and doing the creative part.

    Keep in mind, most people who can do an art or physical feat, can't teach. That little mindset, movement became a part of them so early on that they don't know other people can't/don't do it. Or often, even know they do it because it just happens.

  7. marque2:

    You should paint using the Lombardo method

    "Using the Lombardo Method, you’ll learn to see everyday objects as a simple grouping of geometrical shapes. Here, we see how two concentric circles, various trapezoids, ellipses – and yes, even a rhombus! – can create an adorable little bunny rabbit. It’s just that easy!” – Professor Lombardo

    It is from the best Simpsons ever - Episode 18 season 2 "Brush with Greatness"

    Well worth watching. (Lombardo method explained 10:10 into the episode)


  8. marque2:

    I think the knife meant he was a left wing nut, since any conservative artist would drop the knife and use a shot gun :P

  9. marque2:

    It is like connect the dots in reverse!

  10. random_eddie:

    "the guy in the linked video shows every single little step"

    He left out the step where he practices for ten years.