neara-works asked: Hello Eski, As an artist you must draw a lot, and I wonder if you ever have wrist probems? Like numbness in your fingers or anything like symptoms of carpool tunnel. I'd want to know how you deal with or prevent these problems from happening. Recently I have started having these symptoms of numbness, and I'm getting worried because I'm only in my early 20's :S Thank You, Neara
This is a very common problem for us artists! Repetitive motion injuries from drawing a painting long hours in the day can cause pain, numbness, and sometimes in extreme cases long lasting damage. It’s really important that we all take care of our bodies as best we can! I have found some things that help me, but take these with a grain of salt. I’m not a medical professional, this is not medical advice, and I advocate that each of you reading this seek help from a doctor for your individual issue. Neara, the numbness you’re experiencing may be due to nerve irritation/damage, which can become very serious if you ignore it and keep painting. I especially advocate for you to to rest from drawing till you are able to address the issue.
Stretches and exercises
This video has been floating around tumblr, and these help me to keep my own pain down a lot.
Injuries like carpal tunnel are about inflammation in the injured area. Keeping inflammation down is key to managing these issues. You can use ice or ibuprofen as a quick fix for getting inflammation down (I often ice at the end of a long art day), but in the long term also remember that eating lots of sugar makes it worse! Personally, It has helped me greatly to reduce the amount of sugar and starchy stuff I eat.
Rest is key to healing, even if it means not painting and drawing for a while. Take breaks during the day, stop if you feel tingling, numbness, or increased pain. If you’re doing this full time, take the weekend to not do any painting, let your body rest for an extended period of time. Sometimes if issues are very bad, resting for weeks or months may be needed. But you have to do it!
You only have ONE body with which to do art. Do what it takes to care for that body so you can be at your best for painting!
orcaowl asked: I've always been really self-conscious about livestreaming my art because I often make mistakes/re-painting things, etc. and was wondering how you deal with streaming your art, since you do it so often and if you were ever anxious about the whole process of having people watch you draw?
Most of the time the high of having an audience of people actually willing to watch me work and chat with me is enough to overshadow any self consciousness I have. Wow, people interested in watching *me* draw stuff! So neat! But I do get self conscious about broadcasting certain stages of art, like thumbnails and sketching. People watch me constantly erase and redraw, sometimes abandoning an idea altogether, and sometimes I feel obligated to provide an explanation to the audience, because I bet they’re wondering “what the heck is she doing?”
It has helped me to nail down an artistic process for commissions, so I know what step is coming each time. It helps the MOST to remember that painting and drawing is all about back and forth, subtract and add. It’s not making mistakes and fixing them, it’s exploring your subject and idea, ranging your canvas for the right brush stroke. It is my hope that the livestream audience understands that as well!
tentaclue asked: You're one of my art heroes thank you for being stunning and kind
;___; Thank you so much for your kind words, they really made my day when I got it in my inbox! I almost didn’t want to answer it so it would stay in here for me to see, but I can still see it in my tumblr.
When in doubt, tea.
When happy, tea.
When cold, tea.
When sad, tea.
When sick, tea.
When no inspiration, tea.
When have to leave bed, tea.
When supposed to be doing homework, tea.
When scheming to take over world, tea.
When summoning minor demon, tea.
When accidentally starting apocalypse, tea.
The Hannah Holloway Story.
Notes on Character Design
Character design and drawing are tome-sized topics and even if I had all the answers (I don’t - I have a lot to learn), I’m not sure I could communicate them effectively. I’ve gathered some thoughts and ideas here, though, in case they’re helpful.
First, some general things:
- Relax and let some of that anxiety go. This isn’t a hard science. There’s no wrong way, no rigid process you must adhere to, no shoulds or shouldn’ts except those you designate for yourself. This is one of the fun parts of being an artist, really - have a heady good time with it.
- Be patient. A design is something gradually arrived at. It takes time and iteration and revision. You’ll throw a lot of stuff away, and you’ll inevitably get frustrated, but bear in mind the process is both inductive and deductive. Drawing the wrong things is part of the path toward drawing the right thing.
- Learn to draw. It might seem perfunctory to say, but I’m not sure everyone’s on the same page about what this means. Learning to draw isn’t a sort of rote memorization process in which, one by one, you learn a recipe for humans, horses, pokemon, cars, etc. It’s much more about learning to think like an artist, to develop the sort of spacial intelligence that lets you observe and effectively translate to paper, whatever the subject matter. When you’re really learning to draw, you’re learning to draw anything and everything. Observing and sketching trains you to understand dimension, form, gesture, mood, how anatomy works, economy of line; all of the foundational stuff you will also rely on to draw characters from your imagination.
Spend some time honing your drawing ability. Hone it with observational sketching. Hone it good.
- I don’t think I’ve ever seen anyone do this sort of thing better than Claire Wendling. In fact, character designs emerge almost seamlessly from her gestural sketches. It’d be worth looking her up.
- Gather Inspiration like a crazed magpie. What will ultimately be your trademark style and technique is a sort of snowball accumulation of the various things you expose yourself to, learn and draw influence from. To that effect, Google images, tumblr, pinterest and stock photo sites are your friends. When something tingles your artsy senses - a style, a shape, a texture, an appealing palette, a composition, a pose, a cool looking animal, a unique piece of apparel, whatever - grab it. Looking at a lot of material through a creative lens will make you a better artist the same way reading a lot of material makes a better writer.
It’ll also devour your hard drive and you will try and fail many times to organize it, but more importantly, it’ll give you a lovely library of ideas and motivational shinies to peruse as you’re conjuring characters.
- Imitation is a powerful learning tool. Probably for many of us, drawing popular cartoon characters was the gateway habit that lured us into the depraved world of character design to begin with. I wouldn’t suggest limiting yourself to one style or neglecting your own inventions to do this, but it’s an effective way to limber up, to get comfortable drawing characters in general, and to glean something from the thought processes of other artists.
- Use references. Don’t leave it all up to guessing. Whether you’re trying to design something with realistic anatomy or something rather profoundly abstracted from reality, it’s helpful in a multitude of ways to look at pictures. When designing characters, you can infer a lot personality from photos, too.
And despite what you might have heard, having eyeballs and using them to look at things doesn’t constitute cheating. There’s no shame in reference material. There’s at least a little shame in unintentional abstractions, though.
Concepts and Approach:
- Break it down. Sometimes you have the look of a character fleshed out in your mind before putting it to paper, but usually not. That doesn’t mean you have to blow your cortical fuses trying conceive multiple diverse designs all at the same time, though. You don’t even have to design the body shape, poses, face, and expressions of a single character all at once. Tackle it a little at a time.
The cartoony, googly eyed style was pre-established for this simple mobile game character, but I still broke it into phases. Start with concepts, filter out what you like until you arrive at a look, experiment with colors, gestures and expressions.
- Start with the general and work toward the specific. Scribbling out scads of little thumbnails and silhouettes to capture an overall character shape is an effective way begin - it’s like jotting down visual notes. When you’re working at a small scale without agonizing over precision and details, there’s no risk of having to toss out a bunch of hard work, so go nuts with it. Give yourself a lot of options.
Here’s are some sample silhouettes from an old cancelled project in which I was tasked with designing some kind of cyber monkey death bot. I scratched out some solid black shapes then refined some of them a step or two further.
- Here’s an instructional video by Feng Zhu about doing much the same thing (only way better).
- Shapes are language. They come preloaded with all sorts of biological, cultural and personal connotations. They evoke certain things from us too. If you’re ever stuck about where to go with your design, employ a sort of anthroposcopy along these lines - make a visual free association game out of it. It’ll not only tend to result in a distinguished design, but a design that communicates something about the nature of the character.
Think about what you infer from different shapes. What do they remind you of? What personalities or attitudes come to mind? How does the mood of a soft curve differ from that of a sharp angle? With those attributes attached, how could they be used or incorporated into a body or facial feature shape? What happens when you combine shapes in complementary or contrasting ways? How does changing the weight distribution among a set of shapes affect look and feel? Experiment until a concept starts to resonate with the character you have in mind or until you stumble on something you like.
If you don’t have intent, take the opposite approach - draw some shapes and see where they go. (It’s stupid fun.)
- You might also find it helpful to watch Bobby Chiu’s process videos in which he feels out his character designs as he paints.
- Cohesion and Style. As you move from thumbnails to more refined drawings, you can start extrapolating details from the general form. Look for defining shapes, emergent themes or patterns and tease them out further, repeat them, mirror them, alternate them. Make the character entirely out of boxy shapes, incorporate multiple elements of an architectural style, use rhythmically varying line weights - there are a million ways to do this
Here’s some of the simple shape repetition I’ve used for Lackadaisy characters.
- Expressions - let them emerge from your design. If your various characters have distinguishing features, the expressions they make with those features will distinguish them further. Allow personality to influence expressions too, or vice versa. Often, a bit of both happens as you continue drawing - physiognomy and personality converge somewhere in the middle.
For instance, Viktor’s head is proportioned a little like a big cat. Befitting his personality, his design lets him make rather bestial expressions. Rocky, with his flair for drama, has a bit more cartoon about him. His expressions are more elastic, his cheeks squish and deform and his big eyebrows push the boundaries of his forehead. Mitzi is gentler all around with altogether fewer lines on her face. The combination of her large sleepy eyes and pencil line brow looked a little sad and a little condescending to me when I began working out her design - ultimately those aspects became incorporated into her personality.
- Pose rendering is another one of those things for which observational/gesture drawing comes in handy. Even if you’re essentially scribbling stick figures, you can get a handle on natural looking, communicative poses this way. Stick figure poses make excellent guidelines for plotting out full fledged character drawings too.
Look for the line of action. It’ll be easiest to identify in poses with motions, gestures and moods that are immediately decipherable. When you’ve learned to spot it, you can start reverse engineering your own poses around it.
- Additional resources - here are some related things about drawing poses and constructing characters (click the images for the links).
- Tortured rumination about lack of ability/style/progress is a near universal state of creative affairs. Every artist I have known and worked with falls somewhere on a spectrum between frustration in perpetuity and a shade of fierce contrition Arthur Dimmesdale would be proud of. So, next time you find yourself constructing a scourge out of all those crusty acrylic brushes you failed to clean properly, you loathsome, deluded hack, you, at least remember you’re not alone in feeling that way. When it’s not crushing the will to live out of you, the device does have its uses - it keeps you self-critical and locked in working to improve mode. If we were all quite satisfied with our output, I suppose we’d be out of reasons to try harder next time.
When you need some reassurance, compare old work to new. Evolution is gradual and difficult to perceive if you’re narrowed in on the nearest data point, but if you’ve been steadily working on characters for a few months or a year, you’ll likely see a favorable difference between points A and B.
Most of all, don’t dwell on achieving some sort of endgame in which you’re finally there as a character artist. There’s no such place - wherever you are, there is somewhere else. It’s a moving goal post. Your energy will be better spent just enjoying the process…and that much will show in the results.
it really upsets me when i leave nice asks/comments on my very favourite artist’s page, and they don’t reply with at least a ‘thank you’ or something of the sort.
i don’t find myself very good at artwork, so whenever i get comments from people who admire my work, it makes me so happy.
i don’t understand how they can well…seemingly ignore all the people who look up to them and love their work. i’d be thrilled to be like that.
Artists who receive a lot of comments are not ignoring you when you comment. It’s not an ego thing and it’s not a social snub. It really is simply that they don’t have time to answer everyone! For example, it takes me between 1-3 hours every day to answer business related art emails alone. If I also answered every comment I got every day, I would spend more than half my day JUST typing up comment answers. There is more in my schedule beyond answering inquiries and comments, such as doing the art itself (most of my daily hours are dedicated to this), doing chores and errands, and even sometimes *gasp* going outside for a walk or being with family and friends! (occasionally we sleep as well)
So please don’t take it personally, and don’t assume we’re ignoring you. We’re human beings with busy lives, and the more comments we get the fewer we can answer while still being allowed to live our lives for ourselves. I can’t speak for other artists, but I read and appreciate every single kind comment I get. I just have to delegate time to do things like eat and write meaningless tumblr replies as well! ;)
I agree with Eski - and add MANY (including myself) artists have wrist & arm problems causing them frequent pain. Typing aggravates my problems the most, and as my art is my income, I need to spend more of the time my hand isn’t hurting to draw than type. (though both are necessary anyway, as Eskia says allotting tasks is important to the creative output of many artists) It’s not a shunning or ego thing, it’s a pain management (possibly) and life thing.
Always feel free to comment if someone’s work inspired you to do so and the space is there to do so. Please understand being so communicative in text is a luxury others cannot afford, and that many an artist who doesn’t respond still appreciates what you’ve taken your time to do :)
(Some are really shy too! Some folks have been programmed to think saying “thank you” sounds egotistical, and some have had bad experiences with those who are demanding unrealistic interactions or uncomfortable dialogues from them!)
There are also valid points! I have a finite amount of time I can spend on my computer due to repetitive motion injuries from painting full time. Typing aggravates those injuries, so I make efforts to reduce how much I type. I also know several artists who are so shy and afraid of talking to others, they cringe at getting comments they have to answer. So understand that’s an issue for some as well!