14 March, 2007

On Keeping Sketchbooks

This is inline with the Samurai Lecture posted earlier - your sketchbook should be your main sword. Keep a sketchbook wherever you go. Keeping one is the single most important tool that will improve your work. However, like anything, nothing will happen if you don't use it.

Draw in it everyday. This activity develops discipline, discipline you need to succeed in your field. Draw in it for five minutes everyday. If you are studying animation, practice drawing people by using a pen. Date your drawings too, as this is the only way you can see your improvement.

The sketchbook is a safe place to explore, to take risks and to record thoughts and ideas. I always jot ideas down because 1) I have a poor memory, 2) I may want to develop it further and 3) it may be worth a million dollars one day...maybe, and nobody has to see it.

Be sure your sketchbook is hardbound. I prefer this because it will last a long time and will weather the elements...10 years from now, you'll have it and if you date the pictures, you'll have a nice record of your progress.

The DESIGN Sketchbook:
Here's how you use it to jumpstart your design career. One of the hardest things we have to do as art and design students is to develop our own visual language. How do we communicate visually? This is what we are developing while in school, and sometimes this comes out when you begin working professionally in the field. Why wait that long? Work on your visual language now.

The sketchbook gives you this all important insight into your visual style. I sometimes cut out examples of designs I like and paste them into my book - one image per page. When the sketchbook is filled, you can look back and you'll learn about yourself. You see what things attract you like colors, subject matter and maybe even certain layouts and designs. Its a nice thing to see.

This gives you a competitive edge... but here's how you can make money at it. Sometimes, I'm asked to do work requiring a quick turnaround (meaning it was due yesterday - those of you already in the trenches already know about it), and its during those times that my sketchbooks help me the most. They help me by showing me solutions that I already like. It also helps with speed, because a majority of the research is already complete, I simply look through my sketchbooks at designs that I think would fit the design problem and I would emulate it the piece. Not copy it, but use it as reference and inspiration, make it my own in order to fit the solution. So, when a client asks me for one mockup, I am able to provide 3 or 5 for approval (clients like options). It makes things go smoother, and yes....it makes you look really gooood and really fast. :-)

The ANIMATOR Sketchbook:
There is no shortcut to good solid drawing and to get better at it, you just have to do it. The investment will pay off and you will be glad you did, and it only takes 5 minutes a day...here's how.

Keep a hardbound sketchbook wherever you go and promise yourself that you will draw in it daily. If you are just starting, get a timer, set it for five minutes and just draw. You can do it while waiting for lunch, before you go to bed, during a commercial, at the movie, anywhere. One of my lifedrawing instructors carried one with him wherever he went and even sketched at a funeral.

You are training yourself to see as an artist and at the same time, you are building the discipline needed in which you can grow. Drawing is a form of communication. Like reading and writing, it takes practice to be really good at it. Just keep going and persist.

If there's an earthquake, be sure you get your five minutes of drawing time in, if there's a volcanic eruption, get your five minutes in no matter what. Heck, draw the lava! There is something to be said about filling up volumes upon volumes of sketchbooks and is definitely the sure fire way to reach your deserved success. You have nothing to lose.

As an animator, practice how to draw people quickly by focusing on the three step process of gesture, form and anatomy. Try drawing in a public place and capture someone who is standing placing an order at the counter. You have less than a minute to capture this pose....now draw. If the person moves away, rely then on your visual memory, your knowledge of form and anatomy to complete the drawing, then move on to the next one.

If you keep this in mind and draw in a sketchbook that is always by your side, you will feel like an artist. You record everything and most importantly, you see things that only an artist can see. This is how you learn how to draw. The class will help, but doing a little of this daily will pay off immensely.

Its not unusual too for an employer to ask to see a sketchbook. It shows your thought process and that you choose to keep it in order to stay sharp. You really can't lose in keeping one - don't be lazy about it. A lazy samurai usually will get cut - ouch!

Keep those sketchbooks close by - Fire it up!