Everyone loves art, but most people think they can’t do it. My studio art roommate and I complain about how many time we hear people boast that they “can’t even draw a stick figure.” Besides this being the most cliché excuse in the book that leaves us artists wondering why you think it’s so important that everyone know that about you–it’s simply untrue.
People that can draw haven’t gotten there because of raw talent (well, with the exception of Dave Ham). Most of the time, they need to practice just like any other hobby or skill. And even the ones with all that raw talent still get better through practice.
I’ve since lost my very first drawing of a person I ever did. It’s in my room somewhere, but I know if I search for it, I’ll be here for hours. It was a headshot of a girl, presumably me, but looking back on what I remember, the drawing was more masculine than anything, the hair had no body, and the ears and eyes were in the wrong places (I drew my eyes high and my ears low).
But soon after, I started illustrating my book characters. The following are the progressing illustrations of my main character, Cherith Brook, and as you’ll see, I’m not perfect. I never was and I never will be. It’s one of the reasons I’m a writing major and not a studio art major. But not everyone needs to be the best to be good.
Cherith’s first design appeared somewhere before February 8, 2012 (that was the date I posted it for friends, but I had a few of these already drawn before then). I had spent very little time on it even then, but it’s probably one of the most embarrassing drawings I’ve done. The small style with awkward elbows, middle hair part, extra small neck, and Little Einstein’s head lasted for years, starting back in 2010 and continued for a good deal after.
Then this weird style came out of nowhere a bit later. Ignoring the fact that I thought styles in my futuristic world would feature pastels, crazy socks, and inside-out jeans, all my versions of Cherith had this weird block-shaped hair. Part of me wants to revisit this hairstyle and see what it would look like if I tried it now, because I had a design model and everything for it.
Do you see what I meant about the hair parted down the middle? My characters always had greasy hair because I didn’t understand the concept of volume.
This was my first halfway-decent person drawing, and the first one colored on a computer (September 30, 2012). I had borrowed Mastering Manga by Mark Crilley from a friend in high school and learned a few things about hands and clothing folds. But we still got that weird part down the skull (and are those horns or something hiding under her hair?) This was also the first drawing that dictated Cherith’s height (5’4) because of how short she looked due to my lack of anatomy knowledge. The mistake stuck, though, and now she’s always drawn shorter than the others in my series.
April 4, 2015 started a new chapter in Cherith’s design. I drew headshots of nearly all my characters–some stuck, some didn’t. Cherith’s was one of the ones that didn’t. Her hair had no science behind it, although I finally figured out what volume was a little bit, and the part wasn’t straight down her skull. Her neck was still too long, and I hadn’t grasped the concept of how the face fits on to the head, but I was getting there.
This was the revolution of Cherith’s character design. On July 1, 2015, I spent ten hours drawing and coloring a group picture of my characters as I practiced on my new Wacom tablet. Although it helped me nail down Cherith’s physical design (her bangs mainly), it wasn’t a real breakthrough for my drawing skill. Because the goal was to practice coloring and not drawing, I traced a sketch from Pinterest and then modified it so it fit the description of my character. *slaps wrist*
December 23, 2015 took the Cherith bangs from the previous drawing and made them mine. I’ve since misplaced the original drawing, but I had created a hair model for my new design on the same sheet of paper (still bummed about losing it). Now my people’s heads were better, but their bodies still looked a little twig-like.
New hair model on August 17, 1016 that is still loosely followed today.
*Almost thereeee* (June 12, 2017).
September 20, 2017–Finally, a character design worthy of acceptance. I brought back her sweatpants from the earlier drawing and incorporated some of the 90s fashion trends that she lives among (gotta love time travel). Compared to my other characters, she’s still rather short, but now more believably so. Her hair still follows the general model from previous drawings (specifically the bangs and first locks).
No doubt she’ll continue to evolve some, and in a few years I’ll look back on this drawing and cringe, but for now, I think it’s a pretty nice place to be after five years of practice.
Cherith isn’t the only character who’s made an evolution jump, though. I’ve been redesigning characters for the past year:
Lesson learned? Keep drawing. Always keep drawing. Always get better. People will say they can’t draw; they pride themselves in the inability to draw stick figures (yes, we all know you love telling us this), but the truth is, if one puts effort into drawing, it can be accomplished. Natural talent only goes so far. If I had relied solely on my “natural talent,” I wouldn’t have done anything better than my first drawing.