Date Tags art / fun (4 min read)

Lately, I've been working on art. Specifically, I've been trying to get better at figure drawing, while also exploring watercolors and portraits. For the former, my two current gurus are:

  1. Kimon Nicolaides's The Natural Way to Draw: A Working Plan for Art Study, which is salty and dated, kinda like * the Hard Way. Very "no pain no gain NOW GIVE ME THREE HOURS OF BORING CONTOUR DRAWINGS, PRIVATE!".
  2. Stan Prokopenko's YouTube tutorials, which are Nicolaides minus pain and a lot more fun. Also YouTube!

This means I need a constant stream of images for ideally-daily gesture drawing practice. For now, I'm using and Line of Action. I like Line of Action especially, since it offers both fixed-time poses and a "class" setting - which starts with quick poses (30 seconds each) and slows down to eventual 5- and 10-minute poses. Also, the images are a lot more, er, tasteful.

I feel like I'm already seeing improvement. Anyway, it's fun! One of my big TODO side projects is supporting this hobby with some bot helpers, e.g. a command line utility to keep track of my progress and find pics and so on.

For now, I've also been thinking of how to do this whole thing.

gesture drawings 30 second gestures, Conte black pencil

Acknowledging the reptilian brain, addicted to a screen

Social media and modern apps are designed to be addictive. So we can learn from them! I want to make drawing an addiction. One way to build addiction is random bursts of dopamine - that little red notification alert, mmm. So nice. When will it come? Another powerful thing is gamification of inputs (time spent drawing) and the feeling of progress on outputs (drawings not sucking as much). Finally, as with Goodreads, ego/social performance are important motivators too (alas). Finally, I know I should automate as much as possible, reducing any friction to starting my drawing day (or gym visit, or chores). If I can get myself going, I can stick with it more.

Random bursts of dopamine

Because I live in, well, 21st century America, I'm addicted to consuming. So I've subscribed to ArtSnacks, a monthly art supplies box. It'll be random (doesn't always come on the same day), it'll be dopamine (SOMETHING NEW!), and it'll be a nice way to explore materials. My first box had some water-based pens which have already upped my game a bit.

bean torsos following Proko's The Bean tutorial

Gamification of inputs

While my heart/gut still has a "fixed mindset" about art - either you have "talent" or you don't - my head knows that's baloney and practice will make me better. Which means, as they say, butt-in-chair time. One good gamifier is Habitica, which casts your life (and chores) as an RPG. TODO is to write my own art-specific, Python-powered productivity game tool.

Progress pics

Proko says to draw the same thing multiple times. I'll do this, and post monthly/quarterly progress pics. Hopefully I'll improve.

shitty perspective shitty perspective, sigh

hand improvements getting much better at hands

Social performance

Profile pics are great places to share some of my latest art; this blog is also a nice repo. Holiday cards?


Yeah, I gotta do this part. To the Python!

Mr. Oedipus image from a to-be-written scifi story

More than mere flesh

Okay, with all that depressing "let's hack our reptilian brain" stuff out of the way, let's speak of higher matters. ART!

The thing I've repeatedly noticed about art - in any medium - is that it can give you new eyes to see the world. I've always liked that feeling. After getting into photography, I would see "beautiful shots" everywhere. My early love of drawing made me love the human form - e.g. my brain sees wrists as one of the world's most beautiful, intriguing forms, but I only recently began to realize other people might not think that?! Lately, I've been marveling at perspective and how it can be mathy.

I like very much that the Renaissance masters followed this same line of reasoning, since I consider them my go-to heroes and inspiration. Lately, I've been thinking that I could probably hack my way to better drawing by studying anatomy and geometry. (Yeah, I know, DUH.) But what a sensible and rational and sure-fire path!

Goals & inspiration

Another thing I like about art is, of course, its ability to tell stories. I like telling stories! Especially, hopefully, weird and wacky ones. I reeeeally admire the Fiona Staples's complete control of form and movement (mamma mia), and Brandon Graham's fevered visions, and - of course - Jean Giraud/Moebius's precise, meticulously imagined worlds. I guess my DREAM (!!) would be to approach any of these three's skill in any way possible. Even an inch! So let's see.


Fiona Staples's absolute mastery and control! no hesitation! every line is perfect!


Brandon Graham's intense, feverish, hallucinatory sci-fi style


Moebius's rich, clear, meticulous visions