Today I would like to share with you some of the resources I use to improve and develop my daily work in the arts. While this is a list of things I’ve found to be of use there is no doubt a plethora of online and offline resources that will elevate your art. I invite you to post what resources you use to improve your art in the comments section below.
I’ve loved drawing bodies for a very long time now, I remember a specific moment in my life when I was around 15 years old when I found the amazing website once named “Pixel Lovely” since then this website has changed titles (now called Line of Action) but nonetheless it has single-handedly changed the course of my art for the better. There are several resources you can make use of on this website. The ones I like the most are; the figure drawing classes and the animal drawing classes. These tools allow you to take what timed drawing sessions all from the comfort of your home. Whether you are doing a 30-minute class or a 4-hour class, through the use of images curated by the Line of Action owners you are able to sit down and do anything from quick 15-second gesture drawings to improve your line confidence, to more refined 30 minutes to 1hour drawings based on very well lighted and highly detailed images. Whenever I am feeling stuck in my growth as an artist it is always good practice to go in and do a class, this helps me judge my progress as well as pinpoint trouble areas I need to focus on and improve.
3D Model References
I’ll admit I don’t often use these resources but in particularly hard instances when I can’t come up with a specific angle or I need to know how something behaves in a 3D environment, there is not a thing better than a good ol’ 3d model.
These two resources are among my favorite ones when images fail me and I need to turn a head around to draw the underside or the backside of something. They are great for making comics and for figuring out the weird perspective lines for a particularly complex illustration. They have all sorts of different heads and expressions both for animals and humans that will no doubt shed light on your next drawing.
Stuck on a blank piece of paper? Randomize it.
I love randomizer, I even built a randomizer app that randomly colors my art and even creates thousands of different character combinations out of a pre-defined set of assets. There is something magical about randomizers. Whenever I’m stuck looking at a blank sheet of paper and I don’t know what to draw that day, I like to randomize a prompt or two and get my creative juices flowing that way. Once you start it is very easy to see how limited our creativity can often be, we tend to either draw our ideas from things we know or things we see in our day-to-day lives. A randomizer throws all of that out the window and allows us to explore ideas that would never enter our brain if it wasn’t for this randomizer. While there are many randomizers out there, usually for things like DnD story and character making, these are two of my favorite.
A fun activity to play with your artist friends is to all draw from the same random prompt, you’ll be amazed at how different the illustrations resulting from the same prompt are. It goes to show that art is the manifestation of individual outlooks on life coupled with technique and personal taste.
Pinterest over Google
References are the secret weapon of literally any and all artists in the business, whether you need to draw a specific building, face, or animal. A great reference will do you wonders and cut downtime that can go towards perfecting your craft instead of having to figure out how a thing works. Tracing while frowned upon is actually a great tool for learning, it allows you to quickly map out how something looks without having to have it right there in front of you. There is a technique I often use called interpretation, this is when you draw over an image but instead of tracing one to one, you’re more loosely sketching over it, doing your best to capture the essence of whatever it is you are referencing without having to actually copy the lines one by one. Like randomizers the beauty of interpretation comes when you put two artists together and tell them to use the same reference, it is fascinating the sort of things that come out of each artist’s interpretation of the same subject. Unless I need to actually copy something a client wants, like say their house or a specific part of their faces or something like that, I tend to favor the interpretation technique much more than tracing. Often times the art produced looks very little like the original reference yet still retains the essence that we need.
Last but not least when looking for references the more obscure the better. While Google is a treasure trove for images, it is also the most widely used image search engine, this means that out of 10 artists drawing trees, at least 6 of them will use google, resulting in similar images. The other three artists will use Pinterest or a similar yet obscure image search engine, which just makes your work that much more unique, and then of course you have that one artist that does their research in the local library and has access to references that pretty much nobody else has access to. Those will forever be the most unique artists, of course it is not limited to the local library, you can get into the habit of collecting newspaper images, magazines and books and referencing those, basically creating your own library of material to reference. As the references in your personal collection grows, so those the distance between your work and the work of other artists.
PureRef as a mood board creation tool
For a long time I would just copy all my images and put them into Photoshop when I was drawing, while this worked for a number of years it limited the amount of space I could use inside my canvase. While I kept working and growing through art and the number of monitors kept expanding (Currently I have 5 monitors I use in my studio day-to-day) I needed a tool that would allow me to not only put all my references in one place but also to easily navigate between them without loosing valued canvas reality space. Enter PureRef.
PureRef is an amazing tool as it allows me an infinite canvas that I can put on one of my monitors and through smart zooming I can created expansive mood boards that influence my work and help me problem solve on the fly. Ever since I triedit for the first time I’ve not gone back and highly doubt I ever will. Now it is a ritual that I enjoy greatly, that of finding all my references and creating a mood board that will inspire the illustrations I am making, whether we are talking about colors, perspective or anything in between all of it can be easily stored in a pureref canvas that I can see at any point of my illustration process. It also serves as a sort of acclimation technique for my mind to visualize whatever it is trying to draw by picking and choosing different elements from all the references I’ve laid out in my pureref canvas.
If you do not have PureRef yet, you should get it right now! It is a game changer.
I hope some of this helps you become a better artist and I look forward to what other great tools you use to improve your art and create the best work you possibly can. Remember to leave the resources you use down in the comments section below.