"...From a standpoint of taste and content: I photograph whatever pleases me. Consequently, this gallery may contain things that don't please you."

Excerpt from Marcus Ranum's Stock Photography site

Can't draw the human figure? Feel a sense of inadequacy when you realize that you fail to understand what has to be the most essential skill in art? In understanding the lights and darks and all that value study stuff?!

Well, you needn't fret so much! You'd be surprised how a lot of talented and professional artists USE photos as reference when drawing people. A lot of budding comic and digital artists would often use themselves as models and pose on photos when drawing and painting. Believe it!! (Eww) Some would say using stock photos helps you figure out the perspective of the figure without wasting all your time with "fundamentals". (Whoever said that deserves a medal -ck)

I would assume classically-trained artists hate this sort of thing. They prefer artists today should know how to render a realistic a figure, and sometimes use real life models in art workshops. Some argue that part of the problem with using photos as reference in art is that it tends to look flat. Whether that is true or not sometimes depends on the artist I suppose...

Stock Photos?

Anyway, where was I? Ah, yes. Setting the debate aside, here's what I have to say for this post - Many thanks to ImagineFX, the pricey digital art magazine I buy on occasion, which led me to discoverd this rather odd photography site. It's run by Marcus Ranum, a photographer with... interesting tastes.

Rendering photos on canvas is only as good as the photo reference, and Ranum certainly doesn't disappoint! He's got really neat stuff here, stuff I feel would be perfect for fantasy and sci-fi artists looking for a particularly pose and can't quite nail em since they never bothered to take formal figure drawing classes. :)

Yes, you can draw a Slave Girl!

You can see how light would affect certain fabrics and materials. Perfect if you suck at that sort of thing. You can see women doing strange sometimes tasteless acts in some of these pictures. Priceless, right?!

Ah, but never fear. There's some neat classical nudes, if all this weird stuff makes you think funny thoughts. These nudes are great, and if you can stand staring at the monitor while drawing, then good for you! I highly recommend you check out the site! (Link below)

Did I mention Ranum's site's got Cat Girls? If you ever fantasize of rendering realistic looking "Neko Gals", then this is your one and only chance.

Visit http://www.ranum.com/gallery/index.php for meow--more details. Damnit!

When you're really studying art and stuff, you may have come across this term: "Negative Space".

What the hell is Negative Space..? No, not the weird Negative Zone from the comic books. It's... I don't know. That's why I go to the place that has all the answers. No, not Wikipedia! ConceptArt.org!

Seedling, a longtime forum-goer describes the "Negative Space" as the the white space that surrounds the silhouette of a character.

Armando goes on a little more by defining "Negative space as a result of drawing a shape on the paper. Becoming aware of it initiates you into composition. One of the elementary things to do in drawing is to
separate figure and ground, figure being things(people, cups,shapes, whatever), ground being the air that surrounds them.

On your piece of paper say you draw a square, the paper contained within it's contours is solid, all the paper outside of it is negative space. By moving the square around you'll find that you can change the shape of negative space: a rectangle with square hole in it, an "L", a "c".

Positive and negative space are ambiguous until they are defined by some cue, usually in our work the cue will be recognizable things like people and whatnot.

A very important and elementary way to seperate the two is by using convex contours. Basically our minds interpret the area contained within convex contours as solid, areas contained within concave contours appear as empty space. Research visual intelligence, and visual perception, for more info on that, I don't think much is said about it in art books."

My thoughts:
Wow! With all this free data on the net,
why waste a fortune on artbooks and all that jazz?? Ugh. I have no idea. Since I have a day job, and have got some cash to spare (since this is my hobby after all) why not? Why waste money buying a new cellphone, or electronic peripheral when can survive with the old one?! Anyway, going back to the topic at hand...

Here's a picture and then the same picture with all the negative space filled in...

Notice how the negative space makes the figures (the positive space) more silhouetted and "readable" from a distance. This "posterization" adds graphic power/pop and clarity to the picture.

Armando then points out this lil' tidbit: "Whatever is not intended to be a
solid form is negative space. Take some steps back from the screen, or change the zoom level and you should see that the silhouette is clearer on the white background.

Basic composition, there is more contrast between black and white, than gray. Notice how the muscles form convex bumps. Even if you didn't know those were ape men, you would know they were the figure and the white the ground, even if you were to make them white and the background black the relationship would be the same.

When we first start drawing we only pay attention to the shape we enclose within the lines, ignoring that big shape that's surrounding it, but it's all just dividing the picture plane. Sketch little frames on a piece of paper, add simple shapes within them, but instead of looking at the area contained within the shape look at the area that surrounds it.

Sometimes positive and negative shapes become ambiguous, modern art tends to take advantage of that, it adds dynamism and complexity because there are mutiple ways of looking at the picture."

My thoughts:
You get it right? Do you get it? I'm asking you, Void. Answer me! What? Kev Ferrera has provided examples of excellent use of Negative Space? Coo!

Orignal Images:

Edited by Kev to highlight interaction of silhouette with "Negative Space":

So cool. As Armado would later say: "Now that the question "What is negative space?" has been answered, I'd like to ask,
How does negative space become expressive? I can see the negative space in the examples, but I find myself paying attention to the subjects in the picture, the subject carries the expression, the negative space just seems like coincidence."

More of my brilliant comments:
Alrighty then! Thank you, Armado! Does anyone dare to step up into the plate?? How does "Negative Space" become expressive?

Ah... what's this? I see... oh! I see Mario. Mario, what do you have for us today?

"Negative space (in painting/illustration) is known as whitespace (black type has a white background) in typography/graphic design. That could be useful for finding more information although it has a different meaning for macro and micro typography.

Negative space, like most other compositional elements, depends on contrast (or lack thereof). You can use contrasting values to amplify or similar hues to unify something and all the hues depends on each other for effect.

I wonder what those silhouettes are?

The same goes for negative space and it works with the values in your painting. High contrast values (black silhouette against white background) create negative value while softer transitions reduce the effect of element separations. And if you have very similar values then you probably will have a hard time finding anything that looks like negative space.

So how does it become expressive. Not at all. It is
part of a composition and creates a desired effect with the rest of the painting. It only appears in combination with the rest and is not an isolated something.

You could as well ask how does some hue influence mood in a painting. This only happen because each element depends on the rest to function properly.

All these properties are relative to each other and not independent. You have to just see it as another part of the composition that you can manipulate to get the desired effect."

My thoughts:
Good! Good! That clears things nicely. But hold on, lets hear what Kev Ferrera has to say about the topic - this one's good:

Kev Ferrera: "The main use (of negative space) is to clarify the pictorial statement... that is, to help the viewer "see" or "read" the actions of the figures easier. Clarity is important in storytelling.

There is also a boldness to the strong use of negative space. Graphic boldness is part of the tone of a picture. Color contained in negative space often appears stronger than it would normally (a stained glass like effect).

Shapes *always* have meaning... Every shape has expressive meaning (artistic handwriting, shape-character as well as metaphoric reference). It is possible to tell one artist's work from another by use of negative shapes alone. For instance coll and Frazetta have a very different kind of character to their negative shapes, than Dean Cornwell or Leyendecker or Brangwyn or Fechin or Shiele or Klimt or Rembrandt.

And of course, all of them are different than artists who aren't even aware of the expressive power of negative space shapes. Often artists who aren't aware of the expressive potential of negative space aren't aware of the power of shapes in their works in general.

Negative shapes also, like all shapes in a composition, lead the eye. Quite often negative shapes are triangular in a good figural composition, and point to the head of the figure (or point along an eye path that leads to the head eventually, or supports the movement of the eye along the flow of the gesture)."

My thoughts:
Well well. Come on, folks. Lets give these people a warm round of applause. Great stuff! Great stuff.

Okay. Back to work.

With the dissemination of digital art tools among today's youth, breaking into the commercial art industry has become that much harder. Look at it this way, there's only so many artists Marvel or DC will hire as inkers, or colorists. There's only so many publishers willing to higher new talent to create book covers, or posters, or what have you.

It's a desperate race as young artists struggle to match the speed and artistic skill of professional artists. They're putting just about everything on the line for the sake of art. So what is the first thing that tossed away in this lifelong pursuit to be the next Ryan Church?

Is having a glamorous social life all it's cracked up to be? I was inspired to write this post after reading an innocent little thread on the well of artistic ideas, ConceptArt.org. The topic began when a young member named Mescher, gave her thoughts on the issue of "Art vs. Social Life":

"Lately I've been finding myself having to choose between art and a social life a lot more. I'd just
rather be drawing. I either feel like I'm neglecting my friends for art, or neglecting my art for my friends.

I'm hope this will get better when I start at CCAD (
Columbus College of Art & Design -ed) and meet some people who actually like art. But am I just supposed to kiss my current friends goodbye until then?

I mean I like them and all...I just can't take another round of guitar hero. They all have the "it's summer and we should be hanging out and doing nothing EVERY DAY till school starts" mentality. Am I being selfish? Anybody else have this problem? Please tell me it gets better!

Pleeeeease...I can only watch Donnie Darko so many times!"

My thoughts:
Honestly now. This is really a painful subject to discuss. Rather than elaborating my thoughts on this matter, lets hear what other people have to say about this! Perhaps their opinions will mirror my own:

Tugelbend has this to say:

"I'm in the same situation actually. Right now I'm "losing" my friends because
we don't share the same interests anymore. I rather work my butt off than just "hanging around" though it's not like I don't see them anymore. I still go out for a beer about once or twice a week with them but I find less and less to talk about. My head is filled with art unlike theirs and I see where this is leading to.

But whatever,
art has top priority. You know, they can waste their time as much as they want.. but without me. I just hope that I will meet other people like me in the future and until then I'll run around friendless. sounds pretty emo lol"

My thoughts:
Hmm... I won't say I'm losing my friends because I love art. In fact, I'm pretty sure my friends don't even know I do all this weird art stuff during my free time. I know it sucks now to have someone to really relate to when it comes to this stuff (except for my brother maybe). There is a definite feeling of
alienation when it comes to talking about my hobbies and stuff.

I talked about this before, but join a sketch group! If you can't find one in real life, go online! That way you won't feel like such a loner when you hone your artistic skills

A member named Wheezy offers his own thoughts on the matter, something I think is quite nice actually:

"Take your sketchbook with you for some life studies, maybe get some ideas on something bigger to do later. Draw them playing guitar hero. If they are really your friends, then they already know you are into art etc. and will be cool with you doing that. Don't shut part of your life out because of art, let them help enrich your art even more by expanding your perceptions of what is around you."

My thoughts:
I probably shouldn't mention the time I desperately felt the need to paint or draw something while I was
chilling on a white sand beach. Yeah, good times.

But here's something interesting, a member and artist of some skill named Naomi offers her own unique 'guidelines' on this subject. I made it sorta bullet point-y since it seemed to fit that way:

"I've said goodbye to a lot of "friends" over the years. Especially people who don't teach you anything, who keep complimenting your art but never actually buy any.

  • Get rid of these people fast. Do not hang out with them do not do free commission work for them.
  • Get rid of non-artist friends who put you down.
  • Now if your friend is an artist you have an advantage by working together and improving your art. there is no reason to neglect your chit-chat and shoulder to lean on duties there.
  • Also get rid of boyfriends or girlfriends who don't support your art dreams, or people who think you're worthless because you do art.
  • This includes family. No matter what they say, your family can always be cut off. If they are bringing you down get rid of them.
Another thing I must say, is if you find yourself spending more time with your friends than with your art, maybe you should think about ditching them as well."

My thoughts:
The deeper I get into this topic, the um... stronger these young artists opinions get! Ah, but from where I live, I can sort of see where her frustration is going. Everyone always asks... how do you hope to make a living as an "artist"? Is it possible to quit your day job just because you started selling commissions to aficionados at deviantART? Hmm. I guess you have to really ask yourself what level is your passion for this sort of thing. Can you survive living alone, honing your art skills in a tiny flat, eating non-fat crackers and drinking water? Ah, who knows? But if you found Naomi's views to be interesting, why not check her portfolio out? Check out her sketchbook too!

Moving on... If you are one of the lucky few who actually got into an art college, than lucky you! This is probably the one of the few places on Earth where you'll find people your age who share the same interest and viewpoint in life. A member named Space Sprayer offers his experience on the matter:

"I had to make this sacrifice. Unfortunately it doesn't ever stop, although it does get easier. I lost touch with all my mates during college, but then they were a group who had very different goals in life anyway.

Now that i'm at uni studying for my Bachelor of Arts, surrounded by people who have the same interests and aims. As a social event instead of going out and getting pissed like my old mates did, we might go sit in the park on a nice day and draw the people that pass by, or the scenery around us etc. I still have to forgo the occasional social event because of work, but my mates here understand that."

My thoughts:
Sacrifice - for the sake of art. Ah, what a compelling notion...

On the subject of finding like minded people, why not try to find out if your area has any kind of artist's convention or something like that? Back in 2007, I traveled all the way to lovely Singapore to attend the CG Overdrive event - and that literally changed my mindset on art. I talked to folks like Michel Gagne (a great FX animator) and the boys of Imaginary Friends Studios. A very memorable experience.

I would have loved to attend future CG Overdrive events, but I didn't like how it focusing squarely on 3D art. All that Zbrush talk, rigging, character modeling doesn't interest all that much. I know that having basic knowledge in 3D modeling can have such a massive impact on one's portfolio, but hey, I already have trouble drawing a person - what makes you think I'll have an easier time makin' one in the third dimension??

Sorry, got a little carried away there. But out of all this, what has
Mescher have to say about Art versus a Social Life?

"Now that I think about it, I don't really like my friends as much as I used to. That's probably part of the problem.

My boyfriend doesn't mind letting me draw him all day, and he's the only person I really care about. He actually said he'd go to the zoo with me so I could do animal studies. I think he has nooooo idea what he signed up for!

I guess I'll just have to get used to keeping a balance (and figuring out what I actually want.) I can't have my cake and eat it too, right?"

My thoughts:
That's the spirit! Why should you let one aspect of your life run you like that? Try to find a healthy balance so you won't feel like a total shut-in. If your love for art can't be helped, then at the very least try to accommodate your real life friends from time to time. You could be a happier person knowing you have a life beyond your self-absorbed world of art. Just throwing my thoughts here... :)

Ah, but this member... Jushra, offers a very unique point of view:

"There's a book I had read entitled The Virtue of Selfishness. The title is a bit of a put-off it seems to most, but inside there was a wealth of knowledge to gain.

Nobody can tell you how to live your life except for you and nobody will bear responsibility for any of your actions but you.

Don't try to control your peers and don't let them control you. You have to keep what you value close. Choosing your values is another story though. Don't sacrifice yourself to others, nor sacrifice others to you. You have to sometimes trade-off for balance, but make sure it is done for the right reasons."

My thoughts:
I have to admit, that statement is quite empowering. Well, it really depends on the person I guess. What do you value more in life? Are you willing to sacrifice one for the other? The thread goes on explaining a little more about that. People start offering their own wacky point of views and anecdotes. You can see the full thread here.

The person who started this thread would later make it clear that she isn't saying that you should get rid of your friends just because they aren't artistically inclined. For her, the problem arises when your friends start becoming needy of your time, and simply take the time to understand what you are doing and why. Ah... well. I get that. Hmm... What do you think??

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