We were told at work to do some kind of training. I’ve always wanted to learn how to draw. I’ve never drawn in my life except doodles in meetings (if you don’t count Celtic Cthulhu) and it seems like, if you have any idea worth exploring and you want to communicate it at the Mouse, it helps enormously if you are both verbally and visually articulate.
I decided to attend a class I heard about second hand that’s held down the street in another Disney building. I bought all the basic supplies, had them approved by our Visual Design Manager to make sure I wasn’t missing anything, and I showed up. What I didn’t realize was that I had dropped in the middle of an Imagineering art costumed life drawing workshop, where people more talented than God show up with paints and charcoals to immortalize costumed models. Just, you know, to brush up their professional skills.
I met the amazing teacher, Bob Kato, and told him I was a rank beginner. He then kindly directed me to some beginning classes off-campus. My heart sunk. This was so close — and free. It didn’t cost me or my group any money. I didn’t know if my managers would approve anything expensive. Still, he sat down with me for a few minutes and gave me a bit of instruction. About three weeks worth, in fact, boiled down into 10 minutes. I snarfed it up.
We started with very basic forms — boxes for the torso and pelvis, cylinder for the head. No details allowed whatsoever, except maybe belts or anything that would give a baseline. The lovely red-headed model was dressed as a female gladiator. She brought in some short little katanas, a scary-ass fantasy knife and her poi staff to pose with. She changed positions every five minutes at first, then every 10 toward the end of the 1.5-hour class. By the end of class, I had produced this:
Bob said that, if this was a beginner’s class, I’d get an A for the day. May I stay? I asked. He enthusiastically said yes. Although, he’s such an incredibly nice guy, I bet he would have said yes even if I produced a crooked stick figure.
I quickly discovered that, unless they are paid professionals, people don’t like you to draw them. They’re kind of squicky about it, in fact. I had no one to practice on so I practiced on the only man who would sit still for me: Hellboy. I have a doll in my cubical that Pete Von Sholly gave me. Because Hellboy has orthopedic issues, the only way he can stand is by leaning against the cubical wall.
What I hadn’t anticipated was that, by staring so long at Hellboy, I’d screw up what little skill I had at getting normal human proportions right. So when the next model set up — a fellow wearing vintage boxing gear — I kept screwing up the length of his legs.
All I can say is, it’s a good thing I don’t design humans for a living.
But this guy was tons of fun to draw. I just kept sketching and sketching, Bob giving me pointers so that I could stay focused on the basic body shape, until I produced a few images like this:
Because I’m lame and not able to draw details, that’s a towel he’s holding over his head, not blood gushing out of the top of his skull. Bob recommended looking at Mike Mignola’s drawings, but maybe I wanted hold off on drawing the Hellboy doll.
Bob sat down and said, Focus now on the sweeps of the body. He showed me how to find the flow of the position and follow it through.
I’d had no practice, no idea how I was going to stay in practice with no one to draw. Lord Arux was having none of the model’s life. I was really stuck.
The incredibly petite model who came in was dressed as a gypsy. I tried all class to capture her basic shape and flow. Finally, Bob did something that he often does when I’m stuck. He drew a light sketch next to mine. He reminded me to focus on the flow.
During one of the 10-minute poses, I was able to produce this:
I resorted to non-consensual modeling and started sketching people in meetings. (Shhhhh! They’ll never know! Oh, wait.) Also, a co-worker brought me in a drawing book from 1948 by a classic life artist named Andrew Loomis. It definitely helped.
I’m a poor beginner because I’m impatient as hell. I think I am improving, but when you’re starting from ground level, everything looks like a skyscraper.
At the beginning of my most recent class, Bob gave me no preliminary instruction. I sat down and discovered the model was a 6-foot-tall drink of water dressed as a flapper. An ex-fashion model.
And she was wearing killer shoes.
I wanted more than anything to draw those shoes, but I stayed focused. Shapes, then more as time allowed. Her legs were so long, I thought I was on an acid trip. And I couldn’t get it all on the page. I kept cutting off her feet. I whined at Bob. He came over and drew a little sketch next to mine. Just focus on the sweeps, from head to foot. Draw the frame and then fill in the rest after you create the frame. Like an architect building a house.
He made it look easy, of course. But he’s an inspiring guy, so I soaked it up best I could and gave it another go. I used the flat of the pencil so that I wasn’t tempted to dig in and draw details.
Then, in the next pose, she raised her hands over her head, increasing her height by like 25%. I get her feet but I lose other body parts. Bob! I cut off her hands! I laughed so hard, even the model asks what’s up. I told her I was cracking myself up with my ineptitude.
I tried again. Finally, something that Bob had been saying clicked.
In the last, 15-minute pose, I created this:
I was so excited that I wanted to hug Bob and shout Yay! until everyone’s ears bled, but instead I got up and looked at what the Imagineers were painting. One had drawn the flapper but with a dinosaur head and Dr. Horrible gloves. Another was an old-school Imagineer who had painted multiple stunning portraits.
All the helium seeped out of me and I sank back to earth. But I do know that what progress I’ve made is almost solely due to Bob’s incredible teaching skill. He told me to learn to walk before I run. Cliché but often forgotten and so very true.
You can see more of the sketches at my Twitpic. I didn’t upload them all, especially the very first ones, for obvious reasons. I’ll keep uploading so that you can see my progress.