A lot of the lessons lately have been about software, but today I want to discuss designing a doll using reference images as a guide.
Many of my dolls lately (including the lesson doll) have simplified or exaggerated bodies or features. And that's been a lot of fun. But sometimes I want to go back to my academic, realistic roots. After all, you can't break the rules until you know the rules!
I can't stress enough how important life drawing (or figure drawing) is for learning how to draw people. Most art students don't encounter life drawing until college because it's a nude person in a room and high school students probably aren't the best audience for that. My first life drawing class was at a women's college, in a room full of young women, drawing a woman and even WE chuckled a bit. Observation is the most important part of drawing, not "natural" talent or anything like that. Observation. Anyway, I grew to love life drawing and would love to attend more life drawing sessions once I have a little more time.
Luckily, photographs work perfectly well, especially for younger artists. Photographs can't fully replace a solid grounding in drawing from life, but it's a great start. And there are so many resources available. As a kid, I would often browse my grandmother's catalogs. This was long before the internet. Now, everything in the world is online!
My favorite resource right now is deviantArt. First, they have an entire category devoted to stock art. Second, there's a mature filter in place. If you or a younger artist are looking for clothed reference images, having the mature filter on can be helpful. And that's the default setting.
So what do I mean by stock or reference images? Images like the ones below.
These images are from deviantArt, from the vast collection of *SenshiStock. There are other stock artists on dA, but her work is great for a number of reasons. First, like I said, it is vast. She has loads and loads of images freely available for use (as long as you follow her very-easy-to-follow rules). Second, she is a clothed model. Third, she's enlisted friends for group poses and a great photographer so the images are always interesting & clear. Her work has grown in breadth & popularity for good reason -- it's incredibly helpful!
I often look at reference images for inspiration or to check a pose I'm working on. Reference images are also great for picky things like hands & feet. The two poses above are images I've been using to develop a couple of different dolls. I was struggling to get the images just right, so as an aid I used a thick pen (an 8mm Micron pen) and drew the major lines on a printout of these poses.
I try not to trace images. It's fine if you want to and I'm not going to pass judgement on anyone who does, but I have found over the years that tracing a reference photo hinders the development of drawing skills. I always try to draw an image myself.
Like these. Drawing the major lines on the reference image made it clearer to me where my lines should be drawn. These dolls may end up being a pair, so I changed the head positions relative to the reference. I struggled with the figure on the right (there are notes on how to fix it!) and that's ok. Sometimes an image that isn't "just right" is a better learning opportunity. In this case, I know I need to observe my reference images a lot better in the future.
I hope everyone will take some time to revisit the fundamentals. Look for reference images everywhere, including the places I've linked to above. And observe. Always be looking! Any questions, etc, feel free to let me know!