Is It Possible To Really Learn How To Draw Online? – Part Two

A lot has happened in the world since February 2019 when I wrote my blog post on the pros and cons of studying observational drawing online.

The COVID-19 pandemic has forced students from their classrooms and onto online learning platforms in order to finish up their 2019/20 school year. The same phenomenon has occurred for art and animation students the world over. Unable to gather in groups with a live model to draw from, art students have been forced to finish up the observational life drawing sections of their programs online.

It is also starting to look like those same art students (at least the ones in Canada) may well be studying their entire upcoming school year (2020-21) online, and that the requirements for Canadian animation school entry portfolios may now be asking for renderings of the human figure from photographic sources as part of the life drawing portfolio requirements.

 

Unlike an academic format of study (book learning) which lends itself fairly easily to having the same amount and basic quality of classroom information disseminated through an online format, observational drawing classes, especially those drawing classes that focus on direct contact with the human figure in a life drawing studio environment have not faired quite as well – so far.

Here’s why…..

 

The eventual mastery of a number of observational figure drawing practices really do depend on the student carrying out these practices in real space with a model, and not through the drawing of images of the human figure projected through monocular, mechanistic technology, (ie the computer screen).

Even if the images of the model that are being projected to the student practitioner are live video feeds of real models in real time, they still fundamentally fall far short of delivering the type of rich visual/ perceptual experiences available to a student practitioner able to encounter an actual figure, in real space, sharing that real space with the model as they draw.

 

The basic reason for this is that ‘seeing’ something in real space in order to draw it is not just a mechanical optical feat of the eyes alone. Our ability to ‘see’ the figure in real space and to depict it also has a lot to do with our ability to physically feel and understand spatial relationships through our sense of touch and therefore to understand the way that forms move in and displace space.

Without getting overly technical here, we human beings come to an understanding of 3-dimensional form, mass and space gradually, over time because we all exist in it, and use more than just our eyes to experience it, understand its complex structure, and learn to function in it comfortably.

We physically move in space, not just think about it in abstract terms or look at it in a purely visual fashion…as I mentioned before, we use our sense of touch to help us move through, experience and interact in real space from the moment we are born. All of this first hand experience really helps to inform our understanding of the things we see, and factors in ultimately when we try to depict them. One can only learn to express these things in graphic terms if one has had real contact with them and is practicing certain exercises that refine and cultivate ones ability to express an experience of real form and space in a convincing graphic fashion.

So where does all this leave us in terms of the efficacy of online observational drawing courses, (especially online figure drawing courses or open life drawing sessions) to really teach us all that we need to know when it comes to being able to draw a figure well?

 

This is a very interesting question.

 

I would propose several approaches to provide some semblance of an answer to this.

First of all, it is apparent that the format of the online learning model does allow for a complete transmission of information based learning material; basically what we could simply term as the instructional and data based portion of what is required by the student throughout the learning process.

For example. The step-by-step instructions that a figure drawing practitioner would require in order to learn any specific aspect of the process of drawing the human figure could be effectively communicated to them through verbal instructions (pre recorded video lessons, pdf’s and video conferencing, etc) and through visual examples as well (step by step digital examples of any given exercise(s) drawn by the instructor). No problem here, as long as one has a decent internet connection and a computer screen or phone to look at.

Likewise with one on one instructor feedback for the student.

Through any basic video conferencing platform, coupled with a shared google drive file folder, instructors and students could share and engage in the critiquing process of figure drawings effectively.

 

Where the online model begins to fall short is in respect to its ability to provide the student practitioner with an experience that is comparable to that which is available to the student actually drawing from a real model in real space.

We can say that this is due to the inherent perceptual handicap imbedded in the technology itself…machines simply cannot see or represent reality in any way that is nearly as sophisticated as the ‘human way’.

Fundamentally, because we are seeing the figure that we are to draw from in an online course, courtesy of a computer screen, we are in effect drawing from a preconditioned image of the model that has been filtered and produced through the technology itself – a mechanistic monocular technology.

Therefore, in order to try to compensate somewhat for this drawback in the figurative source material that is available to the student via the computer, we must acknowledge that the student of any online figure drawing course must at the very least supplement their time spent drawing in front of a computer screen with an equal amount of time practicing the drawing exercises they are learning online by drawing real objects in real space…since organic objects share some common attributes with the human figure.

 In this way at least, the student would be able to get a feel for what it is like to draw an organic form in real space to begin with – an experience that will considerably augment the amount of useable drawing knowledge they have already gained through their online drawing endeavours.

Then, when that blessed day comes, and students can return to the life drawing room once again to take up the study of depicting the human figure in real space, these online learners will have come out ahead of the game by having invested their time and energy wisely through their choice of and participation in an online life drawing program of merit.

Is It Possible To Really Learn How To Draw Online? – Part Two 1
Making Wise Choices When Learning to Draw the Figure Online

 

 

 

 

 

Sheridan Art Fundamentals and Animation Portfolio Workshop – What’s the Difference?

Guest post by Bernadette Peets AOCA

 

I am in the unique position of having taught in the Sheridan College Art Fundamental’s Program for over 10 years, worked on the original committee that developed the Sheridan College VCA Program, taught Life Drawing For Animation in the APW program and am currently the acting Administrative Director of the Animation Portfolio Workshop.

I would like to share my thoughts (based on my first hand experience) on what I understand to be the major differences between the Sheridan Art Fundamentals Program and the Animation Portfolio Workshop Program with respect to preparing an animation portfolio to get into the Sheridan Animation Program.

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Can I Make An Animation School Entry Portfolio In A Week And Get Into Sheridan?

Well, you can make an animation portfolio in a week…as for getting into Sheridan animation with it, that depends on a lot of factors that far precede the making of the portfolio itself.

 

The things you hear in this business of ours… it seems to cover the gamut of everything from “selling snake oil” to pearls of wisdom from on high….and at this point, we’ve seen and heard it all really.

At the 2019 APW Portfolio Day, a parent approached me, inquiring about enrolling their progeny in the Animation Portfolio Workshop. In the course of our conversation it came out that having had no knowledge of anything even remotely “animation related”, they had previously enrolled their teenager in a “how to make a portfolio course” at a local establishment (not ours I assure you) in the GTA.

This young person took lessons of some type for a brief period of time,

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Avoid Stylistic Appropriation at the Expense of Learning How to Draw

Avoid Stylistic Appropriation at the Expense of Learning How to Draw 2
APW Grad Irmak Karasinir / Sketchbook Page 2019

In Bertrand Tavenier’s iconic film Round Midnight, (1986) the films main character Dale Turner, played by the great Saxophonist Dexter Gordon, says these very wise words at one point in the film while speaking about the development of a musician:

 

”You just don’t go out and pick a style off a tree one day -the tree is inside you, growing naturally”.

 

The same applies to visual artists as well. For now we’re going to let these wise words about style, where it comes from and how it grows, just linger on the page here.

Food for thought that we’ll address in upcoming posts.

Suffice it to say, there’s an awful lot of ‘picking a style off of someone else’s tree’ that goes on when it comes to the making of animation school portfolios these days…and we’ll revisit why we think this is, and what we do at APW to foster the opposite approach to senseless ‘stylistic appropriation’.

 

Is It Possible To Really Learn How To Draw Online?

Is It Possible To Really Learn How To Draw Online? 3
Jessica Lu – Figure Drawing / Sheridan Animation Portfolio 2018

 

Yes and No.

 

With the advent of the Internet and new technologies, (hardware and software) the platforms existing for teaching the language of observational drawing seem to be expanding…. for better or for worse, one can’t quite tell – yet.

By that we mean that the jury is still out on whether the online offerings are doing more to diminish and eclipse the authentic experience of what is really involved in earning (yes we said earning) what it takes to become fluent in the language of observational drawing as we know it. You have to earn fluency in observational drawing language through a great exertion of energy and time…thousands of hours of sweat basically. The suitability of a term like ‘earning’ makes a lot of sense in context of the advice Gerard is often overheard giving during critiques in APW classes. When a weary APW drawing student comes to cry on his shoulder about how long it takes to learn how to draw, or how hard a particular drawing exercise is, Gerard is heard to say; “Drawing is like digging a hole. You get a shovel and dig.

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What’s Learning The Language of Drawing Got To Do With Making An Animation Portfolio?

For 20 years we’ve encountered all kinds of ideas about what is actually involved in the preparation of an animation portfolio. A lot of these ideas have been erroneous, and a number of them have been downright comical in nature. We can talk about the comical ideas in a future post, but for now lets stick with the biggest misconception going around about how an animation portfolio gets made.

What's Learning The Language of Drawing Got To Do With Making An Animation Portfolio? 4
2019 Seneca Animation Portfolio Preparation / Soroosheh Safadel / Detail From Life Drawing
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Animation Portfolio Preparation at APW 2019

It’s that time of year again, and we have been very busy working with all of our current APW students on animation portfolio preparation.

As always, we have had another great group this year. The hard work and dedication that they’ve all devoted to learning how to draw over the past 38 classes and then applying those fundamentally essential skills to creating plenty of their best work for their animation portfolios has been an honour to help with and observe first hand as the process unfolds and develops.

Animation Portfolio Preparation at APW 2019 5
Renee McPherson / Seneca Animation Portfolio Preparation / Life Drawing

 

With Seneca animation portfolio preparations complete we are now closing in on finishing up the Sheridan animation portfolios as well as a number of portfolios for other programs. Congrats to all 2018-2019 Animation Portfolio Workshop students. Well done!!

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