Lesson 1: Lines, Ellipses and Boxes
Marks should be continuous and unbroken
This essentially means that every line we draw should consist of a single mark. Beginners, due to their heavy reliance on drawing from their wrist, tend to make very short marks. When they want to achieve a longer stroke, they'll draw a lot of overlapping marks, building that line up gradually in what is known as "chicken scratching".
In other cases, students may find situations where they want to represent certain lines in dashed or dotted lines (for example, if we're drawing "through" a box, as though we have x-ray vision, we may draw the edges on the opposite side of the form in such a way).
Neither of these strategies should be employed during this course. Every drawing here is an exercise, and one of the overarching goals is to help train you to be more confident and purposeful in your marks. This means executing every line in a single, intentional stroke.
But that artist uses chicken scratching all the time!
Some students do ask, "I see other artists using chicken-scratch when they sketch, why can't I?" It's an entirely fair question. The answer comes in two parts:
Firstly, there's a difference between what a student who simply doesn't know how to make marks any other way "chicken scratches" - where it's erratic, unplanned, and poorly thought out, and what a trained artist will do. An artist who does so out of choice will generally show far more intent and control behind their marks, and when they need to make longer, more fluid marks, they will be capable of doing so.
Secondly, as mentioned above, every drawing we do in this course is an exercise. In this case, we're specifically training you to think through your marks, to execute them purposefully, so you can gain the level of control and forethought that other artists exhibit. When you draw for yourself, you're welcome to do so however you want - but the habits you learn here will, gradually, bleed into how you approach drawing in general.
Marks must flow smoothly
The act of drawing a line has two main challenges:
We want to draw our lines to be accurate
We want to draw our lines to be smooth
Beginners often prioritize accuracy first, thinking that it's more important that their lines reach their intended points - but this is incorrect. The most important thing you need to focus on first is keeping your marks smooth and consistent.
The reason is simple: we can generally execute pretty smooth marks now, by simply changing the way in which we approach the task. If we draw as confidently as we can, without concern for where we want the line to fall, our marks will always come out smoothly - just not accurately.
Smooth flow is something we achieve by the approach we employ. Accuracy on the other hand is something that will improve with practice. Nail down your confident stroke now, from your shoulder, and as you practice it, your accuracy will catch up as well.
If you do the opposite, focusing on accuracy now, it will be vastly more difficult to make those marks smooth with practice. It may work eventually, but I wouldn't want to wait around to find out.
Marks must maintain a consistent trajectory
There are a lot of situations where you want to capture something that has a repeating pattern. When doing so, don't attempt to capture it all at once. Instead of zigzagging back and forth and repeating the same pattern, break it up into separate strokes, each one with a single purposeful trajectory.
When dealing with a smoother wave, it's often better to start with a smooth line, and then build individual "bumps" onto it. We'll use this quite a bit in Lesson 3, when we draw the wavy edge detail on leaves.
When drawing something more jagged, like fur, it's important that you purposely design the tufts of fur, making a stroke to go up, a stroke to come back down again, another going up once more, and so on. This allows us to be intentional in how we make the marks.
Zigzagging back and forth, on the other hand, will cause us to go into auto-pilot, as all repeating patterns tend to. This will result in the same, boring, flat outcome that will lose all sense of character and intentional control. Avoid it wherever you can.
The Art of Blizzard Entertainment
While I have a massive library of non-instructional art books I've collected over the years, there's only a handful that are actually important to me. This is one of them - so much so that I jammed my copy into my overstuffed backpack when flying back from my parents' house just so I could have it at my apartment. My back's been sore for a week.
The reason I hold this book in such high esteem is because of how it puts the relatively new field of game art into perspective, showing how concept art really just started off as crude sketches intended to communicate ideas to storytellers, designers and 3D modelers. How all of this focus on beautiful illustrations is really secondary to the core of a concept artist's job. A real eye-opener.