Drawabox | Recommendations | Proko's Figure Drawing Fundamentals

Uncomfortable's Recommendations

Over the years I've had the good fortune of having been able to indulge in a lot of different pens, tools, programs and books. Below you'll find a series of products I've used and have enjoyed (or at the very least, that people I greatly respect have recommended to me). Not all of them are strictly art related - a lot of what I indulge in, including books, are written by indie self-published authors, and it is important to me that I use my platform to spread their work as well.

Many of the links below help support Drawabox through the use of a variety of affiliate programs. While they don't make up the bulk of our operating revenue, using these links and purchasing anything from those stores does go a long way to help us keep Drawabox completely free and up to date.

Courses on Proko.com

While our sponsor, New Masters Academy, functions on a subscription basis, that isn't for everyone. If you're looking for courses you can purchase for a one time fee, Proko.com has an incredible library of video courses, including one of my own. Their prices vary widely, with the cheapest being around $25.

The Science of Deciding What You Should Draw

The Science of Deciding What You Should Draw

Right from when students hit the 50% rule early on in Lesson 0, they ask the same question - "What am I supposed to draw?"

It's not magic. We're made to think that when someone just whips off interesting things to draw, that they're gifted in a way that we are not. The problem isn't that we don't have ideas - it's that the ideas we have are so vague, they feel like nothing at all. In this course, we're going to look at how we can explore, pursue, and develop those fuzzy notions into something more concrete.

Proko's Drawing Basics

Proko's Drawing Basics

Drawabox isn't the be-all, end-all of drawing fundamental education. Our approach prioritizes certain concepts over others, and while we believe it do so for good reasons, ultimately it doesn't appeal to everyone. If Drawabox simply doesn't work for you, give Proko's Drawing Basics course a try - at the very least, you'll probably find it to be a hell of a lot more fun.

Proko's Figure Drawing Fundamentals

Proko's Figure Drawing Fundamentals

Stan Prokopenko's had been teaching figure drawing as far back as I can remember, even when I was just a regular student myself. It's safe to say that when it comes to figure drawing, his tutelage is among the best.

Marco Bucci's Getting Started with Digital Painting

Marco Bucci's Getting Started with Digital Painting

Marco Bucci's got a ton of great courses available on proko.com, including some of the best videos you can find on using colour and light. Since a lot of our students want to break into working with digital painting however, I thought this course in particular would be a great start to get into the weeds with how to navigate the confusing world of layers, brushes, and more.

This course highlights programs across the full spectrum of options, ranging from the current industry standard Adobe Photoshop, to the Free-and-Open-Source darling Krita, as well as the mobile favourite, Procreate.

Steven Zapata's Secrets of Shading

Steven Zapata's Secrets of Shading

Some of you will have noticed that Drawabox doesn't teach shading at all. Rather, we focus on the understanding of the spatial relationships between the form we're drawing, which feeds into how one might go about applying shading. When it comes time to learn about shading though, you're going to want to learn it from Steven Zapata, hands down.

Take a look at his portfolio, and you'll immediately see why.

Pens

Those things you write and draw with.

Drawabox-Tested Fineliners (Pack of 10, $17.50 USD)

Drawabox-Tested Fineliners (Pack of 10, $17.50 USD)

Let's be real here for a second: fineliners can get pricey. It varies from brand to brand, store to store, and country to country, but good fineliners like the Staedtler Pigment Liner (my personal brand favourite) can cost an arm and a leg. I remember finding them being sold individually at a Michael's for $4-$5 each. That's highway robbery right there.

Now, we're not a big company ourselves or anything, but we have been in a position to periodically import large batches of pens that we've sourced ourselves - using the wholesale route to keep costs down, and then to split the savings between getting pens to you for cheaper, and setting some aside to one day produce our own.

These pens are each hand-tested (on a little card we include in the package) to avoid sending out any duds (another problem with pens sold in stores). We also checked out a handful of different options before settling on this supplier - mainly looking for pens that were as close to the Staedtler Pigment Liner. If I'm being honest, I think these might even perform a little better, at least for our use case in this course.

We've also tested their longevity. We've found that if we're reasonably gentle with them, we can get through all of Lesson 1, and halfway through the box challenge. We actually had ScyllaStew test them while recording realtime videos of her working through the lesson work, which you can check out here, along with a variety of reviews of other brands.

Now, I will say this - we're only really in a position to make this an attractive offer for those in the continental United States (where we can offer shipping for free). We do ship internationally, but between the shipping prices and shipping times, it's probably not the best offer you can find - though this may depend. We also straight up can't ship to the UK, thanks to some fairly new restrictions they've put into place relating to their Brexit transition. I know that's a bummer - I'm Canadian myself - but hopefully one day we can expand things more meaningfully to the rest of the world.

Staedtler Pigment Liners

Staedtler Pigment Liners

These are what I use when doing these exercises. They usually run somewhere in the middle of the price/quality range, and are often sold in sets of different line weights - remember that for the Drawabox lessons, we only really use the 0.5s, so try and find sets that sell only one size.

Alternatively, if at all possible, going to an art supply store and buying the pens in person is often better because they'll generally sell them individually and allow you to test them out before you buy (to weed out any duds).

Faber Castell PITT Artist Pens

Faber Castell PITT Artist Pens

Like the Staedtlers, these also come in a set of multiple weights - the ones we use are F. One useful thing in these sets however (if you can't find the pens individually) is that some of the sets come with a brush pen (the B size). These can be helpful in filling out big black areas.

Still, I'd recommend buying these in person if you can, at a proper art supply store. They'll generally let you buy them individually, and also test them out beforehand to weed out any duds.

Sakura Pigma Microns

Sakura Pigma Microns

A lot of my students use these. The last time I used them was when I was in high school, and at the time I felt that they dried out pretty quickly, though I may have simply been mishandling them. As with all pens, make sure you're capping them when they're not in use, and try not to apply too much pressure. You really only need to be touching the page, not mashing your pen into it.

On the flipside, they tend to be on the cheaper side of things, so if you're just getting started (beginners tend to have poor pressure control), you're probably going to destroy a few pens - going cheaper in that case is not a bad idea.

In terms of line weight, the sizes are pretty weird. 08 corresponds to 0.5mm, which is what I recommend for the drawabox lessons, whereas 05 corresponds to 0.45mm, which is pretty close and can also be used.

Pentel Pocket Brush Pen

Pentel Pocket Brush Pen

This is a remarkable little pen. I'm especially fond of this one for sketching and playing around with, and it's what I used for the notorious "Mr. Monkey Business" video from Lesson 0. It's incredibly difficult to draw with (especially at first) due to how much your stroke varies based on how much pressure you apply, and how you use it - but at the same time despite this frustration, it's also incredibly fun.

Moreover, due to the challenge of its use, it teaches you a lot about the nuances of one's stroke. These are the kinds of skills that one can carry over to standard felt tip pens, as well as to digital media. Really great for doodling and just enjoying yourself.

I would not recommend this for Drawabox - we use brush pens for filling in shadow shapes, and you do not need a pen this fancy for that. If you do purchase it, save it for drawing outside of the course.

Sketchbooks

I've played around with a lot of sketchbooks, and there aren't many that stand out. Here are the few that do.

Cottonwood Arts Sketchbooks

Cottonwood Arts Sketchbooks

These are my favourite sketchbooks, hands down. Move aside Moleskine, you overpriced gimmick. These sketchbooks are made by entertainment industry professionals down in Los Angeles, with concept artists in mind. They have a wide variety of sketchbooks, such as toned sketchbooks that let you work both towards light and towards dark values, as well as books where every second sheet is a semitransparent vellum.

Other Drawing Tools

A variety of other tools useful when drawing traditionally.

Ellipse Master Template

Ellipse Master Template

This recommendation is really just for those of you who've reached lesson 6 and onwards.

I haven't found the actual brand you buy to matter much, so you may want to shop around. This one is a "master" template, which will give you a broad range of ellipse degrees and sizes (this one ranges between 0.25 inches and 1.5 inches), and is a good place to start. You may end up finding that this range limits the kinds of ellipses you draw, forcing you to work within those bounds, but it may still be worth it as full sets of ellipse guides can run you quite a bit more, simply due to the sizes and degrees that need to be covered.

No matter which brand of ellipse guide you decide to pick up, make sure they have little markings for the minor axes.

Wescott Grid Ruler

Wescott Grid Ruler

Every now and then I'll get someone asking me about which ruler I use in my videos. It's this Wescott grid ruler that I picked up ages ago. While having a transparent grid is useful for figuring out spacing and perpendicularity, it ultimately not something that you can't achieve with any old ruler (or a piece of paper you've folded into a hard edge). Might require a little more attention, a little more focus, but you don't need a fancy tool for this.

But hey, if you want one, who am I to stop you?

Instructional Books

There aren't many instructional books that I've really delved into deeply, but here are the few that I feel that are a must-have. Don't just keep them on your shelf for show, either. Read them!

How to Draw by Scott Robertson

How to Draw by Scott Robertson

When it comes to technical drawing, there's no one better than Scott Robertson. I regularly use this book as a reference when eyeballing my perspective just won't cut it anymore. Need to figure out exactly how to rotate an object in 3D space? How to project a shape in perspective? Look no further.

Color and Light by James Gurney

Color and Light by James Gurney

Some of you may remember James Gurney's breathtaking work in the Dinotopia series. This is easily my favourite book on the topic of colour and light, and comes highly recommended by any artist worth their salt. While it speaks from the perspective of a traditional painter, the information in this book is invaluable for work in any medium.

Sketching: The Basics

Sketching: The Basics

A lot of folks have heard about Scott Robertson's "How to Draw" - it's basically a classic at this point, and deservedly so. It's also a book that a lot of people struggle with, for the simple reason that they expect it to be a manual or a lesson plan explaining, well... how to draw. It's a reasonable assumption, but I've found that book to be more of a reference book - like an encyclopedia for perspective problems, more useful to people who already have a good basis in perspective.

Sketching: The Basics is a far better choice for beginners. It's more digestible, and while it introduces a lot of similar concepts, it does so in a manner more suited to those earlier in their studies.

Rapid Viz

Rapid Viz

Rapid Viz is a book after mine own heart, and exists very much in the same spirit of the concepts that inspired Drawabox. It's all about getting your ideas down on the page, doing so quickly and clearly, so as to communicate them to others. These skills are not only critical in design, but also in the myriad of technical and STEM fields that can really benefit from having someone who can facilitate getting one person's idea across to another.

Where Drawabox focuses on developing underlying spatial thinking skills to help facilitate that kind of communication, Rapid Viz's quick and dirty approach can help students loosen up and really move past the irrelevant matters of being "perfect" or "correct", and focus instead on getting your ideas from your brain, onto the page, and into someone else's brain as efficiently as possible.

Framed Ink

Framed Ink

I'd been drawing as a hobby for a solid 10 years at least before I finally had the concept of composition explained to me by a friend.

Unlike the spatial reasoning we delve into here, where it's all about understanding the relationships between things in three dimensions, composition is all about understanding what you're drawing as it exists in two dimensions. It's about the silhouettes that are used to represent objects, without concern for what those objects are. It's all just shapes, how those shapes balance against one another, and how their arrangement encourages the viewer's eye to follow a specific path. When it comes to illustration, composition is extremely important, and coming to understand it fundamentally changed how I approached my own work.

Marcos Mateu-Mestre's Framed Ink is among the best books out there on explaining composition, and how to think through the way in which you lay out your work.

Illustration is, at its core, storytelling, and understanding composition will arm you with the tools you'll need to tell stories that occur across a span of time, within the confines of a single frame.

Art Books

These aren't instructional so much as inspirational. I have a lot of art books, but over the years I've found that my favourites were ones that really delved into the artist's history and experiences, and had a good deal of written content. Some of the best inspiration comes from understanding where an artist was when they drew or painted something particularly striking, and how it fit into their lives.

The Art of Blizzard Entertainment

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.

The Art of Brom

The Art of Brom

Here we're getting into the subjective - Gerald Brom is one of my favourite artists (and a pretty fantastic novelist!). That said, if I recommended art books just for the beautiful images contained therein, my list of recommendations would be miles long.

The reason this book is close to my heart is because of its introduction, where Brom goes explains in detail just how he went from being an army brat to one of the most highly respected dark fantasy artists in the world today. I believe that one's work is flavoured by their life's experiences, and discovering the roots from which other artists hail can help give one perspective on their own beginnings, and perhaps their eventual destination as well.

Software

A few pieces of software that play a huge role in my general workflow.

PureRef

PureRef

This is another one of those things that aren't sold through Amazon, so I don't get a commission on it - but it's just too good to leave out. PureRef is a fantastic piece of software that is both Windows and Mac compatible. It's used for collecting reference and compiling them into a moodboard. You can move them around freely, have them automatically arranged, zoom in/out and even scale/flip/rotate images as you please. If needed, you can also add little text notes.

When starting on a project, I'll often open it up and start dragging reference images off the internet onto the board. When I'm done, I'll save out a '.pur' file, which embeds all the images. They can get pretty big, but are way more convenient than hauling around folders full of separate images.

Did I mention you can get it for free? The developer allows you to pay whatever amount you want for it. They recommend $5, but they'll allow you to take it for nothing. Really though, with software this versatile and polished, you really should throw them a few bucks if you pick it up. It's more than worth it.

Comfy's Picks

These aren't related to drawing - but sometimes when you have an audience, you kinda want to be able to shout at them about all the things you like, but can't find an appropriate opportunity to do so.

Orconomics by J. Zachary Pike

Orconomics by J. Zachary Pike

This is one of my favourite books. It's a fantasy-comedy romp, and the world that J. Zachary Pike has created honestly takes my breath away. There are laughs at every turn, but the story is not without its heart wrenching moments - some for which I have yet to fully forgive the author.

If you're at all curious about the kinds of nonsense I read, or just need something new to sink your teeth into, this is one I can highly recommend. On top of that, being self-published by an indie author, it's the kind of thing where your individual support can go a long way.

P.S: The audiobook, with narration from Doug Tisdale, is especially good, and elevates the story in ways I can't rightly describe.

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