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If everybody looked the same we'd get tired of looking at each other May. 13th, 2014 @ 10:07 pm
So, in my ongoing, yet intermittent, effort to improve my sketching skills, I'm currently working on a pencil portrait of RuPaul.

Who is African-American.

This, of course, means now I'm having to relearn noses entirely, and I am mad at the entirety of humanity right now because noses are hard and I resent this.

Noses are pretty much the hardest feature on a face to draw as it is, because there's almost no real *lines* to them, and yet if you don't get them right it throws the whole face out, so it's just this subtle shading thing that's tricky and usually takes me a million years to get right.

And then you draw a person of a different race, and it's a whole new thing in a way that other features just don't... feature.

See, eyes aren't such a big deal. Shape variations are nothing because eyes have defined lines - the borders between whites and irises and eyelids are all very clear. Mouths are tricky to get really right, but individual mouth differences don't make much difference on most people, because it's a rare person who doesn't have definition in the distinction between face generally and lips.

But noses. They're just... bumps. There's only definition around the nostrils and the... I don't know, corner bits outside the nostrils, whatever they're called, and why does the entire human race have such stupidly vague protrusions on their faces?

You may think they're not vague on some people, but you would be wrong. One of my housemates has as well-defined and Roman a nose as you can generally find outside of, I don't know, eagles, and in pencil sketch terms I can assure you it is VAGUE BUMPS.

Take your protein pills and put your helmet on... Aug. 1st, 2011 @ 10:54 am
The phrase, "You get what you pay for," is not always accurate, in a range of ways. This includes the fact that frequently, "more expensive" isn't necessarily "better". (Audio equipment is a spectacular example of this.)

However, I've been finding that art supplies are one area where it often *is* the case, to a sometimes startling degree. Hence when I started getting into painting, I spent about $15 on a couple of packs of synthetic brushes of assorted sizes and shapes. Now I have a couple of dozen brushes made of natural fibres, in a still greater range of shapes and sizes, with handles more than a foot long.

Because it actually can make a difference. Sometimes I want a stiff brush, sometimes I want the softest brush I can find. Fine brushes made of synthetic fibres can be a false economy - they're cheaper to buy, but the tips become splayed and useless in no time, where natural-fibre brushes last forever.

Paint gets complicated - for example, I use Windsor & Newton acrylics, which one of the ladies at my art supply shop hates.

W&N have come up with a binding agent for the paint that's clear, which means that the paint, when wet, is the same colour as it is when it dries. This is awesome and one of the things I love about them. However, in our climate, it tends to dry very quickly. A layer of paint can be dry inside ten or fifteen minutes.

She hates this; I love it. So you have different things about different brands, and then you have different *grades* within a brand, and... yeah, I don't know. That's one for people to find what works for them, I think.

But I've just in the last few days discovered that this can even apply to pencils.

I've been doing a lot of sketching and drawing lately, and the other day I wanted a B grade pencil. I bought a Staedtler Mars Lumograph pencil. I hadn't had one of those before. And they're amazingly better.

They also cost twice as much as other pencils - this just doesn't seem to be that significant to me, I think because this still leaves them costing not very much and a pencil lasts ages. I ordered a set of different grades online, because now I want more of them.

As far as sketching goes, the bigger expense is sketchbooks. Naturally, paper type and quality makes a difference there too, but for rough sketching it's not very important at all.
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Observations on the human face Jul. 28th, 2011 @ 09:52 pm
So, of late I've picked up my vague artistic inclinations, doing more sketching and painting than I've done in forever.

And I've started trying to overcome my inability to draw faces. This is a challenging thing - faces are difficult, and getting *close* isn't enough - that just takes you into Uncanny Valley territory. So, I have many, many terrible portrait sketches to do before I reach "able to do it" status.

I'm making progress - currently my sketches have started to look like they're sketches of actual people, rather than :wrongness:, but they don't look like the people I sketched - they look like Random People. Which is potentially useful but not really what I'm going for.

Some notes:

- The hardest single feature to draw is the nose. Mouths are hard too. Eyes are tricky but not nearly as tricky as noses, because at least eyes have some clear lines about them to work from - noses have NOTHING.

- Epicanthic folds are actually extremely subtle.

The epicanthic fold is the arrangement of skin over an eyelid that, depending on your perspective, makes an otherwise-normal eye look Asian, or by its absence makes an otherwise-normal eye look non-Asian.

The difference, when you're looking closely, is ridiculously tiny. In fact, the distinctions in people's features, between "them" and "not them", are ridiculously small and subtle.

The fact that we can recognise people at a distance based only on appearance is *weird*.

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