Help me learn how to draw simple comic style drawings.
May 19, 2012 9:59 PM   Subscribe

I'm writing a book. I want to draw very simple black & white comic strip style cartoon drawings to go with it. PROBLEM: I can't draw. Heck, I don't even doodle. But I can learn! What books/websites/iTunes U/online classes/etc are out there? Got any advice or knowhow to pass along? Help me get started!

I know it's silly, but I wasn't raised in a creative family at all. It wasn't until my 30s that I realized I'm actually quite creative. I'm writing a book (but I don't care if it ever gets published. I'm doing it for the sake of the creative process). I'd like to open each chapter with a single panel simple cartoon, and it's important to me that I do them myself (but I'm totally open to using software, especially if it's iPad or maybe Mac).

I know that part of the answer is "just do it! Just start drawing!" But I'm looking for a starting point to get me going. I want to learn some of the basics. Even things as simple as "How to draw faces" or "How to draw wacky characters." Basically, I want to learn to draw, and then over time, I'll teach myself how to develop my own unique characters to go with the book.

Please recommend any resources for learning to draw what will essentially be very simple comics. Think more along the lines of XKCD and Gaping Void than Marvel comics or anime. iPad and Mac resources especially welcome, but also books and websites would be great! Even your own insight would be helpful. Thanks!!!
posted by Mr Ected to Media & Arts (10 answers total) 24 users marked this as a favorite
Learning to draw takes commitment, but here's a simple exercise that worked to launch me:

Put a pad of paper on a horizontal surface you can reach, make yourself comfortable (sit in a chair or stand, but be comfortable) and forget about drawing. Pick up a pencil and just hold it.

Stare into the middle distance at random and look for simple shapes. You will eventually find some. Move your pencil around on the paper while continuing to look at the shape, not at the paper.

When you're bored with that, look at the paper. It will look like shit. Then draw antlers on it.

Repeat. You will find your own way to draw.
posted by trip and a half at 11:09 PM on May 19, 2012 [3 favorites]

Best answer: You can get practice drawing a lot of completely different things, as well as checking out some basic drawing techniques from others, by playing an online drawing game like Doodle or Die. I would highly recommend it; it's also good for a lot of laughs.
posted by limeonaire at 11:18 PM on May 19, 2012 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: I should note that this is strictly for the sake of a hobby. I don't have grand illusions of being an artist. I just want to experiment and learn. I think I'll start googling lots of abstract art tutorials tomorrow and see where that goes.

The doodle or die suggestion looks great! Anything that gets me past the sea of white that is a blank page is a start!
posted by Mr Ected at 11:25 PM on May 19, 2012 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I've always been pretty good at drawing, but 'Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain' took that to new heights, and apparently works for those who can barely doodle too.
posted by tatiana131 at 12:05 AM on May 20, 2012 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Andrew Loomis's book Fun With a Pencil, available for download here among other places, sounds like it might be perfect for you. There are also Loomis YouTube videos which you can check out.
posted by muhonnin at 12:42 AM on May 20, 2012 [5 favorites]

You learn by doing.

Find a life drawing class or group, and attend. Draw.

It'll get better.
posted by jpburns at 7:47 AM on May 20, 2012

Best answer: So a while ago I wanted to learn to draw illustration-style, and I happen to be a big fan of the new My Little Pony (shush, you), so I put two and two together and learned to draw ponies. And there were enough of us that people put together little "schools" for pony-drawin'. I went from having not done any visual art since grade school to being able to draw some decent pony. (Then life intervened and I didn't have much time to draw.)

This isn't limited to ponies, of course.

The most important things I learned from that:
  • Use references. For some reason, budding artists think that what they draw has to come out of their mind fully formed. No! Copy things. Copy copy copy copy. Use your pencil to measure angles and lengths. Step one is copying entire drawings. Step two is combining drawings to make your own poses, etc. Later on you'll have a library in your head of how it all fits together.
  • Draw lots. LOTS. Get a sketchbook, fill entire pages or more working on the same thing over and over.
  • Watch out for making things horizontal and vertical when they're not. We like to draw things horizontal and vertical, but we don't like to see things horizontal and vertical.
  • Don't panic. (And specifically: that art is not precious. Draw over and over. Screw up lots. Throw it out. Draw more.)
I'd also recommend starting with "traditional media" even if you want to move to digital later -- concentrate on getting things out of your hands and onto paper without software getting in your way. Later you can find a digital workflow, whether it be working entirely digitally, or sketching in pencil, scanning, and inking and coloring digitally.

(And I'm not sure life drawing is the least-discouraging way to get to doing simple comics. Realistic drawing and illustration are two different things, with overlap, but it's sort of like learning classical guitar because you want to play the blues.)
posted by mendel at 8:25 AM on May 20, 2012 [4 favorites]

Most drawing instruction is dreck. You look at the examples in the book and they're all boring, nothing but vases of flowers or portraits of exotic peoples with the expressions of Stepford Wives. This kept me from learning proper fundamentals when I was younger, because I came to believe that starting with simple shapes and forms could end only in a vase of flowers painted in bold yellow and purple. I came here to also recommend Fun With a Pencil. There are other good Andrew Loomis books available, but Fun With a Pencil is more targeted at kids and people new to drawing, and develops skills (for cartooning and illustration) with a teaching of basic fundamentals and a positive approach. On the web, follow the animators in their recommendations for proper instruction. They need to learn to draw well, focusing on structure and always looking for design and simplification, because their drawings need to be repeated and they need to understand form from all angles. Otherwise, I'd say concentrate on your writing, and don't get waylaid trying to draw like someone who has been doing it on every nearby blank sheet of paper since they were teenagers. Just doodle your ideas in a way that is natural for you. Kurt Vonnegut managed to communicate in a way that is memorable with just an asterisk drawn with a magic marker.
posted by TimTypeZed at 8:28 AM on May 20, 2012

First of all, do not discount the artistic ability you bring to the table! Take a look at xkcd, one of the most popular comics on the internet. It's just stick figures!

The go-to text for people in your situation is Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain by Betty Edwards. I also recommend Danny Gregory's books The Creative License and Everyday Matters whenever I have the chance.
posted by ErikaB at 10:07 AM on May 20, 2012

Ivan Brunetti's Cartooning: Philosophy and Practice might work for you. It has lessons and focuses on telling a story with the simplest shapes.
posted by opposite_sketches at 11:09 AM on May 20, 2012

« Older Are medical school loans too complicated for...   |   Get me out of your starry eyes and Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.