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too much talking

It has been a few years since I posted here. I was talking a good game and writing all kinds of highfalutin stuff…. and then I would draw a figure with the arms too long and the head too large, and I realised I needed to stop talking and start drawing.

Not that I ever stopped drawing. In fact I’m probably drawing more now than I ever have. Or at least my focus on learning has become more deliberate and structured.

This is in part down to the New Masters Academy which is a subscription site with a range of skilled instructors who have pre-recorded courses and live feedback sessions. The Discord community there is very active. It’s a very inspiring place to be. Everyone is in the same boat of trying to learn this art thing. The same road blocks, the same frustrations keep coming up, which is in a way encouraging as it makes you realise that there are no shortcuts to building up a solid foundation of skills. And if you need advice or feedback there’s plenty of that available too.

A personal blog with posts and comments seems slightly old-fashioned now, even quaint. The world seems to have moved on from blog-rolls and tag-clouds on to platforms like Instagram or, what seems to be the new up-and-comer, Discord. Though James Gurney still puts out a post a day, and Stapleton Kearnes posted every day for over three years, though he’s gone quiet of late. (Perhaps he said everything he had to say. Or maybe he’s on Discord somewhere.)

In some ways this website is a kind of sketchbook, building up over the years, a record of some of the many problems and frustrations or discoveries and insights found along the way. It’s by no means complete. Sometimes typing it all out helps to clarify a problem, or at least it puts my thoughts in order. Sometimes it’s good to talk.

Proko challenge – animorph

Yet another Proko challenge from July 2021:


Do an illustration of any influencer morphing into an animal. Try to be clever! What animal would Logan Paul most likely turn into? Don’t take this too seriously, the submissions won’t necessarily be judged of technical skill and execution. More so humor, storytelling and creativity.

Medium: Any medium, traditional and digital, 2D and 3D is allowed

My entry was inspired by the Draftsmen podcast with Stan Prokopenko and Marshall Vandruff. There’s a chemistry between them, and occasionally Marshall will turn to camera to explain a point with a hawk-like gaze. That and his owlish wisdom meant he had to be a bird of prey.

I started by going back through old Proko videos featuring Marshall, looking for stills to sketch from, for facial expressions and that characteristic gaze. I did the sketches with polychromos pencil on rough paper which were later scanned, cleaned up and combined in Photoshop.

I also needed some reference for a hawk-like bird. The photos would have to show multiple angles including a head-on view. Also needed were close-ups of claws to grab Stan’s head.

The morph’s themselves relied on taking the starting image of Marshall and pushing the features gradually into the final hawk-head shape. It helped to find similarities between the two to serve as a link: the brow ridge; the slight turn of the mouth at the corners; the position of the iris as it gazes forward.

I lifted an old charcoal sketch of Stan from the archives and proceeded to do digital surgery on the top of his cranium. All that was left to do was add some rendering and lighting.

The final entry gets a very brief mention (around 15 minutes in) in the judging video with Ethan Pecker, though I think Stan’s more interested in his hair.

Proko challenge – movie poster

Another Proko challenge. This time:


“Your favorite director JUST called! They want to make a movie about YOUR life, where YOU get the leading role (yourself!)! The director says you get to call the shots too, and decide the genre…oh and the studio is going to need YOU to do the movie poster too! What a demanding production!”

For this month’s challenge we want you to show us the movie poster of your life! This could be a poster about a sweet memory, or a poster that best represents your personality, or interests! Remember too, the director wants you to choose the genre as well! So maybe you feel like your life would be best suited for a fantasy film, or a western? Maybe it’s a romance comedy, or an animated film? Either way the director needs you to send that poster by the deadline because your movie can’t come out without it! Be sure to take a look at different movie posters! They can be really elaborate, or really graphic! But they HAVE to describe the genre and what the movie is like as best as possible! 😛 Have fun everyone.

Remember to leave some room for the text! Logo and title optional, unless you wanna also do the graphic designers job 😊 Let’s see those posters!

Format: Classic One Sheet – 27 x 41 inches or 68.6 x 104 cm

Medium: Any medium, traditional and digital, 2D and 3D is allowed

For my entry, I combined an oil painting sketch based on photos of me posing in front of a mirror with a hat (no, you don’t get to see that) which was then brought into Photoshop for extra painting, and then InDesign for the lettering. I was going for something with an Ealing comedy feel.

The result would probably make Leyendecker spin in his grave. Hey, at least I made the deadline. It’s never too late!

Here’s Karla Ortiz giving feedback (about 26 minutes in).

Proko challenge – cartoon anatomy

When was beta-testing their new site they issued a Proko Challenge:

Get creative and imagine what the bones and muscles of cartoon characters look like.

This scene from Hergé’s Adventures of Tintin – Destination Moon came to mind when I saw this challenge. The Thom(p)son twins are spooked after seeing each other through an X-ray screen. Here’s Hergé’s original page:

Click the image for animation… Original image from

This was a real challenge. It was only once I’d started that I realised how hard it would be. I had to go back through the Proko videos and lesson notes for a crash course on bones and muscles and ended up going down the rabbit hole. The Skelly app was really useful for setting up the pose and taking some of the guesswork out of how a bone looks from an unusual angle.

I have an old graphics tablet but it’s a bit awkward and not easy for getting any kind of flow, especially for the initial sketch. So I started with pencil or fineliner pens on tracing paper, scanned in, then cleaned up and corrected (or redrawn completely) in digital.

I think my overlay of muscles on the skeleton is a bit suspect, but this kind of exercise is good for working out what’s going on in the figure, what all those bumps and dips represent. As Glenn Vilppu said in a recent livestream: A knowledge of anatomy helps you understand what you’re seeing, what to look for. If you can’t see it, you can’t draw it.