I don’t believe I’m alone when I say good habits are hard to form.


Despite a solid month of assiduously sketching a face every lunchtime, I dropped out of the habit after a weeks holiday. Other distractions compound the problem. Here is a video of jumping goat that I watched today (followed by a few others and a wiki-walk about the climbing advantages of goat hooves that ended up with me learning a few interesting things about planetary differentiation) instead of doing my daily sketch. It wasn’t wasted time exactly, but I want to get better at simplifying shapes and grouping values without the aid of an undo function, and this kind of thing doesn’t help.

I recently had the pleasure of giving a lecture on 2D art theory and good practice to a few of the talented modelling folks at Jagex, and the most useful piece of advice I could give  was to get into the habit of practicing the basics of composition any way they could.

The people I was talking to have full lives, 2 hour commutes, responsibilities, children. The kind of practice I recommended was whatever they could make stick. Scribble on post-it notes, sketch on a tablet, draw on the walls in marker pens. 10 minutes a day of honing the skill of making 2D pictures function. It’s a multiplier to the practice these guys already put in figuring out ZBrush tools, 3DS Max shaders, and various modelling techniques. The  basic principles of composition apply regardless of whether one is working 2D or 3D, and composition is quick and easy to practice.

I’ve filled a sketchbook with 15-20 minute (ish) studies. Got about 8 of them right.

The ones that work, in my estimation, are the ones that break the structure of the reference image into an easily readable composition of grouped values. So they are less about likeness, and more about making patches of light and dark sit pleasingly together. I am not trying to copy the photograph, I am trying to use as few parts of it as I can to make a functional image.

It’s a fun game, and one I usually enjoy playing. Unless I bugger off to France for a week and forget my sketchbook.