What I tell myself everyday.

To all the people watching, I can never ever thank you enough for the kindness to me, I'll think about it for the rest of my life. All I ask is one thing, and this is.. I'm asking this particularily of young people that watch: Please do not be cynical. I hate cynicism - for the record it's my least favorite quality, it doesn't lead anywhere. Nobody in life gets exactly what they thought they were going to get. But if you work really hard and you're kind, amazing things will happen. I'm telling you, amazing things will happen." - Conan 'O'Brien

March 10, 2011

Visual discipline and training the critical eye. AKA I hate drawing! Why do I need to do it if I am doing 3D? Part 1

This is going to be a rather long post with a part 1 and 2. But it is not a rant for once. So bear with me. It should be worthwhile. There will be some iterations along the way to help shape it.

  A very simple but very crucial question posed by a student almost 1 year ago. Why do I need to do drawing if I am doing 3D? I can just model/zbrush whatever I want.

This is a question and bugged me for a very long time. I can understand why the question was asked and I understand the reasoning as I have experience it when younger before and since appreciate the importance of drawing. But I lacked the vocabulary to adequately explain the reasoning or justify it at that time. Except the lame answer that drawing is faster then modelling and also refining and helping you develop the hand eye coordination.

  This question keeps popping up when current students also complain about having to draw. And that it is tiresome. But all I could say was just stick with it, you will get better at it. But that isn't going to help the students easier to do life drawing. To them, its just repeating for the sake of repeating. And I hate to do something without knowing why.

  For those that love drawing, its not so much an issue but for the rest of the students who struggle, I could not motivate them to do it. How to present it in a logical and easy understand why they are doing it? And it sucks because I genuinely believe that you can teach anyone to draw. Even the weaker students who have trouble understanding or are slower in class. I was reading Betty Edward's Right side of the Brain and it reinforced how it can be taught but not really explain why should students have incentive to learn drawing if they are doing 3D.

  But finally it all start to come together the last few days. After talking it with my boss (who contributed significantly to this post), an ex-student who found life drawing suddenly liberating and our guest masterclass lecturer who is an art director at a big games studio.
  I even think it actually also contributes significantly and have a direct contribution to the gap in quality and mentality for local students compared to their international peers. (from a purely technical standpoint and not taking into consideration emotional factors like motivation and determination.)

The Critical Eye.

  In the process of drawing a picture similar to modelling in 3D, the brain is doing several things at once. Thinking of an object and translating that down as a picture or a 3D model on the computer screen. It is effectively problem solving. How long should the object be, how thick, how round. The distance from the brow to the nose is like this long... or may this long... Not sure. Every one of these decisions is made by the brain mostly subconsciously like if its long or short. But it will become conscious especially when you are new at or have difficulty visualising and judging the distance or unsure about the perspective. 

  This is because the brain does not have enough information in its memory to make the correct analysis. Just like how you cannot think of abstract and complex thoughts and concepts if you don`t have a good command of language.
 If you don`t have a good command of visual language, you cannot conceptualise or visualise complex shapes and concepts. That is where life drawing comes in.

 One of the most challenging approach to improve a person's cognitive skill sets is the ability to understand and percieve shapes and training the hand eye coordination to achieve it. This takes time

  Training your eyes what to see and how to see. And drawing is part of that. It just needs to be taught in a manner that is easy to understand. Remember its all about shapes and most importantly volume.

And growing up locally, art education and drawing have not traditionally played an important role in our education. Sure we have art classes and drawing classes. But the ones I attended was just here is a drawing, trace it the best you can. Or go to the zoo and just draw. The best drawing win a price. There isn't really any teachings of why draw. And the problem solving aspect of drawing.

I feel that this lack of understanding could have contributed to our inability to explain or visualise a concept or idea and ultimately lack of critical thinking.
Going back to Betty Edward's book. Drawing is actually used extensively to visual ideas and concepts. And she conducts workshops relevant to this. Because at the end of the day, its still thinking and making decisions.

One of the students I worked with before says this :

zs★ says:
 drawing helps to cement and solidify what was a floating thought in the head
 anything that is in the head is like a cloud, it will keep changing
 until you put it down in ink, you will only grab cloud if you reach for it
 a lot of times I have some poses for animation that I came up with in my head
 I think it`s damn cool
 but when i put it down on paper, I realise it`s not working or it just plain sucks

  I think at the end of the day, drawing is a brilliant way of communicating anything.. kinda universal language of industry. Drawing is an artist's way of studying and understanding the world and not just putting what you see on paper.

  3D have the luxury of providing instant feedback but you still need to understand how topology is related to the flow of curves and muscles of the body. It just means that you are better at this tool then the other. But you still to have the critical eye. To see what is wrong with the proportions and the volume. Once you can see the flow, shapes and the proportions of an object, You can actually use it to make a decision. And the more you draw, the easier it gets because the library of shapes and curves and volume is built up in your mind. And also you will also at the same time build up an aesthetic sense of what is appealing to you with this infomation.

 Best thing is  there is no undo button when drawing. So when u do something wrong while drawing, u erase it or u start again.

  NO undo. Undo is like a safety device that prevents you from commiting to something. nvr mind lah... Can undo, Especially for singaporeans, that is so awesome. If I fail, can just undo. Brillant right?


Making mistakes and learning from them is how you learn. Making mistakes is actually good while drawing. That means you improve. ANd learning from mistakes breeds confidence too,

Akan Datang.


  1. A very cool post!

    A lot of students are so caught up with trying to draw a wonderful piece of artwork or life drawing that they don`t try new stuff or experiment or simply just draw but they fall back on what they already know.

    Personally, I can say that drawing something nice is satisfying, but I actually learn more when I draw out an atrocious drawing that I was earnest and intent on making good.
    I realise what was not working and retrace my steps and approach to the point where it stopped working. By going down this rabbit hole, I learn so much from failing which would not have been possible at all if I had the ability to undo the moment it smelled like a bad drawing.

    If I made an uncertain but daring and bold stroke while drawing with the knowledge that I could not undo it[fixing or covering up the mistake is a different issue] and the stroke actually contributed to the piece, my confidence and knowledge of what works and what does not will jump and will be forever etched into my mind!

  2. I think a lot of students get caught up with the details of the drawings rather then the overall shape. But again its all part of the progress of learning. By drawing more and getting looser with your strokes, you will definitely improve.