Launching a successful Patreon is quite an endeavour. From building an audience and gathering a mailing list to setting pledge levels and arranging rewards, there’s so much to do and it all has to be done right and in the right order. Happily, flubbing a Patreon launch is so much easier! This simple, six-step process will have you with a desolate Patreon and a looming, yet vague, feeling of obligation to hypothetical future patrons in no time!
Make a Patreon account – Obviously, you’ll want to reserve a good URL. Only jerks URL squat, but you’ve got a brand to protect, so it’s okay.
Set up your page, using to best pictures you have to hand, despite a less-than stellar portfolio – You can work on the content later, when people are giving you money based on your promises and obvious potential!
Create some posts – It’s okay if you don’t know what you’re doing, you can figure it out as you go but, for now, just create some content. Patrons can read through old content while they wait for you to upload new stuff.
Launch the page! – You don’t need a big launch, just moxy, grit and a can-do attitude.
Make something, anything – Things you could post include advance access to blog posts. Maybe it’ll give you the impetus to write more often!
Give it a few months, then tell people you have a Patreon using a click-bait blog post.
For more articles on learning to be a professional artist, support me on Patreon.
Seriously, though. I’d been umming and ahhing over making a Patreon page for a long time and decided to have a look at what it is and how it works. I accidentally launched the page while editing it and couldn’t find a way to un-launch it. I’d been listening to the Fizzle show podcast and got concerned that, without a large social media following and a sizeable mailing list, I’d blown my chance of a successful launch and damned myself to abject failure. Fortunately, a few months later, I was accepted into the Tiny Dragons artbook and was able to piggyback off that success to tell people I had the blasted thing:
I’m still trying to figure out what I’m doing with Patreon, but I’m getting there.
Portraiture is a challenging field, both because everyone knows what a face looks like and will be able to tell when something about it is off, but also because our symbolic language is geared towards faces, even to the point of seeing faces in random patterns (a phenomenon known as pareidolia).
Because of the challenges in observing the proportions of a face and reproducing them to such a degree that the face is recognisable, and the struggle to overcome the intrinsic symbol language, combined with the immediate feedback in recognising when a face isn’t correct, realistic portraits are ideal subjects for practice.
Because of these challenges, students often feel that drawing portraits, particularly recognisable ones, is beyond their reach, but drawing a head requires no more skill than drawing anything else. The problem with portraiture is the same problem with any drawing requiring “painstaking accuracy” – that we naturally enlarge things we feel are important and reduce things we feel aren’t. This occurs in the brain as part of its basic data processing, long before we try to put pencil to paper, and helps to winnow the useless from the vitally important. This isn’t great for drawing but, happily, it can be overcome with practice.
We tend to overcompensate particularly when faced with optical illusions. Edwards offers an exercise wherein the artist stands in front of a mirror at arm’s length, and observes their reflection. Although it appears to be live size, if they then make a mark on the mirror showing the positions of the top of the head and the chin and step aside, the marks will only be a few inches apart.
This reduction of less important detail leads to two major issues: placing the eye line too high on the face, and misplacing the ear in profile. The eye issue occurs when the student shows themselves to disregard the height of the forehead and visible scalp.
From person to person, the position of the ear doesn’t vary by much, which makes it a key landmark when determining the width of the head in profile. The distance from the chin to the corner of the eye is the same as the distance from the back of the eye to the edge of the ear. Visualising an equilateral triangle can help cement this relationship in the minds of the student.
When drawing portraits, remember the following points:
Focus on complex edges and negative spaces until you feel the shift to the visual processing mindset
Estimate the angles in relation to the vertical and horizontal
Draw what you see, without labeling or identifying elements
Draw what you see without resorting to symbolism and assumptions
Estimate the relationships between sizes
Observe and record proportions as they are, recognising the brain’s habit of changing things to suit it.
Questions to ask when drawing portraits:
Where is the point the hairline meets the forehead?
Where is the outermost curve of the tip of the nose?
What is the angle of the forehead?
What is the negative space between the hairline and the top of the nose?
If you draw a line between the top of the nose and the chin, what is the angle of that line relative to the vertical or horizontal?
What is the negative shape created by that line?
Where is the curve of the front of the neck, relative to the crosshairs?
What is the relative space between the chin and the neck?
Where is the edge of the ear in relation to the corner of the eye?
Where does the head join the neck?
What is the angle of the back of the neck?
Using negative spaces and relative measurements, anything – including a face – fits together like a jigsaw.
My copy of the workbook ends this section with a drawing of an American flag, or other striped object. The intent of this exercise is to highlight the importance of drawing what you can see, not what you expect to see, but I felt the point was somewhat lost on a non-American audience (owning a national flag is largely considered ‘a bit weird’ in the UK).
I substituted in a striped t-shirt, but I don’t feel like I had any preconceived notions of what it looked like and drawing it didn’t feel like it required much in the way of mental gymnastics. Short of buying a union flag specifically for this purpose, I’m not sure how I would fix the exercise.
Edwards’ third basic drawing skill is seeing relationships between objects, enabling the artist to accurately depict perspective and proportion. So fundamental is this skill, Edwards likens it to grammar, and I can see why – without a grasp of these relationships, a picture cannot hang together, regardless of the artist’s skill in rendering. Edwards opts to skip teaching the reader about vanishing points and the mechanics of perspective in favour of sighting. Sighting is a multi-part skill, comprising firstly of sighting angles relative to vertical and horizontal markers, and secondly of sighting relative proportions. Each measurement is made relative to a constant so that the brain is comparing ‘thing’ to ‘thing’, instead of naming objects or measuring absolute distances. The use of ratios enables the student to overcome their known reality to accurately recreate the illusion of reality on the paper.
Linear perspective is a relatively recent invention, originating from Renaissance Europe. Other cultures developed their own approach to spacial relationships, notably the stepped perspective of Egyptian and East Asian art, where depth is represented vertically and objects higher up the page are understood to be further in distance from the viewer. Distant objects are often rendered the same size and with the same level of detail as near objects.
Albrecht Dürer’s perspective machine (illustrated by Dürer’s own Artist Drawing a Nude with Perspective Device and Man Drawing a Lute) was a simple frame, strung with a grid of thread or wire, and held at a fixed position. A marker on the frame ensured that the artist was always viewing the sitter or scene from the same point (something I have struggled with while doing the exercises in this book). By recreating what is visible through the grid in the manner that it is visible the artist is able to create accurate drawings, using foreshortening to create the illusion of objects receding into space.
Something that I struggled with throughout this chapter is sighting angles. I’m far more comfortable sighting the ends of a diagonal, or points of a diagonal, and joining them up, and need to practice sighting angles, at least so I can compare the two methods.
Notes on sighting angles
angles are sighted against vertical and horizons constants
angles are sighted on the picture plane. Care must be taken to maintain the integrity of the plane
creating the illusion of reality will always involve close observation of perceived forms and the rejection of known forms (symbol language).
use the triangular negative shape created between the constant and the diagonal to accurately describe the angle.
do not determine an angle to be at 45°, 30°, etc. I do this currently, but Edwards explicitly counsels against it.
when deciding between a vertical or horizontal constant, Edwards recommends whichever will make the smaller angle.
Advice for perspective drawing
work from part to adjacent part
keep checking relationships
use negative spaces – focusing only on positive shapes weakens a drawing
areas of light and shadow are signed in exactly the same way as the shapes
“If in your drawing you habitually disregard proportions, you become accustomed to the sight of distortion and lose critical ability. A person living in squalor eventually gets used to it.”