Figure Drawing for Concept Artists
Life lessons A detailed guide to traditional life-drawing skills, from a top-flight artist who really didn’t get on with traditional life-drawing classes
Kan speaks a language that’s grounded in the realities of being a working artist
Having worked as a concept artist on films like Guardians of the Galaxy and Godzilla, as well as video games including Destiny and the Batman: Arkham series, Kan Muftic has earned the right to be a little cocky. But instead he starts this book with a splash of humility.
He recounts how the figure artist and teacher Henry Yan once enquired, after watching him at work, “Are you a digital artist?” When Kan responded, “Yes, why do you ask?”, Henry told him, “Well, you just move your hand around mindlessly, hoping that something comes out of the mess.”
It’s a lovely anecdote, and a great way to broach a sensitive subject. Namely, that there are many pro concept artists out there whose core life-drawing skills are weak. But Kan isn’t here to point fingers. His belief is that every concept artist can benefit from refreshing those skills.
One way to do that is to take classes. But in Kan’s experience many life-drawing classes make for a poor experience. So this 194-page guide is his attempt to provide a written alternative. And in that, it succeeds.
Kan speaks a language that’s grounded in the realities of being a working artist. Yet he never wavers from adherence to the core, traditional principles. It’s a great balancing act. His lessons are based on the Reilly Method, as devised by 20th century American painter and teacher Frank Reilly. Concept artists sometimes assume that method isn’t applicable to artists working from the imagination, but that’s a misunderstanding.
Indeed, Frank himself was against “copying” from life models, and his approach is as interpretive as it is structural. So it’s to Kan’s credit that he makes this the core of his book.
It’s worth noting, too, that there’s not a lot of concept art here, outside a 30-page ‘Friends’ gallery’ featuring the likes of Nathan Fowkes, Conor Burke and Even Mehl Amundsen. But that’s fine, because this guide is not about eye-candy, but about core art skills and how to develop them.
Above all, Kan is clear that you can’t improve as an artist just by reading about it, but only by doing. He believes that you alone are in control of your development, focusing on providing the resources you need to do just that. And he does so, quite brilliantly.
The importance of being aware of negative space is covered succinctly in Kan’s excellent book.
Kan believes that knowing how to draw the body in motion is a fundamental skill for today’s concept artists.