May 10 2011
I always found it strange that if you state something brutally obvious you’re called the “Master of the Obvious.” But if you couch it in some intelligent, edgy catchphrase, you’re suddenly a genius. Case in point: Malcolm Gladwell’s “10,000 Hour Rule.” Google it, I dare ya. And the “10,000 Hour Rule” is simply this: practice something for 10,000 hours, and – brace yourself – you’ll get good at it. Shocking, isn’t it?
Shocking, but also a bit misleading. Because beyond rote, repetitive, and mindless practice, you also need guidance. A slight push in the right direction. Oh, and it doesn’t hurt if the practice involved is actually fun. All of this came to mind when checking out Sketch Heroes, a site that shows you how to draw cartoons. It’s fun, intuitive, brilliantly laid out, free, and provides invaluable, hands-on guidance – which, along with practice, is critical if you want to master the art of cartoon-drawing.
I registered and was quickly intrigued by the wealth of video drawing tutorials on the home page. I chose the Shrek one. (Figured it’d come in handy on dates; women love misunderstood ogres with hearts of gold.) An animated tutorial popped up on a gridded screen. To the right were 13 Steps – chapters, if you will – that broke up the exercise into smaller pieces. I clicked the Play button and a green pencil emerged and began sketching out Shrek – a series of orbs, curved lines, and connecting lines all initially floating in space, then magically uniting to create a cohesive whole. Really cool.
My first inclination was to draw Shrek with a pen and paper; I could watch the tutorial and attempt my creation in real-time. But viewers could also open another window on their computer and draw in any basic drawing software platform (I’m a Microsoft Paint man, myself.)
At around Step 9, things got fun, as color was introduced; by step 12, tasteful flourishes like shadow appeared as well as techniques that added depth. And this is where the tutorial shines: the added functionality. For example, if you found the green pencil distracting, simply click on the “Pencil” button, and it goes away. And if the pace of the tutorial is too fast, you can slow it down. You can also click ahead or backwards to those aforementioned Steps if one aspect of the drawing is giving you particular difficulty.
The selection is amazing, as well. Call me old fashioned (as if the Microsoft Paint thing didn’t tip you off) but I like me some Looney Tunes. And I really had fun with the Looney Tunes tutorial, specifically drawing my main man the Tasmanian Devil. (He’s crazy! Someone get him a Xanax. Just kidding – stay crazy, bro!) Other awesome cartoon characters (that I, not coincidentally, never heard of) include Agent Six, Flash Kid, Silversmith, and Aqualad. And there’s more: you can search for cartoon tutorials by “Animals,” “People,” and even “Movies.” You can also share your own videos.
Which brings me to my next point: more than just a repository of cartoon tutorials, Sketch Heroes is an interactive and expansive online community for artists and cartoon fans alike. You can build your profile, send and receive mail, make friends, invite others, and explore blogs, forums, and videos. It has it all.
If by now it isn’t evident, Sketch Heroes is perfect for people learning how to draw and for cartoon fans. It’s also great for kids. So to all the parents out there: I know the temptation to plop your kids in front of a Barney DVD, leave the room, and open a bottle of Merlot is strong, but consider Sketch Heroes instead. It can help your kids improve motor skills while developing their creative side through guided practice. (And besides, Merlot is so 2009.)
Which brings me back to my opening diatribe. People seem to think that artists are simply born, sit down, whip out the pen, and instantly create magical, wonderful drawings. Well, it’s not true, as Gladwell noted. Any artistic pursuit involves an underlying process and structure. With the kind of guidance Sketch Heroes provides, you’ll effortlessly draw cartoons in no time. And unlike practicing your piano scales for hours, over and over, Sketch Heroes shows you how to draw cartoons and even how to draw manga in a way that’s – gasp! – actually fun. So while Gladwell’s adage is true – practice does make perfect – it also helps when it’s guided, entertaining, and free.
On a side note, inspired by Gladwell, I’ve created a cutely-worded phenomenon that, upon further inspection is blatantly obvious, so that I too may achieve semi-stardom in the blogosphere. I call it The Malus Domestica Effect, and it radically stipulates that if you eat an apple every day, why, then that’s…um, a real good thing to do.
Brilliant, I know.
All press inquiries can be sent directly to me directly; Dr. Phil already has my direct line.