<< Part 6

Mili Fay’s Approach To Art

What I’m going to share in this post is my personal way of illustrating. Every artist has their own way of creating work. However, I hope that if you are struggling to find your own way, my way may guide you.

For example, my friend Dany Demysh (known as DaemonSkratches or Dany Dae) has a very clean and precise way of drawing. She seems to analyze everything before putting a mark on the page.

Animal sketches by Dany Demysh.

These are sketches — sketches! — by Dany Demysh. I cannot believe how clean they are.

I also had the opportunity to see Dan Haskett (Disney animator and designer who designed Ariel) draw and he is exactly the same as my friend — beautiful drawings just bloom from them.

Dan Haskett and Mili Fay TAAFI 2018 with Dan Haskett’s sketches of Disney’s Ariel.

I completely geeked out when I met Dan Haskett at TAAFI 2018. Here are some of his old sketches of Ariel. Image Source from The Disney Elite on Tumblr.

When I was younger, I thought there was something wrong with me, because I did not put careful marks on the page. I would try to find the structure using basic shapes and my final drawings looked a mess. During my Art Fundamentals course at Sheridan College my Life-Drawing teacher, Brian McPhee, asked me: “If you have limited time to draw, why are you drawing what is not there?”


McPhee taught me to observe, make quick judgements and just draw what I’m actually seeing. That works fine when I have a model in front of me. However, even with this technique the pitfall is that my sketches from life look disjointed. What I’m drawing looks almost like that connect the dots and lines game to make a picture. I can take my sketch and develop it, but does it stand on it’s own?

Mili Fay’ Sketch: 2 women in McDonald’s, Huntsville.

This is one of my observational sketches from life. I’m drawing only what I’m seeing.

Mili Fay’s sketches of people on the subway.

In this sketch I’m trying to move away from what I’m seeing exactly to capturing the mood and the character.

When I have no subject in front of me and am required to draw from my head, my drawings still look like a tangled mess.

Mili Fay’s sketches for MerMay2019.

Drawings from my head are on the left-hand side. I was looking at a picture of an octopus for the right-hand sketch that is more detailed.

I did not feel good about myself as an artist until I’ve seen Glen Keane’s animation drawings of the Beast.

You can see the animation of the beast on imgur.com here.

Glen Keane’s drawings of The Beast.

Glen Keane’s development sketches of The Beast. Image Source from Pinterest

Glen Keane’s animation drawings of Ariel.

Some animation drawings of Ariel by Glen Keane that have been xeroxed to death! Image Source from Pinterest

I have to give the props to the cleanup artists who had to work from Glen Keane’s animation, because I have no idea how they devised such lovely clean lines from his work. You would be amazed how often animators do not stay on model and I am awed by the cleanup artists — the unsung heroes whose clean drawings we actually see on screen in 2D Animation. 👏🏻👏🏻👏🏻👏🏻

If you are a young artist and if you feel you are not holding the pencil the way you should or if your approach is not the same as that of your peers, I want to tell you to relax, do your own thing and find your own way. The worst thing you can do is to try to match another artist. I know. I tried. I had a teacher in first year animation, Mr. P, whose Life-Drawings I found hideous, but I tried to match them so that I would get a good grade (I needed my scholarship). Looking through my portfolio my drawings actually regressed from the time I was with Brian McPhee, who is the greatest Life-Drawing teacher I ever had (he took me from a C+ to A+ in half a term), and the half year I spent with Mr. P.

What made Brian McPhee the best Life-Drawing teacher is that while the model was taking a break, he would put up the best and the worst drawings from the class so we could all see what we were doing wrong. No other teacher I had did that, though I had amazing Life-Drawing teachers after Mr. P.

It is fine to copy and learn from artists you admire, but never suppress the spirit within you. As you know, one my my greatest influences is Mucha. However, instead of copying his art, in my own work I take elements that I love, and leave others behind. For example, I love Mucha’s flowing line (I’m still working on this) and decorative illustration style, but I prefer more vibrant colours.

Mucha’s Les Fleurs: Rose and Mili Fay’s Beauty and the Beast comparison

Mucha’s Les Fleurs: Rose influenced my Beauty and the Beast watercolor painting. Image Source from Pinterest

So, how do I approach drawing?

When I’m faced with a blank page, I feel this tremendous energy inside of me, too much energy for my body to contain. That energy comes out of me as scribbles. I scribble and I look for angles and I push those angles and I think about what is the action line, but that is somewhere in the back of my mind. I’m looking for shapes — positive and negative — and I cannot understand how the image I see in my head just does not look right on paper. I don’t have time to draw eyes an nose — so dots and dashes just indicate their vague position. Hair! What does one do with hair? Hair has structure, but has no structure, has shape, but can move in any shape, is affected by the movement or the elements, but not as much as you would think… And always, always, there is some clock ticking telling me to hurry it up. This angle is not looking right? Why do my drawings look like I never went to art school? Do I even know how to draw? What is THIS? I cannot even draw hands!!! Maybe I should take graphic design courses and learn more about golden ratio? How do other artist break down shapes and create beautiful flow, and everything I’m drawing looks so stiff?…

My creation is not an orderly, sensible, peaceful creation. My creation is a battle with myself and my tools, until I finally force everything into submission and produce something I can work with.

That is when peace comes, I can calm down and listened to audiobooks as I build up, cleanup, and paint my art.

Mili Fay’s medusa mermaid drawing progress for MerMay2021.

In the above image you can see how I work on my drawings. From the initial fairly rough sketch, to a more detailed, structured, cleaner sketch, and finally the finished drawing with a clean line ready for colouring.

With Elatsoe, I decided to take the thumbnail and work on the background first.

Mili Fay Art Artemis Icon

H.O.O.T of Wisdom

Experiment with styles and techniques, but if something does not feel right, don’t force yourself to draw a certain way because that is what is currently popular. Be true to who you are. If you are faking a style your artwork will never look as good as drawings of someone who loves working in that style.

However, if you are attempting to make a living through art, you may have to draw a certain way to satisfy clients. Then you have two options: find other clients or work on the requested style until you learn to love it.

PART 8 >>