Drawing Archery | Mistakes & Tips
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Drawing Archery | Mistakes & Tips

August 14, 2019


Hi everyone, NUSesnsei here. Archery is a
beautiful art, and speaking of art check out this channel. StuffbySunshine is
in Melbourne-based children’s book illustrator and an up and coming YouTube
channel. She creates bright and attractive watercolor paintings, weaves
amazing stories and anecdotes and runs workshops for schools. We have a very
exciting and unique collaboration coming up on her channel. Subscribe to StuffbySunshine to be the first to see it and the rest of her amazing work. Now, I mention archery and art together because as you know, archery is a very popular
subject in art, both historical and in modern depictions. Especially today with
so many references to pop culture, people are fascinated and interested in drawing
archers and bows in action and given that as artists you might have a lot of
insecurities about your work, you don’t really need more people jumping onto you
for getting things wrong. So this video is here to provide some insight to the
accuracy of drawing archery with a bit more technical accuracy. Whether you are
a traditional painter, a digital artist, a 3d modeler, even a photographer, you may
find some of these tips to be quite relevant to your field and hopefully
helpful in your artistic pursuits. I want to start this with a quick preface: this
is by no means a comprehensive list of rules that you have to follow when
you’re illustrating archery. There is plenty of room for creativity and you
should explore different avenues to illustrate the art of archery. This is
more for people who are a bit more curious about why things are done and
perhaps impress a few more people with your technical know-how. We’re going to
begin by talking about the bow itself and this is in relation to the shape of
the bow and the design of the bow. Perhaps the simplest kind of bow to
illustrate is the longbow. If you imagine yourself as a young kid drawing
a stick figure and you drew a bow that was basically like a D shape, that’s
basically what a longbow is. Longbows are really simple both in real life
design and illustration, so this is very much a valid bow to draw. Like I said, all
this is, is basically a stick in a D shape with the string and that’s a longbow.
This particular bow is a Victorian era English longbow but it’s the kind of bow
which is commonly depicted in fantasy sources. So, if you have, say, a forest
ranger, they are most likely to be using a bow like this. Taking a closer look
you can see the bow has a very simple shape and design. All it is is a bit of a
curve. You might have a bit of fancy grip and traditionally bows didn’t have grips
but again being artistic and creative you can have some kind of leather
wrapping or grip here. And again with the bottom end of the bow, more or less a
simple curve. Quick tip here and this will be relevant later on as well, do take note
of where the string is placed on the limbs. Some people think the string goes
straight on the very end of the tip. In actuality there is a notch cut into
the end where the string is looped around. In practice the string is
actually not exactly on the tip. When you do illustrate the bow string, you
might only have a slight gap between the end of the bow and where the string
begins. If you want to get a little fancier you might want to add a bit of
curvature to the bow and you’ll see this quite often in fantasy designs where the
bows have a bit of a reflex. If you take this to the extreme you go from
the longbow to the recurve bow. In this case you can see the limbs are curved
away from the archer hence recurve. The recurve bow, especially this kind of
bow shape and design, is perhaps the most familiar with archers today. This is
commonly seen in pop culture and the most common bow type used by people
today. This particular one is a traditional bow but has a modern design,
so it has things like a more ergonomic shape grip and it’s modular, so it is
take down. You can take this apart for storage and to swap things out. But more
or less, this is a recurve bow which most people today would easily recognize. Getting a bit of a close-up for the
bow shape, we have the very distinct curvature of the limps. We have the
central part of the bow or the riser. Depending on the bow type, if we have a
one-piece traditional bow this might be very narrow design but the modern bows
tend to be a bit chunkier, mostly for weight, balance and grip. Going to the
bottom limb, again we see that it narrows or thins out to form the limb. Limbs are
meant to be thin and light, so you wouldn’t really have the bulk of the
bow on the limbs. You would have the bulk in the middle of the bow, again
depending on what design element you’re going for. If you want to go for
something a little more exotic you have the composite bows, also known as Asiatic
bows or horse bows. This is more commonly known in the Eastern cultures,
so Persia, China, Mongolia, Korea and so on. The defining feature of these bows is
that they tend to be quite short. Not always, but they have very distinct limb
curvature, especially these pronounced tips or ears which are known as siyahs.
These siyahs are the defining feature of the Eastern style bows. They are used
differently to Western bows but you often see these used in art to
illustrate an exotic style of warrior, again often inspired by oriental sources.
That’s what it looks like. Close up of the design features of an Eastern
style bow. You have the very pronounced siyahs which are mostly wooden.
Sometimes they are made from horn.You have sometimes a string bridge. Not always.
Some designs have no bridge. It simply contacts the edge of the limb here but
some designs do have a bridge. Again, a bit of a design choice for you.
Often these bows have very fancy wrappings and designs and again these
are very short bows. You can have longer ones but these are mostly designed to be
shot from horseback and tend to be very light and portable. So if you’re creating a
character that’s meant to be very mobile then this sort of thing might be more appealing. Like I said, this is
the exotic option for most character designs. Many archers are more familiar
with the traditional bows or the longbows and recurves, whereas Asiatic bows
tend to be more foreign and different to most readers and viewers. In terms of
decorating your bows in your designs, like I said there’s plenty of room for
decoration. You can have engravings or markings. You can have wrappings. There’s
a lot you can get away with. Of course, a functional bow doesn’t need all this but to
make it fancier there’s plenty of options to make it brighter more
colorful and more unique. If there’s any mistake that’s common in bow design
which makes things look a little ridiculous, it would be the addition of
too many things especially on the limb tips. The reason is the limb tips are meant
to be light because this is the part which springs back and propels the arrow
forward. So by pulling the string back you have a lot of curvature. If you have
too many things on the limbs, for example like metal spikes or things sticking out,
then it does actually slow down the limb which hampers performance. That would
probably never be done in a real bow. If you want to include fancier metal
decorative elements, make it closer to the handle or the grip. That way it has less
effect on the bow itself. The limbs should be as light as possible. Again,
not a really big deal but it makes more technical sense to minimize weight on
the limb tips. The other thing you should be really mindful of is which way the
bow is braced and this is especially true for photography. As a matter of
practicality and safety we don’t normally keep our bow strung so we
normally keep them unstrung. That way, it’s basically disassembled. That’s
what it looks like when unstrung and very often when people go to photo
shoots or do cosplays, they don’t have the bow strung and they don’t know how to
string the bow and the result is the model doing something like this. This is
one of the biggest annoyances which people
have who have been doing archery. I’m looking at the camera right now. I’m kind of like
getting a little sick inside because this is so common and actually really
bad for the bow. That is really not what it looks like. People think it does look
like this because the limbs are curving towards the archer but they are actually
meant to be curving away. So when people do this, we all cry a little inside.
Please don’t do this. Sometimes people don’t know. Fair enough. But if you’re
doing it like this, then you’re doing it horribly wrong, to the point where you
might actually damage the bow if you have it strung and pulling it back this
way. Bows aren’t meant to bend like that so just be careful. You might ruin
somebody’s bow. Again this is what it’s meant to look like when fully braced
and drawn correctly. Something else I want to briefly mention which is also
quite important and a common mistake is how to draw the string. Look you
don’t have to be fancy with the string. If I draw a straight line, that’s your
string. That’s completely fine. The misconception that many people have is
that the string is an elastic band, so as you pull it it stretches and gets longer.
That’s definitely not how a bowstring works. I have seen examples of artwork where
the character is holding the bow and the string is like three times as long when
they’re pulling it back. These aren’t slingshots. The string
doesn’t stretch more than it has to. The way the bow works is that the string
pulls the limbs back, and this is something else watch out for. The shape
of the bow isn’t static. What it looks like when you’re holding it like this without pulling it back. It’s different to when you do pull it back. Take note
of how the limbs curve backwards or move backwards and move forward as I let it
go. I’m going to have to kneel to get in frame but just imagine
this. So I have the bow here. Watch the limb tips. Full draw, moves back quite
substantially and then back to original brace. Again: full draw and to brace. So
that’s how the bow works. The limbs bend back and snap forward to
propel the arrow. You don’t really see the string changing a length. It’s more or
less the same length but the curvature does change. And this effect is much more
obvious with a shorter bow. So again, I have to crouch down a bit here. Pay
attention to limb tips. We get the full draw and see how much it curves when you
pull it back and back to the original position and curved. It’s one the
reasons why these bows tend to be very popular for illustrating exotic styles
because the extreme curvature is something that’s visually very appealing.
The next common mistake is how to hold the string. Not gong to lie. This is perhaps
the part where most people get wrong in illustrating archery. There are actually
many different ways to hold the string but we’ll go through the most common
ones. And just quickly, as an artist I know that drawing hands is everyone’s
least favorite part. If you’re drawing mittens, fair enough. But getting the
fingers right is an art in itself, so I’ll try to provide as many references as
possible. The most common and recognizable way of holding the string
is what’s called the Mediterranean grip. Basically you have three fingers on the
string in a hook shape. That’s basically it. So once more as a quick reference.
Most people would put the string on the first joint of their fingers to form a
hook like this and they’ll place it on the string like that. From the other
side – again, three fingers, first joint around there,
hook it around and that’s the correct grip. With the arrow as a reference point:
most people will have one finger over the arrow and two fingers under the arrow.
This is by far the most common way to shoot using this grip. So again, that’s
the grip from the back and the grip with the front of the hand. Drawing the bow
back and a bit of a front view. On a similar
note another important point in archery is the anchor point. People who shoot with
aimed shots and shoot accurately will use a physical contact point on the face
to draw the bow back to. In this case, I’m using my cheek or the corner of my mouth.
This is very common in archery in real life. You draw it back and you have a
touch on your jaw or your cheek or your eye somewhere near there so that you
have a consistent reference point. I mention this because quite a few
people will illustrate archers with very long floating anchors, especially 3d
modeling where we can’t quite get the alignment right so you often see people draw
archers like this, that draw it back down here or something.
Again, if you’re creating a hero character they can automatically hit
everything, fair enough. But really if you’re going for a skilled trained
archer they’re probably going to shoot like this rather than out here. Now again
going with the exotic options, if you are depicting and oriental inspired archer,
they would be using what we call thumb draw, where you use the thumb to draw the
string back. Again this is not commonly known in many Western cultures or in pop
culture but it is a very common way of shooting with a bow. Unlike the
Mediterranean draw, which has three fingers on the string, the thumb draw has
one finger: the thumb. And the way it looks from this side is you have the
thumb hooked around the string and you usually have the index finger locked
over the fingernail like this. That’s kind what it looks like quite simply and
with a proper grip that’s what it looks like. It kind of looks like a fist from this angle. So by doing a thumb draw: loop thumb around, finger on, and then you can pull
it back all the way here. And from the other side: thumb hooked around, finger
over and you have this kind of grip. Much more easy with a thumb ring or a glove. I’m
not using one right now but that’s what it looks like: pull it back like that.
Something worth mentioning if you do illustrate archers after the
shot then pay attention to the position of the hand especially comparing a
Mediterranean release versus a thumb draw. The last common mistake that we’ll
cover is which side of the bow the arrow goes on and this is quite
controversial not because there’s a right and wrong but people think there is
a right and wrong. This is actually quite easy to address. If you’re shooting
with the Mediterranean draw with the fingers and you’re right-handed, the arrow goes
on the left side of the bow. If you’re shooting Eastern style with the thumb
draw then the arrow goes on the right side of the bow. And again I point this out
because many Westerners find this to be wrong and the opposite to what they’re used
to so don’t take this as a criticism from people with don’t know. This is the
correct way to depict an Asian archer using a thumb draw. For some reason
people take these sides as absolute. Look if you’re left-handed you flip these
around. Thumb draw with left hand means the arrow’s on the left side and if you
shoot with your fingers then it goes on the right side. Now those were the most
common ways to illustrate shooting methods. There are a couple of uncommon
unorthodox methods as well. One of them is a two finger draw which you often see
in artwork. This is definitely viable. It is a variation of the Mediterranean draw.
Less common in real life but it is done and it definitely works. The other
unorthodox method which you do sometimes see is an inverse grip, especially with
two fingers. This can work, it can be done in real life but it’s a little unusual.
It’s more an artistic flair than anything else and you don’t find many people
doing this. That’s basically all I want to cover. That should cover most of the
technical inaccuracies which might bother some people. Like I said, there is
plenty of room for creativity. There are a lot of things you can get away with
but if you want to have that extra element of technical accuracy then
hopefully this will help. If you have any further questions feel free to post in
the comments below or send me an email. If you’d like to
send some draft artwork for me to do critique then I’ll be happy to look at
it and if there’s anything I missed that you think might be quite important to
include feel free to add in the comments below. Anyway, this is NUSensei. I hope
you found this interesting and helpful. Thank you for watching and I’ll see you next time.

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  1. Sorry for the rather long post.
    Something that would be incredibly useful is royalty-free photos of a male & a female archer in various poses with arrow nocked and with the bow simply at the ready. Common poses would be a long shot, close range, target practice, and horse back too if possible. If not, it'd be useful to have information such as how does the horse affect the bowman's draw? It seems like it would as the bottom of the bow would be in contact with the horse if you weren't careful.
    Putting these into a coffee table book sold through Amazon, or as downloadable content for paying subscription service customers, would allow you to receive fair compensation for helping us artists out.

  2. I know you were focusing on getting the technicalities of the actual bow and draw accurate, but one thing you might want to point out that I see a lot of artists do without understanding the potential consequences of is long flowing hair and clothing/armor with billowy sleeves and ornamentation – all of which could pose a hazard to the archer and/or their shot.

  3. Five styles which might look different from a graphical point of view which you did not really cover (this was a shorter list but it grew longer the more I thought about it)…

    Clout shooting (extra long distance) is similar to standard shooting in terms of style, but I think the muscles, neck angle and eye line would shift dramatically, especially from an aiming point of view. It might be good to look at that style as a comparison.

    The second style of archery that I have seen that is radically different is the Japanese style of archery, using an extremely long bow and a twisting motion with the arrow resting on an unconventional side. I am not personally familiar with how this style of shooting works, but from what I have seen visually and stance wise it is radically different to Olympic style archery.

    Thirdly, there is compound style shooting. I know you have said on your channel that you are not really a compound style shooter, but often modern / sci fi artwork will use a compound bow, often with weird sights. Showing how the cams work, and the different cam systems, and the changes that makes to pull back, as well as the option for a trigger release… all of these points can be interesting visually.

    Modern Olympic archery will have a lot of additional equipment on the bow, like stabilisers, sights and clickers. The archer will also have additional equipment on them, like chest guards, arm guards, finger guards, and finger loops to hold the bow on release. Quiver choice can be interesting visually, from ground quivers to hip quivers to shoulder quivers, and of course, there is option of a spinning motion of the bow on release which is so visually striking. I know the rest of your channel covers all of these topics individually, but it is different talking about all these aspects from a visual as opposed to a practical perspective.

    Finally, your channel has also briefly touched on a style of archery, I can't quite remember the name, but it is a style that uses a short attachment in the hand to allow archers to shoot shorter than standard arrow lengths, the equivalent of crossbow bolts. Again, that could be a visually striking different thing to show as well.

    Sorry for the long list, but your video is excellent so far. There are so many interesting variants of archery. Hopefully I've mentioned some more of the more visually interesting aspects from an artists point of view.

  4. Heh, firstly I thought this will be another video about proper draw. Well… One thing about draw/release: You said one will not hit his face when releasing string pushed on face. Well, I can, and don't really know how and why. Just hurts my lips so much xD

  5. I don't know how many films there are with Native Americans drawing their, but many of them drew to their chest, and presumably did some kind of instinctive shooting. I going to try this when I go to the range and noone's looking.

  6. I watched to shoot 3 arrows at the same time in a indian movie named "Bahubali 2." Even Oliver Queen shoots 2 or 3 arrows at the same time. Pls make a video about this.

  7. The last inverted western draw can be used to secure a very heavy load bow. It may be easier to hold steady under higher pressures. Try it out. It gets easier on the draw lower arm using that type of style. The optimal lower arm position is the thumb draw for me. But I have a hard time pulling high pressure bows with heavy loads using the thumb. Mainly because the pressure is on my inner thumb nerve, which is bad.

  8. I love it when my hobbies overlap 😀 Nice job on the presentation. The reference is priceless for artists.

  9. Amazing video! Very helpful for illustrating bows, crossing fingers I get our mouse's bow right now! 😀

  10. Two other visual errors I see about archery and art…

    One is the grip point of the string when the bow is drawn back. Sometimes it is depicted off centre, especially if they are doing an action shot, like leaning over an edge or jumping off a building while firing.

    The other is regarding compound bows, which is where the string is on the cams. A general visual guide to compounds would cover this, but often I see modern cam bows in art which don't have any string shown on the cams. That's… not how it works. Highlighting that you need to have that string, and how it looks like, and the variants on how compound bows are strung (you should almost never shown them unstrung unless they are being built, broken or having major modifications). Different cam styles produce different bow string patterns, and also in general, cams have a different draw length as they have to go through a pulley system.

    Hope all these extra bits help.

  11. I'd like to add that shooting bare handed without a glove is very painful, maybe it was done historically at some places, but adding a simple leather glove wouldn't be so hard if you're drawing any archer that isn't a cave man.

  12. Kyudo is an archery style very commonly used in art media such as manga. Maybe you don't have a Yumi yourself, but wouldn't you be able to at least show the overdraw and how it still has physical anchor points on the face and also on the chest (with the string) ?

    Further, tabs, gloves and other release aids as they are used, along with a very short explanation of why they are used (nerve damage) would also have been helpful I think.^^

  13. In showing the nocked arrow for the two draw styles, you have nocked the arrow so the cock feather would strike the side of the bow upon release. Your arrow should be rotated180 degrees.

  14. So I was wondering I like bows and want to get into one so I bought a 200 recurve bow from amazon and I can't get it to work. I pull back like you tough me in you videos but when I let go all it does it vibrate. I don't no what to do can you help me. Do I need one of those long sticks

  15. I'd add a mention of string servings. Someone unfamiliar might think the arrow goes in the middle of the serving.
    Also, bowstrings are one more place where some artistic freedom can be applied – Flemish bowstrings are a work of art.

  16. I'm starting to find more zen than art in archery, do I put resistance on the bow or does the bow put resistance on me, am i firing the bow or is the bow firing me…

  17. The inverse grip in an Indian style isn't it?
    Also there is the thumb draw with the arrow on the leftside, I believe it was the Turks that used this.
    But yes overall good.
    You know it never bothered me until I started shooting not I can't unsee it.

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