Sunday, August 31, 2014

Transition point - steaming soul dump

Haven't drawn or painted anything in 2 weeks now - after finishing that last one I developed an aversion to it. I suspect it was because my eye leapfrogged past my hand once again (referring back to Sycra Yasin's eye/hand development idea). When I worked out the new painting approach my hand improved (ability to make art), and when that happens you feel excellent - on top of the world for a while, like you can do anything. But very soon afterward your eye develops (ability to see your mistakes) and then you feel awful, like you totally suck and just somehow couldn't see it before. That's where I'm at now.

I believe breaks are beneficial, as long as they don't turn into stagnant periods. But only at certain times - and this is one of them. It's a transition in several ways - I've now spent a good few months on Conceptart, immersed in a world of artists all working hard and discussing art and growth etc - this has been a totally different experience to anything I've had before. So much more powerful than the time at the community college, which felt like kindergarten or day-care with no guidance and people just sitting in class talking for the most part (not about art) and doing all the work at home.

I also feel like I went from being a big fish in a small pond to being a tiny plankton in the vast ocean. I've always been one of the better artists in any group I've been a part of - in fact at the college was the only place I've been exposed to better artists, and that was only 3 or 4 people and like I said we didn't talk shop. But this has been deeply humbling. I'm like one of the worst noobs on the site - well, not counting the beginners.

Also I was deeply stricken by one thing. When I made a thread asking about tutorials for constructive painting, one of the top dogs told me he looked through my work and can't see any evidence that I understand the human figure at all. Or to be more specific, that I've spent any time drawing it from life, which is how you come to understand it. I was pretty dumbfounded at first, but I know not to just blow off something said by one of the best artists on CA, who was atelier trained. These guys really know what they're talking about, so I thanked him and tried to wrap my mind around what he had said. It was like a zen koan that I meditated on for a day or 2, looking at my Flickr gallery.

And suddenly I could see it.

The parts don't really mesh together properly, and are somewhat oddly formed. Somehow I had learned not to see that. All my understanding of the figure comes entirely from anatomy books, no life drawing (well, about 4 or 5 sketches). But now I can see it, and it's all I can see when I look at my art. Now I feel like some foolish little kid who's been imagining he's much better than he actually is, and presenting his crappy scribbles on Conceptart as if they're something to be proud of, when they more rightly belong on mom's refrigerator.

And I know the only way to improve is to keep going. I know I need to get back to it. But really I feel like the only way is to get into life drawing class, and to spend several years there. Massive setback! Well, not really, but at least a setback in my hopes - I was hoping to reach an acceptable pro level in a couple of years, but that's obviously out the window now.

I'm still hopeful I can get there in time and hopefully supplement my income that way, and maybe in 5 or 10 years even make it my primary source. But now something different is happening. Till now it was mostly desperation driving me - 'I need to learn this fast so I can start working in a couple of years'. Now I feel like, even if I can't ever do it for a living, I still want to be able to paint like a pro. It isn't just for the money now - it's actually a bucket list thing. I really can't see living my entire life out without becoming an artist of pro caliber. It's what I always imagined, looking at Frazettas and all the other art that sustained me through my adolescence and all the way to the present.

I think I'm still waiting for some of the distaste of those ugly revelations to fade enough that this aversion leaves me and I want to draw and paint again. It's fading pretty well now. It's like some poison that got injected into my brain and disabled me for a period, but it's losing its effect now.

I also feel like a break now is good because I need to switch up the way I've been doing things. There's something too  academic about the work I've been doing for my Conceptart period - I need to get away from that environment now for a while at least, clear my head, but not lose sight of the amazing ideas I picked up there. When I'm posting my work immediately after finishing it I always feel like my studio is a small glass booth on the sidewalk in Times Square or something, like the general public is filing past and watching my every move and thought. That's a very inhibiting feeling for me, and I want to just disappear into my sanctum and work unhindered by such ideas. Though I'm pretty sure I'll still be posting here - it's different since I don't get any comments here and I know hardly anybody ever looks at this blog. It doesn't feel public.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Mark Brunet inspiration

Maybe another burst of video inspiration will break my stasis. Actually I think I screwed up the possibility though with terrible timing - it's way late and I need to crash - by tomorrow the inspiration will be stale. Or maybe not - I'll watch it again and/or maybe find more vid-insp.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Endlessly prolific - Katsuya Terada and Charles Ratteray

These are by Charles Ratteray (link to his concept art sketchbook). And the following are by Katsuya Terada (Bing image search).

 I've discovered both of them recently, and had the same reaction to both - amazement at the wealth of restless energy. Looking at just about any image either of them has created, I get the feeling they're always drawing. Their work seems to be an endless outpouring of creative energy.

They certainly don't fear detail or work - in fact there's the sense that they might fear having to stop working! Compulsive drawing is definitely a thing - trust me, I've experienced it at times. I wish I could turn it on at will, but it doesn't seem to work that way, there needs to be some source of anxiety that you're avoiding. I can't say if these guys are compulsive or not - they might just be really super productive or extremely driven. Whatever it is, I wish I could tap into it.

Ratteray does a lot of storyboard work for big Hollywood productions, he's done Riddick and the new TMNT movie, and Terada has a new book out - I believe it's his first in English, called Dragon Girl and Monkey King. A little ways down the page is a flip-through video that hooked me - I now own the book.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Ok, even I'm getting tired of seeing this one..

But I've been playing around, adding some special effects and just generally punching up contrast and color.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Thursday, August 14, 2014

How I figured out constructive painting

I want to document this so I'll remember how it happened. It was really this image that made me understand how to paint constructively. And I know - at first glance, it looks like I did the cylinder as a guide for how to paint the more complex forms of the - um - dude-thing. But strangely that's not why - I was just getting frustrated because I was having trouble blending my tones. It was more about how to place stripes of graduated vales and blend them, and what I did on the cylinder was to lay down 4 or 5 stripes, then grab one and lay it down semi-transparently to create an in-between zone. I kept going, creating in-betweens between the in-betweens, and it was looking good. So that's more or less how I ended up painting the image next to it.

But it didn't occur to me to use the cylinder as a guide for placing zones of tones, or to paint a sphere for the same purpose that would give me more planes. I thought about that after finishing it, and thats what led to my next image.

Another key difference between this and Knockout is that here some of my strokes are pretty random - scribbling as it were. On the forehead in particular. I was still refusing to follow the forms, and was thinking more about creating a varied, interesting surface with lots of brush strokes all over.  But you can see that on some parts I was starting to follow the form (paint along the length of the form, rather than wrapping lines around it as in drawing). And those areas look the best. So finally I broke through my mental block and just did it that way on Knockout - well, after some initial attempts at other things.

I'm sure this post will be an embarrassment to me in the future, after I develop a better understanding of constructive painting and realize that all this is silly and mostly off track - but it serves now as an important step in figuring it out.

Oh, just remembered something else - wow, that little cylinder is actually very important in this! Another reason I put it there was to figure out what order to do things in - you need to paint certain things overtop of others to cover them - for instance I did the upright cylinder wall first and it had very ragged edges top and bottom, then I did the lid over it and cut the bottom edge (which I tried several times and never did very well, but good enough as a test). A big part of it is figuring out what order to work in - pretty much back to front, at least in the finishing stages (in the beginning I think you can do it however you want just to establish the forms).

Wednesday, August 13, 2014


See previous post for lots of in progress shots - I've been adding them all night.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Ronda - round 2

Inspired by this:

Based on this:

I do this:

In some ways I always like figures better before they get faces. At that point they're abstract forms, once there's a face it's got a personality - it's somebody, you know? Not pure form anymore, it's mixed up with human life and emotions etc. Though in this case it has a nice personality and expression that makes it sparkle. I don't like the body work, done with a big soft round brush. It lacks the definite edges of the rectangular brush, and so looks too smooth and formless. I feel like I'm beginning to understand how constructive painting works.

Oh, and I understand now that the shadow behind her isn't hers - it's at odds with the light angle. Also, I think I understand the weird shadow on her torso but not her arms - it's some kind of big object right there in front of the scale that's pretty narrow (this shot was from a weigh-in). Even though it's real, I can't leave it like that because it's confusing and people will scratch their heads and think I suck. I think I;ll extend it to cover the arms and bring in some side light to pull out that arm on the right.

What I really like about the tutorial above is that it's done as a hybrid drawing/painting. I like that - it seems loose and free - I've been mostly very strict about pure painting, with no line except where it's needed for clarity. But I like seeing line in paintings - especially if it's somewhat loose and sketchy. It's the way Frazetta did the Kane painting I copied recently. It adds nice accents and defines edges strongly, it sort of becomes shadow along those edges that recede sharply away from the viewer. And at the same time it adds a slight element of the abstract that I like. Oh, plus drawing is a lot easier for me to do than painting! I've been doing that all my life..

Starting to look much better, and now I can clearly see a couple of things. First, hey look!! Colorful Grays! It's Jeff Jones' colorful grays, that he says should comprise much of the picture so where you use strong color it stands out.  It happened inadvertently from layering warms and cools semi-transparently. The other thing I noticed is that I missed a step - I should have developed the major forms - torso, rib cage etc, before doing abs. I suppose I can still do that working semi transparently. Each plane needs to respond properly to the light it receives, according to its angle relative to the light source. I'm not seeing a proper sense of roundness to the torso itself.

Damn - it looked like there was enough contrast on the torso until I put in the black clothes, now it looks pale and washed out. I recall somebody said you should put a big blob of black and white on the canvas right at the beginning to avoid this problem. Or maybe have a card you hold up against it from time to time. I still in that timid stage where I'm afraid of bold accents, both value and color.

Well I think it's clear I've found an excellent painting method. It seems to facilitate every step of the process, and the result looks like a painting, not a laboriously colored-in drawing or airbrush picture like I've done so often. Interestingly, this was done primarily with the oil brushes that have given me problems on a few images recently. I think they work better for a more painterly approach like this, plus I've learned not to use the Oil heavy flow dry edges for putting light colors down thinly over darker ones - for that you switch to its neighbor Oil medium wet flow. Which I almost never actually use come to think of it - should play around a bit.

I feels like it still needs more finishing touches, and I'm tempted to do another big session - maybe tomorrow.

I've hit that coveted stage now where my hand has improved beyond my eye, so I'm filled with confidence and optimism. Give it a few days though, and the eye will leapfrog right over the hand.

On the other hand, my older stuff looks pretty terrible to me now. Wow, is this the way it's always looked to everybody else and I just couldn't see it? They look malformed and somehow hard, like shiny little action figures. The sad part is, I'm quite sure when I make my next advance this one will look nearly as bad. I'm afraid this means I'm still on the wrong side of Dunning Kruger..

Added 8-14:


Thursday, August 7, 2014

jus' playin

Did this after watching a Sycra video in which he talks about just drawing freeform, exploring, with no definite goal in mind. When he did it though, it's clear that isn't really what he was doing, he was drawing some very specific anime tropes that he's drawn many times before, so really he was re-exploring some very familiar territory, probably with a little bit of freeform improvisation. I had basically nothing in mind here except a head and shoulders with the head tilted down a bit, and as I drew it ended up looking back over the shoulder and being very elongated/emaciated.

I had a lot of difficulty at this stage, for a ridiculously long time. After a while I realized it's mostly because I was impatient and started drawing/painting with no idea in mind, which never works. Also I should have developed the drawing further before going to paint. Usually if I keep messing with it I can turn it into something after a while, but it's so much better to have an idea for a pose and the character, the clothes, etc. I guess I could work that out through thumbnails, *but that's basically what I did here - when you're working digitally the original drawing is a thumbnail and you can change it as much as you want, as many times as you want, and save the earlier versions if you want. Or so I keep telling myself, though I always hear the opposite on CA. When will I actually apply what I've read there, rather than just diving in and always doing the same stuff the same way, which never worked before?

* Rationalizations/excuses

Finally the elongated cyborg look was getting on my nerves and I didn't know what to do with it, so I did a lot of liquify filter and made it look somewhat human. Can't help but notice how I pretty much eliminated everything that was interesting about the sketch as I refined it - the elongation, the sharp curve of the neck, the way the body seemed to be facing to the left with him looking back over his shoulder. Killed it all and turned him into a stiff-necked wig-head staring straight ahead with no expression. I also originally had the face in shadow where it needed to be - covering the cheek and mouth, but I notice that got lost as I refined. Now the light somehow wraps around to make the face more visible, though it doesn't wrap around the torso the same way. Cheat!!! (Actually all this is ok since my only real intent was to practice lighting/shading on an imagined bust. I think it's pretty successful in terms of transition from shadows to light, which was my goal.)

I think I need to do a few small thumbnail figures really trying to use constructive technique - don't scribble, use big brushes, define each plane with a single stroke, *Though it seems to me being able to do that is more the end result of a learning process rather than something you can do from the beginning. Hard to define planes with big brushes using a single stroke each when in order to do that you need to also already know exactly what color/value to load on the brush for each stroke. I suppose it helps to work out the drawing and do shading on it (more carefully than above) first, then you've got values worked out beforehand. And maybe start off monochromatically or with a simple duotone formula. Or do some color thumbs.

Man, I really need to swat down the passive aggressive voices inside that start whining whenever I think about this stuff and just fucking try it!!

* More excuses

I grabbed this off of Conceptart as an example of constructive painting, though of a crude and tiny/thumbnail sort: