Tonight I was looking for some tracing paper - I have a couple of giant pads of it but I wanted 9 x 12 and was too lazy to cut a sheet down, so I went digging through old art boxes from yesteryear. All kinds of pads of paper, and even some tracing paper - even a 9 x 12 - but apparently with time it wrinkles up and becomes crap. Oh my aching back and shoulders, going through all those huge boxes!!!
So I came away with nothing, except a nice trip down memory lane, and a new perspective on my personal art history. There were several times when I really went to work and started to get good. But I never maintained it long enough. At least twice I polished up my inking and penciling skills for comic drawing, and I could see definite improvement - but I never did it for long enough to get any lasting results. There were also several times when I worked on anatomy and at several points I was much better than I am now (seems really weird, don’t it?) - but I always stopped after apparently a short while and so none of the knowledge lasted.
Oh, it was Jeff Watts I heard say that now that I think about it. Tonight I watched him interview Stan Prokopenko - who I did not know was Watts trained and also one of their instructors. And they talked about how fast the skills deteriorate if you don’t keep working on them.
My gestural figure drawing has been coming up nicely, and just over the last couple of days I’ve been applying the same principles to anatomy - developing a system very similar to - and largely based on - the Reilly method. Finding those connections and the flow over around and across the figure. It occurred to me that this is in a way composition on an anatomical level - designing the anatomy in a pleasing manner with a good flow for the eye to follow. You also compose the figure itself the same way, and the environment - every part of a picture in fact, all the way up to the overall design. Composition on a nested series of scales, all throughout the image.
Another thought I had while walking Pepper - back in the day I used to consider pencil drawing finished art, and so I put a lot of emphasis on finish and detail - which also affected my whole approach. Now I think of it more as just sketching out a design, so I don’t worry about it much, but I think working on the finish would push/pull it through to a new level. Or at least to one of my previous levels.
Now that I understand this pattern - pushing to get better, art getting harder and harder, and then the tendency to quit - it explains several things to me. Add to this pattern the fact that, though I like the way many comic artists draw, I don’t care for superhero stories and I definitely could never see myself drawing the same characters, in the same damn costumes even, over and over indefinitely for years or decades on end. I remember this was always a big factor in why I would quit. But now it’s at least somewhat different, because now I’m working on fantasy painting, which has none of the crap factor of comic book drawing. At most you might have to do the same characters a dozen times or so, if you’re doing a series or something. Plus fantasy painting doesn’t need to be as stylized in such a limiting way as standard superhero art. PLUS - I’ve decided now that it doesn’t even matter if I end up doing this for a living or not, I can’t see myself living out my entire life without ever being a damn good fantasy painter in a very 70’s vein (something that probably would go over in today’s professional field about as well as lime green shag carpeting in a modern SUV). So this time I’m not just doing it for a job - I’m doing it for me - because I need to do it and I love it.