Friday, 20 December 2019

Art of 2019

Following in the footsteps of the previous year--where I set the goal to do more art in 2019 and rambled for several paragraphs about art I'd created--this is a blog post where I ramble further, surprising no one.

Saint Genevieve

You're no saint, you're no saviour.
The first new piece of 2019 pretty much sums up the struggles I faced throughout 2019. It started with my line work, and while the initial sketch was quite inspired, and I was quite happy with it, it took a lot of work to clean it up. It felt like I was fighting with my tablet the whole time, and no matter how many times I redrew lines my precision never really seemed to improve. It took a lot of hours to clean the whole thing up, and that lead into a whole host of other issues.

My art style has always leaned heavily toward stylistic, cartoony, and cel-shaded, but mostly out of laziness / inexperience with rendering and digital painting. I really wanted to improve that this year, starting with this piece and I had grand designs for the lighting and shading, some of which you can see in the face area.
Problem was that once I got down base colours and some simple shadow shapes I kind of didn't know how to proceed toward the next step, and it caused me a lot of frustration here. Eventually I spent so many hours struggling at every stage and had spent so long working on it that I kind of hated everything about it by that point, and so I had to put it down. I tried coming back to it, but honestly when I look at it now there are so many problems it would just be easier to start from scratch.

Not really finishing things is another theme of 2019.


I drew this piece to mark the birthday of one of my oldest OC's. Straight away it's pretty obvious this piece is on-theme with "not finished, but finished enough" with the lack of colour, and the remnants of the base sketch left underneath. It's something I need to stop doing, it's a lack of confidence in my line work and volumes.
Still, it was a fun and quick piece that was never meant to be much more.

Not Like Other Necro's

My best pieces are always inspired by a really solid vision in my head, and this is one of them. Even though there's a lot of problems I can still look at this one and feel good about what I did. Inspired by the "Not Like Other Girls" meme, and the absurdly pink outfit that I dressed my Guild Wars 2 necromancer in. It was the top post on r/guildwars2 for two days so that's my only real claim to fame in 2019 I guess.

Not many people got the joke.

While the image still leans heavily on cel-shading elements, there's some evidence of rendering peeking into this one. I did, however, learn some valuable lessons about layer masks while working on this one.

Finally some rendering

I put these two pieces together even though they were done at different times because they were similar experiments with rendering / digital painting. The elf princess was a mess that I painted over continuously for weeks and I learned a lot about using my tools in photoshop to paint. It also demonstrates my on-going issue with values and volume. The one on the right was a much quicker piece, based on my Sylvari Chronomancer from Guild Wars 2. I had a lot of fun painting the facial features of this one, and discovered that painting with a different colour pallet is actually easier for me than painting with human skin tones.

Both, however, suffered from the same major stumbling block that ended a lot of my artwork this year prematurely. Rendering hair fucking sucks and I don't know how to do it. The same issue is evident in the previous Necromancer artwork.

Guns of Liberty Character Bios
Not labeled chronologically.
1. John Chamberlain. 2. Archbishop Darcius. 3. Rachel Masters. 4. Lalita Laffel. 5. Genevieve Jones.

These pieces were created over the space of 2 months, with the first (Rachel) started in April before the Waddoff piece, and the last (Darcius) at the end of June. I lumped them altogether since they were all created for the release of my debut novel, Guns of Liberty (shameless self promotion).

The first, Rachel (3) shows many of the classic markings of my laziness. Cartoony proportions, simple shading, and a sketchy underlayer. But it was also the beginning of my rendering attempts, a lot of which is evident here. I played with a lot of layer masks for lighting effects. The expression makes it still one of my favourite pieces of the year.

Rachel was followed by Genevieve (5) and here I really started getting a better idea of what I was doing. I relied a lot less on the liberal use of layer masks for this one. It was also the first face that the Liquify tool's face-aware feature recognized something I've done as being a face, which felt pretty validating. Working with Gin's skin tone was a challenge that I enjoyed.

The final three were done in a more rushed state due to the rapidly approaching deadline of my book release, so I fell back on some of my lazy techniques of unfinished lines, liberal layer masks, and cel shading. I would have loved to spent more time rendering out Lalita's (4) sassy expression. But I'm reasonably happy with that forehead shine on Darcius (2). Chamberlain (1) was the weakest of the bunch by far, and seriously needed more work but I'd procrastinated hard that week.

Punk Girl

A random inspired drawing that didn't really go anywhere. I needed to break into a different aesthetic from the other art I had been doing, by the time I got it to this stage however the numerous anatomy issues and bad line work made it difficult to continue. I think I fell back into bad habits with this piece and it didn't feel like a progression. It had potential but just ended up like one of my generic doodles.

Casual Elf

This piece came after a lot of study and watching excessive tutorials online and I think it shows. This piece is still massively unfinished due to my old friend and roadblock, rendering fucking hair. I really tried, but I just couldn't get it, which eventually led to frustration and demotivation. Hair is a serious mental road block for me that I couldn't envision how to progress.

I also struggled significantly with marrying values with colour. My lack of painting experience and knowledge was seriously biting me in the ass at this point in the year.

I had a lot of fun with this piece, D&D casual wear was the basic idea. There are others bouncing around my head that I'd like to get to work on one day.

Paint Studies

The last quarter of the year started with mostly paint studies and style expression/experimentation. I picked some of the highlights to show above. I didn't do much with figures at this point, and mostly practiced painting faces and face parts in bulk. I found working in red a real relief on the eyes that helped me look at things differently--however it seems to result in weaker grey scale values overall so it's not something I use outside of experimental studies at the moment.

Highland Maiden

Started as a sketch out of a really silly and exaggerated pose and slowly evolved into something pretty cool in the end. It remains pretty rough and finished because once again: fuck hair rendering and its ability to suck the joy out of my pieces. I spent quite a lot of time working on and refining this piece, and there were some hilariously bad phases with the face.

Including this magnificent abomination

Good lord.

This is a character I definitely want to come back to and finish at some point. But she has pretty complicated hair and I have much to learn about hair in general.

Lighting Practice

It's not nudity if it's a study!

This one again started with an exaggerated pose from figure drawing, but ended up turning into a practice of lighting planes rather than a character like the previous. Overall I liked how it turned out, but I definitely could have spent more time refining it and making it into something instead of leaving it unfinished. But that's the theme of the year.

After this point, I received a commission to do some environmental artwork for an advert, and also began doing storyboards for a short comic set after the first book in my brand new series! (more shameless self-promotion) both of which I'm unable to show art from at this point in time, so that concludes my 2019 in art.

In the middle of November my Intuos broke down, and I replaced it with a Huion tablet, and while I haven't made any new art to show off yet, I have been having a lot of fun using it and can't wait to get back into art for 2020!

Overall I'd say I succeeded in my goal for 2019, which was the very low bar of "do more art".

My goals for 2020 are to work harder on two things: Character Concept Art, and Environmental Concept Art. This means I'll have a focus on fixing one of my biggest issues of never finishing my art to a presentable state. By the end of 2020 I aim to have a presentable portfolio that doesn't just consist of studies and half-baked characters.

Here's to a new year of art.

Thursday, 27 June 2019

Guns of Liberty - Character Dossier: Archbishop Darcius

Archbishop Darcius has been the head of Albany's holy church of Talon for as long as anyone can remember, and has been old for even longer. He calls the grand cathedral of Sanctus his home, and as the patron of faith and culture in Liberty's most distant colony he is a man of widespread power and influence. And with it he seeks to maintain peace and order within his realm, no matter the cost.

On July the 2nd join Archbishop Darcius in Guns of Liberty when his well maintained plans are shaken...

Or Pre-Order now on Amazon!

Wednesday, 19 June 2019

Guns of Liberty - Character Dossier: John Chamberlain

     Commodore Chamberlain comes from a distinguished naval background, having served in the Liberty Navy for half of his years and has seen combat of three fronts against the armies of Barons, pirates, and smugglers. A competent seaman, but overlooked by his superiors due to his stringent nature, he made Post after ten years of service. Due to his Austriman heritage, and the large outspoken support of Albany's denizens, Chamberlain was soon promoted to Commodore of Albany's reserve fleet, and stationed in the city close to his soon-to-be-wed fiance, the Duchess of Albany. Chamberlain is an ambitious and patriotic man, and seeks to rebuild the power and influence of Albany so that it might one day even rival Liberty.

On July the 2nd join Commodore Chamberlain in Guns of Liberty as he hunts the pirate who stole his fiance...

Or Pre-Order now on Amazon!

Wednesday, 12 June 2019

Guns of Liberty - Character Dossier: Lalita Laffel

     The Duchess of Albany governs one of the most distant, and one of the most important colonies in the Liberty Empire. Lalita was schooled from birth to lead, and was given her titles at a young age. She quickly proved a competent politician, and is much adored by the people of Albany, commoners and nobles alike. Between her appointments in Liberty and the politics at home, Lalita has already led an eventful life as a Duchess. After a lengthy engagement to the head of the Albany fleet, Commodore John Chamberlain, the Duchess at long last will sail home for her long awaited wedding.

On July the 2nd join Lalita Laffel in Guns of Liberty as she meets the pirate who will shake the foundations of her world... but can she keep her duchy from falling apart?

Or Pre-Order now on Amazon!

Wednesday, 5 June 2019

Guns of Liberty - Character Dossier: Genevieve Jones

     The daughter of unremarkable Samarkese immigrants, Genevieve was born and raised in Liberty. Little is known about her family life, only that her father served in the Liberty Navy and died in defense of his country. Genevieve too would join the Navy serving aboard [Redacted]. Her career was notable for her achievements, but [Redacted]. Thereafter she passed into the employment of [Redacted] and continued to operate as part of the [Redacted] until [Redacted].


Genevieve is currently employed by the pirate organization, the Liberty Renegades, and is the master of the 12 gun gunship, Heart of Gold. Sightings of the gunship have been sporadic throughout the previous year, and her intentions remain unknown...

On July the 2nd join Genevieve Jones in Guns of Liberty as she makes her grand appearance... and gets more than she bargained for.

Or Pre-Order now on Amazon!

Tuesday, 28 May 2019

Guns of Liberty - Character Dossier: Rachel Masters

     Daughter of a renowned captain of the Liberty Navy, and a vacillating first-lieutenant, Rachel has always had something to prove to the world. But never in the way her navy family would have expected. As a child she led a street gang of other military children known as the Liberty Angels, and winded up getting shipped off to boarding school. At the age of thirteen Rachel escaped to join a navy airship, and made midshipman by sixteen. However, she often found herself at odds with her officers. As a young adult insubordination and dueling stifled her career advancement, and after the incidents at [Redacted] Rachel was court-martialled, and discharged from the Liberty Navy. Her indefatigable zeal was noted by the Admiral, William Halie, who sheltered the dishonoured Rachel and convinced her to join the church's holy inquisition. Admiral Halie earned Rachel's respect, and gave her new purpose. She still has something to prove to the world, and now with the authority of an inquisitor at her disposal Rachel isn't afraid to trample a few toes to get what she wants...

On July the 2nd join Rachel Masters in Guns of Liberty as she faces her greatest challenge yet... the elusive pirate captain, Genevieve Jones.

Or Pre-Order now on Amazon!

Monday, 8 April 2019

Guns of Liberty: Pre-Orders Available Now!

"First rule of piracy: be in the wrong place at the right time."

Guns of Liberty is available for purchase in Paperback and Kindle from 2nd of July 2019!

Guns of Liberty is an age of sail fantasy where Airships rule the skies, Pirates stalk the misty main, and Occultists dabble in profane magics left behind by dispossessed gods. Join Rachel Masters, Inquisitor of the Liberty Empire, as she sets sail to discover the source of ancient magic artifact that could bring war to the empire, and secure it before it can fall into the wrong hands. But she's not the only one looking for the artifact... and when the elusive pirate captain Genevieve Jones kidnaps a duchess, Rachel might have just met her match. If she's going to rescue the duchess, secure the artifact, and save the empire she'll need to put aside her prejudices and find unlikely allies...
Fans of pirates, magic, and naval action will love this high-flying, swashbuckling adventure with a fresh twist of Napoleonic-age-of-sail inspired fantasy!

Cheers, Jamie.

Saturday, 5 January 2019

A Year of Art in 2018

One of my goals for 2019 is to create more art. It's a skill set I'm still paying off loans for and not really getting any return on right now. I like to draw, but I haven't gotten into a very good routine for producing artwork since leaving school. So, my first goal for this year is to take a look at what (little) artwork I did create in 2018, and do some self-critique and analysis, and give myself some direction on where I want to go.

Without further rambling, here's some art.

Wandering Dryad 2
This is sort of cheating. This piece, I began working on towards the end of 2017. But the bulk of the work was done at the start of 2018, and this piece has many of the issues I want to go over. So, this will probably be the longest and most rambling part of the post. I liked this piece. The silhouette is a bit weak, but overall I liked the pose and the expression she wore, especially in the earlier rough versions. This is a very typical example of my typical work. Rough around the edges figures and scratching construction that seek to capture the essence or feeling of the piece I'm going for. But that is typically where the fun stops for me.

This is an example of what happens when I attempt to render my rough drawings. Overall, this is probably one of my better attempts, but there is a lot gone wrong here, and they're the sum of all my faults. That I know of.

One of the major things that has always plagued me since my baby days in Animation School is line work. Specifically, clean-up. There's a bit of a side-tangent story in there, but the sum of it is that I'm a very scratchy drawer, you can see it in my rough construction work above. My strokes are short and sharp, and often the shape and volume of a thing is suggested, rather than told, by this mess. When it comes to cleaning up those lines into something salvageable I often come to a difficulty where I need to tell those forms, rather than suggest them--and too often I simply cannot find the line amongst the mess that does this.
Evidence of this is most plain when comparing the shapes and volumes of the hands and face, and especially in the left elbow. Some of it is worsened by my poor attempts at rendering the volumes. Part of the cause, I believe, is that I still struggle with drawing on a tablet in a few ways, which limits my ability to draw smooth and accurate lines. Part of it is a lack of practice, I'm sure, but it's a source of endless frustration to me that I cannot draw a line exactly where I mean it and have that line be straight. I can produce smooth strokes by drawing them quickly, but they are rarely accurate, or I can draw accurate lines that are rarely smooth and suffer from minute jiggling. I'm always hesitant to blame my tools--certainly other artists have made greater works with lesser tools than I have access to. But I cannot help but feel as though I'm fighting with my hardware and software whenever I attempt linework.
The solution seems simple, I probably just need to use my tablet more. It's difficult to tell what practice is useful, and whether or not it is the best way to improve.

This also delves into the second major fault in my artwork, which is rendering. It's sort of become a trap for me. I feel terrible at my attempts to clean-up linework, and so I do it less. Less clean line work means less practice rendering.
There's a lot to unpack with where my rendering goes wrong, but it comes down to the same basics I believe, and that's not really having a firm grasp on the form and volumes I'm working with. Overly I'm not too concerned with this one right now. I feel it will come more naturally after I address the more fundamental issues underlying it. The face is a good example, poor expression of the volumes in the face mean the rendering is kind of haphazard.
The last effort I put into this piece was to redo the hair in a different style. I struggle a lot with rendering hair, so I took a different approach to thinking about it with this edit, trying to think about the flow and direction. My previous attempts came out looking more like I was trying to render a solid object. Aesthetically, I find this style of hair less pleasing. I enjoy the wilder nature of the original suits the piece more, but there was definitely some value in making this change.

There's a lot more I could say about this piece, but I still have other artwork to get through.

Gay Vampire

This was kind of a spur of the moment piece. The inspiration came from a tweet on my feed while I was browsing on my lunch break, and spent the rest of the day thinking about until I had to actualize it in the form of a comic.
This piece defined the direction of a lot of my artwork for the rest of the year. It's very reminiscent of my style in high-school, in a way. It's sort of what I default to when I'm not really trying to draw something. When I look at this piece I often get a weird feeling, almost like a sense of deja-vu, like I've seen this artwork before. Happens occasionally, and I wonder if its because I managed to fairly accurately translate what I saw in my head onto the page, or if I subconsciously mimicked something I've seen before. Who knows. I'm sure there's a lot of mixed subconscious inspiration in there, but I haven't been able to untangle it.
It's also another look into my struggles with line art. I'm bolder with my strokes here, but not confident enough with them that I think they can describe the volume on their own without the underlying construction being visible beneath. This is something I do a lot, I'll "clean-up" a drawing and then leave the construction beneath it with a bit of opacity to help the volumes. With mixed results, as the next piece reveals.

Baron Yara

This is my least favourite piece this year. At its conception, I had been writing a lot of backstory and defining this character for my upcoming series, and was loving this character. I felt inspired to do art of her. There's a certain sense I feel when I know I can make an image in my head into a serviceable piece of art, and I had really good feelings about this one. So good that, when I reached this stage of the artwork, I posted it on twitter.
Then the next day I felt extremely discouraged looking at it. I noticed all the flaws present, and like a dog with its tail caught between its legs I quietly deleted the tweet and tucked it away. I think this picture kind of represents a low for me and my feelings on my current approach to drawing. As I foretold above, I left in the construction to try and maintain volume in the forms when my non-committal lineart couldn't pull its weight. But the overlay of colour only serves to further flatten the image, something I'm not sure I could render out to be serviceable. Maybe with a lot of effort, but I felt too discouraged to continue with this piece.

Paint Girl

That's what the filename is called. Don't judge me. This piece came almost 5 months after the previous--a rather long slump for me. I'd started watching some art videos on youtube and felt inspired to pick up the tablet pen again--only I didn't really know what I wanted to draw. When I don't know what to draw I tend to revert to gesture drawing, and I tend to favour flowing poses, which rather quickly evolved into this. In the process of making this, I had a sort of revelation about my approach to art. It made some of the logic I'd gleaned from youtube click in my head. I can't seem to find the video link any more to share, but it examined analytical versus intuitive drawing techniques.
I realized that I am a very analytical artist. I think a lot about anatomy and structure when I draw, and do a lot of scratchy construction to visualize it. This piece, however, was almost entirely intuitive, the opposite of how I usually draw. There was very minimal construction involved and focused more on the feeling and essence of the piece--the same way I typically think about my gesture drawings.
There's also a blog post in the works that talks about what I gleaned from this revelation, and how it relates to my writing art as well as my drawing art.

Spoilers in the filename

This piece came a couple days after Paint Girl. I'm in the process of redoing it as part of a planned blog post, so I'm masking the filename for now just in case I never get around to posting it. Then I can deny it ever happened! Anyway, it was disheartening to see how quickly I fell back into my old chicken-scratch habits of drawing. I'd set out to replicate the process I used in the previous piece, only to end up back where I began--still unable to properly define my forms with simple lines.

Cap Slayer

This was a tribute to my wonderful editor who slogged through my manuscript for Guns of Liberty, fixing all my rampant misuse of capital letters. I sought to emulate the "high-school-not-trying" style I'd achieved in Gay Vampire earlier in the year. It's a style I've come to embrace, and enjoy, a lot more, rather than thinking of it as something I just do when I'm not trying. It's right on the precipice of "trying to look like I'm not trying", which is the direction my art went in the following month.

NaNoWriMo Blog Art

I did quite a bit of art for my NaNoWriMo blog experiment. I knew I wanted to integrate my drawing into my blogging, as a way to build both habits at once--but I also knew I didn't have the time to draw good art. The solution? Try to look like I'm not trying. I felt it also fit with the not-so-serious tone I wanted to take with the blog posts themselves. In this section, I wanted to include just two of the pieces I made for that project.
This one is interesting because it's kind of a combination of my scratchy style and my not-trying style. It's borderlining between the two.

And then there's this gem, which I love. It's the opposite, sitting directly in the trying-to-look-like-I'm-not-trying category. I think this took me roughly 5 minutes to draw, which is very expedient for me.

Overall the month of November really helped me define what I wanted the identity of my style to be. I like this cartoonish and silly style a lot--but it's use will probably remain limited to blog posts or other not-so-serious stuff.
On the other hand, my more "serious" style has a bit of an identity crisis to work out. On one hand, I really want to pursue a more painterly direction and learn to properly render stuff. You can sort of see it in my few vain rendering attempts this year. But at the same time, my lines and my style beg to be more cartoonishly rendered, which is a style I've experimented with before also. Both have an attraction to me, but it feels like both are at opposite ends pulling at me. But they also share a common weakness--I struggle to transform my scratchy construction into a painterly style with minimal artwork just as much as I struggle to transform it into clean linework. In both situations the solution must lie in improving my forms, and improving my tablet co-ordination.

Thanks for withstanding my ramblings. Here's to 2019 and more artwork to come.

Lastly, here's a glimpse of my first WIP for 2019!
I think she needs the bathroom.