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.