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.