Since I got really bored with doing photo studies, I decided to do some painting from life to change things up.
Well, I kind of went a bit too ambitious with my first still life painting in a very long time. The last still life I did was back in December (and it's actually in the first art journal entry if you go to the very bottom of this page). I typically do a drawing of a still life just to study the values, but for this one I was focusing on colours, which is something I don't do very often.
I went for two light sources: a very cool blue on the right side, and a warm orange light on the left. For some reason, I thought that it wouldn't be too difficult as I'm used to doing studies, which prompted this rather odd still life setup, but it was more difficult than I had anticipated. Of course, I completely forgot that painting from life is actually a bit different than painting from a photograph, so I got a good dose of reality after finishing this painting.
What didn't occur to me until after I finished is just how different my painting is from the photo of the setup. The photograph looks nothing like how I see it in reality. In fact, this is probably the first time I can confidently say that my painting is actually more accurate to real life than the photograph.
The photograph made the colours look much cooler for some reason, so the warm light to the left looks nearly white which is not even close to the colour in real life. Not to mention how it made everything in the blue light nearly impossible to see. The camera quality probably plays a factor in this, but I think all cameras have this problem of just being unable to capture how vibrant reality is. That's probably why post-processing photos is a thing, and even that won't cover for everything.
Rendering the hat to the left really messed with my head. It's a light blue hat in a warm orange light, so what colour do I have to use to paint it in? That's right, ladies and gentlemen: desaturated yellow out of all things.
Coming from a non-artist's perspective, that sounds completely counterintuitive, and it really is. Colour as a whole is weird since colours read relative to each other. As an example, having a pure grey next to orange makes the grey have a slight tint of blue. And that really goes for all neutral tones: a grey will be tinted with the complementary of the colour it's placed next to. In the case of the hat, the yellow was desaturated enough so that it would take on a slightly cooler tint since it's surrounded by a lot of orange.
This was something that I had noticed when doing some master studies. They use a lot of greys with varying tints, but because they're next to more defined colours they start harmonizing to make some cool effects. It's super neat, but at the same time it's another aspect of colour theory that needs to be taken account for when painting, which is an absolute yikes.
Since my observational skills have kind of stagnated, I actually have to start drawing and painting things from real life now to start improving my eyes. It's something that I've been really stubborn about and neglected for a really long time. People always say "draw from life if you want to improve", and honestly I never understood why for the longest time. Why not use photos? They're convenient, and I don't have to go outside and get gawked at by strangers.
It felt like drawing from life and photos were interchangeable, but now I realize they're definitely not. In this case I realized that photos don't capture colours well at all, but the same goes for portraying a sense of depth. Translating from life to drawing definitely feels different than translating from photos to drawing, even if you use the same process for construction.
From what I see so far, if your observational skills have stagnated, drawing from life is probably the best way to improve that. And for me right now, I think it's probably the only way to improve it, since my eyes are essentially capped by the quality of the camera, and that's not good at all.
I mean, it's not to say that "photos bad, life good" or something stupid like that. I remember Nicolaides in his book "The Natural Way to Draw" insisted that the reader should draw from a model. Like mate, it's such a big hassle to go to a studio just to draw from a live model whenever I want to draw a person, and even then this pandemic isn't going to let me go anywhere. That's a bit overkill, to be honest.
Photos are great if seeing a subject in real life is quite difficult (animals, portraits, etc.). They're also good for referencing in general, but drawing from life makes for some more better studies, especially colour studies, from what I've seen.
I've recently made an exercise to train myself to construct from memory, while also expanding my visual library with a whole assortment of stuff.
I say I "made" this exercise, but I'm pretty sure people have done this a lot before. However, I haven't seen it being done anywhere, nor talked about, so I might as well write about it in more detail.
The exercise essentially revolves around changing the "camera angle" of a reference image to another angle, and then reconstructing it from that new angle.
I made a small demo drawing below and that'll probably explain everything:
I think the main reason why I started doing this a lot is because I want to expand my visual library in a way that doesn't involve rotely drawing from reference over and over. I find that incredibly boring, and really what I've found is that making a copy of a reference just made me really good at transposing a 2D image to another 2D medium, but it's not improving my ability to construct things from memory.
Just shifting the camera angle a little bit makes drawing from the reference a completely different process. I essentially have to reconstruct the reference out of primitive shapes because I can't rely on the reference to determine how the perspective should behave. The thinking process required is like having 3D software in your head and then moving the camera around to see the object in many different angles through your mind's eye.
I can think of some benefits of doing this exercise off the top of my head. One is that you're training a different skillset when doing this exercise (construction vs. observation), and another is that essentially any reference is under your control. As an example, if there's a pose reference that is perfect but the camera angle is not what you want, then you can reproduce the pose in the angle that you want by reconstructing it, while still being able to use the reference. One last benefit is that it really cements the reference that you're working with deep into your brain since you have to visualize it so strongly, thus expanding your visual library.
I think this helps with bridging the gap between drawing from observation and drawing from memory. It doesn't throw you immediately into the deep end by forcing you to construct straight from your visual library, but it challenges you to not rely completely on observation to make the picture and to construct it from the ground up instead.
The good thing also is that the difficulty of this exercise can be adjusted to fit your needs. I laid out a rather primitive roadmap below on how to possibly ramp up the difficulty, with the main things that each level is working on:
I did a little bit of Level 2 drawing in my sketchbook, which you can see below:
The references that I used were rather simple and boring, so it gave me a bit of creative liberties to make it more dynamic and possibly stretch the perspective if I want to. Small changes in the camera angle are not too bad, but if I really wanted to challenge myself I would make the angle as different as possible from my reference to work my constructionist muscles.
While most of my examples are automobiles and tanks, it can be done with practically anything. I found that these were the easiest subjects to start with since they're basically a combination of primitive shapes, but you could do it with hands, figures, environments, whatever. Typically, the more organic the forms the harder it gets, but it becomes a matter of deconstructing those complex forms into primitive volumes.
This is all done in the hope of training my intuitive perspective, which is basically just eyeing everything and drawing it. The complete opposite approach is like how Scott Robertson approaches it in his book How To Draw, which uses a lot of straight edges, mirroring, and depth measuring techniques. While that method makes for some crazy accurate work, it looks super rigid and lifeless. The techniques are pretty useful for analysis and correction, but not so much for making illustrations from my experience.
One last thing I wanted to add that stuck with me is what Kim Jung Gi said in one of his interviews: "I improved really fast once I had understood the shape of the cube". And after nearly completing my magical girl transformation of turning into a box last entry, I'm beginning to see his point.
Anyway, hope this helps more of the intermediate plebs like me who have a hard time finding tutorials/exercises for my skill level. I don't think it'll help beginners since it relies so much on perspective beforehand, but I believe it's a good exercise to implement when you get up there in skill.
I basically spent the weekend doing the most exhilarating activity imaginable as an artist. What activity, you may ask?
It was drawing boxes. Hundreds of them. "Spain but the 'S' is silent" is a good way to describe it.
For some context, Drawabox has an infamous challenge where you draw 250 boxes freehand with proper perspective. Seems simple enough, but simple doesn't mean easy. In fact, I think the challenge alone has the highest student mortality rate out of anything that I've seen in an art course so far.
Mind you, they tell you to do the box challenge at the end of lesson 1. Lesson 1 already had a pretty big learning curve by the end, and then you get dunked on by this challenge. It's no wonder why a lot of beginners drop off the map before lesson 2. Heck, I don't consider myself as a beginner and it's still a bit of a struggle.
It's quite funny because I actually tried this challenge back in 2018. I created 60 terrible boxes (while also failing to follow the instructions) and then gave up. Around the end of January I decided to start over and to do it properly this time, and it took me up until now to finish it. Of course, I'm doing it at my own pace, but that's still quite a long time.
I had decided on Sunday to redo the box lesson before finishing off the challenge, and... it wasn't my best idea, to say the least. I drew 159 boxes just to finish the assigned homework off, and then I had to draw an additional 69 boxes to finish the actual challenge (I was at box #181 at the start of the weekend). I was going to stop at around box #220 or so but I was so desperate to just complete the dang challenge that I just pushed through to finish it by midnight. Doing all of this took like 10-12 hours. With breaks, of course.
So yeah, after I finished the challenge, everything just started to look like boxes. I considered whether or not I was a box at one point. I think I even heard the boxes speak to me...
But in all seriousness, it really helped a lot with getting super familiar with perspective. It's one of those challenges which you regret starting, but at the end you get a lot of confidence in perspective that will help improve the rest of your work. Now I can finally move on to, you know, the rest of the course. Onto lesson 2!
... out of 6. Argh.
Anyway, with more serendipitous news, I managed to snag one of these bad boys:
It probably doesn't look familiar to the majority of people, but it's Kim Jung Gi's 2013 sketch collection. It's known because of well, Kim Jung Gi, and another but less attractive reason: the books themselves are ridiculously expensive.
I only really shelled out for one because I got extremely lucky and a second-hand bookstore was selling it for like $50-60 less than the price brand new, which was crazy. And it was in very good condition. Granted, I still had to pay a little over a hundred dollars with shipping, but that's because the Canadian dollar is quite weak already. Regardless, it's something that I don't regret buying at all.
That really sums it all up: drew boxes to the point where I got indoctrinated into some sort of box cult, and got really lucky and got an expensive book for a not-so large yet still kind of large price. Now that was a mouthful.
The idea of using "big simple shapes" in painting has been something that I've been hearing for quite a while now, mainly from Sinix who talks about it in some of his videos, including his playlist on design theory and digital painting for beginners. It also got brought up recently when another artist tried using HEAVYPAINT and had to adapt to its very unorthodox tools.
It's something that I've never given much thought. Every time it was brought up I was thinking in my head "yeah, yeah, we get it old man."
Well, much to the surprise of absolutely no one: I actually didn't get it. And I didn't even realize that I didn't get it up until I tried doing a full study of one of Rembrandt's paintings and got completely obliterated in the process.
I basically noodled around for more than an hour trying to figure out how in the world to even approach such a monumental task of replicating a master's painting, and then it hit me: deconstruct all of the values down into simple shapes, and then blend them all in and add the details later. After figuring that out, I managed to finish the study in just under 5 hours. The result wasn't completely accurate, but the amount that I learned from just that one master study was astounding.
It all finally made sense. In fact, that type of process is exactly what you do when using watercolour: block in shapes of value and work your way up to the darkest value. The only catch with watercolour is that you have to work from light to dark, whereas painting with anything else can be done in whatever order, but the blocking of values through big shapes still applies.
It's this idea of layering, where you start with big shapes first and then you work your way up to the details by defining smaller and smaller shapes living within said bigger shapes. It's actually how I do my sketches purely in ballpoint pen: I define a huge shape for an area in my reference and then render within those big shapes, but it only just clicked recently with regards to painting.
Having this newly found process, I took it on a test drive by making the painting that started this entry, and I'm really happy with the result. And the great part is that it actually didn't even take as long as my previous paintings (only taking around 3 hours before it was at a presentable state), and the process was a lot more solid than my older paintings.
I actually went back to my roots and used only a textured opaque square brush, which is the brush I primarily used in 2017 and 2018 when I was fairly new to digital art. It forced me to keep it simple and to forego any sort of other fancy brushes. I'll probably stick to this particular brush for now, as I like the look that I managed to achieve with it.
This is a good example of why head knowledge isn't everything. I have to apply it to something, and sometimes even challenge said knowledge before I finally realize why it works. More often than not in drawing, understanding is through doing, rather than merely just knowing about it in a factual manner.
I recently found out that there was a social platform for artists that's in development called Artfol.
Now, with some awful experiences under my belt from other art platforms already, including IG and Amino, I was hesitant to the idea of starting an account on another art platform, but I decided to check it out. The worst thing that could possibly happen is that I delete my account and forget about it, so I have practically nothing to lose.
From what I've seen, it doesn't look too bad, actually. The main gripe I have right now is that the app is quite slow (but not as slow as some people exaggerate it to be), and it's only available on mobile devices as of writing this, but that's probably expected as it seems to have only recently left the open beta stage.
The primary demographic seems to be only artists, so practically the entire userbase are artists. I mean, it's nice that I'm not coaxed into turning it into a place where I have to grow my "brand" or whatever corporate schnitzel people go on about these days, because there's really no one to market to. It's mainly a place for artists to socialize, which is a nice change of pace for once. Better than entering the blood bath that is Instagram. Also the posts are all laid out in chronological order which is already a nice plus.
There are still "followers" and "likes", but they are actually quite well hidden from users. I didn't even know how to check the likes for posts until I clicked around for a bit. And really, they don't bother me as much anymore as they used to; having a site on Neocities kind of desensitized me from those sorts of things.
Honestly, having this site gives me very little incentive to post on there. I'll probably forget that I even have an account on there at some point since the website is so much more flexible, but we'll see. It'll probably just serve as a place to direct people to my site, as its primary focus is sharing artwork, and that only covers like 1/3 of the stuff I have on my website. There is a feature where you can have text-only posts, which is nice I suppose, but I won't be posting 3000-word landfills on there at any point I don't think.
I guess I'll just float around there like a ghost for a little bit and see what happens, and post my more recent pieces from April. There is this weird thing where you can see my profile on a desktop computer, but there's literally nothing on it. Looks like it's still in development. But really, whatever you'll see on there is substantially less than what you see on here, so you're in the right place already if you want to see my stuff.
Anyway, we'll see how long I'll stay. If you want to follow me on there, you can, but I probably won't be following people I don't recognize.
There's something that I realized with the process of digital art that kind of encourages bad drawing habits.
I tried doing a bunch of traditional sketches recently just to fill out some pages and I only realized just now that pen not only makes you commit to each line that you make, but to your entire drawing, regardless of the result. If your drawing is terrible, it's going to be very evident and there's no hope in fixing it because the marks are permanent.
The thing with digital art is that you can get into the habit of just correcting your work over and over again. The same can go for easily reversible mediums like pencil. I realized that I can only really make good pieces if I constantly keep hammering away at the same piece of rock over and over again. But sometimes we can be led to believe that the work will "eventually" come out nicely if we just keep chiseling and hoping for the best.
Drawing only in pen forces you to make a good sketch in one go, sort of like how a musician performs a song without stopping when they stumble. If there's a mistake, you simply can't correct it on the spot. It forces you to draw it all over again just to correct yourself. And sometimes there's another error that you'll spot in that redraw, and so you draw it again, and then you spot a different mistake, so you draw it again. The process iterates over multiple drawings, and each and every time you catch new mistakes. Not only are you getting mileage, but the drawings are going to be correct when you draw it on the first try the next time. It essentially reinforces good sketching/drawing habits.
For digital art, however, my process almost always devolves into essentially dumping a huge turd on the canvas and then polishing it to completion. When I watch over my timelapses for my pieces, some of them fall into course-correcting a literal pile of garbage. The gesture of the sketch, or the composition of the piece was doomed right from the beginning, and yet I think that painting technique or brushwork will fix it, or the fancy digital transformation tools will fix it. But a large majority of the time it's basically trying to salvage something that cannot be salvaged, and the best thing to really do at that point is to literally start over, no matter how painful it can be.
Digital art kind of encourages "noodling and hope for the best". It makes us too attached to our initial drawings, no matter how terrible. Contrast that with drawing in pen, which encourages detachment because you cannot correct your mistakes. Drawing in pen also encourages creating drawings that are rock solid, without hoping that some extraneous technique will compensate for a crappy drawing. It's a brutally honest tool, but sometimes that's the fastest way to find and fix bad habits. It has definitely taught me to structure my process in a way that minimizes construction, and to make clean, confident strokes.
I think I need to go back and do more traditional pen drawing. It looks like being consistent in terms of high-quality sketches makes for some higher quality pieces. Is that a rule-of-thumb of sorts? Your polished piece is only as good as your best drawing? So if my drawings look bad, without any sort of polishing or anything, what makes me think that adding all of these toppings will make it better?
It's not like rendering cannot be improved independent of your drawing ability, but the sketch or drawing will certainly cap how far your rendering will actually go to make a decent product. You can certainly get super good at rendering textures and form and all of that stuff, but if the fundamental drawing is lacking, then it's basically polishing a turd.
Ah yes, the most vague piece of advice that is typically given to artists, especially beginners: "just practice".
Well, it isn't really good advice because of how ambiguous it is, and the fact that you can practice incorrectly means that this piece of advice is possibly the most destructive one out of all of them. However, I don't think people throw this out just to intentionally confuse artists; there's probably a bigger reason why this advice gets lobbed around.
I think what happens is that artists often get asked by other people the question "how did you get good at drawing?" Most of the time this is a rhetorical question given as a pseudo-compliment of sorts, but there are times when this question is asked with the expectation to get the "magic pill to success": a shortcut to become great at drawing. So a vain question is met with an equally useless answer: "you just gotta practice, bro."
Look, I sometimes get this question, and 99% of the time it's from people who are not at all interested in art but they just want to say something about my art, and so they get the answer "just practice". It's not because I don't want to help, but it's because a majority of the time they're not receptive because they're not interested in actually drawing. It's really used to prevent the conversation from devolving into an uncalled-for pep talk on how to improve one's art.
I suspect that other artists get the same exact question by the same type of people, and they give this answer just as a way to avoid explaining something that will surely take more than a few minutes. It's exhausting to give advice to someone who's not going to use it. The problem arises when aspiring beginners actually want real advice, and they somehow get lumped together with these people who don't really care, to the detriment of the beginners.
If I were to give advice to someone who was actually receptive, I'd mainly give these five tidbits:
The one thing that practically no one can escape from, even professional artists. I think this one is pretty self explanatory, and it covers a lot of bases for the advice typically given to artists.
If you're bad at X, then actually work on it. Be honest with yourself: it's just as unproductive to say that you're bad at everything than it is to say that you're good at everything. Everyone has their own strengths and weaknesses; pick one of the things you're bad at and work on it.
Important thing to note: make sure that what you need to work on aligns with your art goals, and your tastes. For example, I'm bad at drawing animals, but I don't want to draw animals, so there isn't a point in me working on those. Now if I'm bad at hands and I want to draw people, then that's something that I need to work on.
Weaknesses are something which will severely limit one's work down the road. Imagine an artist who has perfect figure anatomy but their hands look like they've been drawn by a 3 year old. They are going to have to be pretty dang creative to hide both hands in every single figure that they do.
It's better to think of weaknesses not as something super scary and something to work around, but something that will expand the body of work that you'll be able to do if you triumph over them.
Constantly look at work from the artists you admire. And not just a quick glance, but actually analyzing their work. Really take it all in: their technique, their use of colour, composition, everything.
One artist doesn't necessarily have to fulfill practically everything. You may like one artist for their gestures, another artist for their colours, and another for their composition. It may even take a long time just to figure out what thing you even like about a certain artist, so it's best to start doing this early.
And an even better thing to do is actually reference from their work. If they do some sort of technique that you'd like to emulate in one of your pieces, get out one of their pieces to refer to while you're working on your own work. That way you're not just guessing, but actually learning their technique on the spot.
One thing that I have learned the hard way is the fact that fast improvement doesn't matter if you immediately burn out. Trying to rush your way up the mountain is not going to get you to the peak in any way. If anything, you'll die from exhaustion.
Art is something that is going to take a loooong time to get remotely decent at, and an even longer time to master. Learning and knowing how to do it is one thing, but internalizing it and actually doing it is another thing. Some aspects of art are going to take longer to sink in than others, despite the fact that knowledge-wise you know what you need to do.
As an example, I may know what one-point, two-point, and three-point perspective is, but it's going to take me decades to draw anything that I want that fits perfectly in perspective. Art has a huge gap between knowledge and execution, and the same goes for a lot of other fields as well (music, sports, etc.)
I'd recommend investing in making art a more sustainable activity rather than trying to cram as much improvement as possible. The brain isn't going to internalize everything in one go, so there are diminishing returns when you try and learn a lot of things in a short period of time.
An important thing to consider is how dangerous it is to compare yourself with other artists. Comparison is often an unfair judgment because we simply don't have enough information about the other artist to make the comparison even remotely fair. 99% of comparisons are almost always a losing battle.
A solid example would be how people compare how fast a person's progression is with another, but they only compare by the amount of time since they started.
Let's say that someone who has no other commitments except art is able to work on it for 16 hours a day, every day, for a year. That amounts to around 5000+ hours invested in one year. Now imagine a working parent who wants to create art, but they have three children to feed, along with paying off their mortgage. They only have 30 minutes to an hour to draw every day. That only amounts to ~180 to 365 hours invested into art in a single year.
But the thing which people lock onto is the amount of time that has elapsed since they started. "Oh, this person improved so fast in a year, and yet this person progressed so slow. What gives?" Well, what gives is that the length of time is the completely wrong thing to be looking at. The fact that one artist was able to invest practically an order of magnitude more than the other just speaks volumes. This is not the only aspect to consider, but many other things, including education, support, etc.
It's important to understand that everyone has different levels of commitment. For myself, I don't plan on making a career in art so I shouldn't be so uptight about not being as good as professionals who have worked in industry for longer than I have existed. It's simply not even a fair comparison at that point.
Take great care when comparing yourself to other artists, because 99.9% of the time there are factors that you're not taking into account that can change a lot of perceptions towards yourself, and towards them also.
I finally finished all of my final exams so I'm currently trying to regain my bearings. Bleh.
Besides that, I've been trying to combine the recent doodly things that I've been doing with human figures. I think they turned out better than I had expected.
It incorporates this sort of contrast between chaos and structure, and it ties together quite nicely I think. I didn't like the prospect of doodling without any sort of structure involved, so having the human body to sort of "hang" the doodles on is a good match for me.
Doing these sorts of drawings helps me out a lot with rendering with just "ink". It's very much out of my comfort zone to use only an ink brush digitally. Inking traditionally is great, but inking digitally I find to be downright awful, personally. The display tablet helps some but I'm still quite clumsy with it. If I tried doing these types of drawings with a traditional graphics tablet I may just commit seppuku with my stylus.
I honestly have a bad time committing to a single medium, and more often than not it's the drawing part that gets left behind. My drawing is especially not good digitally, because as I said I've always avoided doing it and instead went for a lineless, painterly approach, but at this point I think it's really stunting my development to a substantial degree.
While doing these drawings I realized just how much discipline you really need to render with inks. When you do painting, you can kind of just bombard it with paint and varying brushstrokes and it can still look decent. But with pure ink it's practically all or nothing: either the lines render the form correctly, or it looks like hot garbage.
Like, I was a millimeter off trying to do hatching and the whole thing looked entirely off, so I had to redo it until it looked right. When I'm in the process of drawing the lines it feels so inconsequential, but when I look at the end result it makes a massive impact. It's subtle and yet not subtle at the same time, if that makes sense. It's also a blessing in disguise: the fact that everything can look so off with such small deviations means that you can spot your mistakes easier.
I definitely see how much drawing itself makes such an impact on the work. I can get too caught up with the colours, or the brushes, which while still important to consider, it still isn't as important as the drawing which holds it all together. If I had to pick only one art medium to commit to for the rest of my life, it would probably have to be drawing with a pencil and/or pen.
When I look at the works of strong technical artists, their drawings can practically stand on their own, even if they aren't painted or rendered. Contrast that with myself, where the drawings kind of fall through, and the paintings look rather meh. In fact, I see a lot more artists who are super strong in drawing create better paintings than those who only really stuck with painting. It's because of this that I've been wanting to commit more to drawing and inking instead of painting.
All of this is definitely out of my comfort zone. I'm actually lining stuff now, unlike before where I just skipped the lining stage because it was too painful. I'm actually considering doing flat colours for these drawings, which is something that I'm not known for doing. This is all kind of new to me, but I'm sticking with it.
I mean, what else am I really supposed to be working on? If I'm not outside my comfort zone, I don't even know what I'd be doing. The weaknesses of a person guides their development more than their strengths, I suppose.
I'm currently slogging through final exams so I haven't been drawing too much. I did get some doodles out, as they don't require much thought to make:
I guess it's times like these that I'm glad I put time into trying out different styles, because I found that if I stick to one subject matter for too long then it just gets super stale. It's not to say that I'm at the peak of development in those areas, but you just need a break sometimes, you know?
Like, if I wanted to do something more realistic I could. Or if I wanted to make something more abstract I can do that also. If I were on social media I would feel obligated to post the same sort of thing in "my style", despite the fact that an artist's style can be multi-dimensional. Look at Picasso: the dude started like multiple art movements throughout his lifetime. Nowadays it's becoming more and more rare to see an artist who draws in many different styles.
Well, of course there are artists who only really like making a certain type of subject matter in their style, and no problem with that. It's just that the platforms that artists have to choose from to post their work only really cater to that. For myself, it feels like I have to make multiple art accounts just to hold all of the different types of stuff that I make. An account for realistic work, another for doodles/abstract pieces, and so on and so forth.
I suppose my website in itself is a representation of this disjointed type of creative process. A calm, cutesy website holding artwork that resembles nothing of the sort. I don't really mind it, as I kind of treat my artwork and my site like two separate entities. I certainly won't be bogged down by the arbitrary thematic constraint that my site gives and start only making artwork similar to my site's design. That to me sounds utterly ridiculous and unnecessary.
I would write more right now, but my mind is literally not functioning. I've been sleeping at like 4 AM for the past 3-4 days and my body is going on strike. I should go to sleep.
The return of the comeback is upon us, lads and lasses: the art journal is back, something that probably no one was asking for but I'm bringing it back anyway because it has become an accountability partner more than anything.
I found that I was "doing the art" more when I had this journal around, so I might as well bring it back so that I can share the shenanigans. You know, the good stuff, whatever the heck that means.
Recently I've been doing a lot more drawing instead of painting (and will be doing so for probably a few months), and it's because of something that I had realized with my process which was unbelievably ridiculous as to how topsy-turvy it was.
Essentially, I didn't like drawing original pieces, but I liked drawing studies. Yet I liked painting original pieces but I hated painting studies. And since drawing (I believe) is the backbone of the painting, I had my priorities completely backwards.
The consequence of this is that my ability to draw from memory is very weak, and my painting skill as a whole is very weak (because I don't do enough painting studies to render things well), and thus everything falls apart at a fundamental level when I try to make original pieces.
What a realization that was. Yikes.
So what I'm doing right now is creating original pieces but I can only finish it through drawing. No painting allowed, and preferably with as little references as possible. This way I can work my muscle of constructing things straight from memory/imagination. With painting, I'm focusing primarily on emulating paintings done by "masters". Since the subject has already been decided for me, I just have to make as best of a replica as I can through painting techniques. Construction wouldn't be the focus in this case; all of the attention is placed on practicing painting technique and observing various decisions that the artist made throughout the process.
It is pretty nice to crank out a full original illustration in like 2-3 hours rather than the typical 10-15 hour ordeal that happens when the painting process is involved. I could make like 5 or so original drawings in the time in takes to create one single polished piece. Though it's important to do refined pieces too, I gotta get that mileage, y'all. And where I am now, I especially need to draw more, because my understanding of concepts is good but my hand is still floundering about like a fish out of water.
I'm still doing my usual study routine through drawing with all of this happening, so it's not like I'm foregoing references entirely. I recently bought some books on anatomy so I'm slowly working through those, and it has been quite fun.
So yeah, for the meantime all of my pieces are probably going to be monochromatic drawings while I try to get my painting act together. Whether or not I'll be pushing out more artwork is another question, but there's greater potential for more output since it takes significantly less time to draw something than creating a fully coloured and rendered painting.
Well, I realized something which had more impact than it ought to have had on me, to be honest.
All of this crazy speculation about what was lacking in my art wasn't really my main problem. The main problem, and the literal epiphany that I had, which just sounds entirely stupid and trivial, was this:
I need to draw more.
What a revelation, huh? It's like the most basic thing that could have popped up in my head. Yeah, yeah, get on with the program. Show me where the real juice is at. The theory, the design concepts, the fancy methods, all of the cool stuff. What the heck do you mean "draw more"? That's lame. Or so I thought.
Really, improvement all comes down to this: analysis and mileage. That's it.
Turns out, I'm way ahead in the analysis department. Give me a reference and I can create a decent replica of it. That's easy. Heck, I've started doing it in colour and it's actually coming out decent. Doing studies this way is easy, but man is it boring. Oh so boring. Boring and slow is what it is, for me personally.
What isn't easy for me is drawing from memory. Oh my goodness I'm so bad at it, it's unbelievable. It's gotten marginally better over the years, but it was always my weak point. The moment the reference was taken away from me, I would fall apart. And this resulted in not being able to draw anything freehand very well.
With all of this came that epiphany: since I already know how to analyze, all I need to do now is draw so much that the results of my analysis gets deeply ingrained into my brain. That's it. What in the world was I flopping around like a fish for?
As a result of this, I've been focusing much more on quantity and fundamentals as opposed to finished products. I shouldn't sacrifice quality, but with this I also had to figure out how much detail is too much detail. I want to get my mileage in, and that's by focusing on the building blocks.
Since I found that my style was something I wasn't happy with, I decided to collect a lot of pieces from artists whose style I really want to emulate, and just start drawing their pieces, namely the head and the face in this particular case.
But instead of rote copying from reference over and over again, I decided to change it up a bit. I would analyze the piece for a little bit, then I took away the reference and my goal was to create a perfect replica from memory. After I finished the first drawing, I would bring the reference back up again, mark all of my mistakes and deviations, and then again, I would turn off the reference and draw only from memory, with my old drawing and notes as the only guide. I would do this for as many times as I want, but at least more than 3 times. It was definitely very slow at first, but after even the 3rd iteration I was getting a lot faster, and a lot more consistent.
This exercise forces me to remember key points of the reference and work my way from there, as opposed to just blindly copying a reference and calling it a day. Not only that, but it removes the tedium of just copying from reference over and over again. It basically turns it into a game, and it's actually a lot of fun when you get into it.
Funnily enough, this is literally what iterative drawing is. Those who read the article Be wary of what other artists teach know that I lambasted Sycra for this idea of iterative drawing being the fastest way to improve, even though I believed it wasn't. Well, guess what? I was wrong, I admit it. I did this iterative drawing exercise for like 3 hours and I instantly saw improvement. I couldn't believe it.
See, there was a tiny problem with Sycra's method that caused me to stumble: his version of iterative drawing was without reference. His version was pure analysis on your own drawings, and experimenting. I did that particular method for a few months with no success, because I didn't even know what looked good to replicate, let alone draw. But now with references, I at least have some model to follow, while still strengthening my visual memory and getting my mileage up. Because that's my main problem: mileage.
I just haven't drawn enough, case in point. I've only finished 4 sketchbooks and filled around 100+ sheets of printer paper (as you may have seen in the newly implemented "artist stats" in the front of the art page), and that's not a lot at all. It's like around 550 filled sheets of paper in total, and it's simply not enough. In all honesty, it's a laughable amount for me, given my level of analysis, but hey, it's all a learning experience.
So yeah, that was my revelation. It's often the seemingly trivial ideas which go undetected that come back in full force, huh?
Hmm... I'm kind of lost. Yeah.
Like, I'm looking at the style of my current work, and I have no clue where it's going. It feels all over the place, and yet it still looks consistent? I'm sure that other people looking at my work can see some very defining characteristics that show that I made it, but as the artist in question I'm entirely blind to it. I just feel very scattered.
It's kind of like getting a random pack of seeds from the nursery and not knowing what in the world is going to come out. Same thing with my art, and my style: I don't know where it's heading. Not like I'm dictating it where to go, but as I create my own work it kind of just manifests itself. And it's confusing me, because my brain is having a mind of its own.
I have a small group of favourite artists that I look up to, but I don't know whether I should take a specific thing from each and every one's style and try applying it to my art, or should I just work on the fundamentals and my style will naturally grow on its own? But when I work on only fundamentals and realism, that's all that I'm able to do. Though reality is the foundation of every style, I still have a hard time molding said foundation into something different.
I always feel like I can branch off to all sorts of different styles. There are so many styles I just absolutely love. Like, I just recently found a Japanese mangaka named Posuka Demizu and her work is so good. My inspirations are similar enough that I have some sort of direction, but the specifics of what I want to do I don't know. The voice which is unique to me I cannot figure out what it is, or what it's going to look like, and it's bothering me, but maybe it's bothering me more than it should.
The video of the dude drawing bin chickens for a few months comes to mind. Maybe I just have to commit to one course of action for a while and see what happens? I should just stop overthinking it all and just do something, and I'll figure things out as I go along.
You know, I think it's good to voice our uncertainties sometimes. I certainly don't know where I'm going, but I often have the desire to hide this fact. Just keep pushing out artwork, like everything is fine, when in fact I have absolutely no clue where I'm going and what I'm doing. Am I heading straight for a dead end? Those thoughts just kind of swirl in this tumultuous soup which is my brain.
I hope the soup turns out tasty, at the very least.
I'm at the point where progress is very slow, and at times it can be discouraging, but I shouldn't really let that deter me.
I realized that the speed at which I improve shouldn't be too much of a concern, but I should be focusing more on enjoying the process. It's something that I realized just recently but it has really stuck with me.
If I'm only ever happy when I finish a painting, or when something turns out right, then I'll be plagued with discontent for a majority of the journey. And the high that you get when you create something good is short-lived. If I enjoy the drawing process and then something turns out terrible, well at least I enjoyed creating it, right? If I'm miserable during the process all of the time, and then it turns out terrible, then I'll be truly devastated.
Each piece or study I do still improves my ability, regardless of the outcome, because I'm not ignorant of my mistakes. I can still see them, but I can still enjoy the process despite the outcome. That to me sounds more liberating and fun rather than just choking myself up in the process to create the perfect painting and then failing.
I guess what I'm trying to say is that you should enjoy the process more than the outcome, because the outcome may be not what you expect, but the enjoyment that you get from the steps leading up to the outcome cannot be taken away from you. And this, I realize, applies to nearly everything in life. Will probably do a more cohesive writing on that soon.
Also, I suppose comparison is also a huge issue that I have. The people that I look up to are so good that it isn't even a fair comparison anymore. These artists have been drawing professionally for longer than I've been alive. And I've been drawing seriously for like what, 3-4 years as a hobby? Comparing myself to people of that calibre is bound to make me distressed for no good reason. I need to cut myself some slack. Art is no competition, and I need to stop treating it as such.
I looked back at the four stages of competency, and I'm probably at around the beginning stages of conscious competency, where with a lot of guidelines, references, and focus I can make something fairly decent, but it's still not second nature. So really, I shouldn't be so worked up about not being able to create things off the top of my head. I still feel like a beginner sometimes, honestly.
Something which I also realized is that speed is a byproduct of competency, not the other way around. People are obsessed about speed, but in reality it's like putting the cart before the horse. You start off slow and meticulous, and as the brain gets more acquainted with the process it naturally starts getting faster while spitting out the same quality. I should know this, as I've played rhythm games for way too long and the process is exactly the same. You do the same fundamental patterns so many times that your brain is able to process it at speeds which people deem humanly impossible.
Well, that's all I've got for thoughts right now. I did a study, took around two hours:
I probably will stop painting for now and focus on drawing in my sketchbook and doing fundamental studies, especially anatomy and perspective.
I believe I'm weak in a lot of my skills, so I just gotta keep drawing. While enjoying the process along the way, of course. If I'm just miserable the whole time, then what's the point?
I've been doing a bunch of automatic drawings for a while now. In fact, that's literally all that I've been doing for the past week. It's because I've settled on the thought that my awful line confidence and rhythm is what's affecting my art to a large degree.
And you know what, it actually helped some. Well, somewhat. I think it's too short of a timeframe to draw any significant conclusions, but I'm planning to do a couple hundred more sheets of these automatic drawings and really see how much it affects my art. I've got nothing to lose, honestly. I'm in the middle of school anyway so doing these drawings is a lot more fun and less time consuming than spending 10-15 hours on a single piece, and probably feeling terrible about it in the process.
So the general flow of my lines improved, and my strokes are getting a lot looser and more confident. Not only am I less afraid of making strokes, but it also looks a lot more lively, or at least as lively as blobby blooblobs can get:
These are actually a lot more difficult than they look, especially in the beginning. I was all choked up and tense in my first few sheets of paper, but by around the 20th sheet I was getting a lot looser and I had a lot better shape design and patterns. I just need to work on not repeating a set few patterns of shapes and strokes, so I'm currently working on that as of now.
I decided to do some small figure sketches afterwards without using any construction lines to see how confident linework helped, and they actually turned out decent. I probably wouldn't have been able to do these before without construction lines, let alone have a lot smoother gesture.
For these, I looked at a simple reference, and then I tried breaking down the figure with as few lines possible. Before, I'd have so many redundant lines in the sketch that it looked like the figure was swarmed with gnats, but now they look a lot cleaner, and they look more lively than sketches I had in the past, which is great! That is what I like to see.
Now, I guess I'll report back after I filled around 200 more sheets of automatic drawings and see where I'll be at then.
I've realized that my art in a way is feeling stiff. Or rather, my artistic process is stiff. My process is very deliberate, but at the same time it can be suffocating in a way because when I have no ideas that I'm willing to turn into full pieces yet, I straight up don't draw at all. I do studies, but of course I need to take a break from those every once in a while.
Like, it's hard for me to just draw sporadically, or to do freeform doodling or anything of that sort. My mind is very much locked into place, and it's afraid of making something intangible. Essentially, I'm having a hard time loosening up a bit and drawing for the fun of it and not making some fully fledged work.
I don't think it particularly helps the notion that not all of one's work has to be perfect. I rarely post sketches because I rarely do them. It seems like I'm only spitting out finished pieces, and that's because it's literally all I'm doing. Sketches and doodles are a super rare thing for me, which isn't really good. And it may pressure other artists to only post their best work, which I don't want to be doing. Sometimes the rough stuff is also very interesting to look at.
So I'm trying something new. I want to get my brain all loosened up and unshackle myself from arbitrary constraints, so I'm going to try and do some doodly, abstract work for the meantime. I don't know how long I want to be doing it, but I want to try doing it until the end of January. That way I can at least report back with some results if there are any worth pointing out. It also works as therapy in some way, as it really helps me calm down. I can contemplate about some other stuff and not force too much into the drawing.
I was very stiff and hesistant at the start of this piece. I was afraid to keep going because I really didn't know where I was going in the first place, but I kept trundling along. Eventually I got into a state of flow and something that is cohesive but at the same time intangible was brought forth. I don't know what it is, but you may find something in there, I don't know.
I'm using the new fountain pen that I got a few weeks ago for these doodles, which is the TWSBI ECO, and I really do like it. I also have a Pilot Metropolitan, but I think that it's too scratchy. The nib does feel more fine than the TWSBI, but I rather sacrifice the fineness of the lines for a smoother experience, honestly.
These doodles are mainly inspired by Peter Draws, whose work I've been fascinated by for a few years now. He said something in one of his videos that struck me as really, really odd:
That's legitimately something that I cannot relate to. I'm perfectionistic when it comes to my art, so a lot of times I don't even start a piece until I know exactly how it looks in my head, which isn't really good because a lot of things change the moment I actually start the painting. I may realize that my initial composition looks rather dull, so I start shifting the perspective and objects around to see what looks more interesting; the colour palette may be clashing so I start experimenting with colours that may help establish the focus of the painting, what complements one colour with another, and etc.
In essence, I'm trying to stifle this perfectionistic tendency by trying to start at a place where I don't know where it'll take me. A lot of my art block is stemmed from the fact that I'm trying to force an outcome too much. I'm trying to get things the way that I want it to, and if it doesn't go well then I just give up. Sometimes it goes well and I create something that I'm really happy with, and sometimes I just scrap things entirely and it goes straight to the garbage bin. It's good if I'm really pushing to fulfill my vision for a particular idea, but I should balance it out by doing some whimsical stuff - creating stuff for fun.
I'll try to do this "doodle therapy" every day until the end of the month, but I can't guarantee that I'll be doing it every day. It won't be listed under my official pieces in 2021, but they'll all be going into my art series page instead. I don't think I'll be writing an entry in this art journal for every doodle though. That would be rather inconvenient for myself, as I don't have that much to talk about.
I'm planning to write an article about this experience and artistic flow in general, and showcasing how much it plays a role in the creative process. I'll get that out when I think that it's ready, but for the meantime, I hope you'll enjoy the coming doodles in the future.
I did one last painting before the start of my school semester:
The entire painting took me 15 hours, and that's without taking breaks into account. Procreate tracks the amount of time that you're on the canvas, so yeah, my brain hurt after finishing it. The hair probably took like 5-6 hours on its own, haha.
The idea originally came from a sketch that I had made in my journal back in 2018. The sketch is about as scuffed as you can get, but really, all of my sketches are like this. It's probably why I rarely post any of my sketches on this site: it's because they're all terrible:
It only took around two or so years before I decided to turn this into a painting of its own. I probably have ideas that are like 4-5 years old that I've been meaning to do paintings of at some point but never got around to doing so. It's less procrastinating and more of me thinking that I'm not ready to turn those ideas into full pieces yet. I suppose my thinking is that my level of skill isn't able to do that idea justice if I were to try and execute it.
To be honest, I'm tired of looking at this painting as of writing this. If I looked at it for any longer I'd probably start to hate it, so I'll leave it be for now.
My brain is literally on fire from doing art studies, hoo boy.
I didn't even realize it, but when I'm doing art studies I unconsciously turn off all the audio. No music, no nothin'. I had like a video playing in the background and then when I was about to take a break I found that I had paused it at some point. Literally takes all of my concentration, my goodness.
I'm currently taking a figure drawing course right now, because I think I'm at the level where I need to get proper education, else it's going to get really difficult to move forward. My figures are turning out much better, but that's probably because I had to unlearn some bad habits which I had not realized until I started taking the course.
I've been trying to apply stylistic things from other artists to my own work as well. I'm mainly doing that by getting a simple reference, breaking it down, and then getting some aspect from a particular artist's work and try and apply it directly. In this case, I'm trying to copy eye structure, because how I draw eyes is quite lacking:
It's also a good way to experiment with style and see what looks good. I'll probably build up my visual library up first by drawing before moving on to painting and rendering, because rendering is a very weak skill of mine compared to my other skills. Though it's a lot of fun, I'm not entirely sure what's the most effective method to go about it.
I really need to take a break, though. I'm absolutely exhausted.
I am kind of running out of ideas as to what to paint exactly, so I'm planning to do a bunch of redraws of old pieces. Because redraws are great fun.
Speaking of which, I recently did a redraw of an old Inktober piece. Still doing the same old thing with my good ol' brush. I've practically stopped using the rest of the Procreate brushes at this point, it's just way too good:
The peeps from the Neocities Discord would have already seen this piece, but what they didn't see was the original piece that I did a redraw of. And in typical DeviantArt fashion, we gotta use the "Draw This Again!" meme template.
I mean, am I legally allowed to even call this a redraw at this point? A remaster would probably be a better word for this, because what in the world is that 2017 piece mate?
Well, I will give it to myself that the 2017 piece was for Inktober and I only had crappy pens and highlighters to choose from, but man, I have no clue what I was doing. Literally. I recall being quite proud of that 2017 piece when I made it. But now looking back, it just makes me laugh.
This type of thing is why I always recommend that artists keep their older work. It's because it's too dang entertaining man. If I want a guaranteed way to make myself laugh, I'll just look at old drawings and pieces. It's also a good way to motivate yourself to keep drawing, because when the going gets tough all you gotta do is look back to where you started and see how far you've come.
It saddens me that the oldest pieces I have in my possession now are those from 2015, because I would die to see what kind of garbage I spit out years prior. And let me tell you: you'd probably need to bleach your eyes out if you saw my work back then. It was pretty bad.
So I finally decided to give the brush a go (the brush that I mentioned in the last entry), and I really do like it. Here's the painting that I did with it (and also my last painting for 2020):
I like where the brush is at now, so I posted the brush settings on a separate page. Only for Procreate, sadly, but I posted the brush settings instead of the .brush file so that people may be able to recreate it in their art program of choice if they want to have a go at it.
The brush is versatile enough that the entire painting was done with the brush. Aside from the sketch, of course, but I didn't see the need to switch brushes at all. I just stuck to the same brush throughout the whole piece and it all went smoothly. Or at least, as smooth as the typical art process can get.
I actually did this piece twice, the older version being in a different pose. I messed up the first iteration really badly in the painting phase so I scrapped all 3 hours of work and started over.
I think it's important to not get too attached to one's work, especially when it's still a work in progress. If I stubbornly clung to my old version of this piece then I would have ended up with a final product that I'm not happy with. Of course, I would try and salvage it first, but if the very foundation of the painting is wrong then it's best to just kill the whole thing and start all over. The same thing goes with my writing - I sometimes scrap hours of work and start over. It's the nuclear option, and I try my best to not go that direction, but sometimes you gotta do what you gotta do.
I was just chillin', binge-watching LGR Foods, when I decided to do a small painting of a sandwich in one of the episodes. Why? I don't know, probably because I thought it would be a cool exercise. Also because I was hungry, but it probably wasn't the best thing for my hunger to do a painting of a sandwich. All done in HEAVYPAINT, of course, which is quickly becoming one of my favourite painting programs.
Also, I think I finally found one of my "holy grail" digital brushes, which is a huuuuge deal. I was trying to emulate YOGISYA's rendering style, which has got to be one of my most favourite styles of rendering I've ever seen. I've tried doing some studies of their work in an attempt to adapt it to my own style and nothing that I did came even close.
I knew that they had posted their Procreate brush settings on their website which housed their blog. Since it was all in Japanese, I thought that it would be straight up impossible to figure out their brush settings, but then my dumb self realized that I only had to connect the dots between the settings tabs. The setting pages were all laid out the same, just that the language was different for the headers and descriptions. After recovering from that brain fart, I went ahead and recreated the brush in Procreate.
At first it felt really strange to use. It didn't work like the other brushes that I've used before, and it didn't feel right at all. I was actually ready to scrap it right there and then, but I stubbornly clung onto it and experimented with some of its blending properties, and then it all clicked. My own edit of the brush fit me like a glove, it's so good. It blew me away, honestly. Suddenly YOGISYA's style of rendering made perfect sense.
The problem was that their brush settings had a bit too much punch for my taste, and because of that I could barely blend with it, if at all. So I toned down its potency while keeping the dilution the same and it worked absolutely perfectly. This is the most versatile brush that I've used in Procreate so far.
Trying to blend with the original brush requires that you change the opacity of the brush, whereas my edit allows you to blend if you apply little pressure, without changing the opacity of the brush at all. The edited brush is basically a more sensitive version of the original, which I guess suits my preferences better.
The thing which I found though is that it's actually quite hard to use. It's both a hard brush and a soft blending brush, where applying average to below-average pressure renders it incapable to blend, and very little pressure creates a lot of blending. It's versatile in that I can create both hard and soft edges with the same brush, with the cost that I kind of have to finesse my way into getting it into the state that I want. I used to have to switch between hard and soft brushes just to do my edges, but now I don't have to really do that anymore, which is great.
I'm still in the early stages of testing, however, and I plan on doing some studies of both other artists and life to try and acquaint myself with the brush more. But as it stands right now, it's really good. When I'm comfortable using it and/or after some tweaks, I'll post the brush settings for other Procreate users to try out as well.
Yeah, sadly it is only for Procreate, so I can't really help those using Krita, CSP, Photoshop, or whatever. But really, those programs have some amazing brushes already (or you can find really good ones very easily). I found Procreate's built-in brushes rather lacking, honestly, especially moving from Krita, so finding a brush which I could actually use for once in this program is a really big deal.
This, of course, depends on one's rendering style. Since I'm trying to replicate YOGISYA, clearly using a derivative of their brush is going to suit me best, but other people may find that their "holy grail brush" might be something else, because their style of rendering may be different.
I do find it interesting which brushes people prefer to use, because more often than not my preferred brushset doesn't coincide at all with other artists', besides the typical pencil or whatever.
I was going through a bunch of pins on Pinterest and trying to break down random portraits, but I got really bored of that pretty quickly. I was actually getting rather drowsy doing it. So to wake myself up, I decided to set up some objects and do a still life painting.
Well, clearly I didn't know what I was thinking. Probably the last thing that you should do to cure your boredom is a darn still life painting. What a horrible idea.
But funnily enough, it actually woke me right up. And I realized why: it's some seriously hard work doing this sort of thing. It requires practically all of my focus just to create a still life painting. Just staring at something with utmost concentration, trying to recreate it as accurately as possible, is very difficult. Coupled by the fact that HEAVYPAINT only has one layer for painting, I was setting myself up for a bad time.
I suppose that traditional paints only have that kind of "one layer" constraint to it as well, but at least with traditional paints you have full control of your brush. The problem that I find with digital painting is that it's very hard to achieve some variation of texture or form. It's very easy to make a digital painting look very flat and lack any depth. Of course, this is probably due to my lack of expertise with digital paints, but I'm pretty sure that everyone who starts doing digital painting at some point has run into this issue. If one's drawings are flat already, then doing it digitally just makes that issue infinitely worse.
I don't really have a stance on when an artist should start doing digital painting. Probably good to do both traditional and digital at the same time if you plan on going digital at some point, as it's like using a different medium: you'll need to get used to the tools and the brush engine that comes with your program of choice. Traditional mediums translate pretty well into the digital realm in the drawing aspect, but painting digitally feels very different compared to painting traditionally. I find traditional painting a lot more fun, but with all of the clean up required, the paints that you need to buy, and having to stock up on a bunch of canvases, I just stuck to digital. It's a lot more convenient for me, personally.