the journey of a hobby artist
the bad, the ugly, and the utterly repulsive

it is done (10/31/2021)

Inktober? Finished.
Brain? Dead.
Motivation? Gone.
Hotel? Trivago.

This was a rough latter half of Inktober, let me tell you. Plenty of days where I had to make up for entries that I missed. I'll be completely transparent, I did 5 entries yesterday; Day 26, 27, 28, 30, and 31 in a single sitting. I never felt closer to death than in that evening.

I mean, it wasn't like I wanted this sort of thing to happen, but there were instances where I just looked at the prompt for the day and went "screw that, man" and did something else. Or I had to do some crazy assignment for school, stayed up late to finish it, and I couldn't be bothered to do Inktober at 2 in the morning.

To be honest, my struggle throughout this month was simply a case of boredom. Past the halfway mark I really just wanted to move on to something else; quite evident by the fact that I was doing some personal work and web design more than the Inktober entries.

I went completely blank on a large majority of the final week's prompts. But I didn't want to half-bake everything and make garbage, so I tried my best to make something decent. Still ended up with garbage, but at least Inktober is finished.

I only like a few of my entries, namely Crystal (Day 1), Roof (Day 13), Splat (Day 25), and Slither (Day 30). The rest were in the range of "acceptable" to "I really, really hate this".

I don't know, the main problem that I usually have with these sorts of daily challenges is not so much the drawing part, but they kick you when you're already down on the ground after getting pummeled by all of the garbage throughout the day. It's supremely exhausting.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I'm going to take a nice long nap in my coffin. Ciao.

October 2021

10/26/2021 - no expectations

There are times when I like sharing art, but at the same time I don't want any sort of expectation attached to it. No likes, no comments. Sometimes I don't even want people to view the thing, but I still want to have it out there for people to stumble upon.

I don't know, it's not necessarily a result of being unsatisfied with the final product. There are times when I still really like the work, but I don't want to constantly parade my work in front of everyone and say "look what I made!" all of the time. Sometimes creating and then having it out there floating in the void is enough. No need to tell people about it every single time.

It's kinda why I feel rather spoiled here on Neocities, where you can delete your own notifications from the feed, but can still update your site in the background. There are times where I want something to be public, but not overtly announce it to everyone that I published something. Some articles that I've written were posted without notifying anyone; neither the RSS feed or Neocities had it displayed. I just had it sitting there, letting other people discover it for themselves. I've also posted artwork on here in a similar fashion.

Some may find it annoying that they're not getting all of the updates, but I find it liberating. It's the only real way I can replicate that feeling of making something without worry, fully knowing that not many, if any, people will see it. It gratifies that part of me that wants other people to see my work, without constantly expecting something in return.

Doing this makes me want to branch out, to experiment more, and to create more stuff in general. To be honest, ever since I started getting more eyes on my site, I've been a bit more self-conscious about what I write and what I make; something which I've feared about since the very beginning. Back when I first started, I truly had no fear, since the attention was negligible. Nowadays, though, I've been feeling rather timid. It's a natural response when there are plenty of eyes on you, after all; you don't want to screw it all up, however that may happen. Despite that, however, attention-induced paralysis leads to its own type of failure.

10/20/2021 - redraw 2: electric boogaloo

If you've watched my 2017 sketchbook tour, you know that this particular old Inktober entry has given me a lot of grief:

October 20th, 2017

I've attempted to redraw it twice in Summer 2020, all of which fell flat on their faces. Whether or not it was because I was putting a lot of pressure on myself to do a good job I don't know, but what I do know is that they didn't turn out well.

But finally, over a year later, I've done a proper redraw that I'm actually happy with.

October 20th, 2021

Coincidentally, I actually finished the redraw exactly 4 years from when I did the Inktober entry: October 20. Now that's something that I didn't plan in advance but it still worked out somehow.

10/19/2021 - dreaming in crayon

Recently I decided to buy something that may seem rather strange. As you can probably guess from the title, it was crayons. A pack of 96. It was the biggest pack I could find at the local supermarket, so I had to settle.

Crayons are a pretty weird medium. Despite the fact that there are plenty of colour options, it's still not enough. Mixing colours is practically impossible with crayons because there's more wax than pigment in the stuff. I can do a lot of stuff with only the three primary colours and white when it comes to acrylics, but with crayons I could have like a pack of 500 and it'll still be lacking certain tones that I need.

For fun, I tried doing a portrait using only crayon, and that didn't end so well. Was quite difficult making any sort of edges. So I did it in ballpoint pen and then put crayon on top and that turned out mildly better. It's basically a typical ballpoint pen sketch but in colour.


Now why did I buy crayons out of all things? Well, a week or so ago I had the idea to create thumbnails of various scenes from dreams that I've been having. I wanted a way to add colour very easily, a medium that didn't require much effort to both prepare and clean up. It was either pencil crayons or just normal crayons, but I opted to choose normal crayons simply because I haven't used them since like 3rd grade and I wanted to try them again.

I thought it would be solid inspiration to thumbnail dreams because that's where the mind connects the weirdest things and puts them together. I've recorded around 200+ dreams in written form over the span of a few years now and while I still remember some of them visually, I've completely forgotten how most of them went, despite the fact that I wrote them down. So I figured, why not create thumbnail sketches both as a way to remember my dreams better, and also get better at my compositional skills?

some dream thumbnails in the sketchbook

I've tried drawing my dreams before (there was in fact a dreams section in the art gallery way back), but the jump from memory to fully fledged piece was too much for me. It wasn't only until recently that I considered doing thumbnails instead. Much easier doing it that way.

I guess doing this also trains your memory, since dreams in a way is something that you live through. This reminds me of another exercise that I've heard about that trains visual recall, where you simply do a single thumbnail sketch of a scene that you experienced throughout the day, and you do that daily. Maybe it'll help expand one's visual library in a new dimension previously untapped. Who knows. I'm mainly doing it with the prospect of creating some finished pieces from them. Would be pretty cool to see some more dream pieces, honestly.

10/13/2021 - decision making, and hating your own work

I think the reason why it’s so hard for artists to accept their own work sometimes is because what they see isn't the final product per se, it's what the final product isn’t, or what it didn’t become.

Creating art takes a lot of decision making, and sometimes you can get derailed by one bad decision that cascades into a thousand other decisions made only to compensate. And the result often isn’t pretty.

Why I think it’s easy to be more forgiving when looking at other artists’ work compared to your own is because all of the decisions that they could’ve (and possibly should’ve) made aren’t made known to you, the viewer. You only get to see the end result. For all you know the end result is what the artist completely intended, in which case they had achieved their goal.

However, when it comes to looking at our own work, we see all of the decisions that we made, and we see the endless possibilities of how it could’ve (or should've) ended up, but didn’t. Sometimes we end up with a result that looks good, but we can still lament over the fact that there’s something that we didn’t add, or address earlier, that could’ve changed things completely.

To be completely honest with you, I think artists should have the right to hate on their own work. An artist not being satisfied with their work and then being told off that they're wrong I think makes things worse; it's as if their perceptions to their own creations aren't justified in any way.

Of course, there are times when the self-flogging is unnecessarily hyperbolic, but there's no other individual on the planet other than the artist that can see what they had intended to create. I may see nothing wrong with an artist's work, but they can. Others may see nothing wrong with my work, but I can see everything wrong with it. What others consider as a mistake, I may have intended, and what I consider a mistake in another person's work may have been intentional also.

When I see an artist not like their own work, I'm not going to convince them that they're wrong; it's practically an impossibility. Likewise, I'm not going to be suddenly convinced that one of my pieces is "good" just because other people think it's good. A person liking my work doesn't change the fact that it didn't come out the way I had intended it to.

And the opposite of this applies also. If I like one of my own pieces, but it doesn't get much reception, does that suddenly mean I'm in the wrong for liking something I've created, solely because others didn't like it? Not at all. Why should I be? If I knew what I had intended, and it came out the way I intended it to, then I have the right to be pleased with the result. I'm not going to (and shouldn't) be led to believe otherwise.

I don't recall a single instance where I started liking something that I made after hating it initially. Really, the only positive thing that comes out of that is acceptance, where I accept that it's bad, and then move on. Sometimes the answer isn't to fight back against your own negativity towards your work directly with forced (and often reluctant) positivity, but simply create some distance. It's sort of why I don't really cringe or personally identify with my older work anymore. I almost treat them as if it was created by someone else.

It reminds me of a passage in Art & Fear:

"... the audience is seldom in a position to grant (or withhold) approval on the one issue that really counts — namely, whether or not you're making progress in your work. They're in a good position to comment on how they're moved (or challenged, or entertained) by the finished product, but have little knowledge or interest in your process."

Art & Fear, Chapter IV: Fear About Others

The "audience" doesn't necessarily have to be non-artists. In fact, most of the time it is other artists. But that's mainly artists that are not too involved in your process. Mentors and teachers in a way have a stake in your success, so they're going to care a lot about your process and progress. Besides them, we are all merely watching from a distance, ignorant of the infinite amount of directions any art piece could have taken, but didn't.

10/10/2021 - Inktober

We're a third of the way through Inktober already. That was fast.

Honestly, the main difficulty that I have from Inktober isn't the fact that I'm using inks, it's the prompts. It's expected to be inspired by some prompts and be completely barren of ideas on others. I suppose in a way it's helping me push my boundaries in making broader connections, and also pushing me to draw things that I don't usually draw.

I opted to do inks again since I don't usually use inks for finished pieces. I work with inks a lot when practicing or doodling, but going from sketch to ink is something that I haven't done in a very long time. The last time I did that sort of thing was in 2018, when I was still using watercolour.

I do like working traditionally, despite being primarily a digital artist. I'm actually more attached to my traditional work than my digital work, because there's just something special about seeing your work existing in physical space. Despite my digital work typically being of higher quality and polish than my traditional work, I feel rather disconnected from them as an artist. Maybe if I get prints of my digital work it'll give me the same feeling, but that just seems weird.

I also might as well go through the tools I'm using for this year's Inktober. I didn't have too much supplies when I did Inktober back in 2017. Mainly used Sharpies, some gel pens, and random ballpoint pens I had laying around the house.

Well, this year I'm still not using too many supplies, but they're certainly different.

The top pen is a MUJI fountain pen. I only got it a few weeks ago from the local MUJI store in my area and I really like it for drawing. I have other fountain pens that I like writing with more, but this pen just has the perfect amount of feedback for me when drawing. I also attached one of the grips from one of my old pen-spinning pens and it makes it look rather ugly, but it does make it more comfortable to use.

The middle pen is a Kuretake Brush Pen. I mainly use it for blocking in larger areas of black, like my entry for Day 1.

And finally, the ubiquitous BIC Cristal. After using other ballpoint pens like the Uni-ball Jetstream, BIC Roundstic, and the BIC Atlantis, I still find the Cristal the best ballpoint pen for drawing. It's also one of the cheapest ballpoint pens. How about that?

It's basically a permanent pencil. You still can't do gradients without hatching, but the fact that it can have varying values despite it being ink makes it easy to make softer transitions. My recent Day 8 and Day 9 entries were inked entirely with ballpoint pen.

The ink that I'm using for both the fountain pen and the brush pen is Pelikan 4001 Brilliant Black. It's a dry ink, so it doesn't flow as much as wet ink like Noodler's ink. Probably is the reason why it doesn't work so well in my other fountain pens that may need more wet ink to not skip in between strokes.

Lastly, I wanted to mention that there are two people who are doing Inktober other than myself: Murid and Maya. You can check out their entries for Inktober as well. Sort of like having a webring/collab going on.

10/04/2021 - old sketchbook tour

With the start of Inktober 2021, I did something that I usually don't do but have been wanting to do for a while: I did a sketchbook tour. With commentary and everything, so you'll get to hear me speak for the first time. Not particularly well, but it's something.

It's a tour of my 2017 sketchbook, the sketchbook which I always considered as my real "start" to art; as in, when I started taking it a bit more seriously. It also includes the first time I participated in Inktober, so you can compare the old entries to the ones I'm doing now.

I personally like looking at other artist's sketchbooks, so I thought it would be interesting. Though, having to edit this video for a few hours has certainly made me sick of looking at my own work (and hearing my own voice). Hopefully someone will find it interesting.

In a way, the purpose of doing sketchbook tours for me isn't really showing it to others, but more so preserving/archiving my sketchbooks in the case I lose them. This particular sketchbook that I did a tour of is falling apart so that gives me more of a reason to do it.

I'll probably get to doing tours for my other sketchbooks, too. I've been also messing around with doing some traditional art/doodle timelapses, but I'll get to those on my own time.

September 2021

09/29/2021 - sorting artwork

I've been having this predicament lately as to how I should sort out my artwork on this website.

As of right now, the order in which I sort my work doesn't lend itself too well because everything right now is sorted in reverse chronological order. While that's pretty standard, I don't think my workflow ever fit the standard reverse-chronological order on a majority of art-sharing platforms because I like jumping between things all of the time.

Sometimes it's a planned piece, sometimes it's a quick sketch/painting, sometimes it's a doodle, representational work, abstract work, whatever. What is obvious, however, is just how jarring it can be when posting. There are times when I post something, only for me to realize that it doesn't consistently fit with the work I've posted recently, both in terms of style and subject matter. This inconsistency is probably why I didn't get much of a following back when I used social media.

Instead of sorting everything based on when I had created it, I think it would be best to group certain pieces together; I'm just wondering how narrow of a scope should I sort things out. If I sort by medium, say digital and traditional, then practically nothing will be in the traditional category. I think the only traditional pieces I have on display are the ones from 2017-2018, and that's a whopping 6-8 pieces. The rest of the pieces in my gallery are done digitally.

I'm just worried that one gallery will end up hogging all of the artwork and the other galleries will be left barren. I'm also torn about keeping my older artwork on here. While most of them aren't good enough to be presented solely on quality alone, I think it helps more of the inexperienced artists who can see the progression. It's easy to get discouraged by an artist's skill when they only show their best work, so I wanted to dispel that by showing my old garbage. But now those pieces feel out of place compared to everything else. I may just create a video or something about my old art so that they can be archived in a more compact medium.

I'm also concerned in the long term. There will come a point where I'll have to start culling work, or forbidding myself to post work, because the volume of work which will be present on my site would be overwhelming. It's easy to keep posting sketches, doodles, and whatever to IG or Twitter because everything gets swept away in a matter of minutes on there, but it doesn't seem fitting on a website where things are more permanent. Whether or not I should be more strict in the act of posting or instead take down pieces after the fact is something that I'll have to figure out.

One possible solution is to have a temporary gallery of incoming work with a limited amount of spots, then categorize the pieces that I like from there into more permanent galleries. At least that way I can decide whether or not I want to keep displaying certain works, while also being able to share them to the public. I like posting random work sometimes, but it may be more fitting for those to be shared for a moment in time, not to be displayed permanently. The impermanency of work is one thing (like on social media), but displaying everything permanently comes with its own problems. I think I simply need to find a healthy balance between the two.

This is something that I have to solve on my own; just wanted to share my thoughts about it.

09/20/2021 - drawing fearlessly
sketchbook spread I recently drew (09/19/2021)

I recently resuscitated a dead sketchbook that I had laying around for 6 months and started filling it up with automatic drawing sketches. The sketchbook was intended to be solely for representational drawings from memory, but it only lasted like 3 pages before I gave up on that. Now at least I have a new (and better) use for it.

The reason for me reviving said sketchbook was because I recently bought black ink so I could use my fountain pens for automatic drawing. I had been procrastinating on buying the ink for like a few months now, and now that I've bought some, I regret not buying it earlier, because doodling traditionally is so much more fun than doing doodles digitally in my opinion, having dabbled in both for quite a while now.

To be honest, my recent drawings in the sketchbook have been the most fun I've had in drawing in quite a long time. There's this thrill of not knowing what's the result is going to be, putting the first mark on the piece of paper and seeing the composition transform into something cool. Sometimes the rigour of meticulous planning finished work should be broken up with periods of energetic improvisation to keep the workflow loose and free.

If there's one thing I've learned from drawing at my own tempo, it's that you are most confident in doing things at your speed, not someone else's speed, regardless if your speed is naturally fast or slow. The mistake that I've made multiple times when looking at other artists is that I gauge my own speed and adjust it to artists whose work and workflow I admire. The problem with that is it certainly isn't catering to the pace at which you already work in naturally.

To give a real example, I've mentioned before that these doodles were heavily inspired by my boy Peter, and the thing with him is that he works slow. Like, real slow. For some reason, I connected his type of work with the tempo at which he'd do his drawings, so any time I tried doodling I ended up going at his tempo and not my own. You can very well guess what the result of that was: unbearably stiff drawings. Not to mention that the process felt more tedious than fun.

It wasn't until like a day or so ago that I decided to try and do his types of drawings, but at my tempo instead, and that worked out way better. I'd say Peter draws more like a laser: often quite precise in his line work. I do better treating my pen as more of a paint brush and drawing like a painter, without fear. To be honest, I scribble in such a crazy way that it looks like I'm having a manic episode, but the fact that I'm enjoying the process that way makes it worth it I think.

09/14/2021 - patience, and understanding the physics of reality

A lesson that I have to repeatedly learn when creating art (or anything for that matter) is that I need to be patient.

Painting feels more like sculpting in a way, where you start with a huge pile of clay (or paint) and the end product is far enough away from the present that it's almost inconceivable. It's disconnected enough that there's an uncertainty whether the end result will have some semblance of the idea, but I still have to paint to the very end to find out.

timelapse of recent painting that I did with no undersketch

Sometimes the result is good, but sometimes it isn't. It can be easy to think that everything is a bad result in the moment, yet when we look at the result later on, it's usually "good enough". Failures in the moment often feel frustrating, and it isn't until we've created distance from them that we can really glean lessons out of said failures.

In a way, I think that slowing down and really observing stuff would do me some good. Sometimes it's easy to get too carried away with the rote practice and the "grind" that we forget what we're even trying to develop and to what end.

To add onto the slowing down part, I realize that the thought process that is needed when creating art isn't necessarily tied to the practice that you do with your hands. Sometimes it's really just thinking about the physics of how things work and understanding their behaviour in the real world. For example, I haven't done much practical studies when it comes to clothing folds. However, imagining the physics of clothing and how they would behave in certain conditions has helped a lot with figuring out how to draw it without being too reliant on a particular reference.

This type of thought process, imagining the physics of objects, light, colour, and other real world phenomena, really helps with gaining an intuition on how to draw and paint reality. I did this same sort of thinking process when going through chemistry and physics courses in school: I would simulate how a problem would play out in my head (ie. molecules colliding and the resulting reaction, or the movement of electricity in a circuit). It may not be exact, but it gave me an intuitive understanding of how the problem works and it gives me some direction on how to solve it.

Outside of the mechanical act of drawing, understanding the physics of the things you are drawing and observing reality in general is very important. Physically drawing is important, of course, but I think that observing and understanding reality itself and applying that to art is very much understated for improving skill.

09/01/2021 - reducing options

I was kind of putting off painting for a while because I think I've simply overwhelmed myself with all of these digital brushes that I've accumulated over the months. I think I've been afraid of inconsistency. I found it to be quite hard to be consistent if I was constantly using different brushes to achieve certain effects and sometimes brushes don't really feel compatible with each other in some instances. This led me to become very confused, and generally apprehensive to painting.

So I decided to do something that I haven't done in a very long time: do a study with only the standard round brush; the brush that comes with practically every painting program imaginable, with pressure opacity included of course. The last time I did this was in 2018 with a hard round brush (no pressure opacity), but the subject was remarkably easier to render with that sort of brush.

This sort of limitation simply forces me to straight up paint and sculpt out everything manually. I can't use some textured brush as a way to create texture; I have to create it all myself. At the same time, though, it frees up the mind from constantly having to switch between brushes and allows the mind to focus on simply painting.

I decided to do a Sargent master study this time around, and honestly I wasn't sure if I could even do it (as I've tried it before and it didn't end too well), let alone using only one brush to do the entire study, but it came out pretty decent I'd say.

08/31/2021 (6 hours 40 minutes)

I did kind of cheat with the background (used a textured brush to get it similar to the original painting), but otherwise the entire figure is painted with only the standard round brush. Suffice to say, I was pleasantly surprised, and it was really fun not worrying about what brushes to use and just paint.

The trick with creating texture with only the round brush is varying the size of the brush itself. You can accumulate a bunch of hard-edged strokes with various sizes and blend it in to make some texture. A nice variety of colours can help with making texture also. Really, since the round brush can make all the edges needed (hard edges, soft edges, etc.), you can make anything with it. It's something that I've seen many artists pull off, but this exercise proves to myself that I could actually do it.

Another easy way to add some texture to a digital painting other than brushes: simply add a noise filter in the post-processing stage. It adds a little bit of grit that doesn't make it look so "digital". I've been doing it on some images (including the study above) and it makes it look less "one-dimensional" if that makes sense.

Now, whether or not I'm going to stick with one brush for a certain period of time I'm not entirely sure. I'll probably use it as the main brush and then later add some other brushes on top if I need specific effects, but otherwise it's probably best for me to reduce the amount of brush options so I focus on what matters.

Other than this study, my family and friends went camping for a few days, so I got to do some life drawing while I was out there in the wilderness:

middle of the camp ground (08/28/2021)

some house nearby (08/28/2021)

I haven't done life drawing in so long, but it's a nice change of pace to draw something that's actually 3D and not a 2D reference image. There are some decisions that you make when life drawing (ie. properly identifying the horizon line, boundaries of the picture frame, etc.) that one doesn't typically make when using a reference image to study.

August 2021

08/22/2021 - easy wins

I haven't been making much of anything recently, as I've been kind of vegging out after finishing final exams. Not to mention that I am also a bit ill at the moment.

It's an important thing for me to realize that I have to make it easy for myself to achieve something every once in a while, especially if I'm trying to get back into the habit of doing something. It's almost instinctive to beat myself up about not maintaining something for a longer period of time, so trying to lower the standard, even temporarily, just so I can get a bit of a jumpstart helps a lot.

The piece I did above, though it was pretty time-consuming to complete, I would still call an "easy win". The overall setup time required and decision-making needed is drastically lowered for these sorts of pieces, because it's completely monochromatic using only one brush, and the amount of references that I have to use is very little. The process also involves a lot of improvisation which means that the outcome is very open-ended, leaving very little expectations to begin with.

The most time-consuming process for a proper painting (for myself anyway) is gathering a whole lot of references. Some references for colour palettes, some for poses, some for general rendering reference, and all of that stuff. The process of painting itself generally takes a lot more mental energy as well. I subconsciously turn off all external stimuli (including music) when I work on pieces sometimes so that I could properly concentrate. With my more doodly pieces, however, I can turn on whatever in the background while I doodle on the piece with little care for the outcome. I mainly watched some urbex videos and small documentaries while creating this particular piece, which was quite a chill time.

It's good to have some sort of comfort zone to fall back to when trying to kickstart a habit that's been neglected for a while. My usual fallback is gesture drawing ever since I started doing art. Doodles are a pretty decent fallback for creating finished work in my case, I guess. Hopefully I get back into creating some more painterly work soon.

July 2021

07/29/2021 - wacky colour experiments

I took a somewhat intentional yet not so intentional break from drawing for a little bit. Intentional in that I was meaning to take a break at some point, but not so intentional in that I didn't intend to take a break now. Well then.

The last time I drew was around two weeks ago, but even that is long enough to feel like I forgot how to do draw. It wasn't until I drew something easy like a reference image before my brain was like "oh yeah, drawing is a thing. Totally. I know how to do that."

I tried an exercise that'll hopefully put me in the mindset of picking more bolder colours. Basically, you paint an image in colour, but the catch is that you can't see the colour. What you see when painting is entirely in grayscale, but the hue still registers; it's just that it's hidden from view.

So with the portrait I did below, I could only see and paint in grayscale, but despite that I was picking random hues that fit the values that I was painting in. The result caught me off guard, but it still works.

looks like I did thermal imaging of a greek sculpture or something

The point of the exercise is to highlight that value is so important in painting. Even with the colours trippin' out, if the values are correct the image will still read correctly.

With this, I've been trying to wrap my head around colours as a whole, specifically iridescence, which is like how holographic materials reflect all sorts of colours. It's something so alien that I simply don't know how to build an intuition for it. Though this exercise somewhat helps me curb my often narrow colour choices, it's still hard to apply it to paintings when I can see the colour, because it's colours that I don't typically associate with objects. Painting an apple green, purple, blue, orange, and red all at once seems so weird, and yet it can still work if done properly.

There's one artist that I know of right now who implements this "iridescent" colour scheme in their style, and that's kun333r. What really impresses me is that they manage to apply this to everything, even original pieces. The weirdly coloured portrait shown above was created due to my ignorance of what colours I'm picking. This artist is deliberately picking colours that don't make any sense and yet in the grand scheme of the illustration it works marvellously. So there must be at least some sense in the colours they're picking, else it wouldn't work as well as it does.

This really blew the topic of colour wide open. Learning colour felt shallow at first for me. I learned about colour harmonies first (complementary, analogous, etc.) and I thought that was it. Then came warm and cool colours, which seem OK at first until I realized that it's all relative to each other (ie. you can have cool oranges, and warm blues, depending on the situation). Then I realized that ALL colours are relative to each other, such that pure grey planted in a sea of red transforms into a dull green, and other unfamiliar visual phenomena.

Heck, you can even see the aforementioned phenomena in my website if you look intently: anything that is the shade of white in my website gets a slight tint of orange purely because of the light blue background (my logo at the top is the most obvious example). It's also more obvious in my case because my entire website is literally blue.

Sometimes I wonder what in the world I got myself into.

07/06/2021 - relationship between studies and original work

Happy July everyone.

I don't have anything to show at the moment, since I'm focusing on university more than art in the meantime, but at least this medium doesn't require an art piece to show off all of the time (unlike something like IG, oh dear).

But anyway, I have observed something about artist's work in general (including my own) that I think helps on improving at least in a bit more smarter manner.

I wouldn't say it's set in stone by any means, but it's this: the approach an artist takes for their original work can be clearly seen through their studies. That is, studies from life, photos, or other artists.

It's like "well, duh! of course it does", but there are greater implications to this, I think.

First off, if the process of one's studies and one's original work are nearly the same, then the quality of said studies will also be the limit to the quality of the original work. In essence, if my studies are garbage, then my original work moreso.

I only realized this when I compared my studies with original pieces from the same period. I found that how I rendered my studies is almost always how I rendered my pieces, which caught me off guard, because before studies and original work to me felt like two separate things, but now I think they're one and the same.

The same goes when I was looking at the studies of other artists. Their studies are super high quality, and their approach is very clearly laid out when doing them. I begun to suspect that there's a greater correlation between studies and original work than I had initially thought.

What this means is that amping up the quality of the studies by refining your approach when doing them will be a strong indicator of how your original work will potentially look. Now, I say potentially because the quality of the studies is going to be an upper limit, meaning that one's original work will be on par, or worse in terms of quality; never greater.

This is great because with studies it's super easy to isolate things that I need to work on. Studies are like training wheels, basically. You take away a lot of the unnecessary burden to focus on very specific points. Take away colour when studying composition, take away the need to render when studying proportions, and etc. General studies that incorporate all of these aspects are good also, like creating master copies and the like.

I've been recently doing a little bit of still life; that is, painting random objects. It takes away the need to go crazy about proportions and to focus solely on two things: rendering and colour. It gives me free reign to experiment, and really stretch what colours can and can't work, while also trying to refine my painting technique. All of the previous points that I've stated earlier imply that all of this will directly spill over to my original work, rather than "influence" it indirectly.

Honestly, this realization feels so ridiculous that I feel rather stupid for even sharing it since it seems so obvious. But this was all a result of me separating study work and original work a bit too much to begin with. Since every person approaches their studies in their own way, in some sense the study is still original to the artist, which makes sense that studies and original work are directly correlated with each other.

June 2021

06/22/2021 - the monthly diagnostic

It's that time again: the somewhat monthly original piece that I do to diagnose what I should be studying next. It also serves as a benchmark to see where I'm at improvement-wise.

Uhhh... so I kind of realized that there's a huge gap between what type of art I like making and what art I like to look at.

It turns out that most of what I've been doing for like the past few months wasn't something that I was really "clicking" with, despite it being something that I was aesthetically drawn to. The main things that I was not acknowledging was one: I prefer working with more realistic proportions (albeit a little bit stylized), and two: I really don't like painting details. Funnily enough, that's all the original work I've been doing for like the past 5-6 months; most of my recent work had anime proportions, and had some tedious rendering involved.

I got really frustrated with this piece 2 hours in because I couldn't render it for the life of me, so I kind of went "ah, screw this", got the messiest painterly brushes I had and just went for it. And I actually had more fun doing that than any type of painstaking rendering I've done in the past, and I think it looks way better.

What I often see in some artists' process is drawing in all of the details, and then colouring them in like a colouring book. I prefer just painting in shapes and letting the strokes "imply" detail. As an example, the wings in the piece above is basically a bunch of varying brush strokes, but from far away the eye fills in the gaps and depicts it as something with texture and form, even though it's not defined very well. I'd rather do that instead of defining everything with line, because I'm just beyond lazy.

I suppose I'm moving towards more looser brush work, in the likes of say Nicolai Fechin or Joaquin Sorolla. I did gain a lot of value from more disciplined work with line, but I honestly enjoy creating finished work that involves more painting than drawing.

It's not to say though that my past works were in vain, because now I know what I don't like doing. This piece is kind of an outlier in the midst of all of my other drawings. Honestly, my whole gallery is a huge mess because I can't seem to figure out what I like making half the time. Hopefully from this point onwards I can be a little bit more consistent with my style of work.

06/20/2021 - vulnerability

Something which I've realized in art is that it very much has the burden of vulnerability.

I recall being super afraid of posting my work online. The idea that other people can see my work and judge it led me to shrink away in a corner and not show my art to anyone for a long time. Eventually the fear that comes with that goes away after sharing work for a bit. Critiques are very rare, and really, uncalled-for critiques are just a rude practice in general. I haven't had that happen to me (yet), but typically the worst thing that happens when posting your art online is that everyone ignores you, which doesn't really sit right either.

If there's one thing that all artists can relate to, it's probably imposter syndrome, or feeling inadequate. I mean, creating art is essentially exposing your soul to everyone in a visual form, and it's frightening. The reason that I can't take praise very well is that it doesn't feel at all deserved. There are so many other artists who are infinitely better than me that I feel obligated to point people to them instead so that they can look at "real" art, whatever that even means. I almost feel like the people who see my work deserve something better to look at.

I wish I could draw more from life outside, but doing any sort of drawing outside immediately makes you stand out. It's as if there's a big flashing sign over your head that says "look at me! I'm an artist and I'm drawing something!". Oh dear, that sounds utterly insufferable. If I were daring enough to do that, I'd have to bring a friend who's willing to go out and actually knows how to draw, and honestly I don't know anyone close to me that even knows how to draw, let alone one who wants to draw in public.

Another reason why I can't really work in front of other people is that art is something that takes a long time to make. A drawing takes like 15 or so minutes before it looks presentable (for me at least), and a painting takes even longer, up to an hour or more. During the process, the work doesn't really look like anything. I don't know, walking on me painting feels like I've been caught with my pants down. My first reaction is immediately like "don't look!" while shielding my screen/sketchbook from view. I'm so used to only showing the finished product that getting a glimpse of the process feels shameful, because that's where all of the struggles and failures are revealed.

I think the most painful thing that I've experienced as an artist is not even critique, but having an ambitious goal for a piece and then failing to live up to the vision. I have a handful of those, and it almost feels like I've done a crime against humanity or something. I don't even acknowledge that those works exist at this point. It's like some sort of repressed memory that crops up now and again that reminds me of the atrocity I've committed.

What is strange though is that for me, this only applies to the arts, music included. With my other discipline (programming), it's almost always a given that I'll fail, so it has become a part of the process. It's essentially getting things to work at all costs, almost with a cold, rationalistic mindset. I found that type of mindset is almost necessary when working in a professional environment. I'm slowly kind of applying that way of thinking to my study work and post-work critique, but it's something that will probably hinder the artistic process because it's so mechanical and robotic. I'll risk killing the work's soul at that point.

The relationship between an artist and their work is... complicated to say the least. 5% of the time I like it, 90% of the time I'm not satisfied, and like the last 5% I don't even know what to think about it anymore. It feels like self-deprecation is a necessary evil for me to improve my work, but at the same time there's probably a better way to go about it other than nagging myself to death.

06/16/2021 - reporting back on tempo and automatic drawing

Around the middle of January, I had a hunch that my art had some very stiff qualities to it, and may have limited the quality of my work to some degree. So I decided to take up automatic drawing as an exercise to alleviate that weakness.

Now it has been 5 months since I've started doing it, and I've filled up a total of 116 sheets of paper (yes I counted them all like a lunatic), typically with a finished automatic drawing on each side, so I've probably done around ~230 automatic drawings in total. This obviously brings up the question: has it improved my art in any way?

Well, it hasn't magically made me into the next Da Vinci, but there are three things that it has improved, from what I've observed: line confidence, natural drawing tempo, and shape design.

Line confidence was the most obvious improvement, from what I've seen so far. The point of automatic drawing is to have no direction in the first place, so there's no such thing as a "wrong stroke", or inaccuracy, because there's nothing really to be aiming for.

For some people, having no direction may be just enough to stop them right in their tracks, including me. It was really difficult at first, because the whole process is basically the embodiment of uncertainty. Where do I make the next stroke? What if the end result looks bad? And so on.

Automatic drawings instill line confidence because it makes you make decisions completely shrouded by uncertainty as to how the end product is going to look like. When I started boldly making strokes regardless of the outcome (in essence "drawing garbage"), I found that the confidence from that started transferring over to my typical work. If I'm confident in the midst of uncertainty, how about when I know exactly what I'm supposed to be drawing?

If you compare my first automatic drawings compared to the ones I'm making now, there's quite a stark constrast:

each drawing takes like 1-2 minutes max

With regards to tempo and shape design, that refers entirely to Sinix's video on tempo. Honestly, the video touches on the idea of shape design way better, so you can watch the video for more details, but here I'll talk about the idea of tempo, since I'm still quite behind on the shape design side.

He states that every artist has a natural "rhythm" in their process, how they shift in speed when making their strokes to create drawings. That natural speed of drawing is an artist's "tempo". He also said that sometimes bad drawing days are a result of being "out of tempo", where you draw faster or slower than your natural tempo, which unsettles things and disrupts the flow of one's intuition.

Automatic drawing, from what I've found, helps you find your natural tempo. One's natural tempo seems to be in line with the speed at which you can make intuitive decisions, which essentially means that the speed at which you automatic draw comfortably is your natural tempo.

I decided to record myself making two automatic drawings just to see what my natural tempo really is. Since I'm entirely unaware of my speed while automatic drawing, looking back at my own recording is quite interesting:

my apologies for the abysmal setup

So from what I can see, I'm a bit on the faster side, and that's my natural tempo. Other artists will have a different tempo from one another. Peter Draws, for example, actually has quite a slow tempo. Slower than I could handle, to be honest. If I tried to draw at his tempo, I'd simply lose it, and my work will just come out even more stiff. If he drew at my tempo, he'd probably feel like he was rushing, and it'll come out like a huge mess.

It's a matter of finding the natural speed at which you're most confident in drawing. And it's not at a locked speed either. Like a piece of music, there are times to slow down (like when filling in the details), and when to speed up and just go for it (like when blocking in the big shapes). Some people will be faster than others when doing details, and some will be slower at blocking in the big shapes. It really comes down to the artist.

Now, the thing with all of this is that when I first listened to Sinix's video, I was confused. It all seemed very abstract and nebulous; something that I would just not get at all. But the more I do these automatic drawings, the more the things that he said started to make sense.

So if all of what I'm writing sounds like the drunken man's ramblings in the subway, consider trying out automatic drawing for a bit and see what happens. I'll consider doing another status update in like another 6 months to a year and see how it's going then.

06/01/2021 - avatar: the last reference bender

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:

the drawing isn't perfect but good enough to prove my point

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:

  • Level 1: Drawing straight from the reference (observation, ~construction)
  • Level 2: Drawing a reference in different angles (observation & construction)
  • Level 3: Analyze the reference, then draw it in different angles without consulting it (observation & construction, ~memory)
  • Level 4: Construct (and/or design) an object straight from memory (construction & memory)

I did a little bit of Level 2 drawing in my sketchbook, which you can see below:

two recent sketchbook pages (ballpoint pen)

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.

May 2021

05/25/2021 - death by a thousand boxes
vietnam flashbacks

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.

05/21/2021 - little big painting breakthrough

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.

05/19/2021 - a new art platform?

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.

05/16/2021 - crutch of digital art and drawing in pen
some Leyendecker studies in ballpoint pen

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.

05/02/2021 - "just practice", and some actual advice

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:

  1. Work on the Fundamentals

    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 want to know what are the fundamentals, you can check out this article, or this episode of the Draftsmen Podcast.

  2. Know yourself, and work on your weaknesses.

    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.

  3. Observe and reference from your inspirations

    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.

  4. Take your time

    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.

  5. Regarding Comparison

    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.

April 2021

04/26/2021 - the struggles of drawing

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.

04/20/2021 - one-dimensional media

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.

04/11/2021 - we're back in business

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.

January 2021

01/28/2021 - the grand epiphany

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.

I don't have a preset goal in mind for how much I want to draw, as I'm well aware that voicing it here is just bound to make me less likely to do it at all. But those numbers in my artist stats will start going up as I focus more on drawing more and painting less polished work. Fortunately, I implemented the stats using Javascript, so there won't be a pop-up in people's feed when I'm here just to update my stats. Updating .js files doesn't trigger Neocities to post your site to other people's feeds, so there's a neat thing for those who would like to implement such a thing themselves.

So yeah, that was my revelation. It's often the seemingly trivial ideas which go undetected that come back in full force, huh?

01/26/2021 - where am I going

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.

01/22/2021 - enjoying the process

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?

01/17/2021 - automatic dtawrings

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:

Each of these takes like 5-10 minutes. Used ballpoint pen.

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.

Each drawing took around 2-3 minutes.

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.

01/11/2021 - doodle therapy

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.

definitely a very different change of pace

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:

I don't know what I'm doing at the beginning [of a painting]. ... I don't like to guide my art too much. I like it when it guides me and takes me somewhere instead. It's a little bit more exciting and unexpected that way.

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.

01/10/2021 - school starting up again

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.

01/07/2021 - brain melting

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:

referencing from this artist. their work is really good

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.

01/05/2021 - it's redraw time

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.

RTX off vs. RTX on

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.

December 2020

12/31/2020 - testing them brushes

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.

12/23/2020 - brushes and sandwiches

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.

The edited version is less potent so a bit of the grey background blended with the gradient block

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.

12/19/2020 - brain turning to mush
HEAVYPAINT still life nightmare

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.

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