2020 Art Retrospective
the year of the 'rona

An Introduction to the Art Retrospective

So I had an idea... which is something that should be said with utmost caution, because it's almost always a terrible idea, but hear me out.

I thought it would be a great idea to kind of "recap" every single year in my art journey so far, detailing what things I had improved in, some possible changes in my art process, and so on. A large majority of artists typically do this with a "sketchbook tour", but since I use a sketchbook only for dumping ideas, it wasn't a particularly feasible plan of action. Also, I don't want to record a video of such a thing; my ability to speak is entirely abysmal, not to mention I have little to no equipment to do so.

I'm starting this series of retrospectives with 2020, as it was the most recent year and I recall a lot more of the details purely because of its recency. I only have a lot of drawings up until 2017 (when I started taking art "seriously"), but much to my horror, I actually found drawings back in 2009, when I was in elementary school. I plan to cover those in a range from 2009-2015, as I have barely any drawings throughout that period, so I might as well cover them all in one retrospective.

These retrospectives are essentially going to be a glorified summary, the "TL:DR" of my art journey throughout the year, and I plan on doing it every year onwards, which is pretty exciting. Stay tuned for the more early years, where I'm more likely to roast my past self into ash, but we'll see when we get there.

With that out of the way, let's get on with the retrospective.

Development

I think the things which I had developed the most this year were primarily colour, composition, and rendering. I started integrating colour in ways to invoke a sort of atmosphere, though it was mainly just small experimentations. I definitely learned a lot about values, and what colours to pick when rendering an object (ie. use of warm and cool colours).

Compositionally I started being a bit more aware of the focus of the subject, where the viewer would look first, and how the piece flowed from one focus point to another. A good example of a start would be one of my Inktober "redraws":

June 27th

In this particular piece, I had intentionally aimed all of the people to point towards the bottom-left of the image (which is the Earth in this case), with the largest figure being the girl with the red umbrella taking the focus first, and then it leads the viewer downwards to capture all of the subjects. Or at least, that is what I tried to do. Not entirely sure if it actually worked, but it's a start.

In terms of progressing in anatomy, I didn't actually work on it as much as I had hoped. Didn't do any particular studies of certain body parts, unlike in 2018 when I had studied a bit of Bridgman to learn about the shoulders and torso. I did do some painting studies, but they were primarily portraits, so I didn't really touch on the other parts of the body.

Compared to 2018, there was definitely less experimentation in terms of style and mediums. I focused primarily on digital painting with a lineless style this year, whereas in 2018 I experimented with some watercolour, did some pieces with flat colours and line art, and some pieces with a lineless style. I stuck more with my preferences this time around, and start developing in a more specific direction, which I think was the right call.

I did discover the program HEAVYPAINT around early November, and I had a little bit of fun with it. Mostly did studies though; since the program has no layering functionality (as of writing this), I wasn't brave enough to create original pieces in it, though it's something I have considered doing.

HEAVYPAINT liminal environment study - November 11th

HEAVYPAINT study - Referenced from LGRwich №14 - Roast London Broil Pumpernickel

Some Statistics

I managed to create 24 original finished pieces over the whole year, which is a pretty decent amount (for me anyway). I only came out of my hiatus in the middle of June, which means that I painted on average 4 pieces a month. Not too shabby.

I did do around 18 fully finished painting studies, which is a substantial amount; more than any other year so far. This was the first real year that I started doing more studies in terms of painting and rendering rather than drawing.

In terms of loose sheets, I filled out around 48 pieces of A4 paper, which isn't a lot I'll be frank. A large majority of those loose sheets were filled with gesture drawings, primarily done as a warm up.

Tools

2020 was the year I switched from a traditional graphics tablet to one with a display. And the change was... rather rough to start actually.

I had only painted in Krita for like 2 months but I had adapted very quickly to the program when I started using it. The brush selection was great, the brush engine to me felt intuitive, and overall it was a great experience using it. I'd recommend it any day.

When I switched to Procreate, I wasn't particularly happy with the brush options. It definitely took a long while (around 3-4 months) before I found (and even created) brushes which I was happy to use. A large majority of the time I was kind of stumbling around with the many brushes, most of which I find rather gaudy to be frank, but that's just me nitpicking.

Having used both a display tablet and a traditional graphics tablet, I'd say that the biggest difference was the speed in the sketching phase and setting up the piece. In general the workflow was a little bit faster, but I wouldn't say that having no display is a deal-breaker. I would be completely fine moving back to a traditional graphics tablet if I had to, though of course I prefer using the tablet with a display because I spent my own money on it (my wallet took a huge ouchie after that investment, yikes).

Favourite Pieces

I do have some pieces which are more personal favourites, and I want to share my thoughts about them, coming from the one who actually created them.


June 26th

One of the first three pieces that I actually started off the year with. I was still in the process of derusting after my year-long art hiatus. so I was honestly surprised that I managed to pull this off so early.

I frankly just winged a lot of stuff (the pose and clothes especially), but it turned out alright. I had very little references to work off of for this piece, which wasn't intentional and I wish I got more of them, now looking back. But despite that I think it was a decent result even if it was mostly from imagination and memory.



July 22nd

Something about the frustration of drawing is something that artists know all too well. I like the colour palette that I chose for this piece; it kind of evokes a sense of melancholy, something which is prevalent when going through artist's block, or some sort of stagnation period.

Also I used a technique which I hadn't used before: colour dodge for dramatic lighting. I painted the piece without the light coming from the top left of the image until the very end, and it turned out quite nicely; much better than I had anticipated.

This was also the last piece I had painted using Krita before moving on to Procreate. Just a fun fact.



December 8th

This is probably my favourite piece out of the entire year, just because I learned quite a lot about lighting and rendering. I also had finally settled with some brushes that I liked using, so that contributed to me liking the process better I suppose.

With regards to the concept, I did think it was a neat idea to create "candle people" to represent the idea of burnout. I'll possibly incorporate more of these peeps in the future if I find more ways to integrate them in a composition.

In terms of rendering, I learned about splitting my process into two stages: rendering with practical lighting, and then adding artistic lighting (which I had learned about from this video). Essentially, in the first stage you shade the form without taking any sort of directional light source into account, using only a generic light (eminating from the viewer's POV is a good start). After rendering the subjects in their entirety, you can start blocking in huge forms of shadow and light from a chosen light source; in this particular case, it was from two candle flames that lit the entire piece.

Process for adding lighting to a piece

I had kind of used this technique in the piece previously mentioned to this one, but this time it was more generalized so that it applies to all sorts of scenarios. I definitely saw an increase in quality in terms of the result after integrating this method into my process.

Extras

As you may have possible seen in my reflection on Instagram, this was the year I left the platform for the third (and hopefully last) time before switching over to Neocities. I don't regret it one bit, but I suppose that it's something that is not for everyone.

I found out that my needs are met quite minimally. To be honest, I don't really care much about having a big audience; just enough to have a few eyes on my work. And after that, it was off to the races. Even something as petty as my stuff only having potential of being seen was enough of a boost for me to draw a lot more consistently.

The thing which I stumbled upon is that my art production skyrocketed when I posted my work publically. It was like a pattern with IG: when I was posting stuff online I was posting a lot of paintings and drawing more to improve. I suppose I treated social media as an accountability partner more than anything, but since Instagram played with my psychology to a destructive level, switching over to a more obscure platform like Neocities was a better choice for me, I feel.

I'm not producing as much here on Neocities compared to when I was on IG, but it has certainly made art a more sustainable activity, which makes me happy. This is the first time that I've been drawing consistently for more than a few months, and my skill is growing at a more consistent rate as opposed to it being sporadic like it has been for the last 3 years.

It was a good year (art-wise, that is)

My drawing skill and draftsmanship this year didn't really improve too much, but my painting skill did grow quite a bit. I started posting my work publicly again, which was a good start. It was great that I managed to get out of my year-long hiatus, and despite having not made anything for a long time I didn't really deteriorate in skill that much which is good to see.

Overall, my progress wasn't particularly fast this time around, but at least it was consistent. I'm happy with my progress in 2020.

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