Saturday, September 30, 2006

Hand Studies and Cheating

A few hand sketches, because hands are fricken fracken hard.

And this is cheating. I picked colors off a photo, which is why the colors are close to right. But it does show that small brushes with no mixing can work, although I'm making that hard to see by only giving the small version here.

(Yes, it is the same catalog picture from earlier. So sue me, I like the look of the model.)

I still have a lot of work to do before I can get colors to work reliably when mixing them myself. Sigh.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Headshot, Backdrop, Figure Sketch

Three more pictures to pick apart.

This was a head-shot done from a photograph which cut off the tip of this man's nose and the left side of his head (his left, our right). I tried to be very, very careful to get everything placed correctly, and in the end it still doesn't look much like him. Still, I like the picture, especially the squinty sort of cowboy look. But the part I really like best is his ear.

A background, actually from the same picture as that head above. I'm painting the background first, modifying a few things (especially the colors, and I'm not sure that's gone so well). Still needs a lot of sharpening up, and I should really fix the perspective on those posters.

What I'm most happy about is that I managed to get some fairly nice effects with light on the floor, and not totally mess it up. The thing that I most want to improve is the contrast of the darkness in the hall with the light at the end and in the foreground.

A figure sketch done last night, in about an hour (obviously not from life!) I actually don't have much to say about it, except that it seemed like good practice, and I wish I could find the time to take some figure classes to do this from life.

Thursday, September 21, 2006


A couple of pictures of models from old catalogs.

What I was trying to learn, aside from just practice: 1) Attention to detail, 2) Improving my line quality.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Possibly Offensive

This picture is hard to explain if you don't know the background. OK, maybe not that hard. The basic concept is in the pinup tradition, plus the "Japanese high-school girl" tradition... That's a tradition, right? ... Is there a girls with guns tradition? I think there might be. Anyway, the point is that although I'm not against pinups and all that stuff, (Honestly, I do think school uniforms can be pretty hot... Oops, did I say that out loud?) this picture isn't some kind of literal fantasy. It is a bit of a joke, building on a bit of another joke, until things like Hello Kitty emblems take on a whole new significance. And no, I'm not going to explain it more than that, because what I really wanted to talk about was my approach to the picture and how I feel about it.

This is a return to line art style, but trying to be relatively clean. The most obvious change is probably that I avoided shading where possible, instead outlining the shadow areas. I'm considering coloring it later, and shading in the line art gets in the way there. Even without color, though, I do like the style of using outlines to indicate shading.

Aside from just wanting to do the picture, I also wanted to complete it quickly, in one night. In all, including finding references, it took a very long night, but I did finish it. If I'd had more time, I think I would have fixed a few mistakes, but I also think that splitting things up over multiple sessions can make a picture lose something.

The figures, except for the backward facing man, were posed with references (from fashion catalogs, as I think is obvious), but just sketched to catch the poses and work out difficult areas (the legs, the legs, the legs-- thanks to The Temple of the Seven Golden Camels for some tips on that and other things). The sketches were moved around and scaled a bit to fit together the composition, then they were fleshed out. A few positions were changed from the reference poses, and the faces and clothes were drawn from imagination, which shows a little, particularly in the clothes. I was pleased that I could do it this well. Drawing figures was something I had neglected for a long time, and drawing a group shot (even one with as little interaction as this one) is not something I feel up to doing very often. A couple of times in the sketching process I got frustrated, but persistence does pay off, if not with a perfect drawing, at least with something.

Ah, about the composition, that's one of the places where I'm not all that pleased. I have a feeling that it could be better.

Funny, but I seem to recall being able to draw this well in high-school. On the other hand, up until last year I was convinced that I could draw reasonably well. It took some trying to draw specific things and comparing to the work of real artists to see just how bad I was. If I dug out any of those old drawings I have a feeling I might be able to see flaws now that I couldn't see then. No doubt the same will happen with this picture.

One major thing I would have done differently for this picture, if I was going to do it again, is create a background. I'm thinking a background would help tie the picture together better (see the "Tips and Tricks" page from The Comic Strip Artist's Kit, also from the Temple of the Seven Golden Camels, for example).

Wednesday, September 13, 2006


Back to the messy sketch style. Crufty, but it was quick and easy.

I need to practice drawing figures for a while.

Good News and Bad News

The good news is, new picture. The colors worked OK, maybe kinda' a little, although I still haven't managed to get much pop. I avoided some of the washing out by mixing less, and picking from a swatch of colors I had mixed elsewhere on the canvas instead of from the picture I was drawing. It seems to help keep the colors distinct, and avoid the gray, even if I'm still far from the vibrancy I want.

The bad news is, it doesn't look anything much like the original subject (again!). Later I think I'll going to do a comparison and try to figure out what I got wrong.

Here's the original. He's the one on the right. Damn embarrassing that I can't even copy a photo better than that.

Monday, September 11, 2006

Blue and Yellow Make...

Yesterday, or was it the day before? Anyway, recently I lamented that all the colors in my pictures look washed out. Well, it turns out this is not a unique problem. Take a look at this page, and this one, particularly this quote:

Even if you hand pick and paint every color in your image, if you rely only on the luminosity slider, you'll have the same problems. You see this luminosity slider reliance a lot, especially in the skin tones of the work of beginning painters.

Bam! Hit the nail on the head there, friend. I'm not using the luminosity slider, but I am using opacity mixing a lot, and I'm getting dull grays when I mix. The solution, then, is to pick the correct color between the two I'm trying to mix and add that in, instead of over-mixing everything. Looks like I'm going to be experimenting with the color picker for a while...

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Watching a Trainwreck

First of a series, I suspect.

This is a picture which, well, sucks. I don't think any of the pictures I post here are really outstanding. Frankly, they range from rather bad to OK, and this one is on the bad end of the scale. It does at least look vaguely like a guy in a suit, but otherwise there's not much to recommend it.

There were many things I did wrong here, so let's go over a few points. (This is mostly me talking to future-me, which is pretty appropriate, seeing as pretty much nobody reads this blog anyway.)

1. Back to front, dark to light, big to small. I plastered in the background after outlining the figure, which makes it harder.

2. Checking proportions. That head is too big, and it looks to me like there's too much space between his brow and his hairline. His legs are too short, too.

3. Colors. Washed out colors. I had a really hard time getting flesh tones for this one, as you might be able to tell in the video. The tones I ended up with are not good. There simply isn't enough definition. I think I need to remember to get a good midtone, highlight and shadow value before progressing. I also really, really need to figure out how to get deeper and more vibrant color in general. All of my pictures, even the realtively good ones, are washed out.

Even though it was painful, there were also some fun things that happened with this picture, although it may not be apparent. Initially I played around with drawing the features using a big brush, letting the difference between one brush stroke and another define smaller things. It did work in some interesting ways in some places. I also had fun with the folds in his pants and shirt. I'll probably look back on those too some day and feel ill, but for now it was a bright point in an otherwise rather disheartening exercise.

I expect I will be coming back to that picture, starting from scratch.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

A Sense of Scale

So, what I'm liking about my recent pictures is that I seem to finally be getting where I can scale them. A lot of my older pictures (and by older I mean a few months ago) turn really ugly when you start shrinking them. I'm not talking about issues with detail being lost or cruddy algorithms which don't anti-alias. I'm talking about mistakes that reveal themselves when you back up: a face that looks fairly reasonable close up suddenly has a completely wrong shape when you back away, that sort of thing. Seeing that my pictures have fewer of those problems recently is a real source of encouragement.

I'm particularly happy that my pictures without references (the one from the Imagining Things post below, for example) are also showing this. Of course, in that case it's a procedural thing. That picture was started as a small sketch then blown up and re-drawn at the larger scale. It definitely helped.

Still, progress. There may be hope.

... I'm such an optimist.

Monday, September 04, 2006

Imagining Things

Lately I have done a series of digital paintings (we really need a good neologism for that-- pixelings? Topic for another post, I guess) based on photographs. These are fun, especially because it's easier to make something that looks realistic. Not saying my paintings are realistic, but, you know, more realistic.

However, I was worried that my ability to work from imagination, such as it is, was getting rusty. So tonight, back to the computer for a drawing from nothing but an idea. The result is above. It's... well, it's OK. It looks something like what I wanted, though not as much as I want it to look like what I want. I could keep trying to render it and fix the mistakes, but I thought it would be better to stop after an hour and do something else. Mistakes can be instructive sometimes. At least I reassured myself that I haven't gotten significantly worse.

Drawing from imagination is important, I think. Sometimes I get ideas for pictures and I can't find a good reference. Someday I might want to draw a comic-book-type-thing, and I can't see getting a photograph for every frame. Learning to draw realistically helps one to reproduce images in an appealing way, but it's also a way to train your hands and eyes to reproduce what you can see in your head, and set the imagination free.

Saturday, September 02, 2006

Beach Feet

I started this picture with the intention of using smaller brushes to eventually detail it in my usual style, but when I was getting near the end of what I could do with a large brush, I thought the feel of the picture was pretty nice. So I decided to stop, at least for the moment. Probably it is the composition more than anything else. Maybe I'll see later if I can continue without ruining it.