Good, it is not, but after spending pretty much all day today noodling around and getting nothing except more and more frustrated, it was a relief to have something come out, even a mangled something like this.
The title? Oh, I was thinking about something that John Carmack said, as an offhand remark during a tech demonstration once. He said that the difference between artists and the rest of us seemed to him to be a higher fidelity of imagination. That is, when an artist imagines something it has much more texture and detail than when a normal person does. A normal person like me, I sometimes think. It certainly does seem sometimes that artists have an amazing ability to encrust their visions with baroque detail at the drop of a hat, and I find this very difficult to do. I am, however, still an eternal optimist, enough so that I can sometimes enjoy drawing pictures anyway.
Having nothing better to do with myself, I painted a picture as an exercise. Why don't I spend this time working on the pictures I have promised my friends?
Yay for wrinkly shirts, a bit of pop, and a picture done in one session. Boo for working at a resolution that I can't seem to make look as good as I want, not enough pop, especially on the eyes, and losing track of things.
When looking at the initial sketch and progression, it becomes apparent that I messed up this picture. I ended up losing the line of the side of her face as I painted, eventually settling on something not as good as the sketch. Lesson learned: If you have a sketch you like, try to refer back to it.
There are two (solvable) problems with her hair. The first is the sharp edge with her face. I think that needs to be broken up a bit. Maybe some skin visible behind the hair strands, or maybe breaking the straightness of the edge. Pull back and darken the lower of the parts along the edge of her face?
The second is the area to the right of that, which is too light and uniform. Maybe that should be darkened, with a bit more saturation, and with a bit more variety in shading.
The unsolvable problems are a bit of stiffness in the way her hair falls, especially on the right, over her chest, and the way the hair is stuck in semi-uniform clumps/bands with too little variety. I should have mixed it up a bit more in terms of laying that out. I think this comes down to timidity.
I was hoping to finish, but I messed up the face something fierce, and it took a long time to fix (if I managed to fix it). Also, I had to screw around with that damn fur some more. And hair. Hair is almost as bad as fur.
Just so you know, I went about this picture pretty much completely the wrong way. You can also see (maybe) how I fumbled around trying to get the shading right and fix the mistakes in the original sketch, never entirely succeeding.
All done in Corel Painter Essentials from a photo reference (of course) in about three hours.
Another somewhat interesting factoid: Almost every color in the picture is some shade of red/orange. (Browns and skin tones are pretty much orange with less saturation.) That includes the gray of her dress and the background. Here's a picture with the saturation turned up in Photoshop:
I did manage to do some work on stuff which I have been neglecting. I also managed to do this.
Joshua Middleton (yes, again) posted a nice picture on his blog recently, and this is an imitation of a small part of it. I'm not sure why I wanted to try it, except that it (Joshua's) is an excellent picture, and the expression (on the girl in Joshua's picture) is spot on. Having drawn this part of the picture, I don't feel much more enlightened, but it was a nice way to spend some time.
By the way. Second row, second from the right. Labeled "X-Babes card art". Tonight I intend to get back to my own "babes," and other stuff. (Or maybe tonight will be a writing night... or a get nothing done night.)
Here, watch me rationalize. Copying a picture is not terribly hard (although it's not always easy, either). All the really difficult bits have been done for you. The excuse for copying is to let the process draw your attention to the details. By trying to reproduce the results of a better (or even just different) artist, you can learn something about how they solve the problems a picture presents. I was startled to realize, for example, how stylized Joshua Middleton's picture was, when the initial impression is one of extreme realism, at least in comparison to other comic artists.
This picture is getting to be the very definition of overworked, I think. I think I'm trying hard to get a likeness that I haven't captured and in the process things are getting too smooth. I may have also chosen a working resolution that's too high. Possibly the only way to recover is a radical re-simplification, but I'm too timid for that.
(The cropped version is at the full working size for this picture, if you click through. I personally like that level, where you can see the brush strokes. YMMV.)
Why go through the effort of rendering a photo as a painting? (Especially a digital painting? Let's not go there today.) Well, aside from the pleasure of finding out that, yes, I can still do that, there are choices made by the hand and eye that are not made by a camera. I think the appeal of realistic art at least partially lies in the fact that each aspect of a painting, each reflection, highlight and shadow, had to be noticed. The artist has to go through the picture and sort out, at least subconsciously, how to place blobs of pigment to regenerate the picture. The picture is (if you're lucky) brought to some sense of the essence of how it is seen. Not simply reproduction, but concentration.
Or maybe I'm just making excuses to draw pictures of pretty ladies. I'm probably not the first one.
I thought, hey, maybe I should try a practice painting to do something different. Oh but first I need a sketch. An over-rendered sketch that I will have to check and correct over and over again because I'm really not that good at judging proportions correctly. Yeah, that's a great idea.
Today I read (again) Tim Akers' story "The Algorithm" in Interzone issue 213 (I think it was 213... maybe 212). I like the story, but I have to be honest, I didn't like the artwork. It was passable art (although really it looked a bit rushed, I thought). What I really didn't like, though, was that it seemed to give away too much of the story.
I suppose it could be argued that people won't know what the picture depicts until they get to that point in the story (I had read the story before I saw the artwork, so my opinion is suspect). But anyway, I thought it would be interesting to see if I could quickly work up my image of a illustration for the story.
This is the result. I actually wanted to have the girl kissing or licking the cog, somehow making a more physical connection to it, but I couldn't get those images to work out. I also wanted her expression to be more... enigmatic... or threatening... or something. So, I'm not entirely happy with this image, but it's kinda OK, the day is over, and I've spent about four hours on this.
Sigh. Those colors looked better on the panel than they do on the CRT.
There are some pictures, a few, not that many really, that I scribble while working towards a concept, and never see the light of day. For good reason, really, as they generally have major problems. Still, it might be interesting, if you find that kind of thing interesting, which probably only I do, to try and connect this picture with later, more developed and hopefully better pictures that I might do. It won't be that hard, I bet.
OK, the lighting solution here is sub-optimal. I may need to add another light source or otherwise change things to make sure her face is clearer. Also, it's a bit muted. All those blues and grays. Comes from being restricted to night scenes, but I think I could mix it up a little.
Still, I take back everything bad I ever said about color. Light and shadow do wonders for the sense of depth in a picture. Maybe I won't be so impressed tomorrow, but it really seems to have added some pop. If only it will also work for the glass...
OK, the glass is driving me slowly mad. That's another hour of "inking" there. I've turned down the opacity of that layer in this image to simulate the color choice I expect to make. I also fooled around with some color before posting this, but, as usual, my first color experiments were not pretty.
Yeah, I think fooling with the color of the lines will do it. In fact, I may not need to reduce the contrast much at all. (I've gone a little too far in this test image, I think. And the line color is all purpley, too, at least on the CRT.)
So, what's happening here is that all those insane little pieces of glass are overwhelming everything and muddying up the picture. Now, I'm thinking it might be possible to deal with that in color. For example, the glass lines could be colored something low-contrast, to bring the figure back into focus. The other possibility I'm thinking about is cutting down on the size and number of fragments, maybe even restricting most of them to the right side of the picture. We'll see, which is one of the nice things about working in Photoshop.
Let me just say a couple of things. Stupid perspective. Stupid showers of fragmented glass.
The glass is roughed in here. I'll be going back over it with my OCD and trying to give the scene a nice frozen motion feel with lots of detail. Maybe I'll add some billowing curtains or something, with lots of complicated folds and stuff. Stupid ambition.
First, a warm up, drawn from photo reference fairly quickly.
Second, a rough for the "work" picture, which took much, much longer to get to this state. Part of it is there was no reference, of course, and the other part is, I didn't really know exactly what I wanted the picture to look like, so I ended up flailing about a lot.
120 minute drawing from a reference photo. As usual with an exercise, some things I like, and some things I wish I could fix. I'm getting better with values, I think, so this practice is doing what it was supposed to do.
I was worried, probably rightly so, that I haven't done much drawing from imagination lately. So I started doodling, and, after many, many false starts, drew this. I like it, actually. It's not perfect or overwhelming or anything, but it is a nice little picture.
Why yes, I do draw pictures of Asian women to the near exclusion of everything else. Why do you ask?
My internet connection at home is broken. Do not like.
Another picture drawn as an exercise last night. Some bits I like, but I've made her right arm too long from shoulder to elbow, I think. Makes it look a little wonky. Maybe I'll try and fix it later. Otherwise, though, a nice way to waste a couple of hours.
Today's educational moment: Humans don't have straight lines. They can be useful approximations, sometimes, but you'd be hard pressed to find a really straight line on a human body. The subtle curves can really make a difference, and they can be really hard to get right.
On the other hand, straightness can be visually useful, and it can show up in strange places.