I've been drawing and painting a lot lately. Coincidentally, I've been churning out a lot of garbage lately too. It will take me a while to get back into my groove, where I can draw and paint as comfortably as I did before. Until then, back to the basics. First, some delightful still life.
Huge post number two coming up. I need to start doing these things weekly. Organizing a month's worth of images is ruining my sanity.
I. All Day, Every Day
I gave it a lot of thought and my life is a lot like this They Might Be Giants song. Just replace "practice trumpet everyday" with "practice drawing everyday".
I've spent my entire life in a videogame cocoon so I use a lot of videogame analogies. The one I use the most is something that both gamers and non-gamers can appreciate, and it could be applied to everything in life: Making art is like getting the high score in a videogame. You're not going to get it by playing once, or even once a week or once a month. You gotta practice all the time. All the time!
Athletes, wrestlers, the ultra-competitive players in videogame tournaments, chefs, musicians, painters. They're all where they're at because they devoted every waking moment of their lives to that thing they're passionate about.
If you're not getting anywhere with your art, you need to supplement practice with education, or if you've already been through school (like me) then with more education! It's the age of the internet. All the resources you need to get better are at your fingertips. You can order art books easily, or even download them as PDFs. Art forums and communities are everywhere: ConceptArt, WIPNation, Crimson Daggers, Facebook, Google+, Twitter. Tons of free videos and tutorials on Livestream, YouTube, Vimeo. Lots of great art blogs out there like Muddy Colors and The ArtOrder. (This actually gives me an idea. I will construct a list of resources for you guys to use some day. My large mess of bookmarks could use some organizing anyways.) Whenever someone tells me they suck at something, it infuriates me. Don't stop. Keep going. Practice every day. Get that high score!
II-A. Figure Drawing / Sketches
More live figure drawing sketches from AVAA. This section will be broken into a couple of sub-sections so I can muse about random thoughts.
Sometimes when I get bored with a pose, I find something interesting about it -- a muscle, a rib, a foot, a shadow -- and I focus on that one thing and make it the best damn muscle/rib/foot/shadow ever. Or I crank out studies until the pose is over. The zeroed in body part usually ends up looking like Lovecraftian lumps of horror, but the experience I get out of concentrating on that one area is priceless. That kind of focused sketching makes me a better artist in the end. Sometimes in mid-pose, I move to another part of the room and I see what I can tackle from that angle. I might as well try to understand the body and the pose instead of struggling to render something uninteresting.
When I attend these figure drawing sessions, I often notice people doing something I used to do every day and it makes me crazy. They beat themselves up because they can't create the perfect drawing. I admit, I still do this sometimes when I paint. But come on, going berserk every time you screw up can't possibly be good for your blood pressure. Use these sessions as a lesson, use them as learning experiences. As for me, when I screw up, I start doing studies to get a feel for the form. Or I just start over. I think Dali said it best. "Have no fear of perfection — you'll never reach it."
Here's some sketches of Lauren, who I'll (inadvertently and unintentionally) be painting at least two large portraits of over the next couple of weeks. I haven't spent this much time focusing on a single person for one painting (let alone several) since undergrad. It will be an interesting experience.
II-E. Still Life
Whenever I have absolutely nothing better to do (like waiting for my computer to load, waiting for figure drawing to start, or when I'm microwaving leftovers), I don't waste that time twiddling my thumbs. I whip out a sketchbook and start drawing whatever's around me. Drawing cute boys and French girls isn't the only way to get good at art. Draw everything! Observe shapes, shadows, values, highlights. Practice linework, practice shading, and when you're done or you're sick of looking at that object, find another one and do it again.
I found a couple of new life drawing sessions that I'll start attending eventually. I went to last month's Drink-n-Draw and loved the way it was organized. Here's some sketches of Goldie Candela from that session. I will also be working on a large oil painting of her over the next couple of weeks. Cannot wait to get started.
II-G. Dr. Sketchy
The ever-animated Westen Borghesi from last week's Dr. Sketchy. Great sense of humor, fun personality, and I haven't even heard him talk. When the pose starts, he transforms into a statue. One of my favorite male models ever.
And finally, more stuff from July and August.
III. My Ideal Woman
A couple of years ago, my professor gave us an assignment to draw an ideal male face and an ideal female face. The point of the assignment was to get us comfortable drawing a certain type of face/head so if we ever had to draw a head in the future then we could fall back on our default faces and be able to recreate those.
It sounded amazing in theory, but the curriculum at Guildhall was insane. We were given very few anatomy lessons and absolutely no life drawing sessions. Also, the assignment was to be completed in a weekend. The following Monday, we were "tested" and told to re-draw our ideal heads without reference. Since very few of us had extensive experience drawing faces in the past, most of us failed. Who can recreate a face after just a couple of minutes/hours worth of sketching?
Anyways, these were done from photo reference. I was watching a movie and found this gorgeous girl, so I just kept taking nonstop screenshots. I remembered the absurd face assignment and decided to give it a long run try. I'll see how much of her face I can absorb into my "default" or "ideal" female head in the future.
IV. Oil Painting, Structure and Foundation
I've been struggling with painting lately. It frustrates the hell out of me but I try not to beat myself up for it. I only work with oil paints once a week so once a week's worth of practice is what's going to show in my work. The large paintings I'm going to work on along with some oil painting studies I have planned should help me out in the long run. Therese, the girl with the crazy pink-blonde hair, is one of the last paintings that I truly struggled with.
After Therese, I decided to add some structure to my paintings. When I work on these, I only have a limited amount of time to get a certain amount of information on the canvas. The best way to execute this is to follow a plan. With these new paintings, I started off with a pencil sketch on the canvas before applying oils. This is so I don't have to worry about form while I paint and so I can focus on colors and values.
So far, I'm pretty satisfied with this process. Painting has been way less stressful ever since I started doing this. I used to sketch on the canvas when I first started painting but stopped because it felt like I was wasting time. Shortcuts are dangerous, kids! Drawing before painting isn't a waste of time. It lays down a foundation, a blueprint, a map for you to follow.
These three portraits were done at AVAA and took approximately two hours each.
V. Timed Bierstadt Studies
I noticed that the larger paintings and illustrations I manage to pull off aren't as compositionally strong as I'd like them to be. I also noticed that my backgrounds are weak. To remedy this, I decided to spend some time studying landscapes. I started off by doing some timed studies of Albert Bierstadt's work. I'm mainly using the studies to focus on Bierstadt's temperature, lighting, and composition. I timed myself on them so I wouldn't spend too much time obsessing over unnecessary details.
To help myself "see" the images better, I used the max filter on some of the studies (example underneath) for five minutes, then removed the filter to finish the study.
I'm very happy with the way they turned out, especially how they look in thumbnail form, which means I was successful in nailing Bierstadt's temperature, lighting, and composition. I will eventually attempt much longer studies to recreate masters' works as closely as possible. There's a lot to learn from master studies. But for now, I'm super satisfied with these.
Finally, some application. I just spent a buttload of time looking at Bierstadt's work. Let's see if it paid off. So I participated in ConceptArt.org's Illustration of the Week and Environment of the Week. First, I did what I've never done before (to this extent). I started off with twenty thumbnails per image.
I kept the thumbnails small and limited my palette to five values to keep it simple.
With the thumbnails done, I chose my two favorites from each set and started sketches of my illustrations. Here's my two Spaceship Wreck choices, #19 and #12.
And my two Venetian Queen's Floating Palace choices, #15 and #6.
Strangely, I decided to go with the vertical format for both illustrations. I guess I've been drawing the figure so much that I'm more comfortable with a vertical canvas. Here's the finished illustrations and an animated GIF of some of the process.
I really love the way the palace turned out but I can tell it's not quite there yet. I will definitely tweak it until it's a sexy beast. The spaceship wreck was fun when I figured out what I was doing, but I'm calling it finished (for now).
Thanks for following along! Hopefully, I'll have another post up next week. Writing this post and updating my stuff elsewhere has my brain rattling.