When was the last time you redid a homework assignment? Me? Four years ago. Fast forward to art school! The crazy part is that despite ungraded assignments, I decided to go through with my choice and upon teacher recommendation at that. This isn’t such a shocking thing, I realize. The RESULTS though!
So, What’s the Deal?
“Draw like you’re painting; paint like you’re drawing.”
My instructor repeats the same mantra time and again—as he should! Granted, both aren’t the same, but basically this assignment is to get students, like me, to think like a painter.
I’ll give you an example:
The image above was the last full-scale, high-resolution painting I finished before I started art school.
I had many things going for this illustration in particular: lighting, mood, the overall atmosphere; my use of textures. I even created my own pattern from a sketch to use as a brush! I had to be honest with myself, though; I wasn’t too satisfied with the end result. I tried, at the very least.
My critiques? I love the textures, but they still clash; despite my best efforts. Secondly, the image is not cohesive. It looks a little cartoony and this stems from my love of lines. You can see that I don’t think of this painting as a series of shapes or puzzle pieces by how I colored it. This is also tempting, I realize, for me as a digital painter because I rely on my Photoshop layers to think for me –I give 2 separate colors their own layers, and my work is done. Nope! Not anymore. Granted lines can be visible, but they don’t need to be overpowering. I see now that this image shows my thought process at the time I rendered it: I was so focused on getting the image that I had in my head to paper, making it “look cool,” that I didn’t take my time.
How to Tackle This Issue
My instructor cautioned a current trend in this age of digital art. And by “current” I mean, roughly the last seven years or less -that I can tell. Speed-painting! I’m guilty of this, too. But, DON’T SHOOT ME YET, oh established-pros and fellow amateurs. Hear me out? I’ve heard mixed reviews about this. One professional illustrator from the YouTube channel, CUBEBRUSH, noted that he spends about a couple hours or so on most speedpaints that he does. So time is definitely spent. The attraction for most beginning professionals, like myself is the “speed” aspect of the term. It’s not that I wanted to cut corners; nor did I plan to take shortcuts. I just thought this was the thing to do. My thinking: Maybe this is the right direction to go in, since all these professionals are doing speedpaints. Perhaps I need to habitually do this to get better. Practice. But that’s not it. The term itself is a misconception contrary to what the professionals who utilize the term actually do! It’s really just slow-painting: warm-ups and loose compositions that illustrate an initial idea, with less time spent. And sped-up videos ^^;
What’s the average time spent for digital paintings? No clue. But I think it depends on the work itself. Deadlines and clients aside, in order to get better, my instructor advises to rehearse. Athletes practice for tournaments. Japanese tea masters practice performing tea ceremonies for years to achieve master status. Kids practice letters and characters in order to write sentences. I remember writing research papers in college and high-school, that required rough drafts before attempting the final paper. I need to paint rough drafts before even starting the final painting. I didn’t know this was necessary, until now! Many youTubers don’t talk about this.
So the Actual Assignment
Character design…sort of. It’s more like a challenge: choose an animal, choose a portrait of a historical figure aaand PUT ‘EM TOGETHER.
The assignment itself is not meant to be hard. The trick is to keep the animal looking like it’s supposed to and make the overall image look like the old photo. But I can’t just swap heads either. I have to literally turn the subject of the photo into the animal of my choosing; while I scale everything else down to fit it.
I chose a wolf.
And What do I do first? I study it. I also study the portrait as a lighting reference.
Dublin Timberwolf by Tambako*
Portrait of a young man by Alessandro Longhi
Then I went on to the sketch phase.
You can probably tell that I took more time with the later sketches than the first ones. When I felt comfortable enough with the anatomy, I combined the subject references, completing the official sketch.
My rehearsal for the final painting comes in by making the color compositions.
I had a lot of fun with these. It was tedious at first, but by the second and third time around, I found myself moving a lot quicker. I had a better idea of where I wanted my colors to go in the final piece.
This process of making color comps reminds of when I did comic flats once. Ever see old Archie comic strips or old Batman/Superman comicbooks? Chances are, they had a two-toned, minimalistic look: black and white with color; maybe a grey background. Nowadays that’s often a flat, made by a separate person to then be handed off to an official colorist. Which makes ME a “Colorist in Training” ^_^
Okay, okay—but WHEN’S THE “REDRAW” COMIN’ IN?
I got peer reviews. I got suggestions. My instructor, however, showed examples of how starting over isn’t a bad thing when making art. He said that redo’s often produce better work. So…I gave it a shot.
FANCY ANIMAL: TAKE TWO! *SNAP*
Remember how I said my wolf sketches got better later on? Same is true in this case! I redrew the assignment to reflect the portrait [It also allowed me to incorporate the wolf’s anatomy better].
Granted, I don’t think this version reflects the more petite/childlike stature of the original portrait. This wolf is not a puppy either. That being the case, I like how much stronger this version is.
So, I press on to the first composition!
His face looks more feline than I wanted, which is another reason why comps are so great. I can redo this as many times I need until his face and overall appearances looks how I want. THEN I can start painting. I also took more time on the face than necessary, as this IS still just the comp and I’m by NO means done.
My instructor says that an illustration should EARN the rendering part –basically the painting details, bells and whistles. The comp should look like half the work is done: shading and all. We’ll see if my illustration earns the rendering by comp 4. PHEW!
WHERE…has Oatley Academy BEEN all my life???!
Look out for part 2? ^_^
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Tambako the Jaguar (Animal Wildlife Photographer)
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