Saturday, July 28, 2012

There and Back Again: Days 22-26

Day 22: Tiny flowey ladies! Going more for the feel of the motion, rather than perfect accuracy to the reference.

Day 23: Eyes! Eyes are so important. They are very specific in their details, and as humans we look at faces - and eyes - basically before anything else. If they're wrong, or focused incorrectly, it basically doesn't matter how good the rest of the figure is: people will notice

Day 24: Just a simple drawing-from-a-picture. There's something very meditative about rendering with a pencil from a photo; I don't have to think very hard when I do it, as opposed to when I paint, which is a much more mentally engaged activity. (I did the top left third of this on a train ride. There's a trick to riding the train's motion.)

Day 25: I had a talk with a friend about birds recently, specifically that they fascinate and inspire me but I have a hard time drawing them. So I found some good reference and draw one! This manner of drawing, the sketchiness resolving into tone and form, is really new to me, and a lot of fun, and not something I intended.

Day 26: Another drawing from a train. (I've figured out the optimal way to hold reference and the sketchbook while drawing and occupying as little space on the seat as is polite.) Hands are... wonderful.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Tristan and Isolde


(The difference a halfway-decent photo, varnish, and some Photoshop post-work makes is... notable.)

The hasty first photo, pre-varnish, with no Photoshop.)
And, for comparison, what I had at the end of the IMC:

There and Back Again: Days 19-21

Day 19: For this drawing I decided to go through the hundreds of 'beautiful things' I've spent years saving off of the internet. Creepily enough, I found some photos of a friend on my computer, from when we were screwing around with my new camera back in the senior studios. Her name is Gillian Grossman, and her website is here:

I stopped working when it was clear that finishing the drawing would take rather a long time. I'd already exceeded my hour minimum, and it was time to sleep.

Day 20: Fabric, not having a canon of proportions for me to rely on, takes me forever to draw. This was a bit more than my hour.

Day 21: Close, but no cigar. I decided at the start of the hour that this would be my last day spent drawing her, since there were other things out there to work from; if I hadn't been determined to also finish a painting and a drawing that night, I would have rounded out the time spent on this session to an hour and a half. Alas.

Probably something like three, maybe three and a half hours went into my Gillian-drawing, all told. It would almost certainly be faster to use an actual methodology in my drawing, rather than picking a place to start at the top of the figure and rendering as I move down. For one thing, the proportions here are a bit suspect... though I'm very proud that I got a likeness with the face not only turned away but mostly covered.

Monday, July 23, 2012

There and Back Again: Days 13-18

More drawing-a-day pages!

Day 13: Hands from early Renaissance paintings. Oh, oh, oh, so lovely.

Day 14: Not my best day. Two of these ladies were done during my 30-minute break at Starbucks, which might explain the quality; the other three were done when I got home.

Day 15: Ehh. If I'm going to do improvement studies on older pieces, I should, you know, put effort into making them worthwhile.

Day 16: There we go. Moral: reference makes everything automatically better, 90% of the time.

Day 17: Now this was a good day for drawing. Fashion! Flowy cloth, lovely ladies!

Day 18: ...and then I tried to catch the same lightning in a second bottle, and failed impressively.

Friday, July 20, 2012

There and Back Again: Days 1-12

So that project I posted about most of a month ago? I've been steadily trucking away at it, though quietly, as my computer was out of commission for a while, and before that my scanner was in a box as I moved house. Excuses, excuses, I know.

I'm going to dive right into it instead of writing very much. It's only been a month, and I haven't been doing enough thinking to be able to talk much about it yet, other than in a very specific case-by-case way. The one thing I can say with confidence: there are on days, and there are off days, and on the latter the only victory comes from putting in the hour and letting it go. Anyway - onward!

(To read my notes, you can right-click and view the (huge) full-size files; if you can't decipher them, ask - I might be willing to type some of this stuff up. For scale, keep in mind that this is a 5.5"x8.5" sketchbook.)

Day 1: Largely thinky thoughts, and two studies of Sabriel, the first so tight it creaks when you look at it. I also poked a bit at John Jude Palencar compositions, from which I learned, again, about the power of shapes.

Day 2: A continuation of my deep-influence exploration. I had more luck with Rebecca Guay and Kinuko Craft's flowey ladies - well, no, I'm not going to toss off words like 'luck'. What happened is, this is what I like to draw, and I was relaxed enough to let my pencil do the work.

Day 3: Drawing after packing on an un-airconditioned 95+-degree day for about ten hours does not a good page make.

Day 4: The first, but not the last, 'Screw It I Am Going To Draw Some Flowey Goddamn Ladies' day. This was... freeing, after the failed Waterhouse from the day before.

Day 5: More flowey ladies! More specifically, hair.

Day 6: Aaand it's hand time! There will be many hands in this project, most of them hopefully from more elegant models than my own.

Day 7: There was a point I was going for when I started drawing, about an easy source of tension in poses coming from pointing the face in a different direction from the rest of the body, but it really was just an excuse to draw ANOTHER FLOWEY LADY. Are we detecting a theme? This is supposed to be a project about doing what I love, after all.

 Day 8: My roommate's legs are freaking lovely, and so elegant.

Day 9: I sat down to draw this at 1am, because no matter how dead exhausted I was, I was not going to miss a day. (and actually this page is the start of some worthwhile thumbing.)

Day 10: The book from the Savage Beauty Alexander McQueen exhibit is filled with exquisite things.

 Day 11: I had some Feelings about art and emotion in art while working on these. That happens some

Day 12: Mucha hands fill me with joy. They're simply, truly beautiful, and incredibly inspiring.

I think that's all for this post. I don't actually want to slam three weeks' worth of work down on the table all at once! This is more than adequate for first installment. Til next time!

Sunday, July 1, 2012

A new long-term improvement project

Starting today, I will be drawing for a minimum of an hour a day, every day, for the next six months.

Let's all chorus: well, duh. I'm a recently graduated illustrator with a portfolio full of student work to purge - of course I should be working an hour a day minimum (really, more like six hours minimum), I damn well better be working every day if I ever want to get paid, and six months? Try the rest of my life.

While that's all true, this is something different, and it's tied to finding and honing my voice.
It occurred to me recently (at the IMC, of course) that, over the past year, I sort of lost touch with what made me fall in love with art in the first place. Not that it invalidates the huge technical strides I made, not to say that I hated what I was doing - but, well. Let's take a look at the illustrations that touched me long before I was thinking about art at all:

Sabriel by Leo and Diane Dillon was literally the first piece of art that caught me deep down and pulled. I think I was nine or ten, and I can still remember seeing it across the room at my local library and checking it out on the strength of that image alone. (That the book itself became one of my favorites was icing on the cake.)
Tower at Stony Wood by Kinuko Craft is here both as itself, as the first piece of hers that I ever saw and an enduring favorite, and as a sort of representative for all of the covers she did for Patricia McKillip's books.

These were the two artists who I found early and who stayed with me through the years, and those are two pieces of art that began a foundation for me. Others came after - John Jude Palencar and Rebecca Guay and Donato and Mucha and Waterhouse and van Gogh and Caravaggio and Rackham and too many more to count - but given those two founding influences, it shouldn't be surprising that this is what I was doing during my junior year (when I wasn't battering myself bloody over my thesis):

These paintings have a whole lot going wrong in them, but what makes them landmarks for me is how happy they both make me - and not just back when I painted them, almost two years ago, but even now. There's a reason I went through two solid revisions on The Narwhal Woman, and why I plan to redo Saint Pangaea (with a different title please god). Something about them clicks with me in a way I can't really explain, and it's that something I lost touch with.

Look at the difference between these two paintings and the two previous. The new ones are better, clearly, but they're missing that spark that's there for me in the first two. There are one or two paintings from this year that went back in that direction, but neither of them pushed it far enough, something that was pointed out to me when Rebecca Guay did her tracing paper critique on my IMC drawing.

The difference between the Isolde figure in my original drawing and the Isolde figure in the post-Rebecca-crit version is huge. It was like a switch was flipped: not only was the new drawing simply better - it was a joy to work on and look at, deep down.

Two things served to drive this lesson home: my portfolio review with David Palumbo, and a conversation with Iain McCaig. 

David showed me how almost all of my newest pieces - paintings that in school had been received as impressive improvements over my previous work - weren't doing anything, while the oldest piece - The Narwhal Woman - was the strongest to his art director's eye. He asked who my influences were, and I was a bit taken aback when he was honestly surprised by my mention of Kinuko Craft, until I realized - oh, of course, nothing in my portfolio had anything to do with that aesthetic. He told me to look at the artists I was most drawn to and analyze exactly why I loved their art, see what they were doing that I didn't like, and then take that knowledge with me back to my own art.

What Iain told me can be boiled down to a very simple core: I needed to figure out the things I loved to draw and then draw them

It's from him that this project comes from. At the end of six months, I will have spent 184 days drawing the specific things I love, analyzing what they are and why they appeal to me, and integrating them into my art. I'll be working on my own illustrations at the same time, and hopefully the growth will be clear.

I will not be posting what I've done every single day - I'll probably limit myself to once a week, with maybe some standalone posts if I'm especially proud of what I've done. Let's see how this goes!