Sunday, 20 April 2014

Three Dragons

I started this piece not long after season 3 of Game of Thrones aired, meant as some portrait practice with more muted colours, and was enjoying it so it ended up turning into something a little more. Often time I get far into a piece, in this case it was about 80% done and I left it for months (case of the ooh shiny effect of new ideas) and then picked it up after finally getting some free time over the Easter break. I think thus far I still prefer old Daario as he is here, but he seems to polarise opinion with people either liking him or loathing him.

So fellow Daenerys fans enjoy! The image is 1900px across for those who'd like desktop wallpaper, and I've also uploaded an animated gif of the steps as I often enjoy seeing others progress shots like that.

Tuesday, 28 January 2014

The Whaler Women and why I can't escape saturation

I've recently been spending more of my free time creating work for a world that's been rattling around in my head, that I've finally started fleshing out thanks to my Audacious Accomplishment task from Chris Oatley's painting drama, outlined in this post from 2013.   It's a sort of sprawling collection of characters and stories that I'm starting to click together into a cohesive whole and as such am trying to take a game development approach towards the visualisation of it. 

This piece started (as a lot of my pieces do) as a lunchtime quickie, just throwing some stuff around, intended to be a short exercise to be stuffed into the annals of my many un-shown folders of crap art.  But as I worked with it more, it took on a different tack, it started gaining narrative. I had originally intended to do a very desaturated piece, as I often admire artists who can do that greatly. But inevitably, colour *always* sneaks in, no matter what I try to do with it. I guess I'm just a paint magpie, always drawn to the shiny colours!

Here's the steps I remembered to save. Early versions of the sky were done with a bit of photo mashing, until I got to the point where I realised my planning (and lack thereof) had undone me again, so I repainted the whole background. 

Half way through I also discovered THIS AMAZING BRUSHSET from Jonas De Ro, which has now become, along with my tool presets, my defacto brush set. That had a big impact on the style of the piece, along with looking at the works of guys like Homer Winslow (whose works have already nailed the look and feel I'm trying to get!) and a few Russian and Polish painters, such as Jozef Chelmonski, whose bleak subjects always seem to be captured with a delicate sense of emotion. 

Still very much finding my feet here, but I've always wanted to give my work a looser feel, and this feels like a step in the right direction. Now if someone would kindly tell the colour fairy to sod off for a bit, I'd be happy!

Tuesday, 17 December 2013

Photos in art: Cheating?

For a long time, I've considered using photos in art something of a cheat, but anyone who's watching the games industry will know that realistic cinematic imagery is often the way a lot of concept art gets done, which inevitably means using photos in your work. So, in my pursuit to get into the kind of high end companies I want to, I've recently been trying to get my head around more realistic environment art. I was lucky enough to get an interview at a next gen games company and as a result had to do a bit of photobashing of environments. 

Here's two of the images I've done in the last couple of weeks. The Colorado Plains image took more time, oddly, without verticality in a landscape, it's down to how cool you can make the clouds and light look. The Rainy Afternoon image only took me 5 hours. Far from bragging (I think speed can sometimes be a double edged sword) I'm actually still baffled by how I managed to turn something like that image out an afternoon - though having a solid deadline helps as I got the plate images at 2pm on the afternoon before the interview! 

The thing with photo bashing is I'm still in control of the composition of most of the elements, and in a way, it forces me to be a little more creative as I have to work with whatever the photo elements give me. I still have to find ways to make fairly boring images look epic and exciting, I still have to add mood with light and shadow and colour. All the things I do with hand painted stuff. I have to say I think with photo bashing that Value is king. If your values aren't right and you don't blend the layers of stuff properly it'll stop looking like a coherent image and looks like you just pasted a bunch of photos on top of one another. 

A lot of it is knowing how to adjust colours, levels and add lighting where you need to, but working with photos takes a little of the control of the design away from you. For me, that's a good thing, because I can easily spend ages noodling over the design of something, believing I have to make it my own -  something no one's ever seen before! Using photos actually makes me think of the bigger shapes and forms in an image, not how cool a grate on the pavement is. Definitely a good thing.  I don't have any plans to abandon my desire to paint everything - I do still think you learn more if you have to hand paint everything, but the sheer speed of using photos is pretty mental. 

And to finish up, I want to say Titus, who's little tips, tricks, input and amazing portfolio has kept me on my toes for these kind of images. Go check out his stuff! TITUS LUNTER ARTWORK.

Thursday, 7 November 2013

Charlie Bowater Skillshare

A lot of you might have seen Charlie Bowater's Skillshare class for the amazing price of just $10 (with a referral which you can get here: CLICK HERE! )

I signed up myself and I've been massively happy with the work I've done as a part of it! I've worked like this a little in the past but seeing how someone else does it helps immensely and it's helped me loosen up a lot with the early parts of my work -  learning that loose is good for a more inspirational design process. 

Here's where I've got to thus far -  I still have to get to the final detailing render pass (usually my least favourite part because it takes SO long!)

I also managed to do a 3 hours or so self portrait from a mirror back on November 1st. Weird, cause I almost don't look like me pulling that face. It was a great painting exercise though - so much colour variation on the face!

Thursday, 17 October 2013

The Artistic Struggle of Inspiration

I think any artist working today will tell you they struggle from time to time. Struggle with what they do creatively, with how they feel about their art, how others see it, whether it's what they want to be doing. I've heard some say if you're struggling it's because your art is taking that next step and you're becoming aware of what's wrong with it more and are striving to make it better. I kind of feel like I'm hitting that step a lot lately. I've learned so much over the past year, mostly thanks to my involvement with the Oatley Academy - the ideas that Painting Drama has implanted in my head has kind of opened this pandora's box of learning for me, and I'm aware of *so* many new concepts.

The downside to that, is that you also become aware of all these things in your work, and how... lacking they are. And I'm prone to thinking my work is lacking at the best of times, let alone when I suddenly have this knowledge. So I draw tonnes, and I get super down when I realise that *everything* I'm doing is terrible. There is a fine balance between trying to shove everything you know into a piece and making it horribly stuffy and losing the idea that you fell in love with, and going with the pure idea, but making it technically sound so that others can respond without immediately seeing the flaws.  I sometimes think I swing too much to the former, especially when I look back at my older works. Back when I didn't know so much about everything all I cared about was the idea. Once you gain that awareness it starts feeling like a long slog back to the point where you can just care about ideas again. Summitless mountain, to be fair.

So when the Inspiration contest swung by from The Art Order, with a couple of timely posts from Jon Schindehette and others, I decided I would take part. I'd been struck by an idea a week or two earlier about ideas being lanterns and how they kind of float past you and you grab the ones that take your fancy. Having doodled a few super quick thumbnails in a tiny sketchbook, I took the 4 I liked most and drew them up properly, digitally. The results to that are here: 

So having decided on number 4 for it's old world illustration kind of feel, I set about being dramatic! I've wanted to get back to traditional for a while, so I went out and bought  a 20 x 30" illustration board. Only trouble is once I'd transferred the image I realised I loved how it was looking and there was *no* way I was going to get it done in a month. Plus I needed new, expensive paints. Not gonna happen! So I went back to the drawing board. I needed a smaller more manageable piece that still had the vibe of inspiration for me.

Those who've followed my work for a while might remember this piece: - a piece done in memory of a man who was and still is a huge inspiration to me. So as far as the contest theme goes, it doesn't get any bigger than that for me.  I wanted this piece to be quite specific in it's emotional feel. The Fae and the Dragon, on a more equal footing, but to still have a sense of mentorship or authority in the Dragon, and the Fae to have this 'set loose' kind of quality. On top of that I wanted to utilise a more unusual camera view, and have it have a sense of motion and still have this size disparity between the two to get a sense of narrative (that this tiny Fae could suddenly be flying around this huge Dragon fearlessly). Most of all I wanted it to feel upbeat or at least content -  no melancholy at the loss of this man in my life, but my joy at the flame he set ablaze in my for all things artistic.  All of these things were important to the feel of the piece and the sort of emotion I wanted to portray. No small order. And this piece has plagued me for the last couple of weeks. I'm sure I know the image I want is in me, but I've fought it every step of the way. Here's all the doodles and thumbnails I've done so far. Some are pretty decent, some are okay, but none of them capture what I'm *really* after, and I feel like that next step for me is to stop just accepting 'close enough' and fight for that extra push. 

The first 9 thumbs weren't bad but they didn't get that sense of awe, or any real feel of connection between the two characters. Not like how I wanted. I felt frustrated. These weren't bad thumbs, why was it so hard to get the actual feel I wanted? Posted them up on the PD group for feedback. Got mixed reviews, which made it even harder and people weren't seeing what I wanted to. Sometimes feedback with thumbs like this can be a double edged sword when you're not sure which you want. 

So not to be bested, I spent 40 mins at lunch the next day revisiting the ideas with a little of the feedback I'd gotten. After this I felt better. These felt more in line with what I wanted. They had that feeling I was after. 


However when I sat down to try and flesh out the thumbnails I'd grown to like I hit a major wall. HUGE wall. NOTHING came out right, my details were garbage, my colours were shit. I spent a whole day working on these only to come away from it feeling dejected and terrible about my own skills. It shouldn't *be* this hard, I should be *better* than this, shouldn't I? Cue the artistic spiral of doom. I'll NEVER be good enough. Though, to be honest, doing this hungover probably didn't help. 

 So slight silver lining time. After looking at my thumbs again I decided the bottom one wasn't too bad, if I did it in a more illustrative flattened style like the colours suggested. At this point I went back to looking at art. Anything I found inspiring. I trawled my pinterest boards and my faves. It's dangerous when you're in the wrong mind frame looking at art like this, it can drive you further down, but thankfully I've never been of the 'holy crap I'll never do that' crowd, I'm more of the 'it'll take me ages to get there' crowd. And it started to work a little. You wouldn't believe how long I worked on that left hand thumbnail. I gave up on working grey into colour using layers - it seems I work best in just black and white, or just colour. Combining the two is haaard. I worked for the most part of a day on that little thumbnail, moving things, overlapping stuff. I gave up by the end of the day as I was starting to get sick. But just there in that thumbnail was a glimmer of hope that I might be able to get the image I want. It's not there yet, not by a long shot. If there's anything this is teaching me it's that sometimes iteration just has to be done multiple times to get what you really want. And that if you're struggling, it's usually because the image has promise but you're not quite getting what it needs. And I lack a tutor or someone I could just ask to fix it for me. 

So the point of this huge long post, other than posting dragons, is to reach out to those who feel they struggle with their art. Those of you who've expressed a desire to be able to draw like I do, but don't think you'll ever be able to, or those who start a piece only to reach utter despair with it because it's not doing what you want. We all suffer with that, we all have our bad days. Perseverance is key. Sometimes you have to know when to let something go, but sometimes you have to know when *not* to let it go too. 

I felt it was worthy sharing my own struggles because I do tend to just post my good stuff and be like hey guys, like my stuff! Not to say this stuff here isn't good, but I think it's worth noting that I do struggle with it, and that art isn't a breeze for me. Sometimes it feels like I'm literally ripping these drawing out of my fingers, and sometimes I could bash my own brain in for not getting it. But when I get through that little shitstorm of emotions, it's totally worth it for a piece I can be proud of.

Sunday, 18 August 2013

The best way to make yourself paint? Painting apparently.

You know what the best thing to make you do art is? Having to do art that, while you don't not enjoy it, leaves you wanting to do something else, especially when it's paid work! I've taken on some freelance work I can't mention yet and it's literally sucking up all of my spare time. It'll do so until the end of September and if all goes well I'll make a decent financial return on my effort. It's fun, and good for my work in general as its a larger multiple of smaller pieces, but by the gods by the time I'm finished on a weekend, it leaves me *itching* to draw something of my own. It's after 11 pm on Sunday and after working til about 8pm I decided to just sit and sketch digitally and see what popped out. Doing art all weekend and rewarding myself with more art? You betcha. 

Just before I started I'd been looking at this old piece and marvelling at how bad the execution was but how I miss painting that kind of stuff. 3 hours later. Here's a sketch. I rather like it. It's one of those that makes me feel like I'm actually learning stuff artistically and it's properly sinking in. Also that desaturated colours make for awesome imagery. Providing I don't get some better idea in the meanwhile, I might work it and a companion piece up into a set, to send to Applibot, as I'd love to do some work for them with all the gorgeous work there is knocking around the net for Legend of the Cryptid and Galaxy Saga.

I feel I should also mention I'd been looking at the amazing gallery of GINOGINO over on CGHub too, go check it out. 

Wednesday, 14 August 2013

Tobuscus Fanart

Never let it be said that I do a lot of the same thing over and over. >.>

So. Tobuscus, or Toby Turner to give him his real name, for those not in the know is one of a rising number of stars who make their living uploading various types of videos to Youtube. I've watched a great number of his videos ever since I found his Amnesia The Dark Descent vids a good year or two ago. Being so busy lately I hadn't had chance to watch many and was sad when I realised I'd missed a chance to help fund his IndieGoGo video game campaign. So I did fanart, as you do. Below are  some of the steps of the image. You can find an animated gif with more steps in my dA scraps here. 

1.Thumbnails: I knew wanted a portrait image with a slightly upwards facing perspective. Point of these is to get a feel for the flow of the image and the over all shape composition. Details like faces or intricacies of cloth and stone get figured out in the line work.

2. Lineart and first colour pass. I use the thumbnail as a guide for the lineart, but I don't stick exactly to it. I confess I didn't have an exact reference for the clothing, which tripped me up a little further into painting. 

3. A few shadows and main colours laid in, trying to think about overall rough lighting layout. Super messy... no point in being neat and tidy, as you're less likely to change something if it's not working if you invest too much time in it. I'm basically looking for it to pass the very squinty squint test at this point. 

4. Neatened it up once I'm happy with basic colours and add in a bit more saturation and some brighter highlights. Note how everything is still fairly mid and dark toned. This is to stop me getting too highlight happy and making everything tonally confusing. I know here that the fireball will be the brightest thing on screen. 

5.Normally I'd advise against going straight into rendering on a face or specific part, but in this case the face is the singular most important thing there is, and I need a base for how much the rest of the image should be finished. 

6. By this point I'd realised my error with not having figured out the arm position properly and I spent *ages* trying to find decent reference. Eventually jedi cosplayers came to my rescue. I've also jumped around the top of the image a lot more once the face is in and finished. 

7.Pretty much done with Tobuscus and his robes. I leave out all the finicky details until the very end, so I can still see that my forms are reading well, not getting distracted by pretty patterning. Gryphon the dog is also more fleshed out, if still a little bright and lacking the right kind of lighting to settle him into the scene. 

8.With Toby and Gryphon finished, the rest of the image comes together much faster as I can be looser and more off the top of my head with the details. They are deliberately not as detailed as the main focus of the image - toby himself -  so the eye doesn't wander around the bottom of the image too much.

9. Most of the last 10-15% of the image is just adding details and textures -  stuff like the rocks, the robes' patterns, the details of the zombie flesh. I actually get bored by this point, and it's often more of a force of will that I keep going with it. 

Eventually after a few tweaks and adjustments, the finished image!