It went so quick- everything! I died and was reborn on digital canvas over the past days. I discovered that I can live and work at my own pace. Like with all things like these – it sounds obvious but is actually hard to live by.
My next blog entry is about why the new comic script for the next chapter of SPREY broke me and why it lead to what you see below.
The past days were very tumultuous. I am very exhausted, just like before my winter break, but restless at the same time. My comic work keeps coming. It is not very fun to create at the moment, but I’m doing my best. And my friends tell me they see an improvement in my art, which is great!
I’m a bit sad I cannot express myself that well today. There would be many little things that pile up from day to day work. Exploring the aesthetics of a great old game, reading a good book, having a little insight on a topic while drawing. These small things are what leads to bigger developments “suddenly” taking place later like a new, overall higher level in the quality of one’s art. But the only thing you can do in times like these is trying to keep up and look forward. If ideas that you didn’t write down get lost after a couple of days, they probably weren’t that great.
Suddenly I find myself interested in values again. I used to despise them as color’s boring and humorless cousin. Scott Robertson’s “How to Render” bored me to tears as well as value exercises tend to do. But now I like to think of values as means to structure my picture. They do not have to be “right” as in realistic, as long as they add to the readability of my shot or deliberately take away from it to evoke a feeling in the viewer.
Working on the comic is in full swing. I knew I would need more time than usual for my comic work. In fact, I will probably need a couple of hours per panel for the first days, as my digital process for the comic isn‘t settled in yet and even some design questions for the scene are still up in the air. But I will sort things out and it will get smoother again.
You might not actually see it in the final piece, but I really had to work hard for the chapter cover that I uploaded today. From here on my comic takes place in urban environments at night, with few cyberpunk elements to spice things up. Although I did my best to research this setting over the past days, the competence doesn‘t show up on the canvas yet. It has to be persuaded with more effort and studies. I‘m not really good at environments, and that is okay, as everyone has strengths and weaknesses. But I still have to do the best I can, as a comic has to clearly tell you what is happening where in order to work. I need to get at least passable with environments. Ignoring them entirely out of disinterest was a big mistake. They can add so much to a piece, even if the focus is not the environment itself, but a character.
Other than that I‘m slightly worried about my perspective and lighting game. Those are not strong and that is a big problem. They‘re fundamentals after all. Bad perspective = confusion what is where and not being able to draw what you would want to draw at all. Bad lighting = you have no control over the mood of what you are seeing. A BIG problem for a comic! Oh yeah, and objects seem flat, shapes destroyed or misleading or the light just looks wrong when you expect realism, but the mood! Mood! Mood is everything! You do not entertain or win hearts when you cannot tap into the readers‘ emotions at all. I will try to come up with an emergency training program for the next weeks. I want the best comic experience for my readers and I want to present my story the best way I can, so I‘m better getting active and working on fixing that.
Hello, you all! The past time intervall was WILD. I am having massive sleep problems this week, so you‘ll see good and weak art in this post. The art naturally got weaker the longer I am awake.
I started off with making a first exploration into the world of candlelight to add this to my repertoire. These works are part study part free exploration. Magister Grimm, the antagonist of my comic, makes a first appearance on the piece to the left. I really like how evil he looks. Asmund on the right is always a pleasure to draw.
Lines VS shapes reloaded
I had problems with my linework not fitting the rather impressionistic coloration and tried to reduce it. Then I learned that impressionism hardly works on faces, at least if you want them precise. What I went with was this sort of bastardized way. And then of course I had an understandable fit of panic whether all gains from yesterday were undone as I suddenly struggled again with the lines or no lines question.
I should be happy. This whole thing challenged me well and made me think. Yes, outlines can absolutely get into the way of coloration. That is, when you try to mix styles that don‘t like mixing. Impressionist painting has no outlines for a reason. Traditional comic and manga art has outlines for different, practical reasons. Both ways of working have different goals and strengths. Yesterday I noticed how fast I could work if I relied on black lines and threw a quick coloration on them. Today I revelled in the beauty of colors and mood while playing with brushtrokes. But I would probably go crazy or need forever to draw a whole comic in this style, especially with the faces. So in the end, exploring to paint helps not only my drawings but in comicmaking.
And here have some of the better weak pieces. I made several attempts to get a panel done with Corvus and Asmund holding a candle, but each failed, even a wholly different alternative version. This is also when I realized that I probably should go and do something different (or better: find sleep) instead of obsessing over it.
Color shift VS value change
The Asmund to the right is a fascinating first experiment to use color shift instead of value change. I read that for angles up to 40° it may be enough to shift colors to indicate a shifting plane. And only when drawing I understood what this means and what potential that has. Also this Asmund is a goodbye to my classical color schemes from my time when I drew with copics. This…doesn‘t work. Hello to a future with using more references until I have a feeling for coloring skin.
What else happened: I got fed up with how Corvus and Asmund look different every day that I‘m drawing them. I‘m actually terrible at measuring angles and proportions, therefore I‘m terrible at likeness and had no clue that this was what laughed in my face every day since forever.
Tomorrow I‘ll tackle this, as well as some tonal value exercises from my notes on Alla Prima over the next days.
Also again, sleep deprivation is really really bad for you. Your body is stressed out by it and you cannot rely on your focus and performance, which might stress you out even more. Be nice to your body, sleep well, eat well, make breaks, exercise. Art is very very important to me, but it may not consume me.
Is this the end of uncontrolled style fluctuation?
While I was playing around with light and shadow and then with lines some more I realized all my conflict might have been none. If I wish to paint, I would do linedrawings like I‘m used to anyway and then paint on top of them. So there was no choice to make between lines and light. They are two tools that often overlap. And it‘s good to be flexible and able to use different tools for different purposes and outcomes.
Reading “Alla Prima”
I had so many new questions and remembered that I had a book on painting. So I went on to read the first chapters of Richard Schmid‘s Alla Prima. Let‘s just say Schmid and me are opposites with regards to some sentiments, but I keep on reading and learning either way. I feel blessed that I have this book right now, as it can answer questions about the drawing and painting process that I have right now. In moments like these I am sad that I never went to art school, but on the other hand who says I would have learned that there? I‘m learning it now and that is what counts.
So Schmid explains that drawing is measuring and painting is laying masses and light and shadow on top (very simplified). This means I have done both wrong all my life and needlessly have tried to merge them. I didn‘t sulk, not even for a moment, and simply tried one of Schmid‘s suggestions. Most people would make an underdrawing (level of detail varies per artist and purpose) and then paint on top. But then there‘s a different process where you never bother with lines and simply start blocking out. That‘s what I tried out in today‘s panel. This picture saw no linedrawing, only some indications what goes where. It was quite an insightful experiment.
Revelation 1: I‘m okay. I‘m even doing better than I expected.
Revelation 2: I immediately understood why I‘m lacking and where.
Revelation 3: I now understand a lot better what the art fundamentals are for and what it means to build up mileage.
Drawing conclusions for my art
You don‘t build up mileage because drawing thousands of pages full of challenging things is so much fun. Or because „just draw“ without focus and attention would work. You need every scrap of experience you can get so the fundamentals are out of your conscious thought. Then you have a free mind to tackle advanced painting problems. Example: if my line drawings are lacking because I have no understanding of perspective and even after years of drawing no instinct for proportions, my painting on top will be wonky. And then I might even blame the quality of my lines… which doesn‘t have to do anything with anything. And nothing is won.
As you know me I have phases where I‘m rather eager to improve my fundamentals. But then the desired results didn‘t come and I took a break for a couple of months (basically the lock-down), just drawing what I felt like. You‘d think that would be terrible for me and I‘d forget a lot of hard-earned stuff. Now I feel like I‘m even rewarded for doing that. The way I was practising was wrong. I did not make the progress that I wanted because I did not improve the things I would have needed to improve and had no understanding where I was heading with them and how to use them in the end. Practising just to practise is not the way. So hitting the brake, taking some time off and then a cloooose look on what I was doing and why I was doing it, was the right thing to do.
I am a rather analytical artist. You cannot tell me to “just feel” lines or practise until I’m good when I don’t know what this “good” is.
I can‘t hope to just wing it and pretend to feel things that I don’t feel when they make no sense to me. I might have found a sustainable source of motivation now to push myself further and work hard on my art again. But don‘t get me wrong, this doesn‘t mean we are going back to full studying mode. I have a comic to make. Also all practise is for nothing, if not used to create. But now I can go back from time to time, relaxed, and improve one thing at a time.
Yesterday night I still felt the drawing itch and corrected Corvus‘s hairstyle. While I will admit that the sketch page looks quite chaotic, it already impacted today‘s panel.
I have looked into a great program named Storyboarder. Storyboarder is meant to storyboard for movies and animation. It‘s free and easy to use. I wondered whether one could storyboard comics with it, too, and did some testing. I will spare you from looking at it, it really was only practical, not pretty. I‘m not sure what I even should think about it, but I‘m excited. Even if Storyboarder doesn‘t work out for this specific project, I‘m sure the program and me will become good friends.
Try new thinks, don‘t shy back!
See you tomorrow!
About the artist
Styxcolor creates freelance concept art and illustrations. She started the Street Prey Webcomic in 2020 to further explore her love for storytelling.