On Color

I thought it was time to talk about something that is so important to me that I even carry it in my name. Let’s talk about colors today and my difficult relationship with them.

What happened?

When you have a drive to draw as a beginner, you don’t question it. You just follow your intuition. That’s what I did as a child and throughout my teens. Sometimes I achieved astounding results this way. I wouldn’t have been able to tell you what I had done or to replicate it but some of my early pieces had no business of being as good as they were for the circumstances. I had no control though, so sometimes, on days where my intuition just didn’t work, I couldn’t achieve anything. But looking at my good pieces I had an expectation to be at least that good all the time. I was mercifully unaware what the Dunning Kruger effect is and that it all probably wasn’t that good in the first place because I didn’t know enough to properly judge it. But it was nothing short of perfect in my own head. I was very surprised when other people didn’t see it that way and so I desperately tried to get better so that I would get the recognition I deserved. I iterate – I was a teen thinking and behaving like a teen. And what always came back, again and again, was people complimenting me for my colors, so I thought that was the thing I was best at.

My earlier art training

From what I know about art and training art today I then took a very very difficult path from there and throughout my twens. And I’m not talking about something like training in an inefficient way or not working through the best courses. It is true that I never had or could find a mentor when it probably would have mattered. Time could have been saved, but ultimately it doesn’t matter. One way or the other you get to a point where you know enough to be your own mentor.

My big problem was that I destroyed myself with the rebuilding taking over a decade. I’m talking about a metaphorical destruction. If you take a “talented” young person and teach them how wrong they are and how art actually works, you have a good chance of “destroying” their old confident art self. It is a necessary destruction as alas, the art fundamentals do not care, they just are and they are not tolerant of quirks that hinder their execution. On an ideal learning path the person then struggles for 2-3 maybe 4 years to get all the fundies in and then is free to return to their own self in the process maybe even throwing some of the fundamentals out of the window again. I needed roughly a decade, maybe more, because I couldn’t just train 4 years in peace, didn’t immediately know how to train and why and wasn’t exactly uninterrupted. And now imagine the agony of that time. You are robbed of your confidence. Now that you don’t trust your intuition anymore, nothing works when you draw for yourself, the amount of things you don’t know to use but have to train is overwhelming and the practise pieces do not look good either. You work hard and have nothing to show for it. If you expected results fast, you are very disappointed. And then of course, you will have other things in life that require that you tend to them, too. A day job. There are far too many opportunities for distraction. It is understandable that many quit, try to be sensible or just don’t want to suffer so much. Can an art school bring you through that time better? Maybe. It depends on what your art goals are and what courses and teachers you get. Nothing is ever guaranteed. I can’t complain about the self-teaching experience once I learned how to learn and train and that execution and practise will trump pure theory anytime.

So now I am competent enough, have enough control that I can predict what I will do and how to get to a certain outcome in art or how to research and practise to do that. The learning and developing will never stop, but I’m good enough to solve most problems thrown at me to take money for it, which my clients agree on. Now it is time for me to return to my natural state, too. I have avoided dealing with colors on a deeper level so far for the fear of pain, even more pain than with all the other things. Color is emotion and strong emotions still scare me. I already told you how I had to sometimes turn emotion completely off to get through university and lawyer training. No wonder I couldn’t just go home and create awesome emotional and colorful art in the evenings. I could have done a lot of things better back then, even law could have been easier, but that is just the wisdom of hindsight. I’m glad I came through and didn’t give up on art or myself. It is almost a miracle, but I never questioned that I should do art, that I should tell stories and that that’s what I’m here for. I sometimes just would have wished it was something more respectable or a less adventurous and insecure thing and I’m not sure whether these are my own doubts or just doubts instilled by society and education.

How I will train color now

I have watched color theory videos before. Apparently you can learn anything there is to know about the theoretical use of color in under an hour. Then you know how to construct your color schemes. Add some knowledge about how light behaves and the psychological color meaning chart of your choice and you should be good. Well, then you ought to experiment for years until you actually can make use of all of this intuitively. That’s a grim prospect. It rings true though. You don’t fall from the sky with intuition AND control AND a personal style that you cultivated over years. 2021 is a year in which I look into things I have avoided for a long time and finally bring them to an end. Usually, even if I encounter strong pain or shame, it is never as bad or lethal as my brain imagined it to be. My pride has received a couple of lethal wounds already, but even my pride and ego didn’t die from it. I am surprised how I suddenly can admit to myself how I feel and how I felt. It is ironic that I called myself Styxcolor when color is the one problematic fundie that I needlessly feared most for a long time. Maybe I also thought going back to color was the big treat at the end of the road, finally allowed to be myself again, without even understanding the implications of this.

So this time around when dealing with color I have a chance to do everything better. Let’s see how it goes. I’ll keep you updated on things once a first ruleset has crystalized out of unrelated ideas and requirements and problems found while doing work. I will deliberately not create a training regiment, as I actually do not have time for extra training right now that does not serve projects, but I can train while problemsolving within projects. That’s a big change and I wonder whether it will help me. I kind of “graduated” from just drawing practise pieces without a context. You never graduate from training itself, but I guess you don’t train to high jump if you actually compete in sprint next week.

100 Days of SPREY – 25

The week has started just fine and we are 1/4th through the 100 days of SPREY again! I can‘t believe it is only 25 counted days as so incredibly much has happened, so many developments took place, new thoughts and ideas were thought, shared and worked on. Well, and hopefully more is coming.

I set a couple of goals for the week yesterday and I am off to a strong start. One hair study became 5, 3 color studies are done, The daily panel took me roughly 2,5 hours but I had more control over the outcome by tweaking the process. Also Rich‘s hair looks a bit more like hair already. Also I guess I condensed something I would have drawn out as 3 panels into this one, testing whether this would be a good idea. So far, the readers seemed to like that there is more to discover then first meets the eye.

Also, I finished an illustration today that I wanted to have done in december already. An arttrade piece for my friend Fera Feles from Instagram with her character Viola Blackwood. This is out of my comfort zone and I guess you can really see I made the lines more than one month ago – as I would make at least the eyes different now. But tested the solid blacks on the piece today and loved them.

I want to draw so badly again, will continue tomorrow.

Above: tinkering around with Willard.

100 Days – 10

More Explorations

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.

Measurement

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.

To do

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.

See you tomorrow!