Today is Friday the 13th 2020 – and the day was surprisingly balanced for that. Good things and bad things happened. I started to draw quite late but still managed to do my current daily tasks. I’m drawing at least 5 environment thumbnails per day. These have the potential to change you like every drawing exercise that is repeated rapidly.
I dreamt about geometry and characters in perspective tonight. Apparently my characters did exist outside of a space ruled by perspective for the sake of getting them done at all when all my fundamentals were weaker. Sure. In the beginning you cannot take care about everything without overwhelming yourself. But I’m not at the beginning anymore, so it’s time to make the jump and update my process. It might happen that I have to break my style of drawing characters another time, just to make everything work in my developing desire for having perspective in my artworks. I could not have planned for all of this and I feel like there was no way of avoiding years of struggle and confusion. What counts is that I’m here and that I’m pushing myself for growing further. And again, it just might take a while until what I came up in my head ends up in my hands. Creating this simple background in today’s panel was pretty much faster and felt “easier” already.
I also started setting up a discord that I’ll be glad to share with you all soon. It will house some of my collected knowledge from my journeys into art, a place for the community around my webcomic (gotta have one, gotta build one!) and a general hangout. Relaxing and having fun between working sessions is very important. That’s another first, setting up a discord like that.
The last days of comicmaking were so wild that I didn‘t even have time to blog about it. But now that „the worst“ is over, have a report on what happened, what problems I faced and what I did about it.
I have massive problems drawing environment heavy art. That probably kept me from really going into Corvus, the other comic project, in the beginning of the 100 days of making comics challenge. Looking back Corvus has crazy ambitious even harder to pull off environments that require things I don‘t know yet.
So I was already expecting I would need a bit more time on the environment heavy establishing shots of chapter 2 of PREY. And the first days of working on the first shot were terrible indeed. I have my script, I had two versions of the thumbnails ready, but then the first problem was an empty head when it came to translating the simple compositorial view to a sensible fleshed out urban environment.
A well-meaning friend gave me a perspective grid. I don‘t know about you, but perspective grids never helped me. They do not help against an empty visual library. Empty visual library means that you have researched, done, ingested so few of a topic that you have zero ideas about it if you are to draw it relying on your memory and competence alone. The moment I realized that my empty head came from that rather than from perspective problems (there‘s room for these later down the road, I‘m sure of that), I started studying the sort of urban neon lit synthwave-inspired environments I want for my comic like crazy. In the end, I needed 16 studies over 3 days to get anywhere.
So this brought us from empty canvas to something on the canvas. But what about the composition of the shot, the composition of the scene and further requirements for the setting such as hitting the right mood? If things weren‘t ugly enough by now, they got ugly here.
I have a floor map for the scene with paths my character might want to take. I had massive problems translating floor plans into something that is fleshed out in the past. It is surprising to me that I never concluded I‘m just incompetent. You can become competent by experience and that means doing things repeatedly and learning from what doesn‘t work. The empty visual library together with sheer inexperience is a perfect storm of not getting anything done and not knowing why you have no ideas and can‘t. Whatever changed me during the 100 days challenge made me look through that within less than a day.
But understanding what is wrong unfortunately isn‘t enough to make something good over night. You always have that gap of some time that must pass, until the new thought passed down into your hands through mileage in drawing exercise and back up to your brain again as your new standard of what you can reliably expect of yourself.
The next step was a compromise. I am ambitious by nature, but I have built up enough experience already to know when it‘s time to cut corners, and to cut them dirty, to get the job done. My original schedule was having a shot done per day. Inexperienced as I am, I of course had the ambitious idea of composing shot 1 and 2 together, showing a bright, marvellous city core in shot 1 and then sinking down to Rich‘s reality in the bad part of the city in shot 2. I liked that and I imagined I would sketch out both and then render the first one on day 1 and the second one on day 2. Day 2 took 2 days in the end and got the feedback it looks empty. I will not argue against that. Let me just say I had no idea what I was doing and hoped to get it into a presentable form at all.
That is the curse of beginners that people do not stress enough. First of all: you can be a beginner at any subset of things, even within a set of things you are actually good at. Second: if a beginner puts 100% of their energy into something, even to a point they almost self-destruct, the best result they can get out of this is mediocre at best.
That is not meant to discourage anyone. On the contrary! Did you ever give up on something because the first, second, third try looked like garbage? You shouldn‘t give up. You get a better energy to result ratio over time and with more practise. My two shots are okay but for what I was actually aiming, I missed it by miles. The bad part of the city is dirty and run down. I just didn‘t have enough time to learn how to express that and draw that onto the canvas. I have a street. And that is okay for now. If I did not know that even with the 120% of energy I gave and almost self-destructed, my result is normal and to be expected, I would probably feel much different about the result, even be disappointed in myself. Instead I‘m glad I‘m through that and will work my behind off that the next shots, the next scenes will get better and better, always a little bit that I can stem in a day. On a very basic level my planning and execution did work. I composed two shots together and they look good together as one piece. I just did not have the means to express everything that could have been expressed or that I might have wanted to be expressed here. And again, that is okay as a beginner. I trust myself that I will get better following my training regiment.
And just as a footnote: I wanted to make a training plan to work on more of my fundie weaknesses. I did so and tested the first plan. Didn‘t work out for the moment, at least at first try. So I‘m still planning and testing. At least that got me to do some different warm-up exercises than usual. Have an example page:
I think I‘m good with the urban studies for the moment, they cover a lot of what I need more exposure to. Also I‘m currently reading into Burne Hogarth‘s Dynamic Light and Shade again. That is the only book on this that ever reached me. I can lean back, being right as in always drawing realistic shadows is not as important as being able to create the right emotional athmosphere for your artwork. Those overlap most of the time, but they are not a 100% the same thing. The same goes for other fields such as anatomy by the way. Creating something that looks believable does not equal making it hyperrealistic.
I almost gave up yesterday – but today nothing can stop me.
Hear it from me like I heard it yesterday from a couple of videogame development documentaries: people wanting to give up on their dream project is absolutely normal. Most likely in the middle or shortly before they are done. And that probably is a problem of all creatives working on a long term project, not only game devs. I learned from this that feeling defeated and having a terrible day is alright. I will just have to come back the next day and still work on the thing. Just like today. It is understandable that sometimes it seems like nothing one does has an earthly value or prospects to any success. But still, it has to be done. Something commands it that does not work in the same realm as sound business thoughts. Shout out to my husband for his support in general and especially his emotional support yesterday. I am truly blessed.
Today was rather technical. I started the day with a study of an underwater scenery. The reasoning behind it was that it has absolutely nothing to do with what I‘m supposed to be working on. Also I really liked the athmosphere. And then after getting a quick mood study out of the way I finally understood how to ink.
Doesn‘t mean I‘m good now, but a switch definitely got turned. Now I‘ll have to put in the work to develop it further and refine. I went away from making outlines today. In a way some do still qualify as outlines, but I thought about and remembered Burne Hogarths silhouettes and low key lit forms. I can make as many contour lines as I like but the result most likely will not look finished or as if it has substance. Going in with black shadow shapes on the other hand, giving the drawing mass, and then occasionally create a highlight as a consequence, that‘s what makes a black and white ink piece successful. It doesn‘t have to be hyper realistic. But I like the feeling of it.
I was also surprised that working with Robertson‘s book somehow already trickled in. I was able to construct the woman‘s face like it should be. That‘s something I should explore further, too, probably also making maps of the faces of my characters so that I‘ll be drawing them with constant proportions. But not now! It‘s still getting started in environments phase. Now I‘m equipped with a fun linework style that I could imagine doing a lot in. Let‘s see what tomorrow brings.
See you tomorrow!
About the artist
Styxcolor creates freelance concept art and illustrations. She blogs about storytelling and art since 2020.