Tuesday, 8 January 2013

The Sound of an Unfinished Painting

When I leave my art to the lumbering moniker of 'hobby' I tend to let things slide.  This was evident in my youth and throughout my professional career.  As soon as I started giving myself deadlines and goals my work became exacting and timely.  This is very important for me to understand...I needed to know myself better in order to accomplish the things in life I hungered for. 

 I'd like to go back to an unfinished piece I started about a month into the ownership of my stylus--and the emergence of my digital art journey.

I discovered this amazing site where professional and amateur artists display their works, discuss the art and industry and promote events and education called CGHUB.com.  They have drawing challenges:  sometimes run by Art Directors, sometimes just members of the community and sometimes both.  They start with an idea, or picture, and you are supposed to adhere to that theme, or imagery, to create your work.  Stumbling late into this one (admittedly the first time I noticed the process) I was eager to join.  The challenge revolved around a big demony thing with a beguiling witch-like naked girl...you know, typical fantasy mumbo-jumbo.  We were supposed to create a box-cover illustration for the promotion of a miniature--based on the drawing given.  It was not supposed to be a draftsman like rendering:  we were to take licence with it to create an interesting cover.  This is the picture.

I blocked out a few ideas...sorry I didn't keep the sketches...and then decided upon one.  I thought it would be interesting because it would be neat to give the woman an equal kind of footing in the composition--power-wise.  A tough road to hoe for a little naked chick next to a big monstrous demon.  I positioned the woman in the extreme foreground staring straight at the viewer--while completely ignoring the hulking mass behind her...I think it would be neat...perhaps one day I will finish it as a side project.

 So now it kinda looks like she has summoned the beast and he is at her beck-and-call.  I was also cognizant of the need for text so I made sure there was a fairly large amount of negative...or uninteresting space.  

Even though I wanted to include more power for the woman, I was really mostly interested in the monster.  I mean, you get a lot of figure drawing in school so even though it had been ten years I was still a little burnt out.  

Again, still not knowing how to use the computer program...but fairly confident with the stylus...I set out.  Mostly I paint wet on wet oils, so that is really how I started this picture.  I started with a quick wash on the background--settling into a chiaroscuro type of situation where I would bring items into the light from the dark background.  I new I should block my light and shapes (not realizing I could greyscale first) but wanted an idea for how to make my painting different from the others.  When you are using tones you can just go darker and lighter to make shape and light; but, with color you use opposites or slit-opposites.  A really good habit is to deal with warm and cool tones...it tends to make your paintings pop more.  

Thinking I was all cool, I decided to use purple and yellow (knowing that most people use red and blue) to divide my ideas...so that my piece would standout more (whether that is good or bad I'm not sure).  Now, as I mentioned earlier, in digital art there are many options that are much better to utilize.  I could have blocked out a greyscale in one layer, a line map in another, and then start picking out my colors in a third.  Let alone individual elements such as arms, swords and even heads which would allow me to go back and change or adjust to a more formal accuracy or design.  But, alas, I started painting over my lines.

I new I wanted everything lit from the bottom...because that is how scary stories are told with a flashlight.  And, I knew I wanted this thing massive with his trophies hanging gruesomely from his massive chest.  So I started at the face and worked my way out figuring the best thing to do is lay down my limited palette and just blend the colors using the smudging tool.  Ah the smudging tool, the trap of every young digital artist.  It makes things look cool and swirly and eliminates those pesky transition lines; but, it also muddies the composition.  If you make a mark:  make it with authority.  Own that brushstroke.  Of course you are going to build texture and atmosphere with it...but it is not a swirly tool of destiny to fix any painting.  Beware.

Now I stumbled into an important aspect of looking, viewing, and working on a digital piece.  Not only can you flip it sideways and upside-down to see if it is looking right and not just a trick of your eyes...but you can change the background colors without spending hours refilling in the space.  Even better...since I was blending the colors over top of the white background there were some spots that were more transparent than others.  Little spots that the white from the background were seeping though.  For I wasn't doing a true tenebrism I really had only did my wash around the line blocking of my mid and fore figures.  But, when I accidentally used a fill tool on my background layer...something wonderful happened...it got better!

All of the creepy lighting jumped out, all of the negative space sunk back and the passion of the piece increased.  Now, if I had been doing a proper chiaroscuro from the beginning I wouldn't have discovered this wonderful tool.  And it lead me to far more discoveries.  There are thousands of filters and scripts that you can run on these programs that can drastically or minutely manipulate the composition.  It never hurts to randomly try one...just for a different perspective...who knows:  It might change your mind.  Eventually they become tools for not only the whole piece but small individual sections that need a little work.  

I love the stunned silence that escapes my mind as I sit before an unfinished piece realizing I have just improved every other painting I will ever make. 

David Paul Simcox

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