Laaady in the Win-dow...

windowseat_sized.jpg Not too much to say about this Lady.

I like the folds in her dress, no matter how unrealistic they may be.

I'm slowly reaching an uneasy truce with feet. I sort of like the one with her shoe dangling off. The other one is a wash.

I'm especially proud of her knees, and the way the legs fold over each other. I can't get my legs to do that in real life...

And I like the framing. Often, I feel that my attempts at framing within the page come across as a bit hamhanded, but this is contextually consistent, and also not annoying.

One of my earliest memories of art criticism is my mother, holding a piece of my so called 'early works'. ( It had an Apatosaurous sized horse, and a couple tiny stick figures. One of them was meant to represent a mom, as she was yelling 'Come down from there right now' and the kid who was riding the horse was yelling back 'No way!' The spelling was somewhat approximate.) My mom was thrilled that the figure projected off the limits of the page, which apparently represented a marker of artistic development. For some reason this resonated with me, and I am still fascinated by methods of framing.

Pretty Colors

piccasine.jpg The base sketch for this image is at least three years old, but I just finished the color yesterday. It wasn't that I forgot about it. The drawing was in my 'to be finished' pile, (which is usually only about ten deep) I just kept choosing other things to finish and put that one back to stew for longer. There are two strange and mostly subconscious processes going on when I treat an in-progress image like that, neither of which I've ever tried to articulate. So here goes:

Aging: It's completely mysterious to me how some drawings age well, and others don't. I can usually tell at the time which ones I will still be proud of (or at least not embarrassed by) in six months or a year, but I have know idea why. I keep them because I still want to finish them. So why don't I go on and just finish them already? See below.

Holding Off: When I hold off on finishing an in-progress that I know is good, it's usually because I think I'll mess it up. Either I was in the zone when I started and now I'm not, or I don't know exactly how it's supposed to go from here. That second is particularly frustrating, because drawing to me feels like a subtractive process, mentally. ( Brief tutorial on art terminology: Additive processes are like acrylic painting or pen drawing. You keep putting indelible things on, and not taking anything off. You may be able to cover mistakes, but you can't erase them. Subtractive processes are like sculpture. When you want to carve an elephant, you get a block of stone and chip away everything that isn't the elephant.) When I draw, the point of greatest potential is after the second stroke of the pencil. The drawing is now something, but the exact nature is still entirely up for grabs. As I proceed, the possibilities narrow. Sometimes, I reach a point of crucial choice, and the available paths are either obscured, or look so good that I can't decide. So I wait. I wait until I either forget the original paths I saw (and then see new ones when I sit down to work on it) or until I learn enough that I can see a substantive difference between my options.

This piece was always going to have bright colors. I knew that before I'd even finished inking it. What I didn't know was the medium. I wasn't confident enough with any colorful medium, and I didn't want to mess it up. So I waited. Eventually I got good enough with Photoshop that I could see that path clearly, and liked the end result my mind suggested. Now, I knew how it was supposed to go. So I went.

Moonlight On My Shoulder Makes Me Happy

asymetrical-dress_sized.jpg It's been awhile since I've done a good ol-fashioned sexy black and white lady. I'll admit, they are a food group to my sketching diet.

This lady didn't 'settle' for a long time. She languished in my sketchbook, penciled lightly. I'd return to it from time to time, tinker, and not make up my mind. Or rather, she didn't make up her mind.

I don't know if any discipline other than writers and visual artists talk that way about their work, like the work itself has an opinion about its final form. I catch myself doing that occasionally, and usually the listener nods and smiles like they understand. So how about it listeners? Do you actually understand, or are you humoring the fruitbasket artiste?

War Photo

sepiatone_sized.jpg sepiatone_lines.jpg

I suggest clicking on the pretty picture. It's even prettier when it's all big.

This is an Experiment. It warrants a capital letter because of the number of new things I actually pulled off.

1: Machinery. I've been trying to gradually increase my tolerance for machinery. Generally, I have no intuitive feel for it. This has something to do with being unable to draw a straight line. In any case, I have stretched my boundaries to give you an Aliens 2 style boomstick.

2: Armor. Not only detailed, semi-realistic armor (god bless Google) but it's clearly, worn, scuffed, well-loved armor. Although I suppose well-hated might be more accurate.

3: Honest to God Texture: Not all photoshop pre-sets this time. The leather textures on the gloves, belt, and boots I put there myself. I learned to manipulate the texture so that the shading is entirely a separate function, and so that the texture bends with the form it's covering.

4: Facial Shading and Skin in General: Gotcha. Ha!

5: Reworking on the Fly: When I started shading, I realized the hand holding the helmet was wrong. I thought it was just a little wrong, so I kept going. By the time I was entirely done with the gloves, it was so wrong it hurt. At this point, I was stuck with re-drawing the glove in Photoshop, and then duplicating the textures and effects I had already used on the other hand. The surprise was that the result didn't suck. It was, in fact, an improvement.

6: Background. So I've been trying out the pastiche approach, and I think I've got it now. For your edification, about four (five? ah, who cares) reference photos were combined, altered, adjusted, re-worked and painted over to make that background. Looks reasonably contiguous, donnit?

7: Sepiatone. I'm still not entirely pleased with the brown that I chose, but all and all not a bad first stab at sepiatone. What I'm proud of in this case is that I didn't reinvent the wheel. Before I painted myself into a corner (somewhat literally) I asked the internet what it had to say about Photoshop and sepiatone. Low and behold, it can be accomplished by applying a few functions to a grayscale image.

8: Glow: I put a slight from-behind glow on the head and shoulders of the figure, fading out as it goes down. Bet you didn't even notice until now, huh? But it helps the figure stand out from the background quite a bit, and it is consistent with the lighting.

And now for the negatives:

I still hate boots. The little note on the bottom of the sketch? That says 'stoopid boots'. And the hand holding the gun isn't very natural. I still can't make 'holding' hands that actually look right. Finally, the helmet was supposed to have an antenna on it. See it there, in the sketch? Yeah, somehow that got lost in translation, and I've had too much booze to consider changing it now. Keep checking back, maybe I'll feel ambitious later this week and fix it.

Ruminations on Cover Art


Cover illustration is probably why I got into drawing. That and a being the jewish kid that went to Catholic school, but I digress.

Twenty years of back issues of Fantasy and Science fiction magazine that my father stored in the basement gave me a good introduction to cover art. My natural predisposition to Fantasy, Sci-fi, and History meant that I got exposed to different styles and levels of quality as well, although I do remember a brief period of where I thought that embossed lettering on the cover denoted a 'grown-up' book. (Dad was reading Elric, Mom was reading a long forgotten romance novel, it was a logical conclusion at the time.)

Good cover art is hard as hell, which is perhaps why I've shyed away from attempting it myself. Bad cover art is much easier. Bad cover art is usually bad because it is either too specific, or too general. The generic romance novel is a good example of both overly specific and overly general Badness. Specific Bad is often either a romantically entwined pair (perhaps a swatch of tartan if the story is scottishly inclined) or a moodily framed main character. Covers that focus on the main character(s) hamper the reader's ability to imagine the characters, making it more difficult to identify with them. Additionally, character focused art is often very static, with no movement or hint as to the plot. There is also a second variety of too specific; the dreaded scene-based cover art. Illustrating a specific scene blindsides the reader with imagery when they come across the illustrated scene, while the rest of the story is only loosely visually defined. Illustrating a moment of plot has the effect of cranking up the volume to painful levels for a count of three, and then turning it back down. This kind of art is particularly popular however, because it is easy to do, and otherwise often meets the requirements of good cover art. On the other end of the scale, there are the covers with text, a rumpled sheet, and a rose, or some approximation thereof. These are Bad through being overly general, although I find them more palatable than the overly specific variety of Bad.

Good cover art is not Bad, while also being artistically sound, possessing an interesting visual layout, and not being derivative. Anybody can do that, right?

The art for this week is, as you may have guessed, meant to be cover art. Due to it's specificity and layout, this art is much better suited to a short story than a novel. There's not a lot of room in this image for anything to move, which in a way means that not much can happen. In art, space is equated not only with motion, but with time. (If you really want an explanation of why this is, ask Scott McCloud.) Additionally, the figure is very specific, with details that might get in a reader's way. She does at least have some degree of character, however, which puts this illustration a step above the Bad where characters on the cover are little better than vehicles for primary emotions. (Fear, lust, surprise, ect.) Were I to make a second draft, I would turn the figure, and make her more of a silhouette to cut down on the details. Also, I would move the houses back a bit and space them out more, to allow for more time to pass. All and all however, I am rather pleased, and not only because I seem to have figured out how to do faces in Photoshop.

Inversion Line and the Terrible Metaphor

sketchywoman.gif A meaningless little sketch of the type I tend to do during lecture classes. It warranted the effort to finish it because it is less polished and slick than those little sketches tend to be, and because I liked the line quality. Also, I'm a sucker for color inversion lines.

It is also one of those rare cases where I demonstrate different levels of competence within the same piece. The nose and eyes are handled in an entirely different manner than everything else, which wasn't even a little on purpose. When that happens, it's usually a clue to me that I'm getting on to a new stylistic phase.

Not phases like the moon. Nothing that graceful. More like the terrible twos. The beginning is usually awkward, hard, and frustrating, like watching a two year old try to explain what she wants. Eventually though, there comes out of the tiny mouth a witticism that surprises everyone, including the kid. Eventually, she's clever enough to be witty with some regularity.


Unambitious, but Maybe Possible

Torighost News from the real world:

A nine-to-five sucks all the vital juices from your body. I happen to work at a great place, and I am grateful, but that doesn't mitigate the tendency to frantically unwind as soon as I get home. Over the last few months, this has degenerated into little more than staring at the computer, eating, and buying things. On a fundamental level, I am not producing anything.

Is no good.

I think that a venue to display what I am working on currently, or what I have recently finished may help. I plan on posting here weekly, more if the mood strikes, but there will be something here on Wednesdays that wasn't here last Wednesday, come hell or high water. (or, y'know, a vacation that lasts more than a week.)

As to the above: I am returning to an old theme of negative space caused by overlap. In this case, playing with the solidity of the figure was the point. I'm slightly displeased with it, as she didn't come out as ethereal as I was imagining, and the whole image feels rather stark. I was planning on a more emotive image.