Tuesday, September 24, 2013

"Not a game, not a game......but practice!" - Allen Iverson

      I always found it helpful to hear other artist's practice techniques no matter the skill level. It is how I pick up new exercises and sometimes learn what I am doing wrong. So this entry is a record of some of the things I have been doing to improve by 2D skills. If you aren't an artist, maybe it will be interesting to see what goes into the development of 2D abilities. Chances are it won't, so I included some plenty of stuff to look at for a few seconds. For any Amish readers, there are a few figure drawing images of people who aren't covering their bodies with fabric. It is called nudity and it is a thing.
      Last year I was made aware of a site CTRLpaint.com, which is amazing for any artists looking to learn basics or just brush up on digital painting. I found it to be extremely helpful and contributed quickly and noticeably to my improvement as an artist overall. I started with short tutorials and assignments on the site. I quickly moved on to more complicated and dynamic assignments I borrowed from FZD, Gnomon and CGMA tutorials.

(This simple study is a CTRL Paint practice assignment. The focus was the rendering of light, clearly defined planes and subtle texture. Mastering the ability to define simple forms and their relationship with light are the foundation of everything.)

 (Again, thanks to CTRLpaint for the direction. The sheet consists of a reference photo at the top. A black square frame identifies the patch of color I am looking to find with out using the eye dropper. After putting down a color I then use the eye dropper, painting the exact color right next to it for comparison.)

      I have made a good amount of progress in not only by general ability, but also in my practice techniques. Rather than practicing by placing swatches when identifying color, I am now identifying color in context and relationship with others in daily studies of environments, objects and vehicles. I no longer use the color picker and hunt for the color. I now raise a slightly opened fist to an object on screen or off and peek through a small hole to isolate color. Then I blur my eyes and compare the source and what I put down on the canvas (Learned from James Gurney's books). It is surprisingly effective. Alongside this approach, I do more life drawing and mental note taking. I then can compensate for the color lost in the photo with an expanding mental library, particularly in dark shadows.
      Since starting to do so, I have noticed a rapid improvement in picking color accurately and quickly. My environment painting and also stylizing of reference material has grown considerably.  After a bit of continuation down this path, the next step is to mix in more studies that are from imagination and use reference as support.

 (Most recently I have included quick environment studies that help warm up my color and perspective identification. Above is the progression of what my warm up layer looks like over time. It consists of 15-20 minutes of line work warmups followed by a 20-30 minute color study.)

       My color ID practice has now been integrated into warm ups. What once took an hour or more to do I can do in 20-30 minutes with better results. So I start my day with warm ups. First just control warm up by drawing lines, elliptical s and 3D forms with some light rendering. Then I move on to a quick color study. I use only one layer and never erase or throw anything away. I just keep painting over what was there last. It also helps reinforce the all important principle of not making anything my baby. Anything at any point must be discarded for the sake of improvement. So this starts my day with that reminder and develops a mentality that keeps any piece from being too precious.
      Another improvement to my practice has been in my focus as it relates to what I am trying to do with my art. Before I would start drawing with no particular plan, which is fine to do on occasion. I now do focused studies on form, color, or production techniques. This helps develop the effectiveness of my presentation, build a mental library and expand my understanding of how a particular subject works. I always start by breaking the subject down into simple shapes before building detail.

(I often overlooked smaller details of spiders. For example, how they breathe out of a mail slot looking orifice under the abdomen. I know their legs were segmented, but when studying I understood just how the legs segments into more pieces that originally thought. The are just simple pieces of information that get overlooked when only focusing on the bigger ideas.)

(This frog study helped exercise rendering thicker skin and how it moves over the mostly soft masses of a frog. This one in particular was done in preparation for a character I will be creating from 2D to 3D next month)

Oh no! There are drawings of naked people below! Cover you eyes!

(Another adjustment is was to jump between more literal translation and stylized translations.  On top of that, I went out of my comfort zone and tackled different perspectives and trickier poses. This is to force myself to apply my understanding of the lighting when changing forms. It also is another way to build a large visual library in the mushy mass that is sitting inside of my skull.)

(After a while of doing this I got much quicker, again cutting an hour down to about 20-30 minutes with improved results. My pallets became richer and more dynamic. I was able to play with styles more and even change details with confidence. Patrice O'Neal can't believe what the frog just said.)
        Along side my studies I work on personal projects, as you might have seen if you follow the blog. These are pieces I intend to finish and serve as chances to push myself beyond previous limits, try new techniques, play with different brushes and experiment with styles. Eventually the idea is to get to a level where a small percentage of my warm up time is practice and the majority is working on content that contributes to various narratives Unlike before, these personal pieces will have a much more professional quality and presentation.

(A progression of personal pieces from the earliest posts to now. Improvement is noticable, but with my new techniques and routine, I will be improving my efficiency and increasing the rate at which I successfully apply new lessons. This will ultimately lead to larger leaps.)

      Below are the list of sites and resources that have made my self education possible. I highly recommend their content on YouTube and their respective sites. However, these alone aren't to be credited. The help of fellow artists, teachers and getting my work out for feedback has been just as crucial.

- Gnomon - Jameys Gurney's Books - FZD - CTRL Paint - ZBrush Central - ConceptArt.org - 
 - CGMA - Google! -

This post is done now. Bye.

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