Friday, 24 February 2012

Weather report, and Massive Self-Improvement Drawing Project

Sooooo, what been happening?  Well we've had snow for starters.  Some of my work colleagues weren't too happy about it but I refuse to complain about snow.  We get it so rarely and for such a short time that it's always worth making the most of it while it's here, which essentially means doing everything you would normally do, but outdoors and in a woolly hat.

Life has been getting busy again, but despite the odd week of short-temperedness and panda eyes (partially caused by what I think must be squirrels in our roof that keep thumping about and waking me up at unreasonable hours, but mostly self-inflicted) I'm determinedly clinging onto my resolve to push myself in the areas I want to improve at.  'Good enough' is no longer good enough, and I'm trying to take everything one step further than usual.

I did another doodled Bible passage video the other day, very rushed and not even coloured.  After the last one had a 2-week deadline on it Amy and I asked for more notice for this one so that we could make something a bit more worth.  To be fair they did give us twice as much notice... but the passage they asked us to do was twice as long so I'm not sure they really understood what we had been trying to say.  Anyway, schedules being what they are we managed to get together a few times and get something done but it was not my best work and I felt it.  Someone described the one we did for Christmas as "homegrown", which is absolutely fair and true (and I rue my continued lack of laptop, with all the better programmes on it that would let me add moving parts) and it was fit for purpose, but it's getting to the point where yes, that's fine, but I don't want to be making homegrown stuff any more.  I want to put proper time into things, to bump them up to a more professional level.

So this doodly slideshow/video was rushed through and went out as normal, but it was pencil lines only and privately I wasn't too happy about it, but then the schedule for the talks changed and it wasn't used.  Brilliant!  I snatched it back off Dropbox and set to work colouring the thing - at least I could show a modicum of effort.  It's still a quick job, but I would have hated them to show a piece of work I was ashamed of.  All in all I guess it just goes to show how much I care about my work these days, which has got to be a good thing.  It's all part of...

Operation Better Drawinger!

In other news I have finally decided to start acting like a Proper Drawrer.  I've been looking at a lot of artists blogs and artwork, compared it with my own, and have picked a few things I need to work on:

1) Draw bigger.  I'm so used to doodling on whatever small scraps of paper are laying around, or in travel-sized A5 sketchbooks that even on bigger paper my drawings are small and I lose a lot of detail.  I tried switching up from A4 paper to A3 once I got past the rough draft stage and the difference was instantly noticeable

2) Ink my drawings using a brush rather than leaving them in pencil out of fear of screwing it up (sometimes pencil is appropriate, sometimes it's a cop-out).  I went out and after a lot of deliberation brought some brushes to try and found 2 of the 3 I really liked.  The third brush was too small to be really useful; I think I just wanted it because it felt safer. They are both Windsor & Newton Cotman 222 Designer brushes, which is a brand I've used before and get on well with. At first I wasn't sure about them because the bristles looked really long in comparison to the short 'n' stubby bristles I usually go for with my blocky and scuffy way of handling acrylic painting, but once I'd learned to hold the brush right and not at an angle like I would a pencil -bad habit- it really follows your hand, holds buckets of ink and you can get a really lovely smooth taper on your line.  It was good to have to lose some control and just trust that the brush would give you what you needed, even if it wasn't what you asked for.  I usually find that I lose a lot of energy between the rough sketch and final drawing because I stiffen up trying to "get it right", so this might be a good solution.  I especially liked it when the ink ran out and the I ended up with a textured, dry-brush line for a while.

3)  Lettering.  Oh my gosh I suck at lettering.  Probably because it holds no interest for me so I find it difficult to apply myself, so I never do any and therefore never improve, but if I'm going to write things on pictures I need to learn to do it right, or with at least a passable degree of skill.  And with the damn brush.  Faith Erin Hicks does it well.  So expect some more of that, and expect it to be very bad to begin with.  I had a go on my sister's birthday card, in Italian, and it wasn't completely awful, although several days down the line I look at it and wince at the inconsistencies.  I also question the straightness of that violin.  Hmmm...  Which brings me onto my next...

4)  Backgrounds.  Again, I've never cared much for backgrounds - they aren't alive and they have too many straight lines in them, but now I'm seeing that I need to consider them earlier in the drawing process and make them work for me.  Maybe try and find characters and narratives in them the way I do in people.  They don't have to be amazing and intricate - a colour wash is enough sometimes- but they do serve a purpose and I need them.  For example, right now I'm half way through a drawing that started as a small doodle and didn't include a background at the time, but now it's bigger it makes no sense without a setting and a context.  I'm hopefully going to hash it out this weekend, and will post it eventually.

All these things I need to work on, and I'll post progress as I do, but lets end on a happy note, an art trade.  Amy, who makes the doodle videos with me, also makes does some beautiful wizardry with fabrics.  When I inherited some clothes that were too big for me I asked her to alter a few of them (for a fee, of course.  Gifts and small favours are one thing, but I don't hold with this idea of not paying your friends for proper projects.  If they're really your friend, respect their hard work!)  She did a great job and I have two new tops and a skirt out of it.  Then, a few weeks later, she texted me to ask if I would draw her a picture she'd had in her head for some time since talking to God about something.  It was of her laying on the back of a lion.  So I texted back "Err... ok!"  Armed with my new inking brush, larger paper, and the notion that the setting for my characters should be deliberate and not a hurried afterthought, I spent a few hours thumbnailing and researching lions, and here's what I came up with:

I am pleased with this. It's simple, but I drew good and had fun and the linework is better and it all just worked.  A week later and I am still pleased.  Amy loved it, and when she asked how much to give me I laughed and charged her the price of altering my clothes.  Paid in Trade!  Also finally discovered the point of the 'Flow' slider in Photoshop, which is nice :)

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