Friday, September 30, 2011

Character of the Week # 258 : Chess Knight

This is my final entry for last week's Character of the Week Challenge.  Actually "entry" isn't quite right because I didn't manage to finish on time, meaning I wasn't able to submit this for voting.  It's hard to appreciate the detail in this one without seeing it larger, so click on the image to zoom in.  I've also included a close up of the face below.  I think I'm going to call it quite on these weekly challenges for now.  They're just a little too stressful and time-consuming now that I'm working on game projects again.

I haven't given up my illustration dreams though, and I'll continue learning and working on my illustration skills over the next few months.  I'm actually going to set some goals publicly in the hopes that it'll both force me to commit to working on my skills and also to help others who are interested in getting into the illustration biz by learning from both my successes and failures.  Boy am I going to regret this.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Urban Sketching : People in Restaurants

Just a random filler urban Sketching post today, of different people I sketched while at restaurants.  Sketched the woman above while Aissa and I had dinner at Mana-ish, a great Middle Eastern in Makati.

This sketch was made during one of my Sunday Starbucks sessions with Aissa's brothers Luigi and Fernando.  Lots of Koreans in their area, but this one caught my attention because of his emo hair.

Sketched this family dining in Shiok!,  a Singaporean street food restaurant in Fort Bonifacio.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

The Art Department Tutorial Review : Jason Chan

Since the Art Department's Sale is still ongoing, I'll do another quick review of a tutorial that I found very useful in my art (re)education.  This tutorial was particularly helpful for me because I'd always struggled with the transition from line art to painting.  There are some artists out there that are so used to painting and already have such a good understanding of light, color, and matter that they can paint directly on the canvas and essentially "sculpt" out a figure using the paint.  However there are people who are just more used to lack the understanding necessary to go directly to paint for whom it's helpful to have some guidelines set down before they start painting over things.  I fall into the latter category, and I found that Jason Chan's tutorials helped me bridge the gap.

Jason Chan has numerous videos on The Art Department, but if you only had $16 and had to choose two tutorials of his to download I'd suggest "Thunderdome" and "Character Design vol.1".  Thunderdome takes you through the process of creating an illustration from an approved thumbnail all the way up to a finished illustration that you can show to a client. My problem had always been the part between thumbnail and illustration.  For whatever reason I couldn't wrap my brain around how to get from point A to B.  Jason provides the answer, and it's rather simplistic; a lot of time.  Obviously it's not that simple, but essentially what I was lacking was the understanding of just how long it really takes to create one of these illustrations.  Being able to see the process from point A to B and more importantly being able to rewind to see it over and over again just unlocked something in my brain that text tutorials simply failed to do.  There are some free youtube videos out there that may help, but a lot of them are really speeded up and so you lose a lot of the nuance that goes into particular brush strokes.  Chan's general insight into his work process is also very useful.  This is the artwork I produced right after watching this video, and here's the artwork prior.  I'm not sure if it's obvious, but personally I feel like there was a very big leap in terms of quality between the two artworks.

Character Design volume 1 is very useful because he takes you through a variety of styles that you might use to create concept art or illustration.  More importantly to me he showed how you can render lineart in monochrome first before using an overlay layer to color it in.    This is not a new trick and in fact I'd heard about it before and written a tutorial about it, which frankly I'm now a little ashamed of.  Again as with the previous video there seems to just be something about seeing the process and listening to Jason talk about his workflow that just made sense in my head.  He also goes a little bit into how he thinks about the psychology of his characters when he creates them, and how that informs things like armor design and their poses, something which he goes further in depth into in his videos on designing Heroes and Villains.

If you're interested in concept art but have a lineart background and would like to transition from one to the other, I highly recommend all of Jason Chan's videos.  But if you're on a budget, these two should definitely be on the top of your list.  If you've an extra $8 and want a third video, I'd go for his "Quick Sketch" video, which deals with how to create these artworks if you're under a tight deadline.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Character of the Week # 258 : Chess (Pieces) WIP3

Here's an inset of how far I've gotten into this image because I think a lot of detail is lost when resizing to fit the blog.  To the left you can see the palette I use to pick out colors when I'm using an overlay layer to color in the monochrome image.  Once I'm happy with the basic colors and flatten the image I'll end up picking colors from the image itself, but in the meantime this gives me a ready color scheme to draw from.  One of the weaknesses of this design is that the armor is rather boring looking, so I try to remedy that with some armor accents.  I try to keep these minimal since this is theoretically "battle" armor, so I use simple geometric shapes, basically stylized L-shapes to tie the character back to the knight chess piece.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Character of the Week # 258 : Chess (Pieces) WIP2

Quick update here.  Rendering's starting to feel pretty good, laid down a simple chess backdrop so he doesn't look like he's floating in the air.  Except he does look like he's floating in the air, so maybe I have to fix that.  More (coherence) soon.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

The Art Department Tutorial Review : Jason Manley on Composition

One of my ideas when I revamped my blog was to do reviews of some of the tutorial videos I've downloaded from The Art Department.  The origins of The Art Department are a little murky to me, but it's an extension of Massive Black and and can be interpreted as their educational arm.  They had a sale a month back  listing all of their video tutorials for $7.99, which depending on the video can be a %50 to %85 discount.
I was hoping to do more in-depth reviews but that's increasingly becoming a fantasy since I just don't have the time to write and draw at the same time.  Drawing being the activity that allows me to do such esoteric nonsense as reviewing art video tutorials, I figure I should focus on that more.

Still, since the sale that was supposed to end in August is still going strong deep into September, I thought I should do at least one or two quick reviews of the most important videos (in my opinion of course) to pick up if you only have a few bucks to spare.

Jason Manley on Composition

Personally this is the the must buy video of all the series, since it explains a very basic idea that was lost on me for most of my artistic career : composition.  Many artists, myself included, frequently fall into the trap of just drawing "whatever looks good" without paying attention to the reasons why things look good and why certain images work and certain images don't.  I was vaguely aware of principles like the golden mean and the rules of thirds but despite my 4 year art education I'd managed to completely forget about the rules of composition and design.

Jason takes the viewer through a crash course of these subjects, going through the rules one by one and then explaining how artists throughout history have used them to great effect.  He won't teach you how to draw or paint but he will teach you how to think about what you want to draw or paint.  Most importantly to me I now had a set of questions to ask myself when I look an an illustration I made other than "Does it look good?"  Questions like "Does it place the right emphasis on parts of the illustration" or "is there enough repetition to allow for unity in the piece?" can now be asked in order to focus myself on a specific task that can be done to improve the illustration.  If you've ever looked at a painting or drawing you made and got frustrated because something was "off" but you couldn't put your finger on it, these kinds questions will save you a lot of time and frustration.

His crash course through art history was also quite fascinating to me, as I'm also only recently coming to appreciate the work of the past masters of art.  I feel like it's increased my own understanding of how certain periods of art worked, and allows me to decipher them more than just saying "oh, that's nice."  There were a few times where I wondered if he was just bullshitting me about certain aspects of an artwork, but I'll give Mr.Manley the benefit of the doubt and chalk that up to my own meager education on the subject.

If you've never thought about composition or if the idea of composition has always been a bunch of muddled ideas in your head and a mishmash of free online tutorials and wiki pages, do yourself a favor and pick this video up. I guarantee it'll be worth your while.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Character of the Week # 258 : Chess (Pieces) WIP

After recuperating from the breakneck pace of weekly challenges (after the kangazelle I worked on a piece that  I didn't finish) I started again this Saturday with the character of the week.  While the past few weeks felt like me flailing about artistically, I wanted my next pieces to have a little more focus.  On this particular artwork and likely on the next few that I do I will ignore the backgrounds almost completely.  A good background is important in any illustration but I noticed in a lot of concept art, especially that dealing with character or creature design, the background can be minimal to none since the focus is on the design of the character or creature and not illustration (ie telling a complete story via an image).  At some point in the future I will certainly spend time specifically working on backgrounds/environments.   For now I want to focus on designing and rendering good looking characters.

Anyway, this week's creature of the week challenge on is to design a character out of a chess piece of your choice.  I chose a knight since it was conceptually pretty easy.  I'd already wanted to draw a Tikbalang at some point in the future and though this knight looks nothing like the idea I had in my head, it will at least help me familiarize myself with fantastical Tikbalang anatomy.  The image up top shows the design I ended up with, after spending time thumbnailing (my thumbnails look horrid so I will almost never post them here :P).  The horse knight's wearing relatively light armor since his focus is on speed and being able to flank his enemy (hence the L-shape of the knight's attack pattern in chess).  Since he's a knight I gave him a lance and a special shield that he uses to help prop up the lance.  The shield also comes with a long knife attached to it in the back since the lance will splinter upon impact and he'll need a backup weapon to fend enemies off till he or his squire gets another lance.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Feng Zhu's Free Tutorials

While Feng Zhu's School of Design may be out of the price range of many aspiring artists, he's kindly put up a series of free online tutorials available for anyone to view.  Of course these are partly meant to be promotional material for his school, but he doesn't skimp on the details and with sharing his thought process and workflow.  These tutorials probably won't be as in depth as the stuff I downloaded from the art department (7.99 sale still ongoing btw), but these should provide a good (free!) complement to them.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Urban Sketching : People of Taytay and Clark

For a change of pace (and since I've backloaded some of my old Urban Sketching posts here) I thought I'd post some recent sketches I did in the last few weeks.  The one above is a favorite of mine, one I did during my adventure into Taytay, Rizal to pick up my new Computer chair.  I must admit I was a bit annoyed at first at having to venture so far to pick up the chair but I ended up coming home with a much better chair than the one I wanted to buy, and I got a discount on it as well!  I sketched this dude having an after lunch siesta after my own lunch in Puregold grocery in Taytay.

This was sketched during the wedding of one of Aissas officemates in the Clark Area of Pampanga.  I figured if people were snapping away with cameras there would be nothing wrong with me sketching my surroundings.  There were a lot of little sketches here but I particularly like the one I did of a grandmother.  I felt like I'd managed to capture her look quite well, which was confirmed to me when Aissa saw the real life grandma and exclaimed "Oh, that's the grandma you drew!"

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Art Musings : Abandoning Artwork

Sometimes when you embark on the piece for the wrong reasons it just never turns out right.  This was originally supposed to be an entry for the Creature of the Week challenge on, but I also wanted it to be a test for me to see how far i could take a piece that I hadn't really thought about.  Creating any kind of illustration or concept art for me is a long, drawn out process of thumbnails, composition sketches, lineart, rendering, and finally coloring.  The past few weeks that I've thrown myself into these challenges have been so exhausting I wanted to try just shitting something out without going through the entire process, and this is what I ended up with; an artwork that's just barely good enough for me to look at without cringing.  There lots of issues to be work out here, chiefly the area where the rider interacts with his mount. However since my heart's not in it and I don't have a client I'm responsible to I think I'll let this one go.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Creature of the week WIP2 : Kangazelle

Quick update.  The rendering process has begun , this is about two hours in after scanning the sketch into photoshop.  I laid out a background color then used a large custom brush to give it some texture and block in the important parts, afterwards it was just painting over it with a regular round brush in incrementally smaller brush sizes.  You'll notice that the elf riding his back is ridiculously small.  By the time you read this he will have been erased and hopefully replaced with an elf of more proper proportions.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Creature of the week WIP : Kangazelle

The topic for the CoW challenge on this week was to pick a fantasy race (elves, orcs, etc.) and conceptualize a war mount for them.  I actually didn't intend to join this week so I could take a break, but for whatever reason I ended up doodling and getting ideas and eventually I figured if I can finish this in a day or two, I might as well join the damn thing again.  I won't try to replicate the scale of Turtle Island again, that's for sure.  I wasn't feeling TOO creative, so when I came to the idea of a Kangazelle (half Kangaroo, half gazelle) I just decided to roll with it.   This is the sketch I cam up with while doodling yesterday, which I plan to develop a little further in the coming days.  This will be pure conceptual art, just enough to get an idea across but not necessarily a full fledged illustration.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Creature of the Week #227 : Turtle Village

Long after the great cities of fire and smoke had been washed out by the sea, the remnants of humanity learned to once again live in harmony with their fellow creatures. Little hamlets sprung up on the backs of the giant sea beasts that thrived in the new environment travelling all around the globe, never calling a single place home.

Man, I had no idea what I wa in for when I tried to do this. I thought it would be a simple thing, without thinking of all the different textures I had to paint as well as the multiple lighting sources. I was just asking for trouble! I think I'll stick to something much easier next time to give myself a bit of a break.  I want to properly critique this and my recent work to help reinforce the stuff I'm doing right and wrong, but there's never any time!

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Art Musings : High and Lows and a Need for Cheap Chewing Gum

"Thanks, it's been really fun and fulfilling, but it's also been really rough at times."

"But isn't that true of creating art in general?"

This was an exchange I had with my friend Caroline a week ago after she complimented me on my recent work.  I explained to her that yes, the creation of art (or almost anything for that matter) naturally comes with highs and lows, but that I was trying to compress so much art education and practice in such a short amount of time that the highs and lows were compressed, almost tumbling over each other in their effort to take control of my limbic system.  I'm going to risk chavinism right now by wondering out loud if this is what a woman's period feels like.

The intense stress generated by this has lead to some peculiar nervous tics, reflexes that I find very difficult to control, especially when I'm in the middle of flow.  A few weeks ago it was a simulated acid reflux, where I would involuntarily choke up bile (or some sort of acidic fluid) up my throat at regular intervals.  This was extremely discomforting to I did my best to tamp it down, but recently it's been replaced with grating my tongue over my teeth, specifically the right side.  This has been far more difficult to control.  I tried inserting my lower lip under my upper teeth (easy because I have an overbite) to prevent the tongue from moving, but I worry about misshaping my mouth even more, and an expensive trip to the orthodontist. 

My new ingenious solution is to chew gum.  Not only does this give my mouth something to do while I'm in the throes of flow, it ostensibly will help me burn calories as well.  Now all I need to do is find cheap brand gum i can buy wholesale, ideally sugarfree.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Islandback WIP3

I'm probably not gonna make a habit of posting this often (though I should really start thinking of what kind of a regular schedule works for me) but since There's been quite a bit of progress on this piece I wanted to post it.  Bunch of concerns here.  I'm not sure I'll have enough time to really put to kind of polish I think it deserves before the Wednesday deadline.  I'm not sure if the colors are working, and it's proving more difficult to work up from a monochrome image (as opposed to grayscale) than I originally thought.  I'm not sure what to do with the clouds, or if I should even have them there.  What I do like is the water.  I'm quite happy about how I got the movement of the waves, and I love the details on the turtle's face.  Now we have to see what bits and pieces to work on and what to just ignore.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Islandback WIP2

Another quick update here.  I'm establishing both the values (light/dark) and the color scheme here, working with a not entirely realistic dark green/teal sort of color.  The end result will actually incorporate two light sources, But I'm trying to simplify my workflow by finalizing the moonlight values first and then coloring over that to establish the Turtle and island and separate them from the background, and finally introducing the lantern as a light source.

This is about as far as I got with that before deciding that I was rushing into color way too early and deciding to focus on the moonlight values.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Islandback WIP

A quick out of sync update here just so there isn't too much lag in between posts.  The latest creature of the week challenge was to create a creature large enough to fit some sort of environment on its back.  This actually when through numerous revisions before even getting to this state.  I think it marks my increased maturity as an artist that I just kept plugging away and cutting of bad ideas until I came to something I liked.  I'd originally intended to create a mini rice terrace on the turtle's back but for some reason I just couldn't make it work properly, but I still left in a lot of Filipino elements like the statue on top of the hill and the nipa huts.  Deadline for this is September 7, so I have plenty of time to finish it up.