Missing Steps

That’s the usual state of affairs. See the other pictures for this story here.

Research: First I research and read the context: in this case a piece about Nikola Tesla and his cat, so I spent some time sketching Tesla, and cats.

Ideas: Then I come up with a bunch of scribbly ideas. Usually, but not always, in my sketchbook.

Rough Sketches: After that I take a few of my ideas and turn them into rough sketches digitally. I check any large important research, like period appropriate buildings or the layout of a ship. I make sure I’m using the right dimensions and determine the rough final composition. In this case it was as simple as adding a shelf and lamp to the background of the picture, but sometimes I might change the viewing angle a lot, or add a foreground element or something. By the end of this step, all the big pieces are in place.

Underdrawing: This is when I zoom in on all the pieces of the puzzle and make them work. I fix the anatomy and character consistency. I make sure the clothing is right. I add smaller details – particularly in larger and more complex illustrations. For this one I make sure the style of lamp is period appropriate and worry about the cat’s expression, and the placement of buttons. I’ll usually do a colour sketch too, though I haven’t here.

Final Illustration: Most of the thinking is done, but there are subtleties of texture, expression, and colour to tend to here. I have a lot of fun adding shadows and highlights, and generally less fun just blocking in colours. And then ta da! It’s done!

For this art study time, I wanted to take this whole process traditional. And I was really focussed on the Final Illustration stage, because of course that’s where the real difference comes in. But I’ve realised that I need to start much earlier. It turns out that I’m having a lot of trouble developing my composition on paper, without the digital tools of cut, paste, scale, rotate, etc. It turns out that I’m having a lot of trouble developing my underdrawing, without the ability to redraw a more refined version directly over a rough version. It turns out I’m having trouble with the drawing, full stop.

There are two main directions I could go from that realisation:

  1. Continue to develop my underdrawings digitally, but otherwise continue as planned, working with traditional media for the final step only.
  2. Switch my learning focus to the earlier stage of refining my drawing traditionally, and don’t worry about the final step in the process yet.
  3. (Bonus: Give up and go back to digital art altogether.)

To me, the second option seems the more fundamental and useful skill, so that’s what I’m going to put my focus for the time being. More on the specifics of that in a future post 🙂

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