This Dispatch is a bit late as I’ve been AFK for a lot of this weekend. (Amongst other things, I spent all Sunday bouldering with a friend - it was a great deal of fun, but I am a great deal unfit. I’m still feeling the post-workout ache!)
Not as much art this week as I’ve been trying to juggle Drawabox homework with traditional drawing with digital art… but I made an important breakthrough!
I resumed Lesson 5 of Drawabox this week - it’s about drawing animals using dynamic sketching/construction methods. A long time ago I learned to draw animals using construction**, so it was a matter of dusting off some very old skills, while building on drawing principles taught by Drawabox’s earlier lessons.
A scrub turkey and a ferret. The ferret has a long neck syndrome! It’s a lot harder to establish proportions through strict construction, instead of more gestural approaches which I’d otherwise use.
**Aside: As a kid, I learned how to draw using several children’s how-to-draw books published by Disney, which showed how Disney’s animators drew characters from The Lion King and Pocahontas for the films. Little did I know then that I was learning constructional drawing and techniques that are actually used by professional artists. Now I’m grateful for how those Disney how-to-draw books gave me pretty strong drawing foundations, which I’m still building on today.
A fellow art student on the Drawabox Discord server roped me into doing a 50 Bird Challenge: just draw 50 birds, in whatever ways you want. I’m using this chance to try art techniques that I haven’t really tried before, or am too nervous to try on my illustrations.
I’m starting easy with Birds 1-10: drawing in pencil, but with a focus on shading and bringing out more values from the pencil. I definitely need to shade more boldly and develop my understanding of values!
I only managed one fun piece this week, but it was a much bigger work than usual: on A3 paper, with all 4 of my original characters. (For lack of a better collective noun, I’m going to call them the ‘Crossroads Squad’, for now.)
From left: Vega, obligatory cute lizard critter, Zhael, Rann, Faiye.
It was a good experience to think about each character’s personalities and relationship dynamics, and use that sort of character development to compose their poses and show a “story” between them. To keep it simple, I kept a square-on composition/perspective and the Squad in relatively static poses, but I want to add more dynamism to these areas in future. But I’m still shading too timidly!
In any case, this is a step up towards the kind of art I want to end up drawing. And bigger is better: I’ll be working in A3 from now on!
On the digital art front, last Dispatch, I mentioned how I was wrestling through a mental block in the digital drawing process. This week I had a breakthrough in this area.
It all began when I was doodling in Clip Studio Paint (CSP) while complaining about my digital drawing struggles to my art buddy. He then made an observation that I was using multiple layers for the sketch. This was a technique I picked up from Ctrl+Paint (specifically this video series), and I’d been using it as a starting point for drawing since I didn’t know any better.
Just a passing comment from my art buddy, but it got me thinking. Traditional drawing is effectively drawing on a single “layer” (the sketchpaper), and I rely heavily on erasing and redrawing to adjust and “sculpt” lines; but the Ctrl+Paint method relied on multiple layers and partitioned out every sketch stage into its own layer. This is not remotely like what I do for pencil drawings, so why was I using this unsuitable method? Shouldn’t I try something more akin to my drawing?
So I adjusted my workflow and started drawing on a single layer.
My current CSP “sub-tool” setup: I made a separate sub-tool for my brushes, and a sub-tool category within Erasers for my erasers. CSP’s colour coding option is handy here.
Furthermore, I realized I had to use multiple brushes to reproduce the kind of specific effects I usually make with a single pencil or eraser. (A single digital brush does a specific job but doesn’t have the versatility of a single traditional drawing tool; it’s both strength and weakness.) It took a bit of experimenting, but I identified two brushes and two erasers from CSP’s default tools that could approximate my traditional drawing style.
Then came the “mise-en-place step” where I customized CSP’s user interface, toolbar selections (the “Sub tool” feature) and keyboard shortcuts, to make those brushes/erasers easily accessible. Now I have the beginnings of a workflow that can use to replicate my pencil drawings in the digital medium.
Testing the method out with a drawing prompt (“Overalls”).
What a difference that made! Drawing on a single layer while rapidly switching between brushes and erasers is much more in line with my traditional drawing workflow. My obstacles in digital drawing were indeed workflow- and mindset-related. But it took an astute observation from my art buddy to break me out of an unhelpful approach that I didn’t even realize I had.
I’ll stress-test this workflow some more this week, but I was already experiencing much less frustration when drawing the prompt above. This is a very promising development – and good lesson to me about how important it is to draw in community. I don’t think I would’ve made this breakthrough as quickly without my art buddy’s observation.
Next week’s topics: progress report on this digital drawing workflow; continuing Drawabox Lesson 5 and 50 Bird Challenge.
Thanks for reading this week’s edition of the Art Dispatch! 🎨