Thursday 2 March 2017

I'm still painting, honest!

Wow, I can't believe it's been over a year since I updated this blog. My intention was to document my progress but I feel like I've so much since my last post. Still, it's better that I'm painting than spending my time updating this blog, right?

I'll try and give a brief recap on what's happened over the since then, with some examples of the work I've been doing.

At the end of 2015, I undertook some mentoring with Matt Archambault, an artist and teacher that I've mentioned before on this blog. His guidance was really helpful, although his recommendations were perhaps not so surprising: stop working on the photo studies and still lifes ("homework" as he described it) and start working on more "complete" illustrations, placing characters in a setting and capturing a mood and story. And start working in colour of course!

One of Matt's recommendations was to use photo reference for my illustration. I think like most aspiring artists, I feel this is a big difference in quality between my photo studies and work from my imagination but I've always felt that using a photo reference was somehow cheating. Matt's background is in book cover illustration and to hear him say that he, and most professional artists, use photo reference in their work was very reassuring.

I think sourcing the right references is a skill in and of itself though. I can rarely find a photo from the internet that has the correct lighting, pose and perspective that I need and even shooting my own reference it's hard to get the lighting correct or to approximate some medieval costume from my clothes. In the future, I'd like to invest some money in lights and a SLR camera, as well as sourcing costumes and models for my reference.

In early 2016 I took part in a competition run by DeviantArt to create a piece of promotional art for the game Homefront: The Revolution. The prize was 6,000 USD, with the possibility that the winning entry would be used in marketing materials for the game. I only found out about the competition about a week and a half before the deadline. It's by far the most stressful piece of art I've had to create but it was great to be working to a deadline and to a brief for the first time.

My entry for the Homefront competition
Unfortunately I didn't even make the shortlist for the competition but neither did artists who work professionally and whose entries I really admired. Looking back on it, I'm fairly happy with what I produced. There are some obvious issues with perspective, composition and lighting but I feel like it was the best I could do at the time, and to such a tight deadline.

A few months later I saw an ad for the game on the side of a bus in London. In the end, they didn't use the winning entry in the ad but it was exciting to know I'd been part of something so big.

Around mid-year 2016, I stumbled upon an online community called Brush Sauce Theatre. It's organised by a professional artist, Tyler Edlin, and each month he organises a competition with members of the community submitting art around a theme or brief. He then critiques the entries for free with another professional artist, Adam Duff. Most of the work I've completed since then has been for these competitions. I've submitted four entries so far, which I've added below.

Moonlight drifter

Beast clan

The Last Sanctuary

High Lord of the Gardens

Well, that's about it. I'm hoping to update this blog more regularly, at least every time I enter a Brush Sauce Theatre contest. Also, I'm going to re-arrange the website a little, putting my artwork front and central on the homepage and putting the blog on a separate page.

Friday 7 August 2015

Another portrait

Another digital portrait, of Scarlett Johansson. The likeness is not perfect but I’m pretty happy with it.

I took a different tact with this portrait. Instead of drawing the outline of the head and facial features and “colouring in” the lines, I began by putting in the major tonal areas of the face without paying much attention to proportions. Then I slowly began to refine the shape of the tonal areas, almost like working with clay or plasticine.

This technique led to more visible brush strokes, which I felt gave the painting more energy. I spent a bit of time smoothing out the brush strokes but I still think the finished image retains some of the looseness and movement.

Thursday 16 July 2015

Digital Portraits

As promised, here are some portraits I've painted in Photoshop over the last couple of months.

This first one is from a photo reference. Unfortunately the reference didn't have very strong lighting, so it was hard to pick out the shadows and render the form.

As you can see, I kept the sketch in, because the image looked really flat without it. Also, you'll notice I didn't finish rendering the hair or shoulders. I was pretty fed up with the image by this stage and abandoned it, although now that I look at it again, it's not too bad and I might go back to it.

The second image is another abandoned attempt. I painted this one from imagination, sketching out the face first before painting it. Although I like how some of the features are rendered (the eyes, for instance) there are some pretty major structural problems that I didn't really notice until I started painting it.

I followed a great tutorial on Youtube whilst painting this image (don't judge the tutorial on this result!). I particularly liked the part about mixing colours towards the start of the video. I found it much easier
to choose colours using this technique than just trying to pick them directly from Photoshop's colour picker.

You might recognise the model in the third painting from my last post. With two poor paintings
behind me, I decided to remove one of the variables and paint in greyscale. Also, I've read about a technique in which you paint in greyscale first, then in paint over the top in a flat colour on a multiple layer, which I might try a little later.

I took the opportunity to try and correct the likeness of the image a little by making the nose bigger, the eyes a little smaller and changing the angle of the left cheek. It's still not perfect, but I'm very happy with the result.

Friday 19 June 2015

Female portrait

I've been struggling with some digital portraits (I'll post my attempts soon), so I thought it might help if I went back to my strength and drew from a reference. This piece took a few hours to complete.

Saturday 13 June 2015

A couple of painting exercises

I haven't posted anything lately because I went to Argentina for a couple of weeks. Since I've been back in London I've been painting digitally a lot more. My whole life, I've only drawn using graphite pencils, so I really don't have any experience painting or working with colour.

The painting to the left was meant to be an exercise working in colour. The idea is to paint a sphere in greyscale, then paint another sphere in colour but match the value of the first sphere (value is the lightness or darkness of a colour). I started the first sphere using a soft brush, as in Matt Kohr's basic rendering video. But I don't really like the look of painting using a soft brush,  so I painted the second sphere using a hard brush and mixing the colours to get a smooth finish. The first sphere is definitely smoother, but I prefer the painterly look of the second sphere. I didn't learn anything about colour, but I'm pretty happy with the results.

I also bought a couple more of Matt Kohr's videos: Dynamic Brushwork and Imaginary Light and Shadow. I haven't put any of the techniques from dynamic brushwork into practice yet, but I've been working through the Imaginary Light and Shadow exercises. It's a lot harder than I thought. The painting below is one of the exercises. The key (the overall value of the painting) is too light and I screwed up the cast shadow of the middle object, so I need to go back and fix that.

More recently I started to do some digital portraits. I'll post them up soon. Also, I really want to do something about the look of this blog, so look out for some changes soon.

Friday 8 May 2015

Still life

I feel like I’ve been drawing more than painting recently, and since I went part-time to get better at painting, I decided to do a still life of an apple, based on the advice in this forum post.

It was a real struggle. This was my third attempt. My main problem was trying to accurately pick the colours. It’s incredibly difficult to match colours on your monitor with a colour in real life. In the end I just made approximations of all the colours I could see on the apple, put them all on a separate palette layer, and pushed through with the painting without worrying too much how accurate the colours were. The painting is probably a little too dark but I don’t think I would have got anywhere if I’d tried to match the colours exactly.

Squinting at the apple, so the all the various tints and shades of the apple merged into larger shapes, also helped a lot.

The yellowish section at the bottom of the apple was also difficult to paint. It is really made up of red dots. I think this sort of thing calls for a custom brush, but I don't have much experience with them. I tried using one of Photoshop’s default speckled brushes, but the effect wasn’t very convincing.

Overall though, I’m pretty pleased with my first digital still life.

Saturday 2 May 2015

9 hours later…

A drawing of the model from the front cover of Sarah Simblet’s Anatomy for the Artist. It was meant to just be a contour drawing using the envelope method, but the tones were so interesting that I started to render it. 9 hours later, this is the result.