It’s just a wee bit odd to propose this as the first in a new series, as this is a core example of the type of art I do going back decades, including the technique (though I used to do this in charcoal). Let me just dredge up one of those real quick.
The reason it’s a new series is I’m planning to make a concerted effort to develop this style. I started this some months back, and if you’ve seen my “The Giant’s Den”, that was originally DDK 01:
You might notice I used a rougher brush there. In the new one I created my own Photoshop brush, the difference being that I softened the edges. This gives me a combined charcoal, airbrush, paint brush effect depending on how I use it.
I ended up putting “The Giant’s Den” in my Tapping the Unconscious series, as #48. That series is comprised of all imagery purely from the imagination, but I explored a wide range of techniques, and used Painter and even Zbrush for some of them. They originally started as digital paintings I’d make in just one day.
I could easily assemble a dozen or more similar images, and it doesn’t really matter how I categorize them, but I like starting fresh-ish, so, this is the new one with a new commitment.
Why these sorts of drawings now? I think I’ve just slowly moved more towards my traditional drawing/rendering skills, and working from my imagination. With something like this, I don’t use any references. If I don’t know how to draw something, I just make my best attempt. It’s about the world I can create using only my mind and my technical ability. Eventually I’ll work in color, but for now it’s just B&W, and that’s part of the appeal. What can I conjure using only my imagination, and drawing in B&W?
You can get a sense of the process, which moves from the general to the particular, by looking at an in-process screenshot, and the final image side-by-side:
I have my detractors who say that anything I do on the computer happened because “the machine did it”. This is as stupid as looking at one of my charcoal drawings and saying, “the charcoal stick did it”. I think when it comes to digital art, because sometimes you can’t be sure what the artist did, what the computer did, and what was copy pasted (because you could do any combination of those things), some people just automatically assume the computer did it all. Y’know, there’s a button that says “whip me up a weird half-salamander, half squid creature,” and you just depress it. Voila! In the case of this kind of drawing, it’s pretty obvious I did it all myself. And, by the way, just because someone makes a physical drawing or painting doesn’t mean they didn’t use a photo source and project it on the canvas. There are all sorts of cheats for physical images.
There’s no gimmick, not tricks, no conceptual element, no politics, no shortcuts, no cheats… And for me, this is kind of the real challenge. Drawing something you see, well, you have the subject matter, and it’s mostly a matter of copying what you see. That’s a challenge, and one I like a lot, which is why I sometimes do realist images:
I think these scissors and ball I did recently helped me with rendering my monster with the creature on his forehead.
But it’s one thing to copy lighting, shading, modeling, and so on, and it’s another to do it on your own. For the latter, you need to understand the underlying principles, not necessarily consciously, but one way or another. Those underlying skills are what I’m trying to develop simultaneously while working on this series.
I’ve been using a formula of about 50% practice, and 50% working directly on imagery. Here’s some of the rather boring, and tedious training I did while working on the image. The versions on the left are mine:
I did the cherry first, and the pineapple last, which is why my technique improved.
I didn’t trace the originals or anything, and it’s quite difficult to approximate a pencil drawing by using a stylus and tablet, in my lap, and Photoshop. I had to do a lot of tinkering to create a brush that looked like pencil. The originals, of course, are far superior to my copies. The process, however, helps me assimilate knowledge about rendering imagery. I also noticed that my hand/wrist/fingers did not like making certain strokes at certain angles. If I only rely on what I already know and how I draw, I may be limited. Doing these sorts of exercises helps break me out of my limitations, or proclivities, or habits, I hope (’cause they are a paint in the ass to do).
They’d be easier to do in pencil (if you haven’t tried drawing in your lap while looking at a monitor, it’s much harder than actually looking directly at your pencil on the paper), but the goal is to be able to do it digitally. OK, I have the perfect example of why it’s so much harder to draw with a stylus and tablet. Try just writing a sentence. It looks as bad as if you wrote with your opposite hand. It really takes a lot of finesse to coordinate your small muscle control when you aren’t looking at your hand.
Here are a few details:
I love this creature on top. It’s really quite tricky to get it to look 3D, and to get its skin to look a little tacky, like a salamander. Note that I had a tiger salamander for years, so am quite familiar with the tactile qualities of amphibian skin (though this creature’s got a lot of mollusk in it, too). It might be some sort of parasite, or predator…
Here’s the eyeball. And one of the best things about this image is the weird little details I haven’t seen before, such as the tissue all around the inner rim of the eye socket. This is at “actual pixels”, meaning it’s full-sized. The drawing is 20×30″ at 300 dpi (which is magazine cover hi-rez). It can easily print out twice that size.
And here you see an advantage of working digitally for this style. Charcoal is flat anyway, and super fragile. Here I can produce a superior print, and large scale. If the beauty of the piece is what counts, this is a superior way of working for this approach. It also allows me infinite editing and experimenting, which is how I like to work.
Here’s the teeth:
I hope I made the teeth look easy. They weren’t. I had to think about the fact that I’m looking down at them, in which case we will need to see some of the tops of the teeth, etc.
I’m planning to develop the imagery and the technique, and who knows what I’ll come up with. I don’t. That’s much of the point. I couldn’t have predicted this image. I’m hoping that working in a recognizable style will help people identify my work, and that this kind of imagery is accessible and interesting enough to garner some interest by the world art audience.
I think my imagination is a wee bit different. A lot of people will see Giger in this, though there’s as much of Alfred Kubin, and even more of an aesthetic that comes from the vintage Outer Limits and Twilight Zone TV shows I grew up on. There’s all the fine art influences kicking around in there, and my own personal experience and peculiar, individual portal on the world.
Well, let’s see what I can come up with. For now I’m going to work in B&W, because I’m focusing on the lighting, shading, modeling, perspective, and so on. I’ll go full color some months down the line.
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