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Posts tagged as “Across the Transfinite Canvas”

Days 161 and 162

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another capaldi fail

Another rushed day, another quick sketch from memory fail. Despite having drawn Capaldi like 4 times in a row, when I try drawing without reference it just doesn't look like him. The above is day 161; below is day 162, when I decided to focus on just eyes. Again, I'm doing quick Sharpie sketches to force me to focus on shapes and proportions, where my biggest flaws are, rather than fine details of rendering.

those eyeballs

I swear, this has nothing to do with what's going on at Kill 6 Billion Demons right now:

your pal, gog agog

Oh, if you're not reading K6BD, you should.

Drawing every day.

-the Centaur

Day 095

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Quick sketch of Tony Stark as Iron Man. In an interesting reversal, I think the picture below looks a little squashed, and I unconsciously stretched his face back up to a more normal proportion. Actually, this one wasn't totally terrible - I had to learn a language for drawing the hair, and to pick which parts of the drawing I was going to render as pure black. Also, contra my earlier suggestions, the Sharpie wasn't totally permanent; I actually used whiteout to fix one overwritten line - can you tell where? iron man small Drawing every day. -the Centaur

Day 058

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gearhearts sketch As it says on the tin: trying to get to bed earlier and did a quick sketch. From the cover of a random comic "Gearhearts" in my inspiration pile. The sketch didn't turn out ... terrible ... in fact, the arms almost came out right, and it sort of looks like the cover. But as usual, doing one or two iterations of roughs would have helped the layout of the head and face. My eyes just seem to move around, man. Drawing every day. -the Centaur

Day 055

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momoa sketch Quick sketch of Jason Momoa, the reference for my Jesus sketch earlier. That sketch I started from scratch and only loosely used Momoa's mug to touch up some details; it still didn't come out great. Also, I sketched it on the Cintiq in Photoshop. This is also a quick sketch, but on Strathmore 9x12 with a Faber- Castell "B" Pitt Artist Pen Brush - and just that. Given that it was pushing 4am, I wanted to try using a simpler technique, to see how much I could extract out of just one pen (well, brush) for the render. As for how much the face looks like a face ... momoa mug Not ... terrible, but the proportions are still off, and my sketch gave him way too big a schnoz. Jason Momoa is a good looking guy, and unfortunately my sketch makes him look more like a rejected villain from the Princess Bride. Ah well. Perhaps I'll eventually be able to sketch good looking superheroes ... ... if I keep drawing every day. -the Centaur

Day 053

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sketched face Sketched faces from tonight's Write to the End session. No comparison photos, because my fellow writers deserve their privacy (especially since I used a screen shot which caught one of them in a scowl and the other while speaking), but I know enough to rate this as "meh". The face above expands the hair and squashes the lower face - same mistake from Spock yesterday, so it wasn't just head tilt - and a little of that's going on with the face below, though the biggest problem there is the mouth is too narrow. sketched face The ultimate goal of these drawings is to rekindle my love of my art and to sharpen my abilities to the point where I can once again resume f@nu fiku, finish my science fiction comic projects, and move on to other comic ideas I have scattered through my notebooks. My inspiration for this project comes from a young psychology student who took a drawing class just as he was about to graduate, and, inspired, put off medical school with a crash course to break in to the comics field in just one year. He succeeded, and his name is Jim Lee, now Publisher of DC Comics. I don't expect success in a year - I have a day job and a novel-writing career, not to mention a family - nor do I want to be Jim Lee. But I do want to be Anthony Francis. And Anthony Francis, by day, builds intelligent machines and emotional robots, and by night writes science fiction and draws comic books. I've built intelligent machines. I've worked on emotional robots. I've written and published science fiction. But the comic books, other than my short stint on f@nu fiku, have eluded me. Connecting thoughts and images is a huge part of my creative expression, yet I seem to have let it fall by the wayside. But I'm bringing it back by drawing every day. -the Centaur  

Day 050

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Xiao from Fanu Fiku As it says on the tin: a quick sketch of Xiao from f@nu fiku, my quasi-defunct webcomic. I forgot how complicated her character design is, and I left out a lot of it. I mean, I had forgotten that she carries a damn water bottle with her. Knowing the comic, that was probably meant to be plot significant: xiao from f@nu fiku I didn't make her easy to draw, and her outfits only get more complex as the series progresses. Ah well. Here's hoping those sketches and thumbnails once again turn to webcomic pages. Drawing every day. -the Centaur

Day 048

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tigress queen sketch As it says on the tin: I've been trying to improve my artwork by studying how other artists plan for success with technique and thumbnails. The author of Tigress Queen (it's great, it's my latest fave after Kill Six Billion Demons, you should go read it, heck, go read KSBD too) has a Patreon where she posts thumbnails of upcoming pages. What I love about seeing these is that she explicitly draws not just the panels and characters, but parts of the shading and spaces for the word balloons. I think part of my artistic problem is that I rush and skip steps. Outlining is difficult since I typically do narrative outlines in my novels, so I skip to thumbnails; but pencil sketches don't look right to me, so I move too quickly to drawing inks, and thus my thumbnails aren't at a high enough level themselves to serve as useful thumbnails. Combine that with not enough practice with faces, figures, hands, and feet, and it's hard to get the needed structure in place to make the art come out as success. Again, I keep coming back to, the solution is ... ... drawing every day. -the Centaur

Day 042

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Sketchy Porsche A deliberate attempt to just sketch in pencil and not ink. I decided to sit down and methodically start working through Wizard's How to Draw: Getting Started, working on roughs, when I noticed that one of the things I like about the book is that it has a mental model of artwork. That inspired me to dial it back even further and to try to generate my own theories of art. I measured a Green Lantern figurine and a drawing dummy looking at proportions (hips are about midway in the figure), then examined old Superman comics and sketched one trying to see what I'm doing wrong. Since I cut my chops inking my own webcomic, as fast as I could manage, wherever I draw it, I got in the habit of inking right over my own pencils, trying to get a good rendering in one go, which is a thing people do. But I've noticed many great artists use roughs to plan for success in their drawings. rough of superman These roughs often have several levels of shading, which right there is an improvement over my "everything is an outline" style, when in reality, outlines are mostly in our minds, not in reality. So I sketched out a few figures, with shading, in greater detail than I normally would in pencil. I can't tell you how hard it was to NOT start inking. Still ... drawing every day. -the Centaur

Day 037

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Cinnamon Sketch As it says on the tin. Fell down a rabbithole trying to clean up my files prior to doing my art, decided to cheat by posting a sketch I did earlier today, then fell down more rabbitholes since I apparently can't not experiment with coloring a sketch. For reference, here's the sketch from earlier, the first entry in a notebook that I hadn't written in in over 18 years: Original Cinnamon Sketch I came across this notebook just trying to find an appropriate notebook for a science idea (my sketchbook is at hand, but the science notebooks are ... buried in boxes?? Not sure) and found this one, a "commonplace book" filled with various ideas, including a life review from almost 20 years ago. I'm ... actually pretty happy with how things turned out over the last 20 years, between my wife, my novels, my comics and Google, but there's so much more to do. Finally, for reference, here's a piece of art I found while I was re-organize my files. This is from 24 Hour Comic Day, mind you ... a bit ambitious, I think, but this pre-break art I think shows the kind of work that I'm intimidated by when I try to get back into drawing: Porsche from the first 24hcd Yes, there's a lot to be improved with this art, but (a) my inking was a lot better, and (b) wow, I had forgotten how much the Porsche St. George character was supposed to be a "knockout". So much of what I've written / drawn about her since then has been the workmanlike space warrior stuff, not so much the original romance between the twentieth-century time traveller and the thirtieth-century centaur. Ah well. Lots of work to do before I can get back to that level of quality, even though I see a lot of work I need to do to improve upon that once I get there. Drawing every day. -the Centaur

Day 030

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Rough Sketch Practice Well, this may have been quick, and it may look sketchy, but actually, this is real drawing practice. I've long had a copy of How to Draw: Getting Started book, a meaty slab of hot drawing tips ripped from the pages of the now-defunct Wizard magazine. This "Basic Training" compilation still remains my favorite one-volume collection of comics techniques, deftly combining breadth and depth through short mini-lessons from top comics creators (I mean, come on, they've got Adam Hughes, pinup-style cover artist extraordinaire, drawing the section on "Sexy Women" followed by Terry Moore, character-driven independent artist, drawing the following section on "Realistic Women", and that's just for starters). I've read it many times, but I've never really sat down to methodically do all the exercises. Until now. Pictured: roughs drawn from five comic book covers picked pseudo-randomly from my inspiration stacks: Xanadu #1, Dreamery #4, Eagle #3, Superman #39, and Cloak and Dagger #1. I figure I should do ~5-10 of these from existing covers and/or reference drawings, then ~5-10 of these from my own previous drawings and/or my mental character gallery. Then I'll move on to the next section. Drawing every day. -the Centaur

Day 028

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transnewtonian overdrive logo v2 Well, not a "drawing" per se, though I went through four pages of sketches of this comic book banner logo before I cracked open Illustrator. (Here are a couple of those, not very impressive though). Sketches for the Transnewtonian Overdrive logo I'm still not satisfied with how this turned out ... there's some image in my mind with this logo which I haven't been able to translate into an actual drawing, much less a realized logo. But what's up with this logo, you may ask? Well, it's from a 24 Hour Comics Day comic I did, way back in the day, but never finished - "Transnewtonian Overdrive: The Front": 3 pages from Transnewtonian Overdrive The "transnewtonian overdrive" proper is that little device in the last panel, an aftermarket component to our protagonists' Porsche Hexwing staryacht (first panel) which enables them to go places where other people can't. The idea, you see, was that in an era of faster-than-light travel, no-one would seriously be interested in the relativistic corners of our universe - but by inverting a normal hyperdrive to go just slower than the speed of light, our heroes could dive headlong into places with weird physics. When I revisited the logo, my sketching - and looking at other logos of other comics - led me to the idea of the Hexwing cutting across the logo, with a thin line connecting it to the "O" of overdrive representing the invisible hypermass that our heroes are bungee jumping off of (and back to) to travel. I feel okay about it - the logo could be sleeker - but I can't quite articulate what the logo as drawn is missing from the image I have in my mind. If I could "see" that, perhaps I could fix it. This will require research, I think: I didn't figure out what was wrong with my Batman page (don't worry! I'm not going back to it) until I looked into DC Comics' book on coloring and lettering and realized I hadn't properly exploited value to make different planes of the page stand out from each other. Fixing this logo will require doing some research (and, likely, coming up with my own logos for other things first, before coming back to this, so I'm not working the same piece of art over and over again). I didn't finish "The Front" that day - it was WAY too ambitious for 24 hours, and I think I only got 7-8 pages in. You know, in a way, I think 24 Hour Comics Day hurt my creativity as much as it helped it. It pushed my boundaries in a way I never had before, but the speed at which you have to work mean that my artwork wasn't up to the standards that I'd set for myself with f@nu fiku. Five years after breaking my arm, when my art was still rusty, I bit off more than I could chew, and may have hurt myself more. Not sure I'd go back and change it, but if anything, I wished I'd taken on a drawing discipline like I have now. Drawing every day forces you to get over yourself, the good and the bad, and to move on to the next day. -the Centaur  

Day 021

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Batman v Dreamweaver, Final tl;dr: sometimes the solution to a bad drawing is to practice on something else Finally, the completed page. Frankly, meh. I could have done a lot more work on it to clean it up, add some pop, fill in some more cloud layers, etc., etc., but diving into the fiddly bits on this particular composition would not fix the deficiencies in the core drawing or in my abilities to realize it. The solution, I think, is not to overwork a single piece of artwork trying to compensate for its deficiencies, but to instead identify those deficiencies, to practice to eliminate them on different drawings, and then to return to the original subject matter with a wholly new concept and composition. In this case, the deficiencies - oh, I don't know where to start. My poor hand drawings, my lack of details about body anatomy, my poor inking skills, my lack of strategies to overcome my slight RSI tremor, my poor page layout, my lack of knowledge about digital coloring techniques, or my need for strategies to overcome my moderate color blindness? But identifying even a few of them starts me on the road. Note fixing these issues requires a comprehensive approach: some involve practice, like drawing hands or working on inking. Others require research (and practice): learning more anatomy or digital coloring. Others require actual strategies: if I want to clean up my inking line, I need to focus on ways that do not irritate my RSI or trigger the slight wobbly tremor, and if I want to deal with my color blindness, I need both more knowledge of color theory and a plan to deal with it. But now I have GPS directions. Time to get started. And at some point, when I've traveled around the country of comics and returned to the start with a better set of tools, perhaps I'll draw another Batman cover. Or a Green Lantern page. Or ... maybe ... a comic of my own design. Not that I have one in mind or anything. Till then, drawing every day. -the Centaur

Day 020

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Apparently alt-text can be used as an attack vector if you have access to The Bleed. It's late and I'm tired. ZZzzzz.... cthulhu ftaghn ... zzzz.... Drawing every day until the stars are right again. -the Centaur

Day 018

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Batman v Dreamweaver Flats Oy, this guy again. Not a finished drawing: these are "flats", used in digital coloring to isolate different elements of the image for further processing, hence the false colors used to make sure each element can be selected by color - I'm not that colorblind! Hopefully I'll finish up the color composite tomorrow. Drawing every day. -the Centaur

Day 017

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Batman v Dreamweaver, v4 Try #4 at the drawing behind this page, using the improved layout from #3. In addition to that trick, I increased the size of the page by 50% so I was effectively drawing at 300dpi, and zoomed in to work on the details, using all three previous drawings composited in increasingly ghostly transparency like an ersatz lightbox. Darker outlines were used for Batman and Zombie Wayne. Altogether, I like how this one came out better. Hopefully, if there are no more disasters with the water or the power or yearly planning, I can color this one tomorrow #dontjinxitfrancis so you can stop seeing this and we can move on to something else. Drawing every day. - the Centaur

Day 15

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Revised Layout tl;dr: if the flaw is in the bones of the art, you must change its skeleton, not its clothing Today's drawing is a revised layout for the "Batman 80's style cover" page. While the previous page had more refined inks, Batman's body posture was a bit off, and the Dreamweaver's hands were floating about like he was Rayman. While I could have finished those inks, when I got to coloring the disembodied Dreamweaver would have posed a problem, and the misproportioned Batman would have just looked bad, no matter how much effort I put into the inks or coloring. I've seen a lot of people spend a lot of effort trying to fix things with finesse or technique when the problems actually lie in the layout. If the flaw is in the bones of the art, you need to change its skeleton, not its clothing. And one of the freedoms that working in Photoshop on the Wacom Cintiq is that you can take a problematic layer, reduce its opacity to 25%, slap a new layer over it with its compositing set to darken, and --- BAM --- you have an instant lightbox to help you sketch a new one. When Jim Lee got started, reputedly he spent a lot of time drawing from photo reference to help build up his skills. I'm no Batman, but nevertheless, I spent some time tonight taking reference photos of myself clutching my chest and a throw-blanket, trying to perfect Batman's cape-grab, and other references of me villainously spidering my fingers, trying to imitate this "Dreamweaver" chap. The result is a layout which, at first glance, looks a lot like the old one. Everything is where it was, more or less. But Dreamweaver's hands are now attached to his body, his helmet makes sense, and Batman's arms and cape now interact in a more realistic way. And his fingers aren't rigid as boards, so it actually looks a bit like he's clutching his heart. No amount of refining the original drawing in place would have fixed these issues: Batman's arm was too long and bent, his fingers were in the wrong place, and the Dreamweaver's thumbs were actually out of their sockets - never mind the missing arms and shoulders. Finesse and technique only take you so far: at some point you may have to stop and rethink your layout to make real progress. One step backward, two steps forward. Drawing every day. -the Centaur

Drawing Every Day

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Drawing Every Day Folder

tl;dr: to get good at something, you've got to put in a lot of practice

Hail, fellow adventurers! You may have been wondering what's up with the "Drawing Every Day" on this website. Or, hey, maybe you just got here. But I've gotten far enough into it that I feel comfortable taking a short break from developing this habit to tell you about this habit I'm trying to develop.

Fanu Fiku Page 49

I've loved comic books since I was a child. I've drawn since I was a young kid. I even started working on comics in graduate school, consciously refining my art until I was able to launch a webcomic, f@nu fiku, partially inspired by anime, manga, and the FLCL anime.

Then I broke my arm. And while I was recovering, someone stole my laptop. I took the opportunity to switch from Windows to Mac, and, as luck would have it, got my first book contract for FROST MOON. By the time I got enough free time from editing and book launches to go back to the webcomic and pick up where I left off, I found out my hand-crafted webcomic software wouldn't work on the Mac.

The real blow, however, was hidden: my confidence in my artwork had collapsed.

I went from fearlessly putting together two-page spreads way beyond my ability, doing bodies and perspective, and changing my layout theory at the drop of a hat, eventually producing pages that appeared in an art show - to being unable, or more precisely, unwilling to draw at all.

I had become intimidated by - embarrased by - my art. My wife is also an artist, and is familiar with the phenomenon. She and I talked about the reasons behind this at length, and like writer's block preventing writers from writers, one of the things that really affects artists is simply getting started.

If you've only done a handful of drawings, well, then, every one is super important, and there's pressure to make it perfect. But if you've done lots of drawings, then each one is an experiment, and if it doesn't turn out good, well, then, you can always draw another one.

the art studio

We moved recently, and I made it a priority to set up an art studio. But things by themselves don't create good habits - believe me, I know: purchasing a keyboard and bass guitar all those years ago didn't turn me into a musician, because I didn't build the proper habits around them.

But how do you build a habit if you're too intimidated to get started? At the Write to the End writing group, we tackle it by sitting down to write for 20 minutes, no excuses. At Taos Toolbox, Walter Jon Williams pointed out that this seemingly small amount of writing per day could produce a novel.

So I started to come around to the idea: what if I drew every day?

There's this theory in cognitive science that quantity begets quality. A famous example from the book Art and Fear alleges a ceramics professor graded half of a class on quality, the other half on quantity - but the students who produced more pieces also produced the better work.

There are no secrets: if you want to get good, you've got to put in the work. (Well, there are secrets, but the secret is, you have to put in a hell of a lot of work to take advantage of them). This is such a common thing in webcomics that it has its own TV Tropes page on Art Evolution.

I really want to draw again. I want to make science fiction webcomics like the ones I grew up loving in the 80s and 90s. But to do that, I've got to draw. So, once I finally got settled here and the holidays were in the taillights, once I finally got the Cintiq working ... I started drawing every day.

14 days running so far (counting complex drawings that took 2-3 sessions as 1 per session). How long does it take to cement a habit? 2-3 months, it sounds like from the online research; so, a good ways to go. If I keep at it, I'll have +70 more drawings, five times as many as I have so far.

I bet I'll see some changes.

Day 3 vs Day 13

I bet if you have something you want to change, start working on it every day, and keep it up for 2-3 months, you may see some changes too.

Best of luck with that! Wish me luck too.

-the Centaur

Day 14

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Batman v Dreamweaver, Stage 2 Roughs in Photoshop. Some of the limits of the original composition are becoming clearer here - like, what are the hands of our villain attached to? Has he no shoulders? Is he secretly Rayman? Enough for now. Still, drawing every day. -the Centaur