First off I want to let everyone know that I feel ashamed that I haven't updated my art in a while , and in no way am I trying to pass this journal off as an excuse for doing that. If anything, this is probably meant to be some public form of therapy for myself... Now for whoever that sentence hasn't scared off, let's get into this journal!
Over the past few weeks, I have been going through a rough patch of feeling like I have lost my touch with my drawing. I'm sure that many people reading this know what I'm talking about. You take some time off from your craft that may be a couple days, or a couple weeks. You then try to go back to doing it and something is off about it. You aren't doing the same caliber of work that you feel like you're capable of. Well... I went through one of the worst one of those in recent memory. I would draw a face, be violently dissatisfied with it (I'm exaggerating of course) and erase it, redraw it, something still doesn't look right, erase it again and so on and so forth. It was really frustrating and for me, also really scary.
As I was growing up, drawing was one of the only things that people acknowledged that I was doing correctly. When the kids at recess would play double-tap football, I would always be the last resort to receive a pass. In school, I was criticized for my work on my spelling tests. There were also many meetings with myself, my parents, and the teachers for my diagnosed case of "Deficiency in Written Expression" (Do I still show signs of that deficiency in this journal entry? You decide Deviantart!). So with all the 'You have a lack of's 'You have a deficiency in's and 'You're not good at's, drawing was the one thing that I was acknowledged for being good at. I in no way think that I am a natural at drawing, but never the less, people telling me I was good at it was enough to keep me practicing. This isn't me expressing some deep seeded regret about my youth. I like the dorky life path that I took. I do however, want to express how crippling of a feeling it is to think that I might've lost this one skill that I have been developing for a majority of my life.
So I decided to go back to the basics. I went to my websites with human poses posted on them and I read through portions of my Burne Hogarth books. It felt like it was going to take a lot to get myself out of the art rut I was in. I was pretty much at the point were I felt like I was equally sucky at all mediums. Through the duration of this art rut, I was still frequenting deviantart, looking at you artists were putting out since you guys are so fucking good! I had also realized that a big majority of the artists I'm following were digital artists, and this made me feel a bit of pressure. I'm no stranger to digital art, but a majority of my work has been with physical paints or pencils. After seeing the predominance of the digital medium, I found myself nervous about being left behind with an obsolete mindset. So I decided that in order to get out of my art rut, I was going to draw and color something mildly ambitious, and I was going to do it completely on the computer.
The image that came to mind was these three fantasy looking characters fully in the frame, in action poses, and in a reverse pyramid scheme. When I got started, it was pretty cool to take advantage of some of the digital tools. I did the underdrawings of the three characters all on separate layers so I could move them around wherever they would fit in the composition. I put layer masks on those layers so I could non-destructively erase the areas being blocked by characters or objects in the foreground (thank you for that tip ctrlpaint.com!). It was an interesting experience, but then the forward morion I had began to wane. It felt like I was working three times harder than I work with my physical pencil, and I was trying to understand why.
There was a podcast that I listened to a few years back called the Kojima Productions Podcast Hosted by Ryan Payton (That's right, huge Metal Gear nerd here) and he had some guests who were all from 1up.com at the time, and I think it was Ryan O'Donnell expressing some discontentment with the Metal Gear videogame series by saying, and I paraphrase: "I don't like how I have to hold down three buttons just to fire a gun." While my biased fanboyism didn't agree with Mister O'Donnell at the time, his analogy about ergonomics stuck with me. This analogy surfaced back when when trying to describe what doesn't feel right about drawing digitally. It makes a simple task like drawing and adds layers of complication onto it.
I'll briefly describe what it's like to draw digitally (I make no promises). For me it consists of my right hand holding the stylus over the tablet and my left hand is positioned on the left side of the keyboard where I have mapped most of my most frequently used shortcut keys. So I will begin drawing an image by roughly drawing out the structure lines, I don't need to be too fancy in this part of the drawing process. Then I get into the details. I press the zoom button a few times to get close enough to draw the detail on the face. I bounce back and forth between the paintbrush and eraser tool using my ring and index fingers and I scroll around the zoomed in area by pressing the spacebar with my thumb. I zoom in and out to make sure the image I drew still works at full view. Often times I realize that my proportions are off. Then I have to press the F key to free-select the the area. I then use the scaling transform tool to make the head or the hand or whatever is dis-proportioned the desired size. I am also constantly increasing and decreasing the size of the brush tool with my index and middle fingers. I have gotten in the habit of saving often since freeze-ups have caused me to loose big portions of work that I've done on a piece, so I press the control+S keys with my ring and pinky fingers to perform a quick save.
If you take all of that into account, those are a lot of different tasks to do in order to draw in a digital environment. My analog workflow consists of my drawing surface or board, piece of bristol or mixed media paper, my Comfort Mate Ultra mechanical pencil, and my kneaded and nylon erasers that I keep in close proximity to my right hand. My left hand doesn't really do much except for holding my paper or board in place. This standard low-tech method of is actually much more streamlined. Zooming and lack of perception of proportions is pretty much a non-issue. It feels much more freeing for me to work on paper.
I understand that I didn't take using a Wacom Cintique into account, and if I come across $1,000-$2,000 to throw at one of those machines then maybe I'll revisit this journal/topic. For now my focus is on entry level hardware for digital artwork.
So after deciding to call it quits on the full digital project, I took what I had so far and I printed it out. I took the same idea and layout and transitioned to paper. Not only was it a much smoother experience to use physical pencils on bristol paper, but the image qualitatively looked way better than the line work than the work that I previously did. I felt like I was at home, and my recent art rut was behind me.
Now I don't want the takeaway of this jounral to be 'Tim poo-poos on digital art'. I want the lesson to be about being true to yourself. I was trying to draw like the next Jason Chan or or Stanley Lou and something about it didn't feel right. So I went back to the tools that worked efficiently for me. I'm guessing that someone who is a digital art guru is going to read this this and say "Oh! He just doesn't get it!" and you know what? You're probably right, but take pride in the fact that YOU DO get it, and it's a medium that you can use uniquely well. I am just recounting my experience of re-discovering that I'm an analog artist. I have been taking a great liking to doing things separate from the computer. In fact, this whole journal entry was written long handed first! You're just reading the edited version.
I also don't want to give people the idea that I'm saying not to experiment or expand your horizons, but there is the phrase "A man's reach far exceeds his grasp." It's helpful and inspiring to try new things, but falling back on something that you have a lot of familiarity and experience with isn't a terrible thing to do.
On that note, I want to close out this journal entry off with an idea/proposal. Notice that nowhere in this journal have I refereed to physical paints and mediums as "traditional". I personally think that calling techniques and mediums traditional gives them a negative connotation. It makes people think that these mediums and artists are stagnant or tied to the past, they're not going to advance any further. As someone someone who uses these tools, I feel the opposite. I want to see these tools advance and become better. The Pentel Pocket Brush Pen has allowed me to not be tied down by a bottle of ink and water cup. Water Mixable Oils have allowed artists to use that medium with minimum or no use of chemicals. Liquid Watercolor Paper allows watercolorists to break up the linearity of medium. Some significant changes have already happened to these tools and we should keep the progression going. So I propose that physical painting and drawing be referred to as "Analog" art. We aren't tied to the past, we just prefer lo-tec methods.