Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Gonthur Loves You

This is Gonthur the Dwarf, from one of my student projects. He loves putting on the hurt with his axe, collecting roses, and he also loves you.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011


I really like going up a mountain in a freshly generated map in Minecraft and seeing the lands nobody has explored stretching out below me, so here's me trying to capture that sense of wonder and spirit of exploration.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Guardian of the Shrine

Fantasy mech doodle while watching some creepy stuff about people moving into bug- or snake- infected houses unknowingly on Animal Planet.  I need this guy to guard me from the scary TV.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

watercolor at the beach.  Messed around with it on photoshop a bit more after I got home and got the 2nd image.  Watercolor is such a difficult medium!  It's fun but it feels like a struggle, especially after getting used to the pin-point precision and control in digital painting.

Feel more alive and awake today than I have for the past half week.  This wave of flu got me pretty hard.


Recovering from the flu, and lost my first hour of sketch in a photoshop crash... rough start to the weekend!

Will scan yesterday's sketches in at some point.

some random doodle for today, nothing too focused.  Messing around with colors.

Thursday, January 13, 2011


Messing with a more graphical look.  I haven't really tried to "ink" anything since my manga-crazy days, and it shows.  It's also a real struggle trying to get some kind of flow going and think before putting down lines, as I'm used to careless scribbling.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Swords of Four Elements

I'm obsessed with high fantasy and I love painting shiny stuff, so here goes the indulgence piece.  Had to rush on the latter two swords because it's both over my 2-hour budget and getting near midnight.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011


Catching a new wave of flu.  Not really feeling better after resting for a whole day at home :\  Didn't want to tackle anything too serious, so I revisited an old subject from a couple of years ago:

Monday, January 10, 2011

Hilltop temple revisited

I guess I can't just leave a failed sketch alone, so here it is - me trying to rescue the piece.

It's still kind of weird, but I think it's somewhat better.  May screw with it more later.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Some Thoughts

After Marshall's lecture, I had some discussions with my art director, who is possibly the most left-brain, analytical artist I've met in person.  His belief is that a good artist is always thinking about why he or she is doing what they do to their image, and what message they are trying to pass on.  He doesn't believe in the "touchy feely" kind of art.

Being a newbie artist who is just coming out of the eggshell of ignorance and "lucky accidents" of doing things just because they "feel right", I found a lot of merit in my AD's viewpoint.  I've known for a while that I need to think about why and how a lot more rather than striking out blindly, hoping to hit the target somehow.  On the other hand, the notion about absolutely relying on the left brain bothers me.  I found myself mulling over this on my way to and from the grocery store.

I have seen pieces of very well-designed art, with great composition and nice craftsmanship but lacking in something.  My right brain would say "this feels souless, synthetic, and generic."  It's like a beautiful face with empty eyes.  To me, a good piece of illustration carries some true feelings from the artist.  There is something intimate and personal for the viewer to grasp on.  Just like the craftsmanship of a piece should not outshine the message of the image, I feel like the design of the piece is also just a tool to make sure the message gets through, rather than being the most important part of the piece.  While design and craftsmanship makes for good art, a masterpiece should require sincerity and deep feelings.  It's like the difference between a piece of sweet, tangy candy that dissolves quickly and a dish that have a great, immediate deliciousness but also leaves a lingering flavor in the mouth.

I know these are still very right-brain words, and I failed to analyze this "sincerity" in a more logical rather than touchy-feely way.  Maybe more thoughts on this subject will help down the road.  I also found it funny that as a new artist who can't even produce mediocre "candies" reliably, I'm thinking so much about gourmet dishes.  I'll probably look back on this a few years down the road and smile, like I do now when I look at my old diaries from teenage years.

Hilltop Temple

Composition mess-around today yielded what I'd call a fail piece.  At some point of this doodle I thought I had something going, and ended up over-complicating values and shapes, without nailing down the perspective.  But messing up is part of what the daily painting is about.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Self portrait

 Haven't done a self-portrait for a long time, so I guess it's about time.  Actually tried to set up lighting and keep the compositional tips from Marshall in mind.  This one took 2 hours and I now have a stiff neck, haha...

Pretty happy about how this turned out.  Not as good as I was shooting for, but it's my best self-portrait to-date.  It actually looks like how I see myself.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Composition study - drama

Lunch + evening sketch, added some counterchanges after tonight's composition session.  Tonight's the last night of the seminar and I wish there were more.  Surely there will be more awesome classes to come.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Composition studies - joy

A bit too sleep-deprived to type up the notes for tonight, but here are some studies I tried to do.

Not sure if I'm doing this right, but it's a lot of fun.

Composition Class with Vandruff, Day 1

What a treat.  Four hours has never passed this quickly since I last played Starcraft II :P  Vandruff is one heck of a teacher who is extremely well-prepared and knowledgable.  Well, here are some notes before I slip off to bed.


The Role of Composition

Three Areas of Mastery in art
  1. Technique: How you apply the medium.  It's related but different from "style".  Technique is valuable because it's the first thing people see, much like instrument is the first thing people hear in a piece of music.
  2. Draftsmanship: This is "grammar of art" and "correct drawing."  There are three aspects to it: Anatomy - What things are made of, Perspective - how things look in space, and Rendering - putting skin on things.  Correctness in itself is emotionless, however.  What makes things exciting?
  3. Composition: It's the same thing as "Design", and is similar to "arrangement" and "organizing".  Composition is organizing from feeling, and ultimately organize for feeling.  (Quote from Vandruff: "The worst teachings in classes happen in composition classes."  His main reason is composition is subjective, and teachers should help rather than direct the student in finding their own compositions.)  Composition is about making good choices.  Impulses and habits also kicks in, but the choices are what make the difference in making art.
Errors Commonly Made by Writers and Artists Alike
  1. Sentimentality - beat people over the head with emotions and commentaries
  2. Fidelity - author being overly cold and unemotional, insensitive to human feelings
  3. Mannerism - Pretentiousness.  Author is more focused on showing off, putting their skills on the center stage rather than the purpose of their work.

Studying Composition

"Rehearsing success" - choose a favorite master, pretend to be them, and imitate their choices.  The risk of doing this is becoming a rip-off.  To remedy this, one should take works of people who have very different styles, find what's in common, and take the common element that make things work for his own use.

Developing sensitivity: look at what you love.  Look at what other people tell you to love to.  They may be wrong but they may be right too.

It is best to make big choices small.

A good approach is explore first before asking questions with left brain.  Analogy: You cannot steer a car that is not moving.  Illustrations must be made by inspiration.  "Child mode" and "Play mode" should come before "Adult mode" and "Work mode."

It is important to compose with negative shapes as well as positive ones.

Abstraction and Feeling

The first principle of composing: A picture is essentially a flat surface colored with colors and symbols in a certain order.

Quote from Andrew Wyeth: "I feel a picture has to be abstractly exciting to be a good picture."  A picture should be exciting without content, just with the arrangement.

Every picture, including realistic ones, is an abstract arrangement.

Abstractions should evoke feelings.

Analogy: you should be able to tell the mood of a successful movie poster through a shower glass.

Analogy: Phillis the Cat was never as popular as Mickey Mouse because Mickey Mouse has less pointy, more "huggable" silhouette.

Metaphors & Touchstones

Metaphor is the life of art, if not art itself.

One thing is like another.

Assigned symbolism frequently become pretentiousness.  One should serve viewers rather than testing them in decipher symbols.  An image should work on the primitive level.

Visual metaphors make abstractions concrete.

When studying from life, instead of just copying what you see, get an opinion about it.

Metaphor can happen in parts of the picture, or the entire picture.

Brainstorming using clustering technique: What is the ___ like?"  Start from the center and branch out with metaphors and analogies.

Injected metaphor: if an artist does one thing a lot or like it very much, it may seep into their work unconsciously.  This could be cool or problematic, especially since we want to choose what emotions to convey on a per-piece basis.

Metaphore exercise: Name everything as something else, and name everybody you know as an animal.  They may be different animals depending on their mood.

Use touchstones - inspire yourself with another artist's work.  Work best when the artist's subject-matter is vastly different from yours.

Consonance & Motiffs

Consonance is opposite to contrast.  It's about how things are similar, like echos.  It's the visual rhyme of a painting.

If the repeating element becomes too much, switch to a different one and interweave with the previous one.  (Counter-rhyme.)

Four questions to ask when making a composition

  1. What feelings am I trying to evoke?  This has nothing to do with context.
  2. What other things is this thing like? (conveys emotion, messages)
  3. What visual rhyme can I echo throughout the picture to unify it?
  4. What visual metaphor can the rhyme fit?
(Analogy: a common rhyme for poems is "-ore" rather than "-ippy", because "-ore" sounds heavy, solemn, like a person's death sigh.  Same thing with visual rhymes: what are their emotional connotations?)

Wednesday, January 5, 2011


My attempt of mixing canine and feline anatomy.  Trying to learn a little more about how the shoulder and chest of animals work.  This is also how I felt like doing after forcing myself out of bed early in the morning so I can do the 2-hour daily before tonight, when I'll be going to a composition seminar by Vandriff from 6-10pm.

Looking forward to the seminar tonight and the next two nights very much.  This'll be fun!

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Pirate Cove

Tonight's doodle.  Started in very messy, scribbly grayscale, overlaid with colors, then went from there.  Used quite a bit of airbrush everywhere after the initial step.  I think the light/dark contrasts worked out ok.  Not happy with the colors - I never seem to get good results from overlaying colors on top of grayscale unless I almost completely paint over the whole thing again.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Veteran's Home

Started with literally a blank page and just doodled.  It's been a long while since I tried to do an interior scene from my head, but this piece came surprisingly painlessly.  I'm sure I'll find perspective issues tomorrow, but it was fun to paint this.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Lighting and color exercise.  Painted this over a photo of a Japanese garden I found online, and ripped the color scheme off an illustration in James Gourney's book Imaginative Realism.  Made up the architecture from my head.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

The Old Witch - wip

New year's resolution - paint more, and make sure I make time to paint for myself rather than something tied with money or deadline.  I need to fail a lot before I can go forward.

This is a work in progress I may or may not finish.  Tried out a more methodic way of painting, as well as laying out colors beforehand.  Also, I think using a 40% minimum opacity on my pressure-opacity brush is forcing me to think more and fuss around less, which is a great thing.

Happy New Year :)