Saturday, March 27, 2010

Informed Drawing

When I was in college, (I've been starting a lot of sentences with that qualifier as of late...) I had this stupid notion that using references was "not allowed."  Actually, it was a very stupid notion, but don't think for a minute I'm talking down about those supremely gifted folks who can pull just about any kind of imagery out of their head, God bless 'em.  I just don't happen to be one of them, I need help getting those images completely out of my head and onto the page.  So, for me, the notion of constraining myself to not using reference images was a stupid one, really.

So recently, after reading and listening to a lot of other artists who are working, and making fantastic work, I realized that a great many of them use extensive references while they are working.  Now this doesn't mean they're nothing but "copy monkeys," dear God no (and you would never even think that if you saw their work), it means they're smart and know how to make creating the image easier, more desirable, and more effective for them.

So, stepping down from the soapbox, I've been recently trying to incorporate more reference into my work, and I've been enjoying the results.  So onto the pictures:

Brief was straightforward:  Giant amphibious creature (my initial thought was frog, but then my inner 4th grader, which knew what was an amphibian and what was not, was silenced by my outer 26 year old which thought that turtles would be way cooler...even though they're not amphibians...)

So the sketches came quickly:

Now, the top three going clockwise, are about as close as I'm gonna get to pulling a frog/salamander creature out of thin air.  So I could spend another couple of hours trying to layer on details without having decent construction lines underneath, but that would be beside the whole point.  But I did know that the bottom couple of sketches would give me my composition - large creature rising out of the water to the left with a person or people on a cliff to the right (maybe they're cheering it on, maybe it's gonna eat them...I'm going with the former).

So now it's time to go get some pictures.  Do it to it Google:

Again, I was initially going with frogs, so the bulls seemed like a good idea (maybe I'll use that texture on their skin..).  I was also toying with the idea of boats getting tossed around as the creature rose out of the water (so that's where the junks fit in) and maybe some kind of village on the cliff instead of the people (hence the shanty town).  Now, I really started to drift away from the frogs when I stumbled across pics of the alligator snapping turtles - those guys are AWESOME, pure dinosaur.  As for page 2, subs and whales for clues to what water does when something big leaves it with a lot of speed and force, and the cliff just has a fantastic shape.  

So I've got my ref, time to put together a working rough drawing:

Was feeling pretty good about this for about 45 minutes worth of work.  Stuck pretty close to the comp in my thumbnail - creature left, people on cliff right.  Was totally digging the snapper's shell, so I pulled on a lot of that for the over all design of the creature, along with mishmashing it a bit with some humanoid anatomy as well as pretty much every dragon/monster/thing I've seen since I was a wee lad.  The grid is a handy little tool for making sure that the shapes and lines from this little rough carry over into my preliminary drawing (since this guy is about 4 in x 5 in).

So, with that, several hours of pencil twirling later:

Photoshop Trickery

I'll admit, I'm happy with this one.  It was good fun to really work through a project in this manner, as I feel I have always been a bit lax with my "process."  The initial plan was to then use this drawing which is 8x10 as my reference for a painting, which I will probably do sometime in the near future.  Several years ago, I would have probably asked, "What's the point of all this work?  Just jump into the painting already."  Several years ago...ahem...when I was in college...ahem...I didn't really know how I needed to work, or maybe I just knew how I thought I should work at the time.  But now, I really feel like the extra steps help me in getting the image out of my head and onto the page, this was really made clear to me by the vulture piece I just finished.  And I'm going to try and continue to work this way for a while, who knows maybe in 5 more years I won't need all these steps, and then in 20 years I won't need the reference...yeah, right.  Well, we'll see anyway.

Last question, if you're still reading, which of the two finals do you like?  Answer down in the comments if you're so inclined.  So, thanks and 'til next time...


  1. oh GOD

    you are old man now, samps! gum your food and your womens.

    i'm gonna go with the original on this one. diggin' how hazy the rock bridge is in comparison to the monster.

    sweet seeing your process, man. have been considering doing a process post or two myself.

  2. In reverse order of asking...

    Thanks for the props on the process. It was actually pretty fun to really think through how I do something, guess that falls into the self-critique category of being an artist. And I think it helped clarify a few things for me to keep myself on track and making things. Would be INCREDIBLY COOL to see that perspective on your side of the table, since I haven't seen you work since college and I don't know if anything you saw me do during college could be called work...

    I'm digging the graphite too, though I think that haze was just a little bit of glare. I'm not in possession of a working scanner and shooting graphite (and oils) even in natural light always seems to get me some kind of glare.

    If I recall correctly, you're the elder of we two...but my dentures are still on the way. Gonna miss blending my dinners...

  3. nice, i think the original ones pretty awesome nice process you got going there too.