The title of this post sounds fairly obvious, but when it happened, it kinda hit me like a punch in the face. It was the kind of lesson where I had to really step back, take a long pause, and think about it before I realized what it was I was learning. What am I talking about? Let’s take it from the start.
If memory doesn’t fail me, I originally came across Blizzard’s art contest on Twitter. Blizzard is a video game company most famous for World of WarCraft and its Diablo franchise of games. They were holding a contest for fan art for one of their conventions. It was pretty simple – they were just asking for fan art. I play Diablo so I thought “this sounds fun, let me try this.”
So I did some of the most fun research for a project available – I played the game. I also looked at some of their public art and started working on a painting. I started with detailed sketches of the character's 'pets' I wanted in my painting, knowing I would have leave the main character to my own imagination. Here are a few of the sketches.
Sketch 1 - pet dogs (which have a really interesting shape to them).
Sketch 2 - The 'Gargantuan' - a large, brutish zombie. (This was a lot of fun to draw)
Sketch 3 - The general layout of the piece along with a few sketches of the main character. Here I had practically zero reference where in the other two sketches I had solid references.
Looks pretty okay (this is as nice as I’ll be to myself), doesn’t it? I had a complete image in mind and planned to put all these sketches together in one painting. I started placing them and had a decent composition. The painting process was going pretty well despite a few difficulties putting the sketches together without having them blend in an ugly way. There was just one thing that looked off – the main character.
Unlike the other elements I planned to include, there was no clear point of reference for the main character. I didn’t think it would be an issue. I could just pull from different materials and make my own character. So, on Photoshop, I sketched out a very loose main character, placed the different characters in what I thought was a pleasing composition and began the coloring process.
I was very happy with everything except the main character. It lacked the detail, depth, and refined quality of everything else. I also spent almost no time on it in my sketchbook, choosing instead to work straight off of Photoshop. There's always a large difference in the end product depending how far along in a sketch I get on paper and when I start it on Photoshop. It's an issue I've been working on.
For a while, I kept working on it, telling myself that it’ll get better, that, given the time and effort, I’d eventually be happy with it.
That didn’t happen.
Eventually, as the deadline came closer and as I grew disillusioned with the piece, I had to admit to myself that I wasn’t going to finish this. The discrepancy in style and look between the main character (where I lacked clear reference and prep work) and the rest of the piece was clear and I had to be honest with myself and know that I didn’t have the skill to produce this kind of work. Why?
I’m sure there are a ton of reasons, some I won’t even know. But I think it’s because 1) I lack the practice most people have and 2) there are a few foundational skills that still need developing (anatomy, perspective) etc and these things will develop naturally (albeit slowly) with practice and more work. This might sound like an excuse but professionals have been drawing since they were so much younger, they might’ve gone to school, trained at work – for whatever reason, I doubt they have been developing their skills for only two years, which is nowhere near enough.
So, what does that mean?
Well, I have to have realistic expectations of myself and not grow frustrated when I can’t produce something outside of my skillset. Does that mean I’m done growing? Definitely not. I’ll continue to push myself, to aim for images and compositions that need problem solving. Sometimes I’ll figure it out, sometimes I won’t. Either way, it’s part of the learning process and I need to accept that.
It’s hard to tell myself “you’re not good enough for this yet.” But it’s true and I don’t have to feel bad about it. I just have to look forward to the moment I’ll think “I AM good enough for this.”
So what ended up happening to the painting?
Well, I was honest with myself and I realized that I should just work on what looked the best - the gargantuan.
And I was pretty damn happy with it.