Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Starting, Stopping, Starting Again

One of the things I've liked the least about myself and my process is my tendency to start and stop projects. It happened a lot when I first started drawing, rather when I first got my tablet. So many visual ideas flooded my mind and I didn't even know how to use anything, my tablet, Photoshop. I was like a kid with a new toy. I had a few preliminary sketches but I mostly just dove right in. The problem was, at that time, I knew so much less, and basically doodled. It was fine, but I don't think I was learning enough.

I can go through my 2010/11 folders and see semi started projects. I can do the same with my early sketchbooks. It never feels good looking back at the projects I've given up on, knowing I started something and then quit. Even worse, after some time, I'd try to go back to the project and see if I could fix it or redo it. That has worked once, just once.  In reality, I don't really have a problem seeing old unfinished work; it doesn't seem entirely strange a phenomenon. In a similar way, I have many notebooks full of unfinished or unpolished stories, and again, nothing wrong with that, just part of the process, allowing me to learn and develop.

The problem however, is that the whole starting and stopping hasn't actually stopped. Most recently I began a project, I took reference photos, created thumbnails, sketches, worked on small details and spent a good amount of time on finalizing it. But I never finished it, I felt too inadequate and was basically stuck, a wall was in front of me and I had no idea how to get over it. This wasn't a lack of inspiration, it was a lack of technical ability, a soberingly painful thought. I thought I was done with this part of my artistic aspect. I was used to starting a painting, and finishing, being able to successfully imprint on a digital canvas the image in my mind, or even modifying it for the better. Starting and quitting felt like a big step back.

When I first envisioned writing this post, I had a general sense it would be me airing out a few issues, knowing it's something I need to accept, but the more I write about it and really think critically on the topic the more I change my beliefs about my artistic development.  When it comes to personal projects, maybe its not the worst thing in the world to start something without finishing it. Of course ideally, one would like it, but the important thing is learning from it. There are obviously reasons why I don't finish things, usually they're from limitations I have or feel I have as an artist. That is important for me to know what I have to focus on. If I finished every project I started, then I'm not challenging myself enough or I'm not doing enough to further myself as a visual artist. Yes, lately I've been able to work through paintings and find solutions but if every now and then I'm stuck, then I know I'm still on the path, one I never hope to finish.
Now for the art.  Introducing....Explosion Girl.

This was created in about...I'd say two weeks.  Or five days of actual working through it.  It was done very fast and I know why - I had an underdrawing.  
Some sketches I can thumbnail very roughly, make a larger sketch no bigger than a regular piece of paper, and then scan and create.  That's how I made my last two piece that I blogged about.  However, there is a lot of painting and re-painting done on the computer.  What I start with is never exactly what I set out to create.  However, with this sketch, I had something large and detailed already created.  I've even shown it before.  I created while I was in sketch night - blog post here.

I loved the look of this drawing, the girl here looked to nonchalantly cool and badass.  So I ran with the cliche of having an explosion happen right behind her while she was just standing there, looking awesome.  

To be honest, I was fairly intimidated at the idea of drawing an explosion.  I looked at a lot of reference photos (google, I love you) and kind of noticed that explosions are just large swaths of color.  Reds, yellows, browns, and darks.  This was where I got after adding in some color.

To be fair, this is more of a second progression rather than a first, but the overall look is there.  Like I mentioned earlier, I used a lot of yellows, red, oranges and browns.  Instead of an explosion, I got more like a swirl of colors.  

And honestly, I was fine with that.  I looked at explosions and then at what I drew, there was no way I was accurately depicting an explosion in any photorealistic way, but that wasn't necessarily a problem.  I liked what I was doing and I knew I could move forward and do better.  After applying a few duplicate layers of what I had, giving the painting a more saturated, contrasted look.  I also added a sky and cleaned up the fine details (shadows, edges etc).  There are fine details that aren't immediately noticeable and probably won't be unless you look really close.  I like that, even if no one else sees it.

To me, this is still Explosion Girl.  Perhaps to others it might not be clear or even an idea in their head that there's an explosion going on behind this badass girl.  I'm okay with that, I chose to depict this explosion in a manner that I think is fairly unique to my aesthetic sensibility.  And, what makes me feel best is that the late Bertram Katz might be proud of this piece.  I'm not mimicking reality, I am making it my own.