Elements of style

Cross posted from DA:

Art style, that is. Did you think I was talking about the (extremely awesome) book? 🙂

From time to time, I see folks talking in their DA journals about their styles. Mostly, trying to establish a style. They gripe about their styles changing. They fret about trying new styles.

As I look through their galleries, I can see their style, even if the brushstrokes and renditions of characters vary widely. A style isn’t sticking yourself to only cell-shading, or inking everything with extremely crisp lines, or keeping everything very smeary and painterly. Those are all techniques, not styles.

A style is like handwriting. It’s unique to every artist. No matter what medium they use, or what art techniques or subjects, their style will always bleed through. Because they are the ones making the art.

As an artist, nobody can make the pictures that you make, because nobody sees the world exactly as you do. Every artist is unique, and so is their view of the world, all the way down to their perception of color.

So, as an artist, don’t feel like you are trapped in a “style”, which usually is confused with “technique”. Try different techniques, mediums, and subjects. Don’t worry about your style. If you can draw at all well, you already have a style. Worry about making art. That’s why you’re here, right?

(Notice the different techniques I used in those different artworks? But they’re all still obviously my style.)

Sean Connery progress

For this pic, since it was supposed to be dark with a brilliantly-lit magic circle in the background, I went with the dramatic lighting. And it lets me be lazy. No troublesome skintones here, just straight-up positive and negative space.


Click to enlarge

I couldn’t find a reference of the exact pose I needed, so I had my husband pose for me and took pictures. Works like a charm! Why have I never done this before?

And a closeup of the face.

While this might have given me trouble with full-on color, as positive/negative space, it just becomes fun. And I can even get close to the likeness, too.

Writing: Spacetime robots

Because I just love robots. I made up a whole robot world for them, intentionally nothing like the Matrix. The setting is that Xironi, a catgirl, is taking Esca, her little broken robot, back to her homeworld for repairs.


Xironi clasped Esca to her chest and stepped into the portal.

For a moment there was an unpleasant floating sensation, and Xironi thought she was back inside the Nightmare Crystal, watching that blade bury itself in her ribs. Then the world blinked into being, and they arrived on Unross Prime.

Xironi stared around in pleasant surprise. She had expected some dark, bleak robotic future so popular in movies, with a dark sky, black buildings, creepy robots everywhere, and no nature left to speak of.

Instead she saw a blue sky overhead, sprinkled with white clouds. She had arrived on a wide paved circle decorated with blue and white stones in geometric patterns. Nearby stood three Unrossi, two small and humanoid, and one ten feet tall and patterned after some kind of carnivorous dinosaur.

Continue reading “Writing: Spacetime robots”

Background and details

I worked 3 hours on this pic tonight, and this is how far I got. Especially after I realized that the pic was supposed to be 12″ x 18″, and I was working in 12″ x 8″. Oops.


Click for fullview

So I expanded out the background, which is actually kind of nice, because now it doesn’t feel so squished. I busted out the Artists > Impressionist brush for the foreground leaves. Gosh, I love that brush. Makes the best leaves!

Also did a bunch of work on the girl herself. Take a look.

I had already sketched all the designs, so I just traced them in white on a new layer, locked the transparency, grabbed a big soft brush (I believe I used Gouache > Opaque Smooth Brush 30 with the opacity set to 5%), and made the shading match the rest of her body.

Her chest has a unicorn and a dragon facing each other, with a griffin head up above. I found a bunch of really spiffy Celtic designs of each critter, but I couldn’t exactly copy them in such a small space, so I just improvised.

Her face is still a bit funky. I’m trying to put detail into her eyes and mouth, and understate her nose. As you can see from the fullview pic up there, it looks fine from a distance. I have trouble with noses. I either overstate them or understate them.

Reference is a wonderful thing

Continuing the commission from my previous post of the elf chick. My commissioner preferred sketch #1, so I started work on it.

And realized that I simply cannot draw good humanoids without reference.

A while back, I found a good archive of stock human photos on DA, because I knew I would need it at such a time as this. I dug around in there, and presto, found a reference!

Now she looks much more natural and less like a posed doll. Also she’s gained a bit o’ weight, so I think I’ll have to slim her back down. Elves aren’t supposed to look robust and healthy, they’re more on the anorexic side. Must be the vegetarian diet.

Elf chick commission

I got a series of commissions for fantasy characters, so I’ll be tackling them one at a time.

First off is for an elf female (woman?) with the following pose description:

“I’d like to see her in a thoughtful pose, in a forested setting, on a rock or a branch and looking out at the viewer like she’s assessing them physically and spiritually. She needs to give the air of someone who has been fighting the good fight all of her life and although she has been broken down and had to be put back together because of it she is at peace with her role in life and has managed to keep a sense of humor and a slight mischievous quality.”

Kind of a tall order for a sketch, but I took a couple of stabs at it.

Eh. Too happy.

Eh. Kind of angsty. And looks more like a dude, for some reason.

Eh. Might be too sexy. I gave it a few more details so she wouldn’t look like a guy in this one.

I’ll send these off and see what my commissioner thinks. I’ll probably redraw something similar to one of these in the end.

Space unicorn

I had a hankering to draw a space pic, so I did.

I haven’t uploaded it to my site yet (because I’m lazy and because I have so much stuff to upload to my site), so here it is on DA. So you can see the full picture.

Here’s part of it. I decided to go with constellations, because it’s fun and I don’t have to just make random cloud shapes or the (horrors!) galaxy shape, which is horribly hard to draw freehand.

I used some stock planets I found on deviantart. They have a wonderful stock category, full of all kinds of good stuff. I also got some planet textures there in case I want to make some planets.

Anyway, basically you generate a starfield in Photoshop with Filters > Add Noise, then you darken most of it out by reducing Contrast and increasing Brightness, then you copy the layer, then you erase both layers, and so on and so forth. Then you paint galaxies with the Clone Stamp tool. Tis fun.

The best tutorial I know of for this is still this one. I tried one on DA, but the stars came out in a grid pattern. Not lovely at all.