Desert flowers around Tucson, Arizona.
I drew a lot of stuff last week! Some of it was finished last weekend, but my blog post had already gone up, so I saved it for this week. Here we go:
I’m definitely improving! But I feel a gratuitous color pic coming on. Probably some kind of crazy sunset, where I can push color around. Black and white is nice, but … color …
I did a ton of art last week. Let’s show it off!
Trying to improve my line work. My tablet draws sucky jittery lines, so I’m constantly fighting it as I go. I suppose I should do everything with the pen tool. It looks nice, but takes ages and ages, and I’m impatient. :-p
Ever see a piece of artwork that just blows your mind? It’s incredible, and it looks like it was painted it just a few strokes. Yet it somehow captures the essence of the subject in a way you’ve never thought about before.
Then you read the description. And the artist says something like, “I whipped this up in five minutes. It’s not very good and I hate it. I’ll probably take it down later.”
And you feel let down, because YOU liked it. But the artist knows better than you, right? And it must be crap, somehow. So you go away slightly offended without knowing why.
Dean Wesley Smith talks about this in a blog post called No One Cares. He’s talking about writing, but the same rule applies:
When you wrote a book and got it out, it was the best you could do at the time. Some readers paid good money for it and many liked it and bought more books from you.
So you go learn something and now YOU CAN SEE WHAT WAS WRONG. Before, those same words looked fine to you, but now you can see “the problem.” Oh, no…
But no one else can see. And no one cares that you have learned something you add to future books that wasn’t in older books.
Only you know. Only you care.
And one additional thing.
NEVER PUT DOWN YOUR OWN WORK. Especially older books.
Some reader might think your older book is the best thing they ever read and the last thing they want is to be insulted by you putting down their tastes in books.
Keep your mouth shut, keep learning, write the next book, and get it out. Repeat.
And if you really do realize no one cares but you, the freedom in your writing is amazing.
Go have fun.
See, when you put down your own work, whether it’s writing, artwork, dance, music, or whatever, you’re insulting that person who liked it. Sure, you can remark that you have room for improvement. Don’t we all? But stand by your work. Don’t run it down and cheapen it. Your audience liked it. Don’t insult them.
A friend commissioned me to draw his DnD character, so here’s what I came up with:
I think I’m improving. I can now draw something that is fairly close to what I envisioned, even though I still fight the artwork every step of the way. I can’t draw without reference. But even the old masters used reference for everything, so maybe that’s not such a bad thing.
I have a rant brewing about why artists should never run down their own art, and it also applies to writing. But I don’t have the energy to write it at the moment. :-p
I actually did some artwork this week! I tried out the technique of shading in black and white first, then adding color. Amazing how well it works. No wonder the professionals do it this way!
Now, if only I could learn to draw clothing and armor in ways that don’t suck. Light on fabric is my bane.
No art to show this week! I’m working on some, but it’s not done. Maybe next week.
Meanwhile, I wanted to write about something that I don’t want to write about. I’ve been dragging my feet on writing this blog post. Because I don’t want to admit that maybe, just maybe, all of the education I’ve given myself on how 2 rite gud is more or less worthless.
I won’t say that learning story structure and characterization and grammar and the rest of it is meaningless. That’s the basics of the craft, after all. All those are important for a writer to know.
But there’s a vast chasm between writing and storytelling. And a good storyteller can tell a story despite their lack of craft chops.
This is a hard pill for me to swallow. I’m a literary snob. When people misspell things or use bad grammar, I snicker at them. This author actually said “She was such a beautiful site”. Haha.
And then those books go on to be bestsellers. My literary snobdom means nothing.
When I was in high school, one of my assigned reading books was Smokey the Cowhorse by James Will. At first, I thought it was the worst-written book I’d ever seen. Here is the first page.
As a know-it-all teen, I rolled my eyes at this vernacular. Oh gosh, what pile of trash am I reading THIS time? I moaned. But it was assigned, so I kept reading.
And wouldn’t you know, it turned out to be such a good story, a kind of Western Black Beauty, that I stopped noticing the vernacular. I was hooked, and to this day, this book remains one of those shining reads in my mind.
The other day, I was poking around fanfiction dot net for something decent to read. I ran across a Destiny story that sounded interesting, took a look, and after a few pages, was hooked. I read all ten chapters and I’m waiting breathlessly for more.
And yet, this is the first page.
There’s passive voice. There’s boring description. The paragraphs are long and dense. There’s very little dialogue. And yet, the story being told is absolutely riveting. You wouldn’t even know it’s Destiny, because it’s set about five hundred years before the game, after civilization has collapsed, and humanity is ruled by these warlords. It’s like medieval fantasy post apocalypse science fiction, and it’s great.
The writing, itself, is obtuse and hard to follow. But man, the story. I would drop cash to read this story. It’s called The Lords of Ambros, if you’d like to take a look.
All this is to say, the writing community obsesses about adverbs and character arcs and all the other minutiae of the craft. In the end, only story matters. As a literary snob, this galls me to say. But it’s true.
Here’s the progress on last week’s pic: a gunslinger from Destiny 2.
It took a lot of sketching to get the pose right. Then it was really fun doing the black and white, figuring out how it was going to come together. I wanted to do a lot more art, but this wound up taking all week to do.
Only one pic this week, but I worked on it all week. As you can see here, each step took a day. In the case of the shapes stage, two days.
I was practicing figure sketches, and I liked this one because it kind of tells a story. So I turned it into a full pic. I also tried doing all the shadows with the pen tool, mostly because of this tutorial:
See how the black shapes and the gray shapes in the first stage are on separate layers? And he colors on them separately? I wanted to try doing that. I’m afraid my first try was pretty tame, but I want to continue experimenting with this technique.
I’ve also been scribbling out a new fanfic. I noticed that it was getting kind of long, so I checked and realized I’ve written 30k. Pretty much just for fun. I love it when a story has that much pull. So I’m tossing it online, slowly, until I get it finished. Fortunately, the last third is in sight, so it’ll be done in a few more weeks.
A friend of mine has been dealing with her son’s suicide last year. She wrote a blog post today about how art is fun, and good for your brain–until you start trying to do it for money. Then you’ve killed your joy. She partially credits this for one of the many reasons her son killed himself. It’s worth a read, if you’re feeling society’s guilt that you’re making art and not selling it.
It’s given me a lot to think about, especially since I’m drifting that direction, myself. Where is the balance between art and business? I’m not sure, so I’ll continue to write fanfics, draw fanart, make zero money, and have all the fun.
Here’s the finished version of that comic from last week:
And then this one, which was based on a true story.
This past week was a marathon of building IKEA furniture, finding we had the wrong parts, exchanging them for the right parts, and in general having a sea of cardboard boxes and Allen wrenches everywhere. I didn’t draw as much as I wanted to, because I slept through my early morning art time every day. But hopefully, next week will be better!