Inspired by my new art class – Aaron Blaise’s Hidden Creatures of the Forest – I have become obsessed with creating little creatures and putting them into forest environments I photographed. It’s bad…like wakes me up at 4:00 a.m. bad. Like gave me an art-related arm injury bad. No kidding, I had to sleep with a heating pad because my forearm was over-stressed from drawing. And on a daily basis I draw A LOT as it is!
Yet I soldier on! All in the name of improving my skills and technique. Without the pressure of producing work for sale. Taking my current skills in a new direction just for fun. And it has been fun!
So day 1 was devoted to photography. I went out for the first time in several weeks (CoVid 19 is still a threat) and went for a nice drive with my 74 year old aunt to find interesting places to photograph. Prior to the drive I had to refresh my memory about how to use my fancy Canon camera (without resorting to the dreaded “automatic” mode). Then I had to further refresh my memory on how to really edit photographs.
Day 2 was devoted to creating my first creature. While Aaron Blaise is an illustrator, I do not possess those skills. I can draw – but drawing digitally is a whole other ball-game. Getting the Wacom tablet to put the lines exactly where I want them in Photoshop – and with exactly the right thickness – was way too much stress for my fun project. After about 15 minutes of erasing and starting over multiple times, I fell into my default mode and just used color to being blocking out my character. The drawing/illustration skills might improve – but it’s equally possible they won’t – and I am perfectly fine with that.
So using color to block out my creature worked out just fine. Turns out I don’t need those pretty pencil lines that just get erased or dropped later anyway. The real eye opener came when I organized my layers like Mr. Blaise’s – Local color, highlights, shadows, and reflected light. Oh boy! Seemed like a great idea when I saw him do it – my method is 47 layers – some shadow, some highlight, some a mixture of both. I tried the four layer method and found out that I am just not ready for that level of precision. I do shadow/highlight/midtone multiple times.
Truthfully, I never realized how many layers I actually use! I mean layers upon layers upon layers – continuous Iterative Saves – changing the opacity and merging layers – before adding new layers and starting the process over again to adjust my tones/values/colors. I found out I apparently have a “More is better” philosophy when it comes to layers – and there’s a very good reason for that: I’m timid.
I don’t like to just lay down a bold stroke and think – YES – that’s it! I would much rather sneak up on a dark shadow or a bright highlight. I layer those things again and again until my tones match my vision of what it should look like. Then I step back – evaluate – and add a few more layers. Timid.
So over the next few weeks, I’m going to work on that. I’m going to try boldly laying in a shadow in one shot. Highlighting with one stroke (instead of 14 transparent colors that are successive approximations of the final color). I never would have thought of myself as a timid artist – but now I know better. Not being timid would be a real time saver, for sure!
So Day 3 is about finalizing my new creature (which looks a little like a faun at this moment). Stay tuned!