For the last few months I’ve been participating in a daily art challenge with the RetroEpic artists. Every weekday around lunch time we pick a theme and everyone spends 20 or so minutes roughing out a quick piece. At first I made a few ironic contributions with my mouse and ye olde MS Paint. But I very quickly decided to bring my ancient Genius tablet in, and start taking it seriously. I used to draw a lot when I was younger and it’s been unbelievably fun making art more regularly again.
Sometimes all I can manage is line art:
Sometimes we do art studies:
And sometimes I make stuff that I actually like:
The thing that’s been most rewarding about this process is that, aside from getting regular practice; I’m getting really good critique and feedback from professional artists. It feels like cheating to have such an embarrassing wealth of resources to help me improve.
For example, here’s a piece I did a while ago:
I was pretty happy with this. The concept is striking, the colours aren’t clashing or overwhelming and some details like the texture in the ocean and the pink in the clouds turned out really well. I was chuffed, but my excellent colleague (Paul) showed me how it could have been so much better. He did this repaint:
Let’s take a look at all the lessons. Aside from obvious painter-skills stuff like rendering and edge control, Paul did a lot of things to improve the image:
First up, Paul fixed the composition by moving the horizon down, and the focal point out of the centre of the frame (rule of thirds, yo). He also added some strong lines in the ocean and clouds to lead the eye back towards the focal point. In the first image, the eye is easily lead off the page by the diagonals trending upwards and rightwards.
Next Paul fixed the perspectives and forms. Instead of the blurry green/brown blob, we have more distinct planes of light and shadow that help us properly understand the shape of the mountain. As for the clouds, Paul made them actual 3D forms by painting in the shadows on the undersides. One of the pro tips I’ve picked up is that if something us above the horizon you should always see the underside. Likewise, if an object is below the horizon, you should always see the top. Paul also added some clouds that diminish in size (according to perspective) as they disappear into the distance. This gives the image a lot more depth. Notice how flat and two dimensional my clouds look in comparison. Similarly, Paul’s water also adds more depth because it becomes desaturated by the atmosphere as it stretches out towards the horizon.
Paul then fixed the values. My version is far too low contrast with everything sitting in the mid-range. Not only are they more visually appealing, but stronger shadows and highlights help us read the forms better and separate out the planes of the image.
Paul also improved the colours. The red dress stands out from the background (unlike the blue one), and also compliments the greens. He also added a lot of yellows and oranges (in place of the pink) that give the image a much warmer tone and compliment all the blues.
Finally Paul added a bunch of visual interest. There’s a lot more texture in his brushwork, and he added details such the flowers and rocks in the water.
Man, can’t ask for better crit than that! Big thanks to Daoyi, Paul and Neal for helping me suck less at art. You guys are the bestest!
Bonus content! I did some experiments with recording time-lapses of my daily sketches: