Art lessons 1: Intro to digital painting

I am treating my art lessons as if I am a beginner, as my last instruction was in high school, which was…awhile back

I have chosen to start this particular adventure with Ctrl+Paint, a site featuring copious free lessons provided by freelance artist Matt Kohr. It helps that Matt has a really calm, soothing voice in the videos, as opposed to say, Bobcat Goldthwaite’s.

I have completed the first set of lessons, Digital Painting 101, which comprises six videos. It introduces you to some key functions, features, and handy shortcuts in Photoshop.

The Ctrl+Paint videos highly recommend using Photoshop for ease in following the lessons, so I have temporarily renewed my subscription. I also dusted off my Intuos tablet and so far things are working as expected.

In time I will drop Photoshop, and transfer what I’ve learned to Affinity Photo and Procreate on the iPad. For now, I am following dem rules to keep things simple.

The initial lessons are traightforward, but the next set is where it will get interesting, as it goes back into traditional drawing instruction–using pen, pencil and paper. I have all three, so I am ready to start scrawling. I never practiced much in school because my attention was split among a bunch of stuff (as I mentioned in a previous post), so I may get somewhat better results this time. Or at least know sooner when to give up and go back to writing haikus.

I plan to start the next lessons tonight, so another update should arrive soon™.

Drawing trouble (offline and on)

One of the things I didn’t expect to happen in the past year (other than things like, uh, a global pandemic) was my rekindled interest in drawing. I took drawing and painting classes through junior high and highs school (five years total) and my only regret is that I never really got better–I simply didn’t practice enough, partly because my attention was split among a bunch of things–drawing. writing, acting, an interesting and bizarre turn at doing hurdles, along with all the usual distractions of youth–riding my bike, playing games (video and board), hanging with friends, figuring out my sexuality, stuff like that.

But last October I pledged to do Inktober and, to my own surprise, I completed all 31 prompts, nine of which brought back the Gum Gum People, to the delight of myself as well as others. After Inktober I let the drawing fall aside again, but the urge renewed itself on my vacation and I started digging into online resources.

I’ve settled on a few sites and their respective lessons and one of the key parts of each is that they emphasize and even require that you ground yourself in traditional drawing first–pencil and paper, not tablet and stylus. I like this because it goes against my first impulse, which is to just blunder about on my iPad, and “fixing as I go” without learning the proper lessons because when you go digital, you can skip a lot of proper technique in favor of brute forcing things.

Anyway, I’m starting the lessons now and will occasionally post my thoughts and perhaps a few sketches over the next little while. If this all ends in terrible failure, I will report on that, too.

And end the post with a single, badly-drawn tear.

Everybody do the dinosaur

In my quest to draw more, I asked for a subject and was told to draw a dinosaur. As a kid, I drew approximately five million dinosaurs–and this was almost two decades before Jurassic Park.

Here’s an example of one I found in an old sketchbook. Is Godzilla officially considered a dinosaur? I’m not sure. But you know what they say, great artists steal. This is one of four drawings I did detailing my take on the Godzilla story, inspired by watching every Godzilla movie from the 1950s on KSTW’s Science Fiction Theater, noon every Sunday. Those movies were terrible, and wonderful.

I don’t know why I had Godzilla frozen in a glacier, but it seemed like a cool idea (ho ho). I considerately recorded the year he emerged, which means I was 14 when I sketched this particular masterpiece of terror.

My Godzilla still has small arms, but they are like bodybuilder arms, so he obviously worked out before getting trapped in the glacier.

Disco was at its peak in 1978, but I would argue we’ve had stranger years since.

Here in the strange (and undeniably more horrible) world of 2020, I drew this quick sketch of some generic dinosaur in Procreate, using the technical pencil brush. The only fixing I did was to erase some of the extraneous lines. It’s not bad for a quick sketch. But no glaciers. Or background of any kind. Sad dinosaur walking a barren landscape.

Book review: How to Sketch

How to Sketch: A Beginner’s Guide to Sketching Techniques, Including Step By Step Exercises, Tips and Tricks by Liron Yanconsky

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Book review: How to Sketch

This book does a good job in covering all the basics when it comes to learning how to sketch. Author Liron Yanconsky brings an amiable style to the subject as he introduces everything a new artist will need to know and need to have. Starting with the correct mindset, he covers some core concerns and requirements, such as accepting and embracing imperfection (you’re learning to sketch, after all), and the essential quality of being curious and seeking variety in what you sketch. He moves on to suggested materials, some basic techniques on how to use your eyes and even how to hold a pencil.

From there, he covers more specific aspects of sketching, including:

  • Perspective
  • Light and shadow
  • Tones and Textures

The final part of the book consists of working from included photos to produce full sketches of people, landscapes and more.

I suspect that at least some may become discouraged as they try to replicate the excellent results Yanconsky shows for each exercise. At times the sophistication required to accurately capture the scenes feels a bit like those old “Learn to Draw” ads that went from a few scrawled lines in the first panel to lavishly illustrated drawings in the fourth panel. Yanconsky addresses this in a way, urging the new artist to focus on sections, to build a sketch piece by piece when there is a lot to draw. His enthusiasm for the topic certainly helps.

As someone who can draw but not really draw well, I found the first half of the book, with its straightforward lessons on the aspects of sketching, to be quite helpful. While I may never been a sketching whiz, this book has helped me in ways that my own bumbling around wouldn’t have.


View all my reviews

Inktober 2019: All 31 prompts

I’ve created a gallery with all 31 of my Inktober 2019 prompts. You can view it right here or by selecting it under the somewhat inaccurately named Photo Galleries at the top of the page.

NaNoWriMo 2019, Negative Day 2

Here it is, the second day of NaNoWriMo and I haven’t written a thing.

It feels great. So much time to do other stuff. I went to Costco today and bought a 20 liter jar of mayonnaise.

I am thinking I should keep up on the drawing now, because it’s fun and relaxing. But what to do? Possibilities:

  • Finish that book on learning how to sketch
  • Go back to one of the earlier Inktobers and do all of its prompts, either one per day or following whatever whimsical order I decide
  • Go back to my 2019 prompts and fix/rework the ones I’m not happy with or just try coloring all of them like Ted Turner
  • Start a gum gum person comic
  • Something else
  • Or maybe write something, just not something for NaNoWriMo

A lot of possibilities. I will choose by…tomorrow.

Inktober 2019 #31: Ripe

My first idea was a laundry hamper full of stinky socks. My second thought was a giant watermelon. Then a bunch of bananas.

Inexorably I ended up drawing a sweaty but athletic gum gum person.

Some personal Inktober Fun Facts™:

  • This is the first regular drawing I’ve done since 1985 or so
  • Every sketch was done using:
    • iPad Pro 10.5 inch (2017 model)
    • ProCreate paint app using the Studio Pen brush
    • Apple Pencil
  • Gum gum people are featured in 9 drawings; drawing them is a kind of meditation
  • My favorite gum gum person sketch is for the prompt SLING
  • The most “fail, start over” drawings I did for a prompt was five, for the prompt TREAD

I often found little mistakes or things I didn’t like in sketches, but never went back to fix them over the course of the month, with one exception–the prompt for INJURED is different on this blog than the original posted to Instagram. I fixed the arms and head because it just ended up bugging me every time I looked at them.

Overall, this was a fun experience. Much like discovering outdoor photography last year thanks to a kidney infection, I chose to do this at the last minute and am pleasantly surprised to have stuck to it.

Now I have to decide if I keep drawing and if so, what do I draw? An endless parade of gum gum people? Possibly!

Inktober 2019 #30: Catch

Originally he was going to catch a fish but I couldn’t draw a fish I liked and didn’t want to cheat with reference. So I made it a hand grenade instead. I swear the pin is still in.

Inktober 2019 #28: Ride

I did not use reference for the skateboard and moved/adjusted the wheels approximately five million times. But gum gum people!