21FebXmen In Knitwear
It was September 16 2016, and my partner Hester was idly passing the office lunchtime break with a little light bullying. My Twitter feed was gradually filling with the kind of flashing, twitching gifs that seemed tailored to cause maximum upset to me, and mild concern amongst my co-workers.
Now, we all know the best way to deal with a bully, and having decided to take a moral stand, I framed my stern, and final, capitulation:
They really were very annoying.
The drawing of an X-Man attired in a laid back Vertical Jaquard (with pockets) brought me unexpected pleasure, though the mild concern amongst my co-workers had merely shifted focus. I decided it would take very little further abuse to make a regular lunchtime habit of it.
My tormentor eventually became my Tumblr Promoter:
The demands of inventive randomness put me in a buoyant mood at lunchtime. Switching to “comics mode” for an hour every day brought useful arty insights that fed back into my day job, and I’m going to make damn sure that one of the things the survivors of 2017 pull out of the digital wreckage is a jpeg of Mystique wearing a woolly octopus hat.
I don’t believe I’m alone when I say good habits are hard to form.
Despite a solid month of assiduously sketching a face every lunchtime, I dropped out of the habit after a weeks holiday. Other distractions compound the problem. Here is a video of jumping goat that I watched today (followed by a few others and a wiki-walk about the climbing advantages of goat hooves that ended up with me learning a few interesting things about planetary differentiation) instead of doing my daily sketch. It wasn’t wasted time exactly, but I want to get better at simplifying shapes and grouping values without the aid of an undo function, and this kind of thing doesn’t help.
I recently had the pleasure of giving a lecture on 2D art theory and good practice to a few of the talented modelling folks at Jagex, and the most useful piece of advice I could give was to get into the habit of practicing the basics of composition any way they could.
The people I was talking to have full lives, 2 hour commutes, responsibilities, children. The kind of practice I recommended was whatever they could make stick. Scribble on post-it notes, sketch on a tablet, draw on the walls in marker pens. 10 minutes a day of honing the skill of making 2D pictures function. It’s a multiplier to the practice these guys already put in figuring out ZBrush tools, 3DS Max shaders, and various modelling techniques. The basic principles of composition apply regardless of whether one is working 2D or 3D, and composition is quick and easy to practice.
I’ve filled a sketchbook with 15-20 minute (ish) studies. Got about 8 of them right.
The ones that work, in my estimation, are the ones that break the structure of the reference image into an easily readable composition of grouped values. So they are less about likeness, and more about making patches of light and dark sit pleasingly together. I am not trying to copy the photograph, I am trying to use as few parts of it as I can to make a functional image.
It’s a fun game, and one I usually enjoy playing. Unless I bugger off to France for a week and forget my sketchbook.
Designed some characters for an update to Runescape called Warbands. These guys set up camp in the wasteland, the player gets the usual “Stealth vs. AAAARGH” mechanic.
They’re all dolled up in the style of their chosen god, each of the Big Four in the Runescape universe; Saradomin, Bandos, Armadyl, and Zamorak.
Yet again, poor Brassica Prime is left out in the cold.
Here’s some production art from the shiny new Wizards Tower. It’s updated as part of a two-part quest that, pleasingly, is available to free players of Runescape.
I got to do character work as well as environments in this one. I had to push the physical differences between the characters so that the player can tell the difference between several individuals all wearing big blue floppy hats.
More tiny paintings I do to warm up my brain in the morning. The best thing about doing lots of these is the improvement I see in my instincts. There’s nothing worse than getting stuck halfway through a piece, and having solved many problems on a small scale (or at least eliminated many poor solutions) I get out of jams more quickly and avoid mistakes more intuitively. People keep telling me to make bigger paintings out of them, I might. If a painting works on a small scale it will work larger.
One of them is a pig dangling from a balloon. This reveals another art lesson; before beginning, never enter into email exchanges with a woman named Hester.
Runescape being a decade old game, there are plenty of areas that need a lick of paint. The Gnome tree area need a paint-over, just adding depth and some warm/cool alternation in the lighting. The Bandit camp got an upgrade to appear a little more intimidating, and I added some old mining struts and planks to the slayer dungeon – this kit should end up being used in a lot of places.
Here are some characters I designed for a quest in the area of Al Kharid. Also some studies for the clothing patterns, shapes and colours of the local NPCs, as well some quick scribbles of some mercenaries that show up later in the quest.
TBH I kind of enjoyed doing the quick clothing studies more than the detailed character work on this one. I got to play around with big dramatic shapes and not worry too much about polish.
This is my first attempt at using Artrage for anything beyond scribbling and going “oooh it mixes paint like in real life”. It is difficult because it won’t let you cheat as much as Photoshop.