Ugh, this drawing was a pain in the ass.
I mean, I think I like it, but the time I’ve spent this past week working on it has been…obnoxious, to put it lightly.
Over the last few months, I’ve begun to use an approach to line making in Photoshop that’s as much sculpting as it is drawing. I used to have at least 3 main layers to any piece in PS, with an initial quick sketch, a 2nd more detailed drawing, working out most of the specifics of the size and shape of things, and a final “clean” layer that kept the structure of the 2nd layer but focused more on line weight and adding in the little details. This sort of worked, except for the fact that my final layer always felt flat. There were always shapes or lines, or a certain intangible energy to my faster, more spontaneous sketches that was lost once I set about making things smooth and “presentable”. Plus, it had a tendency to bring out all of my worst OCD line making tics, redrawing lines to a compulsive degree in search of a “perfect” weight or shape that was never quite attainable. Needless to say, this approach resulted in my hard drive becoming a mass grave of unfinished pieces, cast into the pit out of frustration, their rotting scraps a persistent reminder of defeat.
I knew there was no way I would ever be able to draw again, or take any pleasure whatsoever in doing so, if I just kept hammering away with this process. So, the approach I’ve been using of late has been built around one layer. The drawing you see is built from the very first lines I sketched out, trying to keep some of the beginning inertia but balancing it with a “finished” degree of polish and attention to detail. In thinking about how to best utilize a piece of digital media like Photoshop, it struck me that perhaps the most radically different trait versus traditional physical media is that removing is as absolute as adding, and at that point everything began to fall into place. Instead of focusing on getting a line “just right”, I just draw, then take away, then add some back, then take some more away if need be, slowly sculpting lines out of sketches. My lines changed from representing a single stroke to being the final product of dozens of small revisions, freeing me from the spectre of “perfection” and also giving my marks an individuality that they never before had.
This drawing, though, existed in something of a middleground between the two approaches. It’s still a one layer piece (for the lines; the color is obviously on separate layers underneath), but I just spazzed out on some of my linework. Some people, due to being less anal, less concerned with detail, simply more talented or a combination thereof, are better able to just “step away” and let a piece breathe, but I still have that propensity to keep hammering away at my lines until they reach some arbitrarily self-defined degree of “rightness”, which they obviously never quite do. The whole process is maddening, and there were more than a few times where the idea of sitting down to work on this piece felt torturous. I won’t even go into the two night odyssey I endured trying to get the hands looking right, or how genuinely depressed I was because I couldn’t get the claws on my cartoon dragon guy to look the way that cartoon dragon claws are just supposed to look, goddammit! I think that my greatest failing as an artist is that my insane, obsessive, self-hatred-driven work process never really comes through in the final product, even though it’s so much more authentically “me” than the cartoon dragon guy with the (still sort of fucked-up looking) claws.
Anyways, this has devolved into navel-gazing idiocy, and my non-existent audience doesn’t not come to my art blog to hear me whine about Photoshop, they “not come” for the art!
Draco Lord Pedant, in fact, based off of a sketch I did sometime last year that I liked but could just never get looking quite right. I guess I like this piece, and think it’s more or less pretty cool. I’m not ashamed of it or anything, so that’s something.