Art Growth and Goofs in 2013

31 Dec

It’s fun to look at what changes about my art when I try new techniques or approaches. Here’s some of my 2013 art challenges, some stall-outs I encountered, and what I’m learning from them now that we’re at the close of the year:

Manga Studio 4 EX

stylesof2013_bluescale
I decided to learn Manga Studio 4 EX by drawing my webcomic in it instead of Photoshop, and it almost didn’t go very well. There’s a sketch layer (which looks blue) and a black inking layer by default in new documents. I didn’t realize that blue layer would DISAPPEAR when you saved it, so I screen captured the first few pages of the Diem Farella arc because I couldn’t figure out how to keep the blue otherwise. It was awkward in that “what am I doing wrong?!” way, and I was very close to giving up and going back to Photoshop several times.

But I stuck with it, and started to pick up its nuances and unique features, like the concentric circles/parallel lines rulers, rotating the canvas to make drawing easier, and the comic paneling tools. I’m far from expert level, but I’m so glad I took the challenge to learn it.

Red Colored Pencil and Microns

stylesof2013_redscale
I love drawing gift art for other artist friends, but I did so much digitally, I had nothing to do when I didn’t have access to my computer. So I started an art card exchange on the Spider Forest forum, and it was great to do some small art pieces that wouldn’t take much time and that I could do away from the keyboard. I’ve had some red mechanical pencil lead for about a decade, and a friend gave me some new Micron pens in a care package, so that evolved into a limited pallet style that I used for several pieces.

The Repurposed Sketchbook Project

stylesof2013_sketchbook
In 2011, I signed up for The Sketchbook Project. The idea was to buy a sketchbook from the Brooklyn Library, fill it up with art, and send it back to be in a library collection. But all my other sketchbooks had always been for… well, sketches. Non-finished work. Figuring out poses or anatomy and having the results not always be very interesting to look at. I had no idea how to fill 50 sequential pages with library-worthy art and not mess it up, and the binding is not forgiving to torn-out pages. So the deadline came and passed and I still had this small sketchbook.

When I became more confident with the red pencil/microns on the sketch cards, I decided to make it an all-Sombulus sketchbook with original finished art, perhaps as a Kickstarter giveaway or something in the future. It lives in my purse, and I work on it when I go out sometimes. I only have 5 out of 50 pages done, though. We’ll see how many more I can do in 2014!

Tombow Brush Markers

stylesof2013_markers
I’ve had a small collection of Tombow Brush Pens for years. I gave up for a while, out of frustration over how blended and smooth everyone else’s marker work compared to mine. But at the suggestion of the amazing Varethane, I got out my brushes and started painting with them watercolor style. Completely blew my mind, and now I’m looking at my marker collection in a whole new way. I was never great with the looseness of watercolor, but I know the basics (let the layers dry between washes, work from light to dark), so I’m really really excited about them now.

Sombulus Q&A Comics

stylesof2013_qanda
If you’re reading Sombulus but haven’t been catching these Q&A comics (look for the vote link at the bottom of Sombulus updates to see them), I gotta say you’re missing out on a lot of ground-level world-building. They certainly don’t mark a high point in my technical art skills, but it’s almost embarrassing how answering questions like “How does Rana’s hair get so pointy?” is helping me with character and world building behind the scenes. Plus, it’s so much fun!

Manga Studio 5

stylesof2013_mangastudio5
The differences between Photoshop releases over the last several years have been mostly minor, so I usually expect other programs to be the same. But when I won Manga Studio from the amazing Liz Staley (who is starting up her giant robot webcomic again soon and I’m super-pumped!) and heard how awesome the coloring tools were, I had to try it out.

Still learning what all the brush and panel options do, but the blending and pen tools are as smooth as butter and the magic wand tool has options for ignoring those tiny gaps in linework that happen when you don’t ink super-carefully. Gah! That rocks my world so hard! It’s been so slick already, and I feel like I’ve barely scratched the surface. Looking forward to picking up Liz’s book and learning more.

How about you?

What kind of techniques and approaches did you try in 2013? What are you looking forward to for next year? Whether it’s developing better drawing habits or taking on new challenges, may your pencils be sharp and your erasers be handy!

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