Windflight: Diamonds and Pearls of Wisdom
I mentioned that what really got the piece moving for me was structuring the composition around a diamond, and I sort of described where to find it. I know a couple of you weren't certain about what I was ferrying to, so allow me a thousand more words, in the form of a picture:
The diamond, though maybe more appropriately a trapezoid, is as you can see actually made up of largely negative space, and is carried along angles that are implied or directly stated within the poses of the various figures. Although sometimes I do compose images using sets of angles and lines on purpose, it isn't always the case that I'm that clever.
Sometimes, as in this case, I start sketching and a sort of internal, unconscious aesthetic takes over, suggesting that I follow certain shapes, emphasize this or another shape or curve, and so on. As that searching continues--often involving much erasing and restating--eventually my more conscious mind will latch onto something that I was exploring intuitively, at which point I can use my actual knowledge to refine something intentionally which my subconscious was only hinting at.
This process often continues even after I've scanned my pencil or charcoal drawing in, where I'll use digital tools to further adjust things to conform to a more pleasing composition.
If it sounds a little mysterious, it shouldn't. I think what happens is that your subconscious gets trained by your more deliberate choices, the application of technique you know. Through composing lots of pictures and solving lots of problems, your inner eye and your muscle memory becomes informed such that when you are scribbling around, trying to find something, all that past work causes your wandering line to have a sort of harmony born of deeply-rooted experiences and information. At some point, what you're doing will trigger connections in your more conscious mind, which can then apply rules, logic or more objectively-based decisions. Does that make sense? Because that's the thrust of this first point. Are you meant to "see" this structure? Not really, but structure is there to affect you whether you recognize it or not. You might not know that a song is written in 6/8 time, after all, all you know is that for some reason the song has a really great forward-driving momentum.
Windflight, pt.2: A Change in Methods
For a few years I'd gone the route of scanning my tight drawing, enlarging it and printing it down on nice drawing paper, and then gluing that to a surface like masonite so my under-drawing is ready to go and toned. I even did a YouTube video about it. It's a great technique, and I haven't moved on entirely from it, but by and large I have not done this the past couple of years. Maybe I should have mentioned it earlier. What I've gone back to doing is printing out my large drawing actual sized, and transferring it using charcoal on the back of it, or a transfer sheet like Saral makes. I did this a lot in the 90s and got away from it. But it's back.
What I found began to happen with having my drawing pre-printed was that I started to treat the drawing as too precious. I didn't want to lose it. This meant that any time I was painting something that came up towards the edge of a form, I would pull back my strokes so as not to overpaint the line and lose the drawing. Especially on something important like a hand, for instance. Let's say you've got an arm and hand that are held out, and there is sky behind. You would want to paint the sky freely, but it would mean obliterating the drawing of the hand. Or you would pull back on the strokes around the hand, paint around the fingers and so on. But then that area would not have the same feel or fluidity as the rest of the sky. By having my drawing taped to my board, I can paint a sky freely, then flap it over and trace down the figure. Here's an example:
What I did here is I first traced down the outermost outline only. The reason is I didn't want to have to paint the entire figure over a base of black. But you'll see that for instance, where her hair and feathers are behind her head, the sky painting just ignores it and establishes itself. Also, the forward hand and parts of the scabbard trailing behind were in the end covered up as I went. But after finishing the sky, I just retraced the drawing (which you can see) and got back to work. It's a subtle thing, but I've gone back to preferring this method.
You can of course see the full image here.
I had meant to include a couple of topics on the other D&D piece, but the whole thing got a little longer than I intended, so I'll bring that one up next week