I am, quite frankly, shook by the progress I’ve made this year. This… is uncharacteristically self-aggrandizing, but goddamn it, I stand by it.
I started this year working almost solely with traditional media, before transitioning to working almost exclusively with digital painting around March. I’m going to be honest, part of me sort of regrets that I so thoroughly abandoned traditional media, but at the same time, the circumstances of my life just make digital art easier — we live in a small house with no devoted studio, wall-to-wall carpeting in the common living spaces, and three neurodivergent and clumsy people (one of whom just turned seven), and I’m trying to juggling parenthood and a full-time job on top of this art thing. In the absence of adequate space, time, and mental energy, the commitments of digital art are a lot more managable than traditional art.
Still, this year was a little bit of everything, and a lot of growth, so I thought back to the most significant pieces I’ve done this year.
Tropical Duo (January 23rd)
Why it’s Significant: First fully finished1 art piece I created by digitally inking over a pencil sketch; the beginning of digital painting in earnest
The Good: I love the colors on this one. I love the tropical feel of the girl – the watermelon pinks and greens, the pineapple yellows. I’m also very pleased with the bird – I’d done a few birds in acrylic before, so it wasn’t wholly new territory, but I was still very happy that this one turned out well.
The Bad: Oh God, the anatomy. Her neck is far too long, her shoulders are too narrow, and that arm – what are the proportions on that arm?? There was also very little variation in the values, and my layering, especially around the eyes, is sloppy.
Overall: I showed this to my wife a few nights ago and she took a long look it before saying, “You know, I remember thinking this was really good when you first did it.” And I know what she means! It was such a huge first step, moving into digital art, and so different from everything I had been doing before (which was essentially black and white micron drawings) that it was impressive for the novelty alone. In the months since then, this is already starting to look amateurish in comparison to what I’m doing now. I can’t wait to see how I continue to improve in 2022.
The ROYGBIV Series (March 31st, unfinished)
Why it’s Significant: First attempt at limited palette paintings/first painting “series”
The Good: The shading on Yellow, particularly the shading accentuating her right hand and her cheekbones still holds up to me; I am incredibly proud of how well-rendered her hands are given how early this was in the year. I also love Green’s facial expression — it was a first for me, drawing something more emotive than a more-or-less neutral expression, honestly.
The Bad: Red’s face just looks… wrong. Too much weight on the bottom lip, too much gum showing, eyes not properly aligned/focused, and her damn nails are floating. I was definitely rushing a bit towards the end. Parts of Green likewise scream rushed or sloppy.
Overall: This series was fun, which was nice. I really want to return to it in the New Year to round it out — honestly, I wouldn’t mind reworking the older ones, given I’m ninety-nine percent sure I still have the .pspimage files. It was also fun just playing with saturation, tones, shades, etc. within a single color family.
Pencil Portraits (May 30th)
Why it’s Significant: First attempt at drawing from “life,” first return to traditional media in 2021
The Good: Hey, these two are actually recognizable as who they are! That was a first. Generally I don’t draw from life, and it shows — I usually use models and reference photos just as a touchstone for anatomy and perspective rather than with any intention of drawing something that looks like the model. This was one time I decided to sit down and do just that, and it turned out well — pictured are Timothy Omundson and James Acaster, though I also did one of Greg Davies which I do not have scanned, but which is also fairly good.
The Bad: To be far, nothing egregious, but they do look just a little off. These were intended to just be sketches and I didn’t spend a massive amount of time reworking the sketches, so for how quickly these went, I’m not too mad, though obviously they could be better. I still need to work on values and on pencil shading.
Overall: I really like drawing with graphite and I should do more of it! It’s accessible and doesn’t take prep work on clean up like painting does. Also, I should draw from life more (or try to recreate things from real life with greater accuracy) more often as well, as my lack of skill in that area literally recently cost me a commission.
Like Wine, Like Sweetness (Aug. 12th)
Why It’s Significant: Marked a turning point in the way I approached art; most detailed oriented work I had completed to that point
The Good: Four months on, and I still adore this painting. I have said for ages that impatience is one of my biggest downfalls, and is what is holding me back from being a better artist — I get impatient, I rush, I get sloppy. This painting took days, and I went over it with a fine toothed comb, and it was just several rungs on the skill ladder above where my previous work had been perching. And yes, I honestly do attributed most of that to simply taking my time and poring over it instead of rushing through it. I love the reds, I love the texture on her hair, and the gloss of the blood and the strawberries. It’s just a piece I am very, very proud of.
The Bad: It doesn’t detract from how much I enjoy the piece, but I know the anatomy — primarily where the nails enter and then emerge from her head — is a little inconsistent. I also feel her nose is a bit small for her face, but over all, even the anatomy is a step up from earlier in the year.
Overall: I don’t know how many ways I can say I love this piece, ha. I am planning on getting myself a framed print of it for my workstation, to remind myself that I am working at the top of my game when I take the time to slow down and focus on the details.
Summer Spirit (Nov. 27th)
Why It’s Significant: This thing — for me — absolutely blew up. It got something like 120 likes and 12 reblogs on twitter, impressive when you realize I only have about 50 followers and often go weeks at a time forgetting it exists, ha ha. It was the most ambitious background/ambient scene I’d ever attempted, and I am incredibly happy with how it turned out.
The Good: I used myself as the anatomy reference, and I am incredibly proud of the fat representation, for a start; I also love the shading, the freckles on her shoulders, and given how reluctant I was to try to do blonde hair, I am moderately satisfied with how it turned out. Also, the sunflowers might be the best thing I’ve ever done, honestly, ha ha.
The Bad: I’ve only just started doing this, but I would have liked to have gone over the line art to make is a little less harsh, especially on her face, but other than that, I am in love with this piece.
Looking back over this year for the purpose of doing this entry was so validating — I honestly hadn’t realized that Tropical Duo was even this year?? Seeing that piece compared to my most recent pieces really drove home the realization that, however slow going my progress is, I am still making progress.
I am excited to see the progress I continue to make in 2022.
1“First fully finished” is relevant because I actually did my Fat Folks Tarot project this way, starting last December, so that was, I think, officially the first (though honestly, I don’t remember when I started either piece exactly, so it’s a toss up — but this was the first of the two I finished).