Overcoming the Digital Artist Toddler stage

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Silent Machine
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Overcoming the Digital Artist Toddler stage

Post by Silent Machine » Wed Mar 24, 2010 7:15 pm

I've just started creating digital illustrations in Photoshop CS4. Looking at what I've produced and looking at what other people have made on this site and others I've noticed that there seems to be a kind of "toddler phase" that digital artists go through, basically when you first get something like Photoshop and go nuts with the smudge and blur tools. Below is an example of something I created that illustrates what I mean.

So here's my question: How to I overcome this stage? What's the next thing I need to shoot for and can anyone point to examples or resources for making improvements?

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pH
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Re: Overcoming the Digital Artist Toddler stage

Post by pH » Thu Apr 15, 2010 7:53 pm

First off, what are your tools?

If your working with a mouse, there's only so much rendering you can get. A wacom tablet is relatively affordable and will expand the possibilities for your digital art tenfold.

How do you get better? What's the next step?

Put yourself in an environment where you have to use your digital tools everyday. This might mean starting a comic, or even easier, an art blog. You can go sign up for a blog at blogger, and then make sure to update a couple pieces of art every week.

Only practice can make you better, and make you learn how to use digital tools in an intuitive way.

Crit wise, I like the sense of work you've created in this piece. Something that might help improve the sense of depth is using something called atmospheric perspective, in which colors far away lose saturation slightly. Also, I'd recommend not using blacks in your color work. Instead, consider using a really deep purple or brown.

keep it up!
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Silent Machine
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Re: Overcoming the Digital Artist Toddler stage

Post by Silent Machine » Tue Apr 20, 2010 11:12 am

Thanks for the reply, pH.

I am using a Wacom Bamboo and Photoshop CS4.

I'm definitely doing the practice thing. I've kicked off a website (http://grandwanderer.com) and I take about an hour to produce a peice of arkwork every day. My first series has been 30 Days of Trees, with the 21st tree going up this morning. I am doing a comic as well (also on the site), but not as consistently yet.

If you look at the work on the site you will see that most of it is done in a clumsy-but-improving parody of the cell shading-ish style found in Kazu's Copper comics. What I would like to do is have a firm grasp of that style, but also make strides towards creating digital art that looks more like pastels or oils (a la Kazu's Art of Airships piece)
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Silent Machine
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Re: Overcoming the Digital Artist Toddler stage

Post by Silent Machine » Thu Apr 22, 2010 7:36 pm

Here's the difference just one month of daily practice can make:

From this, drawn on 3/31/10:
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To this, drawn on 4/22/10:
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See Also:
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pH
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Re: Overcoming the Digital Artist Toddler stage

Post by pH » Sun Apr 25, 2010 6:09 pm

That's great! Your on the right path then.

What I would do is study a bit of color theory.

What's tough about digital painting is that you can just pick any color you want, and the infinity of choices is paralyzing and can cripple a work. Whereas if you're using traditional media, you can get your colors to have a natural harmony by mixing from one color to another. What I do when i'm digitally painting is use the gradient tool to blend two colors, and use all the colors in between as the basis of the work. This will gaurantee in a small way that there is good harmony.

I feel like your use of greys is hurting your work a bit, for example in the last picture the grays in the background are derived from black so they have very little harmony with the blue of the bird. But you can mix up greys that have blues in them, and it will make the work have a deeper tone and voice.

Check out some books on color theory and read online articles to get more tips.

Keep it up! Just doing it everyday will make you better. Great job.
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Silent Machine
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Re: Overcoming the Digital Artist Toddler stage

Post by Silent Machine » Mon May 03, 2010 7:47 pm

Here are the last 4 entries in my 30 Days of Trees. I'm looking for suggestions for a new subject. Is there any particular subject matter that has been especially helpful in improving your skills?

"Morning Mist"
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"Tree of Light"
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"Clifftop"
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"World Tree"
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pH
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Re: Overcoming the Digital Artist Toddler stage

Post by pH » Tue May 04, 2010 9:22 am

For me it's been human anatomy. I heard once that if you can draw a person well, you can draw anything else. And it kind of makes sense! We're so used to looking at human bodies that we know exactly when we've rendered it wrong or right. And if you can draw a person well, then you really know that you've passed a mark!

These couple pantings have a nice sense of light. I like the first one best, becuase you've use atmospheric perspective well, where the colors dim at they get further away. In the third piece, some of the colors seem to get more saturated when they are farther away, which ruins the illusion of depth for me.

Great job! Keep it up! Keep posting!
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Silent Machine
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Re: Overcoming the Digital Artist Toddler stage

Post by Silent Machine » Wed Jun 30, 2010 11:45 pm

I've just completed another round of my 30 Days Project. This time it was 30 Days of Ruins. Looking at the first installment I can definitely see an improvement, however almost everything was a trace of a photograph, and I completely skipped texturing. I think the subject I chose was too complex. I spent all of my time laying down the foundation and never had a chance to flesh it out. Everything I made could have been a pretty good piece if I just had another 4-8 hours to put into it.

I had trouble picking which ones I really thought were the best, so feel free to drop by my site to look at the rest of them.

Any suggestions would be appreciated, especially if you see something that I'm consistently doing wrong or poorly.

First Image:

"Chapel of the Summer"
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Best Images:

"Sepia City Street"
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"Pueblo"
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"Sepia Planes"
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"Gone Bust"
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"Bombed Out"
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Arrow
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Re: Overcoming the Digital Artist Toddler stage

Post by Arrow » Thu Jul 01, 2010 7:25 am

I personally like pueblo, sepia planes, and gone bust the most. Seems more loose, colorful, deliberate and spontaneous. Also looks like very little if no blur tool. I'd stay away from blur tool. Keep going in this direction and keep practicing! Look up new brushes to use or make your own. This will expand your approach too.

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Silent Machine
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Re: Overcoming the Digital Artist Toddler stage

Post by Silent Machine » Tue Jul 13, 2010 9:52 pm

Below is my latest creation. It's completely freehand without reference material and it's not too bad. That said, I'm looking for a pretty harsh critique. What did I do wrong, and how do I do it better?

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nateomedia
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Re: Overcoming the Digital Artist Toddler stage

Post by nateomedia » Wed Jul 14, 2010 3:01 pm

Silent Machine wrote:Below is my latest creation. It's completely freehand without reference material and it's not too bad. That said, I'm looking for a pretty harsh critique. What did I do wrong, and how do I do it better?
The basic composition is strong. You did a nice job of creating a foreground, middle ground and background. However, how you separated those areas and the shapes you chose could be stronger. For example, the flower on the left side is awkwardly placed. The edges of the petals meet but do not overlap the edges of the trees, creating tangents. The shape of the flower is also not particularly interesting — strengthen the overall silhouette and bring some joy and interest into these secondary pieces of the composition. The trees, flowers and grass can be stylized but should still be interesting to look at.

Your color palette isn't bad either, but you could make the piece more interesting by ignoring the local color of the objects — tree bark doesn't have to be brown. Also look to create shadows using hue shifts instead of value shifts and things will start to pop a bit more. And as the trees recede into the distance, they should become less saturated. It's the same reason why you made the sky lighter as it reaches the horizon — the atmosphere bleaches everything out. The most saturated/contrasty objects should be those closest to us.

Lastly, be careful of using "childish" iconography. Look at your clouds. We all have these symbols that we learned as children that we must unlearn as adults — real clouds don't generally look as you drew them. I mean, I'm not advocating relentless realism, but the shapes you've created are not that interesting to look at so you might study real clouds and come up with a better shorthand for how to handle them in your art.

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Silent Machine
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Re: Overcoming the Digital Artist Toddler stage

Post by Silent Machine » Wed Sep 01, 2010 11:21 pm

I have just completed my most recent 30 Days Series: 30 Days of Characters. I've included what I thought to be the top 5 pieces below and the rest can be found on my website (grandwanderer.com). I do think I have improved yet again, but the first image in the series is also in the top 5 shown bellow, and the series as a whole was hit and miss. I think this shows that I have plateaued some, so my next series (starting in October) will the 30 Days of Lessons using the lessons found in several digital illustration books I've picked up.

I am profoundly proud of the Evil Office Monkey. I literally laughed out loud while drawing him.

As ever comments and criticism is what I'm after, so lay it on.

Rar!
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Balance
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Lord of Trees
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Evil Office Monkey
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Padre San Justicia
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Arrow
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Re: Overcoming the Digital Artist Toddler stage

Post by Arrow » Fri Sep 03, 2010 6:21 am

The new batch is nice. The cowboy is the best as in the strongest piece to me. I also like the subtle lighting on the Japanese hat guy. Looks like you are playing with crisp shape oriented illustrations and gradual soft lighting pieces. Good!

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Silent Machine
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Re: Overcoming the Digital Artist Toddler stage

Post by Silent Machine » Sun Oct 31, 2010 1:13 pm

My latest project, "30 Days of Lessons" just wrapped up yesterday. Filtering through the thousands of online tutorials for something reasonably well-written and doable and then wading though it's questionably constructed steps was a singularly frustrating experience. Good artists don't always make good teachers. In the end, however, I did learn quite a bit. Filters, masks, layer effects, brush settings, and custom brushes are no longer foreign concepts. Still, it was aggravating to get to the "your image should look like this" step at the end of every tutorial and compare my work to that of the semi-pro who produced the tutorial. The difference was usually about like holding up a tonka truck next to the crisp, tight, refined lines of a sports car.

So now I'm hoping for the kinds of people who write these tutorials to tell me what it is that I'm doing that creates that "tonka truck" look.

Chili
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Little White Flowers
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Shiny Green Drops
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On the Rocks
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Moons
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Silent Machine
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Re: Overcoming the Digital Artist Toddler stage

Post by Silent Machine » Mon Dec 06, 2010 6:36 pm

I've noticed that Illustrator doesn't appear to be an overly popular program around here, but it was one of the programs I wanted to learn so I dropped 30 Days on it. The results show the single most significant improvement to date, but that's largely due to the fact that I had never used it before. Regardless, thanks to a combination of textbooks, tutorials, and experimentation I now have a reasonable familiarity with Adobe Illustrator CS4. Here's what I made:

Arcane Circles
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Tree Worlds
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Harnessing Motion #4
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Clouds
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Multi-Function Temporal Compass
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