Friday, 12 April 2019

My Art Journey (Part 2)


Welcome to Part Two of my Art Journey! I strongly recommend reading Part one first, so you can see how I got here!

Last time I was enjoying myself in fanart and dabbling in digital media, but then my life was about to change...

Phase 4: Trying my own- Zodiac Hunters!

So, as I alluded in my last post, there was a game I played that inspired me so thoroughly I decided to make my own original character. That game was Eternal Darkness for the Gamecube, and I was so impressed with its immaculate writing, worldwide spanning plot and scope that it was enough to make me go 'right, I can have a go at an original idea too!'.

I decided to draw my original character first, before I had any idea about name, or who they were, or anything. So I did.


My first original character, Nick!
Tada!

Once I knew what he looked like, I went in for the other details. I named him Nick, and he was a sorceror (I was quite into the anime Sorcerorous Stabber Orphen at the time- I told you that tidbit would come into play again!).

I drew him a few more times, then gave him a companion named Seth, a treasure hunter, and then another called Midnight, who was a thief.


My first drawing of the three of them together!


...and a much improved version later as I refined my designs!

A few more refinements and changes and these became the main characters of my first original story idea, the Zodiac Hunters. I also designed my majestic 'Zodiac Beasts' who were an integral part of that story.


My Zodiac Beasts! Unfortunately this image has been repeatedly stolen, hence the rather obtuse watermark.

In between this, though, I continued with various fanart, drifting away from anime and sticking more to games such as Final Fantasy VIII, Skies of Arcadia, Prince of Persia and Tales of the Abyss. This continued well after I started university and medical school, and it was there that the game Fire Emblem's beautiful art style caught my eye. I loved the semi-realistic faces and intricate fantasy costumes (that weren't overblown to surrealism like in Final Fantasy), and I delved into that. Being in medical school also helped my anatomy and proportions, as I was learning it at the same time.


Some Fire Emblem: Radiant Dawn fanart, featuring my favourite character Sothe (with the white scarf) and Tibarn (the guy with the eagle wings!)

And it was from here that I jumped right into my next phase...

Phase 5: A New Era of Azaria

Unfortunately, try as I might, Zodiac Hunters never got much off the ground. It was far too ambitious, complex and beyond my current skill-level as a writer, as I discovered once I joined a writer's group called Authonomy.

I became good friends with Lisa Wiedmeier, author of the Timeless series, and for fun drew a lot of her characters as it was a chance to get away from the manga-style and try something more realistic. This proved extremely challenging however (and it still is!). My early attempts were quite horrifying, smack in the middle of the uncanny valley! Luckily Lisa was very patient and not too brutal, and in fact helped me decide to give up on Zodiac and try a new story.


Callon, one of Lisa's characters from her Timeless series, drawn with permission of the author

I thence came up with the concept for The Binding, and accordingly designed my characters too. This time I knew my characters' names and roles beforehand, and soon enough I had a visual idea of what they would look like, too:


Eliza Bryant, heroine of my novel 'The Binding'

Initially I stuck to my usual anime style, until I discovered a wonderful deviantart tutorial called 'Manga to Realistic'...

Phase 6: From Manga to Realistic

This tutorial was life-changing, as it finally gave me a basis to transition to a more realistic art style. Sadly the author appears to have deleted it, so I won't repost the original as I don't have their permission, but you can view it here. This was a series of tutorials that went over the differences between manga-style art and realism, and set out how to draw facial features separately.

I had been looking for a tutorial like this for ages, and I was delighted to get practising ASAP. My Azaria characters were the beneficiaries, and in months I made good progress. I even dabbled in some fanart as well, marvelling at the difference in quality. I had always been stuck at this transition for so very long, and it was amazing to see that I finally had the tools to knock down the wall I'd been staring at for years!


I re-did a drawing of Squall, the main protagonist of Final Fantasy VIII. The difference is quite staggering!


And a redraw of my Azaria characters, Eliza and Ryan

At last I was heading in the direction I wanted to. My art was becoming more realistic, my own characters were coming out closer to how I saw them in my head...

And then...

Phase 7: Year of the Dragon Age

On the recommendation of a close friend I picked up the game Dragon Age: Origins, as she felt the themes and setting were up my alley. Admittedly I was reluctant, but when I saw the game for £2.50 for my Playstation 3 I thought 'why not'. It turned out to be a great investment, as I fell in love with the franchise and its characters!

I was very late to this particular party (the game came out in 2009 and I played it for the first time in 2016) but I didn't mind. The characters and setting were intriguing, the setup unusual (this was the first Western RPG I'd ever played), and of course it inspired my art. It had been a long time since I'd drawn fanart, having focused on my Azaria characters for the most part, but this brought me back.

And so I had to draw my Grey Warden, which is a self-made player character with a specific background:


My Grey Warden, Elissa Hannah Cousland

It wasn't long until I picked up the other two sequels and this became my new obsession. Given that Dragon Age was a much more realistic-in-design game (compared to the JRPGs before it), it helped me further progress.


My Grey Warden and Leliana, a companion character

That same friend also started getting massively into Overwatch, and while I personally am not interested in multiplayer only games, I did and still do admire the character designs. Once again this helped push me towards a more realistic style, as did the discovery of some Youtube critique channels and looking at more tutorials that I'd not thought to search for.


This is my reality...Symmetra from Overwatch!

Alas, despite the heaps of progress I'd made, I hit another wall. That final step to complete realism just seemed to elude me, no matter how much I practised or referenced or looked at various tutorials. This became extremely frustrating, especially when I'd improved so much in a short space of time. My love affair with Dragon Age also seemed to dry up overnight, as I lost the passion for it I once had, and my inspiration started to wane.

Seeing as I was getting no-where, I thought to myself, perhaps a break was due. After finishing my RCGP exam (final GP training exam) in 2016, I now had the time to draw more than ever, but I was perhaps overdoing it.

So I looked back to when I started, to the nature art that had captivated me as a child. And I realised, for some time I had been harbouring a desire to draw birds. Every time I saw majestic photographs, or saw them on holiday, it had stirred a desire to draw, one that I hadn't even realised.

Thus this was the ideal time to take a break from my fanart and characters, and try something new...

Phase 9: Era of the Bird

This was one of the best decisions I made. It took a whole new part of my brain to draw birds rather than people, and suddenly the inspiration was back. It has got to the point where if I see a species I have not seen before and it captivates me with its beauty, I will drop whatever I am doing to draw it. I have never had this feeling with art before, and I absolutely adore this new drive to create!


 

With a near-infinite species list to choose from, I could draw any bird of any colour, size, shape and more, and learn to improve my skills at drawing from reference. It has also helped me draw much faster and more regularly, which are only beneficial. It has helped me with colour and values, with lighting and shading, how to create softer feather textures, and much more.

And so this is where I am today! I am still practising at people in the background, slowly but surely, but for the moment I thoroughly enjoy my birds and they will continue to be my mainstay for the time being.

I also have an exclusive bird-art only instagram account, so if you'd like to follow please find me @maddoctorartist

Whew, what a journey! From my humble school art, to anime, then games and now back to the natural beauty of birds!  Who knows what the next 22 years will hold for my art journey? I'm excited to find out!

What was your art journey like, if you too are an artist? I'd love to know!

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