2015: Arting Back with Fight

It seemed simple enough.  At the beginning of January I decided I would get back into the habit of posting daily doodles on my Tumblr.  This wasn’t new for me – I had a three year streak of daily drawing and posting going at one point in time.  However,  my former job finally took its toll on me mentally and physically to the point where I couldn’t keep up; and for about a year drawing occurred less frequently and sometimes painfully.

This year I decided it was time to get back on track with regular posting.  I’ve actually found the “fire and forget” approach to posting doodles to be surprisingly helpful.  I don’t obsess quite so much over details or lack of perfection,  it’s just a sketch or doodle.  I can experiment; feelings and thoughts captured in a tiny moment.  I may look back on a sketch and go “ack”, or see that I was having a bad day, but there’s a small bit of exp earned from each one.

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February, July, November and December were especially tough picks.

 

The Recap.

The very first doodle of the year featured Alistair from Dragon Age: Origins.

 

I started playing DA:O in December.  I’d never played any of the DA games, but I loved Mass Effect and I did have a copy of DA:O Ultimate Edition sitting around on my pc for ages.  Needless to say, I got really in to it.  Most of January and February were dedicated to doodles of my favorite Dragon Age characters, and I continued to draw many of them all year long.  I also started a “Medieval Guardians of the Galaxy” series, featuring Quill, Nova and Gamora.  I even started designing Drax, Rocket and Groot but never found an idea that worked.  I was enjoying these projects a lot because I was trying new and different ways to render my lined art.

Later in the spring I started playing Final Fantasy XIV.  That led to some sketches (and moogles), and being exposed to a different visual style of video game art was refreshing.  A few months later.. the Star Wars hype started kicking in, and I returned to SWToR.  I spent a lot of time getting reacquainted with characters I hadn’t played for well over a year and preparing for the game’s new expansion.  Star Wars was pretty much my childhood and has inspired me in many ways my whole life.  I read the comics, played with the toys, I wanted to create magical, exciting things. Sketches and doodles based on that galaxy far, far away was of course a thing that was going to happen.  Star Wars art from various forms of media consumed a good chunk of the late end of the year.

The Badges.

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The final collection.

Drawing badges was exciting,  challenging and a heck of a learning experience.  This was also the first year that I started using Photoshop CS, so I began to develop Actions and similar processes to help speed up my work flow.  This really helped me during the entire badge season, and I was pleased with the consistency and quality.

The Progress.

I’ve been pretty comfortable with my “comic book-y” style and method for a few years now.  Artists will always compare themselves to other artists, we can never escape that.  Being happy as an artist can be both true and false at the same time.  There are days that you’ll hate every line that you put down, and wish you could draw this type of art like that artist. Near the end of the badge season I felt like I was hitting a ceiling and I needed to shake things up. I was feeling frustrated and dissatisfied with my art.

I’ve always felt that painting, even digitally, was a bit confusing to me.  I had adjusted very well to working inside nicely inked lines, or even inside my rough and loose lines when sketching.  Painting seemed like a mythical study that I couldn’t quite grasp.  And of course, since I didn’t think I could do it, I really wanted to be able to do it.  I made a lot of progress with my digital coloring throughout the year, and by the end I felt like I was close to some kind of artistic breakthrough.  About a week ago I threw myself into tackling a fully painted image and managed to achieve that goal.  I’ve been pretty ecstatic the last day or two because at the start of the year, I never thought I’d be able to create an image like this.

 

I’m excited that I could end the year with this.  I’m excited that I felt like I could create something in a new way.  I’m excited for what I can accomplish in the coming year.  I’m not totally throwing away the style I’ve already developed, but I proved to myself that I can break out of my artistic comfort zone and surprise myself.  It’s been a long year, and I can look back and say, “I’m proud of myself and what I have created.”

Some days were still hard.  Like, really hard.  As in “just wanna give up” hard.  But I didn’t, and I won’t.  In 2016 I’ll still be drawing and posting every day, and pushing myself to think about my art in different creative ways.  Many thanks to my friends, family, and all who have supported and inspired me in 2015.

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Artsy Arsenal

A common question that artists get is “what program do you use to make your art”.  It’s a fair question, since there are tons of programs available at various prices.  For someone just wanting to test out digital art, it can be a bit dizzying.  There’s no “perfect” program, there’s what’s comfortable and works for you.  So, here’s what works for me!

 

But first, a brief history of Ammo’s Arting and what led her to these choices.  I’ve used a few different programs on my art journey.  One of the earliest was OpenCanvas, which I haven’t used in years but was a great starter program for me.  It was relatively inexpensive and every update had some nice features added.  I could easily sketch, paint a bit, and do nice clean lines.  I also did some dabbling in the free version of Painter that came with Wacom tablets.  As my style grew and changed, I tried more recent, and full, versions of Painter.  I used that for quite a while until I realized that what I enjoyed drawing most was “inked”, illustrative-styled images.  Yes, basically, comic book-y.  Naturally Painter had great tools for that, I made a whole toolbox filled with different ink brushes.  But I felt that I wasn’t using the full potential of the program, my art brain couldn’t wrap around some of the advanced brushes and I felt like it was a bit wasted on me.  I wasn’t satisfied with coloring all of my art with Painter, so I started looking around.  Of course Photoshop is generally seen as the dream program for digital artists, but I started out with the lighter Photoshop Elements for my coloring.  Elements is really a great program for learning your way around digital coloring, and I used it for several years.  Moving on to more current tastes…

 

Sketching/Inking (line art):  Manga Studio EX 5.

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The first Manga Studio program I tried was 4.  I liked it, but the program is a bit hard on newbies.  I used it for quite a while back and forth with Painter, it had lots of great tools once you knew where to look and how to use them.  I put MS4 on the shelf for a bit, and became intrigued when MS5 was announced.  I tried it and was pretty amazed with the changes to the program.  It was now much more user friendly, had a more familiar layout, and I almost immediately fell in love with the feel of it.  I was never happy sketching in Photoshop, I still can’t get the hang of it… and a lot of my particular style starts with my crazy sketching.  I don’t press down very hard on my pen when I work, so whatever program I use needs to be able to catch my light, zippy strokes.. and MS5 is amazing for that.  I also have to mention Frenden’s amazing selection of brushes, several of which I play around with during sketching and one or two I use for all my line art.  I use this for almost all of my art, I do some coloring with it but for polished coloring, I use…

 

Coloring/Post-production/etc: Photoshop CC

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When I first started using Elements, there was no subscription plan for PS.  This year is the first year that I’ve actually started subbing to PS proper, and it’s been a fun learning experience.  I was able to move over my brushes, actions, and swatches easily.  I made a workspace I was comfy with.  It’s been great, and I’m very happy with my current art flow and continue to find ways to improve efficiency and creativity.  I still can’t sketch in it worth a damn, but I love using it for coloring art and editing pictures.  Photoshop is great at being exactly what you expect it to be, but again starting out “lite” with Elements is still a good choice.

 

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My go-to routine routine right now is definitely Manga Studio EX 5 and Photoshop CC.  Other good programs to check out, that are easier on the pocketbook, include Painttool SAI and Sketchbook.  I’ve played around with both, and they each have their own fun quirks and are easy to use and sketch with. Whenever I have a bit of an art funk, I like to shake things up by messing around in one of those programs.

Getting started (over).

So, after attempting to possibly maybe try and pretend to sort of kind of start this blog, I’ve learned a few things.

Words are daunting.  Actually, I already knew that.

But to be fair, art is, too.

I quickly found out that writing posts of words was even more difficult when I was already drawing every day (including posting something to a daily art blog), and working through a queue of badges and at times, other commissions.

Realizing that I had less time for this than I thought, I considered a few options, like.. basically just making a screenshot blog, because I like talking about pictures and game stories.  Or discussing random thoughts behind some of my pictures because Tumblr isn’t always a great platform for that and my deviantArt account is currently a frustrating mess.  But the weeks drew on, stuff happened, etc etc.  I pushed away the blog, telling myself that I had nothing of interest to say anyway, and my attempt at blogging was shoved into the junk drawer of ideas to stay.  Until a week ago, when this post from Chestnut at Gamer Girl Confessions popped up on my Twitter feed.

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Now we’re talkin’.

Now this, I can do.  This could also help me re-tackle my blog challenge in a different way, and at a better time for me to work on it.  I already take lots of screenshots, and I also enjoy editing some of them into wallpaper for my pc. I’m pretty excited for this challenge and I really have no set plans about what all I’m going to post – and I’m okay with that.  This is a thing that I’m going to do, and I’m going to enjoy seeing what other participants post as well.

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Screenshots? Sure, how many would you like?

Since the introductory post, Chestnut’s also added a faq.  Basically the main challenge is to post 50 pictures (screenshots, photos, whichever) in November.  It’s open to any blogging or micro-blogging platform, and it should be great fun for anyone to join in!  She even has a few prizes for the snagging, but that’s just icing on a pretty, picture-perfect cake.

Time to dig through the screenshot folders!

Routine.

When I worked my old full-time job, I had a pretty standard daily routine.  Roll out of bed at a horribly early hour, stumble to my computer, log into (usually) WoW and knock out a few daily quests or manage auctions.  Then I was off to work, and afterwards home in time to unwind by logging in for an hour or two unless there were errands to run.  This was followed shortly by cleaning and dinner, and finally drawing the rest of the night.  Days off followed a mostly similar schedule.  Roll out of bed at a less horrible but still pretty early hour, stumble to the computer and log in, except now I could go on a longer gathering run and take alts out questing.

Not much has changed now that I’m self employed. Wake up. Log in. I limit my time in game and keep productive with my art, mindful of keeping a schedule of sorts. Gaming in the morning and drawing in the day or evening is what I grown used to, and that’s what I generally stick to.  Not that I plan on stopping either of those things or changing up that routine, it’s a system that’s worked out pretty well for me.  But I think I might try to add something more,  expanding on something similar that I already do.

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I made a blog-thing.

Over on my Tumblr, I post daily doodles.  It’s something I’ve done to keep me drawing every day – even back when I was tired and stressed out from my job.  I had a good three+ year streak of posting something every single day, until I finally had to stop for a while due to problems with my hands and other work-related stress.  I began this year by taking up the challenge once again.  Currently with my busier badge art workload I’ve mostly posted random “warm-up” doodles, but it feels good.  It’s like a visual art diary of whatever’s on my mind about whatever game I’ve been playing or comic that I’m reading.  However, I don’t really talk much about.. well, anything.  I’ve felt that I don’t really need to write, I do pictures.

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The two most used tags* on my Tumblr.

I’m not sure if it’s the awesome people I follow on social media, or being in a Free Company that seems to be 90% bloggers, or just all the tweets about the Newbie Blogger Initiative a few months ago or the Blaugust challenge now, but I feel somewhat inspired to give it a go.  I’m not quite ready to join the actual #Blaugust movement and be an active participant, but it seems like a good time to kick things off with an actual Blog of Words.  It could be a nice outlet beyond just pictures, because try as I might there are times I can’t match my art to my thoughts (though to be fair, I have a hard time putting my thoughts into words, so there’s that challenge too).  So I think I’ll start this out slow, maybe around a post a week to toughen myself up.  It’ll mostly be game chat, but I think I’d like to discuss drawing as well.  I guess we’ll find out!

*Tag counts for my Tumblr posts generated on 08/01/15 using this tool.