For the past 6-8 years, I’ve wanted to get into digital painting. I’ve owned some form of tablet for about as long, but have used it primarily for drawing and illustration, both professionally and personally. I’ve always admired great illustrators who could take these tablets, together with Corel Painter or Adobe Photoshop, and create masterful paintings, but I’ve rarely found the time to try myself, and when I have, it has generally ended in frustration and incompletion.
Recently, I sat down and examined the difficulties I was encountering, and narrowed them down to two main thoughts:
I’m trying to learn too many things at once. I’ve only painted a bit when I was much younger (was it so long ago? Yes…sigh), and I had never done any digital painting. And here I am trying to accomplish great works of art right out of the gate. Such works involve a vast knowledge of color, shadow, behavior of mediums (even in a simulated environment like Corel Painter, which is my painting program of choice), knowledge of anatomy, perspective, architecture, and other subject matter natural and man-made. The list goes on, and it’s quite daunting. Most of my experience is in cartooning, and while I’ve had some varying degree of training in all the areas above, it’s too much to try to increase my knowledge of each of them all at once.
I’m not using reference. This relates to the first, in that my knowledge of anatomy, perspective, architecture, etc., needs a good deal of improvement. It makes no sense, therefore, to try and pull an improved result straight out of my mind, when it is my mind that needs the improvement.
So I decided to start with a simple exercise. I would begin with a simple part of the human anatomy, the eye, find a good piece of reference material, and focus only on shadow and lighting, i.e. a painting using only shades of grey. So I found a photo reference that was to my liking, and I began my exercise.
I must say, contrary to my prior experiences with digital painting, the whole process of this exercise was a great pleasure. Like working out a wonderfully complex logic puzzle, there were a lot of challenges, but none so great that I couldn’t find a solution that I was happy with.
After a week of sporadic evenings, I decided I was done. And the result is above. It’s always nice when the journey is as enjoyable as the final result. I’m looking forward to getting better at this.