AuthorTopic: How do I even start a piece?  (Read 2287 times)

Offline API-Beast

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How do I even start a piece?

on: December 04, 2015, 10:55:05 am
Hey Pixelers!

The most common critique of my work is that the pieces don't really tell a story, on the one side because of lack of composition, but more than that because I don't really have a idea what I want to depict in the first place. :yell:

My root is in game art, where the process is quite straightforward: you know what you need, you know in what format you need it (like "weapons should be around this size and vertically aligned"). The world itself builds itself out of the assets, each new asset can reference previous assets and as such build a link. (Like "this asset had a fire rune on it, let's use the fire run on this one too" or "let's put runes all over this super strong magic users body").

When not doing game art my decision process is always very gimmicky, "Let's make the light through prism thingy but make the output look more magicky-mysterious!" or "Let's do a realistic style picture of this apricot!". Other times I have this picture in my head, think "Amazing!" and then later come to the conclusion that my vision was bad in the first place.

So it's missing any rhyme and reason, but I am kinda stuck here, don't know any other way. How do I find a good subject I want to depict, something that can tell a story, something that can be displayed well in a picture?

Offline Ai

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Re: How do I even start a piece?

Reply #1 on: December 05, 2015, 01:33:36 am
This is what thumbnailing is for, AFAICS.

Storyboarding might also be relevant, to develop the 'storytelling'/cinematic direction aspect more..

Anyway, by my reckoning there is nothing complicated about either of these. You just have to do lots of them, and expect to throw away lots (that's the point, to quickly try variations out so you can zero in on the 'ideal' image of .. the image you want to create. 
AA tutorial about handling irregular lines.

If you're not at least a little uncomfortable, chances are you're not learning that much.

Offline PixelPiledriver

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Re: How do I even start a piece?

Reply #2 on: December 06, 2015, 05:10:58 pm
It's challenging.
I think about this subject a lot, as I struggle with it as well.
Here's some thoughts I've developed that helped me over the last few years.

Interactions.

Make your characters touch each other.
Playfully, lovingly, violently, sexually, or whatever is needed.
Proximity between people matters.
I will have instant ideas about the relationship between two characters based on how far or close they are from each other.
And what they are doing with each other.
A hug has a meaning.
A kick in the ass has a meaning.
You can put your hands around someone's neck in a loving manner, or in a violent manner.

Characters can also interact with inanimate objects.
There's a difference between:
1. A man and a bird house
2. A man building a bird house

Draw from personal experiences.
You've been alive a while.
Things have happened to you.

Normal stuff.
Brush your teeth, wash your hands, put on a shirt, cook a meal, talk to friends, walk to the store etc.
Everyday normal activities are great subject as they can be easily injected with a deeper meaning or altered feeling.

However.
Do you have memories that are too embarrassing to tell anyone?
That's exactly why you should be drawing from them.
If they make you feel weird, then surely they will make others feel weird.
That's a good thing.
To have meaning you need feeling.

Use human emotions.
Combine them.
You are happy to have children, but sad that your youth is over.
You want to protect her because you love her, that's why you are completely controlling and jealous.
You show those above you respect, and you completely despise them for it.

Before, during or after.
Is something about to happen? --> the assassin waits for her target to walk just a little bit closer
Is something happening? --> Timmy angrily flips the chess board over, the pieces go flying, while Billy laughs with satisfaction
Has something already happened --> the cute fat dog is fast asleep, next to an empty bowl, little bits of food are messily scattered on the floor.
You only need to show a very small amount of stuff to tell a story.
Much of it is implied.

Be a bit more daring.
Topics that are considered shameful or offensive are often very entertaining.
Sex, murder, betrayal, suffering, fear, violence, drama, etc.
Everyone loves a bit of bad as long as you tie it up in a nice package for them.

Put words into your art.
If the characters can speak, it will make it feel like they have thoughts of their own.
Words can amplify the feeling of a drawing or even create a counter feeling.

Don't be afraid to draw things that are not what you believe.
You will have a harder time with this since the subject may not be something you understand well.
But surely there are powerful topics that are not part of your life.
I didn't grow up religious.
But that doesn't stop me from drawing images that use ideas, icons or thoughts from it.

Go nuts and be prepared for verbal backlash.
If what you're drawing has meaning, people will respond to it.
That may come in the form of positive or negative words. --> and sometimes even silence
They will judge your personal character and you will have to carry it or shrug it off.
Push yourself to draw with meaning despite what others say.
If no one cares about what you draw, regardless if they like or hate it, you are doing it wrong.

Come up with some of your own ideas.
Good luck!
« Last Edit: December 06, 2015, 05:28:48 pm by PixelPiledriver »
And knowing that it is, we seek what it is... ~ Aristotle, Posterior Analytics, Chapter 1

Online wzl

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Re: How do I even start a piece?

Reply #3 on: December 06, 2015, 08:54:17 pm
Great topic and excellent write up peepee, very inspiring!
I can tell you think about this topic. Your creations also  show it (mostly :P)

Personally i have trouble figuring out what to draw. if i have a specific idea, it can turn out good, or sometimes it wont.
If i just start scribbling i tend to just doodle senselessly for ever. It's getting better the more experience i gather, but it's taking its sweet time.
I'm still trying to figure out this question out: What do i actually want to draw?
There's some ideas and feelings/settings i really like to touch upon, but making compositions out of those is really tough to me. I'll re read your post every other day and take it to heart, since you cover so much, it's hard to memorize it all
Thanks for the good advice!  :o

Offline PixelPiledriver

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Re: How do I even start a piece?

Reply #4 on: December 07, 2015, 01:36:39 am
Glad you can get something out of it.

Quote
I can tell you think about this topic. Your creations also  show it (mostly :P)
Exactly.
It's the lack of meaning in much of my art that has led me to think so much about this topic.
I can easily fall into a long streak of drawing without much attention to creating a feeling or mood.
Any time you see a spark of life in my art, it is because I actively forced it to happen.
And I am continually challenging myself to make it happen more naturally.
The thoughts above are how I prep my brain to do so.

Quote
Personally i have trouble figuring out what to draw. if i have a specific idea, it can turn out good, or sometimes it wont.
If i just start scribbling i tend to just doodle senselessly for ever. It's getting better the more experience i gather, but it's taking its sweet time.
I'm still trying to figure out this question out: What do i actually want to draw?
There's some ideas and feelings/settings i really like to touch upon, but making compositions out of those is really tough to me.
Strengthen your art process skills, as Ai suggested, and you will be able to more easily marry the two types of thinking together.
And knowing that it is, we seek what it is... ~ Aristotle, Posterior Analytics, Chapter 1

Offline Ai

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Re: How do I even start a piece?

Reply #5 on: December 07, 2015, 08:37:24 am
Really interesting thoughts, PPD. I generally find it hard to get enthused about meaning, because well .. any serious inspection of it seems to imply it's a self-perpetuating delusion, something I find difficult to consciously contemplate encouraging. But some of your thoughts suggest that it's worth doing so, even if just to exorcise personal demons.

It's too long to print out, but I'll look at condensing it and perhaps writing it out to put somewhere prominent.

I think one of my recently adopted practices (using really coarse brush so I have to focus on concept and feeling) might be analogous to your practice of doing quite lowres, vaguely indexpainty stuff? Is that one of the reasons behind you doing that, trying to focus on intent, concept, feeling over technical issues?
« Last Edit: December 07, 2015, 08:43:33 am by Ai »
AA tutorial about handling irregular lines.

If you're not at least a little uncomfortable, chances are you're not learning that much.

Offline Conzeit

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Re: How do I even start a piece?

Reply #6 on: December 07, 2015, 03:10:26 pm
You could use that rune theme in an illustration just as well as in your game. Any one thing you put in a picture has the posibility of telling a story. I think it's just a matter of being aware that everything you draw comes with an expectation, you need to be aware of what that expectation might be and comment on it with everything else you add.



So you have a skull wizard, expectation is he's evil. Evil wizard has a dark atmopshere and an evil eye above him. evil evil evil evil.
I think because the initial theme is evil and everything else adds on to that it feels plain, it all feels expected. if say, for example you showed the feet of the skull wizard and it turned out there's a little innocent looking boy in shorts that is pulling at his robe from one side and pointing to a little girl, that might be a bit more itneresting, it's a bit unexpected.

What'd I do there? simply take the wizard out of the darkness and bring him into a setting of innocence, without making him any less evil, I just made him way overkill for shock value

Another idea for the same picture, how about this is all happening underground, there's a line going upwards from the evil eye, and it goes straight to a righteous white knight that is imbuing a lance with that purple power, and all around him we see white knights with purple imbued weapons, who are all attacking a bunch of ugly beastly orcs with no weapons. Thatís my attempt to use the evil wizard to make a comment about the hipocresy of righteous conquerors and my own distrust of that image, but it's basically the same formula, take the great evil and put him somewhere unexpected.

You could do the opposite and have his appereances be betrayed, make him actually defend something righteous while somoeone righteous looking is doing something evil, you could use the skull thing to symoblize death and make him a natural and inevitable force, neither good nor evil. Everything has meaning attached

Someone who I think is great at telling stories with a single picture is Pawel Kuczynski



Here's a good vid about about composition as a way to show relationships between people



EDIT: this is a great, very evocative image. dead trees sillouethed by a bright backlight. possibly dawn. The distance between this being a full story is just one other element that gives the light a singular meaning, but it's better this way, this image asks you to use your feelings to interpret the meaning of it, that evocative feeling is sometimes better than a story when it comes to a single image

« Last Edit: December 07, 2015, 04:01:28 pm by Conceit »

Offline Nikonani

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Re: How do I even start a piece?

Reply #7 on: December 08, 2015, 01:57:36 am
Well I don't have much to say, but you could study the old (and moderately old) masters.  Maybe look at some Italian Renaissance art, read a few books on the subject, study their composition/nuances etc.

I particularly think Courbet and Dante Gabriel Rossetti were fantastic at expressing a great deal with a maiden's turn of the lips, about that maiden.

You might read some literature for inspiration.  Maybe some great prose like Melville, and study how he captures much in a scene with one or two wild metaphors.  Maybe poetry, see how Philip Sidney can do so much in fourteen lines, or Imagist-era Ezra Pound in two lines.  See how you might use that to your advantage in art.  Liberalart thyself.
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Offline API-Beast

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Re: How do I even start a piece?

Reply #8 on: January 04, 2016, 08:32:39 pm
I have pondered this question for a month now and come to the conclusion that the answer is different for every person.

As discussed in a different thread, "meaning" is when a piece of art can teach you something new, however trivial that "something" might be: a story fragment, a connection between story fragments, a new concept, a connection between two formerly unconnected concepts.

But to come up with original train of thought you can "teach", you need to know a lot about a subject beforehand. An artist that knows a lot about russian folklore can teach about russian folklore in his art. An artist that had a lot of life changing experiences can draw tragic moments and make them turn alive. An artist that explored every nook and cranny of Star Wars can create amazing Star Wars fan art. Some people have been artists for most of their lives and built a enormous visual library in their head they can reference and can draw interesting things from imagination alone.

In my case the highest level of expertise would be in programming, but that is something that can't be pictured very well. I have some interest in anthropology and in combination with worldbuilding that could be something that can work very well, designing species, cultures and maybe creatures and drawing them.
« Last Edit: January 04, 2016, 08:42:00 pm by Mr. Beast »