2016 was one of my worst years for digital coloring pretty much since I started. Looking at my archives, the previous lows were five in 2010 and 2011, but last year I managed four. And two of them were tests, and the other two were so-so. 2017 seems to be on more or less the same track, but at the same time PaintsChainer has at least temporarily re-invigorated my interest in painting.
As I mentioned in my last post, I really wanted to be able to use PaintsChainer in a meaningful way, especially the actual output because so much of the work was done for me. Sadly the more I played around with tweaking and modifying said output the more I realized that the output was not that useful as part of a finished painting.
In my final experimental piece I was pretty much painting over the entire raw:
Well, it’s not a bad result, but I don’t feel that it’s saving me all that much time anymore if I have to recolor the whole thing. In addition I’m not that fond of the ad-hoc process of recoloring the whole thing, and I’m not even sure I want to paint with this style. And so it was on that note that I once again started looking into my Pandora’s box that is painting process.
As far as pencil drawings go I’ve generally gotten pretty consistent over the last few years. There were inklings of this toward the end of the Nonsense Wars story, but it really got going after I started drawing in all HB, and especially after 2014 I think I draw more or less the same way then that I do now.
Painting consistency has really lagged behind. In just 2015, a fairly good year for coloring, there were about 20 pieces using almost as many processes, and generating results of varying quality from good to bad to better. 2016 wasn’t any better and of course this year all I’ve done is mess around with PaintsChainer, but now after so many years, I think I’m starting to have enough sample size to see what parts of various processes are working and what parts are rubbish.
I think what I need to do is very simple: start with cell-shading, blend the soft edges, and add some polish.
And when I tried to do this explicitly, I felt it turned out really well!
I think what this process – explicit cell-shade before “paint” – gets me is a good balance between hard and soft shadows. I’m quite convinced that this balance is quite important, and honestly I’ve known it for the longest time – I mentioned it in a Nonsense Wars post as early as 2006. I’ve even circled this process for a few years now, and it’s produced quite a few really good paintings (those good ones from 2015), but I haven’t been disciplined in implementing it because I keep falling for the same old traps.
The worst trap is that I like texture, and I tend to over-paint, which sometimes add too much noise, and more often ruins hard shadows to the point that the painting is very “mushy“. The other worst trap is that sometimes I try to take shortcuts and color a sloppy lineart or a pencil drawing, and that’ll ruin an otherwise good painting. And sometimes I’ve done both and it’s really bad.
So I’m going to keep trying to do this, and see where it gets me.
Look, I’m already two for two. Also, process.
Of course, the most important thing is that the underlying lineart has to be good as well. One reason these paintings may have turned out well is because I’ve been able to curate good linearts from over the course of several years, since my drawing has been consistent enough such that I still like some drawings from several years ago. Every painting in this post comes from work I originally did up to five years ago. The Tear and Raine sketches were dated for January 2012.
I’ve never been able to do this before, and I actually have a few more old sketches I want to ink and color!
This brings me to my final tangent, which is that for the first time ever, I’ve actually gone and fixed an old painting. In particular, it’s the previously linked Ario Trio 2015 painting, which I had been using as my desktop on my work computer for a long time. I had always thought “well, this thing would be so much better if the digital inking wasn’t shit”, and so I finally went ahead and did it.
And again, I think it’s better!
And again, I think there’s more I want to try. But that’s all for now.