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Dragon-by-Design's Sketchbook of Skill Development

Last post 02-14-2014, 8:23 PM by voluspa. 101 replies.
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  •  04-17-2012, 6:31 PM 380729

    Dragon-by-Design's Sketchbook of Skill Development

    So, I'm finally going about setting up a proper sketchbook here, with the aim of posting as many new sketches, practices and musings as I can every week. After more than a decade (maybe even 15 years?) of very little artistic practice, I've given myself the task of sketching at least a little every day, and so far, since last Thursday or Friday I've succeeded!..... er, with the exception of yesterday (but I sketched twice as long or more today to make up for it :). A lot of the daily work I do will just be gesture drawings at first—they're nice exercises to just get my hand and brain going again—but I won't be posting much of these unless there are some compelling/interesting forms that come out of it. I will try to post more concerted efforts instead, and early on there will be some older sketchwork from the past year mixed in, as it represents some of the material that I've been producing in a "professional" (read: paid) capacity. I otherwise don't want to post much older stuff than that—except for comparison to chart my development—but the past year I've managed some pretty decent work, I think, and it represents where I'm at currently with my skills. Where possible, I will try to keep things in order based on a timeline, but these early posts will probably be pretty mixed up.

    So, without further ado, my first sketchbook posting! :) I'm a big fan of Stephanie Pui-Mun Law's work, and wanted to try my hand at mermaid poses, and worked in some anatomy and structure practice while I was at it. Aside from the fact the large mermaid's head is too small (and I couldn't accomplish a "come hither" gesture with her hand, so it's amputated!) I was happy with how her proportions and such came out from memory (which I like to do for practice, to see how much I've learned)—now if only I hadn't decided to do just a head near the edge of the page, before wishing to do the whole body too... Oh yeah, there's some sort of crudely drawn bat creature and some bird-of-prey heads. Just because.

    Mermaid and other sketches


    EDIT: Almost forgot, comments and critique on any of my work—be it sketches, WiP or finished pieces—is totally welcome and very much appreciated, always!

    My IFX Sketchbook :: My Website
  •  04-17-2012, 6:43 PM 380730 in reply to 380729

    Re: Dragon-by-Design's Sketchbook of Skill Development

    Some more 2011 sketches. I was initially contracted last summer by a local brewery to produce artwork for a special, limited edition bomber from a series of unique or intensely-flavoured beers they were producing, which all featured the work of local artists. The first work I did for them was a sea-serpent/dragon (will post later when I find the sketchwork for it)—which they liked so much that they asked me to do the next beer too! This time they wanted a skeleton and, since I'd never drawn skulls or skeletons before, I engaged in some very quick practice and concept development for a few days. Below are the results of those efforts. I was surprised by how much I enjoyed drawing bones and skulls and such! And was pretty happy with what I was able to produce both from study and imagination.

    Skeleton practice and study

    More skeleton concepts

    Even more skeleton practice

    My IFX Sketchbook :: My Website
  •  04-17-2012, 7:02 PM 380731 in reply to 380730

    Re: Dragon-by-Design's Sketchbook of Skill Development

    The final skeleton concepts as originally submitted to the client. They were also painted up quickly in Photoshop to demonstrate how they would potentially come out when screen-printed as white on black. I will post those and the final artwork another time. NB: the final artwork was actually produced as a very elaborate gradient mesh in Illustrator (which I'd also never done before—tough to learn, but the results were pretty darn good if you ask me!)


    This one was the most challenging due to the ribs and full torso. Sadly lost some of the intensity of the sketches which leaned forward more dramatically (tried too hard to fit the dimensions of the bottle). Also, ship's wheel was fatally flawed... it never would have steered a ship mounted that way. LOL

    Skeleton Captain


    I liked this guy and he was my second favourite that I would have been happy to take to completion. Dagger was too small, bandana perspective is wrong for the head tilt, but it was another great exercise to practice shading, clothing folds (I'm not too good with that either), and forms in perspective.

    Skeleton with dagger in mouth 


    This one below is the one the client picked; it was my favourite! I had a ton of fun drawing and shading it. I actually found the concept and sketch stages of this whole project allowed me to really experiment with shading style etc., something else I needed to work on.

    Sly Skull


    After sending the first three, the client requested a fourth so that we'd have a head-on option too. Thankfully I'd done enough practice sketches that it was a fairly quick matter to produce one more, and the timeframe for these projects has usually been very short (particularly when I have a lot of other clients to work with too). I actually really liked all of these and couldn't completely decide which I'd rather finish for the print-ready piece.

    Head-on Skull Captain 

    My IFX Sketchbook :: My Website
  •  04-18-2012, 2:19 AM 380805 in reply to 380731

    Re: Dragon-by-Design's Sketchbook of Skill Development

    Continuing with trying catching up on posting my work to the present...

    Some friends (and friends of friends) graciously organize a monthly life drawing session for a nominal fee, with volunteer models giving us 15 sec, 30 sec, 1 min, 5 min and 15 min pose sessions for 3 hrs total. I've gone to two sessions now, and have enjoyed it immensely. I'd never done life drawing before, and though the constrained time limit is stressful at first, I think it does help for me to sketch from life (at least, I think I see some improvement as I go anyway). Here are some sketches from the first session I went to in March:

     Life drawing


    Our model was a large figure, and it was great getting to draw the flesh masses on a figure to learn how weight and mass can differ on the human body.

    Life drawing

     Feet! I've never been good at drawing hands and feet (though frankly haven't put much concerted effort into it, either), but I think my first attempt at a foot study turned out pretty well!

    Life drawing 

     Life drawing


    This one below was meant to be a study of the model's face, but upon sketching some lines in the wrong places and making them too prominent, it looked very little like her face and resembled an old woman instead. I really liked the expression on the face and whatnot though, so I decided to continue with it and created a character from the reference instead. Probably one of my most favourite things to come out of that session.

    Life drawing


    I gave vine charcoal a try as well. I'm pretty happy with how it turned out, particularly the way one could create depth and light/shadow with just the right stroke. Pretty hard to control charcoal compared to a pencil though, but I suppose that's the point! I also used a smudge stick to push it around and shape some of the forms, rather than simply draw them.

    Charcoal life drawing

    My IFX Sketchbook :: My Website
  •  04-18-2012, 2:31 AM 380806 in reply to 380805

    Re: Dragon-by-Design's Sketchbook of Skill Development

    Some quick sketches done from imagination after some PoseManiac warmups, from last Thursday or Friday I think, just to play around, do some stuff just because I feel like it, rather than study all the time. I really liked the older guy's face/head in the top right. I was only trying to practice drawing different types of noses and eyes, but decided to make a face out of it once I started. There's some issues with eye alignment and wrapping around the side of the face since I didn't do much planning (other than in my head) about what the perspective and such would be. All the same, I think I'm managing to learn enough about facial features to help create a more diverse set of character designs. Also, the rampant drawing of skulls last year (and some brief muscle study) really helped to learn what's under the skin and how it affects one's features on the surface.

    Free practice

    My IFX Sketchbook :: My Website
  •  04-18-2012, 6:04 PM 380896 in reply to 380806

    Re: Dragon-by-Design's Sketchbook of Skill Development

    Thanks for dropping by at my SB. Your pirate skull look positively menacing. The life drawings are looking good, too. Just keep on practicing ;).
    It's not about perfection, it's about improvement.

  •  04-18-2012, 7:11 PM 380903 in reply to 380896

    Re: Dragon-by-Design's Sketchbook of Skill Development

    Thanks very much, zeichenwut! I will endeavour to do so. :)

    My IFX Sketchbook :: My Website
  •  04-20-2012, 1:44 AM 381371 in reply to 380903

    Re: Dragon-by-Design's Sketchbook of Skill Development

    Welcome and nice start to your SB. And thanks for the kind words in mine. :) ... Agree with Z above, that I really like your skeleton pirate workups. (you seem to put more time into them and my guess would be they are something you enjoy drawing. ... Be nice to see a complete scene/pic with these guys too.

    My Sketchbook ... My Gallery
  •  04-20-2012, 4:42 AM 381386 in reply to 381371

    Re: Dragon-by-Design's Sketchbook of Skill Development

    Thanks, Dave! :) Yeah, I've not had much time for drawing for years, so most of the "recent" stuff I post will be just quick sketches and unfinished ideas—basically practice to get my hand going again. The skulls and skeletons were something I could (and needed to) spend more time on for the client though, and you're right—finding out I loved doing them made it easy to work on them. :) Sure was fun getting to work something more or less to completion! I used to spend endless hours drawing when I was younger; sure wish I could go back to that. Hopefully soon I can share more complete stuff rather than just 30 sec life-drawing exercises though. ;) Thanks again for the encouragement!

    My IFX Sketchbook :: My Website
  •  04-20-2012, 4:30 PM 381459 in reply to 381386

    Re: Dragon-by-Design's Sketchbook of Skill Development

    Lots to post up today. Just about caught up posting my less-recent efforts that I nonetheless wish to share. Then want to try posting new stuff daily, even if it's just practice or exercises.

    First up, going back in time to when I started drawing more regularly (read: more than once or twice every few years). The early concept sketches below are from the summer of 2011, when I was contacted by the local brewery to do the first limited edition beer bottle for them. The brief was... brief. Nautical theme, had to be called "Uncharted." Artwork must be done as Illustrator file for screen printing on bottle, flat or gradient colours (but only up to 6 inks). Other than that, free reign to do as I please, no other interference (as they called it). Great! So of course I want to do a sea serpent to get a dragon in there, but I took the opportunity to come up with other ideas of course just to give me some practice.


    Dragon/sea-serpent idea spew. Tried various coil arrangements, adding a ship, etc. Oh yeah, and wanted to try drawing a giant octopus (we'll call it a kraken).





    Viking ship also came to mind. Terrible sketch but very quick just to get ideas going.


    Pirate! Sadly, though I managed to sort of get the pose I was attempting with somewhat decent anatomy, I can't do clothes justice, so he also looks flat and just all around meh. Never sent to client. *EDIT: Mottled appearance is due to water damage. Left my window open, the sky opened up and just POURED buckets of rain in an instant. Got my MacBook Pro soaked too! 8( Thank goodness it survived.




    My IFX Sketchbook :: My Website
  •  04-20-2012, 4:43 PM 381469 in reply to 381459

    Re: Dragon-by-Design's Sketchbook of Skill Development

    Continuing with more refined concepts of the above.


    "Kraken" refinement. Planning for ship in it's coils, not sure which era/culture to use for the boat design.



    Sea serpent variations. The initial "circular emblem" composition I desired for the serpent just wouldn't work well—reads poorly in flat colours, arrangement of coils looks improbable (was focusing more on graphical appearance than logical design). So, tried other arrangements and finally stretching the body out to simplify. Serpent at bottom is the design we ultimately went with for the bottle, BTW (made tail emerge on back of bottle, still leaving room for back of label content... font choice here is TERRIBLE but just a placeholder).


    OK, gave away the ending, but here's the remaining concepts as sent to the client (minus border sketches and tests!). Chose a Greek warship for the kraken to destroy.



    My IFX Sketchbook :: My Website
  •  04-20-2012, 5:15 PM 381510 in reply to 381469

    Re: Dragon-by-Design's Sketchbook of Skill Development

    The latter stages of the beer labels previously posted above.


    Final Uncharted artwork as supplied to printer. Scanned hand-drawn art, then inked in Illustrator, then turned into Live Paint object to apply Pantone colours (SOOOO easy that way!). Final product looked pretty neat on the store shelves (colours are more muted) and got a really good response from consumers. Decided I'd try something other than flat colours next time though, to be more adventurous now that I had a feel for the process and the printer's capabilities.



    And, the Belgian Black painted up mockups to plan shading, etc before deciding on the chosen piece and embarking on the vectorization process.




    Below is final artwork, more or less as supplied to the printer. Note the client wanted the hair to flow "normally" behind the head, not the way I had it, which everyone else I showed it to later much preferred. Rendered using mainly gradient meshes in Illustrator


    Oh.my.god. I was thrilled with how (relatively) quickly I picked up on using meshes (it was my first time) and was delighted with the results, but what an ordeal. It would have been easier had I simply been using tints of black to make greys and whites, but I had to use OPACITIES of white over black background—or so I assumed, maybe I made it harder for no reason. Anyway, using opacity with meshes is a ***. If you wish to add points to your mesh for ANY reason (fixing contours, adding more contour lines for better gradation), BAM! There goes the carefully chosen values you applied for EVERY point along BOTH axes. I had to readjust so many mesh point values more than a few times... but the result was worth it, I think! Sadly, the output in print was not nearly what I hoped it would be. Whether it was the printer's capabilities or something about my approach to producing the art, who knows. All I know is I probably won't do another one in this fashion. To stressful to manage under a time limit!

    My IFX Sketchbook :: My Website
  •  04-20-2012, 5:46 PM 381543 in reply to 381510

    Re: Dragon-by-Design's Sketchbook of Skill Development

    Moving on to fall(ish) of 2011. Random sketch dump of client concepts, studies etc.


    I called this one "Hop in the Van, Man!" (tried a play on words since it was for a very hoppy IPA brew).

    "Lucky 13". Lucky white rabbit (hare in this case), and would have added 12 other silhouetted rabbits around the front and sides of the packaging it was for.


    Cyclist study from photo refs. He turned out too flat in places, but the bike was fun to do. I couldn't possibly draw something like that from memory, but the technical aspects are pretty fun to execute.


    Then, from early 2012. More concepts and studies for client projects...


    Cocoa leaves, pods etc for Dark Chocolate Porter beer (the brewery client has really liked the stuff I've done, apparently!).



    Final artwork, done in Illustrator:



    Kayaker studies/concepts for a client, from March or February 2012. Feel pretty happy with the anatomy, perspective and clothing in these. Getting better anyways. The water in the second one is highly stylized in anticipaton of having to produce graphical, vector-based art rather than paintings. Made a second version with less stylization though, and plunged the paddle into the water, created an arc of water from the other end, etc.




    Tattoo design for my sister. Concepts plus inked final choice. I don't do much abstract doodling, but these were fun.



    My IFX Sketchbook :: My Website
  •  04-20-2012, 6:21 PM 381566 in reply to 381543

    Re: Dragon-by-Design's Sketchbook of Skill Development

    It occurs to me I might be spamming the forum or anyone watching my sketchbook by posting multiple replies to try and keep some level of organization to all this... my apologies! This should be my last dump post, then I'll most likely be down to no more than one post in this topic per day.

    Quick life drawings from last Sunday (sorry, taken with my iPhone as we leave the originals with our gracious host who supplies the studio space):





    Old sketches from March, just random practice and loosening-up exercises:


    PoseManiac sketches (or maybe that other site that uses real photos?), 15 sec to 45 sec or so each, from April 17th. Must have done 45 mins of these, lots of pages' worth, these contain some faves (and not so faves).





    Aaand finally (!) some Loomis head studies from April 18. Just couldn't get that last, detailed guy to work using the construction method, so I did one more of a pose of my choosing to practice the basics further. Took me a few hours just to read and practice that first tiny bit of the book, but got really comfortable drawing circles *LOL*. I suppose I'll get faster, but I really wanted to focus on it carefully and work slowly to LEARN it (not just copy lines from a page), which I haven't gotten to do much since I was... 17 or 18? Man, hard to believe it was that long ago already. Realized I should read further ahead first before diving right in. Love the way that guy writes, he's so personable... anyway, I do some variation of this construction on my own usually, but I'm hoping this will eventually make my work more precise and thoughtful.


    This last one is so recent, my pencil is still warm! *LOL* Naw, but I'm pretty proud of myself for kicking me in the arse and finding time to draw for at least an hour or so of almost every day for a week (missed two days so far, but did lots more on some days). Now, to keep going. I am encouraged that the stuff from the past year or so seems better than what I ever did before, so it's not like I CAN'T get better (I hope...).

    My IFX Sketchbook :: My Website
  •  06-15-2012, 5:44 PM 389832 in reply to 381566

    Re: Dragon-by-Design's Sketchbook of Skill Development

    Well, so much for sketching every day! Still been drawing more these last few months, which is something. Time to update this thread. Looks like I don't have any followers listed anyway (probably should have waited till I got better, or had more recent stuff!), but it's good for me to keep it going to produce and share, well, anything.

    So here we go with the new stuff: some practice sketches, concepts etc. Wanted to enter the weekly challenge for the Dracula theme, but lost the nerve. I laughed at how the spontaneous demon/troll thingy came out looking like he's smelling the elf's hair... I suspect it smells of dew drops, and daisies and fairy dust and sweetness and light... Pfagh, terrible!!



    Some pencil texture practice.


    Some random sketches. Some from memory, others from inspiration while watching a David Attenborough nature show. No, the Pokemon was not part of the program... or the dragons. Disappointing, really.



    Now for some older stuff I found, which to me is almost like I produced it yesterday, considering how little I've drawn over the years.

    A dragon sculpture study. Loved how aged he turned out. Ignore the gridlines; was transferring it over to a large canvas for practice painting:


    Practicing a different dragon scale type and musculature etc.



    More dragonscale practice, plus fairy gesture sketches for a still-to-be-produced fairy painting for my mother. Might make it my first WIP here on the forums when I find the nerve to continue on it.


    There's some more recent drawings that I can't share just yet (client works that haven't gone public yet), so here's some digital paintings which I've yet to share much of:

    My first digital painting (and first proper painting ever, outside of playing with acrylics in highschool), done in 2006 with just a mouse. Far from great, but still very proud of it. Totally convinced me to give painting a go and attempt to market my art.


     A couple Bella Sara cards I was asked to produce in 2009. My second and third paintings, I think.




    Oh wait, this is new from this winter/spring. The final artwork (in Illustrator) from the cyclist concept for the beer box I posted earlier. "Painting" in Illustrator with a limited set of Pantones is tricky, but kinda fun. Still don't much like the evergreen boughs but I had NO idea how to produce them without textured brushes and in the limited time I had. They're OK if you don't look too closely... LOL. Hasn't stopped the box from being a big selling point though, apparently! This art is now posted all over the city on posters, double-decker buses etc. Kinda surreal considering I still don't consider myself much of an artist yet.


    I think that's it for now. Can't wait to post some of the most recent stuff. Not to mention get down to some regular drawing and painting practice so I can improve—and have more to post!

    My IFX Sketchbook :: My Website
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