Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Character A Day: A Little Philosophizin'...

To me, the idea of painting an elaborate scene on one flat sheet of paper seems so antiquated... especially for someone like me who isn't the strongest painter in the world.  What if everything is going along swimmingly and suddenly you massively screw one important detail?

What if you try to fix that screw up and the picture just keeps getting worse?  What then, start over?

In the "old days" that's exactly what you would do. Egad.

About 3 and 1/2 years ago I started drawing pictures in seriousness.  Mostly I copied my favorites so I could learn the techniques and to assure myself I could produce something that looked like I knew what I was doing.

I worked digitally, meaning I built the picture up in stages... on layers... until the combination of all those layers formed the finished product.  If I seriously screwed up something on a layer - and I often screwed things up - I could go back and redo only that layer.  The other layers remained intact.  Thus, I was able to isolate the goof to one single element.  No repainting the whole stupid project.  That would have been horrible.

I felt that I was learning so much that some months ago I seriously considered upgrading from my trusty Intuos graphics tablet to a Cintiq.  For the full size model, an investment of between $2,000 - $2,500.  A lot of money to spend on what has essentially been a hobby.

I read the reviews and did my research; the people raving about the Cintiq would say, "It's just like drawing on paper!" or "It's the closest you can come to actually drawing on paper!"

And it occurred to me: you can draw on actual paper for a whole hell of a lot less than $2,000.

So I thought about that, and I did some drawing on paper.  And I noticed that my paper drawings kept a cartooney flavor not so much because I intended them way as because my battle with physical medium showed through.  And that's what cartoons are all about, in a way, a means of depicting things that says: this isn't serious, but it is telling you something.

The cartoonist renders exaggeration; the realist amazes you with his or her pure skill.  Exaggeration can happen whether you mean to or not when your physical medium technique is less than perfect.  To me, exaggeration is funny; realism is not.  No, it is patently unfunny.  That's why I never cared for super heroes... the style was semi-realist... and I much prefer funny drawings.  Cartoons, brother.  Cartoons!

When I was a kid I bored of Batman and Green Latern but give me Sad Sack... or Daffy Duck... I could stare at those drawings forever and ever.

Anyway, the point to all this is I considered: what if I worked a cross-medium, physical + digital?  How would that work?  I paint my elements on paper; I scan then into the machine; I clean them up and set them to layers.  My combined layers form my composition.  I keep the paintings very simple and set light and shadow digitally at the end of the project so all elements are consistent.  How good  would that be?

I'm beginning to believe: pretty dang good!

Here's a digital clean up of Floral Rugg.  No matter how hard I try I can't paint her better than that.  No one will confuse this cartoon with realism.  It is exactly what it should be: an imperfect rendering that is funny because of its imperfections.  Not to mention because it's a bear wearing a hat with a flower growing out of it.

Here's her little brother, Billy Bear:
Light and shadow says: this bear has got substance.  The quality of the painting says: don't take it too goshdarn seriously!

If you put a gun to my head I couldn't paint him better than that.  Now that's funny!

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