I have a list of intricate, storytelling-type paintings that I want to do. It is long. It is ambitious. I haven’t done a painting like that for myself for a year, and it’s long overdue. Fortunately, I’m never short of ideas. Unfortunately, it takes something like a big convention to kick me into gear.
I got the idea for this painting 2 years ago. That seems like a long time, but I’m so busy that these complex ideas never get put to paper right away (like some of the simple ones do). This is a Good Thing. It means that if I still like the idea a month (or 2 years) later, then I know it’s really worth doing. It also gives me a lot of time to think about how to execute it. I’ve found that I really need to know a complex idea inside and out for it to be a well-executed painting. I do a lot of mental planning at odd times – while driving, while walking up the stairs at work, in the shower. When I’m not using my brain for daily cognitive challenges, it tends to drift into the art realm.
When I do one of these paintings, I try to learn and apply a new skill. The first time I tried this, I focused on the skill of storytelling: using the image to answer the questions: who, what, when, where, why, how, and why should anyone care? This led to keeping a journal for each of these complex ideas; I answer all these questions, and describe in writing how I will use art tools to execute them. This is an extremely useful tool to have! The next one, I used compositional elements to draw the eye to the focal point. It worked like magic. Every person I asked told me their eye led them right to the desired focal point. AMAZING.
This time I’m going to focus on quality of edges, on top of those other things I’ve learned. So, here are the first steps – after journaling the “story,” I decided on a 12×12″ format and started doodling thumbnails. I played with focal point placement, perspective, and light/dark contrast. These are really rough but they help a bunch in the process.
See all the little notes I scribble to myself? They’re ALL OVER EVERYTHING in the planning stages. They help.
Another advantage to having an idea simmer for a long time is doodles. Every once in a while I’d doodle the main character or the scene. When the time comes to do the final drawing, I have several sketches to choose from as a starting point. This was my favorite doodle; the perspective, lighting, and anatomy are all going to be different in the final. But it was one small step along the way that ended up being very helpful in the end.
Yes, that’s a toad skeleton at the bottom. I go all the way.
I am nearly done with the final drawing. Will keep you posted as things progress!