Saturday, 26 September 2015

Ork Painboy [WIP - Torso and legs]

Seeing the sun shine brightly in the sky for long periods has been a pleasant surprise in the face of gloomy forecasts of haze. Favourable wind conditions and intermittent rain this past week meant less pollution choked air to breathe in and more quality time to paint. (Jinx! Even as I revel in some sinus relief, a sheen of haze has chosen today morning to mark a return to unhealthier air levels. Nooooo .....) In the corresponding period of healthy air, I worked on the Ork Painboy's highly detailed torso (medical tools, loin cloth, shirt, pants, belly armour, symbolic plaque, straps) and legs (boot, wooden leg stump, bloodied bandages, pant stitching, alternative patch of pant colour, etc).

Ork Painboy, work-in-progress on the torso and legs (or leg and a stump)
Back view of the Ork Painboy's current progress

Like a climber who has to climb a mountain just because it's there, I'm a painter who just has to paint every single excruciating detail just because it exists. Unhealthy I know. But the obsessive compulsiveness in me refuses to back down. Little wonder my projects take an eternity to complete.

Old black leather boot look with rusted armour bits
Wooden leg stump with the upper portion wrapped in bloodied bandages
Closeup view of medical tools adorning the Ork Painboy's lower torso

Kept to a minimum, blood effects were painted to simulated coagulated blood. To recreated this gory look, I mixed Tamiya Clear Red X-27 acrylic paint with Citadel Chaos Black (Abaddon Black) and a little bit of Scorched Brown (Rhinox Hide). Consistency wise, the Tamiya X-27 closely mimics real blood. I was wiping some excess away with tissue and it looked like I had had a horrible accident with the hobby knife. Without the addition of black and brown hues, the X-27 resembles fresh blood.

Status of Ork Painboy - headless and weaponless
Colour scheme seems to be gelling, for the time being at least

I'm one of those people who needs a 'wall of sound' whenever I'm working on something complicated or in this case painting something highly detailed. For the Ork Painboy, this comes in the form of music from the rock band Oasis. Their debut and sophomore album - Definitely Maybe and (What's the Story) Morning Glory? - got me through my final year at uni. And this time, I had their whole collection on iPod to get me through my obsession with the details on the Painboy's torso and legs.

In the time it took me to start and finish this post, the haze has worsened considerably. The smell of smoke is now heavy in the air. A simple face mask is proving fairly effective to allow me to continue working but for how long I don't know. Add to that a lousy economic environment, the ringgit depreciating without an end in sight, investors viewing Malaysian bonds as 'junk' status, violent posturing by racist groups/politicians against minorities, terrorist threat to a local tourist hotspot ... the only way things can get worse if a Godzilla-like monster suddenly appears in the country. Why? Because Ultraman wouldn't stand a chance in a haze. On that note, have a good weekend.

Saturday, 19 September 2015

It's that time of the year again

I have a confession to make. Shhh ... don't tell anyone but I have a super power. My nose. It's super sensitive. Okay so maybe it's not a particularly good power to have. Heck it sucks. A whiff of dust and that's my day over. My sinuses will be working overtime. Ironically, the only solution - a strong antihistamine - will sent me to sleep hence killing off the very productivity I was trying to restore. Either way, almost nothing ever gets done hobby-wise. Why am I boring you with information about this pseudo super power of mine? Well, it's time to welcome Malaysia's annual haze event.

A suffocating haze blanketing Kuala Lumpur (modified AP Photo)

Caused mainly by slash and burn farming practices of a neighbouring country, this year's haze doesn't seem as bad as the ones before in terms of visibility. Moreover, there have been the occasional clear days brought about by artificial rain through cloud seeding activities. That being said, my sinuses seem to disagree as I never recalled them reacting so badly to the airborne particulates. Even my eyes hurt. It usually takes me a week or so to adjust to the heavily polluted air so all hobby-related posts should resume by next week. Until then, I'll wallow in self misery and ... nah that's it. Misery just about sums it up.

Tuesday, 8 September 2015

Portrait Practice #14 on Babydoll (Sucker Punch)

Making time to draw more regularly can be a big ask especially when there is so much to do in the limited amount of hobby time available to me in any given week. In the one and three quarter years since I started drawing seriously again, I have only completed a measly 14 portrait practice pieces. Constant practice is essential not only to improve but also to retain/remember any aha moments learned along the way. So an immediate challenge for me will be figuring out how to be more productive - ideally one portrait per month. Achieving that will up my productivity by nearly 100%.

Portrait Practice #14 on Sucker Punch's Babydoll as played by Emily Browning

On my 14th try at portrait drawing, I made a conscious attempt to prevent any stark lines from showing up by blending out smoother tonal transitions. In addition, I tried to accurately mimic the textures on Babydoll's face namely her lower eyelids (or eye bags), light blonde hair and lips. Each practice piece has thankfully brought a better understanding on how graphite behaves on paper. 

I can't say it enough ... use of an inclined drawing table has improved the proportions in my portraits

To see whether I had actually made any progress, I compared my two attempts at drawing Babydoll's portrait - both about twelve practice pieces apart. The difference in quality is painfully obvious but more of an eye opener is the fact I was pretty pleased with my first try ... then. This is what makes self teaching highly ineffective at times; an inability to gauge ones own work objectively. What looks perfectly fine today will look terrible later as one's understanding of a particular art from develops.

Twelve practice pieces later and there are (thankfully) clear signs of improvement in my drawing skills

Also for this practice session, I took some photographs of the portrait at various stages of completion. Without the benefit of a scanner, there exists some discrepancies between the photos due to the angle of the shots. However, the series of shots below still manage to convey a sense of evolution of Babydoll's portrait drawing all the way from initial rough outlines to the final completed piece.

Various stages of the Babydoll portrait drawing

Being able to see tangible signs of improvement in my drawing skills, no matter how small, is always a huge confidence booster. It gives me hope I'm moving in the right direction. Steve Jobs once said the only way to do great work is to love what you do. At least I'm already halfway there.

Thursday, 3 September 2015

Babydoll Eyes and Hair [WIP on Portrait Practice #14, drawing blonde hair and eyes with heavy eyelashes]

Babydoll is the protagonist in Sucker Punch, a movie that I like very much despite it being almost universally panned by critics. While it may not have been the director's intention, the story theme that resonated with me most was the fact reality is to a certain extent determined by our own mind. Also Emily Browning played an unforgettably sad character that I have always wanted to portray in drawing. As an added bonus, this piece allowed me to try my hand at drawing light blonde hair.

Baby Doll Portrait Drawing, work-in-progress on blonde hair and eyes
An inclined table is helping me get better proportions when drawing

To source a suitable photo reference of Babydoll, I used the art book of Sucker Punch which had photos of scenes from the movie as well as some concept art. Babydoll's most iconic look is that of her in a sexified Japanese school girl costume. Hence I'm using that look for her portrait drawing.

Sucker Punch film art book
Reference photo of Baby Doll used in Portrait Practice #14

Proper makeup be it eyeliners or mascara coupled with a pair of heavy fake eyelashes (or eyelash extensions) is one way to make one's eyes look bigger. This is evident in Emily's makeup which transforms her into the Babydoll character. To draw heavy lashes and not make it look too fake, I also used other photos (not shown) to view how they interacted with her eyes from different angles e.g. three quarter view, side view, etc. It gave me a better idea how to blend the lashes into her eyelids.

Heavy eyelashes maketh the eyes ... at least in the case of Baby Doll
Emily Browning, before a pair of heavy fake eyelashes/eyelash extensions (left) and after (right)

Another new challenge in this latest Portrait Practice piece was drawing light blonde hair. It's much easier to draw dark as opposed to light hair. To achieve the texture of light blonde hair, I used a higher ratio of hard graphite pencils (2H, H, HB, 2B) as well as a combination of a do-it-yourself (DIY) template containing cutouts of hair-like strands and an electrical eraser to lift graphite out via the template. The latter process simulates strands of blonde hair as can be seen in the photo below.

Drawing the texture of blond hair using graphite pencils, a DIY template and erasers
Cutting out templates of hair strands on a blank transparency

Drawing always comes as a welcome relief in between painting projects. It helps me avoid burnout from painting. But drawing is something I love doing anyway so it's a fun hobby regardless. There are still a few things I need to tackle before Babydoll's portrait is complete. Chief among them is her trademark big pouting lips. Other items my to-do-list include shading of her skin, parts of her dress (the collars in particular) and the rest of her blonde hair. One mistake I constantly make is to increase the pace of my drawing as I near the end. Not anymore. This time I plan to finish at the same pace as I started. If it results in a better end product, progress will be made. That's good enough for me.

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