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Painting a bazaar stall (work in progress): Weekly Art Dispatch No. 30 🎨

15 September 2021 - Reading time: 7 minutes

This week I started delving further into the kind of environmental painting that I've wanted to do for a while. And boy, this is a dive into the deep end of composition and painting, and I'm still floundering around trying to reach the other side. But first, some fun studies to decompress.

Study Art

I'm a break from Drawabox, but I decided to brush up on my character art and do some studies of Akira, a six-volume manga by Otomo Katsuhiro, and one of my favourite manga. I'm quite picky about what Japanime art styles I like to look at, and I happen to like Akira's art style a lot -- especially the way it distills and simplifies facial expressions, and maintains a good balance between realism and the characteristic stylization of Japanese manga.

Head studies from Akira, volumes 4-5.

I drew these heads over 2 days, and I started picking up on the "shorthand" used for these heads, and how the artist modifies facial features to get specific expressions. I also started noticing the similarities between faces, and the limitations that this Japanime style has. For example, I think Western cartoons/comics use a lot more caricature/facial exaggeration to show expressiveness, and that appeals a lot to me. Japanime has its own kind of facial exaggeration, but I don't find it anywhere as visually appealing and it's not the style I want to draw in.)

After drawing almost 50 Akira heads in 2 days (over a total of about 4-5 hours - about 5 minutes per head) I was tired out by study, and I think I extracted enough learning to apply it to my own original characters.

Expression studies of my original characters, from left: Vega, Kelly, and Zhael.

I want to continue my studies of facial expressions, next time using Western animation and cartoons. Some on the list are: Avatar: the Last Airbender TV series; various Disney and Dreamworks animations (Ratatouille, The Little Mermaid, Robin Hood, Pocahontas, The Lion King); and Tracy Butler's comic, Lackadaisy. (Butler explained her process of drawing expressive characters here, here, and here.)

Personal Work

Now that I've recovered from the magazine commission, I'm tackling another environmental painting. Helping me with this are the two artbooks by James Gurney that I bought earlier this year. I've been reading Color and Light for the last few months, slowly absorbing what I can and trying to apply it to my digital painting. This week I began reading Imaginative Realism, which addresses ideation from real life references, composition, and visual storytelling. I might do a proper book review of Gurney's two books, but in a sentence: they are very high-concept, broad-brush introductions to their topics (values/colours in Color and Light, and visual storytelling in Imaginative Realism). No exercises, although Gurney has other DVDs/courses that provide step-by-step instruction -- so they make good reference books that I can keep coming back to reread and refresh my memory.

Keeping Gurney's books in mind, I dove into this piece, of two people at a bazaar stall. It's Anthem (videogame) fanart, but focusing on the setting instead of characters this time.

First step: thumbnail my ideas.

Second step: gather references to establish the mood and atmosphere I want to create. Photos of "Moroccan/Middle Eastern bazaar", and screenshots of the setting in Anthem.

Third step: very roughly thumbnail the image in Clip Studio Paint (where I'll be painting it from now onwards), to get a sense of the overall composition.

Fourth step: "draw the rest of the owl", while thinking about composition.

...and here are Kelly and Sayrna at the Fort Tarsis bazaar.

I'm currently up to here: overall composition and values are finished, and it's ready for colours. --That is, I thought I had composition and values finished, but I'm still working on it as of now, before getting into colours.

This process took most of last week. This piece is turning out to be very difficult and frustrating for a variety of reasons (including the fact that my digital painting pipeline can't tolerate such complexity and has broken apart already), but I'm learning a lot in the process. I hope to have finished it by the next Art Dispatch, and can do a proper reflection and debriefing about it.

Next week's topics: finishing the Bazaar painting.

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I'm Vega.

Welcome to my blog.

My Weekly Art Dispatch🎨 is posted every weekend (usually on Sunday) to this blog and email newsletter.

I may occasionally blog about writing other creative projects; book and video game reviews; and real life stuff.

Email me at: vega{at}