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The Dispatch is back - with lots of shading! Weekly Art Dispatch No. 23 🎨

26 June 2021 - Reading time: 7 minutes

It's the end of June and the Weekly Art Dispatch is back in publication!  I've had a good rest from the newsletter, and now I'm ready to resume it for Q3, 2021.

Art has been powering along: learning new techniques, applying it to projects.  Here's a summary of what I learned and drew in June.

But first, some closure...

When I wrote the last Dispatch (No. 22), I'd just finished participating in Drawfest, and was in the middle of a few digital artworks.  I've since finished them.

Faiye, my original character (top); and random doodle of a superheroine (bottom).

Ever since I started learning digital art in April, I'd struggled to find a drawing process that suited me.  Some processes demonstrated by Ctrl+Paint and elsewhere just felt disjointed and unintuitive when I tried them out, mostly because they were very removed from the traditional drawing process.

Drawfest was an eye-opener in that it showcased different digital drawing/painting processes that actually made sense.  In particular, Zeronis demonstrated a painting process that began with shape instead of line; and Loish demonstrated a process from sketch to painting that strongly mimicked a traditional drawing method.

Watching Loish and drawing along with her livestream was like a breath of fresh air: a digital sketching method that I can recognize!  That experience actually made me want to try, yet again, to simulate my traditional drawing process on digital.

I still haven't done that yet though.  I put down digital art and made a detour into a topic I'd wanted to study for a long time.  It was finally time to learn how to shade.

Study Art

I spent the first half of June learning and practising the "Shading Fundamentals" unit from Brent Eviston's The Art and Science of Drawing.

This was a game changer.  Brent Eviston is a fantastic teacher for beginners: he presents both theory and technique in a stepwise, simple manner.  The videos were quick and the theory of shading was actually quite straightforward, but "getting more values out of the pencil" involves developing muscle memory through practice.

Since muscle memory takes time to learn, I practiced Eviston's shading techniques through daily drills.  Shading primitive forms isn't glamorous, but I could feel my art skill levelling up every time I drew a 5-value swatch or shaded a sphere or cylinder.  Not only did I understand the theory from the lessons, I knew how to execute them.

I practiced Eviston's shading drills on white (top) and toned (bottom) papers.  The colours make a difference!

I also made progress in Drawabox, finishing Lesson 5 "Applying Construction to Animals", and am now on the 250 Cylinders challenge.

Fun Art

I began a new "art project" to apply my newly-learned shading skills, and also because I was fatigued by my older projects and wanted to work on something new.

Shading people is much more complex than primitive forms. Time to break into the artbooks I bought earlier this year.

Steve Huston's Figure Drawing for Artists (link) takes a bit of deciphering (though his live instruction at New Masters Academy is supposedly quite good), but his fundamental shading instruction was easy to remember: "Different Plane = Different Lighting".  Furthermore, Huston said that the artist's minimum task is to separate out lit planes from shadow planes; all other shading is window dressing that must respect this fundamental delineation.

Well, that's easy to remember, especially when I get into the weeds of shading specific areas and am tempted to make everything complex.  Then it was a matter of applying the 5-value scale and Eviston's shading techniques to those lit and shadowed planes.

I'd always wanted to create fanart for Kentucky Route Zero, a magical realist visual-novel-cum-theatrical-production and my #1 Favourite Videogame of All Time... this was a chance to practice shading.

The main cast of Kentucky Route Zero. From top: Shannon and Conway; Ezra and his brother Julian; Junebug, Johnny, and the "Weird Vector".

Game changer, indeed.  I'm quite happy that I finally learned to extend my value range for all my drawings and give them greater depth and form.  I want to illustrate more scenes from Kentucky Route Zero, especially the text-based ones that have no visual videogame imagery.  Here's to continuing this project!

And that's where I'm up to now.  I'm planning to post a Quarterly Art Review (for April - June) shortly, but the Weekly Art Dispatch is going to resume its cycle.  I'm glad to be back.

Thanks for reading this week's edition of the Art Dispatch! 🎨

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