Through Frustration Comes Discovery

Drawing by Joe Jusko  Drawing by Joe Jusko

I received a lot of feedback at Dragon Con, and I had a lot of work to do. One comment in particular that kept rolling through my head was from Joe Jusko. He had said that I was relying on my inked lines as a crutch. He pointed out that I was attempting painterly brush strokes, underneath flat inked lines. He suggested that I either do paintings, or work in a graphic style more complementary to the inked line.

After the convention I kept mulling this over, and I came to the conclusion that I wanted to work in a more painterly style. So I started to work. I scanned in drawings I had done, and then I started to paint over them in Painter and Photoshop. I did several different… er…paintings. They were awful! And when I say awful I mean really, really, bad. It looked like I regressed, forgot how to draw, and hired a ten year old to finish my paintings. (No offense to ten year olds out there, if you’re drawing or painting keep it up!)

Man was I frustrated! In my old paintings I always had my ink lines to hold the piece together. Those same lines flattened my work, and made my paintings stale. Painting was not “coloring inside the lines.” At least I didn’t want it to be. I needed some inspiration, and some help.

Fortunately I had just hit the mother load at a used bookstore called McKay’s. If you’re not familiar with McKay’s it’s one of those places where you can bring old movies, music, and books and trade them in. You get store credit or cash in return. If you go with store credit you get a lot more money back than if you go with cash. My wife and I had just taken back a bunch of our unwanted crap, and in return I came home with a collection of used art books!


Painting by Rockwell

Painting by Rockwell

One in particular stood out and called to me. An artist that many others have turned to in their time of need, Norman Rockwell. As I flipped through Rockwell’s paintings I began to see the things the artists at Dragon Con were telling me. Rockwell’s ability to draw your eye exactly where he wanted was amazing. His values were incredible, and his composition excellent. His characters are so expressive, but at the same time a little bit cartoony. Rockwell wasn’t a “realistic” painter at all; he was a storyteller that used subtle caricature to convey emotion.

After finishing the book on Rockwell I pulled out some of the other books I had gotten. As I looked at some of my favorite artists with fresh eyes I began to realize that they all did similar things to Rockwell. The concept of values started to come alive for me. I began to see what I had been told.

With renewed interest I spent some time on the internet researching how other digital artists worked. I was convinced that I was missing something. I understood how to paint, I just didn’t understand the digital tools well enough. I then came across a little gem, a digital painting tutorial written by Emrah Elmasli. In it he explained how he used his drawings to create an under painting, and then moved on to finish the painting over the top of his drawing. With this new found technique in hand I set to work, and my creative energies flowed.

Here is a step by step of my painting, simply titled, “Hooded Woman.”




Under Painting

Under Painting



Over Painting

Over Painting


Final Painting

Final Painting

3 thoughts on “Through Frustration Comes Discovery

  1. Hey Sam,

    Just stumbled upon your artist’s blog! Very cool to see that you’ve got a forum for your thoughts on your own work. Definitely gives someone like me, with zero visual art background, a neat look at how the thing gets done. I’m always jealous of my friends who can draw well, and have been spending a lot of my time in classes recently doodling at random and not-so-random. Of course, they all look like the same hairy blob beast that’s on every other page of my notebooks, but eh, I’ll figure out something else to draw one day.

    Anyway, I bookmarked your site so I’ll be coming back to look at new stuff and some of the old stuff too probably. For now, I gotta get back to writing an overdue paper. But hey, your stuff’s a welcome distraction!

  2. Pingback: Learning from Zombies « An Artist’s Journey

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