In the span of a week, I finished the color art on one piece, the ink work on another (the one I discussed in my last post), and now the pencil art on a third one, which I'm sharing here. I'm calling this one Ascension.
I was also doing more blog writing than I have in years, both here as well as over on my new metal blog, www.subterraneansteel.com. There are several factors that went into this burst of enthusiasm and productivity, but without question the biggest reason for it came from deleting my instagram.
By nature I'm a very private person who thrives on solitary experiments, and social media always felt like a distraction to me. But I've learned so much in the past couple years about how deleterious the platforms really are to our mental health and productivity, and in conjunction with some recent efforts (and successes!) to really reconnect with the excitement and enthusiasm I had for life and art-making as a kid, it's become crystal clear to me that all my socials had to go.
And deleting instagram has been one of the best things I've ever done for my art.
So, there I was killing it on my art and blogs for a bit, and then I got sidetracked hard for several days once my Retroid Pocket 3+ showed up in the mail. Talk about distractions, haha, I freaking LOVE that thing.
Retro video emulation has surprisingly been a huge key in helping me reconnect with my childhood, and by extension my true passion and motivation for making art. That, in turn, then led to me deleting instagram, splitting out my blogs onto two sites, and now doing much more writing and arting than I have in years.
So I've gained a ton of clarity and enthusiasm recently about what I'm doing with my art and why (more on that in a minute), largely as a result of letting myself dive into and tinker with retro handhelds, so I figure I can I allow myself play with those devices and not beat myself up about it too much.
But we're not here to talk about video games, let's look at this new image.
At some point in the past year, I started using mechanical pencils as part of my drawing process. Some of the earlier pieces like Unleashing the Cataclysm and Gaia were drawn entirely with a wooden 2H drawing pencil, but I found the mechanical pencils give me more accuracy and precision once I get to the shading and detail work, so I started really leaning into that.
For the past few drawings I just used a mechanical pencil with a .05 lead, but on this one I went smaller and used a .03 for the vast majority of the hatching and detail work. The .05 was still involved for some bigger strokes, and then also a 0.9 for the fatty outlines on the larger figures. I'm really happy with the greater diversity of line width and the new level of detail, and I feel there's a ton of room for me to grow into that going forward.
I've also been re-reading Murder Falcon (that comic speaks to me, man) and have been really inspired by Daniel Warren Johnson's line art. He has a super loose, energetic style and his drawings are packed with motion lines. I feel my art tends to be pretty stiff and I've never played with motion lines on figures, so I decided late in the pencil process to start re-working the outlines of the figures on this one. The goal was to help them look like they are moving but also kind of disintegrating from the light emitting from the little alien baby.
Also, I'll save the details about this for the finished color version, but this is the first drawing I've worked on (recently, but maybe ever?) where I was really aware of the personal motivation for the different imagery as it was coming out of me. This drawing was still created spontaneously, as always, but instead of needing to sit down with a friend afterward and try to chat through what the imagery means to me, I could identify the motivation for it as it was appearing on the page.
That was super gratifying, and I think it helped me get into a clearer headspace about what was on my mind for this one and allowed me to pack in even more symbolism than usual. So I'm really excited about this one and looking forward to finishing it and sharing more info on the inspiration for it at a later date.
But holy hell, did this take me a long time. I have never been a speedy drawer, but I freaking labored over this one. This is by far the most complex image I've done since I got rolling on my art seriously again in the summer of 2021. For reference, this drawing is the same size (14" x 17") as both Unleashing the Cataclysm and Gaia, but on a digital image I think it looks like a larger drawing because of how much more detail is in it.
I mentioned this last month in my post for the finished color art on Invocation of the Seraph, but it's really amazing and cool to me how pencil/pen and ink illustrators' drawings tend to get simultaneously smaller and more detailed as the artists get better. I'm not at any kind of exceptional skill level right now, but there's no doubt my art has evolved since I did Symbiotic (which was 14" x 17"), and I'm now able to jam more imagery into each square inch of my art.
By the time I finished the pencils on Ascension (named after a particularly beautiful and brutally sad song I'm fond of) and I was reflecting on how long it took me and how I feel about it – especially in light of deleting insta – and I believe that within the next several years I could realistically be working on images that take me an entire year to create.
I feel the imagery is a little packed in here, like there is room to open up to a larger drawing, and I'd love to start going bigger while also continuing to dial in the smaller details. And without the pressure to feed instagram's algorithm with frequent posts, there's nothing to stop me from going that route.
Along those lines: for years now I've lamented how the insta algorithm is affecting artists. I was following several extremely talented artists who posted generic sketches every day, or very close to every day, and rarely ever created or shared anything they'd put serious time and effort into. Great for insta, great for new followers, but is it great for the artist? For their fans? Will anyone five years from now be excited to wade through hundreds of rushed sketches made to game insta's algorithm?
I'm not even interested in that stuff now. I'd much rather look at images that people really committed themselves to, that involved some level of problem-solving and struggle.
I couldn't help but wonder what those artists might create if they were free of that pressure to post so often. Would they create larger, more refined and detailed work where they really pushed themselves creatively?
Maybe, maybe not. But I've now answered that question for myself, and the answer is hell fucking yeah I'm going to.
Along with social media not being a fit for my personality in terms of social connections, I realize insta was also a terrible fit for me as an artist. It really does take me a long time to make these images, both in terms of hours clocked and also just months elapsed from start to finish (I'm a slow drawer, plus also full time job, gym, other hobbies, etc.) and no part of me has ever been a sketcher, so I just flat out didn't have the content to feed the algorithmic insta-beast.
It makes more sense for me personally to post on this blog and share longer, more detailed updates, especially since the life circumstances surrounding the creation of my art are really essential to what the imagery becomes, and this gives me more space to explore that. Because, as you've learned if you're still reading this, I am a dude full of words.
So, appreciate you reading. Next post will be a finished piece of color art.