I've never had to struggle with this, for the first part I am chock full of good ideas and for the second, I've just been practicing things slowly one at a time, but the time has now come for me to do more, I've practiced drawing 'objects' enough, now I need to practice drawing environments, furthermore, while I had initially intended to just practice these individually and then combine the two, I somehow lost the perspective on why that would make sense... I know I should use everything I know when painting and if so then why only practice what I don't know and skipping what I already (at least partially) know?
A part of me wishes to just go and practice figure drawing again and really tackling it this time, (ending with portraits lol, not starting with them like most people do, the faces are what matters the most to me about the body so it makes no sense that I would learn it first) but I know better. I want to complete my development of perspective and lighting skills before I go back to figures, and while it is already "good enough" for me to have some success with figures, I need more, I want more. And also perhaps more importantly, I've realized that environment drawing is actually equally important to me as figure drawing, when I started out it was all about figure drawing but the more I drew the more I started to realized how much I love beautiful landscapes and stuff like that.
But while it's easier than drinking water for me to think up cool character ideas (significantly harder to execute though, that's why I'm not doing it, I want to paint all kinds of things that I know I can't paint
that's the problem, I've got no shortage of ideas but they're all too complicated for an artist of my level) to the point where I could just as well doodle random characters till one looks good (not a bad strategy). For landscapes and environments I'm entering a whole another ballpark and my first order of business is to do a greyscale landscape painting with no live characters in it. And in doing so I'm hoping to finally nail perspective and light and be very well on my way with values as well. I will resist the urge to use color for this first work (although I may add it later on after I've had some practice with it).
I do not know the process of imagining a good landscape, I know what it's like for a character, you know, is it fat? skinny? tall? short? big boobs? small boobs? exaggerated or realistic proporitons? big nose? small nose? big eyes? realistic eyes? thicccc lips? normal lips? etc etc until you get to the outfit which I don't understand yet but I hear it's good to look up fashion for inspiration, fashion designers have devoted their lives to this stuff so I'm sure they know what they're doing. As long as you have an asymmetrical outfit your character will be interesting, unique, if it's symmetrical you will have an average joe "could be anyone" type.
But with landscapes, I mean I suppose you need to decide the ambient, interior, exterior, day, night... but then comes the hard part. Forest, swamp, mountain, plains, plains with mountains, lake, river, gonna put waterfalls in there? city, town, farm.... list goes on for eternity because there's no end to the variation and all of it has the potential to look good.
So while I already figured out what I want to draw the vague idea or the picture that I somehow got in my head was a collapsed robot in a place with a waterfall and plenty of grass and moss, the robot will be a bit overgrown by moss... I'm trying to figure out what thought process exactly I should use to find a good landscape or environment.
And the answer it seems to come down to, repeatedly, is what is the story I want it to tell
? There's no meaning in just a landscape painting, and while my idea of an overgrown robot in a... place
does represent some story, I don't have an actual story for it to tell and because of that lack of real back story I can't figure out how the robot should look, how heavily overgrown it should be, how bright the sun should shine, overcast or clear skies? is the robot big or small? is it an entire robot or just a part of one? is there something that is supposed to happen next? These are questions I can't seem to answer, and until I do I can't design it with any real accuracy.
For my environment to qualify as anything more than a background there needs to be a story behind it. And it can be done both ways, I can build a story around a picture or a picture around a story. In other words I got this idea of a dead robot in a green environment, "what is the robot doing? What was it doing before it died? Will anyone find it? Is there anyone to find it?" and so I can go on for example and spin up a story that mankind was annihilated in a massive war where robots with search and destroy orders ended up killing everyone on both sides, and eventually each other and the only things that remain as evidence that mankind ever existed are city ruins and robot carcasses, and this was the last robot to die from lack of maintenance, and a 100 years later the world has turned green again.
And now that picture with a dead robot is really a story about mankind's self induced demise, an end which we might meet, it becomes a post-apocalyptic image demonstrating instead of the world becoming a barren wasteland (as is custom in post-apocalypse paintings
) it re-grows and forgets we ever existed as our history gets erased by time. What's the message? don't build killer robots
as cool as they are, just don't! if they're designed to kill and ordered to kill they will do nothing but kill, it's a waste of a perfectly good AI and metal. And I have a title too, "The last robot"
And now I have built a story around the vague idea of a picture so now I know: It's a mass produced killer robot (so roughly human sized, armed), there are no humans to find it but there are animals
, so I can add those in for interest, maybe a squirrel and a fox or something, birds?
but in the end those would be fluff i.e. I'd draw them last as a way of detailing and improving the composition, my biggest agony right now is that I'm picturing all this in color while knowing it'll have to be greyscale
but it's for the picture's own good cus if I throw in color I'm sure to ruin it, my only comfort is the fact that I can return to it and re-draw it later when I know how to do colors well
it doesn't have to be perfect the first time around because I can redraw it. But yeah, you maybe get the picture, after thinking up a picture I had to think of a story in order to be able to fully design it in a comprehensive way, if I hadn't thought up the story I would have just ended up with a random picture of some undefined type of robot in a pretty landscape, now I know exactly the story I want it to tell, or at the very least how this scene came to be, I know why the robot is there and I even know why the grass is so damn green
this stuff really helps.
But what if I don't have a picture to work from, what if I'm just completely blank and I can't seem to think of anything clever to draw? Well then I can just start by making up the story
Now I will freely admit that story creation is not a strong suit of mine, but based on what I've heard, any premise can be a good premise, and I've known this to be true, I once read a book about a superhero 12 year old wearing underwear and a cape fighting killer toilets and I LOVED IT
the title was "Captain Underpants" and later dreamworks bought the brand
yeah I'm not joking... Oh hey, they're actually making a movie out of it?! I did not know this!
so much hype!! Oh it's already been released last month! Wondering why it wasn't shown in Iceland, the books were pretty popular here.
That premise is completely ridiculous, but the writer made it work so if you can't think of anything clever, just think of something completely and utterly stupid
take a page out of Karl Plinkingtons playbook
! (2 hours of glorious fun, listen to this genius talk)
So like, a toilet's unrequited love for a lamp, story!
that was easy, just thought of two objects that would normally not go together, and then... put them together
that's one way. A good writer can make this into a good story and just like that good writer, a good artist can make this into a good picture. Anything can be a good story, anything can be a good picture, as long as you do it right
But this is an object to object relationship, land does not enter into this story anywhere, this tells me nothing about the environment yet so it's a failure right? Since I need a complete picture and all that..
Actually it's not a failure, now that I have a story relationship between two objects, I have to decide "Where do I locate these objects?" now if I was trying to make a realistic story, 'where would it make sense for these objects to meet?' either a house or a garbage dump. But I'm working with a pretty ridiculous premise here so why not just make the environment equally ridiculous
so I can put them in space, or in a forest, these are just the first ideas I get, I could really put them anywhere but lets play with the idea of a forest because it's easier to make a good looking forest scene than a space scene.
How do I get the forest to tell the story of a toilet's unrequited love for a lamp? Why is the love unrequited? Does the lamp just love someone else or is it just plain not interested? Let's go with, the toilet is a creepy stalker who doesn't have the balls to confess to the lamp, and the lamp is too busy playing with birds to notice the toilet. I have to create the right angle for this and that is actually one of the most difficult parts. To really get this to work I need to somehow illustrate the toilet looking at the lamp from a distance... Now the angle I'd most like to have is with the toilet really close to the frame taking up a lot of space and the lamp in the distance but I need to show the toilet's expression otherwise it won't create the right context, so I have to accept that this angle won't work, on the other hand if I flip it and see it from the lamp's perspective, I can put the lamp close to the frame and show the lamp's expression as it's interacting with some birds and then put the toilet in the background area in the distance, since the lamp is next to the frame and the toilet is looking at the lamp then of course the toilets expression will be clear
And now I have the scene built around the story in my head already, all I'm really missing is the expression and positioning of the toilet because how do I make the toilet express it's love for the lamp and fear of approaching it? that would be the main challenge of this picture.
But I can see this potentially becoming a great picture. But I will scratch this idea because what I want is an environment, and this sort of picture would put too much emphasis on the objects/characters in the environment for what I'm trying to achieve.
So how do I make an environment that tells a story? or a story about an environment
This seems to be a very unnatural task, our lives are focused around ourselves, other people, and our pets, I don't think I've ever seen a great story told by way of environments, the environments in stories are usually just used to spice up the story that's going on between the foreground's characters, and I'm not saying that's not what I want to do, but to be able to create a great environment, the perfect background for a scene, I need to be able to make the environment tell it's own story that's either interlinked with or completely separate from any objects in it. (Just look at dark souls, morrowind, skyrim, they all have environments that tell a story on their own)
This becomes increasingly difficult because, if I go outside into nature, I see waterfalls, trees and flowers but they don't tell me anything really, it's basically like "this land was left to it's own devices and out came pretty things" that's not much of a story is it?
Stories between two objects or characters can tell us what has happened, and what is about to happen, but environments can only tell us what has already happened. The truth of the matter is that "a volcanic eruption created this island" while a realistic story is not a story that us humans find particularly thrilling, it took perhaps thousands of years to develop, and the whole time it was basically left to it's own devices, it's like a story about a kid, who grows old. It happens very slowly but surely, but just drawing an old man is not much more interesting than a drawing of a kid is it? But what you can do with characters is that you can draw them in such a way that you can see what their life has been like by looking at the picture, from how they're dressed, scars, their expression, their eyes, they all work together to tell a story, if you make them (that's how good portraits get made, believe it or not) but with environments you don't have this, there is no story, not comprehensible to humans anyways, if I was telling the story to a tree, it might be the greatest story ever told to that tree, but my target audience are all humans (I wonder if I could paint a picture for a cat, that would enchant that cat with intrigue
that would be cool af, but let's focus on the human audience first)
An environment can only be made interesting if something has happened to it or is happening on it
as far as I know anyways, I mean you can paint the most beautiful of landscapes but it's just a pretty picture and nothing more unless there's some sort of story going on. An example of the perfect environment would be a battlefield's aftermath, craters from artillery shells (or magic bullets
) broken trees and just otherwise damaged portions of things, that's a good start. But for a really good story, how about you try to paint a forest where elves (or just humans) moved in? you see full blown houses built in the trees. A tree, is just a tree, but what if you add a bird nest to the tree? Now it's a bird's home. What if I add some claw marks? Some animal tried to climb the tree, presumably to get to the bird, all of a sudden that tree has a history.
So to create a good land I have to think "what happened on this land? and what effects did that have on the land?" but to add true interest for humans to latch onto "what is happening right now?" this is truly a struggle for me. I'd be lying if I said I have any idea how to do this
I can do it very easily within cities, I can draw a playground "kids play there" I can draw a town "people live here" if it involves man made constructions, it's an easy job to do this actually, 'what have they done to this place' or 'what happened as a result of how humans interact with this place'?
This is something I want to get a half-decent grip on before I go all serious mode on figure drawing (again)...
The biggest element for storytelling in figure drawing is gesture
I got it! I need to create a gesture!!
"Dude, trees and rocks, mountains and grass are stationary objects, how you gonna make em do gesture things?" Well it's simple, we have: Wind, Gravity, Water, Oxygen and (therefore) if wanted, Fire. A lake does not just sit perfectly still, even on the calmest of days it will have ripples. And while rocks may not move very much, they have moved, and they were formed somehow, a lot of rocks (especially if we're talking about my country) were formed from lava. What does lava do? It flows
so all the rocks it forms follow a gestural pattern, the elements and the opportunities they give for creating patterns are the key to storytelling on landscapes! So lets say I want to create a great forest as seen from some plains next to it, how do I create a strong story? Well, what is happening here? The trees are large, what type of trees? (let's go with pines
) there's a strong wind blowing to the left in a swirly motion (because wind swirls
) There's high amounts of oxygen (so nothing is dying here
) but because it's stormy it's also probably overcast, let's add rain and lightning and also behind the forest is a mountain range, the mountain range is also affected by the wind in the distance and while the mountains shape may go opposite the wind, the snow and other things that may be visible on it will follow a swirly wind pattern
let's also say there's a lake on the plains where the viewer is standing. Since it is overcast and heavy rain it stands to reason the clouds will be pretty thicc, so what do I do for light? Oh, that lightning I mentioned, lets say my picture is in that perfect moment when a lightning lights up the front of the forest casting a cool, strong, blue~ish light over everything, there's also a lake reflecting the lightning.
This is now a high energy scene where lots of things are going on
now lets add some interest, there's a dog (presumably the viewers dog
) walking not too far from the camera, if you look close enough you will be able to see some birds in the trees, and lets say to make the forest look even more imposing, I'll add a few mysterious scary looking eyes into some of it's shadows. and Now for the story, a wanderer and his dog get lost far from civilization when a massive storm hits, and in seeking shelter from the storm they spot a great forest, but the forest has unknown history and looks just about as scary as the storm, do they dare enter the creepy forest for shelter from the storm risking encounters with unknown beasts living in it? Or do they take their chances with the storm hoping to outlive it? But to make this truly interesting I would have to make a story for the forest too, what does lurk in it? Mutant monster cats
Ok job's done, I can't think of a good composition for this, cus I'm not good enough with composition to do so, but this is something I would be able to work with, so in a nutshell, create a gesture using the elements, and by using the elements I really mostly mean wind.
So as I can now see, if you just create a fairly random premise (it can be anything really) and give yourself some time to roll around in your head until they sound refined enough for you to do something with them. Any idea can be molded to look like a good idea if you just do it right.
Creative thinking to invent scenes and characters and the like is a skill like any other, and it's primary component is making one thing lead to another, everything in the picture/story has to be there or be happening for a reason, there's a reason behind everything (I could for example go on to how the monster cats were created and why they're in that specific forest) every part of every story has to be happening because something else happened first, one thing always leads to another and if you just focus on what happened before and what will happen after you will get the perfect "what is happening now" and you can draw it, now I just need to get started.
Despite all this thinking, I actually think right now rather than making cool original pictures I should be A: copying other artists works or B: trying to draw the landscapes from reference, preferably both. Before I can mold and create cool original landscapes first I gotta learn how to draw the freakin trees right?
so time to practice that I guess.