I Make Art Now, Apparently

In an unlikely turn of events, I have started to invest serious time and efforts into learning to draw and I’m pleasantly surprised by the results. The first of these that I deem good enough to show in public is — of all things — a rendering of the cover-them-up meme that’s been going around for a couple months now, featuring none other than War.

As I am fortunate enough to know quite a few excellent artists who are also Darksiders fans, I first asked them to do the rendering of this meme; when this, sadly, didn’t bear fruit, I decided to tackle it myself. It started with a relatively poor sketch that had the dubious quality of a likable War face. Even before I started to practice profiles myself, I was rather sensitive (read: bitchy) about the way War’s face is drawn in most fanart. Drawing faces correctly is difficult because the human eye is hard-wired to pick up the tiniest details on them. I’ve been drawing a lot of War’s face, using the extraordinary screenshots made by AlphaGravy as references, and while I’m very far from doing it well, once in a dozen or so attempts, I make one that I like despite the numerous flaws in the execution. This sketch was one such example, so I decided to give it a chance.

From there I moved the project to Clip Studio Paint, which I purchased on a discount. I love it to bits! It’s incredibly intuitive and easy to use and with a huge user base, you can find the answer to almost any beginner question instantly. I painstakingly traced the phone photo of my extremely unclean pencil sketch, then heavily referenced the photo that set the meme in motion to refine the pose, proportions and lighting.

Original meme
The result is sPECtacular! (Thank you, Thug, for the perfect wordplay.)

I tweaked every line and angle and detail dozens of times till I was satisfied with both the match and War’s appearance. I struggled with painting hair for a week, then with blending the initial rough lighting for another week. The details that stand out the most for me in the end — War’s brand, the pillow and the Horsemen medallion — were easy to do in comparison. Last but not least, I struggled to paint the tiny Strife for the profile picture in the final week. All in all, it took me a month from sketch to posting.

If that sounds like a lot — it is. It took me as long to write Gone Fishing, and only twice as long to write Not Alone, which, at nearly 15 thousand words, makes a quarter of a small novel. I used to think that art takes much less time but now that belief has taken a good kick. Let the picture say a 1000 words — that’d still be half a year for a short story at this pace! I suppose an experienced artist could create a piece of this complexity in several days, perhaps a week, but even that is far from what I imagined. The amount of work involved is staggering. Good thing I loved every minute of it!

I learned so much, and enjoyed the process in all aspects (except maybe the neck pain from before I figured out a way to draw in a non-horrible posture), from the sketching to the nitty gritty. I can’ wait to do more. For the past couple months, I’ve been doing little but drawing in my free time, to the point where I fear my writing will suffer for it. But it’s so much fun, and at this point of my evolution, progress is easy to see. Although a capital work such as the thing above may take a long time, I’m making numerous quick drawings, perhaps as many as half a dozen a day, which makes for much faster iterations than anything I’ve ever done (and even, could do) with writing. It’s a whole new world, and it’s delightful.

To be clear, this isn’t my first attempt to make drawing a hobby — only the first successful one. Back in the 2010s, at one point I drew daily for about half a year, following lessons for beginners from a book and drawing household objects, cats, and things I could see through the windows. Which quickly bored me into quitting it and never looking back — till October last year, when I set myself up with a goal of drawing for an hour every day so I could see where that will get me by New Year’s (in roughly 100 hours). Again, I started with household objects, pets and buildings across the street; and again, I quickly became bored.

But then… Darksiders happened. I started doodling War’s sword and Strife’s pistols around New Year’s; then I started doodling the faces of Critical Role cast (including War’s VA, Liam O’Brien, who I believed to be the model for War’s face); then finally started doodling War himself. At some point along that way, I quite suddenly began to feel that I can actually do this: I can actually learn to draw. And I’ve been on a roll since then.

All creative milestones in my life so far have been triggered by one fandom or another. The first stories I’ve written, when I was nine, were Star Wars fanfiction. Mass Effect, and to a lesser extent, The Elder Scrolls, launched my writing a decade ago. And now Darksiders seem to have launched my drawing. As much as I constantly grumble about the quality of various artistic aspects in games and other mass media, I never truly forget how these things inspired me, and continue to inspire me, to grow outside my former boundaries and reach farther than I thought I could. Can you imagine a greater gift?

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