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.
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?