Doing it wrong to get it right.

After my two recent digital speedpaintings, I started to wonder where to take things next. As fun as doing very time limited studies was, once I’ve proven to myself I can do something successfully, I always begin to feel like trying something new or do it differently.

As coincidence would have it, my trusty Twitter feed was right there, ready to help me out once again. My friend and one of my favorite photographers Cri, tweeted a photo of a Scrub Jay happily displaying a freshly acquired peanut.

It was the perfect image to try something I’ve meant to for a good while now. Consciously use reference in a more loose manner and as a guide, instead of obsessing over getting everything “right”. Without relying on strict time constraints to deliver pressure. Since the source image already has a comical streak, it felt like a good idea to turn that up a little, which led to this:

As you can see I decided to blow up the nut, as well as enlarge the eye considerably to play up the expression, topping it off with a subtle glint flare and some not so subtle !!! The difference in reflection was a sort of happy accident, with the early, rough brush strokes simply looking more appealing than the real thing. The size changes to the peanut and eye ended up working well, not just for the final image and resulting effect, but they also (mostly) prevented me from continuously adjusting shapes for diminishing returns.

Usually when I draw or paint from reference, the main thing I try to get right is the proportions and relations of all the shapes and forms to one another. So I look for landmarks like the beak’s tip, the eye, dents and peaks of any sort and align them as they appear in the image I’m eyeballing. However, since I’ve chosen to exaggerate some features on purpose, a lot of that goes out the window and there is simply not enough space anymore to put all the bits into the right places and in their correct size. So in the end I successfully tricked myself into being content with that, instead of endlessly noodling around to achieve some sort of perfect replica (which I still can’t anyway).

Being able to copy an image is without a doubt a very useful skill to have and practicing to improve it will pay off in several ways. That said, I think no matter how perfectly someone is able to duplicate, there will always be something of themselves left in the result (for better or worse). I see it as the reference being distilled through a person, influenced by two factors named skill and intent. The ultimate goal being a lack of the former never getting into the way of the latter.

My personal goal is to continue doing studies to grow my abilities so I’ll be able to turn anything I fancy into something, I don’t want to say better, but something with just the right bits of me in them.

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