Well, then. Notes from Thursday:
11:00 PM Thursday night. Taking Friday off to make a 3-day weekend for my birthday, so tonight I’m going for an all-nighter, figuring that I’ll get to bed tomorrow night, wake up whenever on Saturday, probably not later than 10, knowing me, and try to do it again, but get to bed early. Sunday, about 9, just in case. I should be fresh as a daisy come Monday morning, which is pretty dang fresh for a bog monster.
Rolled a first level first edition D&D character according to Rules Cyclopedia, Fariel, female fighter, late 20’s, thoroughly developed character, and equipped reasonably well, at least from her perspective.
Worked on character sketch. Made slow progress on face. Decided I really need to work on my drawing skills. I’ve got tricks I use when I have to create an image, and I can play around with abstract images using pen and pencil just fine. But drawing something? Not my strong suit. And as with my poor, neglected guitar, I know that it’s not like riding a bike or learning software. That’s a skill I can only pick up day by day. So here’s my commitment to me, and to you, to at least make a good faith effort to post the days’ progress here as I can get it from paper to scanner.
I’m not promising quality art here by any stretch of the imagination. Some of this won’t even belong on the fridge. As for drawing, this will just be a record of my progression from stumbling first steps to wherever it is I end up. I’d be content with “not terribly good cartoonist” for the most part.
And, typical of me, I can’t keep even something like “learn to draw, n00b!” simple. Nah. There’s too many things to be done to take life in series. I like parallels. So “learning to draw,” for me, means starting off with compositing Fariel with my bag o’ tricks, to see what I come up with while going all the way back to basics. Learn to draw basic shapes. Along the way, I’ll probably come up with sharable things that may or may not serve useful to someone else. And then there’s landscapes. I want to draw, however poorly, scenes from stories, which is going to take more than a well-developed (maybe) character against an Andy Capp background. Even a Blondie background would be an improvement. Bill Watterson backgrounds would be a fine goal.
So, with allllllll that time on my hands, time in which I’m used to coming up with tons of items for a to-do list turned victory list, I beat my head against the wall.
First, I needed any idea of a face. One of my creative quirks is that I like to rely on randomization for starting points. So I used my trial copy of FaceGen, in consultation with my muse (my bag of dice and a tab open to a random number generator), and discovered that Fariel looks like this, just without the horrific watermark from the trial version of FaceGen. It’ll be worth the purchase price to make that go away. Besides, DAZ3D is still on the to-do list, and FaceGen actually creates meshes for certain models in DAZ.
As of yet, she has no ears. Or hair. Or body. Much less costume. That’ll all come from my stochastic approach to compositing.
So what did I get after hours of hating life and pencils and my eyes and the million bits of environment I wanted to blame for my lack of ability to render anything remotely like the face above by hand? This. A trace of a very, very light print that lost most of the subtle detail. It might just about pass for a reasonable police sketch. And that was a trace.
Here’s the thing. For some of the illustration work I want to do, that’s more than sufficient. One of these days, maybe my portraiture skills will be up to doing a really awesome close-up scene of her doing something epic. Not for a long time, though. Meanwhile, she’s got stuff to do, and most of that stuff is going to be at a really small scale. As of yet, I don’t know how far down I can scale her. At 1/4″ tall, GIMP gives me this:
If there’s more detail to get, I’ll have to figure that out in Inkscape. Raster graphics just aren’t going to do it. But there’s still that matter of scale. I’d like to design dioramas in which the miniature characters can be staged. I’d also like to make much of what I do available to the gaming community, and the one I’m aiming at uses mostly 28mm figures, which, if I understand correctly, is 1:60 in scale where 1 inch = 5 feet. In that scale, a character 6’2″ (maybe a decent standard for classes like fighters and paladins) is close to 1.25″ tall.
From what I remember of what I’ve read in figure drawing, there’s a lot of proportion systems for drawing the human figure. For simplicity, I’m going with an 8 head system (for napkin math purposes) where the whole body is 8 heads tall. A person who is 6’2″ (74 inches) tall, would then have a head 9.25″ in height. In 1:60 scale, the drawn head would then be just under 1/8″ high, or less than half as big as that tiny image you probably missed up above, and that little thing is just maybe 2/3 of her head.
There’s only so much detail I’m going to get in a head that small.
For comparison, take a look at the work this guy does. over at Papercraft Dungeon. No, really. Click and look. I’ll wait. I love his work. He’s an inspiration to me. I’d illustrate that point with a picture of his work, but I don’t want to reproduce his work here. I’ve got some of his paper miniatures printed out right here next to me. His color choices, his highlighting techniques, the amount of detail he squeezes into these small figures, it’s all wonderfully done. With my glasses on, even the faces (or helms) are nicely detailed. For giggles, I held one up under my magnifier lamp. The tiny little face of one of his sword-wielding characters was much more detailed than I had at first reckoned. With the simplest of line strokes, there’s eyebrows posed to give the face expression, tiny dots for eyes, a nose with character, dashing white teeth, and a high cheekbone, shaded the same as the eye area. All of which, seen from a hand-held distance, give the figure a distinct face with a distinct character.
So much lesson there. He communicates so much with expert simplicity, where I’m struggling with adding more and more and more.
As much as I love his figures (and his scenery, don’t even get me started on his scenery), and they serve me well while I’m staging things, I won’t be able to do the creative work I want to do with them because I’d be duplicating his work in my own. But I can learn from it. And boy howdy, can I! The figures that I’ve ordered thus far also came with a PDF of the accompanying art book where he includes his everything from his construction drawings to his final renderings. Just wonderful stuff.
Another thing that I’ve learned is that for my purposes, sticking with 28mm (1:60) is useful in one way, but maybe for illustration I should go larger. If, on shrinking down to 1:60, it turns out I need to fix certain details, by then I’d have the ability anyway, and it could just be a second version of the main image. And for the 3D scenery pieces I intend to do for production and sale, I need to stick with 28mm.
But for illustration, if I’m already looking at scaling up, why stop at just a little. I could do 3″ or even 6″ figures. Lo’ and behold, it was only another step before I thought to look into the scale of action figures, like the early Star Wars figures, which turns out to be 1:18. At that scale, a figure of a 6’4″ brute would be 4.11″ tall. And a 10′ wide corridor would be 6.66″ wide, so a 2×2 tile would have squares 3.3″ on it, which is totally ginormous and fun and incompatible with anything else out there if it’s marked in grid lines.
Then it occurs to me…my scenery won’t have grid lines. There’s no reason anything else I make for illustration should, either. So it’s possible, especially with the wilderness stuff, that someone else might be able to use some of that since it would just be all the more epic. And I can still make 28 mm accessories. It’s just nice to have resolved that its a matter of AND, not OR, and that I’m not entirely stuck on design issues.
Update: further reflection and napkin math also have me exploring the possibilities of 1:48 That’s O scale in trains, Lego minifig-sized, only slightly bigger than 1:60…enough that it would look outsized in play mixed with smaller miniatures, but not so large that it would look outsized in 28 mm scenery, at least for the most part.