May 30th through June 5th
This was the first week of my first art challenge and it went much better than I expected. I wanted to get into this art challenge to encourage me to more consistently create things. And it did just that! But it got off to a rocky start....
Sitting down on Sunday to search for inspiration images for this week's challenge of a Ghost Witch, I was excited but also anxious. I felt this was going to be one of the more difficult prompts of my first three-month art adventure and I was worried that I wouldn’t be able to follow through and get discouraged about the entire project right off the bat.
It only intensified this anxiety when my search for Ghost Witch produced literally no results.
But if you don’t know this by now, I am intensely stubborn. So I sat on my couch with my brand new sketch pad (the fresh paper is so damn satisfying) and thought of my own concepts of what a Ghost Witch would look like.
The first thing that came to mind was creepy. A dark forest, with either fog or fireflies. Some seriously spooky shit. I did not originally want to do a typical sheet ghost design, so I thought that a dynamic, wispy figure would fit right into my spooky forest.
And my hand started moving over the first blank sheet of paper in my sketchbook.
In my mind's eye, I could see this as a watercolor painting; many many layers, building up the depth of the forest with a winding path leading through it. I could see the Ghost Witch painted on top of the background with translucent white paint. Opaque around the edges but see through toward the center. If you look closely at the sketches above, you can see the wispy trails of Ghost Matter around where her feet should be.
I immediately loved it.
But I have a tendency to... sketch one version of something and commit to it. I never really try out different iterations and I wanted these weekly challenges to push me to produce several interpretations of the same subject.
So I encouraged myself to create an opposing character to the one I just sketched. Instead of dark and creepy, this one would be playful and sexy. And out popped this lovely little drawing!
A Ghost Witch with thigh high socks and a pendulum. I’m not really sure why she is carrying a pendulum, but it worked out in the end.
I was so excited!
I had not created traditional art in MONTHS and now I had two sketches that I loved for different reasons. So I put them up for voting on my social media. I wanted to see which one my audience would want to see completed. (You can click on the link at the bottom of the page to follow me on Instagram and get these midweek updates as well!)
Unsurprisingly, the Playful Ghost Witch got the most votes.
I say that it was unsurprising because this sketch is much more approachable than the other one. It is simple for people (who are not me), to see the potential of the Playful Ghost. The wispy Ghost Witch is a little more difficult to understand at first glance. It is the kind of image that needs to be completed in order for others to comprehend it fully.
I was excited to get to work either way. Initially, I had envisioned the playful sketch as a colored pencil and fine liner pen creation, but something compelled me to put the sketch into Photoshop and try a digital painting.
I’ve been interested in digital art for a while but never thought I would have the skill set to actually do it. However, over the past year I have been learning more and more about the Photoshop workspace. Yes, everything I have learned has been for photography and compositing but, now that I am familiar with the software, I felt confident that I could manipulate the digital tools similarly to my physical ones.
And I was right!
There were certainly some bumps and bruises along the way, but in the end it turned out really well.
Here are a few of the issues I had when I started:
- Image resolution - I thought that working at a lower resolution would be acceptable. I was super wrong. The low resolution made my digital drawing very pixely (the little square things that make up digital images). Always start your digital drawing with 300ppi.
- I had to enable Smoothing on my brush and eraser tools - Drawing on a tablet differs greatly from drawing on paper so turning the Smoothing setting up between 15-20% while I was working gave my line work a much higher quality.
- In the beginning, I was trying to do everything all on one layer - This was incredibly stupid of me and I honestly know better. I should have started with separate layers for the line work and different shaded areas to make nondestructive editing much much easier.
It would be presumptuous to have thought that my first attempt at digital painting would go without a hitch. Luckily, all the issues I ran into were relatively simple to fix and now I will (hopefully) know better for next time.
Also! Because I did this drawing digitally, I could give another idea a try. It’s one I have had for a while, about as long as I have been photographing on a more professionally artistic level. That is to combine my traditional art with my photography. So I took this digital drawing and dropped it into one of my photos to create a really cool composite!
The best part about this week's challenge though? It encouraged me back into the studio! Even though the playful witch was the crowd favorite, I really had a desire to finish the wispy one.
I had a lot of reservations about it though. The first being that I rarely do environmental compositions. Most of my traditional artwork are much simpler study compositions. Meaning that they consist of one (or just few) subjects, removed from their ‘environment’. So doing something with a fully conceptualized background was daunting. The second reservation I had was being able to paint the semi-translucent ghost over the completed background. Watercolor is extremely susceptible to bleeding so I did not think this concept was going to work well.
Art is all about coming up with solutions to problems though. It is about trying to discover or invent an alternative way of creating.
To pull off this painting, I completed the background with watercolors (over the course of TWO DAYS guys, this took a long time). After letting the background dry, I applied two layers of an art sealant spray. My thought process was that I could paint the Ghost with acrylic paint the next day, the sealant hypothetically making it so that the watercolor would not bleed when I tried to paint over it.
And to my utter surprise, it actually fucking worked!
This challenge has been a great exercise. It got my creative mind churning in a way I never expected and I really look forward to next week’s challenge: Green Plant Witch.