What's strange is that such a simple piece should give me so much trouble. I mean, it's just a semi-dressed skeleton in front of a fairly minimal background. What's there to trip over? Seems silly in retrospect, but at the time it felt like I was tripping over every single brushstroke.
|©Wizards of the Coast|
So how did it get so complicated? Simple. I started painting it.
One of the things that worked for me on the sketch was how loose everything felt. The digital brushstrokes and frenetic pencil lines added tension to a potentially stagnant piece. I wanted very desperately to retain some of that tension when I went to paint and had every hope I could manage to keep it feeling alive (despite being undead). Unfortunately, it became clear early on that my paint application was flying in the face of that intention. The piece got awful polished awful fast, and trying to undo that was nigh impossible. This issue got pretty frustrating and that frustration built to a point that I began to lose confidence in much of the piece. So I began to question everything.
Before I knew it my color scheme, intended value structure, and background details went out the window. I was doing terrible digital paint overs in Photoshop to try and fix things that likely weren't broken, and many of my solutions were chosen due to the looming deadline more than anything.
Truth be told, I should have set the painting aside for a day and returned to it with fresher eyes. Then, with renewed perspective, I should have spent some time to figure out how to turn the piece around and into something I actually liked. Once the new plan had been formulated, I should have taken it to a new surface and restarted the piece from scratch.
Instead, I kept futzing with it, tweaking it, painting things out then painting them back in. Before long, it was about turning the piece in so I could wash my hands of it. And that's pretty much what went down.
|©Wizards of the Coast|
Grim Roustabout was part for a job that came at a scary time for me. It was last November into December and Amy had been out of work for a few months. Having had no luck finding a new job in Boston the probability of having to move back to New York began to rise rapidly. At the beginning of the job there was no plan for our next step. By the end of it, however, the plan was set and the move was certain. To say that the fear and the stress (not to mention my fears of the stress to come) had no affect on this job would be a lie. It would also be a lie to say that the legwork required to form the plan and take the necessary steps to enact said plan had no impact. An awful lot of time was spent away from my easel, and indeed the weekend before the job was due I was out looking at new apartments instead of fixing what I felt was fundamentally broken.
While the circumstances taking place behind the scenes were a definite factor, the truth is that I do have some very real issues with the piece and still wish I'd started over. Though I can't be certain that a repaint would have solved all the issues, at the very least I could have built the whole thing up with thinner paint which would likely have given me brighter, purer colors throughout. It's also possible that the thinness of the paint could have preserved some of the sketchiness I was hoping for in the paint application. But, alas, that never happened. I have the piece that I have. And within that piece, I could stand to see the skeleton be a shade or two darker and I feel like I could have better utilized the smoke and sparks to better control the eye. Perhaps I'd change a detail or two about the pose, as well.
I think what I really need, though, is another year or so to pass. With a bit more time, the tension that rises in my gut every time I see this piece will fade. Either way, I'll have to move on and continue to hope that one day pieces like this won't matter so much.