Sketch Friday #94 – Hilary Swank (click for larger version)

I never really pushed my skills with digital art. Generally, the art I’ve made digitally––to me at least––looks like it was drawn digitally. However, the digital art I’ve seen on the various corners of the internet that I frequent tends to look quite tangible, fooling me to think it was created with traditional media. In these moments, an inner art snob I keep hidden in the back of my brain always pops out to let me know what a fraud I am as an artist. For years, I just quietly agreed.

My digital skills are atrophied for a few reasons. First, I don’t draw very often and, when I do, it’s for the comic which is pencil and ink on paper. Second, the majority of work I use digital art programs for is coloring, and with the comic I currently create it’s a very focused and limited use of these tools. Third, I’m not much of an experimental artist in general. The most adventurous I got was when I was a student, but even then it was mostly trial and error practice pieces. Only rarely do I get the nerve to try new things now on paper. To be fair, when I do it has been rewarding and additive (such as introducing more brush work to my toolset).

I have had the itch to stretch some artistic limbs recently, however. And I wanted to try my hand at working from reference to, first, see if I still could (I still use reference a lot while drawing comics, but it’s mostly small, focused details or posing the body) and, second, to branch out and see what I could do with some the very powerful tools at my disposal with things like the iPad Pro.

An experiment in actual ink wash of my dog. (click for larger version)

So, I decided to do some portraits. I tried thinking of some great faces that would be fun to draw. Out of sheer happenstance, one of the television shows our household was watching recently was Alaska Daily, a wonderful (now cancelled) show starring Hilary Swank who, I must say, has a very expressive face, which is something I’m drawn to, artistically (pardon the pun). Specifically, her eyes are large and wide and, especially with her character in Alaska Daily, stab out at you from beneath her long dark hair and stone cold countenance.

So, through a Google image search, I found a thumbnail image that captured what I liked about her character and put that off to the side and, in Procreate (ugh; I still hate that name) on the iPad, I roughed out general shapes, shadows, and highlights over the course of a few nights until I felt satisfied enough to call it done.

Again, this kind of drawing is something I haven’t really done with any seriousness in a long while, so I wondered how soon I would get frustrated and call it quits. While it was a process, it was ultimately rewarding to see, bit by bit, a drawing that resembled an actual person emerge. And she emerged not through my usual tools; in fact, I felt that the resemblance really started to pop when I brought in brushes and textures that I either had never used before or rarely so––things like (digital) charcoal and (digital) watercolor for ink wash. It fascinated me to see that I still have a bit of those traditional art skills deep in me somewhere. It is also rewarding on a more superficial level to create a piece of digital art that, to me, doesn’t look like it was necessarily drawn on a tablet. Finally, I appealed to that inner art snob I keep somewhere deep down inside of my brain who, to my surprise, encouraged me to keep going.