Happy Holidays, everyone! And all that other good stuff! As often tends to be the case, especially in recent years, this has been a very stressful holiday season. Between family illness, personal drama, and various financial woes, it has been a rollercoaster of a time. I wish I could say this stress doesn’t affect my ability to work, but that would be a terrible lie. In fact, it affects me greatly. I either: become unable to work/draw entirely/efficiently; or I overthink my final drawings and they don’t come out as hoped. For this entry, I’m looking at how this stress can affect certain differences between my first draft and finished art.
In a prior post, I mentioned that I tried participating in Inktober again this year. However, this time around, I only did a limited number of prompts. This helped me keep from stretching myself too thin and lessened the stress of the season. In my last inktober post, we looked at my drawing for the prompt “Scorched”. The drawing we’re looking at in this post was drawn for the prompt “Jolt”. Though it’s not horrible, I feel like the final drawing doesn’t quite have the same charm as my first draft. This happens. You don’t even necessarily need to be stressed out and it can still happen. However, when I first did my preliminary sketch for “Jolt” here, I wasn’t as stressed out by the season yet. In fact, I actually had a lot of fun with that drawing and I feel like it shows.
Olin “Slick” Calhoun
A Walking, Talking Jolt of Charisma!
Slick is Electricity in much the same way that Jake is Flame. Electricity is the very stuff that binds our atoms together. It powers our devices. Crashes down from the clouds with a thunderous roar. Just as fire gives light and warmth to the universe, electricity is a force that brings it all together. Slick is a very social and talkative fellow. He loves making friends, networking, and getting to know people. Folks are often fairly quick to warm up to him. He’s very magnetic that way. You could even say that Slick has an electrifying personality.
The next prompt I attempted for Inktober was “Jolt”. Given Slick’s electric nature, I figured he was the perfect subject for the role. Typically, he’s much less intense than Jake. Especially compared to how Jake is in “Scorched Punk”. For this illustration, I tried emphasizing Slick’s more chill demeanor by drawing him in clothes different from his usual attire . Inspired by 90s pop fashion, I wanted him to wear something more casual and fun. Something loose and unrestricting.
Overall, I think this drawing turned out as well as “Scorched Punk” did in terms of technical execution. I drew this using Micron on another Crescent Illustration Board scrap. Although, this one isn’t nearly as intense. However I feel like there’s weight to his clothes and they feel like they’re actually on his body. Hands turned out good. His expression is okay. I tried to tackle this drawing in exactly the same way as I did for “Scorched Punk”.
And that’s exactly what I did wrong.
I was too focused on staying “on model” with Slick. Trying to keep a consistent style between this drawing and the last. Because of that, this drawing just doesn’t quite feel right to me.
Looking back at the first draft
A creative spark jolts onto the page
Without going into details, this Slick is a vastly different character from the Slick that I used to draw. At the time of drawing this, aside from maybe one other sketch, it’d been several years since I’d drawn Slick. This was a source of much consternation for me because Slick is a character I hold very dear to me. He was the first OC I ever created and it’d been far too long since I’d given him form. That said, I’ve changed so much since I first created him. And so my characters have also changed considerably since then. In all, I think his personality here is far more fitting for him than how he used to be.
As I’ve mentioned before, I’m trying to shirk “consistency” in favor of more creative liberty in my work. Restricting myself to being as “on model” as possible can make my work feel very rigid and mechanical. I know I don’t necessarily have to maintain consistency and be “on model” all the time. But if I’m in an “on model” mindset from the get-go, it’s hard for me to break out of it. Even at times when going “off model” is acceptable or encouraged. Even when it might be necessary.
Of course, this doesn’t mean I’m abandoning consistency altogether. The point is that I get the general idea across without sweating the details too much. I want to convey their overall energy. What it feels like to be around them. It’s okay if there are little differences in their appearance from time to time. It’s not like any of us ever look exactly the same everyday either.
Jake is short, strong, and an encouraging force of nature.
Chloe is fat, powerful, and unrestrained by the universe.
Slick is tall, clever, and always happy to lend a hand.
The first draft: from start to finish
Electricity, given form, step-by-step
I did my preliminary sketch for Jolt in one of my small sketchbooks. My only thought going into this first draft for “jolt” was “Slick in a different outfit, enveloped in electricity, free-falling“. Other than that, I took a mostly “no thoughts; head empty” approach to this drawing. For this sketch, I used Staedtler Tri-Plus Ballpoint Pens in my Moleskine sketchbook, colored with Faber-Castell PITT Brush Markers.
Using a light blue ballpoint, I blocked him out in a little thumbnail towards the upper-right corner of the page. I already had a vague idea of what I wanted his silhouette and outfit to look like. From there, I just sketched the rest of him out on the page. First, I did a pass using the same light blue pen. I love that his whole body looked like it was made of electricity in this color. After that, I did a second pass with a darker pen, solidifying his lines and forms. It’s worth noting that on this second step, I changed one of his socks to try out an alternate design. I left his other sock alone so I could compare the two side by side. And finally, color!
Unfinished Final Art and Finished First Draft
Side by Side, in a manner of speaking
Early on, I managed to snap this photo of my finished initial sketch and just-started final drawing. Looking back, my pencil lines were way more relaxed than my ink lines turned out to be. There was definitely a lot more energy and bounce in Slick’s pose than there is now that it’s finished. But then I look at my final ink lines and he just feels so wooden to me. I also wish I had gone with my original idea for his shoes and socks seen in the first draft. Either the plaid or the argyle would have been fun. But instead, I chose to go the safe route.
This is sort of what I mean when I say that love was lost between these two drawings. My excitement for this drawing dwindled more and more, the farther into the process I got. Eventually, my excitement was replaced with an overwhelming impatience. Come time to finish, I fell back into old habits, inking it in a way that left me feeling dissatisfied. I think that with everything going on at the time, I just caved under the pressure of a “finished drawing”. And sure, I finished, but I wasn’t happy with it.
It’s not the end of the world
In the end, the stress of the season got to me and the quality of my work suffered for it. It saddens me to admit this, because this is also usually my favorite time of the year. The air cools (which is a HUGE deal here in Florida) and the world becomes just a little more comforting. Even if it’s mostly just a capitalist facade, the holiday spirit makes things feel just a little more joyous. And I really love (most) Christmas/Holiday music. Unfortunately, none of that changes how stressful of a time this can be. As such, I couldn’t carry that same love that I had for my first draft over to the final art.
This happens. And you don’t even necessarily need to be stressed out. Sometimes, it’s not even a matter of falling out of love. But rather it’s about your creative energies being depleted or near depletion. And that’s okay! We can’t always be at our best 100% of the time. Sometimes we need to take time for ourselves for healing and recovery. That’s one of the things that this season is supposed to be about. Unwinding from the long year and reflecting on the things we’ve learned.
On a more positive note: all in all, I don’t totally hate the way this drawing turned out. I’d like to revisit this one some day and try to recapture that charm from my first draft. And on even more positive note, today is Christmas! Happy Holidays and all that other good good. We’re almost to the end of the year. It’s been another challenging one, but we’ve managed to get through it like we always do. I have only two more posts queued up to cap off the year, so keep an eye out for them.