Studies, Sketches, and Santé!

I’m going to try and do daily stuff for a while – tentatively aiming for 50 for now. It’s easier to do repetitive stuff when you’re doing it with a partner, friend, or artist spouse, and they hold you accountable so laziness doesn’t have a chance to whisper insidiously into your ears, “It’s okay to skip today… you’re tired~~



Today’s daily is Bronze. This isn’t really a study anymore, not after I got instantly bored with my first attempt to study a bronze age ‘din’ from Shan Dynasty. Instead I just made bronze dragon scales using the color palette I already setup from that ‘din’ photo. Since it’s a weekend, I got to spend more time – way, way too much time – on finishing this up. You don’t want to know just how small a percentage of total time was on actual painting, and how much more went into positioning, warping, and smoothing over the seams… but they’re dragon scales, so they were fun. This is a 2k tile-able.




This is more of a post for my own amusement, where I took dragons from my sketchbook folder, from ancient times to the most current, and compile them together. Just to see what’s there. Conclusion: I need more dragons.



Flightless Pegasi Fun!

Haughty Sonny is the son of Fara, the Ostrich Tribe chieftain, and he is proudly touting that lineage today in front of the ladies. A pegasus needs all the advantage he can get during mating season, and cheating is not uncommon! But of course such cheap tricks like putting on make up to bolster his colors is quite unnecessary for Sonny, what with his noble blood line, and stunning good looks. He even has a bird butler to preen that hair curl he is so proud of – no other ostrich has it! He’s totally killing it!


I came up with the idea of drawing or painting some flightless pegasi one day because that would be funny, I thought. Why the gold font? Because I want to, and I can! My girlfriend made it, and it makes everything looks awesome.

Sci-fi sketches of machine thingies!

Now I’m working on projects again, and attending the weekly drawing group Imaginative Illustrators of NYC. Here are some idea explorations and practices on topics I’m not the most familiar with – vehicle, robot, and sci-fi themes.


This week’s theme is to take one of the Chinese Zodiac animals, and make a sci-fi fighter mecha, cyborg, or vehicle inspired by that animal. I chose the Dog for a mech guard with samurai and Anubis visual theme.


Sketch dump – inktober and digital still life

These are from Inktober attempt this year. I made it into the 2nd week before losing track and stopping. This year, I drew them on blank cards bought from art supply store, and gave them all away to a family-ran café.


Back home once more, I started doing more digital studies to get more practice in. I still lean towards studying from life, even though that limits my range of study somewhat, but all are one, and one is all, *serious nod*


Sketch dump – zoo animals

After finishing Creature Anatomy with Terryl Whitlatch, I was out of country for a spell. While out and about, I had access to rather cheap but humongous and new zoo. I often did zoo sketching, as well as life model sketching. I didn’t like how fuzzy and blurry pencils sketches often are, nor how they easily smudged over time. I later colored some of the animal sketches to define them better and thus making them better visual notes. For coloring, I used reference photos, except one of the Swinhoe’s Pheasant, which was done on site with the bird peering curiously at me painting it. These flamingo sketches were confusing to look at, and fuzzy and loose to remember what I saw by. I decided to clear them up by adding colors. The Swinhoe’s Pheasant, like many other birds, has such dazzling feather colors, that no painting will ever do a live one justice.


Sketching live animals is certainly challenging, but much more than that, a lot of fun! I called upon every strand of knowledge of animal anatomy and form previously collected, and just did my best to capture the spirit of the animal I’m sketching.

Seeing a lion 3 feet away for the first time gave me feels that no amount of BluRay documentaries on large, wall screens ever gave me.



I also sketched nude models again since years ago. Doing so always feels refreshing and challenging in a good way! Much more interesting and informative than sketching from photos of nude models. On most days, I prey on unsuspecting folks who had wandered into my sight…


Demons in my mind

Last week was a bit preoccupying for me, and it felt good to not plan but just draw instinctively for a change. I still planned, and will see what fruits bear from that.

No internet for a week

The internet and landline at our place has been down a week, which made several things rather inconvenient but all managed somehow. Recently I have been trying to adopt the D3 style. These are two drawn tests. Now I need omove on to making painted, color POC. 

Floral Foal decides what to wear

Turning it around to make a front view was surprisingly challenging. Kept changing the front view between cooler chunky and more realistic horse proportions. In the end I went with more realistic first. Always go for correct first, get it, then bounce off to find a style.



Floral Foal color exploration

They’re all based on plants parts. I got to finally use all those flower photo refs!


Fantasy Foul Floral Foal concept – lines

Exploration of an initial idea from a previous Imaginative Illustrators of NYC:


Relax painting, round 2…


The flat wall of shades of white blending into brick was a good challenge. The grass was meditative. I painted this one while listening to a Dharma Master speak.


I think I painted this while having a serious discussion with my girlfriend over Skype. It’s important to let each other know it’s safe to speak out even about uncomfortable topics. I love her for that, among many things ^_^


Even though I’m home already, I continue to paint from my travel photos because I bought these watercolor postcards for this exact purpose a year or two ago. Now that I finally got it started, I want to fulfill that little dream. It feels good to have done something I have been wanting to do for myself and myself only. I rarely have time to paint plein air, on site, during any travels, so this will have to do.

Returned from IFCC

I went to this year’s IFCC, with my girlfriend, who’s a great concept artist, and put extra 2 days before and after the conference. Now I’m not sure what I was thinking when booking that, maybe to sleep off jetlag or something. It means not a whole lot of sight seeing beautiful Croatia, but just enough time to see something, while catching up on rest. The first thing we visit after landing was the Plitvice Lakes National Park. It was the most crowded scene I have ever seen besides the sakura blossom in Washington D.C. We didn’t have much a chance to sketch until the very end where we sat near a shuttle station’s bathroom building.


During the event I was not in the right mode to sketch anything, but I did took some photos in my smartphone. While waiting for my flight home and while in the plane flying, I drew and painted a few from those photos. I’ve had these watercolor blank postcard for a long time, and wanted to do exactly this. It feels good to finally have done it, although being stuck waiting in a plane for hours is about the only justification I can find for spending time doing this.






Furry creature design


After another round at trying to clarify the bandit design, it still wasn’t visually clear what the character is about. I’ll not post those attempts. After that, I think I started to avoid designing the bandit, and instead went on to design the hounds that inhibited the same environment as the bandit, some of which were kept by the bandits for reasons. I even designed the vegetation and the hound’s prey… all to avoid the painful character design, like I would avoid the pumps and fall back to the familiarity of treadmill for days after a painful training session on the pumps. … not that I’ve been back to the gym, just a good metaphor. I’ll have to decide soon on fur shape and color. I don’t know if this is good, running away from something hard to do to something more familiar. Not that this creature design was a walk in a park. It took days, and I had great trouble twisting it from profile to 3/4 view. It’s much easier to design a creature in profile, but I need to learn much more anatomy to confidently design a full creature.

Thumbnailing – the long struggle


Brief: Near-future sci-fi biker bandits in polar environment who robs transport vehicles with swift hit-and-run tactics. They don’t cross the line from robbery to murder. They name themselves Hail Hounds.

Struggle with fast and numerous thumbnails:

I struggle a lot to make thumbnails. I keep trying to do more faster – say, 20 in 2 hours – and I can’t. One method I’ve been trying since last year is quick, shape-based thumbnails. Here I’m using marker on paper. I would start, then I would quickly fall back to old, safe, slow habit of line drawing so I can see what I’m putting down. This collection of 30 thumbnails took me a total of 5 sittings across 5 days:

  • #1-10 took a day.
  • #11-14 (I think) took a day.
  • #15-24 took a day.
  • #28-29, +25 took ~ 5 hours.
  • #30 took ~2.5 hours.

I don’t usually do character design. I’ve not done sci-fi either. I would research every time I do a thumbnail, and again every time I revise the aesthetic theme. Confusion while in unfamiliar territories sucks… Each time I make shape-based thumbnails, I had no idea what it is, and all the shapes come out generic humanoid with random lumps here and there, looking like cartoonish clones of Master Chief. Each time I revert back to archaeologically scraping an idea out with pencil lines, I end up with 3 thumbnails after 4 hours that may or may not convey the correct feel for this character.  Current problem is, shape-based thumbnailing makes me very insecure when I can’t see what is in those blobs, because I don’t see it in my head to begin with. However, line-based thumbnailing makes me noodle one drawing far too long, and end up with hodge-podge of many little ideas cluttered onto one humanoid armature that rarely convey a clear theme from each drawing. Both together creates a third problem where I feel like I’m not expressing my aesthetic themes clearly, and I’m also not exploring enough variety in my designs. I’m not sure how to break through this choke point that’s been bothering me since last year, and a choke point I believe I need to break through to improve as a concept designer.

Struggle with clear, good design:

At the beginning I had cowboy and western looks mixed in with the outlaw and biker looks, but that was too much of a mix. Currently it’s simplified to just sci-fi biker bandits. Their setting is the dark, frozen regions on Duality-52, where they leech off the clean water (ice) trade some American corporation is monopolizing. A lot of struggle right now is in how to visually convey all that, especially the “polar outlaw who don’t kill” part.

Staying on track:

I started planning and doing characters because of several portfolio feedback I received encouraging me to branch out from just having creatures in my portfolio, and create more assets that look like they can already belong to existing game titles or studio aesthetics. Now that I’ve stopped bending over the thumbnails and took a step back, I’m worried how well any of these thumbnails match what’s already out there.