Unsurprisingly I follow quite a few other artists on Facebook and just recently a lot of them have been doing "then and now" posts. The idea is that you take a painting that you did a couple of years ago and re-paint it in your current style to see how much your style has changed and your technique improved.
When I decided that attempt a then and now painting, I chose one of the first digital paintings I ever completed to re-work. The subject was Azazel, my favorite X-Men Villon.
This original painting (on the left) was done in grey scale using only a round brush. I remember that I sketched it out directly from a movie poster and even though it's very rough and not very detailed it has got the basic features just about right. In my current style I usually use something like this in the early staged of painting and then build a more detailed painting over it. At the time I was quite happy with this painting and I think it still has a certain charm although it screams "UNFINISHED" at me which is another reason why I chose to repaint it.
The painting to the right is my revised painting. I purposely didn't spend a huge amount of time on it, just a couple of hours, about the same as I spent on the original. Once I found a few source photos I decided that I wanted to make the painting a head and shoulders shot like the previous painting, but unlike my first painting it wouldn't be a straight copy of a photo as I try not to just copy photos anymore if I can help it. To work out a pose I decided would take inspiration from my favorite moment featuring Azazel, in this scene he has just killed the entire crew of a Russian ship and for no reason other than his own perverse joy he grabs the captains hat and pops it on his head before heading off to steer the ship at some very miffed American soldiers… Good clean evil fun!
So in my revised painting I decided to have Azazel wearing a captains hat and smiling just slightly, as if he's up to something. I also made the painting slightly sepia in tone like an old photo.
The difference in the two paintings are quite pronounced. My current work is a lot more detailed and has a bit more character to it. I'm getting much more skilled at capturing light, drawing hair and indicating texture… although I think I've probably got a way to go on that particular skill. For all that my style hasn't changed dramatically. The majority of my work is still done with one brush which has a pencil like texture to it, but is still basically a soft round brush. My paintings in their early stages usually look very much like my 2011 painting and are done using 3 shades of grey. The main difference in my technique now is that I build upon the original image, making it more detailed with every pass. In my finishing touches I do often use custom brushes now to give my paintings a little extra texture or detail, however I try to limit the use of custom brushes to the bare minimum, as despite their time saving qualities I find that when I finish a painting using a custom brush I often can't look at it without seeing the obvious signs of whatever brush I've used. Not good!
So, what do you think? I know that if someone had shown me my second painting when I painted the first and said "in 2 years you'll be able to paint this" I would have probably just responded "I wish!". On the other hand, looking at the painting I did recently I can't imagine being able to improve my skills much further. Perhaps I'll have to pick this up again 2015 to see if I really have got as good as I'm going to get, or if I've made another leap to something I never would have imagined myself capable of today! Here's hoping!
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