Partly just bumping my previous journal off the page, as it is no longer an accurate snapshot of my life. (not like this will be either in a week or so.)
First off, a thank you to those of you who provided helpful advice and comments on my last entry; you guys helped me out a bunch.
I'm moving along a bit now in my search for an "artistic identity".
Not looking for something amazing and unique; just looking for myself, so to speak. If that ends up being amazing and unique (which seems likely, as I am all of the above), then so be it.
My frustration is still there a bit; Nearly every one of my characters, with the exception of Jio and Anji, has been incredibly easy to design visually. Certainly they all had their snags and sticking points, or didn't quite get finished. But none of them have given me trouble to the level that Jio and Anji have, which is frustrating because they are still my two main characters, and indeed, my favorite characters.
But it's not all frustration like it was.
I've been experimenting a bit with some... I suppose you could call it a mental exercise, sort of getting out of - or perhaps, into - my comfort zone, and simply focusing on my art without the distractions of my storyline ideas or projects. It's hard to explain what exactly my exercise is, and I don't intend to explain it. But it's the results that count.
My artistic identity is already half-there; my coloring and painting style. It's changed a lot over the years, and at the same time, it hasn't changed much. It's always kept a few personal touches to it, and while I still enjoy switching it up now and again, I'm fairly happy and comfortable with my digital painting.
So this narrows things down a bit. Why am I still unsure of my artistic identity? It comes down to my style; with my painting always done either in coloring existing linework or painting over reference, the obvious culprit is the lines and reference.
Linework has always been a hard point for me. Drawing in general is not my strong point; I can't sketch very well on paper, and while my digital work is a good deal better, it still leaves a lot to be desired, and doesn't give me a lot of leeway (I can only do well when following particular patterns, and those patterns are rare in matching up with my goals). To this end, I'm starting to practice my linework a bit, taking inspiration from artists I enjoy, and using various study aids to practice other styles. It's not going incredibly quickly - so far, I've sketched a head, and that's about it - but it's more progress than I've made over the past two months or so.
Reference is the other sticking point, and ties in with my linework in the fact that the majority of my lines are done from reference. Now, the way I use reference is a little less common; I basically trace the images I use as reference, but that's not the uncommon part. The reference images I use are all done by me; when I'm not painting, I work in 3D, and while my 3D modeling/posing/rendering skills are far from impressive, the results work very well as reference images for my paintings. (one could say that I'm a 3D artist that aggressively postworks his renders, but it's way beyond that.)
The problem with this style of rendering references for painting or lines is, it's a tedious process, and not always flexible. Where an artist more comfortable with linework might simply sketch out an idea, I start with a 3D model and build my idea from there; using the result as a reference image, I go from there on to the project itself, doing freehand work where appropriate to achieve the results I want. But as you can imagine, it's not very efficient. If I want to draw a female figure, I have a female model for it. But if I want to go from realism to cartoon style, I've got a problem; I need a whole new figure again, even though I might not have changed my character at all. 3D models aren't well suited to switching styles on-the-fly.
But I'm getting a bit too detailed here.
I don't intend to stop using my process entirely, I don't think. Using 3D work to create 2D work is something I enjoy doing, and when done right, it works exceptionally well. (there are a few other artists who do work in this fashion, although I don't personally know any of them.)
The catch is that "when done right" line. I'm still not quite there; the full process requires three sets of skills, being 3D, linework, and painting.
My painting skills are very solid; plenty to improve upon, but I'm at a point where it's easier to learn what I don't know.
My 3D skills are quite good; I have a good grasp on the tools, and while there are entire worlds I've barely touched, the parts I do use, I've grown quite good at.
My linework is the one that suffers, and it's such an integral part of the process that it drags down everything else. I want my linework to be able to stand on its own, because if it cannot, it affects everything else negatively; a crappy lineart colored by a true artistic god will still look like a well-colored crappy lineart. Even if I paint over the lines entirely, I need those lines to at least guide me in the right direction, and for that, the lines need to be done correctly.
I'm rambling a bit, and about what? My own shortcomings as an artist? That's not like me. But it feels good to put it in words, to be able to say, not to anyone in particular but myself, that I'm not perfect, but I know why I'm not.
From here, it's simply a matter of focusing on what holds me back and improving those areas. For the time being, hopefully some sketching on a regular basis will help; I also intend to keep working on a project or two with a trial-and-error approach, continuously drawing, undoing, and re-drawing each part until they all match up.
So yeah. I'm probably not going to have any big artworks to show off anytime soon, but I do intend to start posting more work-in-progress shots as I go; if you're the curious or helpful type that wants to see this sort of stuff, make sure you're watching my scraps, since it'll all end up headed that way. Perhaps even some sketch dumps for the stuff I might normally not bother to post; I've got some couple-year-old sketches scattered in various notebooks that might get scanned and uploaded sometime as well.
Hopefully it all leads up to something big, but no expectations. As many have said in various forms, keep your goals realistic. Everyone wants to fly to the moon, but the ones that get there are the ones who set their goals a bit closer to home and then follow through on them.