2017 July (Perfectionism)

I don’t really have anything to show this month.

Spent all the hours instead on watching anime, playing videogames, and appreciating all their flaws.

Coming from having only schooling and testing and going to 4chan’s /a/, /v/, and more recently /ic/, I’ve only ever looked for how things are wrong. These are all places that pride themselves on having high quality insights and tastes, and it’s enforced: the smallest thing can bring you down. In school an insignificant trivia point can be the difference between one letter grade and another, a feature of the system that only becomes more prominent as you go from 10 questions on a test, 1 test a week, for ~30 weeks, that count for 33% of your grade in public school, to college, where there’s 4 questions on a test, 2 tests ever, and count for everything. On 4chan it doesn’t matter how popular or appealing anything is, there’s something wrong with it. And if there is something wrong with it, no matter how prominent that thing actually is, it’ll be given the spotlight over everything else, and anyone who disagrees has “shit taste”.

It’s with this sort of mindset that I approached drawing. For the anatomy grinding that I was doing, it served its purpose well. There really was always some other little thing to work on. But, just like how my good grades in class prevented me from thinking about communication and life skills, my grinding relieved me from worrying about my complete lack of ability to put together anything the common man would be interested in looking at. /ic/ always criticized how these proportions were unrealistic or that muscle insertion was wrong – I wanted my works to be free from the types of criticisms that I saw. In the process I “lost” the larger picture and didn’t see that I wasn’t making any works at all.

“Lost” because I vaguely know what it should be, but haven’t had it myself for a very long time.

I started drawing a couple of years ago because I had just graduated college with muh stem degree, couldn’t get a job, and after half a year wanted to have something to show for with my life. I didn’t actually start off grinding feminine body parts, that only happened after visiting /ic/. They had resources on how to draw figures and not much else, a lot of its discussion revolved around anatomy correctness, and I didn’t really know where to start or what to do. I had my own specific disagreements, but the scope of thought was basically the same: I didn’t pay any attention to anything except line drawings focused on anatomical correctness. Coming out of college having no more classes to study for, my bar of productivity was simply “do something that amounts to more than a winrate in a videogame”.

Drawing was “something to do”. Not “something I want to do”. Like probably many other young men it was a great attraction to be able to create my own fap material to specifically cater to my own tastes, but other than that, I didn’t “want” to draw. I didn’t have anything I “wanted” to draw. I needed “something to do”, something that was “productive”, and something “that could be successful”… and drawing fit the bill. Or I should say: I made drawing fit the bill.

It doesn’t fit the bill anymore.

But the bill was wrong too.

I wanted to “succeed” at drawing: specifially, I wanted to “not fail” at drawing, failing being anything that either looks bad or is anatomically incorrect. The idea of failure and success motivated me more than any idea of being able to create beautiful women with my own hands. As long as I kept putting in the hours, as long as those hours showed some improvement, as long as they didn’t fail… it was okay. “Okay” – i.e., “not a failure”.

The moment I start really thinking about something I’m doing it becomes a matter of success or failure. School wasn’t about this or that subject, it was about the grade; making art wasn’t about fun and viewing art wasn’t about appeal, it was about realism. To a lesser extent anime and videogames too, but all the same: something is only good when it overwhelms and leaves me with absolutely nothing to say. Having some modicum of intelligence and being trained to complain, this leaves me with “good taste”. But it also cripples me from doing or exploring. What I spend time with needs to “not fail” in the ten thousand ways i invariably and passively come up with.

I’ve been trying to remedy that by spending a lot of time with things I’d normally call “average” or “sub-par”, and things I’d normally not care about. There’s some truth to the criticism rebuttal of “well you do better then” and this is what I think that truth is. There’s the timeless masterpieces, there’s the lacking me, and there’s all the completed moderate quality works inbetween. The flaws in masterpieces are too obvious because of the contrast, the flaws in garbage are too obvious because there’s nothing else to look at, but for average “pretty good” no-name things I’ll probably forget soon enough, there’s no real concept of failure or success. Here’s a piece of entertainment, which people put many hours into making, with its own successes and failures, and it doesn’t really matter in the end because no one’s heard of it and no one will really remember it.

Recently I read a manga called “Gunsmith Cats”. I wouldn’t say it was a waste of my time. It wasn’t amazing either. It wasn’t my favorite style of art but it did its job. It was basically a slice of life with mostly static main characters, one of which i had trouble remembering the name of even at the end. But it was enjoyable. It was fun. And it must’ve been at least okay because the series ran for about 6 years. And for all of the things it did right and things it did wrong it doesn’t matter because no one mentions it either way these days and it’s been 20 years since it finished. “It has its good points and it has its bad points”. It was a thing. And that’s all there was to it.

This sort of idea seems like it should be self-evident to someone who cranks out a hundred iterations of anything in a week and has trouble remembering what happened two days ago, but there’s clearly some domain dependence thing going on. It’s not that I don’t “know” that it doesn’t matter what I do. It’s not that I don’t “know” that no one starts off perfect and even masters don’t make great things all the time. But I forget or ignore it when the time comes, and it only ever really matters what you can think of in time.

I took a couple of stabs at it.

A guy called Robert Stark who runs a podcast-show interviewed me on my BART/suburbia complaints. I didn’t think I had much to say or was at all a good choice for a show, but I gave it a shot.

In the few pages I did fill this month I thought one of the things looked nice and wanted to make it a bit bigger, with a few more details and some values. So I did that.

Will I care about the quality of these even three months from now? I don’t care much about the whole “the internet is forever, the media will dig everything bad on you in the future” thing, so discounting that – the answer is no.

But remembering and believing that is another story.

A story I’m not sure can be taught or learned through words.

2017 Jun 16 ~ 28

Discussed with a kind stranger on an /ic/ discord my progress; “i need to somehow change my mentality from grinding tiny anatomy insertions and proportions to learning how to draw and color and all the other things…“. They gave me a project, saying projects are how the majority of progression should happen (2:1::project:study), and emphasized that completion was more important than anything else.

I didn’t complete it.

I said last time that last year’s Oct 30 ~ Nov 07 was my gold standard; now I know why that is. I really have been approaching things wrong this whole time. Not so much that studying is bad, but that studying isn’t the most important thing, and the right ground can’t really be covered just through studying anyways. I’m not sure what the project:study ratio should be, but it’s certainly closer to 2:1 than 1:10,000.

you master your waifu anatomy and your hair styles
i tell you to draw me a waifu riding with a pack of elephants
what do you do for the elephants

I faced the same problem again in learning coding. I wanted to do something specific, spent hours looking through reference material, front to back, looking through documentation of all possible syntax, picking up nothing because it didn’t mean anything… then out of frustration I went to google, and it was the first result. I learned what I needed, I implemented what I wanted – what would be the alternative? Memorize the entirety of javascript first? Ludicrous. Yet that’s basically how I’ve approached drawing up until now.

I need to rethink how I think. “More hours” isn’t going to get me out of this one…

A 17_06_16-18

Tried out a few different things in implementing legs into initial layout. Attempting to use “gesture” lines and not shape ran into the same old problem

B 17_06_21-22

I feel like there’s some other guiding principle that I’ve been misled about. Hogarth’s examples of drapery all look silly anyways; no one would actually want to draw clothing like he does. His words look good, his demonstrations don’t, which means there’s some other way to think about it…

A bunch of “before-after” because it feels like I learn things this way.

Butts and thigh range of movement.

B 17_06_21-22

I feel like there’s some other guiding principle that I’ve been misled about. Hogarth’s examples of drapery all look silly anyways; no one would actually want to draw clothing like he does. His words look good, his demonstrations don’t, which means there’s some other way to think about it…

A bunch of “before-after” because it feels like I learn things this way.

C 17_06_20-21

Grinded various things out of nowhere out of anger and impotence.

C 17_06_21-22

Huge tits with waist means long ribcage.

Sizing. Only four things to keep track of, but I’d never done it before.
Perspective/Shot. A table of X size can only appear in a certain way to someone of Y height.

C 17_06_28

scratchwork for D of same date.

Sizing. Only four things to keep track of, but I’d never done it before.
Perspective/Shot. A table of X size can only appear in a certain way to someone of Y height.

D 17_06_20

Thought about copying reference but decided it would be easier on paper, both because of hand-eye coordination problems, and because there’s something in holding a sketchbook at arm’s length that can’t be reproduced by zooming out.

D 17_06_28

Was given a project after some discussion about progress with a stranger: make a comic out of Chapter 15 of The Count of Monte Cristo. After reading it I decided on about half of it, and felt out how things should be split up per page/panel… but this was as far as I got before the anxiety set in.

2017 Jun 06 ~ 16

I feel like I’m getting nothing done these days. Hair definitely took more mental energy per unit area than anything I’ve done up till this point, and I think I made decent progress on it, but it doesn’t feel like two week’s worth. Just did a little bit and then stopped for the day. The Oct 30 ~ Nov 7 period is probably my gold standard: spent a lot of time every day, filled a lot of space, and learned a bit of a lot of things. Then again I also didn’t learn anything that stuck other than “man I suck at everything”.

Part of it is I probably like clean work paths too much. I’ve been thinking about starting work on drawing nonhumans/objects for a while, but where would I put them? Here I’m working on limbs and foreshortening, there I’m working on hair… it’d be messy if I just started putting in random things! And if I can be bothered to draw tools and vehicles, why not just draw something I’m already working on instead?

Maybe I need a third sketchbook. Or one that I don’t upload.

Or maybe I should just do work. I’m not going to be able to make even lineart pinups by the end of the year at the rate I’m going.

B 17_05_08+06_01+06_09-14

Was attempting to copy a hairstyle when I noticed my understanding of how to put hair on a head prevented me from doing it, so I went back to paper and figured it out.

Bottom half was mostly filling up the page. I did learn that my pencil skills aren’t so amazing and hair is actually better with digital stabilizers after setting up a scratchwork layer beforehand, but everything else is still easier on paper. At least for now.

D 17_06_06-08

More hair.

Considered trying out blobs for masses of hair rather than just outlines. Decided against because I don’t know how to control blobs and have no experience how to interpret them as a construction method.

D 17_06_06-08

More hair. Stopped after the first one to work on paper. The rest was just grinding from imagination to demonstrate that I understood what I learned.

Which I didn’t, the final one didn’t look any significantly better than what I was able to do 4/30. I just put a bunch more lines that looked like a mess and felt like a mess. I knew what the problems were – initial shape needed more breakups, overall lock size needed to decrease, detailing needed to go from top to bottom so locks have clear starting points…

D 17_06_16

…I think it turned out better. The hair, anyways.

Tried to put a face on it after all the hair and it didn’t really work out. It’s passable but only barely; become obvious once it’s flipped. Couldn’t put in eyes. Couldn’t put a body on it either because I didn’t plan for it and the hair couldn’t suddenly be made to flow around something rather than being flat.

I’ve seen video processes of some artists drawing and redrawing and warping/transforming facial features after the fact… but it’s really uncomfortable to watch. Even just marqueeing and moving feels weird. I can sort of imagine how it might work, and I can see how it’s a useful skill to have, but I don’t think I’ll have it for a while.

2017 May 08 ~ Jun 02

Didn’t upload a batch for first half of May because I spent every waking hour playing Persona 5. I wouldn’t recommend it.

After basically a straight month of a bunch of videogames, I feel kind of lost and not particularly motivated with drawing. In a sense it’s useful, it was much easier to convince myself to do some copies of values and hair, and to stop focusing on even more head-ribcage combinations. But it feels like I’m not doing enough, and I’m only doing it because I feel like “I have to draw”.

I guess it’s better than feeling “I don’t have to draw”.

A 17_05_08-09+22-23

First half more ado about necks. Second half more ado about nothing.

Two-week gap of Persona 5.

A 17_05_28-31

Didn’t know what to do again so just threw around some things from the 4/29 list. Wanted to work on arms and foreshortening, there were some diameter problems with forearms, but what bugged me the most was the line transitions/insertions at the armpit so I revisited that.

A 17_05_31-06_01

Armpits in tension make a lot of sense, in compression not so sure. Seems to be true in general; nice shapes on body parts usually don’t appear when it’s in compression.

I don’t know how much emphasis I should be putting on the forward/bent-over positions. It’s definitely something that’s fairly common in regular human activity, but it’s also definitely something I’ve never seen in pinups. A friend told me I should probably get to basic competency the other important things first, which to me is hair, clothing, and color. It feels bad to leave these around though.

D 17_05_24-26

Trying to force some rendering time. All the introduction books to rendering talk about concepts like terminator or midtones and what is effectively a bunch of other unusable fluff words, so I just tried messing around for a bit, because the important question for me was “How do I control all these stupid blobs to make them do what I want?”.

Most of my learning in drawing so far has just been copying pictures I like. Maybe it’ll be the same with rendering. Above anything else it’ll be several hundreds of attempts before I get anywhere decent, and there’s nothing out there with that many exercises.

D 17_06_01-02

Stopped the first one because the overall proportions were too wrong. I probably could’ve continued filling in the inner details in a distorted way, but I wanted to try and understand how each line contributed to the whole and the final product, and it felt like at that point it was already a shit cake.

2017 Apr 23 ~ May 06

A rather long two weeks. Watched Kemono Friends (fabulous), Gabriel DropOut (barely not worth the time), played more Automata, partly to get screencaps and a second look for the review, partly for the DLC (it’s poop), and then basically a week of Total Shogun 2 to celebrate a friend’s graduation. It was nice. Not so nice for progress in drawing, but oh well. Such a cluster of things isn’t gonna happen again anytime soon.

Digital though had two unplanned uptake breakthroughs:

  1. I watched an old Ilya Kuvshinov I had and it completely changed my understanding on how to line. My understanding was /ic/’s, which was CtrlPaint’s: draw a line quick, starting before your intended initial point and ending after your final point, then erase the ends afterwards. Ilya seems to emphasize doing fewer lines, using pressure to control weight inbetween. In the end this appears to be a faster process. My interpretation of what I saw changed lining time of a face from ~1hr to ~5min. Marginally less clean results, but pretty great for a magnitude of increase in speed.
  2. Taping paper on top of the tablet. The problem wasn’t so much that the tablet was too smooth, it was that it was smooth for the stylus and not smooth for my arm. Oil or something had built up and couldn’t be cleaned off, and oil caused the material to change into something with very high friction, resulting in lack of control any time movement wasn’t from the wrist. Making paper the contact surface solved this and added a comfortable and familiar stabilization. There’s still some hand-eye coordination problems, but everything feels much better now.

Also finally saw the true advantage of digital: not Ctrl+Z, but Ctrl+H.

Need to be careful using it though, some really beautiful things aren’t supposed to work when flipped (e.g. hair parted left vs hair parted right).

A 17_04_29-30
Last time I had decided to try and put hands into everything, but it became obvious quickly that my understanding of hands was limiting enough that there weren’t many positions where I could expand much at all past a stick figure. So I explored hands a bit more.

A 17_05_01-06
Then I lost sight of what I was doing.

But I learned some things I’d been wondering about for a while in a pretty short timeframe, so I guess it was okay.

Long timelapse more because I was playing a weeklong session of Total Shogun with a friend.

B 17_04_24-25
More hair and drapery drilling from imagination.

Hair shape language/constraints don’t entirely make sense. Doing too few drapery folds.

D 17_04_23
I was told that I needed to do a bunch of lines and curves through points, so that’s what I did.

It wasn’t fun. I didn’t learn much either.

D 17_04_24
Watching an Ilya Kuvshinov video on his drawing process revealed to me that /ic/’s fawning over CtrlPaint had led me to believe the wrong thing: quick lines are NOT the holy grail, clean lines are NOT done by “temp layers”, drawing through, erasing, and they sure as hell aren’t done via vector or shape tools.

D 17_04_25
Testing out different stabilizer levels.

Difficult to control decline in pressure level across a stroke.

D 17_04_28_2-30
Not shown: tracing over a few hairstyles to get a better idea for shape language/constraints.
Also not shown: D 17_04_28_1, where I tried to draw something from reference and it went horribly wrong. When looking at reference my hand-eye coordination is on autopilot, and I really needed to calibrate it with a few faces first, faces being the best choice for calibration because they have the tightest natural tolerances.

Right before the first referenced hair, I decided to tape paper on top of my tablet.

Absolutely the best decision.

Tried out blobbing out values in the bottom right just to fill out the page. Interesting feeling, at least while adding. Not sure how to go about subtracting, or how to add lines to it.

D 17_05_02-06
Ctrl+H is God.

More faces. Feels fine now. Last one was way outside my skill range; animu faces with realistic proportions are wildly different from actual realistic faces in ways I haven’t bothered to understand.

I’m also not entirely sure when which lines should have more weight. I can figure it out if I stop and think about it, but I don’t really want to stop and think about it. They don’t feel sloppy or messy anymore, which is more important.

2017 Apr 10 ~ 21

Gonna put my drawing stuff here from now on too. Older stuff can be found here or here.

Upload schedule is other week, usually Saturday, occasionally Friday or Sunday.

Digital lines are a pain. Asked around and was told there’s no trick to it, I just have to grind a couple thousand curves through pre-established points. Which sounds about right, since the answer can’t possibly be vectors, but I still don’t like it. Means that the problem here is mostly one of mechanical finesse rather than any sort of mental refinement.

Integrating down to calves and feet, though, is. Using head length as a unit the full body is ~2 units wide and ~8 units tall, or 1:4 aspect ratio. I’ve primarily been working in 1:1 to about 1:2.5; doing something so long just feels weird. There’s also the part where if I want to make it large enough to have the most basic of details in eyes and eyebrows so that 0.5mm doesn’t trip over itself, a 1:4 means I’d need to take up ~2/3 of the page’s height.

That being said, this is also not a problem one’d naturally associate with “learning to draw”. Just as digital lining is a problem between tablet and chair, foot integration is a problem between anatomical understanding and mark-making instrument. Neither are my favorite kind of problem.

Problems, problems, problems.

A 17_04_10-13
Wasn’t too clear what I needed to be doing. Saw that pupils/irises were on my to-do list.

A 17_04_14-16
I always thought of the long eye type as simpler, but somewhere along the way the tables flipped. Not because I got particularly worse at them, but because I got better at the other type, and I started to know what to look for.

Long type is more difficult because of the nose, which has lower tolerances because it’s more realistic.

A 17_04_17
Didn’t end up being all too difficult. Just took a bit of space.

A 17_04_18
Adding the head and eyes really tightens the tolerances.

A 17_04_18-21
Had the thought of enforcing some sort of minimum level of detail; if it’s just a head it should detail hair, eyes, expressions, if it’s just a torso the hands should be there or at least some drapery. There seems to be an infinite number of things to refine and since that’s my “comfort zone” mixing them in a bit before and after bigger ones feels pretty nice.

Let’s see if I can’t make myself put more things together this time.

B 17_04_18-20
Started with looking closer at some silhouettes, then looked at motion instead.

D 17_04_21_2
Took ~10 minutes to go from nothing to final on paper.
Took ~100 minutes to go over only this much in lines digitally. Did some lines, then erased and refined, almost every line had its own layer, the jawline had four… I was originally planning to do hair but no way in hell was I going to touch it with this complete lack of speed.

Definitely missing something.

Dreaming too is a skill

In school I chased ever higher grades. In piano I chased ever fast complicated chords. In writing it was ever longer essays. In projects, tighter schedules; in managing, tighter rules.

Or in short in all fields throughout life what I sought was technical competence.

Drawing is the only thing so far where I’ve attempted to teach myself. It’s also the only thing where I’ve had a fairly clear idea from the beginning of what I like and why I like it, and for reasons other than technical competence: line drawings of women in sexual manners because muh dick. Simple, but conscious. While I liked songs I played on the piano I didn’t know why, and never fathomed to begin thinking about why they were appealing. It never occurred to me to think about drawing either, but by chance or other means the reason did exist.

It’s been a little over two years since I took drawing as a serious endeavor, and I’m now reaching basic technical competence in a majority of the things I originally wanted: I can draw all basic body parts of a woman, and know which proportions and camera angles to adjust to emphasize sexuality. There’s still some work to be done on reliably and accurately drawing certain positions and camera angles, but the problem’s approach is known, and estimates on how long it’ll take to solve are fairly accurate. All of this is a far cry from not knowing what to draw, how to draw, or even being able to copy anything at all. I know what I can and can’t do, and what I can do I can do well.

What I can’t do is anything worth doing.

Drawing female bodies is the only thing I’ve ever actually learned on my own, I’m certain I have competencies in it even if several areas need improvement, and yet I’m also completely unsatisfied with it. At some point in the past though I was satisfied with revisiting the same things over and over again, getting better day by day. Technical competence in a number of component skills is always required to open more doors in its superset skill: Not knowing clothing or hair or how to digitally color skin believably weren’t concerning to me because I knew I’d get to it eventually, and get better at it just the same as torso forms with pencil lines. It’s somewhat daunting to have to step into new territory soon; it’s even more to have to relearn how to take steps altogether.

l9wnqyoI can tell you there are some problems in this image. Some things are too large, some things are too small, a few things should be lighted differently, and some forms interfere if thought out a bit more. It’s fully within my abilities to redraw and fix those problems.

But I wouldn’t be able to create bottom up something that gives its feeling. I can draw female figures from this angle, but I wouldn’t know to use this one in particular. I can draw the stairs, but I wouldn’t know where to stop. I wouldn’t know to have the characters only take up that amount of space in the frame. I’d know how to make the females attractive. I wouldn’t know how to arrange everything so that the final product felt both sad yet comforting. At some point in the past I wouldn’t consider to make something sad yet comforting.

But now I do consider it. I think conveying feelings is what’s worth doing.

And I don’t know how to get there because my only meanings in life have been chasing technical competence and whetting my genitals . I’ve written a number of words in my life, but since I’ve never tried to do anything with it other than record my thoughts as-is with only myself in mind as the audience, that’s the limits of my writing. If I wrote a story, my strongest characters would be those singlemindedly improving on one skill and those running around satisfying carnal desires. There’d be other characters too, they’d just all be flat and unreadable. There wouldn’t be a story. They wouldn’t be characters. They’d be words.

The moment I stop thinking pornographically, my drawings become pencil lines. I can’t see characters. I can’t see motivations. If I see anything at all other than lines and shapes, it’s just a pretty face and a pretty body.

Which is what I wanted. So I guess it’s what I got.


If you want to see something, and over time you’ve only ever trained yourself to see that particular something, you’re not about to see anything else. If I want to see and draw “pretty faces”, I’m not about to see why she’s making that face, or what pose her body is in, in what kind of scene or including what other characters and their overall story. I still want pretty faces, to be sure. But it’s not the only thing I want anymore.

I want to tell stories now. I’ve no idea where to begin.

But technical competence in a number of component skills guarantees more open doors in its superset skill, and at some point component skills are effortlessly interchangeable.

When I started drawing it was difficult to keep returning to it. I sucked, I wasn’t making progress, nothing looked good, I didn’t know what to do or where to go. I only stuck with it because after a lifetime of believing in school I failed to get any job, and was hammering into my head that I needed to have something to show for in my life. Even then I only returned to it for a few hours a month. But it grew to a few hours every few weeks. Then a few hours a week, and now, I can’t imagine not doing it. The competency of the final result improving was only the cherry on top; what was important was learning how to approach the idea being encoded and becoming familiar with the kinds of mental landscapes that help cultivate these actions. Like water and food in an endless desert, when I just started drawing it was important for me to be able to produce good drawings at a certain rate. Now the land is bountiful, or at the very least there’s a decent sized patch of it which isn’t desert. I know how to get back to that patch, I know how to expand it, I even have a decent idea how to recreate that patch somewhere else entirely if for whatever reason that need arises. Good drawings hold a different meaning now, a man used to having his belly full at the end of every day isn’t going to find the same things acceptable as a man perpetually starving.

Among all the other things, dreaming holds a different meaning too.

This time it’s not like two plus years ago when all I had to reference was the pedagogy of the public school system and an online sea of low quality amateur artists who only pick up their craft twice a year and spend the rest of the time talking about personal style, imagination, passion, big names, and other undefined unactionable buzzwords. This time I have some experience learning, some idea of where to look and how to inspect things for the purposes of reverse engineering. In drawing the workflow is familiar enough to me that I can document it. But even elsewhere I have an idea how it works, what to do to expand my foothold, and the confidence that certain actions will produce the things needed to in turn produce and improve results: the first step is to believe the problem is solvable, the second step is to try out different imitations of examples until the structure of the whole can be identified. The other steps are depend more on the subject matter and are more complex, but are relatively trivial in importance. The first step is the most important one of all. And it’s one I can now take reliably.

Learning how to tell stories in drawings shouldn’t be too hard.

Learning how to tell stories in writing should be doable too, if only a few years further away.

[0] The original intended title for this post was “The End”. The second title was “Desire too is a skill”. It was changed to the final title due to connotations of the replaced words.