Draw Yourself as a Villain Challenge

My ‘Draw yourself as a villain’ challenge piece

Muahahahaa! That’s me as a devil, reigning in hell – and that’s my darling little Sputnik, who most definitely would never go to hell, because he is an angel.

Specs:

Corel Painter 2019
Wacom Tablet
Time: 2-3 hours?

I promised myself I would dedicate myself more to art now-days, for a number of reasons – one being that I’ve neglected my art since school, even though art was one of my first loves. Unfortunately I could never see how I’d ever be good enough to make a career out of art and I let it slide in favour of writing, though of course making a living *actually* out of writing is equally – in fact, I’d say rather a lot more so – tough and unlikely. Writing requires opportunities and contacts first and talent last; as with any art, it’s my experience (and that of many very talented people I’ve spoken to) that it’s nothing to do with pure talent, or a love for it, or a passion. While of course you need all of these to succeed, it doesn’t mean a right lot if nobody thinks you’re important and nobody knows you exist.

Art is probably the same, but then it depends where you’re coming from. If you’re a fine painter then you’ll have a very different experience to a cartoonist, or someone who does watercolour pet portraits, and so on. ‘Art’ is an umbrella term which encompasses so many things. However, being a visual form, it is much easier for people to access, and therefore you can get a lot of satisfaction from art without ever needing to be recognised, famous, or “successful”. The love of creating art feeds the soul. It’s for those reasons that I wanted to turn my learning back to art, because it’s a pure joy and you never stop learning.

With that in mind, I’ve been practicing on my Wacom tablet over the last few months, though not as much as I’d like to because of work and travelling to and from my partner’s house. I’ve been proud of my progress and I believe I am defining my own style. Youtube has been a massive help, as well as Instagram – it’s so inspiring to see the amazing artists out there, and what’s more is that they’re all more than happy to share their techniques and tips. I seem to enjoy drawing portraits of women the most, and my style is a kind of two-tone comic book style – I did develop this a little in my teen years, but I had such limited knowledge, tools, and access to support that it just fell away. Back then, Deviantart was an amazing resource, but it was the *only* resource. Youtube wasn’t nearly as full of self-made content as it is now, and Instagram didn’t exist. Today, tutorials are so much more accessible than they were back then, and you can get them for free.

One thing I’ve gotten much better at recently is drawing bodies, hands, and feet. My style used to be chibi/caricature (massive heads, small bodies), which is a style I loved years ago, but it probably reflected the fact that I preferred to draw heads. Bodies were much harder, and I wasn’t used to drawing them on a bigger scale. What I’ve learned to do is sketch with a digital ‘2b pencil’ and draw a figure much like a wooden art model (the kind with the ball joints that you can bend and manipulate), and use a photo of a model in the pose I liked. I could then draw a clunky model from the photo and then compose my art on top of the model I created. Neat, hm?

So, I finally felt ‘good enough’ to do an art challenge! I drew myself as a devil because I’d recently watched Keanu Reeves’ Constantine (a favourite from my teens), and also because I’m reading Hellblazer: Original Sins (John Constantine), so I’m all about demons and the occult. I also watched the Netflix documentary, ‘Hail Satan?’, which was really interesting, so this all combined to put me in a devlish mood. I was inspired by someone who posted their ‘draw yourself like a villain’ challenge in a Facebook group, and I just had to take part. I hope you like it; I’m very proud of it!


Other news

I’m back in the office full-time now, which is great, but the floor’s all taped up to keep us 2m apart, and we have to santize and spray every surface after using it. It’s not so bad; it’s just different, like everything right now.

Best news of all: we finally got our mortgage approved! My lovely boyfriend and his adorable kitten are moving across the country to be with me in our gorgeous new house. I honestly never thought I’d see the day that I’d be really happy, but here we are, starting our lives together. It’s mad how fast things can change over the course of a couple of years. There’s talks of marriage and babies, but for now we just want to get into our new house and make it ours. There will be pictures – oh yes, there will be pictures!

Best wishes,
Ashleigh

Lockdown, working, house move, Ipad Pro!

Black Modern Goth Girl
Copyright Ashleigh Condon 2020

Hi folks.

I hope you’re keeping well. My god, has it been that long since I last wrote anything on this blog of mine?! Well, I’ve been up to lots – but also up to nothing. It’s a weird one.

Writing & Illustration
One thing I have been doing is practising my drawing a lot on my beautiful Wacom Tablet. In fact I’ve become so smitten with digital art that I’ve actually decided to buy a brand new iPad Pro and an Apple Pencil after our house move. I desperately wanted to buy it right now, but I’m conscious that we may have some unexpected bills or costs that we didn’t factor into our calculations when we move house. So, being a good little budding-artist, I’ve decided the ipad pro will be a little gift to myself once we’ve settled in.
One thing I very much regret is giving up on my art – well, given up on taking it seriously, anyway. I chose writing, which has been great and I’ve ended up in a job I love (after years of side-moves and dead-ends of course), but becoming an actual author was always my big pipe dream. Frankly, that just doesn’t look likely – it seems to me that if you’re not famous, or if you’re not connected or already deep into self-promotion (and successful at it), then you’re not likely to get plucked from the ether. Even then, publishing looks like a difficult world for an author to survive in. I do worry for the future of publishing – where are all the working class writers, making it big, without any other sellable attributes? Where’s the pure talent? Where’s the diversity? I’m not seeing it – I’m only seeing good old-fashioned mass-marketing. Call me cynical, but maybe that’s all it ever was?

Anyway, my other love was always art in all its forms, and I’m determined to ignite this again. I’ve even considered doing a Masters in illustration, but I’m not sure I’d have the time, even distance-learning. Still, I’m considering it.

Black Goth Lazy Days
Copyright Ashleigh Condon 2020

Getting back to literature: one genre that I’m glad to see still thriving is the medical memoirs sector. Sue Black has written another memoir due out in September called “Written in Bone”,which I was soooo excited to see. If her first book “All that Remains” is anything to go by, this will be a thrilling read and another creepy-yet-oddly-touching glimpse into the life of a forensic anthropologist. Do go and read “All That Remains” by Sue Black – you will leave those pages feeling educated, intrigued, and a little spooked.

I was thrilled to see that These Are the Hands anthology has so far raised over £11,000 for NHS Charities Together! There was talk of some animated films – I’d love to see one of mine made into an animated film. I’ve yet to fill in the consent forms!

Lockdown

One thing I have become aware of during lockdown is that I’m suffering from general anxiety. I contacted my doctor requesting a sleep study, because sleep apnoea runs in my family and I’d been symptomatic – or at least, I’d thought I was, and after asking a few questions of my family members, they suggested I’d best get it looked at. For months and months I’ve been having intrusive thoughts (usually fears surrounding my family and their wellbeing), and I’ve been waking up in the morning with my heart beating rapidly and completely consumed by fear, or a sense of doom. It’s a horrible feeling and it takes me hours to calm down from it completely – some days, it doesn’t seem to go completely. I described this to my doctor and wondered if perhaps I was choking in my sleep, or stopping breathing. However, she said that this did not resemble sleep apnoea, but rather anxiety. I’m not surprised – Up until 2019, I’d had a traumatic few years and I’d weaned myself off medication successfully. It stands to reason that my traumatic experiences left an imprint, and that imprint – as is so often the case – was anxiety.
Working during lockdown has been going okay, although I miss the security of the office and the feeling of leaving my work behind at the end of the day. We’re slowly working towards a full return to the office on a phased basis, trying for one day a week, then two, then three, etc. My problem is public transport, as I’m still not driving – I don’t much fancy sitting on a bus for an hour in a face mask. Actually, that brings me to my next update!

House move

We’ve fallen in love with a gorgeous house right near my workplace. After a slight snag with a buyer pulling out, we managed to find another one – and with the stamp duty being taken away, that’s freed up loads more money for us to decorate, which is fantastic. I feel very sorry for those hoping for a 10% mortgage, though – they are the ones who will not benefit from the halting of the stamp duty, because they can’t get a mortgage lower than a 25% deposit in the first place. This is the very reason our first buyer pulled out. So essentially, first-time-buyers are still being screwed over, despite having between 30-50k to put down as a deposit! That’s a stonking amount of money.

Alas, apparently, this still isn’t enough, and now they’ll have to wait years to be in a position to buy again. It isn’t fair at all. The only reason I’m able to move is because my partner bought his first house young – it gained value, and when he bought a new home, that one gained value too. Buying young is unfortunately always the answer, and yet it’s difficult for most when they’re just starting out. I’ve been putting away £1,000 a month for over a year to save my contribution – I was only able to do this because I live with my family and pay them a modest housekeeping. The rest of my money goes on travel and general living/work costs. If I was renting, I’d only be saving about a quarter of that if I was lucky.

Type O Girl
Copyright Ashleigh Condon 2020

Anyway, that’s my little update. Keep safe, keep well, and keep on keeping-on. It’s all any of us can do right now.

Best wishes,
Ashleigh

Drawing on my Wacom Tablet

A screenshot of Razor attempt #1

Good day to you!

This is just a quick blog to show off what I’ve been getting up to lately, aside from working at home.

My boyfriend bought me a beautiful Wacom tablet for my birthday and I’ve been getting to know it recently. I’ve never spent out on a Wacom tablet before (or any digital art tools, frankly) because I’ve always told myself that I’m simply not good enough to justify the cost, as these things can be pretty expensive. However, what I failed to remember is that you can’t get any better if you never practice! Plus, a good painting package (I have Paintshop Pro but I actually use Corel Painter) allows you to practice any number of styles – actually, mostly anything you can think of. The brushes and styles allow you to make anything from Manga to watercolours to oil paintings – they look stonkingly good.

Anyway, years ago (and I mean years – I think I was about 17 the last time I tried digital art) I used to have a sort of cartoony comic-book style, and clearly that hasn’t gone away. After a few scribbles and test-runs drawing smaller doodles, just getting used to using the tablet and pen, I finally gave a proper character portrait a go.

Above is my first attempt – I was very proud of it, but naturally, once it’s completed, you start seeing all the faults with it. I felt my lines were too stiff and my colouring is pretty pants, and I wished I’d made the character a little “punkier” or true to her original. I love retro games, and one of my favourite games as a child was one by Lucas Arts called Maniac Mansion – my friend Jenny and I used to play it round her house. Those were amazing times; so much fun to be had, just being a kid. I remember making silly recordings on her tape recorder (we were being Jesse and James from Pokémon – her mum was hoping we were recording her a sweet song) and after that we piled up the living room cushions and pretended to be Lara Croft from Tomb Raider. Jenny, if you’re out there, I had great memories with you.

Below is my second attempt – she looks a lot more true to character, with the correct outfit for a start, and a punky haircut in multiple lengths. Her pose is a lot sexier too – Razor is supposed to be the front-woman of a punk band called Razor and the Scummetts (god I love Lucas Arts).

Below is a screenshot of the final second attempt at Razor. I was a lot looser with my drawings and just felt more at ease overall, so I was able to have a lot more fun with her. I think it shows!

I’ll show you more as my skills progress – I’d long forgotten how much I love to draw characters

Until next time!

Best wishes,
Ashleigh x

Screenshot of Razor 2, my second attempt

RazorOriginal
The original Razor from the game – such a tuna head.

Isolation Projects Part 2

Me on a beautiful spring walk in the sunshine.

Welcome to my blog! I used to put out content every Wednesday, but since we got into the thick of lockdown, my routine has been so screwed up that I’ve found it difficult to blog at all.

That doesn’t mean I haven’t been up to this and that, however – I’m as creative as ever, and probably more so, with all this time to fill. I’ve been working at home and I’m one of the very fortunate people who can collect their full paycheck every month, with no need for the furlough or to claim universal credit. I’m hugely thankful for that, and I’m thankful for the fact that my family, my partner (who is 180 miles away) and my loved ones are happy, safe, and healthy. I’m also thankful that it appears all the third parties I’m in contact with for work are still ticking along as essential services, which means I can continue my job like normal without any bumps in the road.

As you can see from the photo above, I’ve been enjoying the sunshine! Mostly in the garden, mind you, with my family and my darling little dog – but on this occasion I took a walk to the local park and enjoyed the pond and the blossoms.

I also “celebrated” my birthday recently, which was a beautiful day with presents, wine, food, cake – what more could I honestly ask for? (My boyfriend is the answer, but it was still a great day). At the time of writing, I am 29 years old. I find that pretty depressing and difficult to deal with, but I’m trying to see the beauty in ageing. Hey, at least I’m here.

Writing

My children’s novel is ticking away nicely! I’ve made a lot of progress on my current project, but I’m usually very well-disciplined and so far I haven’t had too many snags. I’ve just been enjoying the process of creation, as I always do. If anything comes of it by the finish, I’ll let you know.

Reading

I’m currently working my way through the old children’s classics. I fall in love with every book I read, especially if it’s a children’s classic, because they just had a knack for capturing a certain magic that I find so rarely in fiction today. Currently I’m reading The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett, who I was amazed to see also wrote A Little Princess, which is on my to-read list and was a huge favourite film of mine as a child. TSG parallels the maturation of emotionally and physically stunted children with the growth of flowers, against a backdrop of adults who have cast the ‘gardens’ of their lives, and their offspring, into the shadows of their own grief. I’m enjoying this enormously in ways that I couldn’t enjoy The Fireman by Joe Hill, which I recently started. Getting 200 pages in was like wading through treacle and about as fun, which is such a shame – there was a time when I described him as one of my favourite authors. Given that it’s an 800 page book, you can see why I’ve put it to one side for now. Much like his father, I do fear that the publishers simply aren’t cutting his work down to size, perhaps to justify the price or the hype.

Watercolour challenge

Here’s a cute idea; great for children and adults. If you can’t think what to draw, but you feel like being creative, then try this out: simply blob on a load of watercolours, any you like, and let them run and play on the page. Once they’ve dried (you can use paper towel to soak up excess and a hairdryer to dry it off if it’s too soggy), you can perform a sort of inkblot test on yourself. Hold it up at different angles: what shapes emerge? What can you see? Once you see something emerging, get a pen and start drawing. As you can see from my two pictures above, I saw a snail slithering over some twigs and leaves. Nifty idea, hm?

Other than that, I did some baking today: I chucked some cupboard ingredients together with a few spotty bananas and made a delicious, springy, *moist* (god I hate that word) coffee, chocolate and banana loaf cake. I sat in my dad’s little art workshop in the garden, listened to music and painted while my cake baked in the kitchen on a beautiful warm spring day. I even had my faithful companion by my side, snoozing in the sunlight.

Times may be very difficult right now, and very frightening – but you can still see some beauty in the world.

Keep indoors, keep social distancing, and keep safe, folks – I wish you all the good health in the world.

Best wishes,
Ashleigh

My handsome little boy, Sputnik.

Teach Yourself Vector Graphics

I taught myself to create these creepy treats in an afternoon. Try it for yourself!

Welcome back! I put out new content every Wednesday, focusing on whatever is distracting me at the the time.

As a dedicated dabbler-in-everything, I find distraction is the best method for working towards better mental health. I dream up new hobbies I want to dabble in every day. The nice thing about having a blog is that I have somewhere to share my doodles, dabbles, and daydreams – even if I never do them again, I can at least share my progress for a fellow novice to stumble upon. I hope what such a person would get from this is to realise that if I can do it, then they can do it.

What are vector graphics?


From Wiki: Vector graphics are computer graphics images that are defined in terms of 2D points, which are connected by lines and curves to form polygons and other shapes.

The main difference between vector and raster graphics is that raster graphics are composed of pixels, while vector graphics are composed of paths. A raster graphic, such as a gif or jpeg, is an array of pixels of various colors, which together form an image. Vector graphics are best for printing since it is composed of a series of mathematical curves. As a result vector graphics print crisply even when they are enlarged. (GeeksforGeeks)

Ankit Jain, GeeksforGeeks


I hope the author doesn’t mind me quoting them, but they’ve explained it so simply that even I understood it (or gained a basic overview). Please click the links to learn about them in more depth – it’s an interesting read.

For now, onto the creativity!

Doughnut, minus cute-face.

Teach Yourself Vector Artwork

Vector graphics are amazing because you can create clean, crisp, beautiful images which can be scaled up or down with ease and printed in multiple sizes without ever deteriorating in quality. You can create multi-purpose artwork to use on a variety of print or digital materials, or you can even sell your own artwork for use on other people’s products.

Once you’ve gotten used to the basics, you can create basically anything you want. If you can make it out of shapes, then you can create it.

Tools

You will need a computer fast enough to not die on you while you’re creating, and an amazing and completely free piece of graphics software called Inkscape.
There is of course Photoshop and other expensive bits of kit, but if you’re new to this then you won’t want to shell out hundreds of pounds or dollars for what could be something you merely dabble in from time to time.

Inkscape is universally acknowledged as a fantastic (free!) bit of kit which people often choose over the expensive alternatives, not just because it’s free, but because they love to use it.

You can get Inkscape here.

After that, all you need is time, eagerness, and:

Tutorials


The easiest way to get to grips with your first piece of vector artwork is to follow a step-by-step tutorial in the art style you’re hoping to go for.

I was attracted to this amazing video by Logos by Nick on Youtube.

The above doughnut was created after I followed this tutorial! That doughnut was my very first piece of vector artwork. There are hundreds of tutorials out there, but this one was fast, fluid, and easy to follow. I even felt confident enough to add my own accents, such as the eyes and mouth, to give it some character.

If you take a look at the cute-face lollipop next to it, you will see the creation I made on my own directly after creating the step-by-step doughnut. I was amazed how fast I picked it up, and I was able to give my little doughnut buddy a creepy cute-face friend.

I didn’t touch Inkscape much again for the next year (because of personal crap) but when I picked it up again, it didn’t take long for me to get used to it.

I created two characters of mine, Meloncholy & Charlotte, who I dreamed up about 10 years ago at university. They were the subjects of many hand-drawn cartoons and poems.
(Copyright Ashleigh Condon)

What I learned

Aside from the technical skills involved in developing a piece of vector artwork, there’s a lot to learn about perspectives and the way we put images together.

For example, that doughnut appears to be a ring with a whole in the middle, correct? But it isn’t. It’s a white circle on top of a beige circle. Those bites out of the side of the doughnut are simply layers of circles detracted from two other layers of circles at different intervals to reveal those layers, thus making it look like a bite.

This might sound obvious and simple, but the beauty of vector artwork is that it’s all about the illusion.

You are not drawing. You are building up layers of shapes and manipulating how those shapes appear.

This means you can create absolutely anything as long as you can imagine it as a series of shapes.

Nifty, eh?

I hate to sound like Neil Buchanan (and by hate, I mean love), but try it yourself!

Best wishes,
Ashleigh