I’ve been working more and more on paper (pencil and watercolors on card stock) for about a year, now, and as my desk is becoming dangerously filled with sketches and painted design documents, I look at the Cintiq on the other side of said desk with circumspection.
Doing concept art in an official capacity created a weird thing in my mind. I felt the urge to fit in, to justify my being introduced to this fairly tight crowd, and more particularly to match the expectations this industry has about what kind of material a concept artist produces.
I’ve been friends with a number of those professionals for longer than I have been one myself, so I’ve collected brushes and photomash-friendly textures over the years, but never really got to incorporating them into my drawings, since I used not to have real deadlines that require extra efficiency on my part.
Also, fancying myself an aspiring draughtsman, while I understand the value of techniques such as photomashing (the art of using photographic material and jamming them together to generate texture, detail, and sometimes design), I felt it took away a large chunk of what I can learn from designing something myself, intellectually, rather than relying on accidents.
My new-found job title made me dust off those odd brush sets and watch speedpaint tutorials and so on. But it became quickly clear that while I was improving from a technical standpoint, my works still felt disappointing, especially next to those of my peers.
After a bit of a depressing period, I went back to drawing on paper, as I couldn’t get to draw anything on my computer. And things started clicking in.
(This picture is kinda not related as I can’t show what I’m working on for the moment. 😛 But I made it very recently so, yeah)
Not only was I feeling more at home on a sheet of paper, my trusty pencil (the same I’ve been using over the last 10 years or so) in hand, it also felt very liberating. My designs weren’t the sums of all the gimmicks I had seen that week anymore, I felt creative again, on top of my own humble game.
But maybe more importantly, I also started, more or less consciously, to incorporate some of the things I learned during my digital training into my analog works, like the way lighting and reflections work, and so on.
Now, I’m mostly designing on paper, and I then move to the computer, using my watercolors as a base, to produce the more professionally appropriate concepts I am paid to make.
Don’t force yourself into this or that medium. Use the one you like the most, which may not be the same for different tasks. But also, be curious and try different tools when you can. While a good painter doesn’t choose his brush, the brush does have a huge influence on what you’ll make and you can, and probably will, discover a lot of things in those moments of experimentation.
As a final note, consider these experiments as part of your process, and not as a luxury, especially if, like me, you’re still trying to find your own way of doing things.