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Sunday, May 07, 2006

Unusual Inspiration

I found a couple of good sources of inspiration for drawing this week, although the reasons they were inspiring are kind of unusual, since they were based on imperfection and difficulty.

Last night I finished Attack of the Bacon Robots, and it was a real trip down memory lane. Not only did I find the comics themselves nostalgic, but they reminded me of things that were going on in my life at the time I first read them, although I didn't always immediately recall the gaming-related events they were concerned with.

There was a time, during college, when I was easily one of the most informed people I knew on all things related to video gaming. I had a list of probably twenty or so gaming sites that I started reading every night at 9pm (when they updated). In the days before RSS, that usually took 45-60 minutes, and constituted the majority of my entertainment activities most evenings.

Yes, that's sad and slightly pathetic, but it left me very well-prepared to immediately comprehend any gaming references and allusions PA might make. My turn of the century gaming history is a little rusty these days.

So, why was it so inspiring to read all the old PA strips? Because they were so bad! Actually, they weren't really terrible, but the first one was decidedly primitive compared to the strip from five years later, not to mention the level of artwork in some of their most recent comics. I find the idea that something that began so simply can evolve so much pretty inspiring.

The other good inspiration has been the articles and workshops in the copy of ImagineFX magazine that I got earlier in the week. In addition to being technically helpful (if frustratingly Photoshop-centric, like everything else), they're also refreshingly forthright. There's no attempt to gloss over the time and effort necessary: I've noticed that the captions for some of the most impressive examples of artwork note that the featured artist took multiple weeks to complete them.

Now that I can aspire to! It's really disheartening to think people banging out drawings like that over the course of an afternoon, which is the impression often given by over-simplified tutorials and demonstrations. There's no way I could do that, it's super-human! It's encouraging to realize that they can't do that either. They're not really all that different from me, these artist creatures, and I could do some pretty cool stuff, too, if I spent a month on it.

The trick, of course, is making the time to spend an hour or so a day creating and cleaning and tweaking and polishing an image, which I admit will be hard for me to do right now, but it makes the final outcomes seem at least a little more achievable.

So Penny Arcade has reassured me that even though it may not be obvious on a daily basis, long term improvement is possible, while ImagineFX has reminded me that it's ok for things to take a long time, even for the experts.

Obvious lessons, I know, and ones that I've learned before, but it's good to relearn them from time to time.


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