As an artist, I am very self-critical of my work and am usually unsatisfied with the results. It's because I'm not "there" yet. "There" is when I finally have my own style. "There" is when I push myself over my hump and reach a more advanced level. "There" is when I am proud of my work and not embarrassed when I receive compliments (because I feel like I don't deserve them).
There was a long period of time when I stopped doing anything artistic or creative, because I felt like I could never compete with the more brilliant artists out there. Why should I keep trying if I'll never get to their level? What's the point of continuing this path when other people can do it so much better than I can? So, I stopped. I put away all my sketch books, pencils, markers, paint, and any tool I used for art. I dumped my paintings in the back of a cabinet so I wouldn't have to ever look at those inferior pieces again. I even avoided looking at art on the internet as best as I could (but there were times when something popped up and I stared longingly at it before feeling discouraged again).
I felt empty inside. I was no longer me. I was no longer the me who found excitement and drew because I enjoyed seeing my favorite character in my hands. Without any creative outlet, I found myself dreading the days and even becoming depressed. I didn't know where to go or what to do. I was lost.
Then, on one slow day at work, I saw Muju's work appear on Twitter and I was immediately blown away. One thing led to another, and I was browsing through Muju's artwork on DeviantArt. There was no way I could paint like Muju, but then I came across some lineart of adorable, but badass, chibi characters on Muju's page. I thought I could at least try to replicate the lineart, and I did.
I was very surprised that I was able to finish this. I thought I would have stopped when I had to fill in more details, but I was so focused that I just kept scribbling away until it was done. (I did take a few breaks to send pics of my process to my boyfriend since he was wondering what I was doing.) I found satisfaction in completing this sketch, and I found a sense of happiness. A spark ignited in me again, and I didn't want it to fade away. So, here I am, filling up my portfolio and refining my craft.
Now that my backstory is out of the way, on to the main topic of this post: Robo-Maiko! The live-action Ghost in the Shell movie is coming soon (March 31, 2017), and I was instantly drawn to the robot geisha in the trailers. I quickly drew my rendition of a robot maiko and outlined it, but I hit a wall when it was time to color it in. Coloring is my weakness, so this is a hurdle that I must overcome in order to improve. I could just cop out and cell shade it, but that means I would continue being stuck in a plateau and not advance. I want to be a better artist. I want to create more realistic pieces instead of drawing cartoons.
If anyone is wondering why I call her maiko instead of geisha, it's because maiko wear red collars and have more ornaments in their hair. Maiko also wear nape makeup, colorful kimono with long sleeves, and a long obi. Geisha wear white collars, plain ornaments, plain kimono with shorter sleeves, and shorter obi. I learned this due to my curiosity of Japan's culture. Google may go into more detail if you're curious as well.
My first pass. I was not concerned with the color choices as I was just trying to figure out how to shade it properly. I was also trying to keep in mind that she is a robot, so the shading might not work if I'm worrying too much on how light and shadow hits human skin. Unfortunately, this didn't turn out well since she doesn't look like she is made of metal and her forehead is darker than the rest of her face. I thought the white lining above the eyes could show that some protrusion exists, but it just looks like angry, white eyebrows.
Second pass. I started painting in grayscale first before laying on the color. Now the chin is hidden in shadow and the nose looks flat. Overlaying the color on top of the grayscale image did not turn out as planned because the color came out darker/lighter than anticipated. I added the lines on her face to see if it would make her look more robotic. The idea was there, but she doesn't look realistic.
Third pass. I wanted to try painting this without zooming in, without focusing so much on details, and without worrying about being messy and embracing it instead. It was tough for me to paint outside the lines, not hit ctrl+z, and focus on the bigger picture. I was so used to following the rules with being neat that, at times, I started feeling very anxious. I have to keep reminding myself that art has no rules and that I needed to take risks. I'm happy to see that the nose didn't turn out too bad, but I still need to keep pushing my craft. I need to use darker darks and lighter lights. I also need to decide on the direction of the light source(s).
I will continue to keep practicing until I am satisfied with the results! If you have any tips or tutorials that may help me, feel free to let me know through Twitter or on my contact page. I appreciate the feedback!