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I am completing 13 years at DA, and with that came the realization of some things. Those who follow me know my gallery is all about the celebration of the female form. I love depicting female characters, for it puts me in my happy place. That's for granted - I am a guy, and I love women.
I find it silly when people ask me WHY I don't depict men so much. You can think of it as "biological", the "natural order of things", and so on. In general, men are programmed at DNA level to be drawn to women. We are designed from factory to work this way. I don't want to get into the merit of exceptions - there are exceptions to everything. I am talking in general, and I perfectly fit the general case. I am a man, deal with it. My gallery is about women.
Having that established, the depiction of women comes in many different flavors. I have noticed that there is a huge public for specific fetishes, such as body transformations from one kind of physique to another, from one gender to another, body expansions, and so on. Even though these are not my cup of tea, I have done those for commission jobs, and these sometimes become quite popular in my gallery. Sometimes even more popular than everything else I made for myself.
That's what's so challenging in commission jobs - doing what other people like, especially when I am personally not into the subject, even when it is still about women. Right at the beginning I said I do what I do for love, but sometimes we have to step out of our comfort zone to do other things. Some more prestigious artists often post a list of ALL the things they will not do, so they can keep doing only what they love, even in paid commissions. That is a luxury for some, and I have already declined certain kinds of commissions because of technical limitations of the media I work with. Very rarely I have declined doing something because I just don't like it, but it happens.
However, commission jobs can sometimes open new horizons on my perception of things. Being pushed out of my comfort zone can sometimes have surprising long-lasting inspirational effects, even when it is driven by just one little part of the work. Art is about perception, and more often than not, what we see is NOT what it is - but instead what we THINK it is. It's your perception of it, and that can change under the right conditions. Being force out-of-the-box in commission jobs has the power to provide these conditions, by asking us to do things we normally wouldn't do, or looking at the subject with a different perspective.
Changing your perception of something can have a big impact of how you will seek to portrait it from that point on. This is a very powerful thing, but it only happens to people who are open and willing to change. When I first got started with my gallery, I was trying to establish a style of my own, but the danger of doing so is to end up tied to a rail, where every post is a variation of the previous one. I started to have an urge not to repeat myself, and try different things. If I look at my gallery and feel like it's "a lot of the same", that's an indication that it's time for change.
The first 2 years of my gallery was all about Anime/Manga style. I am half-Japanese, so I have that in my DNA, but I thought that was kind of limiting. One day I went to the movies to watch Final Fantasy: Spirits Within, which I found fantastic at the time, but it was the ultimate box office disaster. Square closed office in America, and return to Japan with their tail between their legs. They took a financial beating because of the so-called "Uncanny Valley" effect. Ironically, the phenomenon was discovered by a Japanese roboticist (Professor Masahiro Mori) back in 1970. To avoid the issue, the art director decided to go for a whole new character style that was both Anime and realistic at the same time, while keeping a balance where it is difficult to discern which one is predominant.
That was, at least to me, the birth of the "semi-realistic" style in my gallery. That Square-Enix disastrous experience has changed my perception of how I wanted to depict women from that point on. That wasn't particularly difficult for me because aesthetics have always outweighed realism in my art. Perhaps semi-realism was just the missing part to perfectly fit what I was aiming for. It was my missing "je ne sais quoi".
Over time, I have concentrated on several different aspects of 3D rendering, lighting, materials, posing, framing, and effective use of color, this last one being the ultimate illusive part. There are many well-established "rules" for color use and composition, but there is no general formula to apply that knowledge to your particular work. Books on the subject are either about color theory, or about entire collections of color palettes "that worked", accompanied by existing examples where those have worked out. There is no explanation of why they worked. Effective use of color comes from understanding color theory, and then using your "guts" to apply it intuitively. Forget about rules and formulas. They help, but will not save your neck when applied to the real world. What has worked in one case might look horrendous in the next one.
But besides style and technique, there is also the theme. Perhaps the fun of some of my posts was about things that are particular to women. For example, we live in a society that encourages women to dress provocatively, but then condemn men if they stare. It has become common to see well-endowed women with 2/3s of their breasts exposed with plenty of cleavage, and then use that to harass and embarrass men who look at it. I have seen a woman who has sprinkled golden glitter over her cleavage, and then scorned any men who noticed it. Women seem to have a perverse pleasure for doing that, and I have depicted that side of human nature a couple of times, with some "what are you looking at?" scenes.
Opening a parenthesis here, there are also women who dress provocatively, and then label any men who stares as "perverts". Well, that's pretty stupid in my humble opinion. There are entire collections of groups at DA who describe themselvesa as "pervs" simply for enjoying the sight of beautiful women. God has designed men to behave exactly this way, even if just to prevent the species from going extinct. It is obvious that most women enjoy being noticed, be it for vanity or to enforce self-confidence, but to blame men for being men is plain silly. My gallery is all about beautiful women, so does that make me a pervert? And if you like my work, does that make you a pervert, too? I don't think so, but that's just my humble opinion. If a woman stares at some hunk, is she a pervert? Nope, physical attraction was designed and enforced by God - it is not optional, so who are we to judge it? We can disguise it, but to claim that we are not affected by it is just plain silly. We are all human, so deal with it. Now moving on...
I also have my own pleasure for depicting provocative sexy women in my gallery, but without the need for explicit nudity like many prefer to do. Maybe it's just me, but I think that the hide and seek game is more fun than exposing everything, leaving nothing for the imagination. Nothing I can possibly depict can compete with whatever people expect to see from their imagination, even because that image will vary wildly from one person to another. Mankind is primarily made of predators, so I think the hide and seek approach has a similar effect to teasing cats with chasing toys - they put cats into a more primordial chasing mode, which is how they get trained for the hunt.
Metaphorically, the "fun" of the hunt is the chasing, and I think that is directly related to how human relations work. In general, people like to be "chased" by the opposite sex. Here again, I don't want to get into the exception cases, since there are exceptions for everything, so I refer to the concept in general. This can be exploited in the composition, where a female "no" often means "yes". This can be expressed in character posing, where there are female "open" and "closed" stances. I like to explore this female semantic duality directly in the poses.
There is a bit of psychology in a pose. I like to make poses that are both open and closed at the same time, which transmit a YES and a NO signal, depending on how you look at it. The body is facing you, but the face is not. The legs are tight together, but the glance is direct. A pose can transmit many kinds of subliminal messages, but the sweet spot is when they appear to contradict each other. Not completely open, and not completely closed. Something in between. That is very female in nature.
In the same way that 3D lights only work effectively in conjunction with 3D materials, a pose doesn't work on its own. It depends directly on the camera framing and the kind of lenses you use. It depends a lot on the lighting (for character shots) as much as the camera framing. When working with 3D, everything is tied together directly or indirectly. Many beginners keep seeking for the alluring magic light set that will work in all scenes, but that is just a myth. Every scene is different, and requires different lighting. You can apply the same kind of lighting, but definitely not the SAME lighting that has worked in another scene, even if it is of the same kind. Lighting is an art on its own right. On professional movie studios, there are people who do just that, and nothing else. And don't get me started on light gels - that is yet another universe to explore that can change everything.
Now, going back to the beginning, art is all about perception. Improvement initially comes from getting a lot of feedback from the community. But over time, as my perception of my own work changes, I start to "see" the flaws without anybody needing to tell me. I know my strong and weak points from experience. I know what I am doing wrong, and how that will reflect in the image. We can improve on these things over time, but the point is that where I am now, I can tell when I did a good job before posting it for public criticism. I can hope most people won't notice it, but I know that I do, and it bothers me. We become our worst critics, but we can't work on the piece forever, so sometimes we have to settle for an "acceptable compromise". Any artist knows that, or will learn it one way or another.
Although my media is 3D, I now know for certain that my lack of 2D drawing skills has been holding me back for years. I will not be able to improve my craft until I take drawing classes and make up for my deficiencies. I am talking about putting like 10,000 hours on drawing alone, while still keeping up with the rest of my tasks. Until I do that, I think this is as good as it gets, though I have been experimenting with a myriad of new tools that take time to master.
Learning never ends, because life is not long enough. Of course, there are those with natural talent, but for the rest of us, improving takes a lot of time. As opposed to some other people, I don't delete my older work. It's there for me to see my progress. Even when I thought I was good enough, the tools changed, and I had to learn it all over again. The basics are still the same. What changes is usually how they are applied.
Well, that's it for now. I am enjoying the last days of my DA subscription to post this journal, making a retrospect of my impressions as an aspiring artist here at DA. Hope you enjoy it. ^^