I never thought I’d say this, but I think I miss homework? WHAT!? Well, kind of - the homework that was assigned to create something, anyway. Ok, so really I just miss high school art class. There’s something about a teacher giving you an assignment and a due date that makes you … you know, create. Not to say that I have a problem getting myself to make artwork, if anything I have trouble getting myself to do much else with my free time, haha.
I’m a competitive person. I love contests. I love a challenge. So even though it’s wasn’t a contest, and no one “wins,” when it came to art class I wanted to push myself and try my very hardest. (I want to be the best, like no one ever was….) My BFF Veronica (who is a stupidly talented artist) and I were (and probably still are) my art teacher’s favorites. NBD. I’m getting side tracked, sorry to high-school-art-class-royalty-brag all up in your faces or whatever. What I’m getting at is that when I’m faced with a challenge, especially with a contest that has rules, guidelines, subject matter, and most importantly a time constraint, it always makes me create some of my best work. That was no exception when it came to the Dungeons & Dragons “Terror of Undermountain” monster creation contest that Adobe just hosted.
Spoiler alert (in case you didn’t read the title of this post): I did not win. Or did I?!? No, I didn’t, but I also sort of did. You see, in the end I had spent hours working my very hardest to craft a incredible work of art, and if you ask me, I did win. I’m now the proud father of my very own depiction of what the “Terror of Undermountain” might look like, and let me tell you I learned a lot while making it.
This was definitely a challenge for me, because basically all of my work starts with photos of my subject. I know for the most part what I want the final image to look like and take the photos accordingly. For this image, not only did I not have the image of my subject to work from, but my subject didn’t even exist. For the contest we were given a few folders with a bunch of different body parts in them that you could use to get you started. Roughly painted arms, legs, heads, torsos and things made up this inspiration toolkit. It was kind of like doing a puzzle where you don’t have a box to look at and the pieces can all fit together in any order and you don’t have to use all of them … or any of them at all.
The first lesson I learned while making my image was that when creating a monster, you have to try and fail a lot of times before you really commit. At least that’s how it was for me. I think because I could go in so many directions, it took me a while to land on a sketch/general outline that I was ready to put some real time into. I didn’t want to spend hours detailing something out just to decide it wasn’t working and lose hours of work. Once I did finally start heading in a direction I was liking, I had to keep telling myself, “This is the one; just keep putting in the time and it will evolve into something you really like.” Spoiler alert again … it did!
The second thing I learned is that Youtube is such an amazing resource. Haha jk … I already knew it was, but it’s been a while since I’ve taken the time to soak up some new knowledge from the great depths of the internet. This contest lit a fire under my butt and it sent me down a path of new amazing knowledge … and a new obsession. I’m just going to briefly touch on it now but I could most certainly gush about this Youtube channel for hours. (And really, how many of you have actually even read this far into the post as it is!?!) But anyway, I found my new favorite fountain of knowledge: FZD School. (More on that later, like I probably need to do a whole post about why I can’t even handle how much I’m obsessed … )
The third thing I learned about creating a giant monster (or any sized monster… or anything?) Is that there’s always room for more details and it’s never too late for big changes. Aka don’t get married to your initial vision, just go with the flow. Originally my monster only had 2 eyes, 2 legs, and no ears. It was way late in the game (like I can’t even fathom how many hours deep - I couldn’t tell you the last time I put this many hours into an image) when I decided my creation had a super cool mouth, but that was about all it had going for it. For the most part the creature was just a humanoid body and a cray mouth. So I added some extra eyes, some ears, and ditched the boring people legs to go with spider legs (which I moved around and resized roughly fifteen and a half thousand times until I was happy with them).
So the moral of this story is that even though I didn’t win the contest, it pushed me to work extra hard, try new things, and learn. You can most definitely learn things all on your own, but sometimes a little healthy competition goes a long way. Honestly, if I was wasn’t so far in the student debt hole (like soooooooo far *throws up in mouth a little*), I would kinda like to go back to school - at least take a class or two. I really love the classroom setting and having a group of peers all helping to push each other to make better work. Anything that forces you to learn is a win in my book. Take this as a reminder to push yourself to learn new things from time to time, and take advantage of online contests as an opportunity to advance your skills.