Category Archives: Art

Weekly Sketch Off #3: Big Daddy

So this entry is for this week, and we’re just rotating to an “early in the week” post schedule, to give us the weekend to do the sketches. We apologize for the inconvenience.

This week was my (Dave)’s choice, and I chose the Big Daddy from Bioshock. The first two-thirds of Bioshock is one of my favorite games (the last third is one of my least favorite games, coincidentally), and there is little argument that the iconic figure to come out of the game was the Big Daddy, a lumbering, diving suit clad creature that was once a man but has become something less. In the game, Big Daddies are the protectors of Little Sisters, genetically altered little girls who rove the derelict world of the game collecting material from dead inhabitants. The trick is that the Daddies won’t attack, or even notice, the player until the player gets too close to a Little Sister, which gives them a somewhat more tragic and altruistic veneer as opposed to more traditional video game enemies. They are not aggressors, desperate to kill you for no reason. They are guardians of (seemingly) innocent children, and it is the player who is the aggressor when he or she decides to attack the Daddies in order to claim the Sister’s resources.

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Weekly Sketch-off #2: Captain America

This entry is technically for last week, but due to several unrelated problems for both of us it was delayed until this week. So just pretend it’s last Friday, and expect another entry this Friday.

After last week, we decided that two drawings per person was a bit much, so we decided to limit it to one choice instead of one choice apiece. This will be the format going forward, and should alleviate future delays based on the amount of work required.

Anyway, this week we (and by we I mostly mean Alessandro/Sagramore) chose Captain America, long-time Marvel Comics staple hero, leader of the Avengers, and one of the stars of the recently released Avengers movie. Joe and I decided to focus on the movie costumes as opposed to comic book costumes, and by some serendipity we picked different versions: Joe chose the WWII version, and I chose the modern version. Also by some weird serendipity, we more or less chose the exact same pose, although our reasons for that decision differ.

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Weekly Sketch-off #1: Ashe and Red Robin

Welcome to the first installment of the Weekly Sketch-off. One of our new contributors, Joe “I have no pseudonym” O’Hara, is a fellow artist, and suggested that he and I team up every week to do some fancy art type stuff. Every week, we will each pick a character from video games, movies, comics, cartoons, or whatever, and then we both will draw sketches of those characters. Joe and I have markedly different styles, so it should be a most interesting look at how different artists can interpret characters. Feel free to leave feedback and suggestions for future character choices. And now on with the show.

This week, I (Deprava) chose Ashe from League of Legends. Sagramore and I play LoL pretty much every weekend, and sometimes podcast guest Sethrakles and I play it almost every evening. Ashe is not my favorite of the ranged AD champions in the game (that would be Miss Fortune), but she is the ranged AD champ I tend to play most often. So I figured she was a good place to start.

Joe on the other hand picked Red Robin from the new 52 and the DC reboot, and I’ll let him take it from here. “I pick Red Robin from the New 52. Tim’s one of my favorite characters and I think his costume is a horrible throw back to Liefeld and the 90s. My goal is for us to attempt to make this crap look good as this character thoroughly deserves.”

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Semi-daily Sketch: Cammy from Street Fighter

Target Acquired.

So as I predicted, my daily art posts didn’t end up being very daily. In my defense, I did draw a sketch on Thursday, but it was terrible so I didn’t post it; and this sketch was completed late last night, but I was too tired to scan it and get it uploaded.

Anyway, this is Cammy, my favorite character from the Street Fighter series, and not just because she has the most ridiculous uniform ever for a special forces agent. It’s because she has a British accent.

Daily Sketch: Morgana from League of Legends

Go go Soul Shackles!

Hopefully, hopefully, hopefully, this will become a daily (or semi-daily) update, wherein I post a sketch I drew for the day. This will make me update more, and draw more, so it’s win/win.

This is Morgana from League of Legends, the only game I currently play on a daily basis. She has always been my favorite champion, going back to when I played her in the beta and her shield was super imba. Alas, new champions and the redesign of a few items have caused her to fall out of the spotlight right now, but I still enjoy playing as her from time to time.

See you tomorrow, (hopefully!)


Art Drop: Eva 2.0 Asuka Sketch

Asuka Langley Shikinami

I enjoyed Neon Genesis Evangelion, but I found it to be very slow in places and the original TV ending was abysmal. One day while perusing Amazon I saw the blu-ray for Eva 1.11 You Are (Not) Alone, and picked it up on a whim. Basically, it’s amazing. They took the best parts of Eva, stripped out the slow bits, and updated the art.

In anticipation of the March release of the second movie, You Can (Not) Advance, I did this sketch of Asuka, who is my favorite character in the series because she doesn’t mope around the entire time. I’m working on coloring it in Photoshop, but for now enjoy the pencils.

I also set up a new deviantArt account for archiving my work, which can be found at I had an account there from way back, but it’s under a different name and DA won’t let you change your name ever for any reason, so I made a new one. A permanent link is on the right in the blogroll, and I’ll leave a note here if I post anything over there.

No Podcast this Week + Bonus Art

Many apologies again, but due to traveling and the holidays, we do not have a podcast this week, either. However, next week we WILL have a podcast, our 25th episode Extravaganza, and we’ll have a special guest, more famous than any previous guest! So be sure to come back and check that out.

To placate you, I offer this piece, in which I used my fancy new Wacom Intuos4 to color the sketch I posted two weeks ago. For a first effort, I guess it came out well enough.

Not so sure on the background, but I had no idea what to do.

Sketches of Fall

Hey look, it’s my monthly contribution to the site, and it’s a sketch. I put so much work into this thing. Anyway, fall is my favorite season, so this is my tribute to it. The character is Diana, from a comic project Sagramore and I are working on. Enjoy.

Yes, those are deer antlers.

Open to Interpretation, Part 1

As you are aware, a week ago we had The Girl on the podcast, and one of the topics we discussed was the question of perception of a work of art and authorial intent versus audience absorption. (If you didn’t know that, I suggest you go listen to that episode right now, especially since I am not doing justice to the segment). That idea and line of thought has stuck with me since then, and considering in our next episode we will have a guest who is a soon to be published author, I want to explore it further. Given the complexity of the topic, I have divided it in two, the author and the audience. This is part one, regarding the creator, and part two will be posted next Wednesday.

Oh, and just to clarify, when I say “creator” I refer to any person who produces a piece of art, be it literature, visual art, music, or otherwise. Creator seemed the most neutral and all-encompassing term, and the linguistic nerd in me likes its connection to Greek poiesis, from which we get poetry but literally means “maker.”

Yes, That Was Intentional

I wanted to begin with a sweeping, axiomatic statement about the personal nature of the creative process, but that is not true, even in the general sense. Poe, in his essay on the writing of The Raven, makes a fine argument for the distinction between personal emotions and emotions intentionally infused into poetry (but considering how his own emotions so closely matched his poetic expression, one cannot but question his motives and conclusions), and I personally have written pieces with the intent to invoke emotions I was not feeling at the time, so we can abandon that line of reasoning. However, from this we can reach one conclusion, which I judge accurate despite its breadth, and that is that creators act with intent.

I’m sure some of you are saying, “Well, yeah, obviously.” But allow me to unpack that assertion, so I can show you that there is more to that seemingly simple statement than meets the eye. Too often in my English classes or among friends I have heard, “But did the author really mean that?” The answer, in the vast majority of cases, is “Yes, absolutely.” (I concede that an audience can infer meanings that the author did not intend, and I will address that in Part 2. For the sake of this essay, I believe that almost all of a work’s meanings are intentional.) People who have not tried to create a piece of art themselves, or who do so only casually, are often not aware of how minutely the creator has crafted the finished product. An apt metaphor for the general understanding of artistic creation is amateur photography. The photographer will pick an angle that will create a pleasing composition, choose a lense size and color template, wait until the lighting is right, and captures the image.

That most people believe this is self-evident in their somewhat low appraisal of the craft. Pat Rothfuss, author of The Name of the Wind, related the following story in his blog, which I think is a good indicator of the common opinion about artistic creation (even though Pat is specifically referring to writing a novel).

“Of course, writing a novel isn’t simple. Anyone that’s ever tried writing one knows this. The problem is, a lot of people haven’t tried. They assume writing is easy because, technically, anyone can do it.

To illustrate my point: Just as I was getting published, I met one of the big, A-list fantasy authors. (Who will remain nameless here.)

He told me the story of the time he’d met a doctor at a party. When the author mentioned that he wrote for a living, the doctor said: “Yeah, I was going to write a novel. But I just don’t seem to have the time.” Link.

Pat goes on to show a letter from a fan who asks him why it’s taking so long for him to finish the sequel to The Name of the Wind:

“But, boy do you have a problem. Finishing tasks?? Why isn’t your editor doing a better job of guiding you? Here’s my quick recommendation: stop going to conventions. Your first book is a great hit, you don’t need any more marketing there. Sit down and decide where to END the second part. You don’t need to write any more. If book two is anything like book one, it is basically chronological. You’re done with book two!! Stop in a logical place, smooth out the transitions, and begin obsessing about book three. Good luck.” Ibid.

Pat is obviously put off by this would-be advisor, and with good reason. Unfortunately, her opinion is prevalent among those who do not create art. To return to my photography metaphor, people believe that the artist, or the writer, or the musician, sit down at their table, gather together the elements of their art (characters, shapes, colors, plot points, vocals, instrument tracks, chapters, dialogue, etc.) and simply compose them into something that, by virtue of arrangement of its parts, is Art. Of course anyone can put those elements together; the only thing that separates the artist from the everyman is the artist’s better understanding of how to assemble the elements.

To a degree, that is true. The Greats are the Greats because they are masters at using the elements of their craft, but it is absolutely false that all they do is arrange a “collage” of their field’s chosen materials. The truth, the sobering reality that kills so many would-be creative dreams, is that the creator has to fabricate all of those elements from nothing. In order to make our photographer metaphor reflect the real creative process, we must make him manufacture himself every single thing that is in his shot. He did not merely stumble upon a good location with all of the elements in place, needing only proper lighting and camera positioning. No, he had to hand make every single blade of grass, every single speck of dirt, every single leaf on the trees.

Now I put this question to you: if our photographer must craft himself everything that will be in his picture, does it not stand to reason that he will design all the elements in such a way as to enhance the shot, or draw the eye a certain way, or give the viewer a certain impression? Would he not manipulate all of his leaves and blades and specks to suit what he wants the picture to say?

I will pause a moment to let you think about that.

What this means is that every brush stroke, every word, every music note, every movie take, is deliberate. This means that the smallest, least noticeable, most prevalent building block of the chosen medium requires the creator’s complete attention. You know that book in the bookstore that is 400,000 words long? That author knowingly and intentionally chose all 400,000 of those words. That song on the radio? The artist intentionally chose for the bass track to drop in volume for two seconds during the chorus.

This is why most people are not successful creators. This is why most people who set out to write a novel don’t finish it. It is simply far more complex and work-intensive than they realize.

But I digress. The point of this business with the photographer metaphor is to show you that the creator devises all of the elements of the work, which means he or she has full opportunity to make sure every single aspect serves the greater theme, or message, or design. Hence, when I said way back at the beginning that creators act with intent, I meant that absolutely every aspect of a piece of art is there because the artist wanted it there.

The Question of Subconscious Intent

Having concluded with such a statement, I must address the question of subconscious meaning and intent. By which I mean the creator inserting some theme or meaning into the work without actually being aware of doing so. This idea is in and of itself a slippery creature, since we must be careful to draw the line between unintended authorial meaning and meaning inferred by the audience. The latter is what you see all the time in English classes, where smart-ass students try to argue that some poem is secretly about sex, or that Tolkien’s Ring is the atomic bomb. I will address inferred meaning next time, but for now I limit myself to actual authorial intent.

I find myself at a loss to define this idea outright, so I will resort to an example. If we survey the works of H. P. Lovecraft, we find in them numerous examples of xenophobia and racism. One need only read his description of the black man brought back to life in Herbert West – Reanimator to grasp his general disposition toward other races. However, Lovecraft did not write with the express intent to comment on race or racial hierarchy; it simply entered his writing as a part of his psyche. This is what I refer to when I say subconscious intent: an idea or meaning that the creator puts into the work without conscious thought. When we read the literature of the Greeks and Romans, we find that they casually mention slavery and misogyny. They do not do so because they want to make a statement about those topics, (unless of course they are directly addressing them), but rather because it is so ubiquitous to their thought process that they do not realize they are doing it.

It should come as no surprise that subconscious intent is a topic of great interest to art critics, since what an artist puts into a work subconsciously provides a great deal of insight into his or her mind and personality. Express intent is less reliable, since the creator controls it. It is glaringly obvious that Vergil’s Aeneid is about the glory of Augustus and is a finely crafted propaganda piece, but less obvious are Vergil’s own thoughts on the matter. The hints of melancholy, the ambiguous nature of some of the passages: these tell us more about Vergil than any of the beautiful lines describing the founding of the Julian line or Jupiter’s grant of “imperium sine fine” (I.279).

To use a more modern example, almost all of Christopher Nolan’s films involve a man who is too emotionally attached to a woman, and how that attachment works against the man. Now, there is a good case that this is intentional, and not subconscious, since it appears so often and is so integral to the stories. However, is it intentional that the man loses the woman either early in the movie or before it even begins? Or is that particular aspect something that creeps its way into each story without Nolan setting out to put it in there? If so, what does that say about Nolan and how he views emotional attachment to what we have already lost?

Like I said, it’s great fodder for criticism and scholarly debate.

The question that we must inevitably consider is whether to categorize something as intentional authorial meaning or subconscious, unintended expression. What makes this question tricky is that the answer can change depending on the audience and the time period relative to the work’s completion. An enormous amount of criticism, Classical criticism in particular, is devoted to explaining how previous scholars incorrectly interpreted the texts of the ancients, and how this newest critical view, unencumbered by the previous generation’s mind set, has determined the true meanings and subconscious meanings of the works.

Sometimes creators themselves help us in this regard, though we must always be wary of authorial recollections and not treat them as unfiltered truth. We can all recall when a writer or musician inserts some little bit into his work that references or echoes the work of another artist. “Subconscious influence” and all that. The creator draws a link between the two pieces by incorporating part of one into the other. Usually it’s a specific phrase or short chord progression, something the author’s brain absorbed on its own without the author consciously choosing to remember it. These references can be subconscious intent, however I must stress again that we should not trust the artist when it comes to these interpretations. He or she may have known full well that the line was from something else, and used it anyway in order to draw the parallel.

The point of all this is again to clarify my conclusion from the first section: that every single aspect of a work of art is there because the artist wants it to be there. That statement is still true, but now we can add a layer to that by pointing out that, while every element is there on purpose, not all of the meanings attached to those elements are there on purpose. Some are there because the creator simply cannot divorce himself from them: they are so ubiquitous to the creator’s thought process that he cannot see that they exist. Others are there as snippets of half-remembered influences or even just emotions that the artist cannot excise from the creative process.

Well, I think that is a serviceable overview of authorial intent, both conscious and subconscious, and should serve as a good background for the real issue: audience interpretation and absorption. Therein lies the truly interesting aspect of creative expression and Art, and we shall delve into that next week.