Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Making "Protection from Fate's Seas", Part 1

Before I swore off challenges due to my health issues, I had fun engaging with Yong Chen's first patreon challenge: to capture waves hitting a rocky shore. You played a short video he'd taken, and then selected a frame to do a series of drawing and painting/rendering exercises on.

I wanted to do three of my own exercises, but only got through two—health issues, sigh—but this was a fun experience, and I don't regret doing it.

I thought I'd talk about how I went through the challenge. This mirrors a lot of the initial process I go through for art with a strong reference base (drawing on location, urban sketching, en plein air, etc).

For the record, I have different starting processes for art incorporating multiple references to provide research for a final and different whole, art pieces drawn entirely from my memory, and non-representational abstract art pieces.

Two possible moments I picked from Yong Chen's patreon challenge video.

Step 1: Find candidate scenes. In this case, I selected two possible angles and positions for the shore rocks. But even if I've picked some candidates, I haven't narrowed the selection down to the one I want to use for my art.

What makes for a good candidate scene? This is one that an artist plays by ear, but it's good to have a focal point or two in mind—the left picture focuses on the rock outcropping, but the right picture has more water in it.

Also I prefer scenes that are asymmetrically balanced—e.g., rocks balanced out by waters instead of by more rocks, or small objects balancing a larger object as if the centerpoint of the picture was a see-saw. Mostly I like this because it's challenging, and I like to push myself. This may not be your preference.

Candidate scene crops.

Step 2: Frame/crop candidate scenes until you find a framing/cropping that fits you. This is the first step to refining your composition—although you will likely add or subtract to the composition during the actual drawing and/or painting process, artistic license being what it is (example: I'm probably not going to want the railing or its shadow in my final piece). If you're on location, this is why artists use the index fingers and thumbs to create a "frame" and look through it—that's cropping on location essentially.

On the computer, it's easier of course! I like to use an image editor like Pixelmator that allows me to restrict my crops to custom ratios. Both candidate scenes above, I found I liked the pool aspect the most. And my preference was for the one on the right—a very good focus on the pool in a non-symmetrical manner, with more water present above.

At this point in time I didn't have any particular thoughts in my mind towards the final meaning of the piece.

For the other posts in this series, see the Protection from Fate's Seas label.

Ava Jarvis is an ink and watercolor artist with a portfolio site at If you found this post useful, consider a one-time tip or supporting Ava on Patreon.