Why I had to learn how to shade again: An artist’s path to rediscovering their creativity and interests during a difficult year
In January 2020, I was really struggling to go back to campus for class after the holiday break because of the fact that my good friend and classmate would be absent (they dropped out of the course due to personal reasons the previous November). It was not the same without them and I found the lessons to be very hard. Despite this, I was in the midst of my First Cinpressions project for university and the Wacom One review project – the year had actually started off quite well.
Then came March. It was a roller coaster of a month. I got the incredible news that I was going to be a Wacom Ambassador on the 9th of March and that entire week was the best I’ve had in a long time. I went into university the next day and was so proud to tell everyone about it.
At the time, we were constantly hearing about the pandemic on the news because it was building momentum across Europe, the UK and especially Italy. But everyone in the UK was still quite calm as we had no idea how serious it was going to get. I was trying my hardest not to think about it as Italy went into lockdown and knew if it happened here, it would be a life-changing situation that would affect my mental health greatly.
The next week was the polar opposite. We got the news that university was moving to online learning until May. Originally, I thought May wasn’t too bad as it would give me time to create more since I wouldn’t be traveling or staying late at university, but that was far from the case. I lost all of my motivation for university work as it wasn’t the same without the class. I struggled with online lectures due to being autistic and having ADHD, and I ended up having extreme anxiety because of the changes to life in general. I was still finishing off a few projects that I had started earlier in the year, but they were far from my usual standard.
Instagram changed too. In April 2020, I lost most of my reach and in May I stopped growing like I was before. This lowered my motivation to draw or post at all and I ended up taking a few weeks off here and there. I ended up drawing just because I had to keep up with posting, not because I wanted to. My reach to this day still hasn’t recovered and I have probably lost more followers than I have gained in the last year, but now I post because I want to and draw because I enjoy drawing. I am so grateful for the followers I have and enjoy posting for my small community as you never know who you might make smile when you post art. I do the projects I enjoy, and I am happy that my followers enjoy them, too. I know that many people are in the same situation, so if that is you, please remember that your art is still great and that the algorithm doesn’t define that. I usually take a week off if I find it is affecting me too much.
A drawing I made that represented how I felt during this time. I originally planned to redraw something that I made for my art foundation final project (from 2018) but it turned into this in the end.
After my Wacom 1 year anniversary post, I kept thinking how I really disliked where my art had gone technically, and I was wishing my art was still like it was back in December 2019. I realized I was over-blending and erasing too much of the highlights because I was terrified of my work looking too patchy. At this time, we were in the peak of the pandemic in the UK and we still couldn’t return to university as it was unsafe to do so. I finished the term and had the whole summer to work on my techniques again.
I redrew Ghost Hunt which was a drawing I started before I got my Cintiq 13HD in 2019. I drew this to celebrate my 1 year using Wacom and I will be redrawing it this year, too.
In the midst of the pandemic, I decided that animation wasn’t the route I wanted to take anymore, though I had been feeling that for a while. But I still wanted to do something related. This is when I decided I wanted to work with computers, whether that be having my own brand, a small custom PC store, designing cases or becoming an SI (System Integrator). Recently, I decided I want to keep it on the small scale and have a small repair/custom build store locally and maybe become an official stockist of my favourite brands in the future. It’s always good to dream and if you feel your degree or higher education isn’t relevant to where you want to go, there is still a chance for you to join a different industry as there are plenty of helpful tutorials on Youtube, Instagram and small online courses.
In May, I also planned to do a project inspired by the OMEN by HP Command Centre RGB colours. It was really important to me to be happy with the outcome of this project, so I taught myself how to shade again; I made sure my blending brush wasn’t too big and I changed how I blended out the highlight, too. Though this wasn’t perfect, I was massively happier with the result. OMEN by HP and the past brand Voodoo really inspired me greatly to work with computers.
Here is one of the characters which is still my favourite to this day.
Since then, I focused on doing multiple projects on OMEN. I’ve enjoyed every single one of them and have learned new techniques along the way. The summer gave me a chance to work on projects relevant to my other special interests and favourite brands.
Second OMEN project that I did in November
In the summer, I redrew my first-ever posts on Instagram from 2019 after returning from my big hiatus. I was happy with the line art, but the blending still had a long way to go.
The redraw of the Ghost Cintiq Halloween drawing
These were some of the very few Wacom related drawings I did over the second half of 2020.
Comparison of my work 2020-2021
As you can see, my work in 2020 started out with blending and highlighting that was very noticeable (I prefer it that way) and I lost that technique in the second image. My line art started to lack structure and became inconsistent. In the bottom two images, I improved on the blending again and got it to a place where I was almost 100% happy. The line art also improved and gained a decent structure again.
Comparison between May 2020 and May 2021
In May 2020 my art was at its worst, which was a direct reflection of how bad my mental health had become. May 2021 reflects my process and where I’m at now.
My most recent project
A lot of what I’ve said today, I’ve never mentioned on my Instagram or elsewhere; I didn’t want to remind people about it all the time when they logged in. I’m still not 100%, but this year gives me things to look forward to (unless the GPU shortage affects it!).
Last year was a lot to deal with in many ways. I always see it as bittersweet, like a sandwich with really nice bread but someone put tomatoes in it and now it’s soggy. The year started so well and the last few months of the year were amazing too – I had so many opportunities and I also had the chance to explore my other interests and change my mind on where to go in the future. I am also really thankful for my followers, Wacom and OMEN for the support throughout it all.
We never did return to university and I still find that difficult to deal with, but I am hopeful for the future now and I hope you are too!
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Tiegan is a 3D computer animation student based in Wales.
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