Category Archives: Inspiration

In The News

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So…this journalist from a local newspaper in Finland gave me a call a month ago. She was curious about me and what I was up to. I agreed to an interview and we had a very nice Skype chat. Honestly I thought the text would be one of those “personal portrait” pieces at the back of Sunday’s extra magazines, so when I got this in the mail two weeks ago I must say I was a bit chocked, haha! I did not expect three full pages about me and my stuff. Well, it was fun, and perhaps this inspires someone else from my old hoods to become a video game developer!

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Speaking about publicity, I held a lecture at my old university: Högskolan i Skövde, three weeks ago. It was mega fun to be back to the scene of the crime where I started my journey into the mad world of game development back in the days! After my lecture a young man from Finland came up to me and just wanted to thank me for lecturing about video games as a career four years ago when I returned to my old school in Finland. They guy had attended that 20 min talk four years ago and was now studying his first year at Skövde Högskola. So sweet ^_^

I met with some local game companies and had coffee with the studio managed for Paradox South’s office. Paradox has grown quite a bit since I left them in May 2013. They are now over 160 employees. When I signed my contract in Stockholm I was employee #94 (I think). It’s very nice to hear they are growing and keep pushing out plenty of exciting titles!

Skövde will always hold a very special place in my heart. It was a town filled with adventures, misery, happiness and so much confusion for me at the time. It was a completely new place, a new country and my first time living all by myself. I had just turned 19 the month before I packed all my stuff in suitcases and moved there to study. I can truly say I had the time of my life there, I met people who changed me forever, some that left a very deep mark on me, and developers who made me realize I really wanted to dig deeper into making games. But at the same time I’m very happy that time is over, that I was able to move on. Today it’s a bit like a ghost town to me. It looks all the same as when I lived there, but (almost) all my friends and hard core party crew are gone. Their memories are kinda like ghosts and for a second I always think that by visiting Skövde I will also travel backwards in time. Visiting the town always has my brain a bit confused at first.

As you can hear I got quite a vivid imagination, hehe. Maybe, one day, I’ll write a post where I discuss my imagination. I sometimes feel like I got all these “portals” in my head that keeps memories extremely alive and colorful, long after they’ve faded for most other people. Like I can reach into a memory and pull it all back again, whenever I want to. And sometimes I even get randomly inspired by things, like a movie or a book or just the color of the clouds, in such a way it feels almost like real memories, like I was able to catch a sneak peek into a portal showing other people’s memories. Perhaps I’ll write about that some day. Am I the only one experiencing this kind of feeling?

 

Tiny Little Sparks of Creativity

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Above: drawing at work.

I was going to write something smart about creativity, but all I’m gonna say is this (here it comes, my one BIG tip for boosting creativity): never dismiss your ideas or quick bursts of random inspiration.

I’m not sure about you, but I often get random strikes of inspiration, like I glance at someone on the street and suddenly I see the idea for an exciting character for a novel. Or I look at a documentary and suddenly, out of nowhere I think of a fantasy world I want to draw, just before I fall asleep and my brain enters dreaming mode I see cool color combos I want to paint. These ideas come to me in bits and pieces. They are like sparks that quickly flicker by, somewhere in the borderline between my conscious and subconscious.

Never judge these “sparks”, never just throw them away, never say to yourself oh that’s a cool idea I will surely remember it later (because you don’t). Treat all ideas like ugly ducklings. They might seem stupid, pointless, confusing, impossible to turn into reality or scary. These embryos are like small sparks inside your mind, and if you are always quick to dismiss them they will stop appearing after a while. But if you take care of them, write them down or sketch them quickly on the back of a notebook or in a Wordpad document or on a post-it, you can save them for later.

And the next time you look at that “stupid” idea you realize you could actually be on to something. Your ugly duckling might be a swan. I got a note pad by my bed, I write stuff down in my phone, the back of my calender is filled with scribbles and words.

A Missing Llama

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Studies of Mathias Z’s amazing art. I know I can’t do his stuff justice (OR draw llamas apparently), but I try, and I learn. Got that feeling of loneliness again as soon as I sit down in front of the computer and open Photoshop. I just need other people to chat with, or draw together with  I think. My brain is not an introvert one, so I tend to get most of my energy (like 70%) from meeting, talking to or hanging out with other people. Spending too much time alone is not optimal for me or the way I operate. Managed to fight that feeling of loneliness today for long enough to make these studies.

If I would ever go to art school it would most likely be to draw and paint in an environment together with other people I guess.

A Decision

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This summer I think that I finally understood a conversation I had with a previous co-worker. We were talking about what to do the following summer, and I said I would probably travel a lot since I got my friends and family are scattered all across the Nordic countries. I have four (!) summer houses within the family that needs to be attended if not every year, but at least every second year. Stuff like checking that the roof is still there and that no tree as fallen over the sauna. It’s like going on a tour every summer to be able to visit all my relatives and perhaps if I’m lucky get some relaxing time by the sea. I’ve grown up with this, so I don’t find this traveling that exhausting, but to other people it may seem stressing, but for me it’s natural.

So anyways, I was talking about summer plans with my co-worker, and he said “damn, that sounds like my worst nightmare”. He told me that he used to lock himself into his room for days and work on his small projects, both as a boy and now as an adult. He hated when he had to get out of his bubble and go visit some old aunt or something. This guy is also one of those people who are kickass at almost every aspect of crating video games and have been playing in a semi-famous band AND started two companies etc.

This summer I had a very nice experience when I sat in the garden, in the orangery of boyfriend’s parents. I spent all my nights there, when visiting. I sat there all by myself, just reading, writing, sketching and listening to the sound of the nature. The little greenhouse got both reading lamps and a heather, and when the darkness fell you could see all the starts above you, and the forest surrounding you. It was very, very nice. And it sparked my creativity!

It’s very important to be left alone sometimes if you want to use your creativity. Actually it’s one of the most important parts of creativity. You need to have some space and time when you know no one will come and bother you. I think that this summer I finally understood why writers are notorious for locking themselves up in cottages by the sea and houses in the mountains. You need a place to create and concentrate on your own inner world. If you are constantly distracted by the outside world it’s hard to stay creative. What has become clear to me is that you only have so much cognitive stamina each 24 hours. You can spend it on different things, but once you reached the limit you need to wait and re-charge by sleeping. Unless you cheat a little bit and drink some coffee or take drugs (coffee OK – drugs not OK, bee cool stay in school kidz!). But eventually you need to re-charge.

Maybe next summer I will take a trip to one of the family summer houses and just stay there for three weeks and write, or paint or draw. I actually really appreciate when life is very simple and just about eating, sleeping, creating and perhaps doing some work around the house.

This is one of the reasons I yesterday decided I will no longer participate in endless discussions about “troll-topics*” online. I just get too angry and it eats away all my energy to read and article where 600 people applaud the online haters that drove Sarkeesian out of her home last week. I get all angry and distracted from what’s really important in life when I read a FB-post about if it’s OK to vote on a racist party or not. I feel like I don’t gain ANYTHING at all in the end. And have you ever seen someone say “hey, I think you are right, I must be wrong, you have convinced me” in the comments on YouTube? I surely haven’t. I just feel like I want to spend all that time and energy on what’s important to me. And that is creating stuff, family, friends and my job. It feels a bit like giving up, like if I don’t participate in these heated discussions I may wake up one day and Sweden will be a fascist country run by a Nazi-party just because I didn’t have the time and energy to engage in important online discussions. I feel like that is a risk I’m taking, and I need to do it.

 

* Certain topics seem to attract the lowlife on the Interwebz, like articles about feminism, anti-racism, alternative medicine etc.

What I’ve Learned From Two Years Of Painting!

So here’s to another year of drawing and painting! The end of August marks two years since I sat down and decided to start painting and drawing on a regular basis to level up my artistic skills. It has been a bumpy road so far, and I’m very happy and thankful to be able to add yet another year to my project (and life, hehe)!

Last year I wrote a post titled “What Painting For 365 Days Taught Me (So Far)“. I tried to summarize what I’ve learned (so far), and include some of the images I had made that meant a lot to me or symbolized some kind of epiphany. Many of the things I listed last year still holds true one year later. I still subscribe to the idea that you essentially are the sum of your habits. Life is 10% about what happens to you, and 90% about how you deal with it!

Inspiration come and go (and it’s super awesome when you have it), but you can’t trust inspiration to be there all the time (or at least I can’t). Some creators run on a mix of coffee and inspiration, but I need some nice habits in place to keep on creating. I then try to use those skills I’ve honored by practicing whenever inspiration strikes and I feel like painting and drawing something cool! That’s how I work, whatever floats the boat, right?

So first, let’s see where we left of last year. Here’s a comparison of what one year of practice did to my skills between August 2012 and August 2013:

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Left: a study of a girl done in 2012 (I cringe so much when watching this, but hey, everybody start somewhere). Right; a study of a frame from the movie “Pacific Rim” done one year later.

I’m now going to list some areas where I feel like I learned a lot this past year, between August of 2013 and August of 2014. If you got any comments or feedback I encourage you to share it by making a comment at the end of this post. Please consider all of this work in progress. I don’t claim to know the answers to how one becomes a great artist, and some things I say in this post is probably wrong by some standards : ) Coming up: an extremely long blog post featuring a bunch of images and some rambling text. I put this together to summarize my own learning process and keep track of the important things!

 

Masks And Selections

This year I feel like I’ve started to understand the technical side of painting in Photoshop so much better! I’ve finally started to feel comfortable including masks, selections and brush settings into my workflow. The first year was a lot about how to even get brush settings and pressure sensibility on my Wacom to work, to make sure I had the right tools and understood the very basics behind image making.

The above three images were created with a lot of masks and selections. I finally started to understand how to use these tools to my advantage. Before I used to paint everything directly onto the canvas, which made it all look too smooth and smudgy. I really recommend this 10$ video on Dynamic Brushflow from CTRL Paint to learn about masks and selections! Below are a comparison of working with and without masks:

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As you can tell the image to the left is very flat and all the edges are just too soft, everything floating into each other. On the right I have used some masks to make sure I’m only working on a specific detail at a time, so I don’t have to worry about paint bleeding out on other stuff in the image.

So getting the hang of masks and selection in my workflow was a very nice thing I did this painting year!

Standing Characters

Another area where I feel like I made some progress is the standing pose of humans and humanoids! Below is an example of standing characters, the left one’s drawn in December 2013 and the right ones are from June 2014. It was such a big revelation to me when I understood that legs are almost never on the same plane, one foot is almost always further down than the other due to the fact of perspective. I know how simple this sounds, but to me it was just mind-blowing, haha!

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Time 

Moving forward I’ve done a lot of studies these past 365 days. Something that’s changed is the amount of time I’ve dedicated to my studies. Over all I have been able to push more time into the drawing, not rushing things trough. I’ve notice that great looking images are not made in a hurry. Rome is not build on a day, and your image is not perfected in 20 minutes. Investing some time in the image usually pays off greatly. So no rushing, take your time!

Here’s some color studies. I’ve invested a lot more time in them than I usually do, and  think I learned a lot both about color and the way I paint by doing them. I practiced a lot of different tools when making these; both the color picker, the mixer brush and masks, which is great!
 

Not Too Much Special Effects

Something else I used to do previously but I’ve tried to correct is when it comes to using waaaay to much special effects and contrast in my images. I used to throw a lot of fancy layers on top of my images, looking for some cool effects. Lately I’ve come to learn that if I’m trying to add a lot of effects to an image it’s usually a sign that something basic in the image is not working. Instead of adding fancy glaceing to my images I need the foundation to be rock solid. If the basics are great, then it’s OK to add cool layers, but using them wisely, just to add one extra touch or some small details. Here’s an example to show what I mean:

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Some artists are able to use a lot of special effects in their images, but they are able to do so because have super solid foundations in their images. To break or bend the rules you need to know the rules. The image to the left has way too much “cool” effects while the newer one to the right is more careful (and looks better imo).

Use The Right Brushes

Something that you are told over and over when learning to paint in Photoshop is that the brushes are not that important, that you need to know the basics of image making before you can actually use a nice brush to bring a nice painting to the next level. In other words, if you can’t paint it won’t matter how awesome brushes you are using, it simply won’t look nice. Most digital artists seem to use between 3-7 regular brushes. The standard brushes included in Photoshop are not that good in my opinion, but I continued to use them for a very long time before downloading some other artist’s brushes. The thing is, it does matter what brushes you are using! Here’s a comparison of when I was using the totally wrong brushes vs when I had collected some very nice brushes from other artists:

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Left: some studies made without elections and using waaaaay to soft brushes. Everything just blend together and looks too soft. Right: cloud study using the right brushes and the mixer brush tool!

As you can tell the difference is quite big. Of course I had improved my overall painting skills as well, so it’s not ALL about what brushes I was using, but I’ve learned how much the right brushes affect your work and limitations. If you are looking for some nice brushes to try I recommend Algenpfleger’s or Zedig’s. I’ve gone trough a lot of brush packs and throwing away 90% of it. Find the stuff that works for you and use it to your advantage!

 

Rendering Images To Make Them Look More Finished

The last thing I want to show you is that I kinda feel like I’m starting to understand what It takes to make a piece look more “finished”. I used to be able to paint in the very basics, but then I had no clue to how to make the image look “done”. It was like I knew how to cook the potatoes but had no idea on how to fry the meat, if you get what I’m saying. It’s still a great mystery, but I think I’m on the right path. It seems to be a lot about time. If you invest more time in an image it will look more finished, but it’s also about something as basic as image size. finish

I used to paint on a very small canvas in Photoshop. Small canvases are nice if you want to be able to work fast since big canvases, big brushes and many layers slow my computer down. But on the other hand, if you canvas is too small you can’t zoom in on the image and work with the details and add more visual information to the image. To size up my canvases and be able to actually add details has helped me a lot. Such a simple thing but something i didn’t think of previously! Haha!

 

Summary

Overall I have not invested the same amount of time into painting and drawing this year as compared to the last. I have been quite busy with getting my own company up and running, and I simply haven’t felt like I wanna spend too much time in front of the computer (partly due to medical reasons). If I sit 8 hours in front of the computer at my office I just feel it becomes too much to spend the rest of the night sitting on my butt and painting as well. I’m that kind of annoying person who values physical exercise in my free time ; ) I think that my next big challenge will be to find out what I want to do with my skills, to find out where I’m going. As of now I feel like I don’t really have a clear goal anymore. We’ll see!

 

I want to close this extremely long blog post with a comparison between a study I did in July 2013, and one done in August 2014. The bottom study kinda includes all the things I’ve learned the bast year; using selections, planning my images, invest plenty of time and use the proper brushes.

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Painted in the summer of 2013. Unfortunately I can’t find the original photo on my laptop.

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Study of Alxendria’s amazing illustration! Follow her artwork over at: http://alexneonakis.tumblr.com/

Cheers,

Sara

P.S If you want something more to read, feel free to check out the “What Painting For 365 Days Taught Me“, written a year ago!

 

An Old Comic!

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This week I’ve been working very hard, like 12 hour days at my office, so I haven’t had the time to draw and paint that much. When I get home after 9 hours in front of a screen I just don’t feel like sitting down on my ass again and watch another screen. I need to get some of-screen time and some healthy exercise as well, or I’ll go mad.

The top image is a small comic I made back in 2006, haha! I may have been inspired by Explosm when making it, but it was fun non the less! The sunset is inspired by a beautiful sunset setting over Denmark, that I saw today. Malmö is quite close to the coast of Denmark,  clear days you can see all the way over the sea to Denmark : )

Other than that I followed the tutorial at Helgesonart and painted a study of a girl, which was fun. Learned a whole bunch again, even if it was hard work. No pain, no gain. The last time I followed the tutorial it took me four hours, this time I managed to get it done in three. Insane, but I’m learning.

Inspiration: Simon Stålenhag

Maybe you’ve noticed I’ve done some small changed the sidebar and the design of my blog? One of the changes is a small addition of friends and artists that inspire me when creating art. I’ve listed some of them on the right sidebar, and more is yet to come.

Last year some incredible images circulated on the web, showing low key sci-fi set in a alternative universe where dinosaurs live next to humans in Swedish suburbs, taking place in the 70’s. The images are made by the extremely skilled artist Simon Stålenhag. I was just blown away by these paintings. They look like a mix of oil paintings and photos, always filed with awesome design an a mood that goes straight to my heart. I can really feel those cold and grey winter landscapes he’s creating. I recommend you check out his Tumblr, it’s filled with sketches, paintings and drawings. All images in this post belong to Simon.