Monday, August 26, 2013

The Curious Concepts Project: Reward Drawings & New Series Progress: "A Skydiver" and "Neil"

After a pile of minor delays, a couple of weeks of trying to get back on track and another week or two of  drawing/digital painting:

At long last it's time to post a blog update on how the new series of illustrations is going.

First up, If you're following this project through KS or FB then you've seen the previews of the already finished "Haiku Letter Drawings". After sending them out, I did post some photos of them on DeviantArt so that any curious followers could get the chance to see what they looked like. Click on the links to read their descriptions over at DA. (But come right back here, because there's more new work to see!)

N.C. Sailor Boy - Haiku Letter Drawing by ~Kyle-Lefort on deviantART
Bubbly Frog - Haiku Letter Drawing by ~Kyle-Lefort on deviantART

Now for my progress on the new series;

Illustration #1: Brandi's request, "A skydiver".

Here's the full description she gave me to work off of;

"I'm not talking about a literal skydiver jumping out of an airplane, but the spirit of a skydiver. I know people are sick to death of me talking about skydiving and no one wants to hear it anymore...but it is something that transformed and redefined my life so it is incredibly important to me. Skydiving is freedom and clarity and peace. It is a rebirth, a transformation, like a phoenix rising from the ashes as cliche as that might sound. When you finally become a skydiver, after all of the time and training and work, you're not the person you used to be anymore. You have a new sense of purpose and a completely different outlook on you life. Skydiving is friends, family, community. It's a sense of belonging I can't really put into words, a kinship you feel for complete strangers because you share something that sets you so apart from most of the people you know.
Give me something that means to you everything skydiving means to me ok? Something other than the typical symbols you'd see like the phoenix or a butterfly, lol."

Alright, so I'm going to be honest here: I've never even flown in a plane. I'm out of my element here, and no amount of reference material is going to get me to really, fully understand what skydiving is to someone who's really into skydiving. And that last line, "Give me something that means to you everything skydiving means to me ok? Something other than the typical symbols you'd see like the phoenix or a butterfly, lol.", actually made things kind of tough because not only do I not know what the skydiving experience is, but I also had to try and figure out what the typical artsy depictions of it were too.

I was stuck, but then I thought about it. What do I understand well enough that I could make a comparison to Skydiving without it being a hopeless typical depiction of it? Swimming. You're not on the ground anymore, you and gravity end up playing out a love/hate relationship unlike what you would experience on the ground, you're suddenly a lot more aware of the air around you, and if you're really into what you're doing-the line separating you and "crazy" can be very hard see. Fun times.

I wanted to make it a little more interesting than that though, so after getting the ok from Brandi to work a little more surreal that I originally thought I would, I started adding in the ocean. Actually, I promised Brandi a skydiving whale once that didn't pan out, so this is sort of a throwback to that too, I guess.

^^^Rough thumbnail sketch^^^

^^^A whale to prove that I can actually draw this thing^^^

And a sloppy layout/mock-up composition 
that looks like it was made by a 5 year old.  

Believe it or not, I used Photoshop for this.
-Proof that Photoshop doesn't magically make things perfect.
I hand draw my compositions and then adjust the sizing/layout on the computer, so my "Digital paintings", are surprisingly traditional in technique. This colorful explosion was just to help me figure out where the skydivers were going BEFORE I spent hours drawing in all of the detail.

You saw the whale though, so you know it's going to get better.

See? Already much better. Told you.
Printed out a gray-scale version of that mock-up and drew in the actual details.

Almost ready to start the digital painting on this one. I just need to finish the already landed Skydiver (should be bigger) and actually draw out the plane where I wrote the word, "Plane", up at the top. And I think I have over-sized the whale well beyond a believable size. Feel free to let me know whether or not you agree with that statement. I'll probably shrink it back down a little before I start the painting.

And it may not make much sense in writing, but the plan is to blur the 'water' theme with the subject of Skydiving. This is very much happening in the sky, but the enigma of being in the depths of the ocean is a big part of this illustration too. You'll see what I'm talking about later on.

Illustration #2: Devon's request, "Neil".

I'm really not sure what to say about this one...
...Because requests were open to anyone in the U.S., and things like model releases would have made this project way more complicated than it needed to be, I made the rule that I wasn't going to be drawing any actual people.

Well either Devon didn't read that part of the KS campaign page, or he ignored it-He requested that I illustrate, "Neil".  FYI, Neil's my brother, not the one that gets me to do things like make miniature riker mounts, a different brother.
A much different brother.

I asked for some reference photos, but was told just to take something off of his Facebook account, so I did.

He's been in a couple of obscure community theater projects, one of which was a Star Wars parody title, "A New, New Hope", and  I'm positive that's where this photo came from.  He was mostly the play's version of, "Chewbacca", who does not fly in an X-Wing starfighter so this is either set building or a rehearsal, but a photo of Neil trying to fly something worked for me, so this is the photo I chose.

Thanks to some voluntary portrait practice I did (you can see those on DA, if you want), I know that I'm not really much of the portrait making type and that if there's a photo available, I'm better off working directly from it. So the first thing I did was go into Photoshop and blocked out the different colors and layers that I would be working with, right over top of the photo.

^^^It looks like this now^^^

Then I did some basic shading with the burn tool, 
and used some faux-texture brushes to make, well, textures.

More burn tool shading, some new layers, 
the paintbrush tool, and a few blur filters-Here we are now.

It still needs a lot of work, but after only spending one late night working on this, I gotta say-This one's going pretty well so far.

That is all of my progress on this project so far, more updates, of course, are on the way.


You might be wondering the specifics on how I do all of this digital painting stuff, if so you're not alone. I was asked several times by members on DeviantArt to show my process, which led to a semi-formal WIP post-Just click here to see it over at my DA gallery.


  1. Hello kyle,
    I just love your work. it is very original and I love your interpretation of different themes and ideas.
    Big hug,