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The payload spun and spun within the planet’s stormy atmosphere, buffeted by high winds and fickle vortices. Visibility conditions were nil as it tumbled through the clouds, its camera feed only offering grainy flickers of orange-red and the overexposed glare of lighting, falling, falling, falling– until it plunged through a particularly dense layer and into a patch of calm.

Two purplish objects floated into view, shapes reminiscent of Earth-native Cnidarian medusae: radially symmetrical, a translucent, bell-like structure, and trailing, wispy lines starting from the bottom of the bell. The currents gently tugged at them, and like kites in a storm, they vanished just as quickly into the reddish haze.

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It was on day three, hiking out into the mountainous scrublands and already sweaty from exertion, when he felt it: a rumbling.

Then he saw it: plumes of white clouds, billowing from the horizon off in the distance– no, not clouds… smoke, he realized, watching as a trail rapidly ascended.

Then he heard it: a deep roar, loud and imminent as the rocket screamed through the atmosphere.

OTM #4: March

Hello again, hope you’re all well!

I’ve been taking a lot of walks as of late to cool me down from schoolwork, and I can’t help but notice the liminal beauty of March. Every day the air feels so heavy, the earth looks muddy and gross, yet there’s a sense of wonder about it to me. The weather almost heats up for just a moment, and I find myself wanting to spend more and more time in the gloomy nature. For this piece, I realized how much I wanted to draw the March landscapes around campus! It was really fun to work with mostly grays and browns, for any artists reading I highly recommend doing a study yourself. I hope you can all find some time to enjoy the weird air of March, have a great week!

OTM #3: Media Consumption

Hello everyone! Last week I saw 2022’s Batman (which was phenomenal), and I walked out of the theater with a feeling of grandiosity. I felt like Batman himself, with a determination to save the world. Yes, that’s cringeworthy, but there’s something so fun about that feeling. I haven’t felt that in a while; it reminded me of when I was eleven seeing The Hunger Games for the first time, walking out of the theater with a rush of emotion, feeling as if I was a character within the film. The drive home is intense, deep, and I feel as though I’m in this depressing and dark universe.

I think it’s really fun how movies can do this to us, can temporarily alter my mind and put me directly into their worlds. It makes me feel like a child, in awe of the world around me. And something about this childlike wonder is so marvelous to me. I hope you can all get in tune with that sense of wonder this week, maybe take a moment to relax and watch a show you love!

OTM #2: Vapid Conversation

Hello, all! Hope you are well and having a great break!

I went to the botanical gardens in Naples with my friend yesterday, and I could not help but satisfy my Pokémon Go addiction despite the breathtaking nature surrounding me. I was charmed to find that the Pokémon appearing in the wild reflected the garden setting, too, resulting in the most vapid and childlike conversation of my life, shown above. Something about it is so joyful to me, though, even if it’s just an iPhone game! It feels good to have something to keep track of and keep up with, and it made my trip to the gardens with my friend all the more hilarious and easygoing. If you have been considering playing, I recommend you start! You can really feel the love put into the game at times, and I find that to be so mundanely admirable. Take it easy and thank you for reading!

Industrious Illustrating #1: References

Hello, and welcome to Industrious Illustrating! This is a new weekly column updating on Fridays which will show process pictures, sketches, and sometimes finished works that show what goes into making character designs, illustrations, and the like.

This week we will look at two different pieces I created based on photographs I took on a 2019 summer trip to England.

Last night, I digitally painted this piece of two girls hanging out in an alcove on the University of Cambridge campus. I directly painted over my photograph for the background, but I took liberties in the exact details and drew two figures who weren’t present in the original picture. I had to construct the lighting and proportions on the two characters based on my own understanding of how lighting and scale would work in that environment.

I traditionally painted this piece with watercolors and alcohol-based markers in the fall of 2020 based on a photograph I took at the Bridge of Sighs in Oxford. I had to eyeball all the proportions and perspective and then draw the environment by hand, albeit while referencing a photograph. In retrospect, I think some of the details and perspective look a little off. But that was the best I could do at the time without the ability to directly paint over the original photograph.

For both paintings, I had to rely on my own understanding of lighting and perspective to construct the scene. The original photographs were also unquestionably my work. Since I wanted to depict real places in the United Kingdom, I couldn’t just rely on my own imagination to recreate existing scenery, and it wasn’t practical for me to return to the UK in person every time I wanted to paint a real-life scene. So my best option was to use photographs as a tool for inspiring interesting illustrations.

Digital art programs make image adjustments such as brightness, contrast, and saturation much easier, and they also have the blessing known as the undo function (ctrl-z). They also have the ability to directly integrate photographs into paintings for textures and references, which professional concept artists and illustrators often use so that they can finish detailed paintings on a timely basis for their clients. Using these tools isn’t cheating, as no amount of fancy tools can compensate for a lack of artistic skill. Rather, digital art programs enable artists to speed up their workflow and create finished works faster for both professional and hobbyist purposes.

I’m still proud of both pieces, and I think they both have their own merits. But this comparison should hopefully show that while digital art programs didn’t teach me the fundamentals or my current skills, they do help smooth out the process as a tool akin to a paintbrush or a pen.