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Why it's important to review your old artwork

Posted 08-26-2019, 09:18 AM
So you're calling yourself an artist...

Why it's important to review your old artwork and make fun of it learn from it!
P.S: Read the Signature Captions + Final Verdicts!

In a recent thread about my experiences on Hackforums, I mentioned that my graphics career started taking off on this very site. While an exact date of when I started doing graphics work is unknown, it must have been over 8 years ago! To my surprise, and a testament to my unusual organization skills at a young age, I've managed to find the original PSD's to the digital artwork that began it all!

Today, I want to take this priceless and slightly cringe collection of art and review it. Both for nostalgic memories of how forum signatures were a golden currency back in the day, and to critic what visible mistakes I can point out now as someone who has grown as an artist.

About ME!
  • Other than feeding an ego, it's important to do some self realization of who you are as an artist. Each person has a unique style of editing, of drawing, and of presenting the artwork to the viewer. To be honest, I don't remember what kind of artist I was 8 years ago. To be honest, I don't remember much of last week. What I do know is that currently, I am a flash-art style designer. I draw in black and white utilizing negative space to portray pictures. My media is paper, ink, and digital. With my illustrations, I now strictly try to follow the golden ratio of design (fibonacci spiral) and stick to pastel colors during shading. Most people can see my artwork being used as tattoos and logos. With that said, I will be criticizing my old artwork with my current standards in mind. It should be fun!

Signature 1 - The Wiz

[Image: JTr71a2.jpg]

Nothing says throwback like a signature dedicated to Wiz Khalifa. The blur tool had complete domination of this signature in an attempt to create a smokey atmosphere.

Also, while you guys can't see the PSD file, I can tell you that there are 23 layers of pure mayhem; as if instead of fixing a layer, I added another layer on top of it and smudged them together to create "abstract" art.

A valuable lesson is learned from this signature review. Just owning Photoshop doesn't make you any good. Also that a foreground subject doesn't always need to be in the center of the photo. A problem that you will see reoccurred a lot in this review.

Final Verdict: If you're gonna work with 23 trash layers, at least learn to mask and blend them properly.

Signature 2 - DJ "Whaaaat?"

[Image: 4nz88Ph.jpg]

Once again we have that mentality of placing something onto a canvas and covering it with another layer until it looks good. Instead of making fun of my horrible attempt at trying to gradient and blend it together, lets talk about what in my opinion are the true problems of this signature.

Depth. We have a flat forward facing background of bright colors that don't let your eyes focus on a single spot. The next layer that the viewer will see if the silhouettes of the people dancing. Because they are silhouettes, we can also categorize them as flat images. However in this signature, you see the background bleed through the people, and you complete lose what little depth you had from putting a silhouette in front of your light source.

The final problem that I can address is the DJ. No, it's not the fact that my "tag" has been warped to his turn table disc.... but its more so that he doesn't grab your attention right away. This signature "might" be savable by dulling the colors of the background, then putting the DJ in the middle layers and attempting to make him pop. Then finally creating a tiny bit of depth by adding the silhouettes of people in front.

Final Verdict: This signature falls "flat" on its face with its attempt to create a focal point.

Signature 3 - This is Deep Stuff

[Image: CxWruOq.jpg]

This is probably where I started to follow tutorials to attempt to learn how to make signature. We can see that I used stock images and simply edited the colors rather than adding layers and layers onto it. We have the graphic wall and the spray cans as separate images, and I think I did an ok job of making them feel as if they were naturally there.

The problem is that in an attempt to create the depth that I keep talking about, I went crazy with the blur tool on the right half of the picture. I didn't add noise to compensate for the blur, and there is a rule to not lead straight lines into corners of your artwork. I broke that rule here.

Final Verdict: "I'm sorry officer, I couldn't see where I was in this blurry alley."

Signature 4 - Actually Decent

[Image: rQDpu0f.png]

I was not expecting to actually like one of my old signatures. I thought they would all be horrible, but I actually think this one is really good. Let me explain why.

We have a nice pastel color scheme going on through the entire signature. We have a subject who is in the middle of the piece, thus requiring a form of symmetry in the background. We get that symmetry from the lampposts and the trees that are slightly blurred out with the animation style to create depth.
The subjects eyes, even if animated, are following the rule of thirds, and the signature itself has a unique aspect that draws your attention towards it by creating a wall-break effect. The character is leaving the lines of the signature at the top, but not in a dramatic, overpowering way. Finally, even through no light source is clearly defined, her shadows look reliable!

Final Verdict: Did I do this?

Signature 5 - Crispy

[Image: aRkLmC8.png]

These signatures being in chronological order, I assume this was my phase of trying to make a signature break the 4th wall. We have a great illustration of a girl with really clean lines and vibrant colors, yet I put her on an old comic strip that doesn't match her color palette. It would of been nice to see if I could edit and mask her into the comic, as if she was coming out from one of the panels.

The randomness that I don't like is the fact that this comic is burning. First, we're mixing blurry real embers and flames with otherwise a completely comic style illustration. Why is the comic on fire? Why is the girl not panicking? Is her mix-tape really that fire?

Final Verdict: Good enough to burn.

Signature 6 - Is there something in my eye?

[Image: C3aIw6t.jpg]

It's interesting to see that I was learning over time. The color scheme of this signature is a lot better, and the placement of the subject and the background is better. We have a light source in the background that matches the characters shadows, and even though the butterflies are really badly edited, it can be seen as a good attempt.

The problem that I can see is that I for some reason decided that adding layers of junk floating particles would give this signature something extra. Maybe I've been away from digital art for too long. I'm primarily focused on portraits and photo manipulations now, but you rarely want to take attention away from the main subject. I know photographers may put an object in front of the lens to create distortion and an element of shine or haze, but let's leave these effects to the professionals.

Final Verdict: Those darn eye floaters....

Signature 7 - Anyone know how to tune a guitar?

[Image: qrLn7dU.png]

Honestly, this is another good attempt, but its too easy to make fun of and I don't want to pass up the opportunity. We have an illustrated character in a nice background. Her posture is actually perfect for creating an interesting depth effect, which I attempted to do by blurring and editing the skirt, the base of the guitar, and her left hand, but I didn't do it justice.

The head of the guitar is sharpened and dodged in Photoshop to bring your eyes to it as the main focus. Go me for finally learning how to mask and sharpen things! The one thing I would say is that there is an uneven balance between cool and warm colors. I would have cooled the background to match her blue dress a bit more, and have the guitar take all the warm colors to emphasize even more focus on it.

Final Verdict: Is that a bass?

Signature 8 - Mushroom is a hairstyle now?

[Image: GbWjLos.png]

Another "pop out" of the frame signature. The difference that makes this one worse than the others is that the character actually blends too much into the background. It's hard to differentiate the outline of the character from the background, and that makes the mind assume that they are close to being on the same plane of existence int he photo. That's is why, even though the background is blurred nicely to create depth, it feels unnatural to the viewer. Even though we have a subject directly in the middle of the signature, your eyes don't know where to look.

Moving the background to the side a bit to have less mushroom might be a good idea, as well as playing with the contrasts between the character and the background. Finally, while it may be hard to do, I wonder how this signature would look if you had three layers of depth to it. The background, the girl, and then the finger pointing out towards the viewer.

Final Verdict: Hey.... Pull my finger.


[Image: XaPGtko.jpg]

There is not much to say about this image. I'm pretty sure I remember following a tutorial for this one, and it turned out decent. It's a simple color edit that matches the original film and works well with the signature. Taking a closer look at the signature, I do wonder where the light is coming from. There seems to be conflicting light sources that don't quite add up.

I also don't know if the stock image used had the Spartans face naturally blurry, or I edited that for some strange reason. I would love to see a higher rez version of the spartan put in front, to really be able to see his face, and the individual drops of rain falling onto his shield.

Final Verdict: Good Movie

Signature 9 - Just like cutting my ex out of photo albums...

[Image: xWBq4sm.png]

Looking at the Original image within the PSD, this signature was actually really well edited. The original was a lot brighter, and the lights weren't as intense. I darkened the image where it was properly needed and kept her highlights true to their real locations. I also didn't contrast the lights to the point of burning out the image colors and it created a nice mysterious effect to the photo. A girl in very dark room, illuminated only by a few lanterns she is holding.

Yet to what I can only assume was an attempt to be creative, I decided to rotate the final product of the photo and oddly cut and crop the photo into a hexa-recta-triangular shape. Cutting off the head of a subject? No No. Tilting the entire photo off the natural horizon? No No. Using a format that isn't 1:1 or 4:5? Could work, but not in this case!

Final Verdict: Stop looking at the signature. You're neck will get stuck that way.

Signature 10 - Stop, go back! We messed up somewhere!

[Image: dAQFu0Y.jpg]

This poor girl not only has one of the most severe case of upset stomach I've ever seen, but she also got half her face color dodged into a state of almost being Casper.

This shows that learning a trade is not a linear progression. You have moments where you greatly improve, and moments where you actually become worse than when you started. The point is growth and experience makes you better at that skill!

Final Verdict: Maybe I'm an illustrator instead of an artist...

If you guys enjoyed this content, let me know! I have a lot of artwork that I've done recently that I would love to take a second look at. Most of my art has transitioned into a flash-art style and real life portrait / head shot editing!

I promise I'm actually good at art...!
08-28-2019, 06:37 AM
Damn, its good to see how much improvement an individual can make and still be humble and admit to their flaws.