You are staring at a blank canvas, and your mind is empty, you want to draw though. So how to go forward?
How about you look through your folders a few years back and draw something you feel like you could vision better today than you did back then.
I have always loved these ‘draw this again challenges’ and ‘draw this again’ themed drawings. You know, it’s probably the best ways to see your artistic progress.
When I was younger and still drawing with traditional medium, I drew this angel vs. devil illustration. I named it ‘Life and Imagination’ back then. I think it showed what imagination could do. So I guess the name came from there. It was also from the time I was still using Copic markers and drawing traditionally.
In the center of the drawing was this tree, representing both sides, good and evil. Yggdrasil, if you may call it. I haven’t photographed too many of my earlier traditional works, but this was one I was super proud of and wanted to commemorate.
Digital art and new art style
Time passed, and I moved on to create art digitally. Years went by, and art style changed a lot during those years, from semi-realism to cel shading, finally settling to the latter one.
Ever since I switched to digital art, I have had this desire to draw this particular drawing again. Now, that I had found my style and thought I was ready to draw this again, I jumped on it and started the drawing process.
Quick thoughts about the whole ‘draw this again’ experience
What a ride it was. The sheer amount of lines, coloring, shading, everything. I also wanted to transform the drawing. To emphasize imagination and to boost elements in the drawing. To make the drawing a masterpiece, it always deserved to be.
If you want to read the whole drawing process, keep on reading, and maybe it will inspire you to draw something of yours again.
The starting point to draw this illustration again
The concept stayed the same. It didn’t change too much down the road. There is still a balance of good and evil present here. Angel and devil. And in the center lives a totem of balance. I switched the tree in the previous drawing to a symbol of an unknown element. It is like a stone, but a tree also but in gold!
Brainstorming and initial thoughts
Now, as I had the idea in place. It had to have good and evil. Those I already had in the original illustration as the main elements, so I kept those. Also the centerpiece of course. So in that sense, it was easier to move forward when there was already an idea in place.
However, the drawing had to show life and imagination. So I needed to gear up and take the illustration to another level. Now, in a way, I already knew the drawing would look so much different, just because I was drawing digitally.
Finding ideas for the drawing
I always start by looking up and collecting reference images as much as I need. You see. I haven’t yet developed this skill inside my head, where I could draw different things from the back of my mind.
It is pretty tricky if you ask me. So I gather reference images as needed. I always try to find a lot of pictures and combine elements and ideas from those. Creating a new version of already established ideas, I think that part is called creativity in some way.
You combine things and pictures you have seen before to something that hasn’t been seen before: creativity and imagination inside you, an inspiration to others.
Sketching and finding that one idea for the devil
When I have the needed resources at hand, I start to draw the first idea down. I started with the devil.
Now, I do not want to make the drawing look too much the same as the original. There has to be an evolution of the drawing, and I want to show it. In the original illustration, the devil was kind of like a stone statue with a living snake on the forehead. Now, I don’t know how alive that snake is when living in there, looks kind of dead to me but it supposed to be alive though.
Anyway. I wanted the devil to be alive and quite intimidating, to show that it has some serious strength and power. At this point, I am only focusing on the devil and nothing else. I do not think about the whole illustration yet.
First things first
The first thing I always draw is the face, and I have to make it look good. People always focus on the facial area first, so I also need to focus on that part first.
You see. For me, drawing gets interesting to me after I have outlined some element to final status or close to final. The face is the first thing I draw when I am designing characters. And I create a lot of them. So when I have the facial expression completed, I can move on to other elements.
I had a lot of ideas with the devil and some ideas I asked from our private facebook group, but in the end, I settled with the design I have here. I didn’t include the snake as I felt that wasn’t needed.
It was a lot of going back and forth whether to add a skull or a gate or a key to the chest. I did put a gate in the background at some point. However, that didn’t work out in the end. So at this point, I decided that I would add the wing that was already present in the original drawing. So I went with that.
Sometimes elements in the background just don’t work together with the main element(s). So either ditch the background idea, create a new one completely or add things to the main element.
If I hadn’t added the wing, it would have deferred too much from the original drawing, so I guess it was a good call. I think the sketch at this point was complete and I could move on to the next one, which was the balance totem.
Sketching the balance between the two forces, the Balance Totem
Repeating myself here, but I started to look for references for the centerpiece. I have this folder called ‘Inspirational’ on my computer and every time I find a picture that resonates with me, I save the image to this folder.
It’s convenient that I had once saved some cool looking sketches of rocks, so I chose those to be the main idea for the centerpiece.
I knew from the start that this piece had to have two different sides of the same thing. The other going corrupt and the other side flourishing of life. Or something like that.
Also knowing I would like to add the eye but this time with a different theme in mind. I didn’t want it to be precisely the same idea I had with the previous tree, so I went and did something slightly different.
I designed a platform that would hold the totem. I added a river and some natural elements to showcase the size. However though, the idea just didn’t come through, and I decided to simplify the design a bit. Removing the river and trees and other parts from the illustration.
At one point I also added clouds to the drawing to emphasize the size of the totem. That didn’t work out either so yet again, I removed those.
If something doesn’t work, just remove it or change the idea.
As you can see, creating a new illustration (even with an idea in place) is sometimes a lot of trial and error.
Moving on to the angel
I struggled a lot between doing a gentle and fragile kind of looking angel. Or. Would I go for a sort of ‘challenger type’ of an angel? I went for the challenger. I mean. The “devil” is already looking rather badass, so I thought the angel should also be kind of a badass — someone who could challenge the devil in a fight.
So I once again went for the reference images.
I once thought that using reference images was somewhat cheating. Now, I think quite the opposite.
I really can’t draw without reference images. Surely I can draw simple elements and objects, but when things get complicated, reference images help.
Lips, eyelids all those kind of things had to be checked and looked if I was going in the right direction. When I finally found the perfect facial expression, challenging yet kind, I was happy and could move on to the next part, the hair.
Now to remind you, I love drawing hair. You might already know this, but in case you don’t, I love drawing hair. Hair is the thing for me.
Now, I wanted it to be flowy and giving this very airy feel to it. So I had to draw a lot of flowy lines without too much thinking about those. This way I was able to create a lot of hairlines, quite fast.
Drawing wings for the angel
Drawing the feathers and the wing(s) was a challenge on its own. However, when I finally got a nice idea behind the structure and how to form the wings, it was a lot smoother road from there.
So I guess if you are facing a challenge of some kind and with some particular elements you are trying to draw. One solution could be that you get a concept behind it — a way to draw things in a way. Like, how to approach the illustration and what kind of result you are going for. And, when you have that, you have a much smoother road ahead.
I got the small feathers concept to my head and started to build from there. Hard to explain what I mean but I guess you can see it better from the full video available through my shop.
Once I got the angel completed. I was ready to draw all the lines there were, and damn there were a lot of them.
Drawing line art and damn there were lines to be drawn
I started with the devil as that was the first one I drew when I started this illustration. It also felt like a breath of fresh air when I yet again was drawing the devil. Progressing the drawing systematically, I guess.
I chose a 6px width brush that had this charming texture, knowing that there was going to be an insane amount of lines to be drawn.
Choosing a small brush, I knew the image wouldn’t get cluttered with too many thick lines. I also made sure to have the correct canvas settings before moving on to the drawing. One thing you shouldn’t miss is adjusting the canvas size.
Massive in size
The original illustration was made up of 3 x A3 papers. So it was only natural to select that size for this illustration too. And, I’m also used to draw at that size. Though in this case there were 3 x those, so it was a bit different.
Making a mistake when choosing a canvas size would be awful. I mean, drawing this complex artwork, only to realize you had wrong settings can be devastating, to say the least. I have experienced it before, and luckily I had a happy mistake there but not always does it go that way. So yeah, do make sure you have the correct settings in place before moving on with the line art.
I knew that drawing the line art would take time. So I decided to do it in small pieces. Otherwise, I would have injured my hand and especially my mind.
The line art part felt like a marathon. It even felt like it would never end. Luckily though, I got it completed. Even though it took a massive amount of time. Also looking at the line art later and the fact that I chose 6px width rather than 7 or 8 was the right decision. It would be a shame to realize you had a wrong brush size when you had completed a piece as massive as this.
Line art process was pretty straightforward. You see, you only have to draw and on top of the sketch lines, and that’s it. Making small adjustments along the road, here and there. To make it better overall. There is no need for you to follow the sketch lines precisely. Just make sure to get the lines to look good.
Coloring the angel
I decided to start the coloring process from the angel. I had the feeling of it being an inferior drawing, compared to the rest. So I decided to put all the effort in and make it beautiful. I noticed some mistakes in the line art part, so I first fixed those. Also during the coloring process, I noticed some colors leaking. So I corrected those as well. When I colored some of the areas, I also wanted to try out the shading to get that nice feeling to the drawing.
You see. I have this weird habit of wanting to get the drawing to a certain point just like I mentioned before. I want to get the drawing to look good just to get that good feeling for myself. The feeling makes the drawing process that much more enjoyable.
While coloring the angels clothing, I quickly noticed that it didn’t go well. So I had to fix it a bit. I also wanted to add some decorations to hair. Now, this is something you don’t want to do too often, adding elements at this stage of the drawing.
Like I have said previously, correcting mistakes, later on, is difficult and very time-consuming. So do make sure you have thought out at least 95% of the drawing in advance. So you don’t have to add elements later on.
The design felt empty
When I looked at the image, I just had this feeling and need to add more to it. So I made a few changes here and there. Like I mentioned the decorations and that kind of things. Luckily I was able to backtrack a bit and make the changes at this stage without too much of a hassle. It would have been a disaster if I had made the changes significantly later.
While I colored the angel (the first time/the first pass), I knew I would most likely change the colors a bit in the end, so I left some room for improvements. I had to think through the coloring carefully, considering the size of the drawing and the complexity of it.
At this stage, I hadn’t yet started coloring the devil side. So, of course, the devils’ colors also affect the Angels’ colors. There has to be a nice contrast between the beings, and thus I left the final coloring right to the end of the process.
Have to say that having a specific process on drawing illustrations helped here. I already know when and how I will be coloring the devil. So in a way, I can already plan how the devil will come together. All thanks to a particular process.
Coloring and shading the balance totem (angel side)
So when I felt the angel was completed. I moved on to the ‘totem’ part. Yet again, the starting point was to lay out some primary base colors here and there to get some vibe to it. To see where it goes. I left the coloring stage quite quickly because I didn’t get a good vibe with the colors.
Quickly moving on to shade the totem, I placed a light colored background and selected the same shading color as previously. The same I used while shading the angel.
The shading process was pretty straightforward and also quite fast to produce. The angel had a light source directed from the front (because of the outer rings light source things). Totem, on the other hand, had a light source from above.
I am used to shading with a light source up above. So the process was quite straightforward. But for now, I had only created around 50% of the drawing.
So instead of telling how I colored and shaded the devil and totem. I will give you a quick summary of how it all went.
Moving on to coloring and shading the devil and the totem [a small summary]
With the devil, I wanted a very sinister look for him, and one way to emphasize just that was to use a light source beneath the character. This way I was able to give him a more powerful presence than if the light would have come from the front just like with the angel.
I also knew that the devil was to be ‘in the shadows’ so I chose rather dark colors for him. Coloring was pretty easy though quite laborious. After I had a nice feel for the colors, I started the shading process. As mentioned before, I chose a light source from below and went with it.
If you are having difficulties depicting light sources, search for a reference image and try to figure things out from that image.
The Balance totem
I slightly started to shade the totem already in the devil drawing but soon noticed that it’s rather hard to make it consistent when I don’t see the other half.
It was time to unite the drawings together. I had previously split the drawings into two halves just for the sake of computer performance. But, I went for it and luckily my computer was able to work under a lot of stress.
You see the image at this point is quite big. 29764px x 7016px in size to be exact. So it is quite a large file and illustration for the computer to render.
Now I had only one illustration to work on. I could easily see how to shade the totem and also how the colors were working on both sides, devil vs. angel.
This however created a dilemma. How do I color the totem so that the coloring would be working on both sides at the same time? I had quite a few ideas, but none of them worked as nicely as the idea of coloring it in gold.
Gold as a color gave me neutrality and also unified the two very different sides nicely together. Gold also gave me this god-like, divine feel for the totem. Making it look like a statue of worship. It made it strong and unwavering, something to lean on and something to respect.
Final thoughts and things to keep in mind
This drawing was quite a challenge to draw. It took me over 40 hours to complete. It weighs in at 2.5 Gb in size, dimensions being 1260mm x 297mm / 49.6 inches x 11.7 inches. Even the final PNG-file is 123Mb in size. So this was quite something to draw on.
I drew the whole drawing at the span of 106 days / 15 weeks. But for my defense. I took a lot of breaks between drawing, just because this drawing was so much to handle.
I also got bored many times while drawing it. Though never on my mind was I quitting or giving up on it. I wanted this drawing to be a masterpiece, and it is. I think this is one of those achievements I would like artists to take now and then. I know a lot of artists that have completed drawings that took 40-100 hours. Though in my opinion, the results have always been staggering.
I am proud of the end result and really do see and more importantly feel the increase in creativity in me. And so I think these ‘draw this again’ themes are an excellent way for you to see how far you have come.
Hopefully, you enjoyed the article, and if you are considering to draw something, you could pick something of old and redesign it for today.