VIDEO Gouache Timelapse | Lady Katrina

0_March_KatrinaI posted another video today! This time, it’s just a sped-up timelapse with some music. No musings or chatting, just some paint and some tunes!

Enjoy!

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Writing My Own Magnolia Story

I’ve been listening to The Magnolia Story audiobook lately, and Chip freaks me out. Not even kidding.

Most recently, I listened to a chapter where Chip describes how he would avoid getting “too comfortable”, and keep looking for ways to shake things up in his life. Personally, I’ve grown up with a different attitude: my approach is to always strive towards something steadfast and reliable. I actively try to get comfortable in life, and find ways to avoid change. Needless to say, while listening to this story, I spent a lot of time thinking “Chip, you’re crazy!!”

Of course, Joanna often voiced the same opinion, so it’s not like I’m abnormally clingy to comfort. Continue reading “Writing My Own Magnolia Story”

Throwback Thursday: Rediscovering a Sense of Humor

“Throwback Thursday” is always a fun exercise for me. Looking back at my old work is a chance to boost my confidence in my now work, while also reminding me of why I make art in the first place. In general, my current work is technically strong, confident, and effective. But my older work always has a more organic, natural kind of honesty, something that I gradually lost in my pursuit of “perfect.” As part of losing my honesty, I also lost something I didn’t know I needed: a sense of humor.

Old Concept 1

In particular this week, I’ve been looking at an old 12-page comic I drew with Sharpie pens/markers. I don’t even have the originals, but I found scanned copies on my computer. This comic was titled after the main character, Dirk Gable, and is still probably the weirdest fluke of my entire artistic career. It stemmed from the idea of making the Bourne series into a rom-com…that was it. The guy is a highly-skilled assassin who accidentally breaks into the wrong apartment and starts a friendship with the single mom and her son who live there. It’s the classic “Oh excuse me” moment, with just a touch of Mr. Bourne.

I had the idea, and I literally went straight to drawing with pens (no sketching/studies), which made for some pretty painful illustrations. But I posted it on deviantART anyway, and was stunned by the positive response. Dirk had an immediate fan club unlike anything I’d ever posted. At a time when I’d barely been commissioned for anything, I even sold a print of a Dirk sketch. For a newbie just developing the courage to post work, this was HUGE. I was thrilled!

Fast-forward several years…Old Concept

I never really pursued Dirk beyond the 12 page short story. It was “just to be funny”, and I wanted to do serious comics. Not funny ones. SERIOUS. I began writing comics that dealt with the suffering of humanity, greater morality, and a general commentary on… existence… You know, deep things. SERIOUZ COMIC STUFF. I wanted people to read my comics and say, “Such wise! Much smart!” I pretty much smothered my sense of humor in an ocean of ethics, rhetoric, and visions of intellectual grandeur. But re-reading my 12-page Bourne/rom-com this morning reminded me of just how much I love comedy and humor. Instead of reaching my audience with laughs and smiles, I’ve been trying to reach them with grim “essays.”

Interestingly, I never had immediate success like that again either. I’ve gradually built up a larger following than I’ve ever had, but nothing I’ve written or drawn has had the same spontaneous burst of love that Dirk had. Did I just post at the right time of day? Used the right tags? Maybe. Or maybe laughs draw a bigger audience than the laboriously deep musings of a 20-Something.

I miss humor, to be honest. It comes more easily to me, and it’s less stressful to plan and write. Finding Dirk late last night was a great reminder that you don’t have to be serious to write or draw something great. Sometimes a giggle is the best way to win a reader (or author) over.

Fear Isn’t Real: Facing Artistic Insanity

FearI have a lot of issues as an artist. The usual suspects of course, for anyone trying something that demands skill, dedication, connections, and (at least some) blind faith… Am I really able to do this? Do I deserve success? Do I have any proof that this is a good idea? Why bother?

It more or less boils down to being accepting of failure (“I’m only human/I’m a newbie”) and suspicious of success (“It was probably luck/they’re my family, they have to say that.”) With the exception of a few, this is the general mentality for a lot of creatives. Failure is natural, success is a fluke. If you’re anything like me, you’re nodding (which I’m doing as I type) and saying, “Yep. True story.”

I recently watched “After Earth”, the Will Smith movie directed by M. Night Shyamalan. In the film, there are monsters that can only “see” humans when the humans feel fear. Smith’s character explains to his son that “Fear is an illusion.” He clarifies that danger is very real, but fear is a choice. Fear is making a choice based on something that hasn’t happened (and may never happen) and Smith describes it as borderline insanity.

That particular part of the movie made me think about those questions that come into my head when I’m doubting my life choices (especially concerning art and writing.) There are days where my lack of confidence keep me from putting art out into the world. There are days when fear of failure definitely keeps me from even trying. Like in “After Earth”, I feel paralyzed with “what ifs” and “flight not fight” instincts. And just like in the movie, those fears only make the danger more real.

This is called being set up to fail. You and me, we’re spending our days assuming our plans won’t work. If we assume that failure is probable, then we don’t try (or don’t try as hard.) In a weird way, it’s like the line from Charles Dickens’ Christmas Carol: If we’re going to die, then we’d better do it, and decrease the surplus population! Yeah, I’m using both sci-fi and classical references to make my point.

And my point is this: as artists, we’re choosing to be afraid and run for cover, simply because of something we imagined. Ironically, that imaginary threat is most likely based on a history of giving up and not trying (at least it is for me.) But the real danger isn’t that we might not get the job, the client, the success, the fame, the money or whatever; the real danger is that we might not even put pencil to paper. We might not put stylus to tablet, brush to canvas, fingers to keyboard. The real danger isn’t that we might not succeed; it’s that we might not even try. Simply buckling down and doing is more than half the battle. Everything else comes later.

What’s your greatest fear about doing art? How do you deal with it?

The 5 Worst Excuses I Give Myself

As an artist, there are a lot of things that I say to myself (sometimes without noticing) that make it really hard to work. It’s a habit of psychological “nagging” that cuts down on my productivity, but also my confidence. While I’ve gotten a little bit better at it over the years (as I get more confident) there are still a few things that I think over and over that really slow me down. I’m hoping that making a deliberate list of them will help me ignore (or even not think) them.

  1. I don’t know if this will work… So I better not try it.
    This is a huge problem when I’m thinking about experimenting with my technique… I’m afraid that I’ll make something awful, so I just make nothing. Which is better than something “bad”? No.

  2. I don’t feel creative… So I’ll just sit and do nothing.
    This is certainly okay once in a while, but it very easily becomes a habit. I pretend that my lack of inspiration is totally “over-powering” me, and I’m helpless. What nonsense. You can make your hand move, even if you don’t have a reason to. So make it move!

  3. I’m not as good as that person… So why try to improve?
    That question should answer itself, but here’s the more detailed response: being intimidated can be paralyzing. However, recognizing the way in which someone has superior skills is a great way to teach yourself. Why is that person “better?” How do you think they got that way?

  4. It’s “just” a hobby. No big deal if I don’t take it seriously.
    Then don’t expect anything amazing to happen with it. Publisher don’t publish hobbies. They publish crafts. And don’t expect others to take it seriously. Carelessness shows.

  5. I’d be more dedicated/disciplined if I were getting paid.
    I have learned the (very) hard way that this is entirely untrue. You have to respect your work AS work before you start respecting it as a money maker. If you really make sure that Good Work is just as important Good Money, it’ll be much easier to work a job that a) sucks and b) doesn’t pay well. Not that you shouldn’t try to make more money, but try to always be satisfied with your handiwork.

I’m sitting at a Starbucks in Kansas City, MO as I finish this post up. Today I will be tested on my knowledge of typography and page layout. Tomorrow I will set up my computer and equipment, and Thursday I will compete to show off my design skills. Fasten your seatbelts, kids. It’s going to be a bumpy ride.

Best Mom Advice Ever

 

“It wouldn’t be so hard if you did it more often.”

My mom has said this about laundry, cleaning my room, doing dishes, dusting and sweeping, mowing and raking, and exercise. Do it more often, and it gets easier.

After writing about habit in a previous post, this bit of Mom Advice occurred to me, and I had one of those moments (everyone has them) where you realize that your mom was right. She knew! How did she know? It also applies to creating!

Towards the end of last semester, I realized that I went days without writing or drawing anything creative. Once in a while, okay, but days? It’s very much like exercise; the longer you spend not doing it, the harder it gets to start again. So I made a conscious decision to make sure I draw (even just a little bit) everyday. To this end, I toooootally rearranged my desk so that my computer AND my hard sketchbook both fit comfortably, and are constantly accessible. (I technically have two desks, to be honest… a cheap one from my school’s architecture surplus and a cheap one from Wal-Mart.) I moved my files, binders, and notebooks to another spot in my room, so just drawing and writing materials are around me (plus some books on Renoir, Cassatt, and Degas). It. Is. So. Marvelous.

In fact, it’s so great that it has me ignoring one of my other good habits, which is going to bed before midnight. I now stay up late to draw, even if I was drawing all day. I write several paragraphs, and each day, the amount that I write grows. Daily practices are super hard to start, and it takes something like 30-40 days for a new habit to form. So what if you made a goal to draw or write for X hours a day?

It would get easier.

3 Things I Learned from Working

0Introwip2
A study I’m working on for my comic!

Everybody loves lists! And I’m still working, so don’t think that this is entirely retrospective or anything. Because it isn’t.

A lot of people treat work like some kind of inevitable hurdle that we have to get past in order to be happy. Work is treated like an unfortunate by-product of being human, something that we have to treat and cure.

As much as I love my couch and Netflix, I’m starting to develop a different attitude towards “work” in general. I think it’s an area of life that can really benefit people more than they ever know. Having a job isn’t just a chance to bring in money, it’s a chance to build a positive relationship with work. Even if the job is crap, even if the pay is low (or non-existent), there are 3 benefits that I think work can provide everyone, but especially anyone who wants to freelance.

  1. Skill – I’m not just talking about the ability to run a cash register, or deep-fry donuts, or toss a pizza crust. Workplace behavior is a skill, and it transfers into the rest of your life. Recognizing (and respecting) superiors, helping team members, concern for quality, and attention to detail; these are skills, and they’re AMAZING. I was a cashier for years, and the main skill I took away wasn’t scanning bar codes: it was the ability to learn a craft and be good at it. Interestingly, I wish I had thought about this sooner… what if I trained my writing and drawing the way I was trained on the register and managerial duties?
  2. Discipline – My definition of “discipline” is “strength of character.” Being disciplined means being very much in control of yourself, and making sure you’re doing what’s in your best interest (most/some of time, anyway.) In all of my jobs, I showed up on time, I did honest work, and I left when all of my work was done, and not a second before. I’ve gotten better about treating my personal work the same way, but I’m not quite there yet. Start at a regular time? Maybe for a week… Work a full day? Whaaaaat? It’s hard when you’re your own boss, but I’m getting there. And the benefits are already starting to show: when I draw and write regularly, I miss it when I can’t draw or write. When I work a full day, I have visible proof of my effort and I feel encouraged. Being disciplined is a great way to show yourself respect for your occupation, and it feels better than totally not caring and watching Continuum all day.
    And since you could potentially do both at the same time, why not?
  3. Habit – “I cannot tell you what I suffer for the want of seeing a good picture…” says Mary Cassatt, regarding her lack of work. This quote (from Mary Cassatt and Her Circle) really struck me last night. She later says, “Oh how wild I am to get to work…” Do I regret it when I miss an opportunity to work? Not just because I don’t like it when I’m lazy, but because a chance to create was missed. Habit means that something is ingrained, subconscious, practically natural. When I miss a phone call from a friend, when a favorite band came to town and I didn’t know, when I missed an invitation to coffee… these things make me sad. I want to feel the same way about work. My work should be so deeply set in my day-to-day routine that I feel honest (not just guilty) regret when I miss it.

What have you learned from work?