30 Day Challenge Wk 2: March of OCs

IT’S SUNNY AND NOT FREEZING ALL THE TIME YAY.

 

I’m pretty proud of having made it half way in this challenge! These gouache paintings are the highlights of my days, and I just enjoy them so much! I’m looking forward to having all 30 at the end of the month.

My goal for the second half of this challenge is to really get into bold, bright colors. I love the soft, gentle pastels, but gouache looks sooooo rich when it’s at “full power”! So here’s hoping I can muster the courage to turn it up a notch (or 10 ha ha!)

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VIDEO Gouache Timelapse | Lefores

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Here’s another gouache painting! I enjoyed the blue-ish hair in the last post, so I decided to do again for this fella! He was originally (back in 2000) blonde, but whatever!

For my next video, I will finally break away from the soft pastel colors! I was nervous, but I think I pulled it off. Make sure you follow me so you can see it when it goes up!

OPINION:

Do you like these shorter videos with just music, or do you prefer the longer ones with talking?

OR should I do short ones with talking? Hmmm???

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.

10 Good Habits for Artists and Writers

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These first 5 are day-to-day practices that I want to implement/get better at.

  1. Warm ups – I typically don’t do warm-up sketches or writing, but over the last few weeks, I’ve been trying to do better… and it really works. My brain starts working, my hands start moving, and everything falls into an effective flow. Generally, I wait until I know exactly what I want to draw and then start. But that’s really hugely ineffective, not to mention stressful if you’re having trouble coming up with ideas.
  2. Studies – This goes for writing and drawing, I think. Trying to “render” (in pictures or words) something that really exists is great practice, but once again, I usually just sit around waiting for my muse to speak. (Muses don’t exist, btw. Sorry for bursting any bubbles.)
  3. Regular Work Sessions (and actually observe them) – Setting a regular time to write and draw helps your brain know when it’s time to get into a productive mode. Proof of this is when you wake up and know the difference between a day when you have to go to work/school, and a day when you have nothing to do. Your brain and your body act differently. With writing and drawing, it’s super helpful to give yourself some supportive structure for directing your process.
  4. Consider Audience – This is a big one and it means a lot of things… but for the most part, I forget about audience when I write and draw. It’s not so much a demographic that I’m concerned with, but am I giving my audience a story? Am I giving them something to remember? I always enjoy creating, but are other people going to understand why? Giving my audience enough narrative is really hard, but I think it’s really important.
  5. Be A Business Person – Freelancing is super awesome, if it works, but it only works if you make it work. Learning a bit about marketing and business-ing is HUGE, and a great deal of it can be done for free online. What blogs/comics are successful? Which ones have lots of interaction? What kind of Facebook posts get lots of attention? This may not be the fun part, but it’s important and it can potentially allow you to make more moneyz from the “fun part.”

These second 5 are attitude/emotional states I want to keep in mind.

  1. Love What You Do (No Matter What) – I was a cashier for a few years, and I know it’s hard to be passionate about something that isn’t in-sync with what you want to do with your life. But I think it’s important to develop an attitude of wanting to do things well, no matter what. Even if you love writing and drawing in general, there will always be days when you don’t love it. During that time, it’s important to want to do it properly. Whether you’re a cashier, a dishwasher, a janitor, a waitress, whatever: teach yourself to be passionate about a job well done, instead of just waiting for the ideal job to make you happy.
  2. Learn to CONSTRUCTIVELY Criticize Yourself – As a creative, I’m generally pretty hard on myself. It’s easy to point out my own mistakes and failings, and it’s easy to believe that everyone else is better. But that attitude can be turned into something positive, if I make it constructive. Looking at the work of others in an active way, really analyzing the work, I can learn about how and why those other artists are successful, and those skills can be implemented in my own work
  3. Be Your Own Advocate – Your family and friends will probably tell people you’re a great artist, when what they might really mean is that they love you and you happen to do art. But there is no one better than yourself for advocating your work. You’re the sole representative of your ideas, and it’s up to you to give them the presentation they deserve. Don’t treat your art based on how much other people love it: treat your art based on how much you love it.
  4. Immerse Yourself in Your Craft – This has been my biggest change over the last few months. I was generally a casual reader of comics until recently. Now I make it part of my schedule. Now I buy hardcopies, not just digital. I write down the names of writers and artists I like. I look them up later. Really immersing yourself in your art means just that: finding related material that will enhance your internal library.
  5. Find Your Watson (Since Muses Don’t Exist) – If you’re a writer or artist, you’re probably a bit crazy, and every crazy person needs a sane person who will be honest and kind at the same time. You’re Sherlock, and you need a Watson. The best part about Watsons is that they take the place of the non-existent muse. Watsons tell you (gently but firmly) that you need to work. They encourage you to do your best, and they call you out when you slack. They help identify good ideas from bad. Watsons also defend your reputation, no matter how dicey it may be, so that’s nice.

 

What are some good habits/practices you’d like to share?

Visual Library: A Vocabulary of Pictures

I’ve been trying to identify and correct bad habits I have as an artist. “And correct” is kind of the important part, and it’s the part I usually forget. I am generally pretty quick to point out (to myself and a few “lucky” others) what I’ve done wrong in a drawing, but I generally “fix” it by hoping that I don’t do it again. This is probably the negative side effect of being out of the art classroom… no one’s there to make me figure out answers. Sigh.

But anyways, I’ve been trying to do better. One thing I want to work on is my visual library. What does this mean exactly?

cassatt-01It’s just like learning a new language or simply new vocabulary from your own language. You have to hear the word, then you repeat it, then you have to write it a few times, and then it finally sticks. That’s how you learn words, and with art and creative writing, it’s not really any different. If you want to get better at drawing people, you study and draw people. If you want to get better at writing mysteries, you read and write mysteries. It really is that simple.

You put out what you take in.

I’m going to improve (and increase) what I take in! I’m deliberately going to try to build my visual library! I’m probably going to drink more coffee!

And that brings me to the new plan for this blog! I thought this whole “visual library” thing might be a cool theme. This could be a place where I can post the artwork I’m taking in, and the notes I’m making in the process, and my visual studies based on my notes. I want to blog this for two main reasons: because I know it’ll help me be more accountable, and also because I think it’ll be helpful to other artists. To start with, I’m trying to improve my color theory by
studying Impressionists (such as the piece above, by Mary Cassatt.) I used to not like impressionism, because it wasn’t In_the_boxrealistic (I was THAT person), but as I got more and more interested in digital painting, the more I felt drawn to impressionism. I really liked the way they could do SO MUCH with so few marks! You can see an entire form, but if you get closer, you realize that there aren’t really any sharp details. The sophistication is in the color, I think, and the mark making. If you can make juuuuust the right mark, with juuuust the right color, then it gets a big job done.

To make a long(ish) blog short, I’m going to conduct an art crash-course for myself, and I’m going to share it with you all!

I hope you all enjoy (and benefit from) the ride!

The Case for Storytelling

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Virtually all of us have a natural instinct for telling stories, and it comes out in day-to-day conversation. When your car breaks down and you’re telling your friends about it, you don’t simply say, “I ran out of gas this morning. But my mom picked me up, and nothing else really happened, so I’m fine.” How does that story go?

You talk about your panic when the car lurches and suddenly halts. You talk about frustration when you finally notice the gas gauge. You describe the tone of your voice when you desperately call your mom, and you imitate her voice when you talk about her response. You describe the agony of waaaaaiiiitttting for her to show up, then the mini-lecture you get when she arrives, and then you might laugh dryly at how horrible your morning was. Possibly, you throw in a “And then…” and move on to parking issues, clocking in late, forgetting breakfast, etc. Your audience nods, sighs, groans, and laughs with empathy, and they ask “What did you do?” “What did she say?” “How did you get here?”

This is storytelling at its absolute finest. An animated narrator, and an enthralled audience.

But I think storytelling as an art is severely underrated. We all use it everyday, but when we think about pursuing it professionally (as a writer, artist, musician, singer, whatever), we tend to shy away from it, thinking either 1) we aren’t worthy or 2) it’s not worth it. I saw “we” because this is still my Achilles’ Heel. Calling myself a storyteller still takes quite a bit of a conscious effort, but actually trying to BE  a storyteller… how do you even do that? How do you go about this mysterious art that we all do so effortlessly in our routine dialogue?

I usually call myself an artist/writer or writer/illustrator, trying to get all of my media into some kind of  “slashed” or hyphenated title, when “storyteller” would basically cover everything I do, and everything I’ll ever want to do. Comics. Prose. Music. It all comes from storytelling. But I personally have a really hard time treating it that way. It feels like I’m trivializing what I do by simplifying the title. But in reality, I thinking calling it “storytelling” is really opening up a much bigger and (potentially) more complex field of study. It isn’t just drawing… it’s drawing a story. It’s not just writing… it’s writing a story.

So basically I’ve figured out what I’m doing, and it’s way more complicated, but I also kind of get it now.

Incidentally, here’s a GREAT blog/journal entry about how story can improve a portfolio: PascalCampion’s DeviantART Journal

How does storytelling influence your art and work?

Artsy-Fartsy Questions


MadameI put “fartsy” in a blog title. Ha.

In a previous blog post, I talked about asking the right question. I think that’s an easier concept for writers to think about questions. Visual artists have a harder time because they’re answering visual questions. For us, our questions don’t have “?” at the end, they just have the gut reaction of “something’s off.” And that’s just not much to go on.

So if you’re a draw-er, how do you learn to ask the right questions? That’s a good question. See what I did there?

In my previous post I mentioned that the right questions always lead to more questions, just like a detective mystery. The same thing goes for drawing and painting: Why doesn’t the head look right? Is it the eyes? The nose? Yes. How can I fix the nose? How do I draw a nose? What does a real nose look like? And then you do a study of a nose. Or if you’re a really good artist, you’ll do several studies. And never stop.

This line of questioning even works for more conceptual problems. Why is this drawing exciting, but this one is boring? Is it the way I colored it? The composition? Yes. It’s all horizontal. How can I redraw this scene with more diagonals? This page is jumbled and complicated. The characters? The camera position? The word balloons? Yeah. Simplify the dialogue. What parts of the conversation can I cut out?

This is what active thinking looks like. It’s crazy, and it can be really confusing until you find your rhythm. But once you really figure out how to think in terms of puzzle-solving and questioning, you don’t need to be conscious of it anymore. It just happens all by itself.

Have you ever tried seriously critiquing your old work? Not in a mean, self-hating sort of way, but really analyzing something, finding the issues, and finding the solutions?