Watercolor Sketches

Is it just me, or is this year picking up speed towards the end?? Usually, winter feels so slow and quiet, but for some reason, my November was a blur! I have a lot of stuff coming up in December, and it feels like Christmas is just around the corner!

But despite the craziness of producing a comic, I’ve also been making time to do little watercolor studies in my sketchbook. I picked out a few of my favorites to share!

Continue reading “Watercolor Sketches”

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I’m So Excited for New Territory!

I had a surreal moment this week: I scheduled all of the pages for chapter 1 of my comic*. All of the pages. They are drawn, inked, edited, lettered, and scheduled. There is no more work for me to do on chapter 1.

I’ve been working on this comic for years. Originally, it was in short story format, and then novel, and now as a graphic novel. Even as a comic, there are have been many rounds of drawing and re-drawing, and constantly second guessing myself. The courage to “do and let be” is something that I struggle with. I wouldn’t call myself a perfectionist, so much as a “finish-phobe.”

Continue reading “I’m So Excited for New Territory!”

Good Sketching Habits

habits-01As part of my resolution to tell better (more) stories, I’m trying to take my idea sketching up a notch as well. So while trying to figure out the personalities of my up-coming webcomic characters, I made a personal goal that in every sketch the characters would:

  1. Be in a specific environment (even if it’s not detailed or accurate.)
  2. Be interacting with each other (or reacting to an object.)
  3. Use interesting, dynamic body language
  4. Have facial expressions that aren’t just the obvious emotions.

These 4 things really pack a lot of power into a drawing (even if it’s just a rough sketch.) They help tell your viewers that something is happening in your fictional world, and that your characters are truly immersed in their own realities. Not only that, but it makes the readers feel engaged, invited into the world you’re creating.

The other thing that I decided to experiment with was color. Using Prismacolor Verithin colored pencils, I tried to create the effect of strong sunset lighting, like somewhere (off page) there’s a large opening, letting the light in. To contrast, I created a cool colored background, so the characters stand out.
The other thing I’m trying to do with my drawings is trying multiple plans, multiple approaches. For this one, I want to play around with this particular “scene” some more, though. Specifically, I want to try experimenting with the camera angle… it’s sort of the “obvious” choice (which isn’t necessarily wrong) but I want to see if I can find something that’s a bit more unexpected, more unique. Right now, my plan is to try something that uses the light source in a creative way… but we’ll see!

 

What are some habits you have when you sketch? What are some obstacles you want to overcome?

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.

Style Is the Way We Say Pictures

I’ve been thinking a lot about style lately, wondering what “style” even is. How do you find your own “style”? How do you deliberately cultivate it, when it’s something that’s supposed to grow naturally? In other words, how to make something happen without making it do something it shouldn’t? As an artist, I know Renoir had a specific style, and it’s why he’s one of my favorite artists. It’s his style.
renoir-01But how do I find my style? I want style!

Google defines style as “A manner of doing something” and “a distinctive appearance.” For me, style has another meaning: a visual accent. Style is the way an artist/writer pronounces their ideas on a page. Think of the word “either.” Some people say “ee-thur” and some say “eye-thur.” That’s their verbal style. Painting and drawing are unique languages for the eyes, symbolic and metaphorical. Style is the way we “say” pictures.

I mentioned Renoir as my favorite artist. His style is soft, impressionistic, but still precise and easily readable. Looking at his work is like listening to Norah Jones sing “Sunrise”… smooth, soft, but easy to understand. And decidedly conducive to coffee drinking. Performers have to learn a lot to become proficient in singing, but how they sing is influenced by how they speak; and that’s not something you consciously learn or control. You speak the way you hear.

Honest, true, raw style is essentially the same thing: you draw the way you see. In my case, I’ve spent a long time trying to “decide” on my style, as if it’s something on a store shelf. I knew I wanted to draw comics, and I happen to like Wonder Woman, so I figured that was THE style to have. Straight up DC style. But quite honestly, that’s not my style. I learned how to paint traditionally, and I’ve always (ALWAYS) preferred artists of the Baroque and Impressionism periods (drama and fuzziness.) So it stands to reason that, left to my own devices, that’s how I would draw. It’s not how I used to think I should draw, but I’m starting to realize how much stress and tension goes on when you’re trying really hard to suppress your natural style.

It’s like trying to use a fake accent for a whole week. You have to think (hard) about everything you say (“Eethur? Eyethur?”), and you focus more on the sound than the actual wordIn art, it’s focusing more on the individual marks you’re making, instead of the overall visual narrative you want to make. If/when you just draw, and you don’t care about the “how”, you’ll give your natural style a chance to flourish.

It’s also a lot like meeting yourself for the first time, artistically speaking. A little bit meta. Whatever that means.

But seriouzly, Renoir.

Author’s Note: As my Life Writing class comes to a close in a week or so, I’m going to be taking this blog in a slightly new direction. This new direction is largely inspired by what I wrote about in this post, and I’m super excited about it! How do y’all feel about style?

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?

Inspiring Inspiration Manually

yayInspiration: the process of being mentally stimulated to do or feel something creative.

Here’s my theory: Inspiration is the state of being when the desire to create something specific is greater than any apprehension of possible failure. Just wanting to create isn’t enough, because you can still be paralyzed by the blank canvas/page.

Inspiration is just not caring about messing up, because you really want to make that thing. So how do you harness that? How do you make inspiration appear?

For me lately, I treat inspiration as pure happenstance. Something that is great when it happens, but non-essential when it doesn’t. I treat inspiration as a luxury.

And weirdly enough, this seems to make inspiration appear. Not caring about inspiration makes it happen.

Inspiration is when you just make and not care, which means if you just don’t care, it’ll come. What.

I’ve spent a lot of time on my comic, René, trying to come to grips with it/her, and to figure out why I’m even making that world. Why bother? Why do I bother coming back to it? And no, “Because Amadeo” is not a good reason. It’s a reason. But not a good one.

Then I started asking different questions: What else would I do? What other story would I draw? Would it be any better? Would it go more smoothly?

The fact of the matter is that I tend to treat all projects the same. If I’m not super hyped to work on it, I just don’t and I’ve gotten burned so many times by that attitude. My worst fault in art is that I really want to make it, but the work/effort of making it even when I don’t feel like it… that’s what puts me off.

So I’ve been stepping back from René, and my other self-published works-in-progress. It doesn’t just take time and effort. It takes self-made inspiration, and that inspiration only comes when you work without inspiration. Is René worth that massive amount of “trying”? I think so. At least… she will be worth it when I get ‘er done.