Jul 23, 2014

The road goes ever on

So, the last post dealt with the things I would like to do with my artwork, both on a personal level and commercially. This post is all about how I plan on getting there. It requires a few changes, as you'll see.

First and foremost, I am going to be changing my main medium.
For basically all of my professional freelance illustration career (all three years of it), I have been working in black and white, with pen and ink. This has been a lot of fun and I think I've produced some decent work in that medium. But I think the time has come for me to move on to something else as my main tool of creating the images I do. This is not to say that I dislike the black and white stuff all of a sudden. It's not that all. It's just that I want to express myself artistically in a medium that can give me more.
From this moment on, coloured paints are my medium of choice. I've been wanting to move on to them for quite a while now and the thought of learning all about them fills me with excitement. And when I say 'learning,' I really mean it. It's not going to be a case of  me simply transferring my skill level from the black and white stuff over to the paints. It doesn't work like that at all. Painting and colour are their own beasts and they each have their own set of skills to learn.

I really can't wait to sink my teeth in. I'm going to be starting from the very start and being smart about how I go about learning how to do it all. And I will be joined along the way, by my best art buddy, Gordon Mackay. We've both been talking about switching to paint as our main medium, and we plan on learning together as we go. It's going to be a lot of fun and hopefully I'll have my first pieces to show in the coming months, even if they are just simple still life's or portrait studies.

So the painting covers most of the personal goals I have, but it also spills over into the commercial side of it too. Because I want to paint Magic:The Gathering card art, I want to paint book covers, I want to paint Faerie stories. So in order for me to do that, I should probably learn how to paint properly, right?
I believe I have a core ability or 'talent' (despite what Greg Manchess says) that will enable me to progress well and I honestly believe I should be at a decent enough painting level sooner rather than later. But that won't stop me from learning every beginner-level lesson I can find and developing a base of acquired skill through experience and experimentation. So there will probably be a lot of references to James Gurney over the coming months and years. Be warned.

All of this painting stuff is going to take up a lot of time, I imagine. Which is why I am going to stop taking commissions and jobs for the next little while. I have some regular clients that I will continue to honour our arrangement, but I'm afraid I won't be able to take on any new jobs for a while. But when I do open myself up for commissions and new jobs again in the future, it will be as an artist that works in colour and with paint. This will mean that I will have a new portfolio, a new product, a new price list and, hopefully, a new career.
It is my plan to open myself for painting jobs and commissions on January 1st, 2015. That gives me roughly five months to knuckle down and get some serious, intensive painting done. I imagine that the learning curve is going to be steep!

One of the reasons I am doing this is because I can envision a time when I don't have to get up at 6:30 in the morning to go and work at a retail job and come home 12 hours later and try and squeeze in a couple of hours of art before bed, if I have any energy left at all. I can envision a time in the near future when I get up at 7:30, instead, and work on my art for as long as I need over the day. Essentially, I plan on getting to a point, hopefully in the next few years, when I can be a full-time artist. If I want to seriously be a proper Faerie and Fantasy artist, I will simply have to take the plunge and change the way I live. At this point in my career/life I work long hours for little pay and the time I have for the thing I actually want to do, the art, is restricted and severely compromised. I'm not being the artist I know I can be and I don't want to live like this for too much longer. Honestly, it's what I am meant to do with my life and I will only ever be creatively content if that is what I am doing. So I plan to make that happen. And painting is the way it will happen.

But there are other things I want to do, too. I've been going on a lot lately about how much I love Podcasts. I think they're great! So great, in fact, that Gordon and I are seriously considering doing our own one. We're still working out the kinks and actual viability of it at this stage, but we're both keen to at least give it a go. The reasons I, personally, want to do a podcast are many, but really, it's mostly just about further getting my name out there. I look at a lot of the podcast presenters I listen to and how their careers have blossomed with the aid of their podcasts, and I think I'd be mad not to give it a go myself.
One of the other big reasons for doing a podcast is that it will be a part of the learning process. Hopefully, by openly discussing the process of painting and art, the lessons learned will filter back to the actual artwork. That's the idea anyway.
But I'll keep you posted on the podcast thing. If it can be done easily enough and we can do it justice, then I'd say we'll be going ahead with it in the next few months.

There's a couple of other things I have in the works, but I imagine your excitement is already at dangerously high levels, so for the sake of public safety, I'll leave it at that for now.

Back soon with paintings!
A recent Urban Sketchers painting. It sucks, but it's a good skill level marker.

Jul 17, 2014

My artistic Bucket List

This post is going to be a two-parter of sorts. Each part is going to deal with vaguely the same subject- where I want to go with my artwork and how I intend on getting there. So let's get straight to it, shall we?

PART 1: The Dream Bucket
As an artist, I am in a state of constantly striving to attain new skills, new levels of artistic knowledge, new elements to add to and refine my style. 

Most of my artistic goals are purely for my own sake. I want to have a better understanding of colour, of light, of form. I want to continue to grow, to never rest on former achievements and to always seek out new things. This is all in aid of me becoming a better artist, for the pure purpose of creating more interesting and, hopefully, more beautiful art.

But some of my goals are more to do with the world outside of my own head. I may want to see some piece of mine in a certain place, reaching this audience, or that buyer. These goals are more tied into ego, but are also bound to a willing desire to be successful through creative production, to make a living out of making art that people like. Egotistical, yes. But it's also about communicating beauty, expressing emotion, making tangible things that people may like to look at. 
It's kinda like a cake, I guess. Each one I make is hopefully a little tastier than the last, with better decorations and a nicer consistency. Part of me wants to bake to show off how good I am at it, but the other part, the far greater part, is all about sharing the cake with people. They might be hungry, they might not be. They may like the cake, they may not. One bite might be enough for some, others might come back for more. All I can do is just keep making cakes, and hope that I find enough people hungry for them. But if I don't... well, I'm more than happy to eat the cakes myself. I like cake.

So anyway,  I've got goals in both respects. Personal and commercial. Let's have a look at my big goals in these areas:

  • I want to be proficient with oil paints. They are, to me, the pinnacle of all artistic mediums.
  • I want to be able to depict closely, through paint, images I see in my mind.
  • I want to sculpt more Faerie Stones and make other crafty things.
  • I want to get good at plein air painting.
  • Same with portraiture.
  • I would dearly love to attend the IMC (Illustration Master Class) some year. That's where the best fantasy artists go to party and learn heaps of stuff from other best fantasy artists in the world. It costs US$2,500 just to attend it though. So that's an 'if I win the lottery' one.
  • I would love to visit a couple of artists at their homes to chat and have a drawing session with them. Alan Lee, Brian Froud, Larry MacDougall, Jean-Baptiste Monge and old buddy Bart Sears, I'm talking about you!
  • If Muddy Colors were to ask me to become a contributor, or if Drawn Today wanted me to chime in on the odd podcast, I'd agree to that quite quickly.
  • Mostly, I just want be successful enough to enable me to pursue my own artistic dreams and ambitions. I don't need huge amounts of money for that, just enough to get by and be happy.
  • First and foremost, I want my Realms of Faerie books to some day get published. This will allow me to die happy.
  • I want to have my artwork appear on at least one actual Magic: The Gathering card. I'd prefer it to be a green card, and an Elf one if it can be arranged...
  • I'd like to have at least one painting appear in a Dungeons & Dragons manual. A Pathfinder one would be sweet also.
  • I want to get a piece approved for inclusion into that wondrous annual tome, Spectrum. I'm aiming to send something for consideration for #22, out late next year.
  • I want to do something with my The Circle story.
  • I'd be cool with having a booth at something like Illuxcon or Dragon Con. I wouldn't even have to sell much, it'd still be an unforgettable experience.
  • I'd like to do an exhibition of my work and do the whole fancy opening night thing. As silly as all of that sounds to me.
  • A Tolkien book cover assignment would be nice.
  • Illustrating a new edition of The Wind in the Willows would be great too.
Yeah, some of those goals are pretty lofty. But you have to aim high, don't you?

So the next post is going to be all about how I plan to reach those goals and may contain some medium-to-large bits of news. But before I close out this post, here's some recent Life Drawing work I've done:

Chat soon.

Jul 8, 2014

The relevant worth of Podcasts

I've been self-medicating myself on a fairly heavy dose of Podcasts over the last month or so and I'm now totally hooked on them, real bad. They are fantastic to listen to while drawing and painting, and I also listen to them during my commute to and from work.

Let's get one thing straight, though: I don't just listen to any old podcast I come across. Heck no! I only choose to listen to the very finest quality podcasts; the cream of the crop, the diamonds in the veritable rough.

Naturally, the podcasts I do like to listen to are about the things I have more than just a passing interest in. For instance, there is a fellow that goes by the name 'The Tolkien Professor,' who has several hundred episodes available to listen to for free that go into incredible detail about my favourite author, J. R. R. Tolkien. So I've listened to a whole bunch of those.

But what I am really into at the moment is the fantasy art and general illustration podcasts. And, thankfully, there's a good few of them. Here are the ones I particularly like:

The WIP Podcast is the one that started it all for me. I can't recall how I ended up listening to this one, but I am so glad I did. This podcast is hosted by two married couples, Jeff & Caroline Himmelman and Pete & Ania Mohrbacher.
I've only managed to find episodes 15 through 24 to listen to on iTunes and the internet at large, but I plan on asking the creators (a couple of whom are Facebook friends) if the first 14 are available anywhere.
Unfortunately, the last episode (#24) was recorded over three years ago, so it is unlikely that there will be any new episodes from the WIP gang. I believe the Himmelman's are no longer together, which is probably why, sadly, the podcast is no more.
The thing I really love about the WIP podcast is the feeling of openness and sharing one gets from it. I've heard it mentioned in several places how the Fantasy art scene is one of the most welcoming and sharing groups in the art world; where artists are more than happy to help other artists out and strong bonds of friendship are often forged. This is very evident in the WIP podcast.
Episodes 15 to 24 are available for free on iTunes.

Ninja Mountain is another great one. There are currently 126 episodes (and counting) full of fantastic tips, interviews, discussions, theories and commentaries on fantasy art and related topics. I've only listened to maybe a dozen or so of these episodes, but they are really good and will probably be the next series I will audibly consume once the current one is complete.
All of their episodes can be downloaded from their awesome BLOG.

Sidebar Nation is more of a comic-related podcast, but it is still really good. There are a huge amount of podcasts, some with interviews with the very best comic creators around today. I just listened to a wonderful and revealing interview with the great Whilce Portacio a few weeks ago.
Sidebar is probably the best know comic-related podcast and their website can be found over here.

This is the podcast series I am currently listening to. It's bloody good and I never want it to end!
The thing I really like about the Drawn Today podcasts is the diversity of presenters and their views. They talk about important artistic subjects passionately, and there is a good mix of perspectives and respectful disagreement.
There seems to be a good roster of contributors to the Drawn Today podcast and blog, and many of them go to the big conventions and workshops like the IMC (more on this in my next post), so they bring to the table a certain level of clout and current knowledge of the industry of fantasy illustration.

So, with all of this listening to folks talking about artsing and artsistry, one would assume that I have picked up all sorts of valuable information. One would be right in thinking that! I've actually started writing the really earth-shatteringly brilliant pieces of advice down on post-its and want to make some sort of shrine to them in my studio. Let me share a couple of them with you-

"You are only going to get hired to do the same sort of artwork as is in your portfolio"
-Dan Dos Santos paraphrased, WIP Podcast #2
This is such a simple and obvious thing, but it is so important to keep in mind and has certainly had an effect on my mid-range plans. More to come on this at a later date.

"95% of all painting problems are actually drawing problems."
-attributed to an art teacher, Drawn Today #12
This is another great one to keep in mind as I try and move to a career that deals with much more paint.

"Make great art for the sake of making great art, not for where it is going to appear."
-kinda my paraphrasing of a similar statement attributed to Donato Giancola.
This is one I heard just last night and it is really resonating with me. That's the sort of artist I want to be, who cares about the art, not so much the book cover it appears on.

The next post is going to completely contradict that last quote. I'm going to talk about my artistic bucket list!
Ooh, yeah, how about I show some artwork? Here's some head roughs of one of my favourite characters from The Lord of the Rings...

Boromir. Proud, strong, flawed, redeemed?
See you soon.