Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Moving Forward: Now You Too, Can Buy My Art!

 Moving Forward:
Now You Too, Can Buy My Art!
Hello again, thought I'd drop in and give everyone an update on things.  
I have been busy with other non-illustration-related things unfortunately.  I am officially on the hunt for a full-time job and I have an upcoming play that I will be performing in (better still, one of the short plays I wrote!), but that doesn't mean I have stopped illustrating or thinking about illustration, quite the opposite.

I am now a card-carrying member of Society6 (card may or may not exist)! an online art shop that hosts innumerably artists and sells their art in prints, canvases, and more pragmatic cases for laptops and iPhones.  You can even get pillows with art on them.  Be sure to check it out, not only for my sake, but all artists' sake, there is some very very awesome stuff here.

Another more recent development is that I am now on the roster for Bushwick Daily's Sunday Reads feature, a collection of essays, fiction, poetry and excerpts (open submission to any writers!) with accompanying illustrations.  This is very exciting for me, not only am I going to be expected to do work more regularly, I'm doing work outside of myself which is ultimately the goal I aim to reach. 

I feel very good about these new developments and they only motivate me further.  I know had a steady amount of work coming in and it helps with my writing not only seeing other writer's work, but interpreting them in a visual fashion is, when I think about, literally what I want to be doing (once I can make a living doing so, I can breathe a bit easy).  Society6, honestly speaking is no way for me to begin to make a living; I'm not sure what my expectations are of the store, if I make $20 I would be proud but this storefront isn't a avenue for me to make profit.  This is a sign to myself that says "I am not scared to show people my art, and perhaps, even let them buy it."  My career is growing, I can tell, albeit in gradations.  

When I began this entire thing, about two years ago, I worked in seclusion, afraid to show people what I was creating, content with mere vague descriptions of "drawing."  Never would I offer or tell someone that, yeah, I can draw or create something for a poster, a cover, or anything.  My support group consisted of podcasts, books, and videos.  Now, I have a twitter account, this blog, a storefront and I'm working for a publication.  My twitter audience grows weekly and I can communicate with artists I admire who are more than willing to help me with anything I can ask, whether relating to art, software, or the industry itself.  I love sharing both my process and my finished artwork with anyone who is willing to listen, and I am very close to having my own website, my own portfolio site, and hopefully, a paid piece somewhere on paper or on a webpage.  Those are my more immediate goals, though, to be honest with myself, I have been caught up in other non-art related projects.

But, again, that doesn't mean I haven't stopped creating new art, and I wanted to talk about my most recently posted artwork.  I didn't have a title until after I finished it, it's now called The Expansion of Horizons (seen above).

This was the first piece of art I created from scratch on the computer.  I had recently finished Noah Bradley's 'How to Start a Painting' Video and his cinematic canvases and sketching that began with values instead of lines inspired me.  I started with large swaths of grey and black, eventually finding a figure and a horizon line.  From the figure grew a cape and from the cape, I originally played with the idea of the cape breaking off into pieces and flowing towards the "camera" so to speak.  Still in greyscale, I had this image.

Once I had a concept, I needed to start the coloring process, a daunting and always scary part of my art.  I'm much more comfortable creating works in greyscale then I am using color simply because I don't feel confident when I use color; to me, I feel if I had given the image to someone else, their colors would produce a more beautiful picture than mine.  But, that's not something that would stop me.  

After playing with some colors and finalizing some of the objects, I realized I had the figure in an awkward position so instead of redrawing her and redoing that section, I gave her a large dress.  A bit of a cheat, I know, but not one that clashes with the original image.  The dress was actually one of the more time-intensive sections of the piece as I used reference and needed to keep the detail top-notch.

While I colored, I felt somewhat dissatisfied with the piece, it felt  As in, it was very obvious that I was using Photoshop and the entire piece looked inorganic and I didn't like that.  So I went back to the rocks and objects and roughed them up a bit, texturizing them so they didn't look so smooth.  That's why there are lines and dots all around it.  

After the color was finished, there was one more thing missing, and I knew it from the beginning - it has to do with my personal preference, style, and voice.  

I love outlines.  I'm not sure why - something about the contrasting outline that makes whatever's inside pop.  Maybe it has to do with my love of The Simpsons, of animated Superhero shows, whatever it was/is, I enjoy outlines immensely, especially when seamlessly interconnected with the art.  So of course, I had to outline what I drew.  After I outlined, I realized there was something missing, the grey horizon was not supposed to be grey. This actually scared me the most because I am very scared of color and how it can mess things up.  I toyed with a lot of different hues and finally ended up with a blue-green, ending up in this final piece.

I really liked this piece and honestly, the most fascinating part was that, up until the last few hours that I was working on it, I didn't know exactly what it was I was drawing.  I didn't have a clear picture in my head, but that was fun in and of itself.

Thanks for reading

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Ego - A Willingness to Change.


Hello all.  I'm back.  For now.  Like I said, I'll be updating this blog spontaneously rather than on a schedule.  I even (if things went right) changed the title of this blog to reflect my personal feelings on where I am.  I have now created two pieces of art for other people and have been compensated for them.  That feels amazing, and I am comfortable saying that I am an illustrator.  It will feel even better once I create my own portfolio, and maybe my own website, which is in the near future. 
But, let's get to the subject at hand, which is Ego - specifically mineHere are two pieces of art, they are both flowers, poppy flowers to be specific.  



Now, which would you say is better?  Hard to say; I'm sure each has it's detractors and its praisers, and they are fairly different pieces despite them being both the same flower.  One is more natural, aiming for true colors and a closer representation of its look in reality, and the other is takes the idea of a poppy flower and plays with its reality.  One is simpler than the other.  

First, a little background on the job I had to do here. My sister came to me telling me she wanted a tattoo and asked me if I could draw it for her.  Now, I can feel like this is half a job, as in my sister is helping me out in my journey to becoming an illustrator by asking me to make something for her in exchange for x amount of dollars.  You know, wink, wink, nudge, nudge, my sister is doing something nice for me.  It's easy to feel that way and easy for my inner critic to put myself down.  But, this isn't just any commission, I'm not putting this on a paper and having her put it on her wall for a temporary amount of time.  This is a tattoo commission; what I end up on creating will be on her skin forever, this is a big deal and I treated it so. 

I said yes of course and she had a flurry of ideas, pictures, sample tattoos and looks she was going for.  I don't know if this is a new fad, but the style of tattoo she wanted was new to me - the watercolor tattoo. I saw many amazing poppy flower tattoos that looked like an artist painted watercolor on someone's arm or leg, a temporary tattoo that would come off after the first shower.  I saw splatters of tattoo paint, "mistakes" arising from the too wet brush, but no, this was a deliberate style, and a deliberate look.  To make things worse, my sister didn't want a watercolor poppy flower tattoo, she wanted a psychadelic, technicolor, watercolor
poppy tattoo.  Oh yeah, and there had to be a fibonacci spiral in there somewhere.  

I definitely had my work cut out for me.  

I began with research.  First I needed to know what that flower was (my sister had no idea).  Then I looked at actual poppy flowers (on the web).  A simple google search did the job.  I started, as always, on my sketchbook.  Here's what that turned into. 

I started and re-started many times, beginning with that spiral.  It didn't work out.  The spiral wouldn't make for a clean flower look and while I could try to make a flower out of the spiral, it wouldn't really look like anything real.  I gave up.  I instead picked out a few flowers positions I liked and sketched those out.  I'd show them to my sister (client) have her pick out the one she wants, and work my way there.  From the final piece, you can tell which one she picked.  

The hardest thing for me way creating the watercolor effect.  Luckily Photoshop had a watercolor brush but it was tricky and difficult to work with, though eventually I was able to manage.  The more I painted, the more I enjoyed what I was doing.  I liked the colors I chose, the shadows I created, even the stamen (center) of the flower, which is what I was most worried about.  But a problem nagged at me in the back of my head, even as I continued painting. I thought "where is the spiral, where are the crazy colors?  You've only done one out of the three things you're supposed to."  But then I thought, "but this looks so good!"  Eventually, I looked at the piece and it just...felt done. A strange feeling.  Usually I know what the final piece is supposed to look like, at least in my head, but here I didn't.  I did know if I kept working, it would lose its watercolor look, it's rushed, yet elegant style.  I was excited to show my sister thinking "this looks so great, she'll love it anyway."

My sister came over a few days later and I showed it to her. 

I sat down on my computer and she bent over me, and said "wow, that looks good...but..." and I knew I had messed up.  She asked where the different colors were, where the spiral was.  Yeah, the flower looked great but that's not what she wanted.  I weakly spoke out and told her where I was coming from, knowing I was already wrong.  I told her it looked good like this and adding both colors and the spiral would make it look strange.  "But that's the point," she answered, and I knew I was beaten.

Here's where I thought, this isn't going to be the first time this will happen to me.  An illustrator is commissioned to make something for someone.  That someone, will most likely be an art director, either of a magazine, a publication, a newspaper, or anything similar.  And they know what they want to see in the context of everything else.  It is my job to use my creative and technical abilities to create the visual that fits.  I'm not illustrating to please myself, though I should have fun doing it and should feel good once I'm done.  There are going to be times where I will have to change something, and even if I feel it's wrong, even if I feel it looks better the way it is, that's not up to me.  If I wanted to make art strictly for myself, I wouldn't try to be in this industry.

I had no choice but to pick up my pen, my tablet, and start working on the flower again.  I changed each petal a different color, keeping the dark-red center petal the same.  The spiral I still had trouble with, but my sister sent me another reference photo of the spiral doubled, much like a galaxy.  This helped immensely.  I looked at spiral galaxies for references and used that for the spiral at the center, however it was much more detached and didn't look like a compete part of the flower.  I was okay with that, the spiral looked like a foreign object anyway.  

Again I showed the flower to my sister but she still asked for more revisions.  More colors, more petals, and a closer integration of the spiral and the flower.  I was okay with it, feeling much more comfortable with the task.  Even the initial addition of different colors and the spirals didn't look so odd to me and I was still pleased.  I felt confidant in the final piece as I did what I was asked to.  As you can see, here's what I ended up with.

I got the okay from my sister, which felt fantastic but I still kept my opinion.  I still think the original flower looks good, especially for a tattoo, but I'm not the one getting the tattoo and I wasn't the one to come up with the psychadelic watercolor spiral poppy flower tattoo either.  But I was assigned the task, and I think I delivered nicely.  It's good to get a taste of the future - I'm sure other jobs will be easier, some will be harder, what I have to do is keep a level head, keep my ego from sabotaging my career and know when I have to step aside and do as I'm told.

Thanks for reading