Thursday, August 1, 2013


Just like with writing, there are various contests, calls for submissions, openings etc, that give artists/illustrators/designers to put their work out there, gain a little recognition and maybe even win a little money. I rarely enter these.  The time it takes to research, find one that fits, or is even worth the effort is not time I am willing to spend at the moment. However, whenever an opportunity is presented to me and it is relatively free to take resource-wise, I'd be foolish not to.

In the spring I found a grant application opportunity for sequential artists, whether comic book authors, artists, graphic novelists, cartoonists, or others. It was a small grant and to apply, one had to fill out some paperwork and describe the sequential art project one wanted to fund in some way with the grant money. I chose to present my graphic novel idea, sending my storyboard, few pages I created among other things. I'd use the money to take actual art classes, specifically drawing and/or anatomy. Before I sent it, I looked at the application info once again to be sure I wasn't missing anything.  I looked closer and saw that the April deadline wasn't a deadline at all, it was when they'd announce the grant recipients. The deadline was in March. When I read this, it was April.  Whoops.

More recently I received an email from Society6, telling me they were going to put together an artists collaboration on a specific theme, "Vacancy". To be considered, all we needed to do was post a new artwork labeled "Vacancy". I had recently finished a painting and this was a perfect time to start something new.

The brainstorming process took a bit long but I eventually got a sketch, scanned it, and started adding color. This also took a while, and with everything else I had to do, the July 24th deadline was fast approaching. I put a few things on hold and devoted the majority of my day to finishing the painting. I even imagined that, worst-case scenario, I'd stay up all night and finish it. But there was no need, the end was in my grasp.  Some 30-90 minutes of work more, and there were still many hours to July 24th. I went on the Society6 website to look at any fine print for the opening. And that's where I saw it.  "Deadline July 22nd". Shit. 

These missteps in scheduling are frustrating but also helpful in that I'll make sure it won't happen again. I'm very loose when it comes to scheduling; I don't even keep a calendar. For the most part, that doesn't pose a problem but when keeping a calendar would prevent these types of timing mishaps, I feel stupid not having one.

I've realized that it is all about details and paying attention. If I took a little more time to read the application info, my email, I wouldn't be writing about this very topic. I don't have this problem with my art; I look at every virtual square centimeter to make sure it coincides with what I want. I zoom in and use a 5 pixel-size brush to work on the edge of a 4,000+ pixel-painting. Will anyone notice if I wasn't so meticulous?  Probably not, but if this was my job, it might be the difference between getting a call back in the future or losing that client. Even if no one ever noticed, I notice, and it matters to me. Everything around me should be treated with so much diligence and scrutiny. In the meantime, I will (might) use a calendar and vow to never miss a deadline again.

Because it's fitting, I'll talk about the creation of "Vacancy" and the one mess-up that still tells me I have a lot to learn.

It all started with the word 'Vacancy'. I thought of synonyms and similar ideas; a hole, empty, something missing. Then I thought of scenarios and images where something was missing. I originally had an idea of an empty head, but that led to nowhere. I thought of the idea of heartbreak, and how descriptions often described one as feeling "empty", with a "hole in one's heart", or feeling like the other person ripped the other's heart out.

I liked the idea and went through variations in my head, with the entire couple in the scene, being in the middle of the "heartbreak" or with the woman leaving the man who was the main character in all concepted forms of the piece. Many of these scenes didn't work mostly because of my lack of anatomy and perspective ability. So I went with a post-break up, head-on, flat image. Here was my pencil sketch.

The head was originally going to be full of hair but I kept seeing a hat whenever I started drawing the hair so it turned as such. The bloody remnants on the wall is my disgrace for subtlety and somewhat affinity for blood/gore (tastefully done.  I, most likely did not stay tasteful).  I was happy with this sketch and started on the color which is close to what the final illustration end up as.

A late addition was the reversed "I'm sorry" on the wall. I didn't want to push the message too much but without this, the image felt a bit flat and boring, I wanted something more exciting. The "I'm sorry" was originally on the paper, bent towards the viewer (you can kind of make it out in the pencil sketch).  But with the phrase spotlighted on the wall, I wanted it to come from the paper so I straightened the paper he was holding.  

And here's where I messed up.

My lack of lighting, perspective, and general draftsmanship knowledge hurt me here. If the light came from the paper, than the phrase should be distorted as such. Something like this.

Now this is a quick 90-second addition so it's nowhere near perfect either but the perspective fits better.  If the lighting was reversed or the text wasn't so dark, it would be easier to see that it's some kind of light and that it would be coming from some source on the bottom. 

The way the final illustration stands, the light is coming from straight ahead and there's little to no connection to the paper itself. I didn't catch this until after I posted it. Strangely, I feel like I can't do anything about it. I sent it out already, for anyone to see and deemed it finished, to go back and"fix" it feels like a dishonest move.

I'm not happy about it, but I'm okay with it.  Mistakes are inevitable, but it's important that I catch them and learn from them.  Having a little extra money in my pocket also means I'll be able to afford a few art books recommended by various artists I admire.  I don't expect for it to turn me amazing, but if it can teach me one thing, it's worth it.  In the meantime, I'll be working on my technical skills, hopefully reducing the chances of such mistakes.