Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Year in Review / Tree Sloth Selfie

I was thinking of writing a blog post detailing the past year but for some reason I couldn’t remember if I started my blog a year ago or two years ago.  I guess much has happened in one year that it felt like two years.  So where was I in January 2013?
I was already half a year into trying to become an illustrator – I had decided to take time off from getting a job after graduation and made the choice to use social media more often as it would not only lend some amount of credibility to the work I was doing, but also creating some sort of stake by publicizing my efforts.  That year has taken me to various places, both within illustration and outside the illustration world.
First, and possibly most important, I can call myself an illustrator.  There’s no more “trying”, no more “aspiring”, it’s just “illustrator.”  Labels are very important to me and I don’t take them lightly – to call myself an illustrator was a huge step and it could only happen after I was actually paid for my illustration.  See, an illustrator is different than an artist (which I don’t consider myself) because an illustrator specifically aims to have his work displayed for a reason outside of its own sake.  But, I detailed that in another blog post. 
As time went on, I had already worked with Bushwick Daily (unpaid) and created editorial illustrations based on poetry and even a screenplay excerpt.  It felt amazing to have my work out there, to work with other material and create images through a personal form of collaboration.
But outside of my creative endeavor I was beginning to realize that I needed to move forward in life, not only in the field of illustration.  This meant getting a job, and it was becoming more and more obvious that time was a precious resource.  Illustration was not the only thing I was pursuing – I was taking acting classes, continued my writing, and I wanted to keep and gain new friends and acquaintances.  If I were to get a job (ideally a full time) I knew my time would be stretched.  Still, my experiences kept me going.  In May, I had performed in a series of one-acts (one of which I wrote). In October, I wrote and acted in a short film, which would eventually lead to my SAG membership.  I would’ve never though I would’ve been writing these things in February 2014.   
I eventually obtained a steady job and a less-steady freelance job that took up a significant portion of my day every week.  These were hours I could no longer devote to writing, illustration, or acting.  But that wasn’t a reason to stop.  Although it took some time, I was pressed for time.  The goal of drawing everyday was harder to achieve every week.  Illustration, while taking less combined time overall due to my comfort, was taking longer in terms of the date started and date finished.  I was still taking acting classes but at the end of each one, I kept thinking “I could do better, I could work harder.”  I had to reassess my efforts and realize that perhaps, I couldn’t do everything I set out to initially.  That’s okay.  I could work harder and better, in the same, or less time – it just had to be done with greater focus. 
I realized that the majority of my time was being spent on illustration.  I could allocate that time.  In the same vein, I decided to take a hiatus from acting classes.  I could find other ways to nurture the skill and work on the reason I took an acting class in the first place: to improve my writing.  It wasn’t an obvious decision and it was hard to make but I’m sure it was the right decision.  But what about illustration?
I’m now comfortable in my illustration way beyond where I was a year ago.  I made business cards, recently sent out postcards, and will start getting in touch with Art Directors.  I’ve been paid for my art in more than one way and I think there’s evidence enough for me to think that sometime soon, I’ll see my work on a website, or a publication.  I’m loving the work I do and the support I receive from my friends. 
It’s exciting to think where I’ll be in the future.  I’ve had to reassess my efforts, ensuring I’m not wasting the precious time I have each day, hoping to be more mindful in what I do.  I’ll keep drawing.  While I rarely do it every day for weeks or months at a time like I did a year ago, I still have lengthy streaks and it’s become such an ingrained part of my life that on days I don’t pick up a pen or pencil (or tablet pen), I know something was missing about my day. 
Funny – in between the time I started writing this post, and am finishing it, I’m now working on two short films.  The year’s going great so far – I’m looking forward to writing this post in 2015. 
With that, I’ll leave you with my most recent drawing.

Tree Sloth Selfie

As you can see in the beginning of this post - I made a painting of this forest creature taking a picture of itself - a "selfie" if you would (and I won't because I hate that word).  Why did I make this painting?  Well, PictoPlasma Berlin was holding an open call for illustrators, photographers, and designers to have original characters take pictures of themselves to explore the idea we seem to, if not obsess, spend a lot of time on; that of taking pictures of one's self.  

The deadline was pretty far in advance so I knew I had a lot of time even with my slow process (while I'm much faster than before, it still takes me some time before finishing a painting).  I tried to create an original character but was failing to create anything I was happy with.  I made preliminary sketches and thumbnails but nothing. 

Then I remember that this painting was floating around in my portfolio:
This started as a basic pose with a tree and I added the tie-dye-ish/watercolory background which, admittedly, seems slightly out of place.  Still - this was an original character.  What if he took a picture of himself?
I decided this character's body and imagined movements to be interesting enough for me to start thumbnailing.  I had a few interesting poses but decided my efforts would be improved if I actually looked through other photos.  So on various social media sites I, uncomfortably, started going through pictures of users.  It felt weird, but whenever I found an interesting pose - I'd quickly sketch, capturing its gesture and general feel.  I probably looked through 30-40 photos of various people.  When I began to sketch, I realized things didn't really fit the way I wanted them to.  I think subconsciously I put it off because to solve my problem, I had to take a photo myself.  Here's what came of it:

I felt kind of silly taking this picture but, it was needed.  I actually took three, but this was the reference I used.  Because my character hard different dimensions than a regular person (torso and arms were much longer) I tried to make adjustments.  

The process used in making this was actually much different than usual.  I've been meaning to make a line drawing and then color it in what is basically a two-step process.  I did recently and thought I could take the idea a bit further - draw in black&white and then apply the color.  Here was my black&white sketch.  Another technique I used was the "blur" effect in the background behind the figure.

As you can see there are some differences; the outer areas of the mirror are bare and there are only hints of creeping vines.  The figure is also much more simpler in its color balance.

When I added color - it turned out to be a strange process.  I used Photoshop's "multiply" function on the color layer and basically painted over this.  So whatever color I used would be affected by how white or black the original sketch was (I'm hoping this makes sense).  This made for an extremely quick coloring process - so quick, that I was actually uncomfortable.  I finished in maybe a 5th of the time, mostly because all of my tonal balance was already establish in this sketch phase.  I overworked things in the color area and also finalized the vines and added a little more color of my own. 

I also realized that the dappled light in the background needed to be extended to the figure in the foreground so I went back to the black&white sketch and made changes. 

I definitely think I might have overworked this, mostly because the process was so fast that I thought "there's no way I'm finished."  But, when I look back at it, I do enjoy it and think I might work in a way similar to this more often.

Thanks for Reading