I'd verb that adjective noun.

So when assigning importance to something, which is more important, the adjective or the noun?

I'm going to flat out tell you that the noun is more important.  If you're looking for a "rich spouse" and I give a "rich cake", or tell you a "rich joke", you are NOT going to be satisfied.  On the other hand, if I give you a "loving spouse", it will probably meet your needs and satisfy many people.

...and yet, we as artists seem to desperately focus on the adjective part of job descriptions.  Specifically VISUAL development.  Students in particular drive themselves CRAZY thinking about how to be the best technical painter/draftsperson in the world, all the while ignoring the important part of the job....the development.

Let me tell you my story about where I had the absolute most influence on the look of a final product.  A friend of mine was working on an illustration set in a castle.  He kept thumbnailing the most generic and boring looking fortifications, and it just wasn't coming together.  I took a look at his brief and said, "Have you google searched Bavarian castles from the 15th century?"  He looked at me like I had two heads, but did the search, and it gave him EXACTLY what he was looking for.  I drew nothing.  I painted nothing.  I 3d modeled...NOTHING - and I was instrumental to the final look of the product.  Development isn't about making pretty pictures, it's about helping the team figure out what something should look like.

I've been working on character designs myself for the last couple of weeks, and I'm using a combination of 3D and photo-bashing.  I've literally drawn nothing except some very rough thumbnails to give me ideas...nothing that made it into the final work.  What I have done is utilized years of knowledge about celtic armor, clothing and legends to google search everything I needed to make the designs come together.  Knowledge is SO MUCH more important than technical ability.

In our industry, the term I hate the most is "concept art", because it uses the WRONG DAMN NOUN.  I blame conceptart.org for spreading it, and from what I have gleaned, the term itself came out of video games because "designer" already had a role on the team.  I much prefer "entertainment designer" or "visual developer" as job descriptions, because they are much more accurate to what is important.  Your job is not to be an "artist".  It's to solve problems, and to design solutions, by the quickest and most effective means possible.

"Technical Mastery" gets bandied around a lot, again, mostly by students.  I'm not going to lie to you, skill is important...but how the hell do you measure "mastery?"  I've been drawing and painting for 8 years, and working professionally in that timeframe for a little over 2....and let me assure you, I am far from technical mastery, and the more I work, the further I realize I am from whatever that means.  I'm going to be struggling for technical mastery on the last day of my life I pick up a pencil, pen, stylus or brush.  Kruger-Dunning is alive and well - the more I learn, the less I value what I know.  There is so much more out there.  I remember 2nd year in art school I legitimately thought I was 18 months away from being "good."  HAH!  

If every wannabe character/environment/vehicle designer spent half the time they spend drawing reading and absorbing history books without pictures, or at least novels, they'd be a hell of a lot more prepared.  If they could spend half of that time taking walks and analyzing the things they saw in real life even in their own towns, they would be even better suited for the job.  

The next thing after that would be how to "warp" what you see and know into something new and original, but I think I'll make that next week's post.

Thanks for reading!  Now go forth and read some history, or some science journals, or some current events!

You are not your artwork.

"You are not your artwork."  Almost certainly, you've heard that before.  Usually, it's a reminder to not take crits too personally, and it's a good one.  Your personal self-worth has nothing to do with the work you create, and that's a necessary thing to remember to keep your distance and hear when people are making constructive criticisms of the piece.

...but....

(Oh come on, you knew there was going to be a but!)

There's the other side, that people don't like to talk about.  While the failings of the work do not reflect on you, your personal situation probably won't be taken into account when reviewing the work.

This can be a much harder pill to swallow, but it is necessary to remember as you try to move towards working in the entertainment industry.  And, to be clear, this is talking about trying to work for a studio.  If you are creating personal work that reflects who you are for an audience that cares about who made it, your situation is different.

Studio work is work.  Assuming they aren't racist/sexist/bigots of some kind, they don't really care who makes it for them.  If they are those things, that's a different story.

There is a stereotype of artists as being "sensitive."  Certainly, from my observation, in high school and college, sensitive people are attracted to the concept of making art.  Practical folks go into business, or computer science, or medicine.  What makes the entertainment industry different from "art" is that it is an industry.  It requires a level of "practical", and confidence.

I have friends who have backgrounds that include almost crippling depression, self-doubt and anxiety.  I love them dearly.  The sad truth is that art directors don't care.  If you can't deliver, they won't hire you.  I struggle with what to tell those friends.  On the one hand, I *NEVER* tell someone they can't "make it."  I had a teacher in art school tell me I should be a writer, and not an artist - and screw that guy.  No one knows who will or won't succeed.  On the other hand, if you struggle to be able to produce work to practice and get better, and if a negative crit sends you spiraling into a dark place...you're going to have a really hard time.

The world isn't fair.  Someone who comes from money is going to have an easier time, if only because they can spend more time practicing, and less energy worrying about where rent is coming from.  That's just a fact.

However - easier doesn't mean exclusive.  Where you come from doesn't determine where you end up....but you can't use it as an excuse.  The industry doesn't care.  If you go to a crit and get told, "You need to spend a lot more time on <xxx>" you can't respond with, "But I don't have more time because I have a full time job!"  That may be true, but you are not your work.  Same with "Because I'm depressed, I have a hard time getting out of bed, much less working on painting."  As a person, I'm sure that AD will understand, have sympathy for, and probably like you.  As an AD with a job to do...they aren't giving you a special break because of your background.

I've said it before, you don't "win" life by getting a certain job.  You win by doing things that make you fulfilled and happy.  You are not your job either.  You can never get paid ever for making paintings, and feel fulfilled painting.  The industry is hard enough to get into that if you are fighting who you are on top of everything else, you have to decide if that is right for you.

If it is, your next step is to figure out how to overcome those aspects of yourself that fight what you are trying to do.  I had MASSIVE ADHD as a child...and as a consequence, I've learned what my attention span is, and I try for work that fits with that.  I have ZERO interest in making 80+ hour paintings...because I'd go mad.  I'm never going to be able to compete with someone who loves painting every blade of grass.  I do make an excellent  concept artist.

Find the path that is right for you, and walk it with your head high.  You are not your artwork.  You have worth that is intrinsic to you, and you have something to offer the world.  Don't take criticism of your work as criticism of you - but don't use who you are as an excuse for why the work is the way it is.  

I'm going to leave you with something I found on Facebook this week:

 

Thanks for reading!  

Living the "Dream"

Hey all!  So, last week, someone asked me if I had ever "thought about working freelance" for my art.

Oh yeah.

I mean, who hasn't?  Paint and draw in your pjs, make your own schedule, sit in the comfort of your living room?  Oh yeah!  I must be an idiot to get up every day and head into the dark, crowded germ-factory of people chained to their desks.

Ok, that was snarky, and I apologize a little bit.  Students don't really get a good sense of things sometimes.  The internet has given a lot of visibility to the people who are succeeding, but I think it has also created a sense that a $200K a year job as an illustrator is just beyond your reach.  I mean, there are people getting $4K per book cover, and doing one a week every week!  This is true...but there are lottery winners in every category.  It's what a friend of mine likes to call the "Internet Exception Machine."

I don't know the editorial or packaging side of illustration well, but I thought I might share a bit of hard numbers for the "fantastic realism" side of it.  I'll try not to depress you too much.

It is true that book covers can pay anywhere from $2,000 up, and seem to offer a steady source of good money.  The reality is that those jobs are hard to find.  I know people who have managed to get that kind of work in quantities needed to live...but very, very few.

I would say the "average" half-page full colour illustration for fantasy art pays between $100 and $200.  In my experience, the turnaround from work until payment is somewhere between 3 and 11 MONTHS.  Let's assume that the average artist can do a painting of this sort in 15 hours, including sketches, thumbnails, revisions and research.  That's $10 an hour for paintings, assuming you can afford to work for 6 months before you start getting paid.

I work as a background painter for a 2D cartoon.  I live in Vancouver, where the average salary for that gig is about $750USD per week (my studio pays less than that).  To make that much money on fantasy art, I'd have to do 5 15 hour paintings a week.  Not only would that be 75 hours a week (even on crunch times I don't put in that much overtime regularly). but it assumes I can get 250 paintings a year from clients!   Even if I could get double the regular rate, I'd need over 100 paintings a year.  If you were curious, the mean single income household in the US is $44K a year....which is a lot more than I'm making.  I say that not to complain, but to point out that even as a full-time, working artist, I'm not on easy street.

Vancouver is lucky, we have an animation industry that has jobs....but it's also one of the most expensive cities in North America - as are all the other cities that have similar jobs.  In USD, my 1 bedroom apartment is about $1100 a month - and I got incredibly lucky, and could not get that deal again now if I went looking.  I am also lucky enough to be able to walk to work, so I don't need a car or a transit pass.  I could live further out, but the transportation costs would make any rent savings almost a wash.

I am also lucky in that I went to art school at a public institution in Canada, where my entire 4 years cost less than one semester at RISD or Art Center.  I graduated with zero debt.

Every starting freelance illustrator I know has had one or more of the following situations:

  1. They worked in studio first, saved a ton of money and made significant inroads into the industry before they tried to freelance.
  2. They have a full-time day job they don't talk about much.
  3. They come from money.
  4. They have a significant other that bears most of the financial responsibility for the household.

The catch-22 is that if you move to someplace significantly cheaper, the options for day jobs get significantly scarcer on the ground.  If I could get my freelance career to consistently pay for my life in someplace more rural and cheaper, I might consider moving...but there is no way I'd do it until I knew with reasonable certainty I could support myself - and I don't have a family!  That raises the stakes considerably.

I've been told by people who have come out the other side that if you work your ass off for several years, it does open up at the other end a little bit....I would assume that how much you do and how good you are will have an impact on this, but it sounds like the average for people who work consistently is about 5 years.

In the meantime - If you're trying to get there, don't beat yourself up about that day job, no matter what it is.  I hope I haven't bummed you out too much, I just think that artists would be well served if they got this sort of information explained to them before they started, instead of having to find out mid stream...then again, maybe no one would ever try...

Thanks for reading!

 

What's the Story, Morning Glory?

Ok, back to talking about design.  I see so many cool illustrations in people's portfolios.  There are beautiful pictures of robots, and knights, and ruined cities...but when I ask "What's the story?", the artist has no idea.

I don't think you can design without a story.

If you're making pretty pictures with no idea why, other than composition or style, you put things into your painting, you are not designing.  You might well be *inspiring* but you are not designing.

Designing solves problems.  Problems require an action verb - You have no problems if everything exists in stasis.  Action verbs create stories.  From the most complex movie plot, to the most simple video game, there is a story.  Pac-man has a story.  Minesweeper has a story.  Industrial design has a story - You create a chair to solve the story problem of "Someone needed to sit here."

"But Seth", you ask, "What about pure worldbuilding?  You don't know the story in that case, how can you design?"  

Oh, but you do:  For worldbuilding, the story is, "Someone is going to come along and need a world where interesting stories can be told.  They are going to be looking for fantasy/sci-fi/post-apocalypse/horror hooks to bring them into the world and make it feel real."  Additionally, you're going to design differently for a tabletop RPG than you would for an immersive video game.

You can't design a good, unique character unless you have some idea where they come from, and where they could go.  All the pouches in the world won't make your assassin memorable unless you can tie them to the world and the story.

Some people think in "constraints" and "requirements" when they design, but to me, those are just a different way to parse "story."  You are trying to create something that interacts in the proper manner with a narrative - and narratives contain constraints and there will be requirements as to how that interaction proceeds.

The  important thing to remember is that the story started before your design, and it will continue after.  Your work represents one supporting part of a greater whole.  If you don't talk about the greater whole, I can't evaluate your design for anything other than pure aesthetics.  Just like skin can be almost any colour depending on the lighting of the environment, almost any drawing *can* work as a good design depending on the greater whole.

Additionally, without a story, I can almost assure you that your image is going to be more generic than it would be if you had a narrative to work from.  Stories are what give designs life to be unique, without them, all you get is ye-olde <xxx>.  It may be incredibly pretty, but there has to be development in your visual development.

Hey, thanks for reading!  Go forth and design for stories!

 

Sorry, just a quickie today!

Busy day at work, and I don't have a lot of cycles for a blog post, sorry :(  Rather than skip though, I thought I would share two paintings.  The first I did recently, the second I did 4 years ago today, at least according to Facebook.

Done this Fall.

Done this Fall.

Done 4 years ago today.

Done 4 years ago today.

Improvement happens.  It doesn't happen as fast as you want it to.  It doesn't come easily.  It does happen.

Just keep swimming.

 

Happy Thanksgiving :)

I hope everyone is doing great today!  I was going to write a post continuing last week's one on design language...but instead, I think I'm going to try to channel the spirit of the day.

 

For many of us who are either students or new professionals, this career can feel like a fight to the death.  Oh, we love it, don't get me wrong, but it is a *struggle*  Learn stuff, make finished pieces, engage with your fan base, write blog posts, go to life drawing, be original, study from life, and all the while be happy and upbeat, because you are "Living the dream."

Some days, the dream smacks you in the fucking face (forgive my language).  You do your best to live up to what you feel like is expected of you, and you don't get the job...or you get laid off in the first round of cut-backs...or you get a bad grade, or a bad review, or sometimes worst of all...dead silence for months.  We know we shouldn't look for external validation, but man, sometimes...yeah, sometimes.

This is an incredibly difficult field to get into.  We talk about the technical difficulties, the skills, the work effort, all that stuff...but that's the easy part for most of us.  The hard part is the emotional difficulty.  The feeling you're getting nowhere, or no one cares, or no one EVER WILL care.  The feeling that you have to be at 110% all the time.

Look - Olympic athletes take days off.  Professional football players sit on the bench when they are injured.  It happens.  You're going to get injured at some point.  You're going to get hit directly in your weak point, whatever that is, and it is going to drive you to your knees in pain that most people will never understand.

Stop.

Love yourself.

Seriously...I know it sounds like new age bullshit, but that's where your wellspring for creativity comes from.  Protect the source.

After that, remember, your life's goal should not be to reach the goal....your life's goal should be to live the most fulfilling life you can while trying to reach your dreams.

Take a break.  Take a breath.  Take a bath.  If you just took a huge ego blow about having enough finished work, don't try to make finished work.  Go sketch with a brushpen.  Get some good ideas, get excited again.  If you're a runner and you blow out your knee, you don't keep running....you rest for a while, and then you go for a swim.

Don't let your fears be an excuse to do nothing...depression is a serious issue, and beyond the scope of this blog post - but if you feel too down to do anything at all, get help.  If you feel fear about doing something you feel inadequate at - go do something else for a while.

This has been a tough year for a lot of people.  You're not required to be optimistic all the time.  You're not a failure for being down, or scared, or angry, or for being so envious of the people who look happy that you want to wipe the smile off their face with a hammer.

Deep breaths.

For me, I haven't been able to paint since the election.  My entire drive to do so died.  I did no art at all for a week that wasn't part of my job....and now I'm drawing again.  I'm not making pieces that are going to get into my portfolio, but I'm working on my human figures, and I'm letting myself heal.  Does it make me uneasy?  Oh yeah.  My contract runs out at the end of February, and there is a part of me screaming that I should be making brilliant new paintings and impressing everybody with my design acumen.  

Deep breaths.  Make your art honestly, from a place inside that means something to you.  Don't frantically try to pump out work 'cause you *have* to.  It won't be any good anyway.

To mix my metaphors, when you are flying across country and you have to layover in Chicago, once you stop cursing the fact that O'Hare sucks, you don't get mad that you aren't eating up the miles to your destination.  Pauses can be part of the process.

Ok, enough from me :)  I hope you're all in Turkey comas, watching big dudes run into each other for an oblong "ball", and I hope you all love yourself, at least a little, no matter what your relatives are like.

Thanks for reading :)

George Hull - Cloud Atlas Design Analysis

Ok, I'm going to try something a little different today - rather than a "simple" illustration technique breakdown, let's look at this painting and try to see the design problems and solutions that went into it.  

Environment concept from "Cloud Atlas."

Environment concept from "Cloud Atlas."

First off, I think this is beautiful.  He's hitting my favorite colours, my favorite subjects, and my favorite genre.  I could spend this entire post breaking down how he did it, and that would be a lot of fun - but as a friend reminded me lately, your "visual development" needs some "development" as well as visual.  We're here to solve problems, not paint pretty pictures.

Clearly, I had nothing to do with this movie.  I don't know what the AD was thinking, and I don't know when in the process this was painted....but I have seen the movie, so I can make some guesses.

One of the key locations in the movie is Neo Seoul.  The oceans have risen, and a new high tech city rises above the old one.  This is a city of contrasts between rich and poor, and one where a dirty secret lies below the surface.  

With that in mind, some of the design problems George needed to solve:

  • Where is this?
  • When is it?
  • What kind of world is it?
  • What happened between now and the setting of the movie?

 

Where is this?  We have shining neon Korean signs in the background, and foreground boats that harken to ancient Asian fishing boats.

When is it?  There are ruined modern skyscrapers in the foreground, dwarfed by high tech buildings in the background.  Clearly, this is the future, not some alien planet, but one we used to recognize.

What kind of world is it?  One of contrasts.  The most obvious is the blue background and the dirty warm yellow/brown foreground.  From the distance, it is a high tech wonderland, but up close?  A dirty, ruined place with a rotten foundation.  The closer you get to the foreground, the more ruined and low-tech it becomes.  The leftovers of the old world burn in the midground, while people scramble over rocks furtively in the foreground.

What happened?  First off, the water rose.  We can see the harbor, as well as what look like dams on either side, trying to hold back the ocean.  There's been violence.  There has been a disregard for the past.  There has been an arrogance to push up into neon fantasy towers.

Do you see how he has solved the problems of quickly showing an audience what is going on?  You don't need to know anything about this movie at all to know what is happening in about 2 seconds, which is the time you get for most establishing shots.

Let's look closer!

Let's look closer!

Look at the "fantasy shapes" of the buildings in the background.  They were designed to read as futuristic,but also as unreal and lacking foundations.  We can't see how any of them touch the ground, they are obscured.  Compare that to the designs for the modern buildings, and how we see their foundations literally being swallowed up by the water, even as the dams try to hold it back.

If George had of given the Neo-Seoul buildings the same attention to detail as the foreground, he would have lost some of the sense of "otherness" about them.  

The foreground elements are significantly more "spikey" and ramshackle looking than the rounded and graceful curves of the background.  The dark parts are a lot scarier and more dangerous, and this is how he's show it.  The fires indicate chaos, and a lack of care.

the other side

the other side

Over here, the people are literally crawling underneath the crushing weight of the world above them.  Imagine how different it would feel if they were standing on a concrete pier instead of rocks.  Choices were made in the design to communicate as rapidly and clearly as possible.  It's not about a good composition (although this is a good composition), but how to pack in as many clues as possible without ruining the stew.  This is what it means to design an environment for a film.

George's techniques are well executed, but there's nothing here we haven't talked about in weeks past.  A bit of photo, a lot of painting smaller shapes to unify, and then a lighting/atmospheric perspective pass to bring it together.

If you'd like to see more of his work (and you should, it's awesome), here is his site.

Thanks for reading!  I hope you found this less-technique analysis helpful.  Remember:  Just as important as "how to paint" is "what should you be painting" - We are designers.

Excuse me, Stewardess, I speak Disney.

I was thinking about something that no one talked about in school, but has come to have a great deal of importance to me as I create artwork AND as I work professionally.

Design Language

What is it?  What does it mean?  How does it relate to style?

Ok, the first thing we need to remember, ALWAYS as we make art - We are not copying reality, even a cartoon reality.  Those of us who draw and paint are faking it.  We are creating a representation of something, not the actual something.  I'll speak in terms of environments, but it applies to characters too:  Our worlds end a millimeter after the edge of the frame.  You can't enter them, regardless of what illusions we spin.  The end result of our labours is a message to people's brains telling them what to think.  It is the visual equivalent to an essay describing a place.

Just like essays, our work is made up of sentences - The subject, the lighting, the angle, the camera lens....and just like sentences, these things are created with language.  It is this language we call a design language.

Humour me for a sec, and continue with the essay metaphor - I could write an essay in English, French, Japanese....that's the broadest of categories, and visually could be likened to "painting", "drawing", "photograph" or whatever.  Let's pick English for our essay.  Now, who is your target audience?  You're going to use different words for old people, college educated people, teens or toddlers.  There are generally understood ways to communicate with each group.  In design terms - There's a look to concept art, to architectural drafting and to book covers.  As you write your essay, you might pull words or phrases from other target audiences for colour, or to punch an idea home, and that is how you see different techniques blend together in visual communication.

At the most granular level of essay, you're going to write a different way than I will.  The lowest level of your design language is your "style", that which separates you from someone else making the same image.  Someone used to writing for toddlers might not do a great job writing a college essay - There will be design languages that work better with your techniques than others.  The design language often used by French comic artists  meshes well with my personal drawing style.  If I tried to use a tonal language like a water colourist, I'd have a much harder time.

Think of your style as your accent, and the design language is the actual language you're trying to use.  Some accents lend themselves well to the language, and some....don't.  It's much harder to change your accent (although not impossible) than it typically is to switch languages.  If you grew up speaking Japanese, French is probably going to be hard for you....and Spanish will be much easier.

Ok, so a design language is a way to simplify information and convey it in a way that is understandable and appropriate to the audience.  The design language of stereotypical toddlers for a house is a triangle for a roof and a square for the structure.  The sun has a smiley face.  If you wanted to replicate that language, you'd use flat perspective and simple shapes, with no real worry about scale.

Most cartoons try to have a unique design language that represents them...so you know instantly when you flip by on the tv that your show is on.  Colour, shapes, textures, size relationships - all important.  If you want to work on that show, it's not enough to be a good artist, you have to be able to bend your personal style into that design language framework.  If you can't speak English without an accent that makes your words almost impossible to understand, I'm not going to hire you to be my mouthpiece.  This is why it is important to work in multiple mediums and with multiple methodologies.  The more languages you can speak, the more useful you are as an interpreter.  

The other cool thing about design languages is that you can make NEW ones.  If you did a good job, people will understand what you are saying.  If you do a very good job, you can be like Mike Mignola with Hellboy, and create a language that will be emulated for years by people with things to say.  

My drawing style, as I mentioned, has a fair amount in common with the French comics artists of the 60s-80s.  When I copy from photographs, I'm less trying to copy exactly what I see then I am to try to find a way to abstract into repeatable shapes - to create words for my design language.  I can draw thousands of rocks in my own way, and they *look* like rocks, because I have tapped into a design language that makes sense.  I don't have to copy a real rock, or someone else's drawing of a rock, to make one that looks "right."

This last week, I've been trying to do the same thing with industrial, man-made spaces.  I want to strengthen my ability to speak "factory", so I'm not limited to parroting back other people's way of expressing that idea.

I hope you found this interesting, and that when you look at someone else's work, you spend a little time trying to see the design language they are using - What are the rules?  What ties how they draw rocks to how they draw trees, to how they draw characters - and what's different?

To all my friends at CTN-Expo this weekend, have a great time!  I wish I was there with you :)

 

Well, it's the week for it...

Let's talk about disappointment.

Not a popular topic for blogs.  I'm sure I'd get more readers with another "Gosh darn it, you *can* do it!" post.  Some pithy examples and a heartfelt cheer...seems to be the formula.

I ain't got that in me this week.

The reality of this industry  is that there is a LOT of disappointment.  Let's break it down.

The first, and maybe the easiest to deal with, is what I'll call the "natural disaster" case.  You're working on a painting and your computer crashes.  The company you were hoping to work for goes out of business,or lays off 500 people.  Your printer explodes the day before a con.

Life happens.  You do what you can, you mitigate and diversify, but ultimately, you can't blame anyone, and you  just have to shrug and do the best you can.

The second kind is when things don't go your way.    You don't get the job you applied for, or you get put on a gig at your studio you can't stand, or your day job changes your hours to your most productive time to paint.

The thing to remember here is that it's probably not about you.  This year, a studio picked someone over me because they had a cool name.  Seriously.  That has nothing to do with me, or my abilities.  You win some, you lose some.

The third is when you disappoint yourself.  Your painting doesn't come out like you imagined it would.  After 1000 drawings of faces, you still think you suck.  You accidentally said something that offended the guy who could have given you a job.

*sigh*  Toughie.  You can't say it's not about you in this case...so you have to do some self examination, and remember that just because you aren't where you want to be doesn't mean you can't get there...or maybe, that you should get there.

For me, the worst kind is when you feel let down by other people.....I'm more mad at Democrats who didn't vote than I am at Trump supporters right now.

Try to remember - it's not always about you.  If your friend didn't help you out the way you hoped, she may have had a good reason - or she may not really be your friend.  Either way, doesn't necessarily say anything about you.  It's hard, but don't take it personally.

Really, that's my advice for all 4 of these - 

Don't take it personally.

The Buddhists say that all states are temporary.  You are disappointed.  You don't have to pretend you aren't, but don't let it consume you.  If you allow it to, it will pass.  It is your feeling, you are not its slave.  

Of course, easier said than done.  I'm feeling pretty disappointed across a pretty large spectrum of things today....I can feel elements of all 4 categories.

Don't pretend its not happening.  Don't pretend it's not real, or it's not important.  An artist who can't feel isn't much good to anyone.

Just don't let it stop you.

[edit]  What do you know, I did turn it into a "gosh darn it!" post.  Guess I'm more of an optimist than I feel today.

Thanks for reading.

#inktober post-mortem.

Another November starts, another #inktober in the can :)  I think this is the 3rd one I've finished, and the 4th I've tried.  I ended up doing 41 drawings in my project, and I really like about 2/3rds of them, so that's pretty good odds.

Things like #inktober are GREAT for figuring out what you like to do.  If you give yourself a wide-reaching topic and then just observe yourself, you'll probably find out a lot about the kinds of things you are both comfortable and afraid of drawing.

Some things I learned this year:

  • Confirmation, I can draw a "natural" outdoors establishing-shot scene with almost no thought.  Those are definitely my default, 'what do you draw when you have no ideas?' images.  I tried to push them a bit this time into new terrains and varying close and far, but I like them, and it's important to remember that - I don't think I'd really enjoy any personal project that didn't contain at least a couple of these.
  • I'm better at drawing things I'm scared of than I thought.  Mechanical stuff, creatures, indoor scenes - they all get me a bit gun-shy thinking about them, but when I sat down and started drawing, I did alright.
  • Drawings for me really are about the idea, not the finish.  At least at this stage, I don't see myself making a drawn comic book, because I LOVE sketching.  I tried markers to make my work more complete, and it didn't do much for me.  I'd rather get the idea out and then take it to paint if it needs to go somewhere in a finished form.  Thumbnails are my jam!

Here's a gallery of my contributions to #inktober - tap the picture to move to the next one.

Thanks for reading, hope you enjoyed it!  I'd love to hear what you got out of #inktober too!

How do you know what the "Best" is?

Everyone tells you to only put the best stuff in your portfolio.  

"Your work is only as strong as the weakest piece!"

Sure sounds reasonable....but what then is your weakest piece?  I'm going to tell you a funny story about this painting:

I did it last year sometime, and I took it with me to IlluxCon.  I showed it to a lot of professionals I truly respect, and Eric Velhagen in particular said it was the best thing in my portfolio at the time.  I was pretty psyched!

A couple of weeks later, I went to CTN-Expo, and showed it to Robh Ruppel.  Without missing a beat, he said it was the weakest image in my (basically the same) portfolio.

??????

Ok, so, which is it?  Professional artists I respect had given my wildly different points of view on the painting.  I trust all the people I spoke with to be honest, and all of them are educated and discerning viewers of art.

Here's the thing:

Only you can say what the best and worst thing in your portfolio is.

All anyone else can tell you is if they think it would be popular, or if they could use it....and if people were right all the time about things like that, we'd never have a "Battlefield Earth" movie...but we'd probably never have a "Rocky Horror Picture Show" either.

Here are a couple of things I think about when I put work in my portfolio:

  • Did you enjoy making it? If no, take it out!  You never want to get more work making stuff you didn't enjoy!
  • Do you make excuses for why parts of it are the way that they are?  Take it out!  Or fix it, but same thing.
  • Is it representative of what you want to do?  No matter how much fun it was to make, if it isn't where you see yourself going, nuke it from orbit.  I'm moving my book to work that I hope attracts AAA video games and live action TV and film.  I enjoy cartoony stuff, but I'm not putting a lot of that up right now.

I listen to other people's thoughts on my work.  You don't want to end up in an echo chamber of you and your mom telling you how great your stuff is....I try not to internalize it without digesting and thinking through things a lot.  Use other people to try to help you fix YOUR problems with the work.  If something is bothering you and you can't figure out what it is or how to fix it, that's a great reason to go to another pair of eyes you trust....trying to get them to tell you if it's good or not is a fool's errand.

This year, IlluxCon just ended, and CTN-Expo is coming up!  I hope you've taken advantage of all the opportunities you could, and if you are preparing for CTN, I hope it goes well for you, and you get what you need out of the event.  Thanks for reading!

 

What's next after #inktober?

Here we are, 2/3rds of the way through #inktober.  Are you guys doing it?  Have you managed to keep up with it, or let it slide?  I hope at least it's got you thinking about personal projects, and daily practice!

One of my inktober sketches.

One of my inktober sketches.

 

...but what next?

If you listen to any designer, they'll tell you that ideas are important, but studying the real world and applying it to those ideas is critical.  It is by using an reinterpreting the "real world" that our designs become fresh while simultaneously maintaining that critical sense of authenticity.

To that end, I'd like to propose an idea for November.  #Photovember  Every day, take a picture that can be used as reference for a project.  For me, it's going to be the project that I worked on in #inktober.  If you didn't have a unified theme to #inktober, spend the next 2 weeks coming up with some kind of idea you can explore for the month of November - a story, or monsters, or spaceships....something!

In terms of the sorts of pictures you take - that completely depends on you.  If you want to set up models and figures and do actual reference shots of your idea, GREAT!  Maybe you take a picture of a texture that would be perfect for the wall of a building in your project.  Maybe you think the fender of that H2 Hummer could be used as part of your spaceship design.

The important part is to try to train yourself to see design elements all around you, and to record them.  It's not about taking good pictures, or getting a million likes on your Instagram for your super-sweet drawing of Deadpool, it's about SEEING, and having the discipline to look outside of what you already have in your mind's visual library.

I admit it, you're probably not going to gain followers from this month of work.  I'm going to post my pictures, so you can see how I'm thinking through things, but that's not the point.  If you can do this every day for a month, you will have probably spent far more than your usual amount of time breaking down the world around you into usable chunks, and THAT will improve your art.  It doesn't matter if you work digitally, traditionally, or some combination of the two.  It doesn't matter if you take the actual photos and slap them into your paintings as textures, or just look at them to see how you can recreate the desired elements with a pencil.

We all have phones with cameras - it doesn't take any more tech or preparation than that.  I hope you join me.  I'll be posting my shots to my instagram, which you can get to from the top menu of this website if you want to follow along with me.

I hope you join me for #photovember - Thanks for reading!

What the Heck is the Difference?!?

Ok folks, grab your coffee and settle back...I'm going to enter almost entirely into the realm of opinion, and personal interpretation.

What is the difference between illustration and entertainment design?

Yeah, I'm feeling sassy this morning, so let's do it :)  I see a LOT of confusion on this topic, and a fair number of different opinions even among people who work professionally.  In most art schools they are taught together, and often they look very similar to each other.

This is a beautiful illustration done by my friend Tommy Arnold.

This is concept art for Captain America: Civil War done by Andy Park. 

I can see how you could be confused.  It's not always easy to see the difference!

Illustration:

Made for the consumer

This is a big one.  The consumer of a book cover is the book reader.

Artistic decisions don't affect the final product

How an artist paints a book cover doesn't impact the book at all.  In some senses, as long as it is appealing, it doesn't really matter what choices are made.

Created for enjoyment

An illustration is made to be looked at for the pleasure of looking at it.  It's "good" if people like it.  This applies to book covers, interior art, comics...if you enjoyed seeing it, it's a success!

Concept Art:

Made for the team

The consumer of your concept art is another artist, be it a modeler, storyboard artist, animator or the director of the film.

Artistic decisions affect the final product

Huge one.  Your choices inform the rest of the process down-stream, in fact, that is the entire purpose of your work.

Created to inform

Concept art doesn't have to be pretty, or finished looking, or appealing.  It has to solve a visual problem.  As time has gone by and tools have improved, in general artists have found that the more appealing their work, the more likely it is to be approved, but that's not the point.  If it solved the problem, and told the next girl in the pipeline what she had to do, it was "good."

Subsets of Entertainment Design/Concept Art

Props

Halo prop design by Sparth

Halo prop design by Sparth

This is the area that people have the least trouble separating from illustration.  You're creating the stuff that characters interact with. 

Characters

You are making the inhabitants of the world.  The only reason to put them in poses and give them expressions is to test that their designs "work" in the story....otherwise, they could all be in T-poses with a turnaround.

Character designers don't just draw "cool people", they are problem solvers.  They are working out how each element of the character will interact with the others, the environments, other characters and the story.  If you think of all the different animation styles, video game styles, and even live action film styles, you begin to understand the range of character design.

This is also character design.

This is also character design.

 

Environments

The locations!  My video game friends call them "environments", in animation they are often called "backgrounds", and in film "sets", but it's the same thing.  You are creating something to tell the actual builders what to make.  The only reasons to put characters in these is to show scale, or to make sure that the colours/shapes won't clash badly with the character designs.  Same with lighting - they don't have to be dynamic except to prove that making them dynamic doesn't break the composition of the story.

Just like characters, it's not enough to draw a cool place, you have to make sure it solves the needs of the project.

Beautiful background from Steven Universe, wouldn't work in a Marvel film.

Beautiful background from Steven Universe, wouldn't work in a Marvel film.

 

Keyframes

Which brings us to the most confusing type of design painting - the keyframe.  A keyframe painting is part of the "big picture" design - to give the whole team, particularly the management, an idea of what the final product could look like.  It is *almost* an illustration, because it focuses more on mood and storytelling than actual buildable features.  It is essentially "mood design" and is given to the rest of the team so they know the broad strokes of the design language behind their characters and environments.

Sometimes, keyframes are almost "nicely painted" versions of storyboard panels made midway through the film, and sometimes they are done long before there is even a script (This was how Star Wars Ep1-3 was made.)  I say 'film', but they exist for video games and animations as well.

Because of the rise of art books, keyframes have gotten a much greater spotlight than they typically get in an actual production.  They are usually pretty to look at and enjoyable, so they go well in "Art of" publications...and those books have skewed the general public's sense of what concept art means.

I hope this has been helpful (or at least interesting) to understanding how this work is thought about in the industry.  Thanks for reading!

Turn down for what?!?

As a starting artist, you are scrambling for something, *anything* that will help you break through the noise.  It might be a job, or a convention, or a chance to meet a pro, or a workshop....You don't know, so you try to cast your net as wide as you can, and do everything.  Turning down an opportunity that could help you seems insane!

..and that's exactly what I'm contemplating doing.

The reality is, not all opportunities are created equal, and taking them on is a little like buying a lottery ticket.  They have a chance of helping you, but they also have a cost, and you have to factor those things together.  You also have to believe in yourself, not the random whims of fate.

You might end up turning down something that could really help you....but it could really help you because you are good enough to take on the challenge, and you have to believe that even if this thing could lead to a "big break,"  another opportunity will come along.  Otherwise, you will go mad.

My specific case today - I applied to get an artist alley table at Emerald City Comicon next April.  They changed the process again this year, and I was offered a slot.  I have until October 21st to decide if I want it or not.

It's a big con, tens of thousands of people go, and it could be great for networking and exposure.  I missed last year, but I've done the con for years, and I've always had a good time...but as I said, not all opportunities are created equal.  Three weeks after ECCC, I'm sharing a table at Spectrum Live, and I am SUPER excited about that...so do I want to do 2 events in April?

First consideration is financial cost - I can drive to ECCC, which is nice, but I have to pay for the table, food and lodging for a 4 day con...plus I might very well have to take time off my day job.  Am I going to sell enough to break even?

Second consideration is target audience - I'm primarily a concept artist and a set designer.  While it is super cool to have fans in the general population, my target audience is art directors and studios.  I have very little desire to model my career like Catish or Loish, where my fans make a huge part of my income and job sourcing.  There are studios in Seattle, but is 4 days promoting myself to the general public the best use of my time?

Third consideration is materials - One the positive, I could use ECCC as a dry-run for Spectrum, which would be cool, but I'd have 3 less weeks to prepare, and I'd have to print more stuff....and I'm not sure that the kind of things that would appeal to one crowd would necessarily work for the other.

Fourth, and maybe the most important consideration is energy - Cons are a lot of work!  That's time I'm not creating, or spending time with my girlfriend, or resting.

Factor all those considerations against the fact that I love doing cons, and I *could* meet up with an art director who wants me to work on something super cool.  I could sell a ton of sketchbooks and make some mad $$$ to help me get to Spectrum.  It's a lottery ticket....you don't know, and no one should make those decisions for you.

So that's my situation - and I haven't decided yet, but I wanted to share my thinking, because I've seen a lot of artists tie themselves up in knots of guilt for not doing something, or for doing it and over-taxing their resources for "nothing."  When you decide to do something, throw yourself into it 100%, regardless of the outcome, but don't feel bad if you decide to sit one out because it doesn't meet your ROI (Return on Investment)

Thanks for reading!  I hope when you have these kinds of decisions to make, this was helpful :)

 

Looking for love in all the wrong places

So I was talking with a friend of mine this week about frustration, and looking for signs of improvement in your work.  She made the comment that she'd done a 240 page sketchbook and couldn't see any signs of getting better.

Man.

On the one hand, I completely get the feeling.  Some days you just need that reassurance from your practice and your work that you are actually getting better....that never goes away, regardless of how good you are.

On the other hand - Never look at your current sketchbook for signs of improvement.

NEVER.

It will just frustrate and depress and confuse you more.  Think of your current sketchbook as a single trip to the gym:  You won't be better by the end of that trip in any measurable way than you were at the start of your workout.  This is one reason why we keep our old sketchbooks.

Go back 5 books or so, and you'll more than likely see improvement....if you don't, it might be time to change up your workout....that could be one year later, that could be 5 years later, depending on how much you draw....but when I was a student, I tried for a sketchbook every 2 months, so a year would be about right for me.

(Incidentally, now I do most of my work digitally, so I go back to paintings from a year ago...same principle.)

When we are students, almost by nature, we tend to be impatient.  We want to see dramatic results after every workshop, every drawing, every crit session.  It doesn't happen like that...and honestly, you don't need to see your improvement.  You're going to probably hate your work forever, at least to some level.  It's never going to match what's in your head, and you're going to feel every mis-stroke deep in your soul.  Looking for improvement, at least for me, intensifies those feelings of pain.

This artistic journey is the ultimate trust-fall.  Just make works that speak to you.  Watching your self getting "better" is like trying to watch yourself get taller, or loose weight on a diet.  It will happen.  It will happen in its own time, in its own way, and stressing about it will only slow you down.

Do your thing - spend more time trying to figure out what that is than if you are doing it well.  Just like kids getting taller, if you do your thing with passion and intensity, getting better is a given.

Thanks for reading!  Hope you're all doing well on your particular trust falls.  If you want to see my particular sketching practice, please check out my instagram at the top of the page :)

A "Kill your Darlings" variant.

So...I was raised in a home that valued and practically required discussion and strong viewpoints.  It wasn't enough to believe something strongly, you had to be able to back it up, at a moment's notice, to anyone.  

This has followed me into my professional career, and I find that I have a slightly different response to a lot of things than others I see around me.  One of my biggest is how I react to my heroes.  

We have the term "Hero Worship" and "Cult of Personality" for a reason.  It seems like people really want to agree with those they look up to.  Sometimes, it is from a lack of self-esteem, sometimes it's a fear of being outcast if you have a different opinion, sometimes it's from a lack of self-analysis.

I LOVE it when I disagree with my heroes and I can point out why.  It is a trait that I think every artist should cultivate.

You don't want to be your hero, you want them to help you be the best YOU that is possible....and that means that you are going to have points where you don't agree.  Explore those points!  That's how you find out who you are as an artist, and stop being merely a copy of someone you look up to.

The exploration is the most important part....simply disagreeing runs the risk of being driven by fear, or lack of knowledge, or philosophical points.

I'll give you a personal example.  This week, Chris Oatley posted a quote from Hans Bacher saying that 2D animation is inherently better than 3D because 3D tries to copy reality while 2D interprets it.  Now, Chris loves his 2D, and that's great....but the quote didn't sit right with me.  I don't think that the impressionists are better than the incredible realists that came before them.  You can't say a Sargent is better than a Bernini sculpture, just that they are different.

I have no problem at all with Chris for posting that, or that he feels that way....but I disagree, and I can give you a host of reasons why.  Those reasons help shape *ME*.  They help me acknowledge that while teachers can take you part of the way to where you need to be, you have to think for yourself, you have to strive to be better than your instructors at the things that are meaningful to you.

Sometimes, you are going to be DEAD wrong.  Years ago, I had a discussion with Jaime Jones about digital vs traditional art that I have done a complete 180 switch on my position since then.  It happens.  Hell, for all I know, I may come back to Chris in 5 years and say, "Dude, you were completely right!"  I'd like to keep that option open to me, because I want to explore wherever my art takes me.  Right now though, I think that dismissing 3D as "worse" or "less designed" than 2D completely misses the point...and that will impact the kind of work I make, and the kind of things I try to share.

Good teachers will welcome intelligent, authentic questioning of what they have to say.  Arguing for the sake of hearing yourself talk is bad, but a good teacher knows when you are struggling to find your own way...and speaking as someone who has taught, I find that incredibly inspiring in myself.  

A GREAT teacher will help you explore your own POV and help you find where it leads.  They know that playing Devil's Advocate to their own position might help them grow themselves.

I hope you can be the best you that you can be....even if you disagree with me :)

Thanks for reading!

 

That's Unreal!

Ok, continuing from last week's talk about playing to your strengths, I have re-immersed myself into the 3D pipeline..specifically, I'm learning the Unreal Engine.

Unreal Engine + Photoshop

Unreal Engine + Photoshop

 

Guys - This tool is the real deal.  Here's some of the pros:

  1. It's free.  Like, 100%, unlocked, totally free, free.  If you make a game for sale with it, you owe them a percentage...but if you're using it for art?  FREE!  
  2. It comes with literally a 100 gigabytes of useful objects and materials.  The marketplace has so much out there that you can just download off the "learn" tab.  Trees, buildings, terrains, objects, characters....
  3. You can import .obj files.  There are so many free 3D objects on the net in this format, you have basically an unlimited library.  Sketchup exports as .obj from the free version, so you can pull down any object from their 3D warehouse and save it to a format Unreal Engine can use....not to mention modeling your own stuff.  All of this 100% free and 100% legal.
  4. If you want to pay money, the Unreal Marketplace has an amazing amount of high quality assets that require no setup or configuring to work.
  5. It renders in real time.  Making animations is absurdly simple and FAST.
  6. Knowing a game engine in any sense is very appealing to video game studios....at the very least, it helps you understand the pipeline, and it could very well be a way to get your foot in the door.

While it is completely possible to create final art in Unreal Engine, I've been using it as a base to paint on top of in Photoshop....I find it faster when you just need a still image to adjust lighting and to modify existing things into complex objects as pixels instead of 3D.

An unmodified Unreal Engine output.

An unmodified Unreal Engine output.

I screencap'ed that from UE at 12,000x5,000 pixels in under a minute.  From there, I took it into Photoshop and ended up with this:

The final piece of concept art.

The final piece of concept art.

The Unreal Engine interface is super intuitive, and there are hundreds of tutorials online, both text and video....for free.  

If you've been looking into breaking into some form of 3D with your work pipeline, I highly recommend this tool!

Thanks for reading, please let me know if you get into Unreal and what you create with it!

Play to your strengths

I came from a background in Photography and 3D before I got into painting and drawing.  I definitely see things in terms of values and not lines...and really, even more than values, "planes"....weird that I don't particularly like sculpting, but there you go.

...anyway...

For some reason, I internalized the "You must learn the fundamentals!" argument, and I put both photography and 3D away in favor of drawing, and then basically colouring, comic book style, when I was in the first 2 years of art school.  The teacher that I looked up to came from a comics background, and I really, really tried to do the work I was "supposed" to do.

Holy crap, I sucked.  I sucked so badly that a guy at Arena Net I showed my work to spent 10 minutes trying to figure out how to tell me to give up and find another career.  I sucked so badly that teacher I admired told me to break into comics WRITING...yeah, my art teacher told me to be a writer.

...and then, one day, for some reason, I tried painting in Photoshop again.  It had been years since I had worked without making lines primary, and OMG, it felt so good!...then I used some photo textures I'd taken in Cambodia, and that felt even BETTER!...then I figured out that I could import 3D models into Photoshop, and I was in HEAVEN.

I didn't stop drawing.  Drawing is important...but I didn't lead with my weakest toolset either.

Play to your strengths.  If someone tells you that you are good at something, don't discount it as meaningless because you are good at it, and you see so much out there to learn.  Work outward from your strong points.  Like I said, I didn't stop drawing....I draw almost every day, and my drawing has improved to a point where it's not one of my weakest skills anymore...but if I'd waited to try to find work until my drawing was up to par, I'd be 2 years behind where I am today.

"I'm bad an anatomy!"  Ok.  Sure.  But you want to work in cartoons.  Have you LOOKED at "Adventure Time" lately?  You don't need anatomy for that stuff.  Learn it on the side, keep on trucking!

"I've never figured out perspective!"  A'ight.  You don't need drafting levels of perspective to draw trees....or do what most comic book pros do these days, and trace over Sketchup models.

"I don't know <xx> tool or medium."  There are dozens I don't know either!  I do my illustrations in the ones I *do* know, and then I go play with Unreal Engine, or Paintstorm, or Watercolor, or whatever in my spare time.

Moebius once said that every illustration you do should be 90% things you are strong at, and 10% experimentation.  If you experiment fails, a 90% grade is still more than passing, and over time, that 10% will add to your tool box in new ways that keep you growing as an artist.

Some of the best movies in the world are that way because of the limitations, not in spite of them.  The Star Wars prequels kinda wet the bed because there were no limitations.  You can create successful work with a very limited toolset - in fact, it will probably be more successful, because it will be filtered through a set of requirements that are unique to you.  The trick is finding what sort of work lends itself to what you know best - but that's a question that's worth putting to yourself!

Thanks for reading!  Now go out there and make something :)

What drives your work?

 

Warning:  I haven't really thought this one through, so it might ramble a bit.

I've seen a couple of friends talking on Facebook about "likes" and how they relate to "success", and this has been a sensitive topic for me in the past.  I've always felt like an environment guy over a character artist, which, when you are starting out, is a bit disheartening.  In general, online, people don't respond as positively to work without characters.  In art school, I had to constantly fight the feeling of failure, because my friends were all getting commissions and hundreds of instagram followers, while I felt like I was languishing in the weeds.  If they did fan art, the difference was even more extreme.  If you've ever tabled at a comic convention and tried to sell your own stuff, you know what happens - hundreds of people swarm to the guy next to you selling Deadpool and sexy Harley Quinn prints, while you get a couple of brief nods, or people actively try to avoid making eye contact.  It's gotten so obvious that there are people out there stealing comic art, making some adjustments in photoshop, and then selling "new" prints with great success.  Fans are hungry for characters and intellectual properties they know.

Ok - If you want to be a hit at local comic conventions, you know what you have to do.

...but what drives your work?  Do you want to be popular?  Do you want to make mad cash?  Do you want to tell stories?  Do you want to work for a studio?  Do you want to do freelance "one-off" jobs?  Do you want to create your own IP?

For several of these, Facebook "likes" and Instagram followers are pretty key.  If you want a "B to C" (business to consumer) model, you need to reach consumers and give them what they want....which probably means characters that they know....easiest way is to do fan art, harder way is to create your own intellectual property and expose enough people that it's known and popular.

If you want to work for a studio, the only people that need to have heard of you are art directors.  Same for freelance illustration.  Sure, if it is a good fit, having lots of social media followers increases the likelihood that some of those followers are ADs, but there are other ways.  You can send postcards.  You can attend industry events.  You can rely on friends in the industry sharing your work.  There are hundreds of artists working every day in the entertainment industry that most people have NEVER heard of.  It's not a popularity contest for that industry.

You could even make the case that being too popular could hurt you as a concept artist.  We've all seen how "the next big thing" gets copied by thousands of people - some of those copiers may be better at executing than you are!  If you have a unique thing, getting it shared online may very well dilute your value to the industry.

There is no wrong answer - There are many different kinds of success, and different skillsets to reach your goals.  My skillset and interests didn't push me to instant success with fans - but I had a studio gig before many of my more "popular" classmates.  I have other friends that make excellent money at cons, and rely on the odd graphic design job in between for money.  I have yet more friends that work a hybrid mix of the two.  It's all good, but I think you might want to have an idea where you are trying to get to before you feel super good or bad about where you *are*.  You may sell $3000 of Batman fan art at a con, but you are unlikely to trade that into a studio concept art job unless you have additional skills and interests that don't relate.

Don't feel bad if you aren't the god of social media "likes".  Sometimes, worrying about that is putting the cart before the horse.

Thanks for reading!  Please help me share my blog and get the word out.  Every time you guys share, I definitely see an increase in readership - It really matters, and I can't do it without you.

Show the work you want to do.

My first studio gig was doing line drawing layouts for the webseries reboot of the "Superfriends" cartoon for Titmouse.  Man, I was excited!  The boards were really loose, and I got to basically design huge swaths of Gotham city and the headquarters of the Legion of Doom.  I would rather have been painting, or at least finishing the layouts, but the subject matter was awesome, and I felt great to be working on a real show with a name that people had heard of.

The sort of work I was doing on Superfriends

The sort of work I was doing on Superfriends

 

Of course, as soon as it went live, I put that stuff in my portfolio.  It lasted until I talked to Benjamin Hayte at CTN Expo last year.  As he was flipping through my stuff, he asked me, "So, would you rather be painting things, or doing these line drawings?"  I of course answered, "Painting, but I wanted to show professional work that I'd done."  

His response stuck with me.  "Put the cool companies and projects you've worked for on your resume.  Put the work you want to DO in your portfolio.  Do you want to get stuck doing line drawings for work when you could be painting?"

Dude.  This is *so* true.  There are two absolutes in art - The first is that if you give a client 4 options, they will *always* pick the one you like least.  The second is that when a client looks at your portfolio, they will ask you to do something like the thing you are least into.

Nothing wrong with those Superfriends layouts, but I want to show my strengths as a painter and a designer.  If I was at a loss for ideas for personal projects, I suppose I could take one of those layouts and do my own painted version, but that gets complicated in terms of IP ownership and making sure you don't step on the toes of your employers.  Better to just start fresh and do something new.

For the last year, I've done a TON of cyberpunk paintings.  I've done 27 paintings for Catalyst Games Labs for their Shadowrun project, and I've been working off and on on 2 near future sci-fi IPs of my own.  Because of this, my book is pretty much 100% that genre....and I don't want to be pigeonholed, so this last week I've started working on a new project, set in a world based loosely on the early 1800s in Tuscany, but with the dawning of a magical "Industrial Revolution" instead of a technology based one.  I'm super excited to paint some vineyards at dusk, some cobbled streets, and some magic factories where children and the poor labor under horrible conditions to feed supernatural production lines.

My goals are to show that I can work in a variety of genres and styles as required by the kinds of clients I want to design for.  You can't assume that an art director will believe you can do fantasy if you show sci-fi.  In photography, I literally knew a guy who didn't get a job shooting train engines because all he had in his book was car engines.  The AD didn't want to take the chance.

You have to show the work you want to do.

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