Monday, May 28, 2012

IMC 2012 Assignment Prep 2

Because I suppose it's making me anxious not to have the photoshoot done, I sat down and did some studies for Tristan and Isolde.

The 'clothing studies' are mostly notes and doodles of borders and trims, because until I have my reference in hand I don't really know how the clothes are going to need to be built - and because doing anything super solid before The Critique seems somewhat silly.

In the end, the clothing itself isn't going to be complicated. Big dramatic drapey dresses would be incredibly fun to draw, but a) they'd take more careful referencing than I'm able to do at current; b) even assuming I had the reference, it would take more time to paint than I really have; and c) in the end, the feel I want from this illustration wouldn't actually support a design like that. What I'm concentrating on are the characters and the emotion of the story and scene, and having really ambitious clothing would pull focus from that (whether because it would overpower the subtle things I'm going for or because it would just be that badly painted is up for discussion...). Simple clothing - an understated tunic and hose for him, a plain white dress for her - makes my job a lot easier, and means that a little will go a long way in terms of decoration.

I wound up only doing a couple of color studies. I knew what I wanted basically from the get-go, leaving only a question of whether I wanted to go low-contrast and low-chroma, or higher-contrast and -chroma. I've decided on the latter, because although I love me some dreamy, neutral scenes, this is not the illustration for it. The bright warm light will play off of the cool shadows in a really lovely way, if I manage pull it off...

Saturday, May 26, 2012

IMC 2012 Assignment Prep

The assignment list for the 2012 Illustration Master Class came in a  couple of weeks ago, and for the record I'm really glad no one was in the room when I saw that Tristan and Isolde was one of them. I mean, the other assignments are cool and all, and I can't wait to see what my IMC classmates do with them, but oh man a courtly romance story that predated and then was integrated into Arthuriana? Yes.

I did a little bit of research before I started thumbing, but I made the decision not to read any specific tellings of it. What I wanted wasn't to show a specific scene or grand moment: instead, I wanted to look at the characters as individuals, and frame them in the context of the central pillar of the story - the adulterous affair. This is what interested me, this relationship the three of them had, because the heart of it is that both Tristan and Isolde love Mark, and they carry on their relationship in spite of knowing full well they are betraying him. (This seems to be a theme: the same can be said of Arthur and Gwenivere and Lancelot.)

First step: getting the crap and bald cliché out of my system. I figured out I wanted the garden pretty early.
Next step: feel out gesture, picture shape, etc.
The first spread up there shows my blank-mind oh-god-how-do-I-draw thumbs, which I used to get out of my initial deer in the headlights reaction. That freed me up for the next set, where I started working out what gesture I wanted, how I was going to build the image, what shape I wanted to work with, etc etc. I usually don't write so many notes, but I was working out my thought process as I went, and it turned out to be really helpful - enough so that I might be doing more of that in my future thumbs.

The one I wound up going with - the third from the top - went through two or three changes before I was satisfied. Instead of taking each right move and making a new thumb to further it (as I started to do and then gave up on) I did my editing on the thumb itself.

I scanned it in, scaled it up, printed it out, and transferred it. This rough is 7"x4.25". (I'll be scaling it up to 10.5"x6.625" for the drawing, and 21"x13.25" for the painting.)

Usually at this point I'd be preparing to start the final drawing, but although I have a reference photoshoot set up, all I'll actually be doing in the next two weeks are some clothing designs and probably a color study or two. There's no real halfway for me between a rough like this and a really tight drawing, and given that there are going to be a whole bunch of very talented professionals telling me to redraw/recompose/fix everything, rendering everything up now would be an exercise in futility.

Up next: those clothing and color studies I mentioned.

Monday, May 14, 2012

In the wings...

The thumbs for all of my current/future illustration projects, in no particular order and with no context (unless you can read my notes to myself - the full files are large enough, though my handwriting is its own beast).

They're not much to look at, especially because I'm being less thorough than I should be, but I'm very excited! The first two or three are probably going to be more extensively thumbed once I let them simmer for a little while longer on the backbrain, but the last two, which are all for the same project, have actually already moved into sketch-and-reference stage. You'll be seeing more of that soon enough...

Thursday, May 10, 2012


I graduate from college today.

I'm not going to lie: I'm terrified on pretty much every level I can think of. For my entire life I've lived in the cosseting embrace of structure - living in my parents' home, and then school, meant that even lazy summer days had a beginning and an end. I knew my bounds, and I liked them because I knew exactly how to operate within them.

That's all gone now. I'm applying for jobs, I'm keeping track of the art I need to work on, I have a white board for to-do lists, I have a seven-page printout of publishers and art directors to contact... and that's all great, but it's also completely in my hands. If I decide to watch some stupid show streaming online for a day instead of drawing or applying to jobs, no one is really there to stop me. Even if I decide to do art all day - sounds awesome, right? - no one is there to remind me that I have to take care of my wrist, that I'll burn out if I do that all day every day, that I have jobs to apply for, that I should be self-promoting, that I should be doing the million and one things that go into being an Actual Real Adult. With school in session, I could work crazy hours for the entire weekend because I knew that I had the structure of the week to temper it: when and for how long I was going to be in class, or at work at Admissions, made sure that I broke up my art-making time. It even made sure I had some impetus to keep a reasonable sleep schedule.

In a month, I'm going to be attending the Illustration Master Class. I'm so excited I can barely talk about it without making excited! hand! gestures! but beyond the obvious reasons, like the list of instructors and how consistently amazing the student work has been at the end of each previous IMC and the idea of an entire week devoted to the most brutally rewarding art boot camp I've heard of, I'm looking forward to having another brief period of working within structure.

I can't help but feeling a little cowardly in that regard: if I want to be a freelancer, the name of the game is going to be self-direction. In the past, I've prided myself on my self-direction in everything from really unstructured classes to my use of school breaks and even last summer - but that was all self-direction within a larger structure. What those examples of self-direction tell me is I can do it; they just doesn't tell me how big I can do it.

This month before the IMC is going to be a little telling in that regard, because what I have to do has no real relationship to the Painting-A-Day. I have to do art every day, yes - but I also have to apply to jobs, and contact art directors, and do the dishes, and prepare to move, and buy groceries, and figure out the other aforementioned Actual Real Adult things that need to be done and do them. In my Painting-A-Day project, it honestly didn't matter what I did for the entire day as long as I got my painting done; in fact, I wound up watching six entire 23-episode seasons of Criminal Minds in less than a month for that reason.

I'm lucky to have the IMC coming up not only in what it will do for my art in that week, but because it cuts this month into a discrete period of time that I can use to adjust and define my new normal. I need to figure out exactly how long it takes me to thumbnail, to sketch, to get reference and do a fully rendered drawing, to prep my surface and paint - because for the past year of having the methodology I do, it's always functioned around my classes. I'm going to have to figure out where I can cut into my sleep schedule and where I can't. I'm going to have to see what job I get, and how it will affect me.

I'll reiterate: I'm terrified. I'm not stupid enough to pretend this is going to be easy, or that I'm actually prepared for the challenges that I'll have to deal with. But people have done it before: people graduate from art school every year, and though thousands give up or wash out, not everyone does.

That will be my beacon. It remains to see how strong it is.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Bramble Weaver

Oil on gessoed illustration board, 10" x 20"
It occurs to me that I never uploaded a nice final image at the end of the progress posts.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

The City and the City

Oil on illustration board, 21.5"x16"
This was a very hard painting for me to do, mostly because of the difficulty of the imagery of the book this is based on: The City and the City, by China Miéville. In the end, I really am happy with how it came out - it's worth the uncertainty and frustration that went into it.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

On ego; or, how the hell do I even do this?

It's... difficult for me to put my relationship with my ego into words (as is evidenced by the fact that I have been trying to write this post for two three months).

Being no fool, I'm not going to act like I'm the special-est snowflake of an artist ever to swing between arrogance, truly ruthless self-critique, and new and exciting mixes of the two. I think it's safe to say that every creative person has had periods of thinking themselves pretty hot shit when they just aren't that good, just as they've probably also had instances where they completely flogged themselves over output that was actually good.

So: I'm not special in my angst. That's comforting, actually, and helpful - because if others have done it before, there are people to learn from. It's still difficult to process for yourself, though, because it's a personal journey no matter how many times it's been done by others.

I've spent a lot of time treating any admission that I might be a good artist as the rankest and most punishable display of hubris imaginable. Until very recently, I wasn't really that good, and I have trouble shaking the memory of all time times I thought to myself - or, god help me, said to others - that I was pretty good at x, or better at y than that classmate over there. Again, I think that it's a natural part of the artistic journey to be immature and arrogant... but it still makes the here-and-now view of my own artistic worth a bit skewed.

This first presented itself to me as something to try and think through a few months ago, when I was invited to hang out with a handful of freshmen illustration majors. The girl who'd invited me had contacted me earlier in the year to hang out because she thought I was a "pretty skilled artist gal" (which made me go ??!?! in and of itself) and we'd wound up talking for hours, so I took her up on this invitation eagerly.

There were a lot of great people (I want to say 'kids' but man I'm only three/four years older than them) and I really enjoyed looking through sketchbooks and giving advice and telling stories and laughing over silly things. But one stood out, and she stood out because one of the first things she told me was that she was a fangirl.

Sketchbook clutched to her chest, she said she loved my art, and followed my Tumblr, and was so excited to meet me - and all I could really do was stare. I had absolutely no precedent to fall back on, no idea how to deal with the fact that before me stood an actual person who actually loved my art and was almost vibrating because she was sitting next to me and was getting to look through my sketchbook. I have been that girl (and how), but never, ever before had I been on the receiving end. I was bewildered, to put it simply.

If I actually achieve the level of success I dream about, this existence of fans is something I'm going to have to figure out how to deal with - but the existence of people who like my art is something I have to figure out how to deal with now. It would be disingenuous to say that I have no business having fans, but considering that I have trouble knowing how to act when receiving even standard compliments, it's something I'm going to have to work on. For one very sweet girl to be able to throw me completely for a loop is... eye-opening, to say the least.

I like my art. These days, I think the paintings I'm making are good - and some might even be very good. But then my class' Open Studios reception happened, and I wound up talking to absolute strangers and professors who perhaps never really gave me the approval I craved, who took the time to tell me that my work is beautiful/lovely/very good/impressive. Again, I was a bit bewildered: all I could think of doing in reply was saying, "Thank you, thank you so much!" over and over, probably with blushing and I think with some covering-of-cheeks and swaying.

The kind of feedback I'm used to is critique. Even when it's interwoven with compliments, or when the preamble is of the 'this is the best thing you've ever done' family, the main purpose of the conversation is constructive.

This is a different animal entirely. I can look at professionals I know and see how it should be done: while there's a spectrum in the reactions I've observed (with each individual bringing different amounts and kinds of grace and gratitude and acceptance and bashfulness and good humor) there's a consistent level of taking-it-in-stride.

The voice in the back of my head that calls anything good I say about my own art hubris is making this a little difficult to process. Even the action of writing all of this with the intention of others reading it makes a part of me flinch - what business do I have, talking about having a fan, or the expectation of multiple fans in the future, or the compliments and praise I'm expecting? But that voice is different from the self-critique that drives me, because where the latter lifts my art to new heights, the former does nothing but make me hesitant to put myself out there.

Freelancing is a career that is based on self-promotion as much as it's based on artistic skill (though the actual percentages can be argued), and self-promotion is the art and science of convincing as many people as possible that you are not just a good artist, but the artist they want to pay money. I'm pretty okay at networking - but I cannot promote myself effectively if I'm flinching at every compliment and agonizing over the chutzpah of calling myself anything more than competent. A real part of me does believe I can make it, that if I'm not good enough right now I will be, that I deserve it if and when people tell me they love my art.

I just need to make sure that part of me wins out without becoming the monster I seem so terrified of letting out.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012