Monday, December 23, 2013

Shifting gears

I haven't really posted much here in a while, though I've finished two paintings and made huge strides on a third. There's a reason: for the last six or seven months, I've been, very quietly, absolutely panicking about my art.

It was a background noise for a long time, something I didn't even really notice except occasionally, in small ways: in my slow withdrawing from the community, in the the mixed way I reacted to inspiring illustrations, in my flat inability to even make a move in promoting myself, in my difficulty articulating anything about my last two paintings. My art was getting better and better, and garnering reactions that left me speechless, but there was a growing anxiety sitting in the pit of my stomach that made making art hard.

The problem was that I wasn't a fantasy illustrator, and I couldn't reconcile that.

For a while now, a part of me has known that my art wasn't actually the kind of fantasy that would interest the markets I thought I wanted to work in; more recently, that part also figured out that I wasn't even really making the kind of paintings that fit in an illustration portfolio. There's a grey area in where illustration ends and gallery work begins, and many, many artists work on both sides of that blurry line - but every time I read an advice post saying things like 'look at the book covers in your local book store!', or flipped through Spectrum, my anxiety spiked through the roof because my art didn't look like that.

It should be understood that I 'knew' I was a fantasy illustrator since mid-college, and I put a lot of effort into educating myself about and making myself a part of the fantasy illustration community. There's a lot of comfort to be had in an identity - and the unknown is terrifying.

It was hard being rational about shifting gears toward gallery work when I didn't even know where to start, and froze every time I thought about researching.

Through this, I kept painting. It wasn't the mechanical, one-foot-in-front-of-the-other kind of painting that I did when I crashed last spring - this was me closing my eyes on the panic and just... trusting my art. Something had clicked inside when I finished The Long Path, and letting myself sink into Devotional was an experience worthy of the painting's title. Even as I despaired over the endless mosaic tiles of my current painting, it felt right, and the panic fell away.

It wasn't any sort of a long-term solution. But it did allow me to move forward where in all else I was freezing to a halt - and it did mean that I was posting progress.

Travis Louie, who I'd met this summer at the IMC, noticed those posts; he's the one who's given me something other than a blank page to start on. Whereas I was previously working with nothing but the thought, 'galleries????!?', he has given me advice and people and places to look at, and a goal for my portfolio rebuild, and I'm more grateful than I can say.

So that's where I am right now: still painting, but now with a goal. And, you know, that trust in my art hasn't gone away. My life is currently a balancing act, with work and maintaining any sort of a social life weighed against making art - but my art is always there, waiting, and I have faith in that. Transitions are so, so difficult, but between Travis giving me something to go on and that faith I've found, I no longer feel frozen every time I'm not concentrating specifically on painting.

And we'll see how things work out.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Monday, November 4, 2013

Studio time!

The last time I took a good photo of my studio, it was senior year of college - a year and a half ago. I really like seeing artists' working spaces, and in the spirit of sharing, here's mine (and Steen's!)

Here's the whole thing. We get really lovely northern light through those windows!
Steen's side! (look at her birds!!)
My side! (look at the mess!)

Crossed blades, art, and encouragement. Steen wrote  NEJ beneath it but she is wrong.

Eleven, Aragorn, Nine, and Faramir - my studio mascots.

And Van Gogh, my studio guardian. His ear comes off!! <3

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

The Long Path Process

That thing on the tracing paper is a Donato/Julie Bell original, from the critique section.

Apart from a lot of frustration over the armor, I have a first sketch! Right?

No, said Dan Dos Santos - I do that mostly-turned away face in pretty much every other painting.

Yes Dan, you are correct. The face turn is a gesture that touches on something inside my head, but if I do it ad nauseum then it looks like I'm trying to get away with something. Final drawing for real, with a face, plus bonus actual armor reference.

My board in the moment of silence before the plunge. (reference is also present, just on my computer.)

Please caption this for yourselves with the wild screaming happening in my head at the time.

Wild screaming continues. "OH GOD I DON'T KNOW WHAT I'M DOING, NO ONE LOOK."

Here I am seen desperately trying to regain some control in my life, by noodling with the foreground lay-in.

At this point the screaming stopped, because the environment first pass is done and the next step is the figure. Ladies and gentlemen, this is the identical first stage of pretty much every painting I do. 

Starting the face! "Oh thank god," I whisper.

It's a face first pass. I do routinely lose the drawing this badly on my first pass of the face, which is stupid and I should stop that.

My setup, filled with a lot pictures of me. I fit my entire setup and a cup of tea on this little tabaret without once spilling anything on my computer or dipping my brush into the wrong container.

So I got to this point when I realized that not only had I lost the drawing of the face, but the head was about 25% too small as well. I took a deep breath...

...and wiped it out entirely. (After doing that, I got up and walked around the studio for a bit. It's important to remember that nothing you do is sacred, but that doesn't make it easy, just doable.)

I came back and restarted the face. Before I could take a picture of the new progress, Dan sat down and showed how a pro paints a face. I was having a hard time applying the skill I do possess in lighting a face because the light itself was so intense and chromatic, and I was washing it out and making it chalky.

That started, it was time for armor. Fun fact: I had no idea how to paint armor.

That being said, the IMC has a way of making me better than I am. First pass on armor: achieved.

Horribly, horribly lit hands? Achieved.

Next day, and I got in some glazing for the light when Rebecca Guay came by and helped me with the foreground, which I was Not Panicking Over and ignoring as thoroughly as I could. Thank you Rebecca ;__;.

Then Dan came back! And told me that the glimpse of the sky was stupid, that the light I'd started to put in was good but I should stop! being! timid!

Pushing more in the face, and touches in the armor courtesy of Dan! Who kicked my ass back and forth this year, to my eternal gratitude.

Look! It's almost like a real painting is happening!

Glowey stuff! Thank you, Dan. You are best.

Working on the hands, starting on the chain mail.

This is a comforting stage of a painting to reach - rough, but all the bones are there, and I can see the finish line.

Glazing, and scumbling, are beautiful things. I have never used so much yellow in a painting.

Face! Chain mail! Oh my god it's like I know how to paint!

I finished the chain mail and fixed the hands and then tried not to lose it when Donato complimented them.

Thus, a finished pass - not polished, but a lot of work to have accomplished in just the week at the IMC.

Polishing pass on the armor! Painting in the sword! Working up the cloth! Edges!!

And this is what I finished with, on my easel at home, after a few more days of work after the IMC. The finished piece that I posted saw some after-work in Photoshop, but the original holds itself up.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

The Long Path

The Long Path, 11"x19.5"

Here is my finished piece for Light Grey Art Lab’s Rolemodels exhibition! I finished it early this summer, after getting a huge chunk of it laid in at the IMC, and I'm really, exceptionally proud of what I accomplished here.

You can buy a print of this piece here, a print of any other the other pieces made for this exhibition here, and the card deck here!

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Drawings from Europe!

(Don't worry, I'm aware of the irony of the last post title. I plan on making a post about my current artmaking and general state of mine soon, but for now, have some things I drew on my trip to Amsterdam and Paris!)

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Return from radio silence!

I've been pretty much absent for the past month, for various reasons, but I return to the light of the internet with progress on my art!

First up, the piece I was calling Far and Away but is actually still working on a title.

That is a first pass plus some extra poking at the arms plus glazing, aka a first pass plus procrastination because the next step is the first go at the mosaic wall. Some of this is... sloppy, and I absolutely lost the drawing of the left shoulder where it meets the hair, but it's all within acceptable parameters for a first pass and I'm pleased with were it's going.

Next, something that has the title that the previous piece used to have: Far and Away

It's ready for a tighter drawing, a reference shoot, and color studies, and I'm excited about what this looks like in my head.

Lastly, something I've been trying to do, in one way or another, for something like six years: an illustration for Sabriel. This thumbnail is one of a batch that I did in my sketchbook last month, and while it's still obviously very rough and not much bigger than my actual thumbnail, there's something in this one I keep coming back to.

Sabriel has defeated my every past attempt to illustrate. The book itself is so important to me, something that's been a dear favorite for something like thirteen years (???) - and it's hard to get around an emotional wall that thick, to see past it to what I need to do for my image. Beyond that, the cover illustration is foundational to me. This is an image that hits almost physically when I see it unexpectedly, that I still think of as the perfect illustration in my heart of hearts. Trying to create my own image, that's not only not a Dillons rip-off but also something that I can accept, as a fan...

...that's tough.

So in the meantime, while gingerly working through that set of issues, I did studies - including working out how the bells hang off of the bandolier. (I'm pretty proud of my design, not gonna lie.)