Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Owen Garratt, Dan dos Santos & Robin Sharma on PRACTICE

Owen Garratt"I was lucky that I got involved with my wife - The Colonel - early in my career, or it probably wouldn’t have got very far. The one thing all serious artists need is time…vast, selfish, astonishing amounts of time. Since they only give you 24 hours every day, an awful lot of important things can fall behind awful quick. Without her fending off life’s distractions, there’s no way that I could have found the great spans of time and introspection that I needed to develop my art and business. If it wasn’t for her, I think I’d be living in a tarpaper shack."

Muddy Colors' Dan dos Santos' "10,000 Hours of Practice":

Robin Sharma"Easy to forget that successful people didn’t just wake up that way. They started off ordinary – with a goal – and then focused on the daily small steps required to reach it. And as the days slipped into weeks and the weeks into months and the months into years, their dream became more alive. Each day, they practice."

The message is the same from professional artists and motivational speakers: TONS OF PRACTICE!

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Friday, November 28, 2014

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Learning to See Values Practice…and Success!

In this post I discussed a helpful exercise in learning how to see values. My initial attempts were completely inaccurate and the process was frustrating.

BUT, unlike in the past when I've let the feeling of sucking stop me from fighting through the suckiness to the goodness, I didn't let the frustration stop me.

These were the tools used, Prismacolor Premier Cool Grey pens at 20%, 50% and 80%:

These were my attempts, from Nov. 3 through Nov. 21:

THEN, on Nov. 22, I had a breakthrough!

My final attempt isn't perfect or great, but it's better than the first attempt! In comparison to the original painting (digitally converted to grayscale), it has some accurate observations:

The Arch of Constantine Seen from the Colosseum by de Crissé

And some that are not so accurate! But the point is that I kept trying until I got close.

Next is View of Ornans by Courbet.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Robert McGinnis's and Frank Frazetta's Women

I recently received the Robert McGinnis book and was thrilled with every page. McGinnis clearly creates a story with every illustration with the poses and expressions.

But what really stood out to me was how he illustrated the female form. Of course, all of his figures are idealized in some way. What I found most striking about McGinnis's image of women was that despite the idealization, all of the figures retain pleasing proportions. His women may have impossibly flat stomachs, long legs and full hips, but they never look grotesque. This is especially true regarding how McGinnis draws breast. Unlike the illustrations of women that have been popular for several decades with super-skinny waists and gigantic breasts, McGinnis's women's breasts are in proportion to the rest of their bodies. How refreshing!

I think the same is true with Frank Frazetta's women. He depicts them with fuller breasts than McGinnis but the breasts he draws are still in proportion to the rest of the women's bodies.

A note about Frazetta's women: they often have a full buttocks. When watching the Frazetta documentary, I noticed that his wife had the same physical trait! Basically, all of the women Frazetta illustrated were a reflection of his wife. How endearing!

I wish more of today's comics artists and illustrators would study how McGinnis and Frazetta illustrate women by maintaining appealing proportions while still idealizing the form. That's what separates the good from the great.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Create a Work That Only a Few People Want, But Want Desperately

The headline of this post is a variation on "Build a Product That Only a Few People Want, But Want Desperately" from Inc. Magazine.

Although this was intended for entrepreneurs, the same applies to artists!

Instead of trying to be Pixar or Dreamworks (why does every animator want to be Pixar or Dreamworks?), find a niche audience and cater to them.

I'm doing that by featuring black people in my work. There's an almost complete absence of people of color in animation and illustration and my intention is to fill that gap.

Because how often do Pixar, Dreamworks, Disney et al feature characters of color?

Monday, November 17, 2014

Bill Plympton's Position on "Talent"

Pages from a Pablo Picasso sketch book.

“I hear things like that a lot, that some people were born to be great artists. However, I believe that's a bunch of bull propagated by jealous people who wish they could be artists, or want to believe that they could have been, if only they'd had the right parents.”--Bill Plympton

This is a quote from Bill Plympton on the unfortunately endless debate between talent and skill. It's especially heartening coming from someone who probably possesses a certain about of innate talent. But even he admits that his talent was maximized with a lot of practice, ambition and discipline.

Let's all dispel the lie that people succeed because they were "born" to do so. The reality is that success comes from taking that with which you're born and boosting it with hard work.

Back to practicing!

Sunday, November 16, 2014

An Epidemic of Circle Heads Rhapsody by David Apatoff

This post by David Apatoff--cartoonist, illustrator, lawyer and illustration scholar-- is an excellent companion to my post about Raul Aguirre, Jr.’s podcast about lack of foundational skills.

To clarify, neither Apatoff nor I am suggesting that the artists whose work he references are lacking in skill. Instead, the argument is that a style whose sole purpose is to convey information quickly and easily isn’t sufficiently suited to convey anything deeper than information. If you believe that the purpose of art is to affect other human beings, the homogeny of the circle heads fails as art.

I recommend reading both Apatoff’s post and the comments that follow it.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

My Favorite Animation Spaceships

Recently I realized that my early love of animation began with TV shows that feature spaceships.

Aside from Bugs Bunny and Tom & Jerry, in the 1970’s I was introduced to anime. And my first loves were Battle of the Planets and Star Blazers. At that time, I was also a fan of Space:1999 and the movie The Black Hole. More recently, I became a fan of Cowboy Bebop and Battlestar Galactica.

All of these shows and movies have in common spaceships: the Phoenix in Battle of the Planets; Battleship Yamato in Battle of the Planets; the Eagle 1 Transporter from Space:1999; the Cygnus from The Black Hole; the Swordfish II from Cowboy Bebop; and Galactica from Battlestar Galactica.

Since I love these ships so much, why not build and display models of them?

As a kid, I built numerous car and boat models. All of these, sadly, were carelessly trashed when my parents moved the family from Queens to Pleasantville while my sister and I were away at camp. It’s the one act for which I will NEVER forgive my parents. It was incredibly selfish, lazy and thoughtless of them to simply throw in the garbage things that I spent hours gluing and painting. I’ll never forget the moment I saw my new room in the new house and realized that my models were gone. Heartbreaking.

Anyway, to tap back into that childhood feeling of creation, I bought model kits for all of the ships listed above except for the Phoenix. My original thought was that the Phoenix looked too cheesy but I may end up getting it anyway. If for no other reason, it will complete the collection.

This may sound strange, but the Star Wars ships are purposely missing. I loved the movie and was enthralled with the ships when I first saw them but they didn’t affect me the ways the others did. I can’t really explain it…

I started my collection with the Swordfish II. The design is accurate to the animated version in look and function.

And I built it quickly!

It just needs some glue for the small parts that keep falling off and paint to make it look like the truly worn ship Spike puts through hell. 

One down, five more to go!

Friday, November 14, 2014

Fast Company Interviews Designer/Illustrator Tom Geismar

Fast Company is my favorite magazine right now, no competition.

I recommend that all artists read Fast Company. I also subscribe to Inc. Magazine but they have a significant difference.

Inc. is a youthful, small business magazine. It's an accessible and enjoyable read. I like the magazine and find it informative, but I love Fast Company.

Fast Company is about LIFE. It features socially conscious people who happen to run businesses, businesses that have transcended the standard reason for their existence--making money--and have discovered ways to make money and not be evil about it. EVERY issue proves American Republicans and right-wingers wrong: it is possible to make money without destroying the environment, exploiting workers and treating employees like shit.

You just have to take the mental energy to FIGURE IT OUT.

Fast Company, like another favorite magazine, Wired, often features artists. The latest issue has an interview with a veteran designer whom I admittedly never heard of before, Tom Geismar. Like Paul Rand, Geismar designed the logos for some of the biggest brands in the world. And he was taught by Josef Albers!

Designer Tom Geismar and some of his creations.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Stan Prokopenko Human Anatomy Course (Pre-Sale Discount!)

I am SO looking forward to THIS!

One reason Scene 28 has taken SIX MONTHS and counting to complete is my struggle with anatomy. I've studied anatomy and, for the first time, have a basic grasp of it but…it's not enough. I'm confident that Prokopenko's class will take me to the next level.

I've already learned a lot from Prokopenko and his teaching style is straight-forward and completely accessible. I happily paid for his figure drawing fundamentals course and IMMEDIATELY took advantage of the first sale for this course. I just wish I didn't have to wait until Nov. 24 for it to start!

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

My First Art Instruction Book & Landscape Drawing Struggles

Published in 1972, Keys to Sketching is, if I recall correctly, the first drawing instruction book that I ever bought or was given. I know I must’ve been young when I got it because I circled the breasts, butt and crotch of the naked woman sketch and noted that they were “bad!” Ha! Years later, during high school, I was drawing naked people in a weekend class without issue so I guess my thinking evolved. Here’s a look at the book:

I recently pulled this book from my art book shelf because I’m struggling to do the Noah’s Art Camp value/composition exercise. In his demo video, Noah effortlessly and accurately places the values in the frame but when I do it, everything is off. So I’ve been trying to place things in pencil first before applying the tones. But my placement is ALWAYS off. Very frustrating. 

I was hoping that this book had some insight into placing a landscape into a frame but no such luck. The only instruction I’ve found on this topic was a comment somewhere online that one should start drawing the landscape from the center out. I’ve been doing that but I’m still ending up with out of proportion drawings. I’m thinking this is just another skill at which I have to keep working in order to do it well.

The artist Paul Madonna clearly excels at this type of thing:

I sent him an email requesting advice on placing a landscape in the frame. I’m hoping he responds because I have no guidance on how to approach this problem and no idea as to the solution. If he responds, I’ll share his knowledge with you!

Friday, November 7, 2014

Value Exercise

FOUR YEARS AGO (yikes!) I posted this about diving into watercolor painting.

Imagine how good my painting would be today if I'd actually stuck with painting then.
I'm trying not to dwell on "what if's." This is EXACTLY my point about pushing through the bad drawings/boring exercises. If we practice--every day--the skills which we want to improve so we can better communicate our ideas, in time we'll see the results of all of that effort. If only I'd known then what I know now...
Anyway, back to this post...

I've learned since by first steps into learning about color and watercolor painting is that I must first learn about VALUES, the levels of light and dark i.e., grays.

This is Botticelli's "Birth of Venus" in color:

And what it looks like with the values only, no hues (colors) :

From what I've learned, there is no color without value. It's one of color's two primary components, the other component being chroma (the amount of brightness and dullness). Once we learn how to see and accurately determine values, we're one step closer to learning to paint, choose and use color.

Again, I stumbled upon this video called "Week 1: Master Studies - Noah's Art Camp" by artist Noah Bradley who has the instructional site Art Camp. This free video is an incredibly helpful, two hour and 21 minute tutorial about how to practice seeing values, composition and color.

Still from tutorial Master Studies painting values-Noah's Art Camp."
I expected to easily knock this exercise out. But once I sat down to do it, I couldn't even get the composition properly placed in the frame let alone analyze the values! Unfortunately I did my usual and tossed the exercise aside, annoyed with my lack of skill. But now I've decided to tackle it again, realizing that the ability to place the composition in the frame is a skill in itself and one worth learning. My future landscape drawings and paintings will depend on getting over this hump now.

These are my new attempts. I look forward to posting them regularly to note the progress (and yes, there WILL be PROGRESS!):

Instead of painting these exercises digitally as Noah does, I've decided to start simpler by using some Prismacolor 20%, 50% and 80% cool gray markers. Those are the only three tones I'm using in these exercises, basically a highlight, medium tone and shadow (Noah suggest not using more than four tones.) I chose those particular markers solely because Doug Chiang, artist and designer, uses them (click on "Studio Tips" on his site to see his tools. I misread his 70% marker for 80% but no biggie). If Chiang uses it, I'm going to use it!

These are my first attempts based on the painting "The Arch of Constantine Seen from the Colesseum": 

Clearly I was struggling with this exercise! But unlike my original attempts, I'm NOT giving up because I failed. I'm going to keep going until I no longer create failures. Notice how the pencil drawing on the right has a stronger sense of composition than the straight-ahead value studies.

Every day I get closer…