Playing to Get Work Done

sketchbook00001In my last post I discussed how Juicy Ink’s 30 Day Sketchbook Challenge inspired me to stop the excuses and start working in my sketchbook again. This was kind of important to me in finally letting myself do some ugly drawings– which is a problem I’ve had since before art school.

In my mind, I want everything to be beautiful, and if it doesn’t meet a certain criteria in my head, I just stop working on the piece. Now while there is some kind of argument in being efficient and leaving a piece before working it into the ground attempting to get it to work, I have been so hesitant to make anything not “beautiful” that I’ve stayed in a very comfortable box of always using the same materials (which I am very familiar with) and using the same techniques over and over and over, and you can see why part of the reason I was having art block was that I was stuck very much in a rut. Juicy Ink’s videos showed me a way to get out of that by getting out of that comfort zone by trying to approach materials with a different perspective.

Before my art block hit me very hard, I was playing with toned paper, as I saw a slew of artists I admire starting to use it for sketches. I didn’t get very far experimenting with it then, but I liked the idea of toned paper– so I took that idea, drug out an ooooooooooold pack of Prismacolor markers (some of which were gelatinous, which was very gross), and made some toned paper of my own in my Moleskine sketchbook. The markers bled like crazy, but I didn’t care. I wanted to play, and if that meant I was going to make a mess, then so be it! And thus a punk Sailor Moon was born.

And the thing is, it didn’t matter to me that the anatomy was whacked as anything– or that I squished so many things onto the paper making everything even more wonky. I had fun. Not only did I have fun, I felt inspired. Which was not something I had felt in a long time.

 

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Taking that inspiration and rolling with it, the very next day I used the same technique on the very next page, this time in yellow marker (the only other marker that was working well), and basically drained it covering one and a half pages with it. And just started drawing. It takes me so long to just draw, I loved how quickly I could just leap into getting an idea down and putting it to paper. Normally, this is such a struggle for me, I will waste hours trying to think of how to pose something before I even touch the pencil to paper. This was game changing. I started playing more, experimenting with pencil and colored pencil to see what it would look like instead of inks– on the yellow it looked amazing— and then decided to see what would happen if I used my white gel pen, and boom! I got a great three tone technique that I could accent with colors.

 

I finally found the thing that clicked.

 

But, as I mentioned, the markers were solidifying, so continuing to make pictures like this using the Prismacolor markers wasn’t really an option. But really, those markers were almost 15 years old. I’m amazed they made it that long. Using my Copic were out, because coloring large swatches of color are very good ways of killing Copic Sketch markers in a hurry.

Enter Copic Wides.

 

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I love these markers so much. They are the perfect color palette for me, and they are so versatile in what they can do.

I’m not sure why I like this technique, but it gets me drawing without fussing. It might be the patterns that just emerge in the block of color? When I make a solid swatch of color, there just isn’t any of the blank page hesitation that I usually struggle with– and it might be something so simple as that, but it has really helped me. I’ve started to play with the shapes in the marks that are made and suddenly, I have an idea for a drawing. So instead of waiting days/weeks to open my sketchbook until I have a perfect idea to sketch, I’m opening my sketchbook daily and playing with colors and shapes until I have an idea. And really, I think some of this experimentation has lead to stronger work then I have done in recent months.

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I’m still trying to figure out how I can hone the technique into a finished piece, as the solid color swatches give the drawings a rough, unfinished, feel to them, but I love the raw energy that the marker strokes lend to anything I draw on top. I need to work with it more, push a little further, but I feel as if I have made a real breakthrough here. I might finally be finding my artist’s voice in all of this experimentation.

 

 

Resources Roundup #2: Electric Boogaloo (of random)

I’m running behind on my writing this week, as I have been laid up for the last few days with mysterious stomach pains. I got an ultrasound today, and I’ll find out if anything is wrong tomorrow. Sounds ominous, but the lady who gave me the ultrasound told me frankly, if there was something terrible, she’d let me know she was going to call my doctor immediately. So that’s a plus. Doc thinks it might be my gallbladder, but sent me into get tests to double check. I’m sure you want to know all this delightful health stuff!

Anyway, because of this, I haven’t really gotten a good draft of a new writing topic, so here’s a resource list (it’s been so long since I made one!) of some articles/sites that I’ve read recently and were really helpful for the art things in my life right now.

How to Bounce Back After Burning Out
Because we’ve all done it, and while it’s better to identify the problem before it happens, most of the time we can’t until we are already smack dab in the middle of burn out. This article will explain the warning signs, and what to do after it sets in. Very helpful, as I tend to stress myself out too frequently…

Illustration Friday
Okay so I might be the only person who hadn’t heard of this challenge. If you are unfamiliar with it, a new challenge is cast every Friday. Usually it’s just a word to get your old artist noggin to start thinking about things. For people like me, who need some inspiration before starting a piece, this is just the ticket.

Sheilah Beckett: A Fairy Tale Career
A nice career review of one of my favorite female artists, Sheilah Beckett. This article goes incredibly in-depth of Beckett’s career and shows the range of work she did throughout her life-long career. Keep an eye out for her fairytale style work. It’s gorgeous.

Plan an Ergonomic Workstation
I’m still in the planning stages of the art studio (don’t ask), so I’ve been reading up on ergonomic set ups. Chances are, the art studio is going to have a standing computer desk, with my art stool as a chair if needed. Hopefully, next week things I can move forward with my plans.

Marinara Timer
While I don’t use the Marinara Timer, I use the Pomodoro Timer that is also available on this site (under Timers). The technique is simple: work for 25 minutes, take a five minute break. Repeat four times, but on the last round, take a fifteen minute break instead. I’ve used this method of working for a long time, although I didn’t know there was a name for it! I always used episodes of Mystery Science Theater 3000 as a timer, as the shows roughly are broken down in those periods– but a lot of the time I don’t break like I should. Having a timer that chimes to tell me to stop working is very nice indeed because I listen to the chime! I used this technique last week in drawing, and it was the first time in a long time I didn’t have shoulder, back, and hand cramps after a looooong drawing session, because I got up every break and used my five minutes for stretching and jumping jacks.

Traditional Medium Angst Over?

We’re getting closer and closer to the time when it’s time to leave Japan! I do have to apologize for last week. Things got nuts last week with a lot of leaving events and packing, and I just completely ran out of time. I’m amending that now by taking care of as much as I possibly can for the next month of posting so it doesn’t happen again before I go. Most of my things are packed now, but I know my last few weeks here are going to be busy with even more leaving events—I have dinner plans with someone different almost every night between now and August 6th with people who want to see me before I go, it’s kind of crazy!

But even though I’ve been slack on the blog, I have been trying to still do something every day that will help me with illustration work when I get home. I recently discovered Wylie Beckert’s artwork and have completely and utterly fallen in love with her stuff. It speaks to me so much, and has totally vivified me, not only in the creative process, but also using traditional mediums.

As I mentioned before, I’ve been feeling disheartened by traditional mediums, because it seems like everyone is moving to a digital format. I’ve tried working completely digital and I just can’t get the same feel for the art. My best piece that has been completely digital has been this:

The Man Out of Time

But it took me nearly ten times as long to produce it than it would have drawing it by hand. Arguably, I hadn’t yet completely warmed up to the idea of working from scratch digitally at that point, and I have since become better, but I still think something is missing from my work when it doesn’t at least start in a traditional medium. I’ve been penciling or even inking then scanning it and finishing it digitally for years, but Wylie’s illustrations really have woken me up to just how far I can push an illustration in traditional mediums, before bringing it over to digital and making it look even more awesome.

Her more recent paintings, which were oils in an attempt to recreate her digital style, also having me considering taking some oil painting lessons. Oil is the only traditional painting medium I’ve never worked in, because I honestly had no interest. They looked hard, complicated, and I was happy with my watercolors. But her stuff makes me question whether oils would help my style bloom.

Check her stuff out. Seriously. You will thank me later. Wylie’s stuff is breath taking. I hope one day I can meet her and thank her for lighting this fire within me to not let go with my traditional mediums, and maybe even push it further. I can’t wait to experiment more!

Standing After Stumbling

It’s hard to explain to a person who hasn’t experienced it before, how debilitating our inner critic is. I actually believe that there isn’t a “gift” that “creative” people have, but it’s instead the people who can silence their inner critic, and those who can’t. Those who can silence that dark voice inside of themselves, will allow the time and development from practice to help develop a skill. Yes, I’m one of those people who believes that anyone can be a great artist, if only they dedicate time to it.

So when I have these spells where I don’t create much, I only have my inner critic to blame.

The inner critic is a terrible demon that I have written about before. As I have gotten older, and further away from the creative environment that I had established in school, the easier it has become to giving into this critic.

This time, it was all because of this blog. Yep, I’ve been missing for two weeks because I was having angst about this blog. Still. The good news about all of this, is that I at least continued to work on the art journal that I established for myself back in March, so that’s something.

This all came about after listening a bunch of creative podcasts, which discussed simplifying your online presence, so you aren’t stretched thin. I played with the idea of just stopping this blog, and then moving everything to tumblr. I even started a new tumblr precisely for this purpose. Everyone was saying to make things easy on myself, which is the exact opposite of what WP is doing for me creatively. I’m so much more comfortable with tumblr than WP’s format, and that still remains true. But there’s a problem with that switch, in that tumblr wants bite sized blog entries, and that’s not always what I do. There’s also the fact that tumblr can change anytime, leaving me stuck with a format that’s obsolete, only to pick up and move again. So what choice do I make?

I am going to change the format of this site. And it’s coming soon. The new tumblr will be it’s own art posting thing. But, for know, this blog will continue to exist, but I’m still trying to figure out it what manner. There are other, much more successful art encouragement blogs. But should that mean I stop trying to write inspirational entries? Maybe I’ll only work on tutorials? But that wouldn’t be a regular post, as tutorials take several extra hours of work to produce. Maybe I should write about comic production? But that would mean actually moving forward on the project that has has beat itself into a bloody pulp against the block I have on it.

Where do I go?

So, yes, I have stumbled. And I’m trying to stand back up and find what direction I am headed.

Fear of Failure

It’s ironic that today marks a year ago(ish) that I wrote that really inspiring piece about picking your project and going through it, and how I was going to let nothing stop me from going through with my Super Hyper Pretty Magical Awesome idea. Okay, maybe not ironic. Let’s go with sad. Sad that I let practically everything stop me and I just tore it off the to-do list in favor of something else. And that was replaced by something else, and that was replaced by something else. Is anyone seeing a pattern here? Because I sure am.

Ever since I came to Japan, I have been incapable of finishing something. It’s kind of remarkable, considering how many projects I started and finished before I came here. I’ve recently started to question myself: Is it the lifestyle here? Is it because of stress? Have I lost my artistic voice? What’s wrong with me!? It came to a tipping point when my BFF here ran a 10K race that she’s been training for months for. And then it hit me that I have done exactly squat from what I’ve set out to do. Yes, I have been doing well with illoLife RPG, but have I really been pushing myself enough towards my goals? Have I pushed myself as much as I should have? I leave in four months, and I wanted to come back to the states with a plethora of work, and just jump right into the freelance market.

Am I even close to that? The answer is a resounding no.

I would have let myself get deeper into self loathing about this, were it not for the fact that I started listening to the Scriptnotes podcast this week, and I happened upon episode 131: Procrastination and Pageorexia, in which they talked about writer’s fear, and how procrastination can really build into a fear of failing. And as I was listening to this, I realized that this was exactly what I was doing.

All of this has been a good wake up call, because I have been terrified of finishing the project I was, well, working on, but am not at the moment. It’s a comic short that would turn the damsel in distress troupe on its head. The more people I tell about it, the more confirmation I get from people that, yes, I need to make this so they can read it. So the pressure builds up, and I freeze up, afraid that whatever my next move will be, will ruin everything that I’m striving for. But at least I understand that it’s fear that is holding me back, nothing more. I have the skills, I’ve honed my talent. I just need to get back into the pool without worrying that I’m going to drown.

I will overcome the fear.

I need to work harder, and I need you, faithful readers, to hold me acountable. Get on my case! Don’t see new art from me for a while (which you haven’t), GET ON MY CASE. Demand new art! Demand the next comic! Do it, because I clearly need to get some cheerleaders to help me along.