In 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.
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.
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.
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.
So watching a blinking cursor doesn’t get a blog entry written. If it did, I would have so many missing blog entries written.
It’s been six months since my last blog entry, and so much has happened, and yet so little?
I’ve worked through a tremendous art block, worked on pages like a madwoman, gotten incredibly sick, re-injured myself, and I could go on and on. Like I said, a lot.
But instead of cramming everything into one blog entry, I’m going to try to spread things out a little bit so I have, you know, other blog entries to write in the next coming weeks.
So how did you break out of your art block?
In some ways, I’m still kind of in it if I’m going to be honest. But I stumbled upon Juicy Ink’s 30 Day Sketchbook Challenge (which you can watch in all one convenient playlist here) just as she started it, and went through the journey with her, and realized 1) I too have not been giving my sketchbook the attention it needed, 2) I haven’t played with any new techniques in quite a while, 3) I was going a little crazy constantly working in black and white and I desperately needed to play with some color 4) If I didn’t start to try to break this block, I would be SOL when it came to summer convention time (which *cough cough* is coming up very quickly on my heels, compounding the pressure to produce things, making the block all the worse).
Because I was struggling with some anatomy on the pages of T♥S, I decided to focus on that to begin with. Most mornings for the last two months, I’ve spent around half an hour doing anatomy studies ranging from one to five minute sketches. But not without guidance. I’ve been re-reading the Loomis books in my spare time and taking notes. This has resulted in a 100 page sketchbook almost being filled in this time– which is something I haven’t been able to do since SCAD.
The massive improvement under these few weeks of dedication cannot even be expressed. But the more important part is that it allowed me to make some ugly drawings, which is something that I don’t normally do. I usually will abandon a drawing if things look wonky the instant it does, but I forced myself to at least finish it, and then identify what went wrong.
Things I learned:
- I draw heads small to over compensate my tendency to draw heads big when I’m working without a reference. This is something that I will never understand why I do, but I’m getting better at keeping the head size consistent with the rest of the body.
- I draw too fast sometimes. I start to rely on what I know, and not what I’m observing. I used to be much better about this, but I think it’s because I have such a limited amount of time to work on things now, so I don’t want to waste time observing (perish the thought!) and that’s a really bad habit to get into– thus I’ve spent most of this time trying to get myself OUT of that habit. Because of my short time allowance for art, I also start to get impatient with anatomy studies after about 30 minutes. It’s staggering to think I used to take a two and a half hour class on it twice a week in college, and now here I am struggling to make it half an hour. Is it my attention span? Is it because I want to work on other things? When did doing such basic studies become so hard to do?
- My anatomy skills are even rustier than I thought, and I need to keep this up.
But that was just the beginning. Next, it was time to mix it up a bit– which I’ll talk about in my next entry.
So much has been happening both in the professional and personal side of my life! It’s been bananas! After SPX, I took a much needed break, as my life since March has been comics and sickness, and that’s pretty much it. But then October started, and that means Inktober! I’m a bit behind on my days, but I’ve sworn to myself I’ll get 31 (non comic) ink drawings done, even if it leaks into November– which it is going to. My running list of completed illustrations can be seen here. Instead of floundering on what to draw each day this year, I decided on a theme of Dragon Age pairings, the usual and the unusual, and it’s been a joy to explore. While I’m not 100% satisfied on how all of them have come out, I want to make a collection of all of these when all is said and done, redo-ing the ones I’m not happy with. Not sure how it’ll be collected, but I’ll figure out something!
Oh, yeah, and SPX happened! There where so many of my old SCAD classmates, we had a mini SCAD SEQA reunion, and it was marvelous! I also got to finally meet so many people face to face, like Trungles, Paulina Ganucheau, Kevin Panetta, Kata Kane and S.M. Vidaurri. I also made a slew of new friends, like Gale Galligan, Rachel Young, Ngozi Ukazu, Sarah Dill, Larry King, Kori Michele, Ray Nadine, and Denise Clamors— not to mention, I got to meet my personal hero Kate Beaton, and got to make my idiot of myself in front of her while babbling to her about how important her work is for me. Because it is so important. I got one of my books by her signed, and still grin whenever I see it on my bookshelf.
Sadly, everyone was busy, so I didn’t get to spend too much time with anyone! We all had our own tables to attend, so our conversations were just stolen free moments out of the weekend. I think next year, I’m going to head down a day early, even though it’s so close to where I live, if only to spend actual time with people and talk for more then ten minutes! Things went better than expected for me table wise. I didn’t have much to offer comics wise, but I did sell out of a few things. Next time, I’ll have more comics available! Also thank you to everyone who came over and talked Dragon Age to me, because yes I love being a DA geek, and can talk about it endlessly, as some people learned!
And now webcomic things!
October 15th the official web launch of Tokyo Heart Story happened! You can finally read it on the internet with your very eyeballs. The comic will be updated bi-monthly, starting with a (very small) update this Sunday. I have one (hopefully) final medical procedure for the year tomorrow, so while I was hoping to have more pages done this Sunday, it doesn’t look like it’s going to happen this time. I will make up for it in later updates, I promise!
And finally, in other web comic news, the GPM comic is now up on the NASA website! Go take a gander at what I’ve been working on since March, and talking endlessly about! It’s an adorable comic, and I learned so much from it, it’s amazing! I also received some print copies of the comic, which holding in my hands feels so surreal. I worked so hard on those pages, and to see them so nicely printed and beautiful, it was just amazing.
It’s crazy that November is right around the corner, but here we are! I have so many things planned for the end and the beginning of the new year, I can’t wait to share it with all of you in the coming weeks. I felt like I have grown so much as a person and as an artist this year. I am still in a phase where I am not happy with my art, but that means I just have to keep pushing, right? ONWARD!