Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Getting Organized: Part 1


BOOKS OF DOOM #4 COVER (originally slated for #3). 2005.
Oil on masonite, 16 × 24″.

(Finished in Feb 2005)

I have in my possession an artifact of great historical importance to myself and no one else: my digital calendar. Beginning on Monday, February 28, 2005, it records nearly every event of my life, both personal and professional (including the hours required to write this blog post). If accurate, during the course of that initial week I spent 6 hours at the gym, cleaned the bathroom for 1.5 hours (filthy, I'm sure), went to Costco, a friend's book signing, and Drew's party (I can't recall who Drew is at the moment).


Boring, I know... but bear with me.

The vast majority of the week, however, was spent making comics. I finished painting 2 covers, varnished and photographed 2 others, and began painting the 4th page of an X-Men book — all in all, 68.5 hours of work. I know this because I used iCal, Apple's default calendar app, not like an appointment book, but as a time log and to-do list. Nearly a decade later, haven't stopped keeping track.


MYTHOS: X-MEN PAGE 4. 2005.
Oil on masonite, 16 x 24".
(Finished in Feb 2005)

Although I've upgraded computers twice since then, I still use the same program to monitor my "man-hours," albeit with a few more bells and whistles. I now keep Calendar (formerly iCal) linked to my Google Calendar account, which keeps the information in the cloud, and hence accessible from multiple devices. There are several sub-calendars within the program, meaning I can separate different types of tasks and toggle them on and off. They're also color-coded to help me organize things at a glance. My current list includes Projects, Books (to keep track of what I'm reading), Personal, Blog and Email, Art Sales, and $ (to help keep track of bills and such). You can also subscribe to calendars like US Holidays, Phases of the Moon, and Birthdays from your contacts list.


I used to keep more detailed notes on each event. That lasted for a week.

But you probably already knew all this — what I want to show is how I utilize that information. By far, the best tool I've found is GTimeReport, a web site that will tally all those hours and organize the results according to my own specifications. I used to enlist the help of another app that required each entry to be labeled with special tags in the note section, but this one needs no special designations, making it far easier to use.

To use it, you must have a Google account (automatic if you have a Gmail address) and be willing to give the program access to read the calendar. I don't take this step lightly, of course, but permission is granted through Google's own site, so you never have to reveal your password.


this information can also be exported to spreadsheet apps

It only accesses your calendar when you ask it to, and only for the designated interval. I always choose the "Show summary table" option, which combines and tallies similarly-named entries. This makes it easy to read and organize, especially since a single project can have many phases. I like to keep them separated so I know exactly how long each part took. (I used to record the details of each event in the Notes section, but now I put most of the pertinent information in the title so I can read it at a glance.)


a Timetrek screenshot

If you'd rather not do that, there are plenty of other options. My colleague and friend, Katherine Roy, uses Timetrek, a time-tracking app that lets you clock in and clock out (or even take a coffee break). Although I haven't used it myself, it looks very easy to setup and manage.


SABRETOOTH: OPEN SEASON #4. 2004. Oil on masonite, 16 × 24″.
(varnished in Feb 2005)

So what? Why keep track of your hours in the first place? Because no one else is going to do it for you. Since nearly every project I do comes with a flat rate, I need to have a solid idea of how long it will take me.

I've said this before, but it bears repeating. Keeping track of hours matters little for the project at hand — the true purpose is the accumulation, over time, of working data, the ultimate goal being the rejection of projects that pay too little or, more importantly, require more time than available. There's no substitute for experience, so this will naturally be more difficult for those illustrators just starting out. The hope is that staying organized will make whatever experience you do have more meaningful.

Part 2: Organizing projects, deadlines, and $$$.

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Minimal: The art of Sebastián Dufour

-By Julian Totino Tedesco



One of the things that I was hoping for when I was invited to be a part of the MC staff was to, every once in a while, share the work of artists from my corner of the world; namely, Argentina.


While there are many argentine artists working for the US and European market, I thought it would be more interesting to showcase the work of those who, by working mainly for the local market, might not get much exposure outside the region.

Such is the case of Sebastián Dufour, and for those of you who didn't know his work, you're very welcome.

Sebastián works as an illustrator for local magazines and newspapers, and I became obsessed with his work since I saw it for the first time, many years ago.




Why did I became obsessed? Well, despite the obvious quality of his work, what struck me the most (and still does) is how he manages to boil down the information to the minimum possible detail.




This is especially remarkable when doing portraits, where he manages to get a likeness with just a few strokes.

John Lennon.
The Beatles.


Pete Townshend, from "The Who".

Writer Gabriel Garcia Marquez.


Often times, his work takes an almost abstract quality.

From the book "Samurai"
Published by Taeda, 2008.

From the book "Samurai"
Published by Taeda, 2008.

And of course, there's the textures, those wonderful textures...



Sebastian's work has a very unique voice that I thought was worth sharing, hoping that it would inspire you, the same way it inspires me.

As a bonus, here's a video of Sebastián painting a mural inspired in the Disney's animated movie Moana.



To see more of Sebastian's artwork, you can go here

Or you can follow him on Instagram.

Monday, August 21, 2017

Figure Drawing: Repeating What You Should Already Know

-By Arnie Fenner


I think a simple truism about being an artist is that, regardless of stature or status, regardless of the number of years spent sitting at the table, easel, or monitor, regardless of degrees from universities or from the School of Hard Knocks...you're always something of a student. And always will be.

As an artist, you're never (or should never be) entirely satisfied with "where you're at" and, essentially, are always practicing—striving—to get better at the craft. Every doodle, every scribble or sketch is part of the process, part of being an artist. It doesn't stop: you're always experimenting and exploring and observing and thinking. You're always trying to learn or master techniques; you're always studying color and composition and light and gestures and character and, above all, anatomy. Regardless of personal style or career direction, the ability to draw a convincing human figure is truly the core of being an artist. Continuing to practice at it helps artists maintain their visual and spatial abilities: it's almost a form of calisthenics of skills. Every time the model moves their arm or tilts their head, every time they change their pose, there is something new to see, to understand, and to learn.

And, because drawing the figure is fundamental, successfully communicating with and connecting to an audience as a creator—whether the approach is realistic, distorted, cartoonish, or abstract, whether the subjects are people or animals or monsters or landscapes—rests firmly on that foundation. It is the beginning for anything you want to do artistically. As Donato said in his post last year on MC, "I find that life drawing is an important way to reconnect with the main subject in much of my work, that of the human figure. The varied forms of expression and the enlightened discovers which occur while drawing helps to fuel my imagination and inform my eye as to what is possible for shape design within characters."


Above: A figure drawing by Andrew Loomis.


Above left: A late-1950s drawing by Frank Frazetta. Above right: Drawing by Willy Pogany.

A highlight of Spectrum Fantastic Art Live has been the late-night figure drawing party (with several nude models) generously sponsored by Kansas City's The Illustration Academy. Even with pizza (graciously provided by the Aladdin Hotel) and a cash bar, it is a surprisingly serious party; there's relatively little chatter and what there is tends to be in whispers. The focus is on drawing, on getting the most out of the opportunity. I've heard that some have been somewhat intimidated by the intensity of the room, but I've also heard that others were absolutely giddy to be sitting and sketching next to—and getting feedback from—Justin Sweet or Donato or Iain McCaig or Android Jones or Mark English.


Above: John English conducting a figure drawing class during The
Illustration Academy's 2017 Summer Workshop. Photo by Timmy Trabon.



Starting clockwise above left: George Pratt, Bill Sienkiewicz, Mark English, Jeffrey Alan Love.
Figure drawing classes, led and critiqued by the teachers, are an important part of
The Illustration Academy's annual workshops. At the conclusion, the instructors' originals
(like the samples shown above) are given to the students via a raffle. 

Drawing from life whenever possible should be high on any artist's list—and, of course, the knowledge obtained through the process is applicable to everything you do, whether you work digitally or in traditional media. I talk often about The Illustration Academy because I know them well (they're local, after all), respect the hell out of what they do, have had the opportunity to sit in on their workshops, and have spent time with their instructors over the years. They're devoted to not only helping artists improve their skills but also in helping them achieve their professional goals. Besides actively emphasizing figure drawing in their curriculum—and hosting drawing events as they have at SFAL as a part of their outreach mission—the Academy hires models and sponsors semi-regular sessions open to all artists at the Interurban Art House (in one of KC's suburbs) throughout the year. Watching IA's Facebook page is a good way for people to stay abreast of dates. Naturally, there are similar gatherings all over (like the Sketch Nights at the Society of Illustrators in New York every Tuesday and Thursday) and it shouldn't be a surprise that I encourage everyone to take advantage of these opportunities whenever and wherever they're offered. (The social and networking aspects of such gatherings are extremely important to career growth as well.)


Above: George Pratt (on the right) oversees the give-away of the instructors'
figure drawings to students. As an aside, let me talk about George for a moment:
A renowned comics artist, illustrator, and Fine Artist, his graphic novel
Enemy Ace: War Idyl has been translated into nine languages and for a time was
required reading at West Point. Besides teaching at the Illustration Academy,
George has taught at Pratt and the SVA and is currently an instructor at the Ringling College
of Art and Design. The IA's Summer Workshop lasts five weeks (students can sign up for
one or all) and features a different group of instructors each week: George and John English
teach during all five. And, yes, there are on-line classes available, too. Anyway, readers
can learn a bit more about The Illustration Academy and other great workshop
opportunities in my "Summer School" post some weeks back.

Depending on location, finances, or other circumstances, I know it can be difficult-to-impossible for some to take part in a figure drawing get-together...but that doesn't mean you can't still practice. Use family members or friends as models and if even that doesn't work out, you might recall that I've previously pointed out various video resources via YouTube that you can use at your own time, pace, and convenience. Like this:


Jon Foster says, "Students will ask me, 'When do I know it all? When does it get easier?' And I tell them: Never. It never gets easier. You have to work to make a career and work to maintain it."

So the Word of the Day is...well, the same as it is everyday: Draw! Or better, the three Words of the Day are: Draw The Figure!