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!

Sunday, August 20, 2017

Live Event This Weekend!


This month's Live Event will be 'Photography for Illustrators'.

Few things can help improve an illustrator's end product as easily as a great piece of reference. Find out how to get that perfect shot that's going to help push your realism to the next level. In this 2 hour demo, we will discuss and demonstrate a variety of photography topics that specifically pertain to illustrators, including:

  • Hiring & Paying Models
  • Lighting Techniques
  • Action Poses
  • Blending Reference
  • Photographing Original Art

Please join us Saturday, August 26th from 3-5 PM for this highly informative demonstration and lecture.

As usual, all $5 Patrons get access to the live event, and $10 Patrons receive a digital download of the demo afterwards.

Sign up, or get more info at: https://www.patreon.com/muddycolors


Saturday, August 19, 2017

Artist of the Month: Annie Leibovitz

-By William O’Connor


In our line of work as illustrators we all use photography to a lesser or greater extent. Some illustrators, like myself, have a very stylized technique where our use of photography may be merely inspirational, while other artists I know have photo studios, set up models with costumes and lighting while others actually go as far as to paint directly on top of photographs. There is no wrong way to work, but whatever way you do illustration it's unlikely that photography has not played at least a small part in your work. Despite our effusiveness of Caravaggio or Sargent its arguable that modern photography has been as important (or more) than painters in our vernacular as contemporary artists. I realize that I have not highlighted a single photo artist yet so I hope to start today.

When I think of photographers who influence art there are Steiglitz, Adams and Sherman, but few who I can see more of a direct impact to our contemporary fantasy illustration aesthetic than Annie Leibovitz (1949-) Born a baby boomer in middle class America Annie traveled around the world with her Air Force family taking photographs and later studied painting in San Francisco in the 1960’s. Taking a job with Rolling Stone in the Seventies and later with Vanity Fair in the 1980’s Leibovitz became the foremost portrait photographer in America. Her early art education is well evidenced in her use of lighting and composition infusing her images with a classical elegance that seems almost Baroque. Her painterly use of the figure sumptuously draped in color and an attention to detail that captures a stark reality of her often fantastical tableaus is remarkable. In her portraits she is able to capture the essence of the person’s character by use of body language, detail, lighting and sometimes in a candid unposed moment, which is the real art of any photography. 


Today, Annie Leibovitz is one of the most sought after and copied photographers in the world both by photographers and artists alike. The next time you are leafing through the latest edition of an illustration annual take a look at how many beautifully composed images look uncannily inspired by Leibovitz and you can begin to see her influence.

Enjoy

WOC

**Please leave a comment below or DM on what artists you’d like to see me explore. Remember, this column is for artists who are outside the illustration field that you feel we may be overlooking as illustrators.



  A Gallery of Works by Annie Leibovitz:










Moncler Photo Shoot

Friday, August 18, 2017

New Blood

by Howard Lyon

New Blood sounds like it could be the title of a WB show where a clique of teenage vampires looks for new and worthy recruits for their brood, all while dealing with unrequited love, math finals and looking fabulous. So I must apologize, because this post is about a new piece of art that I created for Magic: the Gathering Commander 2017.

Within the Magic: the Gathering universe, among the many worlds I think that Innistrad is my favorite. Any chance to paint something in that setting is a treat. Gothic spires and tri-corner hats with baroque sensibilities and dramatic lighting. Please sir, I'd like some more.

Mark Winters was the Art Director on this piece (thank you Mark!) and I jumped at the chance to revisit Innistrad.

The idea was to show the vampire Olivia Valderan stalking a victim. The hapless young man enjoys his drink, not knowing that he is being eyed by the powerful woman behind him. She gently raises her hand to his neck, hungrily eyeing his jugular. Good times were had by all.

The sketch


Painting steps


The final - Mark made the good call to crop in a little bit to bring more attention to Olivia's face and her hand on his neck.


Here is the final image on the card:



Thanks for taking a look! Come and join me on Instagram and Twitter to see various sketches and paintings in progress.

Howard

Thursday, August 17, 2017

A Note on Confidence

By Lauren Panepinto
  
It's funny how sometimes trends will happen in conversations, and I think it's the universe (or at least the Muse of Muddy Colors) trying to tell me what my next post should be. Recently I've been having a ton of conversations about confidence. People seem to think I am a confidence expert, and I think they assume my ability to be silly and geeky and loud and have green hair has to do with an abundance of confidence...when in reality they're mixing up the chicken and the egg a bit. The more weird shit I do, the more people love it and the more positive reinforcement for my decisions — that's what gives me the confidence to go do more weird shit like dye my hair and wear leggings and be walk into rooms full of strangers and get up an speak in front of heaps of people. But even more than the wins, it's the fails that reinforce my confidence, because nothing builds your confidence more than surviving something you were afraid of, and finding out it really wasn't that bad. You pick yourself up and keep going, even more secure inside.

By the way, this isn't the first column I've written on the topic, so definitely check out Confidence 101 in The Con(fidence) Game, then come on back.

In that article we talked about Imposter Syndrome, The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck, and Power Poses. Now we're going to fine-tune the conversation a bit.

When we talk about confidence, what we're really talking about is fear. What's the opposite of confidence? Insecurity. And all insecurity comes from fear—generally fear of rejection. Rejection sucks and feels horrible. There have been studies that prove being rejected actually physically hurts. And there's a reason for that. Back in the caveman days, when we were all huddled together in tribes,  we had to work together to stay safe and fed. If you got kicked out of the tribe's cave, it was a toss-up whether you were going to starve or become a sabertooth tiger snack first. Rejection equaled death, and rejection still feels, instinctively, like pain and dying.


But we are not cavemen anymore, and you are not going to die from rejection. Embarassment is not fatal, or none of us would have made it out of high school. Fear exists to warn of us risks. Your goal is actually not to never feel fear, but really to embrace fear and choose to do a thing anyway. That's risk-assessment. And that is the way to gain confidence.

So we fear rejection. That's evolutionarily valid. The fear is there to warn us of a possible risk. But we have to dial the fear back down to match the real-world risk. You shouldn't have getting-eaten-by -a-sabertooth-tiger-level fear for a situation where the worst thing that could happen to you is embarassment.

Confidence is not fearlessness. Confidence is acknowledging that you do feel fear, telling yourself that's a rational response to a scary situation, but then adjusting your response to the actual risks. It's saying I know there is a chance, at worst, that X might happen, but the payoff is probably going to be worth it. And if the worst thing happens, you know you'll be ok. It's saying I know the risks, but I'm going to do it anyway.

Confidence is also not arrogance — It's not I AM THE BEST HERE. It's I AM WORTHY OF BEING HERE. And that's a big difference.


Here's a list of things that people I've talked to lately have said they wished they had the confidence to do:

—The confidence to post sketches and process online, not just the perfect final image.
—The confidence to email art directors their work.
—The confidence to go to a networking event that you don't know anyone at.
—The confidence to go to a new convention.
—The confidence to ask an art director for a portfolio review.
—The confidence to start a big crowdfunding project.
—The confidence to walk up to a group of strangers and work your way into a conversation.

So, ask yourself...what's the worst case scenario? But also remember to think just as hard about the BEST case scenario, because it's at least as likely to happen, statistically. And is generally more likely to happen, in my personal experience:

—The confidence to post sketches and process online, not just the perfect final image.
Worst Case Scenario: people post mean comments about how your art sucks.
Likely Scenario: some friends will like it, no one will say anything bad, maybe some people will say something nice.
Best Case Scenario: It gets a bunch of shares and new followers and nice comments.

—The confidence to email art directors their work.
Worst Case Scenario: an AD will write back and say your work doesn't fit their needs, and ask to be taken off your list.
Likely Scenario: you will get no answer.
Best Case Scenario: An email hits an AD just at the right moment and you get a job out of it.

—The confidence to go to a networking event that you don't know anyone at.
Worst Case Scenario: You stand around awkwardly and don't talk to anyone.
Likely Scenario: You'll make some perfectly fine smalltalk, some awkward smalltalk, you'll make a new friend or two. No one remembers the awkward bits but you.
Best Case Scenario: You end up meeting some art friends, strengthen your peer network, and maybe meet someone that leads to being hired.

—The confidence to go to a new convention.
Worst Case Scenario: you hate it and people are creepy and you go home.
Likely Scenario: You'll meet a ton of new people, get a little tipsy in the hotel bar, and spend the rest of the year on social media keeping up with the new friends.
Best Case Scenario: You make a new art bestie or meet an AD that leads directly to a dream job.

—The confidence to ask an art director for a portfolio review.
Worst Case Scenario: they say they're too busy and walk away.
Likely Scenario: they'll give you a time to meet them later or they'll give you a business card and ask to email your portfolio to them.
Best Case Scenario: They say yes and you guys have a great in-depth review

—The confidence to start a big crowdfunding project.
Worst Case Scenario: it won't get backed.
Likely Scenario: it'll get backed and you'll have to spend way more time than you expected figuring out shipping to all your backers.
Best Case Scenario: It will get 500% backed and be a career launcher.

—The confidence to walk up to a group of strangers and work your way into a conversation.
Worst Case Scenario: everyone stares at you when you try to join the conversation, acts awkward and conversation dies until you leave the group.
Likely Scenario: the conversation will expand and you'll feel a little awkward at first, but settle down and have a nice conversation.
Best Case Scenario: You exchange info with the group, expanding your peer group, and maybe get a job out of it.



Look back up at all the worst case scenarios. Not such a big deal, right? You'd survive any of them and move on. In most cases the potential reward with beat the potential damage by multiple times over. 

And that's how you build confidence. You realize most things fall into the "likely" or "best" case scenarios, and you survive a few "worst" case scenarios and realize they're not actually so life-threatening. Keep flexing that confidence muscle, and after a while that insecurity voice inside you will slowly start to starve and lose volume. And poof, like magic, you too are a confident person, and people will talk about you in that wistful tone of "If I was as confident as you I could...X" and you'll smile and send them the link to this post.