Gateway Drug.

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This is going to be the first of a series I am calling "humpday editorials". This is personal project that I hope will challenge me to create more conceptual work. I'll be posting a editorial/conceptual illustration every weds for the next few months.

There has been a lot of talk about the opioid crisis recently. While it's nice that the problem is finally getting some attention, I am worried that it will soon turn into another Reagan/Bush style War On Drugs. Trump and his administration seem to be addressing the problem by encouraging arrests and getting tough on crime. But the criminals are not street pushers or addicts, they are the corporations that manufacture and market these dangerous drugs. None of this is going to get any better unless we hold pharmaceutical companies responsible for their actions. We can start by demanding that these companies fund treatment centers for people addicted to opioids.

COMFORT ZONE

For many artists the path to defining a style is long and treacherous. It takes so much exploration and evaluation to figure how you want to create, what you want to create, and how you express yourself. It really can be painful at times, but it's so rewarding once you finally find a direction. However, this process can leave you feeling afraid to explore for fear of getting lost or diluting your brand.

As artists it is important for us to never lose that spirit of exploration, but in exploring we have to be cautious about what we share and how these explorations are affecting our work. Sometimes exploring is as simple as applying our work to a new medium. For example, Andrew Maclean is primarily known as a comic artist, but he has just started making patches.

Many artist explore specific themes and content in their work. A lot of this simply comes from what they are interested in. Personally, I find myself drawing characters from movies, musicians, and comic characters. I draw these things because I love them, but to be marketable as an illustrator it is really important to work outside your comfort zone. Exploring new subject matter is a great way to explore and demonstrate marketability. 

Sometimes you get the push you need from a client. Last week I was hired to design a poster for the wordpress mascot Wapuu's fanclub. Cute anime mascots are not something that I would have ever considered drawing, but the project had just the right level of challenge to really inspire me. I did a fair amount of research but just the idea of applying my style to something that I normally wouldn't draw created an interesting juxtaposition that made this project a lot of fun. 

That's all for this week. Check back here every Weds for more content! 

ART TOOLS

I thought this week I would talk about some of my favorite art tools. These are far from "the best" tools, but they are the ones that I have found work best for me. Still, my arsenal of art tools is always changing and I would encourage other artists to never stop searching for the perfect pen, brush, ink, etc.

BRUSHES

Brushes are my primary inking tools. I do almost all my inking with my #4 Winsor & Newton Series 7 Sable brush. Winsor & Newton sable brushes are practically an industry standard at this point. They are a little pricy, but if you take care of them they can last years. I recommend using the Winsor & Newton brush cleaning fluid. I clean my brushes thoroughly after each piece, sometimes during. It's always nice to have some old worn out brushes, I use a couple cheap chisel brushes usually for texture or lettering. I also have a couple old tooth brushes that I use for splattering, textures, and other punk rock effects. 

 

PENS

From front to back. That little pen is a pilot petit 3 and it's great for line art and writing, it's really versatile and it's refillable. Faber Castell pens wear down easy, but their ink and line quality is really nice. Presto white out is good for fixing large mistakes and creating white ink effects. Sharpie and Posca both make a great felt-tipped paint pen, I use these for writing and fixing small mistakes. Pentel brush pens are a great on-the-go option for those who like to ink with a brush. I use that huge acrylic marker for spotting large black areas. it's awesome. 

 

PENCILS

I do very little finished art in pencil, but I use colored pencil like crazy. I will probably do a blog about my process later, but typically I sketch in blue or red so I can remove the color easily in photoshop and leave the black ink. Prismacolor makes some great blue and red leads for 2mm lead holders. Speaking of lead holders I have a 5.5mm lead holder I load up with mont blanc 4B leads. I really only use this for lifedrawing, but it's absolutely amazing. In the back I have some blackwing pencils that are really fun to mess around with, although I haven't really worked them into my standard process yet. 

WRITING

I make a lot of notes and to do lists, so having something portable and quick is important to me. The midori travel notebook is awesome. It's expensive, but everything is replaceable/refillable. Clipped to that I have a pilot petit fountain pen, a surprisingly good fountain pen and it uses the same cartridges as the pilot petit 3. I have a few fountain pens, and my Jin Hao was easily my favorite until part of it broke recently. My backup is the Lammy pen pictured above which is a nice reliable pen. The best fountain pen ink I have found is Sailor ink, nice and dark with very little bleed. 

INK

Speaking of ink, I have yet to find a better ink for drawing than Deleter Black #4. This stuff is amazing, it's pitch black, dries pretty quick, and is easy to clean off a brush. Deleter also makes a nice thick whiteout that is great for white splatters. Dr.Ph. Martin makes a wide range of colored inks that are really fun to play with. I don't use them often, but the vibrant colors are fantastic. 

That's all for now. I have a few more tools I will probably talk about some other time, but right now these are the ones I like best. Comment below and let me know what your favorites are!

Accomplishments.

This should be a fairly short blog. I am in the process of moving 2,800 miles from Orlando FL to my hometown near San Jose, CA. I miss the bay area like crazy, the air, the culture, the taquerias, and most of all my friends & family. I came to FL to study and finally get my bachelors degree. When I moved out here two years ago my only real goals were to find a little direction and get my diploma. Now that I am packing up the diploma carries very little significance, but I am so proud of how I have grown as an artist and a person. 

Left: This was by far my best work when I started school. Right: a recent poster design that I created in about a quarter of the time I spent on the Dr.No poster.

Left: This was by far my best work when I started school. Right: a recent poster design that I created in about a quarter of the time I spent on the Dr.No poster.

I went to school at Full Sail, and the decision was primarily motivated by three factors: One, I could get my bachelors in a 2 years. Two, the cost of living is significantly lower in FL. Three, I was offered a 40k scholarship. The school itself was somewhat of a letdown, which I will probably discuss in detail some other time once I have gathered my thoughts. Suffice it to say that Full Sail’s design faculty are a great group of people working very hard in a school system that is fundamentally broken. At Full Sail you are given a lot of assignments to do in a very short amount of time, but the grading rubrics are set up in a way that it is easy to get good grades regardless of quality. Instructors are clearly being discourages to fail students. I realized very quickly that I was going to have to learn to be objective and assess my own work. 

I decided very early on that school was just a piece of developing my creative career and I was going to have to set my own standards and develop my own projects. At any given time in the last two years I have had at least two personal projects that I have been working on in addition to my school work. This allowed me to try a lot of different things and really work on my time management. A lot of these projects weren’t very good, many of them were in a style that I don’t plan on exploring, or a medium I no longer want to work in. But every single one helped me grow and find direction.

There is a saying in business ventures “Fail fast and fail cheap”. School is really the perfect time for that. 

These projects weren’t all failures either, when I was building my portfolio towards the end of school only one of six project was for school, the rest were all personal projects.   

By the end of my time at Full Sail University I had about 12 finished sketchbooks, a portfolio, a new website, and two dresser drawers FULL of 11x17 pages of loose artwork, ink textures, and life drawings.

My diploma is just another piece of paper but that pile of artwork is an accomplishment.

Self-Censorship.

Being a creative professional means that you have to be very aware of how you present yourself on social media. This is true for most responsible adults as well, but if you are a creative professional social media can define your brand. If you are trolling in one tweet, and asking people to look at your work in the next tweet, it’s safe to say that your creative career will not go far. 

Generally speaking, most people try to present themselves as hard-working optimistic people. I think this is overall a good thing. There is already more than enough hatred  and ignorance being dumped on cyberspace.

I would hope that for most people it doesn’t take effort to just not be jerk on the internet. However, sometimes in pursuit of being kind we hesitate to express ourselves for fear of being perceived as negative. Where does one draw the line? Do you want to work for Warner Bros? Then maybe you shouldn’t rant about Batman V. Superman?  

Of course whether or not you decide to mock Zack Snyder’s abilities as a director probably isn’t THAT important relatively speaking. This issue of self-censorship really becomes a problem when you get into political, environment, and social issues. On the simplest level, expressing yourself can result in those with conflicting beliefs to stop supporting you. This may not be so bad in some cases, as I would rather have one less follower than interact with some mysoginist. This does become a little more complicated when you want to be seen as a positive person. If you are constantly expressing your distaste for Donald Trump, even the staunchest anti-trumpper would grow tired of your rantings. 

Still, it is extremely important to express yourself. If people didn’t talk about politics or social issues nothing would ever get done. Fear of losing followers, offending people, or coming off as negative could be stunting our growth as a creative community and a society. 

I think it is very possible to express yourself and retain a positive image. First, it is all about balance, people want to be delighted by social media not berated so maybe limit your rants and balance your critiques with fun or humorous content. Most importantly, be creative with your social/political commentary!

YOU ARE AN ARTIST, FIND A WAY TO EXPRESS YOURSELF ARTISTICALLY. Don’t like Trump? That’s great, but don’t just say “Trump Sux”, create something that will help your audience understand why Trump sucks.

There is a very real opportunity here to express yourself and delight people with your content. The best case scenario of expressing yourself on social media is not gaining followers but finding a way to effect how people think about a social or political issue.

I am a straight edge, vegetarian, socialist, art snob, punk rock, agnostic, green party member, and illustrator. Casually discussing my day can be a minefield of controversy. It’s important to express myself and it is something that has been lacking in my work lately. Last week after having a discussion about gun-control with a friend of min a created this:

While this may not delight my audience, I hope people can find value in the way the message is presented. It’s blunt, but not abusive and I hope it will get people to think about this issue. More importantly, it feels great to express myself regarding an issue that I think is very important. 

How do you feel about self-censorship in the art community? Comment below!

BE ORIGINAL.

I’m getting ready to move, which means going through all my old work. I actually threw out quite a bit, but there is still a sizable box of paper and sketchbooks that I have produced over the last 2 years. For me, filling a huge box with completed sketchbooks and art is a bigger accomplishment than my Bachelors degree, but that’s another subject for another time. What I wanted to talk about today is original work.

I’m a total media junkie. I LOVE movies, music, and comics. I love experiencing art created by other people. I’m an obsessive nerd who has amassed a sizable collection of comics, blu-rays, and records. This stuff is a big part of my life and it is only natural that it comes out in my work, but as I was looking through my sketchbooks I noticed that it has taken over probably too much of my work. I don’t think “fan art” isn’t art, or that it doesn’t have value, but part of being creative is creating; creating something new out of nothing. 

I haven’t completely abandoned creating original  content, but most of what I have made over the last few years has been very strategic. I’ve sketched characters for comic projects, and created stories for animation pitches, but I haven’t been very spontaneous. When I think back to a time when I wasn’t taking art very seriously I used to draw a lot more abstract images, things that I created spontaneously to express an idea, even if that idea was just “look at this cool thing”. I think my work is missing a little bit of this creative spark and I tried to reintroduce it this week with this piece:

Over the last year or so I’ve read the Bhagavad Gita at least 3 or 4 times. It’s a very interesting book, and one that has helped me take deal with my stress and anxieties. Among the many ideas presented  in the book is the idea of all life being interconnected, a concept that has always fascinated me. It’s a simple Idea, but one that I wanted to express in a modern context. I also wanted to avoid the cliche imagery that is usually associated with eastern philosophy here in the west. 

I found this project very fulfilling creatively, and I would really like to push myself to create more conceptual work like this. 

FOCUS!

I recently finished school and completed my degree in Digital Art & Design. Certainly a cause for celebration, but I found the situation more difficult than I had initially anticipated. Searching through job applications I didn't see much of a market for what I could do and it was frustrating, I felt like I needed to completely remake my portfolio to include work that was “cuter” or utilizing more photography, more ui/ux work, etc. The experience of my expectations colliding head-on with reality shattered me for a few days. I'm more or less on the other side of this anxiety now, and working through it has given me a lot of perspective.

I spent the last few years studying art and design at school and learning storyboards in my spare time. I began to develop two different portfolios which isn't necessarily a bad thing, but it was pulling me in two different directions. Towards the end of school I thought I would focus on storyboards, but that decision was probably motivated by my current distaste for the school I was attending. Despite my efforts to focus on story art, by the time I was graduating and putting together my portfolio I found that most of my best work was illustration and design.

I think a HUGE part of success as an artist is focus, not just in process but also in style. If you go to your favorite artist's instagram right now and look at their profile from a distance it all looks like one thing. It's clear to anyone what they do. I don't have that. I was already doing too much, and I was letting fear make me feel like I needed to do even more. I knew I had some serious thinking to do, it was time to stop, think, and choose ONE direction. I began by asking myself a lot of questions including:

What are my strengths?

What are my weaknesses?

What do I create in my free time?

What are my best portfolio pieces?

Where would I like to be in 5 years? Creatively? Financially? Geographically?

Taking the time to really think about this stuff made me feel a lot better, and for the first time in my life I think that I have a clear idea of what I want. I know that being a freelance illustrator and designer is really the best path for me. I'm still going to look for in-house jobs, but I know that my goal is to increase the amount of freelance work that I do until I can sustain myself with just freelance. I also found a lot of direction stylistically that I won't go into right now. I'm still feeling a little stressed, but I have piece of mind.

I used my newfound focus to make a long form career “to do” list. This is a list of everything I feel that I need to do over the next few months to be successful and start my career off right. I made a plan for how I want to divide my time and what my workday will look like. As I was writing out my plan I thought it would be cool to design it in a poster and print it out to hang in my work area. This is what I came up with.