The Quiet Delight in Having Fun

I’ve been a little quiet these last few weeks. Part of the reason is that my delightful, endlessly rewarding and challenging project, “CC:Otherworlds” ended. And I took a little bit of time to recover from it– for all that I loved the snot out of it, it was a year long project with very little room for error, and we shipped every single fortnight without delay or issue, a thing I’m exceptionally proud of!

The other reason I’ve been quiet is… that I’m taking a little time to reevaluate the way I approach some of my art.

I’ve been doing a lot of projects. Projects I’m proud of! I just finished up CC:Otherworlds, I’m starting the process of revamping this website and updating the art in the portfolio, I’m working on a short comic, “Boneflower,” and I have a half dozen other project ideas in the wings. These are all lovely, beautiful, amazing things I’m excited to be working on.

But they’re also all projects.

In this day of instagram and blog posts and newsletters… it’s no longer natural to make things that aren’t for immediate consumption– I post sketches to my instagram regularly, and show my process here as well as there, because it’s enjoyable to do so! I love sharing my work. But that also means that I feel an (internal) sense of pressure to make all these aspects of art-making ‘pretty’ and easy to digest. Sometimes art is UGLY, guys. Sometimes it’s so, so ugly. And it doesn’t work out right. And it’s uncomfortable.

I’m forgetting how to do art just for me. Art that’s utterly, unquestionably, unselfconsciously exploratory. And that scares the snot out of me.

So I’m going to make some ugly, ugly shit. 🙂

In fact, I have an entire notebook now, that I call my “Ugly Secret Art” notebook. I even painted that across the cover. Even that part of it is ugly! This is my place to draw whatever random doodles I want, scribble, paint with my thumbs, and do collage.

And I’m not going to share it with you.

😉

Scandalous, right?

Don’t worry, my projects haven’t gone away (in fact, Boneflower is completely storyboarded, now, and I’m going to begin the drawing and inking phases in October, and I’m working on an exciting illustration project I’ll be able to tell you more about in October, too). But I am taking September at a slower pace. I want to make sure art always and forever remains FUN. 😀

So join me on this quest for fun! Pick a notebook out, make it special and secret, and make some god damned ugly art!

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Mobile Art Rig

Now that I’ve gotten the taste for plein air painting, I’m starting to refine my technique for going on the adventures themselves. The first time I went out, two weekends ago, I had to stuff my entire pochade box into my backpack– it worked, but it wasn’t elegant, and it made biking a bit uncomfortable as the whole thing was knobby.

This past weekend I went out on Saturday, and I got a little smarter about it. I borrowed my roommate’s fancier bike side-bag– one of those lovely clip-on types. The entire pochade box fits in, which means I don’t have to bring a backpack at all– much more pleasant biking!

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This was in Tenny Park in Madison. I hunkered down in the dwindling shade to paint a neat stone bridge. The painting itself wasn’t a particularly amazing result, but every time I go out, I feel like I learn something. And if that’s not fantastic, I don’t know what is.

Do I plan on going back out next weekend? Why yes, yes I do. 🙂

The Balancing Act

It’s true for me, and I think it’s likely true for the entirety of humanity, that the hardest part of life is achieving balance between who we want to be, and who we are being.

I struggled with writing this blog post for awhile. I was afraid that if it wasn’t “puppies and kittens and magical art excitement” it wouldn’t have value. This is my art blog, after all. I should blog about art. But art is life.

Right now for me balance is hard. I’ve joked the last few months that my life goal is to become an Art Jedi (I am, and always will be, a consummate Star Wars fan). Something about the fictional idea of monks in pursuit of higher understanding (in my case, in pursuit of Pure Artness) is deeply appealing. Of course I want to be the sort of person who wakes up, meditates, and spends hour after hour in deep, meaningful art practice. I mean, when you put it that way, who wouldn’t, right?

Except I’m not an Art Jedi. And Jedi are fictional. And the sacrifices I would have to make in order to achieve Art Monk-status would be extreme.

I have a full time job unrelated to my art, a cat who I love spending time with, a garden I’m excited to start, and a host of amazing friends. I also enjoy writing, reading, and playing Pokemon, and I’m about to embark on a 2-week challenge where I only eat home cooked food.

This is my life as I’m leading it: not an Art Jedi.

This morning I didn’t get up and meditate and then spend hour after hour making deep, meaningful art. I got up, played with my cat, made banana-egg pancakes and started making sourdough bread.

But it’s still a good life, and I still make art (in fact, I’m working on my CC:Otherworld’s painting for this fortnight, and spoiler alert, but there are mermaids), and being an Art Jedi still lives in the back of my mind, whispering, “someday.”

Balance. (Easier said than done).

Your turn: Do you struggle balancing the platonic ideal you strive for with the life you actually live? What have you done to reconcile the disconnect?

I Moved! + Reveal of the Wacom Cintiq

Did you miss me?

Over the last month I moved out of an apartment, and into a house. It’s been a phenomenal move, but it meant that for a few weeks my art setup was chaotic while I packed everything up… and then for a few weeks it was chaotic while I got everything unpacked. BUT the hard work is complete, and I’m more than ready to be back in the saddle.

Want to hear about the Most Exciting Thing (ever)? You may remember me referencing this in my last post, where I built a new art computer.

(Drum roll please…)

I am now the delighted owner of a (used) Wacom Cintiq!

I’ve been using digital drawing tablets since high school, and Wacom is the king of the mountain when it comes to the technology. But they don’t do it cheap (at all. At ALL.) and they know how good they are. Which means that a Cintiq model was something I never seriously considered, it was just so far out of my price range.

(For those not in the know, the Cintiq model of drawing tablet not only has useful buttons, and an incredibly pressure sensitive surface… it has a display surface you draw directly on, and is the most ‘like’ traditional media drawing you can get while going digital. It’s really cool!)

And then suddenly a local friend of mine (and FANTASTIC artist) Rhea Ewing was selling their used model, as they’d upgraded to the latest version of Cintiq.

I dithered about it for a long time, and I talked it over with a particular group of online friends, who all agreed that while it was extremely nice, I probably didn’t ‘need’ it and saving money was a good plan since I was in the middle of a move. So I resigned myself to getting alone with my perfectly fine tablet, and leaving visions of the Cintiq to ‘someday.’

(Bet you weren’t expecting this story to go this direction.)

(Drum roll please…)

And then that group of friends sent me a letter full of very lovely words. And in that letter was money to buy the used Cintiq. I was speechless (and still am, a bit.)

My first act on this fantastic piece of art equipment was to doodle them all a thank you.

Sometimes the universe tells you to do a thing, go a direction, make a choice. Sometimes your friends do. And in that situation, you listen to the damned message. I am still stunned, and humbled, and exceptionally grateful.

But I bet you really just wanted to see a picture of it, didn’t you. 😉 This is it!

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Art space in the new place is my bedroom. Don’t mind the random cat toys!

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Working on the Cintiq is not only super functional, it’s FUN.

I have a lot of learning curve to figure out on this machine, and (sadly) it doesn’t magically transform my art into Michelangelo status. But it’s great to work on, and I feel a lot more connected with the art I make digitally.

Thanks for reading!

And From the Motherboard Ashes… (An Art Computer is Born!)

You may recall in my last post that my computer decided to give up the ghost.  It is still dead, and did not magically return from beyond the grave.

Remember, too, that pile of boxes containing computer parts…?

(Pictured: a cute case, the motherboard, the CPU, the power supply, a 120 SSD hard drive, 16 gigs of RAM, a box of speakers, and a keyboard and mouse.)

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That turned into this:

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(Pictured: a half-filled computer case, with the motherboard, CPU, and other fiddly bits still outside the case)

Which eventually turned into a computer!

Several friends and youtube videos were consulted as I started putting together a computer for the first time, and I would have been sunk without them. But other than the learning curve, once you get going it’s not bad. It’s shocking (or not, rather, as I went to great lengths to avoid static electricity that might fry the delicate components during this!) that you can put together a computer with nothing more than a screw driver!

Attempt #1 at building a computer… was a failure. Lights and fans were a go, but no life once plugged into a monitor, and I began wondering if I’d made a horrible mistake by undertaking this plan. Computers are fussy little things, and when they don’t work, it’s hard to tell if it’s because something’s unplugged somewhere, or because you fried the CPU!

So I put it away for the day and took it apart and tried again the next day.

Luckily, attempt #2 the following night (during, I might add, a thunderstorm*) was a home run. 🙂

Check it out!

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(Pictured: a computer with the sides and top of the case still pulled off, but fully functional)

That, right there, is a working computer. 🙂

As of this morning, said cute little box of wires and plastic and metal (and cords. So many cords) is running Windows 10 and has my CS6 version of Photoshop installed and running like a dream.

Despite some worries and concerns and a few minor hiccups, operation Build a New Art Computer has (so far) been a total success. I have a computer with 16 gigs of RAM, ready to take on any Photoshop file I throw at it.

I can’t wait to dig in again. I’ve been without an art computer for 2 weeks now, and have missed it.I love drawing by hand and painting with traditional media, but sometimes the answer is to have as many options at your disposal as possible.

PS,

There’s going to be a 3rd installation to this story, very likely in the next week or so, about a very cool piece of technology I’m planning on acquiring…

Curious?

Stay tuned!

PPS,

This entry wouldn’t be complete without a mention of the cat assistance I was rendered during this build. Curious Georgia loves new things to explore with her entire body, and this computer was no different. In addition to my quest to make sure I was safely discharging static electricity before touching any of the components, I also quested– endlessly and fruitlessly– to remove stray cat hairs. 😉

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(Pictured: A cat doing what cats do best: sitting on things you don’t really want them to be sitting on)

Footnote:

* Thunderstorm, new life… is it any surprise I named the computer Frankie? 😉

A Game of 20 Questions…

Or maybe not 20. But some questions, nonetheless!

While I was talking about my most recent CC:Otherworlds illustration, and mentioning that I go about things a bit backwards from a lot of artists, starting in Photoshop and ending in traditional media, a friend recently asked me for an explanation of my typical art process. I thought I’d share some of the answers. 🙂

These examples are from my most recent CC:Otherworlds illustration. The prompt for that fortnight (#13) was “Unravel.”

  1. I typically start out with a really rough thumbnail sketch done in pencil or ink. And by rough, I mean *rough.* Things things ain’t pretty. Example: IMG_20170301_061620
  2. This little sketchy stage doesn’t last too long, though. Next, I bring the entire thing into Photoshop. I don’t usually even bother to scan my doodle– a cell phone pic works just fine, since I’m not interested in preserving any of its ~beauty~ just its rough content.
  3. Once in Photoshop, I rough-out a layout and composition. This doesn’t need to be perfect, but the ‘big ideas’ need to be hashed out. Where will the figures be? What is at the center? What aspects of “flow” are in place to make sure the viewer sees what I want them to see when they look at it? Also in this phase I do some color studies, and get a general feel for what direction I’ll take the painting once I do it for real. A thing that is sometimes confusing is that all of this? Just prep work. None of this will be in the final painting. Screen Shot 2017-03-02 at 7.46.41 PM
  4. But now I have to get this entirely digital image… and make it into a traditional media painting! That means transferring it onto paper… It’s not as complicated as it seems. 🙂 I just print off the line drawing at the correct scale, and tape it to the back of my watercolor paper of choice (in this case, a hotpress 140lb paper that’s lovely and smooth) and trace over my computer sketch with pencil.
  5.  After that, it’s just a matter of painting. For this piece I used watercolors and colored pencils. IMG_20170309_061625
  6. And here’s the final painting! CCO13 - Unravel Final

Do you have any questions about my general process, or how I do things? Let me know! I LOVE answering questions and talking about art. 🙂

Thanks for reading!