Vikings and Skillshare

Another week, another silly colored pencil entry for Illustration Friday.

This week’s subject is “Viking” and there have been lots of entries based on the stereotypical horned helmets and women with long, blonde plaits. I actually did a tiny bit of research and found that the horned helmet thing is a myth. The Vikings battled by forming a wall of overlapping shields and if you wear horned helmets in that situation you are likely to gouge the taller guy next to you!

So my kitty is in a longboat, eating fish and wearing a typical Viking helmet. Yay, research!

Photo Aug 03, 11 09 49 PM

I’ve had an idea in my head for the last couple of IF challenges that I haven’t been able to manifest (I’m still fighting off the tail end of this cold, ugh), but I found a class on Skillshare that I think is going to help me get it done. What’s Skillshare, you ask? It’s a great website full of instructional videos taught by some pretty big names. And, of course, it’s not just for artists, they have classes for everythingDesign, photography, business, film, technology, fashion, music, gaming, culinary arts, writing, crafts and “lifestyle” (for every class that doesn’t fit elsewhere, I guess). Check it out. There’s lots to look at without signing up, and if you do sign up via that link you get the first 3 months for $0.99 and I get a month free. Win-win!


It’s a Trap!

Another week, another submission for Illustration Friday. Which is great, I’m happy that I am at least creating art once a week! This week my idea of creating a lion in a cage using layers of colored pencil drawings was much too ambitious for a busy week when I also have not been feeling well, so I scaled it waaaaay back. And didn’t tinker with it at all once it was in a completed state. This is unusual for me as I always catch things when I take a photo of my art and then edit it. This time I saw stuff, but I just didn’t have time to futz with it. Viva la mistakes… or something.

trapped_cool trapped_warm

I am still struggling with reproducing my work online. Scanning this piece didn’t work because of the 3D layers. But as you can see above, my phone could not decide how to interpret the colors. These are unfiltered pictures taken in the same spot at the same time of day with no change to the lighting!

Now I’m off to post it before the clock turns to midnight.

Viva la mistakes!

Stomach Pains

This week’s Illustration Friday topic is “Stomach.”

I have to admit, when I first read the topic, I thought about skipping a week. But I am blogging to push myself to create art, and so far it is working. I thought about picking my own subject, or just working on some project I had already been thinking about.

But first I thought I’d just fire up Adobe Illustrator and see what would happen. And what happened was, I had fun. Not being particularly inspired by the week’s topic also meant that I didn’t go in with high expectations and I allowed myself to just play. I played with color and pattern and brushstrokes to my heart’s content. And when I stepped away, I realized I had a piece that said something. Without intention, I created artwork with a point of view. This is totally new for me.

Anyway, here she is:

Artboard 1

The Struggle to Party is Real

Artist’s can’t really afford to be perfectionists. When we only allow ourselves to be perfect, we run the risk of never producing anything at all. This is what I am telling myself.

Photo Jul 13, 3 29 41 PM

I really didn’t want to post the drawing I did for this week’s Illustration Friday theme “Party” (above). I am my mother’s daughter and therefore I am fighting back the urge to tell you every single thing that is wrong with it. I tried to fix some mistakes in a way that only made the situation worse. I thought many times I should scrap it and start over only to hear the baby crying in the other room and realize I really ought to thank my lucky stars I finished anything at all. So here it is, warts and all.

The whole point of this blog is to get me to push through the tough part of being an artist.

Things I Learned From a Shark

For this week’s Illustration Friday I am working on a colored pencil drawing of a shark (IF post to follow soon). I learned a few things while working on this drawing and I want to preserve them here for future reference:

  • My scanner (in .jpg mode at least) does not create as accurate a picture as just taking a snapshot of my piece with my iPhone. This presents a small problem as I have very shaky hands, but the scanned image had more blurring than the pic!
  • Many of the lessons learned in oil painting class can be applied to colored pencil work. Activate with color. Too much layering can create muddy color. Etc.
  • Creating the look of light on a surface underwater is hard and reference photos don’t help as much as you want them to.
  • Last and far from least: getting work done is better than aiming for perfect and, as a consequence, not finishing.

Any tips for capturing underwater light patterns without it looking like leopard print? Any tips for scanning or photographing art? Leave me a comment!

Looking for Like-minded People to Conquer the World

Still Life with Olive Oil

Conquering the world one bottle of olive oil at a time…

Okay, not really. I’m looking for illustration and art blogs. This should be easy, right? I have found quite a lot of artists I admire, but none who seem to write about their process. Even if they don’t write about making art, though, I would like to get updates when they post new work, but most don’t seem to have any easy way to follow their blog.

I have found Illustration Age and Painters’ Table but I would like to follow individual artists and designers — to create an online art commune where we can support each other, and maybe even ask each other for feedback.

Am I seeking something that isn’t possible? Should I rely upon those artists I have met through college courses? I’m not sure. But maybe it is time that I try to hook up with illustrators on Twitter. I follow several children’s book illustrators already and they often link to great articles.

Do you have any sites to suggest? Do you yourself have an art blog? Let me know in comments!

Friday Starts at Midnight

Have you ever heard of Illustration Friday? I have been getting their emails for over a year, always promising myself that once I put up a gallery on a website I would participate. Well, I started a blog about art. There’s a gallery here. I can do this!

Last week’s subject was Yarn and since my wife is an avid crocheter, I couldn’t wait to work something up to submit. I started a couple of digital pieces, but nothing was really clicking. Finally, I grabbed some of the supplies I recently acquired and started to draw by hand. And, I liked it. It wasn’t perfect, but I liked its imperfections. It was almost done late Thursday night so I decided to stop for the evening and finish it up and post it the next day. You know, Illustration Friday. Except…. Before I crawled into bed, I hit reload on the submissions page to see what else had come in, and suddenly there were no pictures of yarn. Apparently the subject of Yarn had been posted the previous Friday and the instructions clearly state you have one week to complete your entry. Whoops! I missed the deadline.

Here’s my poor, abandoned Yarn art:


So this week, I thought I’d try to get it done a bit earlier. And here it is Saturday and I am done already, yay! The subject is Vintage, and this is what I worked up (any feedback is welcome):


A Life Left Blank.


A friend of my wife’s family, a woman that was in her mother’s tight circle of friends in school, passed away recently. Forgive me for saying this, but she was not an easy person to love — partially because she’d had a hard knock life and partially because her world was skewed by mental illness. It was hard to talk to her for any amount of time without her feeling slighted. Sometimes those misinterpreted slights grew into grand conspiracies in her mind. No one was safe to her. Any person who loved her was just another person who was going to betray her eventually. Near the end, she even believed her dearest friend, who paid for her apartment so that she could live relatively independently despite her illnesses and a paltry sum from disability, was going to evict her after decades of this living arrangement.

She lived nearby and she and I had things in common. She loved computers and art and even spoke some German (certainly more than I had retained since my four years of high school German). For a short period of time we tried, despite our differences, to make these commonalities into a friendship. But, like I said, she was not an easy person to love, and so I failed to make the leap from family obligation to friendship. A couple of years ago, after a particularly nasty argument about another family member, I stopped engaging with her altogether.

But last week she passed away and this week my father-in-law asked me to help sort through her art supplies, saying that he didn’t know what was valuable and what was trash, and might I be able to donate the good stuff to my school? Of course I was happy to help, but I didn’t really realize what I was getting myself into. In fact, I thought to myself on the way to her apartment that I was thankful that I was emotionally removed from her passing so that I could complete this task efficiently, without a heavy heart.

As I dug through three small bookcases filled with supplies, I was astounded. Every supply seemed to be of very high quality; she had spared no expense. But pad after pad of expensive, textured paper was untouched. There are at least a dozen pads of watercolor paper that were still wrapped in plastic. The pastels and colored pencils don’t show any signs of wear. As I unearthed more and more supplies, all still nestled safely in their potential, I began to quake. Here was a woman who considered herself an artist, who was very serious about the pursuit of art, who wasn’t actually doing any art. After looking through most of her supplies, I found only one set of thumbnail sketches and one plan based off those sketches for a watercolor painting, set out on tracing paper. It knocked me on my heels. I thought of all of her potential, wasted. And then I thought off all the supplies in my office that have been shoved away since the office remodel last year (and further shoved away when the remodel was abandoned for work on our nursery and then just plain baby craziness).

I have a feeling that our family friend was crippled by her fear of imperfection; I know she had talent, but all she saw in the few works she showed me over the years were the flaws. I don’t want to say I identify with that, but I do, I do. I have an instructor who once told my fellow students that at the end of class that day we were going to throw our canvases in the trash. Some students got disheartened and didn’t try very hard, but others pushed themselves to new limits because they felt free to “get it wrong.”

So, if you’re reading this (and I’m not sure anyone ever will at this point), go get out those art supplies and be imperfect! Art is created in imperfection. Art is imperfection.


Artist’s Block

I think artist’s block, for me, might be a different thing than writer’s block (which I’ve had and I would guess anyone who has gotten paid to write has had at some point). Or maybe it’s just that I am so desperately out of practice. Wait. Let me back up.

Yesterday I had time (granted to me by my totally amazing wife) to work on a painting. I really hadn’t painted anything since the mural in our baby’s nursery. Due to a recent remodel of my office/art studio, I first had to dig out my painting supplies. Once that was accomplished, I looked at the time I had left and I made the decision to paint with acrylics rather than oil.

I knew I wanted to further explore a type of painting I’d done while taking my Design class (two years ago — time flies). I called this piece Rick’s Chair, because it was inspired by Richard Diebenkorn:


It’s not a masterpiece, but I liked it’s rough lines and restricted color palette and it was even accepted into a juried student show. I’ve been wanting to try more “in that vein” ever since I painted it. A photograph of two of my cats cuddled in the sun seemed like a possible subject. Saccharine, for sure, but there was something about the quality of light that I liked. I thought I could work with it.

sunbeam brothers

Maybe I could work with it… if I was not so out of practice! I stumbled right out of the gate because I tried to duplicate this amazing purple that was in the photo rather than choosing and sticking to a limited palette. I failed to ever get close to that color (I perhaps lack the right blue). Then I found myself falling back into pre-art major habits, like generalizing (“I know I am painting a stripey cat’s fur, therefore I must make stripes with short strokes to represent the fur!”) and, on a related note, not looking at the source material but painting what I think it looks like. I had only gotten a third of a small canvas covered when I felt it was time to throw in the towel.

So, here’s my theory: when you have writer’s block, you are stuck. You can’t get anything on the page. But when you have artist’s block, you get things on the page, but you hate it — everything feels wrong. I know the only way to get through writer’s block for me is to talk it out. I will literally talk out loud about what I want to write and just keep talking and talking until something clicks and I run to my computer to start writing. With artist’s block, I think I just have to force myself to put some marks on a surface. A little bit of art each day and all those bad habits will fall away and allow me to express myself the way I want to. I guess that’s why I started this blog in the first place, to get me working on art every day. So far, so good, even if the result was ugly.

Do you ever get artist’s block? If so, what do you do to get over it?