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Similar Deviations
Someone just linked me to this image (even featured my artbook cover in it) this morning and I thought it spoke to what i've dealt with my entire career.

Try to embrace what makes you different, even if it makes others uncomfortable. 
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Like our artwork, getting better at critique takes practice! First let’s look at the definitions of a critique:

A detailed analysis and assessment of something, esp. a literary, philosophical, or political theory. –Google Dictionary
A method of disciplined, systematic analysis of a written or oral discourse. - Wikipedia
A careful judgment in which you give your opinion about the good and bad parts of something (such as a piece of writing or a work of art) – Merriam-Webster Dictionary

So, in layman’s terms, a critique is a careful assessment, a detailed observation, an objective analysis. Sounds really egg heady doesn’t it? Well, it doesn’t have to be! The simplest way to start off learning how to critique is by conducting a formal analysis. Sounds uber smancy huh? A formal analysis is a careful and thorough observation of an artwork. A formal analysis is totally objective, it considers the formal properties of the artwork. The formal art elements are as follows:             

    ·      Line    
    ·      Shape and form                   
    ·      Space             
    ·      Color
    ·      Texture

When conducting a formal analysis, think of each of those things. Here are some examples of different images that I’ve analyzed:


 The Head of Acheloos (Etruscan), 6th Century, B.C.E 

 The head which is the main piece of this pendant is anthropomorphic, meaning that it has human features as well as animal parts; in this case bull horns and ears. There is fine detail in the curls of the hair and the beard. Although the beard and hair are very detailed they are also very unrealistic, or stylized. Since the hair is so stylized, we can tell that this pendant is definitely a face. Perhaps all of this detail is put into the pendant because it is only meant to be seen from the frontal view. The face is stylized as well, not revealing any individuality about this person. Considering that this is a jewelry piece, and that it is made of gold, it could be likely that it depicts, and, or was owned by a ruler. 

Justinian and His Attendants (Early Byzantine). Church of San Vitale, Ravenna, Italy 547
This piece is a mosaic from the Church of San Vitale in Ravenna, Italy. Justinian attempted to unite the Western and Eastern Empires of the Roman Empire, and he also established the “Corpus Juris Civilis” or “Body of Civil Law” which is still used today. Justinian is shown holding a loaf of bread that is part of Communion. The bread is a symbol of Christ’s body that was broken for the sins of the world. All of the figures portrayed are at level height with Justianian and are also symbolically representing Christ and the 12 Apostles. There is some individuality displayed in the faces of the clergy and the military attendants with the use of facial hair or the lack thereof. Justinian is clothed in a purple toga. Purple and royal Blue are colors used to symbolize royalty or authority. Although there is unity in the height of the figures, Justinian who is placed at the center, is the focal point. The horizontal lines created by the sameness in height make this piece easy to interpret. The goal of this work was to represent Justinian as a role model for the people he reigned over (essentially a propaganda image).
Saint Sernin (Romanesque) Toulouse, France 1070-1120
The Church of Saint Sernin is often called a basilica although it does not follow the plan of basilica churches. The plan of this church was also used in the building of cathedral of Santiago de Compostela, a famous pilgrimage church in Spain. The central nave of the church is barrel vaulted and is supported by buttresses on the outside. The ceilings are vaulted and it makes use of radiating chapels as well to display relics. Saint Sernin gained a lot of its recognition after Charlemagne donated numerous relics to the church which made the church a “pilgrimage site”. In addition to the various relics held within, many saints were buried within the crypt of the church as well.


George Lepape, Les choses de Paul Poiret V (Fashion Illustration), 1911
All of the forms, including the figures, have been simplified into basic recognizable shapes and filled with flat color and contained with an outline. These two facts are indicative of the influence of Asian art (particularly Japanese woodblock prints) during the late 19th century.
The color palette also deviates from a natural scheme and appears to be Japanese inspired as well. However, there is a sense of depth in the floor tiles of the patio as well as the darkened background against the night sky. Since the background is a deep indigo, the figures easily pop forward though they are not situated in the center of the picture plane. The figures are not facing the viewer, so even more attention is drawn to their clothing.
Altogether, the color scheme, simplified rendering of figures and objects, and lack of direct narrative tell us that this is a very “modern” image. The avant-garde aspect of this image is apparent in its simplicity (compared to other “traditional” western artwork of the day) but mainly in the clothing of the women. The dress of the women is relaxed, lacking hoopskirts, or the addition of a bustle. There are small accents of embellishment in printed pattern rather than beading or other sewn elements. The women appear to be excitedly viewing fireworks, and though there is a hint of “nightlife” there is no vast city or architecture in the background. There is a sense of the sublime calm of nature rather than the congested energy of the city.

On average, a person will spend four seconds looking at a piece of art in a gallery. Formal analysis will not only help you become a better observer of artwork, it will help you get better at looking at artwork critically too. Also, describing an artwork through detailed observation will help you become more objective and less subjective about critiquing artwork. Often times the idea of critique is that it is a personal opinion of a piece of art (and we’ll very often see personal tastes expressed in articles represented as “critiques” in the mass media these days). Learning to see rather than look is also a useful skill for a visual artist, and you’ll be able to pick up more about an artwork.


If you're looking for ways to up your critique game, consider trying out formal analysis!
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With this online art community, we have a unique opportunity to connect with our kindred. We must avail ourselves of this experience, for, once it's gone, it may never come again.


It's important to USE color, not just apply it to your art.  Sometimes we overlook the role color plays in our illustration, particularly when it comes to sequential art.  Comic books.  Storytelling.  It's not just for making the picture pretty.  Over on Facebook earlier today, this topic came up in conversation with a good friend.  I thought I might share an excerpt with you here on DA, inviting, as always, your comments as well. 

OBSERVATION #8 -  The Benefits of an Effective Use of Monochromatic Palettes -

Monochromatic schemes are a very effective option, not just for the sake of beautiful art, but for the sake of higher-level storytelling. Color is as important an element as all the other steps, and it must share in the responsibility of telling a story well, helping to set mood, and helping to guide the reader's eye to what is most important. This is true as well in film, and it's becoming more and more prevalent and facile these days, thanks to the computer. A director is able to have a scene, shot in normal color, digitally tinted in order to better emphasize the "temperature" he wants in that scene. Or perhaps he wants to change it to appear as a night scene. In sci-fi, this process has been used to make Earthly set locations appear as if actually shot on other planets (Please see: PITCH BLACK, and RED PLANET).

If you are depicting a scene inside a house engulfed in flames, monochromatic schemes are definitely beneficial in making everything appear hotter. A green shirt a person is wearing would no longer look green at all because of the intense orange light.

If your disapproval is a matter of mastering the technique, the computer is a great help. Color a scene the way you would ordinarily, and then add a new layer on top, a single vibrant color. Then adjust the opacity so that it acts as a filter to the layers beneath. You'll notice how all the regular colors become altered.

If it's a matter of taste, then I might ask you to look at the beautiful and amazing examples of art, photography, and film that are out there wherein color is masterfully utilized as an element of sophisticated mood, rather than an unrestrained exercise in rainbow crayons. You know that I know whereof I speak, since I have posted samples of my early attempts at color. I began as most do, burdened by a childish and literal sense. Anything brown must always be brown, or red, or blue, and so on. But as I was exposed to more and more great art, as I grew in knowledge, experience, and understanding, I was able to better appreciate the variety of tools and methods available to the artist. Color is only one of these. But it is a very powerful tool, and it has many uses. It can make or break your drawing. It can enhance one's artwork greatly, concealing a multitude of sins. And it can wreck what could have been a masterpiece, revealing one's utter lack of creativity.
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Greetings Concepteez!

Apologies for missing out on the CritStop last week. I was at a weekend long concept-design workshop which didn't leave me with much time to do a post. 

I might run down some of the things we did in the workshop in a future post,  but this week I thought I would do something a little bit different.  I have been getting quite a few queries over the last few weeks about making the choice between formal training courses such as university or college over that of self-teaching and using online resources and short courses.  One of these was Nyte-Tyme who wrote: 
"I mentioned before that I am currently attending a school called ------- University. So far, my first semester of a Junior year here has been bad. Art history classes (which I think are somewhat necessary) a Physics of Light and Color class. A web design class and a video and audio class which was essentially a film class after awhile. But I've been recently looking into CGMA and have been hearing how useful it is for people not on the coast. The classes look wonderful, pricy, but great, and I think I would be far happier doing those assignments than writing an essay. 
This is not a cut and dry decision, it feels like to me. Drop the opportunity to finish out my school in another year and a half? Or roll the dice and throw myself into CGMA, paying my way through it by any means possible?"

This seems to be a common issue that many people struggle with when first starting on the journey, and even while already under way like Nyte-Tyme is.   I did respond to his message specifically but I hope that by running through some of the things I mentioned to help frame the basic issue, it might help others in this group going through something similar to think about and make their own decisions. 

There has been a blog post in the last year where a certain artist was having a bit of a rant about the horrors of Art School and how to never go. I have seen this particular post shared by hundreds of people as sage advice, and this black and white view concerns me a little bit.  Before I begin I will say up front that never in this post will I recommend one way as better over the other.  Yep, sorry, no easily digestible answers for you unfortunately! 

There is a reason for this; the world is not that black and white and neither are people or their situations. What will work for one may not work for another and making a decision like this is a choice that you will ultimately have to make yourself as you know your situation and yourself best. Rather than try and convince you of the one right way to do it, the best I can hope for is to outline some of the issues to think about that seem to come up a lot for people going to school as well as what I have personally found so far on my own two year journey of self teaching.

I will start with some basic pro and con lists for both in general, but in the end I will give you the two main things that will work for you no matter what you decide to do.

Formal Education (Tertiary level art study, University, College etc )


  • You are actually buying time, full time study dedicated to learning your craft. Not just a piece of paper at the end of 3 years. 
  • The curriculum is structured. Focus on building important fundamentals logically.
  • You work in an environment of cooperation and competition with your peers (pushing you more than you might on your own), 
  • Having a good teacher  really makes a huge difference on your work if you are lucky enough to get one. 
  • Depending on the curriculum and course you will likely get to learn a variety of things that broaden your horizons and you might not have thought about yourself.
  • Support structures are built into the system if you experience troubles or down times: counsellors, teachers, peers. 
  • Deadlines. Yes these are good, and kick your ass to do the work.
  • You have opportunities to develop networks with other students, local art initiatives, even affiliation with industries where companies come look at grad's work for potential talent. (A school with a good reputation may really grease the wheels to you getting your first job)


  • Can be really expensive!! Debt is not cool.
  • Quality of education totally depends on the institution and the teachers. if you pick wrong, you can really get a dud that is a waste of the money.
  • Bad teachers may actually hinder your progress.
  • You may not be able to focus on what interests you most.
  • Changing your mind isn't an easy task and may cost you time and money.
  • Distractions of University life means you spend a lot of time partying way too much. (could be seen as a pro by some...but it's not if done in excess :D)
  • No additional help given to grads to get work despite an expectation this will happen. 
  • Going to university and getting a piece of paper is NO GUARANTEE you will succeed as an artist 

Self teaching, online workshops and courses


  • Most likely much cheaper than a full degree at a tertiary institution, dependent on how many workshops and online courses, ateliers you do.
  • You can focus on what interests you most.
  • You can tailor your learning to what you feel you need. 
  • You can spend a larger amount of time focusing on your folio than you might get forced to do if you were at a school.
  • You can shift focus quickly, jump into short courses or try new things and approaches whenever you want 
  • No stressful deadlines (or not many)
  • Networking doesn't suffer: If you use the internet smartly, you can make contact with almost anyone and reach a wider audience than ever before.


  • There is no curriculum, no structure: You have to make it up yourself from a jumble of online resources, books, groups, videos etc.
  • Lack of efficiency & focus: If you don't know what to focus on you can just waft around trying whatever you feel like at the time, and not working on what would help you the most. 
  • You need to be ultra self-motivatedNo one will force you to do things, you won't have deadlines to meet. You can easily end up doing nothing for months on end.
  • You need to be ultra disciplined: You will need to stick to a balanced routine that works for you and that is sustainable. Being laissez-faire about doing the work consistently will mean you won't make as much progress as you could.
  • Easy to get isolated: You will need to be comfortable working on your own with little support for the most part. You can get some feeling of camaraderie from online forums with people in similar situations and even on hangouts and Skype, but it's rarely face to face. 
  • Support may be hard to find: You may find it hard to get the support you need in downtimes. This is about making sure you have a good network of people around you who truly understand the self teaching situation and can help you when you hit hard times of self doubt (and they will come) 
  • Parents may not understand: If your parents are paying for workshops or letting you stay at home, they may not understand that self teaching is a valid option for artists nowadays. They may feel you are just using self teaching as a way of slacking off, that is, if they even view art as a valid career choice to begin with! 
  • Paying your own way: If you will need to juggle a job and daily life with your study: This will be hard! Very hard. If you have a family to support, double the hardness level again. I have been doing this for 2 years myself (no family to support) and it is still very easy to burn out by trying to do too much in the small amount of time you have away from the job and paying the bills. It is also very easy to fall into the trap of living an unhealthy lifestyle, having no down time or social life. Balance is everything in self teaching. 
  • Networking can be hard work: Depending on your personality, you may not find it easy networking and hooking into the right groups without a more formal arrangement through job expos, internships and expos as may be arranged through school. It may not come naturally to all but building up a good network is very important especially when you are getting nearer to the quality of work that will start to get you applying for jobs or approaching clients for freelance work. 

So that's that. A basic list of pros and cons of each but does that really help? Well hopefully it may help you think about some of the main factors to consider.

The main point for art schools is really to Do your Research!
For the most part, a lot of the pros and cons of a formal education depends heavily on the individual institution. A good one will actually be worth the cost and debt incurred, a bad one may not be worth it at all.  You need to choose carefully and figure out which one you are looking at or may already be attending. 

Criststop3app by M0nkeyBread
The Art Center, Pasadena undergrad entertainment design page

Some ideas that may help you do this: 
  • Try and figure out what you want to do beforehand, and then figure out if what they offer is actually what you want! A fine art degree may not help you build a folio to do concept design.
  • Really look at the curriculum in detail and what is offered and find out more about what things are if you don't know by the descriptions.  
  • Look at the calibre of the teachers and what they have accomplished.
  • Talk to older students, graduates and alumni before you join or even if you're already at a school to discuss their experiences. 
  • Look at the folios of older students and recent graduates. Really look at them. Are you impressed? If they look rubbish in general it might be a warning bell. (Thanks Ellixus for suggesting this great idea) 
  • Talk to the companies you want to be hired by! Why not? Find a contact and ask them what they think of the standard of graduates of so-and-so school in the area or if they would recommend or have affiliation/internship/grad programmes with any particular schools. 
  • Bug established artists doing what you want to do or art directors for companies you want to work for. Ask them what institution they would recommend or what they might pick now. PLEASE be respectful, courteous and brief if you do this and preferably use email. Facebook and the like now gives us unprecedented access to people, but just because you can message them without thinking doesn't mean they'll appreciate being approached this way. A well thought out concise email demonstrates you put more thought into asking them and are serious, and if you're polite, you will probably get a reply. It may be brief but they will be more likely to bother to help you.
  • Always be open minded when you gather your info because people tend to develop really subjective opinions based on their experiences so give weight depending on who you are talking to and just try and look at everything in total and see if it boils down to a more general message overall or helps narrow down options.  
  • and to give credence to the unnamed artist mentioned, yes, cost and debt will have a lasting impact so should be given adequate consideration in your decision. 

The main points for self teaching are that you need to be highly motivated, highly disciplined and ready to make sacrifices on what you do with your time.
 Critstop03 laptop by M0nkeyBread

It won't be a picnic and it will feel like it may never end at times,  but with some focus and hard work, you can make some good progress quite quickly.

Still doesn't help? Well then here's the real kicker:  There are only 2 rules to,  emmm, rule them all

Regardless of what path you decide to go down, the same two rules will apply and determine how successful you will be:

what you put in, you get out. 

Even if you have primal talent oozing out of your ears, you do your research, come to terms with the cost and go to an awesome school; if you get lazy, slack off or don't do work outside of the bare minimum you will NOT be guaranteed success afterwards. It also isn't always the ones with the most innate talent that do succeed; it's the ones that work hard, are humble and don't give up that make it.  While we can't all be Jaime Jones getting picked up as a concept artist by ArenaNet right out of school even he has said:
 "Ways to improve painting? Paint from life, draw often, study masters, amputate your social life? As far as I can tell people improve in a lot of different ways, but the common thread is work ethic." 

Critstop03 JaimeJones progenitus by M0nkeyBread
Jaime Jones : progenitus

Similarly if you decide to self teach and bumble through figuring it out mostly on your own, but you work hard, are determined, stay motivated and build from good foundations up there is every chance you WILL excel and make it into the industry.  Check out Atey Ghailan's work. You may know him as Snatti or snatti89. During a chat with him a while ago he told me he is totally self taught and did it for about 2 years while doing a day job before getting his first break with a concept art job. He proves it can be done and done awesomely well!

Critstop03 AteyGhailan GalaxySaga by M0nkeyBreadCritstop03 AteyGhailan LOTC by M0nkeyBread
Atey Ghailan : Applibot

Your folio is what will get you work.

In my opinion the most hopeful thing about art and working towards the dream of eventually doing it as a career is this one simple fact: the quality of your work is what will open doors for you and determine your success, especially with illustration and entertainment design. It seems obvious but it isn't this simple in all careers so consider this as a real bonus. 

Yes, networking is useful, getting lucky is possible, a good school may help you but your folio is the single launching point to any future work you get. So everything you do from fundamental study to concept design to illustration should be in some way contributing to your body of work constantly building on itself and getting better and better.
Get used to picking your 10 best pieces, then methodically trying to out-do and replace them with better work. 

From my own experience self teaching and (still) having to work a non art related job and support myself, I would never recommend it outright to anyone if they had the choice of going to a good art school and making the most of it while there! The reason I say this is that it is very hard going and you end up making personal sacrifices along the way but it is also totally doable and the sense of satisfaction and achievement of knowing you did it all on your own will be something incredibly special when it does happen.

So there's a big block of text for you this week. I hope it was useful. 
Feel free to ask anything else you want to in the comments below and if you have your own experiences and insights to share on this topic please please do so! 

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I have a book on writing!… Go buy it.

I’ve been doing rewrites a lot lately, and for each chapter I do, I sit down and write these seven questions on the back of the last chapter page. Every. Chapter. (And I just did all 52 some-odd chapters of Mark of the Conifer last night.) If you can answer these questions with one sentence or so, you are in good shape to do a good rewrite. If you are rambling, writing paragraphs, you are losing focus and probably have too much going on in the chapter. You probably need to break things up, remove or cut elements, or move them to more appropriate places. These questions are supposed to help you declare a goal for each chapter, nail down what you’re going for, and help you keep in mind while you rewrite.


    1.       What is the tension in this scene? “Tension on every page” is pretty important. If you have a chapter where the character idyllically eats breakfast, it’s probably boring and needs tension. Tension can come from all sorts of sources: characterization, exposition, plot, foreshadowing, pacing, and so on. The important thing is that you have it. Please don’t think you have to have the same amount of tension on page one as you do when the climax is happening. You don’t. You can have low and high levels of tension throughout; keeping the tension nonstop becomes exhausting for your reader. But you need to have some tension, some drive, to keep things interesting. If you can’t identify the tension in your scene, it needs work. Most tension is as simple as putting Character A and B together and watching the sparks fly. Other scenes are more challenging.

    2.       Push and pull? This should help you in identifying tension. Push and pull are the two forces defying each other in the scene. Character A wants A, and Character B is in the way of A. One pulls against the push, and the other pushes against the pull, like wrestling. It might take a few chapters to determine who wins or not, but in the meantime you have tension. Most chapters have two forces, whether it’s Harry dealing with Snape or Tyrion slapping Joffrey around. It is possible to have more than two, but if you are pulling it off without diluting your tension you’re a better author than I am. If you have too many pushes and pulls, cut them or move them to other places. Focus is the key! I can’t pay attention to four lions with Machiavellian plots talking to each other in the same scene. I’ll lose the thread. But if you give me two, and then the next two in the next chapter, I’m much better off. This doesn’t mean nothing else can be mentioned; that’s what exposition and foreshadowing are for. But you give your push and pull the foreground, and other things can happen in the background that keeps the thread of the story going.

    3.       What am I trying to say in this chapter? “What is the point of this chapter?” is also an equally valid question. This is where you have to come up with a reason to justify this chapter’s existence. “Hero has a huge emotional moment”, “the villain is revealed”: these are valid reasons to keep a chapter around. “My hero’s likes and dislikes are known” is not. Neither is “I tell everyone how my world works in this one chapter.” Every chapter serves a story movement, and if your chapter isn’t serving the story movement, get rid of it. Or redistribute it so it does. It’s very important that you are answering this question in particular with one sentence. If you’re writing stuff like “Well, I introduce the hero’s sidekick, and the reader knows what the hero’s hair color is now, and that he likes grey horses” – uh-uh. Cut it. Tighten it. Go back to the drawing board on story structure and either figure out what movement your chapter is or get rid of it. Even if someone catches you flat-footed with this question (say, in a critique session), you should still be able to say what the point of it is.

    4.       How is my reader supposed to feel? Rewrites are for readers, like it or not. And you have to take into consideration how your reader feels, because emotion is the greatest window of connection your reader has to your story. It is their starting point. Other things like loving your details and admiring your diction will come later, but to begin with your reader must feel something about your writing. If you are writing a scene with funny dialogue and bright, shiny description, your reader is not going to feel morose and depressed. And if your goal is to make the reader feel morose and depressed, you need a rewrite something fierce. Everything from a single word choice to entire set-pieces affect how your reader feels. Be mindful of it. And again, you’re not writing paragraphs to answer this question. “Well, the reader should feel sorry for my hero, but also cheering him on, and bad about his dead horse, but also think the hero’s witty line of dialogue was hilarious …” That’s exhausting! The story element of mood is what’s being discussed here. Focus!  “The reader is supposed to be horrified at the reveal of the killer.” Bam. That’s fantastic. “The reader is supposed to like the hero.”  Great! Now go back and look at your writing. Are you writing in a way that invokes horror? Can you make it more horrifying? Is your hero doing things that are likable? Or is he kind of a jerk and you don’t care if the reader likes him or not?

   5.       Where did I succeed? Rewriting is not about reinventing the wheel, per se. (That’s not to say that yes, it is entirely possible to write entire manuscripts with no redeeming qualities whatsoever. I’ve done it at least eight times. At least.) An artist has an eraser, not to wipe out entire drawings, but lines here and there that don’t work. The lines that work they build upon. Writers have lines that work, too. Keep them. Acknowledge them. Yes, these are probably your darlings, but they’re probably also moments where you “feel” the pop of the character, or mood, or world. These will be small and miniscule things, but they are diamonds. And yes, this is the place where no matter how much you hate yourself and your story, you’re supposed to find something positive about it. Even when I’m at a loss, I usually like my dialogue, so I can scribble down “Dialogue was good.” And yes, it’s entirely possible for something you loved last rewrite to be incredibly stupid next rewrite. Whatever. Acknowledge what works and be quick about it.

    6.      Where did I miss? The author of the book I got this question from was particular to not say “fail.” You MISSED. In that you can fix things, so it’s not a failure. (For you low self-esteemy types.) Whatever the answer to this question is (and it can be multiple things) is to be the focus of your next rewrite.  “My pacing was off.” Okay, work on pacing next time, and when you get to this chapter you’re not scratching your head saying “What was wrong with this again?” Try to stay focused. Yes, it is possible that your pacing is bad, your characterization sucks, your exposition is clunky, and your characters aren’t likable. Odds are, those are problems throughout the entire book, and not just this one chapter. I do “pacing rewrites” all the time, where I rewrite specifically for pacing. And I know I have a manuscript coming up that I will have to do a “magic system rewrite” on. If you really want to learn about characterization, make that your focus of this rewrite. Sure, try for the others things, too, but keep characterization as your focus. Rewrites are like sanding. You graduate to finer and finer grades, more minute details, with each pass. A rough draft’s rewrite is broad strokes. Next rewrite more specific areas. Next one is fine details like diction. I have a manuscript that has been rewritten about ten times in its entirety (because it was terrible from the ground-up), and when I finally got a working draft of it, I rewrote it ten times. I just finished round eleven of rewrites, and it STILL needs tweaking on the ending and magic system. Writing is rewriting. Deal with it.

  • Mood: Tired
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I've been thinking about how and why we learn to draw for a few years now.  I started self-analazing my own drawing and character design thought process when I began writing my first art instruction book, "Creating Characters with Personality".  It was harder than I thought to verbalize how I've learned and how I process drawing.  This has led me to start looking back at my artistic life and how I learned art.  What made me learn the most?  What drove me to draw and stick with it?  What led to others I knew as a child to stop drawing?  I think I'm ready to present some of those thoughts here on DA and hear what you think.  This is part 2 of three in a series.  I'm not sure where this is leading, but step one is my establishing an online art instruction school called Taught ByA PRO ( that will (in phase one) concentrate on drawing instruction for all forms of media.  Here we go:

I believe there are THREE major problems in the way we learn art instruction in the United States. PROBLEM #1: Well-meaning adults kill a children's joy for drawing (can be read here:… ) and PROBLEM #2:  Artists are not training artists (can be read here:… )

PROBLEM #3: Weve been taught incorrectly- we need to know WHY and WHAT we are drawing.

This one may be the most controversial in this series.  

In the mid- 70s one of the most popular art instruction book series were the Draw 50 (airplanes, prehistoric animals, caricatures, aliens, cartoon character, etc, etc.) by Lee Ames.  They are still in wide use at schools and libraries the world over.  In the 70s and 80s these books were the obligatory gift at Christmas or birthdays for any child that liked to draw.  The premise of these books was to create a step-by step way to draw a certain subject by breaking it down into simple lines and shapes.  Step 1: Draw a circle, Step 2: draw a triangle below it, Step 3: add a curved line from the bottom of the triangle to the top of the circle, etc., etc. until you had a drawing of a beautiful OWL!  For myself, as a young artist, I couldnt help being drawn to being able to create a drawing of an owl that looked like a professional artist had done it!  I still remember showing my mother drawings from the Draw 50 series and her not believing I drew it.  Surely, you traced it, right? she would say.  There was a reward in that feeling.  I wasnt as frustrated as if I were looking at a photo of an owl and tried to recreate it.  Those drawings never looked right.  Now I had an art book were I could find a drawing of an owl that an artist had ALREADY simplified for me.  I was piggybacking off of his training already by copying his version of an owl.  In addition to that, the way I LEARNED to draw that pre-made Owl was through a geometric approach of following a formula.  If one of my friends asked me to draw my new owl character from a different angle, a different pose, a different expression- I would be lost.  This is because I didnt know HOW I created that drawing.  I really didnt learn how to draw that owl; I learned how to replicate lines that in 7 easy steps BECAME the owl. 

To back up a little, I do want to say that Mr. Lee Ames (who died a little over a year ago) WAS a classically trained artist in his own right.  He had worked for 18 years at Walt Disney Studios and illustrated many paperback novels and illustrations for magazines.  I dont know how the Draw 50 series came about but the step- by- step drawing approach he used had been around long before he created his books.   I assume Mr. Ames had very good intentions in sparking kids desires to draw. In many ways, he was successful in that, and I include myself in that group.  My point with using the Draw 50 book series as an example is because its such a well-know series that has spun off many similar books on drawing horses, manga, comic book characters, etc. that are very popular today.  This step-by-step approach DOES have some value.  For children at an early age, it can give you some confidence and help you understand the most basic principles of drawing:  shapes and lines, put together in the right way, can create a recognizable character, person, animal, or object.  This is the most basic element of drawing and where we, as artists, gain our first successes.   It's ALSO a way we, as animation artists especially, can replicate the same character from different angles, expressions, etc.- by breaking it down into basic shapes.  THAT part of the art instruction WORKS.  The point I'm trying to make is that there was a whole bunch of OTHER information that was not mentioned in those books (and books like them) that we needed to know to really grow to the next level.  To be able to create that owl from the SIDE view, for example, I needed to know how that triangle and circle shapes turned in perspective.  How do those shapes change when the owl is now flying?  Its a huge leap for a child to do anything with that system of 7 steps and understand how to make ANOTHER, different owl.  You have only learned THAT owl, from THAT view, with THAT expression, and in THAT style.  

Once again, to be clear, THESE books are great for getting young kids interested in drawing.  As children, we learn by copying.  We also learn best by creating "known" things from simple shapes.   The "Draw 50" books do those two basic things well.  And with little to now text, so they books are easy for very young children to use.  Someone asked me if she should tell her child to stop copying pictures (from comic books, comic strips, manga comics, etc.) and create his/her own characters. Ultimately, the question was: "Is copying bad?"  My answer to this question is: No, not if they are young.  We ALL first learn from copying.  (Understand, I do not mean tracing.  There is very little value in that.)  Copying a professional's artwork gives a child the ability to make their work look ALMOST as nice as a professionals.  It gives them some confidence, it gives them a little added knowledge, and it gives them practice drawing.  Its a challenge to make your work look as CLOSE to the professional artwork as possible.  Its good to give kids some challenges.  And there are some drawing lessons/principles they will pick up through osmosis.  Some.  I used to draw Don Martin drawings, just to try a different style.  His hands and feet-especially- were wonderfully odd and I remember even at a young age, thinking about how could I do that with my hand and feet.  Did he add joints to get into those positions?  I was comparing his very cartoony drawings/style to real anatomy and picking up some knowledge along the way.  We learn from EVERYTHING we draw.  So, at a young age, let them copy.  We have to go through it.  But, watch out, what comes next is what separates "doodlers for fun" from kids that might make a career of art.  

It's the blank piece of paper.  I still remember when I started creating my own characters/drawings.  When I started drawing scenes out of my head.  When I stopped copying.  It was HORRIBLE.  My artwork took about 100 steps backward and suddenly I felt like I couldn't draw.  I had leaned too much on copying other peoples artwork (probably for longer than I should have) and, most of all, I had gotten used to some drawing success because of it.  I was horrified how bad I drew when I wasn't looking at someone else's picture/art.  I didn't know what to draw either.  I was uninspired and lacked real knowledge of any real artistic principles.  This is the point I stopped drawing.  Not for too long, but I remember thinking maybe I wasn't an "artist" like I thought I was.  The kids at school still said I was, it was my label at school and I was proud of it.  It was what made me different.  I was the guy the kids went to if they wanted a drawing.  But now I was stripped of that ability, or so I thought.  Slowly, though, I started back at it.  Like a smoker trying to break a cigarette addiction, I decided I shouldn't go cold turkey.  When I designed a new cartoon character of my own (back then I wanted to be a comic strip artist), I surrounded myself with art books of artists I liked and styles I wanted to emulate (today, you would call this the internet).  I would try an nose from one character, mix in eyes i liked from another character, a body shape from another, etc.  Pretty soon, I had an "original" character but with the help of the pros.  It looked a little "Frankensteined", but it at least looked semi-professional.  AND, the more I did it, the more some of those elements became my own.  I started "Frankensteining" a style, you could say.  After a while, I didn't need those books around me so much.  Maybe just for inspiration, but I started figuring some things out for myself.  AND, I was simultaneously, getting books on anatomy, perspective, techniques, tools, etc.  During that time I was experimenting and learning drawing basics and applying that to my "research" into the artists that I loved and how they drew.  BOTH were paying off and soon I felt like I was an "artist" again.  But this time, I was drawing with a blank piece of paper in front of me.  I was able to CREATE art.  Not just copy it.  It would be years (15 -20 years) before I felt I could CONSISTENTLY create art I liked or felt was working pretty well.  I still make mistakes to this day.  I still have drawings that don't come out correctly and I don't like.  I always will.  We never stop learning and growing in our art.  

And, by the way, COPYING isn't bad later in life.  We call it research then.  Looking at photos of people in poses and "using" that pose for an illustration of a DIFFERENT character is great.  It looks better, it has a natural sense to it- its based on reality so it has added believability.  Win-win.  Again, TRACING is always bad.  Copying, when you get older, is about HOW you use the research in front of you.  Its gaining knowledge through research on a given subject.  We drew real lions and watched video after video of lions running, playing, etc. for our animation in "The Lion King", but none of it was traced from film of lions.  No, we just wanted to gain some believability and knowledge from the real thing so our caricatured lions (after all ours talked and gestured with their paws as if they were hands) could feel more real.  Sorry, this was a slight tangent from the main point.  

HERE's THE POINT:  I believe once we are ready to move past copying pictures from books, comics, photos, etc. and want to advance to creating a drawing from a blank piece of paper, we need to change the way we are taught.  Its at this point, an artist needs to start thinking through their drawings more.  Knowing WHY and WHAT they are drawing become the two MOST IMPORTANT questions to answer as they progress as an artist.   From the "Draw 50" books I didn't learn to ask myself why I was drawing those lines, I was just copying them as I was told.  I wasn't really learning how to draw.  What came after that was a very disheartening search for real drawing principles.  Some of that was going to come through lots of practice, but some of it, I needed to find other books on more advanced subjects so I could grow.  I had to ask the questions in why I was drawing what I was drawing.  I had to start having a purpose behind what I was sketching.  Why do I draw a ball shape for the cranium of the head, then add construction lines too it?  It means nothing if its not explained to you.  Real art instruction is a lost art.  Most of the great books on art instruction are from the 40s because art schools- not just elementary school art programs- have stopped teaching art instruction and they just put a life drawing model on a stand and say, "GO".  


Ultimately, artists need some help getting through the transition from the copying phase to the blank piece of paper phase.  This is the point we need REAL guidance and I believe its the point where we are most lacking in art instruction in the U. S. 

I guess I just wish the talented Mr. Ames would have had some more advanced books so that the kids he got drawing with the "Draw 50" series could use that seed and start really learning drawing concepts so they could grow past the 7 steps to draw A OWL.  He started a fire for many of us, but we are left to fan that flame on our own.    

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best of luck to you this year!
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How to cope with Art Blocks

Journal Entry: Sat Mar 3, 2012, 6:03 AM
Almost every single artist has at one point or the other in their life lost motivation, inspiration or even both and without the knowledge of how to deal with what we then call an Art Block, it can take a long time to overcome this lack of artistic drive. A time that might otherwise be used for further improvement and personal artistic growth.

So today I would like to give you a few tips on how to defeat an art block. There is no definite guarantee to either of them, as everybody experiences their blocking differently but maybe you can at least find small suggestions that will eventually help.


:star: Retrieving Inspiration :star:

Inspiration is literally everywhere, you just need to open your eyes to see it.
We can find inspiration through:

Letting your favourite books, movies, series or games inspire you is always one of the most obvious ways. Fan Art is a good way to retrieve inspiration because most of all you will be spared the part of having to design certain things from scratch. Characters, locations and stories already exist there, you just need to work with that. Thus it grants you a slow and comfortable way back into creating art.
Music shouldn't be forgotten either of course. Just listening to a song and painting/drawing/writing whatever comes to your mind guided by the music holds infinite inspiration.

Go out and take a walk in your favourite park or forest, or any other spot in nature you love. Let your surroundings inspire you. That can be helpful not only for landscape or concept artists but also for those who design characters or sculpt materials. Maybe a certain location will plant the idea for a character who could live in a place like that in your head or the shapes of the wood and rocks inspire you for your next sculpture.

Drawing inspiration from other artists or even those who don't practice art themselves is always a very effective way.
Tell people you are taking requests and see if any of the suggestions interests you enough to get you going again.
Ask fellow artists for collaborations. Talking about ideas together can be a lot of fun and might plant the right seed in our mind again. If you feel you can't contribute any ideas of yourself then just let your partner know that they can take the lead in the creative part of the project, while you bring more of your effort into the actual execution of the work.

Take out a piece of scrap paper or open a new file on your computer and start scribbling random shapes. Try out different colours and brushes and you'll be surprised how many wonderful things can happen by accident.
Another option would be to do some very quick studies of random objects or people for instance.


:star: Taking a Hiatus :star:

Now you might object that if you have an art block, you basically are on a hiatus already anyway. That is wrong, because you are on a forced break, not one that you chose to be on. So instead of forcefully trying to get going again, embrace it. Tell yourself that you will simply use this time to follow other hobbies, concentrate on school or work or anything else you can think of.
The important thing is though that you will grant your mind a complete break from art. Don't try to force inspiration or motivation back, just let it come naturally. You will see that with a cleaner head, simple everyday things will bring both motivation and inspiration back.


:star: Art Theory :star:

If you feel that taking a complete break will be counterproductive but you also can't seem to find inspiration anywhere then it is always a good idea to do some theoretical art.
Go to a library and borrow some books on art theory, read articles on the internet or simply analyze pictures by other artists and see what you can learn from it.
That way you will maintain the feeling that you are in some way furthering your artistic evolution and not wasting your time.


:star: Exploring New Areas of Art :star:

If theory isn't enough for you then there's always the option to try out a completely new field of art. If you are mainly a painter then have a go at sculpting, writing or any kind of crafts.
Maybe you are simply empty of motivation because your mind needs a different kind of challenge. It can be incredibly refreshing to dabble in something new before you go back to your main artistic interests. And who knows, maybe you will even find yourself liking it enough to continue pursuing it in the future.


I hope that if you are suffering from an art block you will be able to extract some help from my words! :)

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How to improve as an artist.

Tue Dec 11, 2012, 4:13 AM

Hi guys,

I could start by talking about the basics, perspective and all that stuff but that's pretty much something you have to learn or know already, either in a school or self-taught.

One thing most people don't talk about nor understand is the answer to this question.

Do you blow through an image or do you draw, stop think, draw, stop think...etc?

Most of you already seen a professional working and he just blows through a white canvas and in 2 to 4 hours creates something original.

Obviously we aren't talking about fanart here. Because that is just copying someones else design/idea and you wouldn't have any problem, because the brain work is already there for you to go around, even if you gave it your personal touch, like I've done in some Macross stuff, it's just not that hard.

Fanart is a great area but for example I've done 3D work for games, I obviously didn't include my Macross fanart in the portfolio I sent to the hiring companies because that is a big no no.

One reason why fanart is so popular is because it's easier on the artist, brain wise. A white canvas screaming for original designs/characters scares a lot of people.

So why can't you just create on the go? The main reason is lack of visual information in your brain. In terms of shapes, lines and colors. It's not lack of fundamentals, you can know all about perspective etc.. But if you haven't put in your brain enough information that you can have fast access to then your new designs won't look cool.

Most professionals draw by instinct. One easy step to improve, if you need improvement, is to increase your visual sources stored in your brain. It's a really easy step to take.

Read books, letters aren't visual designs right?... Wrong, when you read a book you create designs in your head of what the author is describing, they are based on descriptions but are 100% original interpretations. Watch TV but shows that matter, nature and mechanical shows are amazing to increase your visuals. See the world, outside you can find amazing shapes screaming for you to use them and change them into something new. Patterns, nature holds the most amazing patterns that you can use on your own designs.

If you think you can't create something original and only do fanart maybe that's the reason... while doing fanart is cool and all you need to know that when doing fanart you are never creating a new design nor character. Even if you do a spin off and kind of create a new character it's never 100% of your brain usage on that piece. So you are restricting your own visual library in that process.

Bare in mind tho that I love fanart, specially Macross! But if you're still new to art and find your self in dead ends maybe fanart can become a savior in the short term but an enemy to your progress in the long term.

!!! To prove I adore fanart I'll even feature fanart bellow! :stab:

Also check the art I feature from talented deviants in the Extra Box, my fav 4 male anime characters ever, wanna be featured? Let me know.

And that's that, cya next post!

Wolf Guard 30min by rawwad Totoro by MegLyman Zephyr by nervene Relikami - Planare by Syst-eeem

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There are few hard and fast rules when it comes to pricing artwork to sell. Why you ask? Well for one there are many variables that go into determining the cost of the artwork. It’s for that very reason that many artists (including myself in the past) sell themselves tremendously short. Another reason we as artists feel our palms getting sweaty when someone asks for a price to an artwork is because we feel as though we’re not being true artists if we accept money for our work. No, no no. Listen, I can tell you from experience that the “starving artist” lifestyle is waaaay less glamorous than it sounds when your pantry is bare for reals. There is absolutely nothing shameful about getting paid for honest work, so don’t try to make yourself feel guilty or ashamed of turning a profit. On the other hand, artists fall into the mire of not even knowing how to price individual artworks. This confusion only gets worse when you look at the price tags in galleries or check out Sotheby’s.

Today I’m going to give you a few tools to get started! 

What’s your time worth?

You know that saying, “if you don’t value your time no one else will?” It will serve you well when it comes to pricing your artwork, especially if you are a craftsperson, or if you are making non-tangible things (digital artwork, design work, or writing) to start off with an hourly wage for yourself. Be reasonable, and by reasonable I don’t mean starting at whatever your state’s minimum wage is. For example, let’s say you set your hourly rate at $15 and create an artwork that you spent 20 hours on how much do you charge? I know, I know I can hear you all now, “ damnit, Xadrea! You know artists are bad at math!!” Just pull out the calculator and get on with it. Your earnings with those hypothetical numbers would be $300 (wage x time = cost).

Regardless of what anyone tells you what we as artists do does in fact matter. We are legit, we are professionals, we are important, and we deserve to be paid.

What’s your stuff worth?

For those of us making tangible artwork, it’s incredibly important that we know what our materials cost. Now, in no way am I discounting the fact that you must spend money in order to make it. The fact of the matter is if you’re spending more than you’re making, you’ve got a problem. This is one of the ways it’s so easy for artists to sell themselves short. Let’s say you make a painting and your materials cost you $30. Modify upon the previous equation to this: wage x time + materials = cost. Your earnings would then be $330.

If your work is 2D (paintings, drawings, and the like) you may want to base your charges on the scale of the artwork. You can do this by charging by square inch (height x width) or by linear inch (height + width). With both you would need a multiplier, essentially what you want to charge per square or linear inch. Let’s say you choose a multiplier of $1 per square inch. The equation you would use for an 11x14 painting charging by the square inch would be the following:  height x width x 1 = cost ($154). If you used the same scaled painting to charge by the linear inch with a multiplier of $10 your equation would be the following:  height + width x 10 = cost ($151).  This method of charging will help you establish consistent prices for similarly sized artworks. Whether you decide to charge for labor is entirely up to you.

Selling on dA for points

Many of you folks sell your artwork on dA which is great! There are plenty of opportunities to sell through the prints shop or to sell content. I realize that many of you accept points as payment, and there are some things you should know about going that avenue. The first thing you should have a complete understanding of if you accept points as payment is their monetary value. 100 points sounds like a lot doesn’t it? 100 points is equal to $1.25. Know your conversions to $ when you set points prices. Also, be smart about what you decide to sell. Remember, if you choose to sell Premium Content through dA (as opposed to charging points yourself) you will be subject to a 20% tax (so you keep 80% of your earnings). Stop wrinkling your nose, you’d be hard pressed to find a better deal anywhere else online or in real life for that matter. I’ve shown at galleries that require up to 60% of whatever the artist sells in artwork. Refer to this handy journal… to learn more about selling premium content. Refer to this handy points calculator by charfade to get quick and accurate conversions of points to $USD.

DeviantArt Point Calculator by charfade

You set the prices, so don’t sell yourself short

This last point goes back the first point: value your time. Often times we as artists feel uncomfortable putting a price tag on what we make because we somehow feel unworthy to do so. What ultimately happens at that point is some serious undercharging. Stand firm on whatever prices you choose to sell your work, and market yourself accordingly. If you charge too low you’re not only losing sales, you’re cheapening your artwork and losing potential collectors and clients as well as other artists. Do not do it.

For more handy ideas on how to start selling your artwork check out these articles!

F-ING BEE. HOW TO BE A FREELANCE ILLUSTRATOR by alexiuss Venues, Exposure, How to Sell Your Art - Part 1I've got mixed feelings about "exposure." By exposure, I mean how you, fellow artists, get your work out into the world so people can enjoy it and possibly even remunerate you for it.
Ways and means are:
1. Art Galleries
2. Public Venues
3. Charity Auctions
4. Festivals and Events
5. Online Websites and Communities
I'm going to talk about the first three here and what has or hasn't worked for me.
1. Art Galleries
This is the big one. Everyone wants to have *Gallery Representation* < /Awed Voice > because isn't that how art is sold? Traditionally, yes; the channel, for centuries, has been artists-->galleries-->collectors.
So how do you get a gallery to represent you? New artists often face the same paradox as new graduates do when trying to get a job where no one will hire you if you don't have experience but you can't get experience unless you have a job. So galleries won't pay attention to you unless you've already been represented by galleries.
We all start somewhere. I stand
Venues, Exposure, How to Sell Your Art - Part 2In a previous entry, I discussed galleries, public venues, and charity auctions as potential sales channels for art. Now I'll share my experiences with festivals and online websites.
4. Festivals and Events
By "festivals", I mean art-themed events like art walks and organized open studio tours. These are, by far, the best opportunity for sales.  Here is a comparison of my best and worst experiences.
My least successful event was a one night mega-gala featuring visual art, body painting, and a popular local entertainer at a large venue. Artists were juried by the promoter and then charged a $200 nonrefundable entry fee. Tickets to the event were $60. The artists were asked to sell tickets to their friends and customer base for a commission. The event was positioned as a fundraiser for an arts foundation that I didn't recognize, but a brief internet search revealed that this foundation was run by the promoter.  
No one
Making Money From Your Art by Eman333



Don't know how to set prices for your artwork? These tips will put you on the right track :D
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