Thursday, December 15, 2011

Dear freelancer

I'll have artwork I'm allowed to post on Jan. 1st but until then here's a business related post.
I've heard some strange comments from freelancers lately that makes me want to respond as an art director.
Quote Requests
Apparently some freelancers prefer clients to be the first one to propose a rate for the work rather than the client requesting a rate quote. Which is an understandable wish but some believe the request is an attempt to get the artist to sell themselves short. Some believe it's a nefarious act that an AD doesn't disclose their budget first and that it would be honorable to do so.

AD hat on
Don't be so damn paranoid. Sometimes when I request a rate quote it's so that I can determine what the budget would need to be based off that rate. Then I can propose that budget to the owner or narrow the number of illustrations I would like for a project based off that rate. It can also aid me in persuading the owner to raise a budget by saying, "here's what we got for X in the past and here's what we could get for x+$5". I won't even really address the idea of not telling all about the budget not being honorable as it makes no business sense. As an AD it feels like socially awkward artists transferring their frustration onto the AD because they don't want to handle the business side of being an artist.

Freelancer hat on
Are you crazy? If somebody tells me the rate they'd like to pay immediately that has been an indicator, in my experience, that this isn't going to be a flexible relationship. "The pay is X and the contract is X. Will you do it?" It's also been an indicator that I'm not necessarily an individual that they have a true interest in using. They simply need art and I make art. Luckily most of the clients that come to me these days ask for a rate quote and I think that's because they see me as an individual who makes art that they already like or I have come recommended by friends or peers. This gives me some power as I know I'm wanted.

It seems that some artists prefer the"the pay is X and the contract is X" as it's a simple process for them and they don't have to squirm in their seats and agonize over what's a rate suitable for the industry, suitable for the size of the company, suitable for profit, suitable for the contract,etc. Contracts are a big deal and being able to negotiate them can make the difference between getting paid and not getting paid or showing your work and never being able to show your work. Respond to the quote request E-mail. Set a price and terms that you would be happy with. If they tell you no then you're only missing out on work that must have had terms that you wouldn't have profited from or would have made you miserable. If they say yes and it turns out they had a higher budget, who cares? The payment was enough to make you happy what are you complaining about? If you're that far under budget then don't be surprised to find them flooding you with a lot more work down the road and that flood will raise your rates across the board as you're not able to meet the demand.

Friday, November 11, 2011


I've been trying to make it to sketch group more often.

Lately I've been thinking it would be kind of fun to teach and approach it in a really right brain style. You know actually put artwork to the student as a means of making a living. So assignments would be given out as though they're jobs with contracts and everything. If a student delivers the work by deadline they are awarded points equal to the pay for the job. If they're late then their pay faces the same penalty as listed in the contract and reducing the points. Furthermore each job is given a letter grade. When given another assignment the rate is determined by the previous job's letter grade. Then there'd be the fun of surprising them with potential rush work that students could actually turn down. So they'd be aware that the rush work could bump up their points but if they score a lower letter grade because of the rush that would result in a percentage drop on the rate of the next assignment that makes it not worth it. Might be fun to be delinquent in rewarding them points! hah hah. And at the end give them little updates like, "company Y reprinted your cover for five different language editions of that book" or "company Y is selling your work as clip art now" or "company Y never published their book and the contract was payment upon publication."

Then at the end of the semester they'd be able to see,"I would have made X amount in 5 months and that's if I could get jobs with Y."

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Joe's One Overwhelmingly Positive Post

This month I'm finishing chapter 4 of Myth of Midigan. Then in December I have a book cover, two other full color images, and five greyscale chapter openers to finish. In January I'll probably do another book cover, 8 more color images and 9 greyscale 1/3rd pagers. In Febuary I'll probably be doing chapter 5 of Myth of Midigan to finish up that story.

After that stretch I'm going to cut out nearly all of my freelance work beside for covers and I'll just be doing the webcomic and art directing for Dark Skull Studios! I'm super pumped about it. This year has felt like I've been an air traffic controller lining up countless planes to arrive and depart and always having the fear that some plane isn't going to land or depart when they're supposed to and there's going to be a terrible crash that ruins my career. Dramatic but yes it's been stressful.

My employment with DSS is improving to be more of a steady and dependable thing as we're moving more towards Facebook games. This is a big part of being able to cut down on all of the freelance stuff. It's sort of like I'm on retainer so I know I'm going to be paid and I know I have to have schedule time to be available for them. At the same time, if I'm not needed then I have time to work on my own personal project "Food Chain" or "Corporate Hell" or just work on taking my Zbrush skills to a more professional level.

Carpe Chaos is a really great gig but only really has me busy 40 out of 90 days.  Although as I cut down to these two clients I'll probably do some additional stuff for them such as blog posts. I'm super excited to be finishing Myth of Midigan as it isn't my style of artwork. I've been a bit intimidated by doing the more sci-fi scripts but now that I'm becoming pretty good with zbrush at making maquettes I'm kind of looking forward to modeling some of these space ships and stuff. I also feel like I'll be more prone to be a Carpe Chaos evangelical once they're one of only two clients and the product I work on is more in line with what I myself want to see out of my art.

For the first time my income is finally getting up there. That is awesome to me, especially since my biggest worry is just covering the cost of child care so it's nice to be able to think,"this years income is enough to cover this year and two and half more years of daycare." I also feel like I'm becoming more of a powerhouse for lining up future work. I'll soon be able to say I've art directed a couple of facebook games on top of the printed books. I'll have sequentials in my style to show as well as a more significant amount of sci-fi work. I'll also soon be willing to start showing some of my 3D models.

It's also been a feel good year as I've actually been able to help out a lot of my friends and peers. I've set up about a dozen other artists with jobs this year and helped a buddy of mine get started working on facebook games. Almost all of these guys made me look even better with how well they came through for the people I recommended them to. :) Also, I was able to buy two artists personal projects with one being Nicholas Cloister's RPG Creatures. You can also see my review there. I also pre-ordered Jim Pavelec's Hymns and Wretched Offerings to the Golden Ones.  If you know me, you know that's kind of a big deal as I'm super tight with spending money on stuff that isn't food or an art tool. Another feel good thing about this year is it looks every client will have paid me this year WITHOUT hassle. :)

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Cincy Comic Expo

Quick re-cap.
Attendance:I'd estimate 800 maybe over the course of the one day event. I suspect the people running the convention will say 1200. They might be telling the truth, I have no idea.
Venue: Really nice. I probably got one of the weaker spots by not having a wall behind me but it was still nice. Great lighting. Easiest loading and unloading at a convention ever. I was located outside of the main hall but I doubt it really mattered.
Profits:$160(I think. It was cash transactions so I may have made more)
Previous convention's profits:0 (didn't even make table at GenCon this year much less cover hotel,food,etc.)
Conclusion: It's too easy to pass up a local con because expenses are basically nothing. I was charging $15 rather than $20 per print because that seemed to be the price everybody was charging. In retrospect I should have stuck to my guns I think. I don't think I would have suffered from it and I think people would have expected to pay more for more painterly imagery rather than flat color.

Previously popular prints at other shows: Taishu and Mage
Expectations: I thought I would be ignored without a comic on my table so I was selling Ignition and Jailing Fortune from Carpe Chaos so that hopefully people would stop by for that reason and happen to see my art. On the contrary, people seemed completely uninterested in anything indy even if it was sequential. If anything my art brought people over where I then tried to pitch them on the comics. They immediately shut down on it when they would ask and I would tell them that I was only responsible for the cover of Ignition.
Popular prints at Cincy Comic Expo: Werewolf and werewolf bookmarks. Business cards?

Conclusion:People were really looking for the familiar and that showed with the werewolf print. Not to mention what I saw from watching which of my neighbors were selling. Apparently my business cards were TOO nice. People thought they should pay me money for them and some did.  I was even asked to sign my business car and was paid to do so. People were taking business cards instead of buying prints. I blame MOO printing for being too good. My order was divided among 7 images I believe and I got rounded corners. They were a bit pricey being about 50 cents per card. I was giving them away to certain people at GenCon but knew this would be a bigger show so I just had them on the table. Now I'm wondering if I should sell little packs of art cards.

Ideas to steal: Another artist said he made an image for a previous convention of characters ____ and ____ doing ____ with the name of the convention in the image and sold it as a limited edition. He said it sold a ton and now makes one for every con he goes to. Sounds like that might be an absolutely great idea. So if I decide to go to GenCon I might have to make a GenCon 2012 image or for May I might have to make a 2012 Forge Con image.

What did the comic convention say to the copyright?
Nothing. It just starts raping the shit out of it.

Yeah I don't think it's funny either. That's why I don't freeze frame shots from movies and trace them or do nothing but fan art.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Another book cover and Sketches

Cover for Mark Fassett's next book Questioner's Shadow. It was great to work with him again.

It had been forever since going to sketch group but I managed to make it last week. The model had a really emaciated face that was a lot of fun to draw.

At GenCon I sketched a lot. Here are a couple.

Here's a logo thing I had to design but isn't going to be used. I really loathe doing this kind of stuff.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

It's Complicated

So here's probably the most complicated piece I've ever worked on. It's the cover for Book of Mortals by Dark Skull Studios for whom I'm the Art Director for their print products. So yes it was my idea to do an illustration with a zillion figures. In the game there's the Well of Souls which contains souls that are pulled out and enter the spirit stream where they eventually find bodies on the known world. So the central figure is about to be sucked out into the spirit stream. There are several different races so I tried to show all of them. We've illustrated souls several different ways in the books with some being more vague and ghostly and others looking as they did in life or will look in life,etc. So I chose to go with the more substantial version. Originally I planned on making the composition dark figures on a light background but ended up doing the opposite pretty quickly. I'm still not sure about. I think the piece may even need some more figures

I think the only thing that could have made it more difficult was if there was a mech in there somewhere. These kinds of things are tricky as I could easily spend an insane amount of time on this. The pay was good but it's one of those pieces where it would be nice to hire a model for every pose and even then it'd be difficult to do an aerial shot of a model in the water unless it was done at a pool with a high diving board. This will be shown with a pretty big logo over the top third that covers up most of that and another logo on the bottom third that takes up a little less.

Monday, August 8, 2011

GenCon and SDCC

Wednesday-Due to circumstances, I was completely unprepared for GenCon. After setting up my booth it looked like a homeless person had stumbled in and tried to put their stuff up in the art show. Luckily my booth assistant, Adam Schmidt, wasn't in a panic like me and came up with some solutions that really improved the look of my display.Still, my sketches and 8.5x11 prints were displayed horribly. Next time I need to remember to at least put them in plastic sleaves so that they seem more presentable. Adam insisted that I bring in the big painting since I brought it in the car.

Thursday-Low sales. Heard from another person that makes a ton of money that his sales were 3/4ths normal at SDCC. Perhaps everyone is doing poorly. Some people bought book marks so I was happy to see those may have been a good decision. Half the people tried picking them up thinking they were free. My Mage piece seems to be the new popular piece despite my having only noticed the day of the show that these prints were off and a bit too blue and low contrast. Adam and I hung out with a friend that night and spent forever doing paintovers which was a lot of fun. It made us both wish we were working in a real studio environment.

Friday-Low sales. I was working hard on some sketches for an assignment though and was really pleased with the direction they were going. Neighbors seemed to be having a very hard time selling as well. People thought my neighbors full-color book was free! Despite having well known subjects and illustrations, his prints didn't seem to be selling well either.

Saturday-Low sales.Accidentally gave my con sketches to a friend and thought I lost them so I was really upset until my friend gave them back that evening.  Drank with the other artists and then Adam and I went back to the room to do some magic card alters that we were paid to do.

Sunday-Decided perhaps I was hasty the first year to decide sales were better without price tags. I added a price list but it didn't seem to make a difference. I wanted to pack up early and just head home so as an experiment I cleared everything off of my four panels except an 11x17 mage print and a large print of Taishu. Traffic seemed like maybe it increased. I reduced it to just the Taishu print shortly after and traffic seemed to improve again. Perhaps next time I should have no more than 2 pieces per panel. Then again I wander if the lower image count would make people expect the work to be expensive. Mark Winters was across from me and does wonderful work and I thought more people should have been stopping by his booth. I think people may have assumed he was more expensive than he actually was because the images were sparse and were very nicely framed. I got the results of the charity dice bag auction and despite having done something more elaborate this year, it sold for less. Sounded like most of the stuff sold for less than last year I think. So just all around I think people are spending less.

Things to improve- Start ordering my prints at least 2 months in advance so that shipping costs don't kill me, quality doesn't suffer and I can plan for however the prints will appear on the wall. This means no SDCC. Won't be using El-Co color prints again. I got a tiny drop of spittle on a print and it sat there for a minute and it took off the black ink and left a yellow spot and the blank ink around the spot looked kind of blue after that.
Time to spend money on a banner. The current free banner is kind of embarrassing now although I can't say people really pay attention to it. Put sketches in sleeves. Reduce image count on panels. Don't put web address on bookmark.Time to start using the dreaded portfolio book on the table for people to look through for prints.

Conclusion- I don't think I'll be returning next year (although I certainly might change my mind) unless it's to help man a Dark Skull Studios booth. It's hard not to feel like I got kicked in the gut when I can't help but think, "I could have stayed home and I'd have $1200 to $1400 more in my pocket right now."I suspect the economy will still be down next year. If I actually need work next year perhaps I'll do it. Having a booth helps me get work but this year I really wasn't looking for any more work. The only thing I was looking for was print sales and I really expected to do as good as last year. I'm thinking about lowering prices for Cincy Comic Expo to see what happens. On the positive side, it was really great to see everyone in person and it looked like a couple of things I had done for people online had resulted in stronger friendships than I had realized.

Portfolio reviews
Wizards of the Coast's MtG art director on the concept art side
I was kind of caught off guard by having to show to this AD as the portfolio I had prepared was far from being what I'd use to get concept art jobs. So I knew I was walking into a real slaughter. Perhaps the situation makes a good argument for having a portfolio that's easily modified between clients at a con. Ofcourse he had other problems with my work beyond the concepts but I had handicapped myself at the start.

IMPACT books
The interviewer seemed really grouchy and I think hated me for even talking to her. Afterwards I really regretted talking to her. It appears they are looking for very straight forward step by step how to books aimed at the 6 to 13 year old age range. I was very much pitching the sort of book I would be interested in and suits my strengths (avoiding technical aspect which is a weakness) which would be about generating ideas/breaking artist block.

Others-The only others I showed to were people who came by the Carpe Chaos booth. They were video game and movie people. I've grown to think those industries' professionals are very flaky or just too busy so I doubt any of those contacts will result in work. Since I'm not really interested in doing sequential work for any major companies, there wasn't much of anybody for me to be interested in showing my work to.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Painting Finished!

Finished the painting several days ago. Haven't heard back from the client on what he thinks of it.

So I said earlier that this was just an all out attempt to decide for good whether oils were in my future or if I could toss aside any and all thought about doing oil paintings anymore. Well I think it's the end of the road for using oils. Unless ofcourse the original sells for at least $600. That's a really low price for that large of an original oil painting. I have such a hard time believing people buy expensive originals of fantasy art.  I just imagine it's harder to find a wealthy enough family that all like fantasy art and have a 3ftx4ft space on their wall. For me to work comfortably in oils I have to work large and that means costs go up which means I have to charge more for the original.

For instance the surface for this cost $150. My craft skills are poor or else I would have built the supports for the masonite and gessoed it myself to save some money. Then I either have to spend time editing in photoshop or spend $100 to have it scanned by a high-end imaging company. It's hard to look at a minimum of $250 in expenses before modeling fees, costume costs, and paint costs. Plus it took me one more week than I suspect it would have taken me working digitally so that's another $165. So this commission cost me $415 more to produce because I chose to do it traditionally. The only possible up-side being that perhaps somebody buys the original or there are people willing to buy prints of this because it's traditional rather than digital but I'm not sure I want to kowtow to those meat heads. At the moment, making a profit off this commission depends on hopefully being able to sell the studies at a convention,selling prints or selling the original. Not a situation I want to be in.

The actual painting process wasn't really any harder or easier than working digitally. I'm not going to say the dwarf's feet are a work of genius or anything but they consist of very few strokes done quickly. After painting them so quickly I thought, "if I had done that digitally it would have looked like crap. " The reason being that people(me included) don't accept seeing digital brush strokes but you can really get away with murder leaving raw strokes all over the canvas and nobody will accuse you of using short cuts like you'd get if it were digital.
It's easier to get color modulation going on in paint. Something digital artists try to emulate by creating noise layers and texture overlay layers. Easier to create some cohesion. Soft changes are much easier

Here's a cleaned up shot of the painting and a digital mash up to create a new composition. I think I still prefer the original composition but I tend to prefer really horizontal or really vertical compositions and the more compact image is a bit too square for me but I thought perhaps overlapping the figures more would make the piece better received by people outside those who commissioned the piece.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Filthy Tease

Just a tease again. Better photo this time but some values look a bit wonky because of reflections and whatnot.
Guy's face on the left still needs work. Third time painting his head and sadly the weakest of the three. Luckily the other two characters should be easy as pie compared to these too. I had some help with the pose but the costuming stuff is pretty much entirely from imagination. Thus the reason that lute is designed more like a guitar and doesn't have that deep round back. I had good reference for the female but they're just always tricky.


Terre Verte by LeFranc is super weak but good for olive skin.

When painting in a basement, wear some shoes with doctor scholls inserts. My feet are killing me.

Projecting the sketch onto the masonite was a huge mistake. I haven't liked adhering paper either and grids are too tedious. Looks like I'll just have to have sketches printed large so that I can do graphite transfers from now on.

Should try using masking fluid next time.

Thursday, June 30, 2011

From Model to Illustration

Thought I'd post some stuff where I've done commissions where screenshots from 3D games are involved.

This isn't the exact screenshot but this is the same character. The client also supplied a description that included things that can't be seen in-game or were factors he couldn't necessarily control in the game about his appearance.

From there I basically try to mantain the same design but turn generic clothing into more personalized/custom items. So I tried to look at his character's background and use that to inform the designs. This same character is on the far right of the really big painting I'm working on.

Here's another character from the big painting I'm working on. I've got a lot of leeway on these.

 Bad photo I know.
I'm being a tease and not showing the whole character yet but you can see where I've deviated from the design in the game. I'd like to point out that the client has seen my sketches and there weren't any issues with the changes. In the screenshot you can see that the pants appear to be made out of stiffer cloth and are more of a swiss style like this I personally think those pants are really silly looking so I tried to keep the patterning but change it to a looser style. Ofcourse now he looks a bit more like a pirate. Not sure how I feel about it but I do like the stripes. Admittedly the belt design is a bit random. May change it later on during painting. I'm not really sure what's going on with the design in the screenshot but it looked like leather scale mail and I didn't know what the blue parts were supposed to be. Now I'm wondering if they were supposed to be like suspenders for keeping a tasset up.
Anyways, I think somebody asked to see some close ups of brush stroke juicy bits so here are some. Bad photos for now. You can see what I was talking about though in my previous post when I was saying that I'm not really adding a lot of details because it's big. It's just more comfortable because small things can suddenly be painted with broader strokes.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011


Here are a couple of pieces I did a while back for some cards for a board game that was shown at Origins.

It's been a pretty hellacious month but I'm done. I've been working 5 days a week and 2 nights a week on some illustration work. Brutal sitting that much and my carpal tunnel started to flare at the end of the stretch. It's not in my style though so I won't be sharing it. I made some BOLD career moves in the past two months and have benefited greatly financially. I've also had the opportunity to hook some people up with work lately and it feels nice to give some people a hand that might be having a harder time. Hopefully one day somebody will do me the same favor.

I'm back to chugging away on the painting. It's great to be able to put in some 8 hr painting sessions. Should be done by the end of next week. I'm going to wait to post it until then to be cruel. :)

Working so big has been interesting. The scale makes it harder to judge proportions I have a feeling I'll be doing some noodling in photoshop when I'm done. Working big has made it easier to remix colors. I don't think I'm really adding more detail than I would in a digital piece but it is SOO much more comfortable to work at that size if I have to do traditional and it's so much nicer to be standing than having to sit for digital.

After that I'll be moving on to a ridiculously ambitious piece.Gobs and gobs of figures everywhere. Some human and some not. Plenty of clothing/drapery. Tricky lighting and tricky setting. I'll either fall fantastically on my face or it'll take my illustration career to the next level. I think I'll be spending more time on that piece than anything prior. Should be done by August 4th and I'll be allowed to show it at GenCon.

Due to a strange series of events I may have a "booth babe" at my GenCon table this year. Kind of hoping I don't but it'll be interesting if I do.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Painting Update

Most of the painting on this will be done in July. June is insanity for me because of the webcomic. This will be done in July though. Still need to fix some things with the snow/ground plane. Did some stuff wishy washy and I need to go in and clear them up. Also there's still tree issues. My flip display for conventions has been super handy. I've got all of my reference photos in there and I can just flip through them as I paint. It's almost time to start on the figures and I'm super excited!

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Tiny Update

Not much of an update as this change to the painting was done the same day I had done the previous step I posted. Decided that I really wanted to roughly lay in the trees and adjust the sky color some while the paint was still wet. Wanted to re-paint the snow with it being dry. I should have stuck closer to reference for the trees. You can see it in my color study but I've really painted the trees in too regular of intervals. Randomness can be very difficult to do. Still need to add lots of little branches. Probably going to try to beef up or skinny up some of the 4 larger trees to try to break that repition. Maybe even add in another big one someone in there to break up the rhythm. Also still need to add the greener bushes and trees that are on the ridge and just over the hill. I think I'm going to try to use a sponge to paint those bushes and trees. We'll see how it goes. Bark on the tree is vague at the moment. I'll get more specific with that. Still having to remind myself to not worry about painting everything in a single pass because thinking that way on such a big painting could make me go crazy.
Things are going great still. Going to absolutely put last year's income to shame. I think GenCon may be huge for me this year. It looks like I'll be replacing 13 images from last years portfolio! I don't think I've ever had that big of a rotation in a single year. I've still got a ton of work to do before GenCon so that number of 13 may even increase some more.

Speaking of which, my sketch for the crazy ambitious painting just got approved. There are at least 18 figures in it although in many cases you just see a head or arm exposed. I've got a nice budget and am working digitally so I'll be able to hire some very good pro models. So I'm pretty excited about that.

Also, got commissioned to work on my second book cover for Mark Fassett and am really excited to work with him again. Unfortunately that piece will probably be completed after GenCon. :(

I'm flooded with work at the moment and am just a busy little bee. I'm booked pretty solid until September and even then I'll still have stuff to work on throughout the year. I had to raise my rates significantly and thought I'd lose a big client but they actually met my rate. Happy to be making more money but I wouldn't mind a more relaxed schedule. It looks like I'll be able to go on a real vacation this year where I can truly relax and not have work on the mind.

Also, it's been a month since Finn has had any ear infections!! YAY. Thank goodness for ear tubes.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

First pass

I've been having a perfect storm of computer problems lately. Ended up having to back my entire hard drive up and then restore to factory settings. So I had a while today to do a first rough pass at my huge painting.
Working a little different from normal. Trying not to worry about getting it all done in a pass. So I've left out the characters and trees at the moment. Little worried about going back into the sky once it's dried. I think I'll have to slowly repaint each section with higher finish. Snow is too saturated and blue. Bright parts of sky could be less yellow and underside of clouds could be more purple.Painted most of this with the palette knife. So it's kind of thick. Will probably scrape it down so that it's not too lumpy for the next pass.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Figure drawings

Some life drawing from last night.

 Also, I decided for working on the easel I needed to get a decent palette.. I had just been using plexiglass in my drafting table drawer since I had been doing my paintings on my drawing table. The palettes at the store were all extremely small. My friend Richard had several palettes traced off of old masters palettes so I tried out a few and picked out this design/size. I'm adding the coats of linseed oil now.

Friday, April 29, 2011

Color Study

Quick color study for the big painting. Alan Grizzell was nice enough to let me use his opaque projector so the drawing is on the masonite now. So I'm not far from finally starting!

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Final study

Finally finished the last study for the big painting! Well unless I decide to do a couple of rough mini paintings of it first. But awfully eager so I'll probably jump right into it.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Own it

Sketch for the makers of Pact Magic and a rough sketch for the Eowyn and Nazgul challenge on Art Order. Debating on whether to finish the Lord of the Rings image. Hard to motivate myself to create fan artwork. At the same time the webcomic work isn't satisfying my art interests and it'd be a real picker upper to work on the LotR image.

Now for my latest blathering/plotting.
I've got to do something for me. I want to own something I make. I want to have the right to do whatever I want with it. I want to be responsible for what I've made. As an illustrator, I'm often just taking dictation in a visual form.  Sometimes people tell me what they want to such a degree that there is no room for interpretation and even the style is dictated. I'm left with no product and no sense of pride in what I've accomplished for someone else because no part of myself ever entered into the process. I do work that I never post online.

"The notion of making money by popular work, and then retiring to do good work, is the most familiar of all the devil's traps for artists."-Logan Pearsall Smith

I need to do the work I imagine doing if I were retired and I need to do it right now. So what would I do if I was retired? Well I'd still do artwork but beyond that I'm not sure so I've made a list of formats for consideration.
art book-I don't have the self-confidence/ego to do this. I could easily see myself making one and then being embarrassed by it in two years and wanting to burn all copies.
calendar-possibility I suppose but it just doesn't sound very exciting to me. Maybe because I always buy my calendar several months late and whatever is the cheapest. So right now I have kittens as my calendar.
gaming visual aids-another possibility. I've messed with this in the past. Idea was to do an environment illustration, couple of illustrations of characters/creatures from the area plus an illustration of an item or two that could be found in the area. Then I'd write some plot hooks for inserting the location into a campaign. I actually put together stuff for 4 or so locations but then it fell apart after that. I think it fell apart because I can't write and I tried to do too much with the writing. Not sure anybody would care for the art without background for everything.
RPG game-I'm not a writer. Actually began this at one point. Came up with a core mechanic and sort of a style/theme but was sort of at a loss/lack of interest to get into everything else that would be needed to flesh out the game. Game revolved around the idea of re-incarnation and past lives.
webcomic or comic-I'm not a writer.Plus it's so many images and so many of those are only meant to progress the story and visually could be stick figures.So much time spent on visually insignificant images would be a downer in my opinion.
Instructional book-I'm not a writer but...I went to a lecture at GenCon a while back that had Jim Pavelec and I think Chris Seaman and Chuck Lucaks talking about their instructional books and there they handed out Impact books proposal guidelines. I actually put together a rough one but really need to set aside some time for it. I would feel like a fraud offering technical advice because so many people are better at it than me so my book proposal was more for a book about getting over artist block/getting inspired/being creative. Maybe I should start pulling together images for that. Assuming I have a good editor I think that could be a book that people would enjoy and I'd always be proud of.

Picking and Choosing- So what can I do that doesn't involve words but isn't an art book. Well there's a calendar but I'm still not excited about it. Well a comic doesn't have to have words. I could throw out those pesky words. But then there are all of those dang images where my degree of rendering seems silly and unnecessary.  Can I throw those out? Now we're getting somewhere. I remember reading understanding comics and liking the comic example where the story was shortened to a panel of "don't drink and drive" then him drinking and finally a panel of a tombstone. Maybe I could come up with a story and just illustrate the keyframes from it. That sounds really interesting to me. If I really don't want to think up a story maybe I can even make a game out of the process by just carrying over elements without regard to whatever story is. Angel with wings is flying in the midst of a flock of dragons. Next shot is native american with peace pipe with giant angel wing feathers attached. Next shot is post-apocalyptic punks pulling peace pipe out of the hollow of an old tire. Aliens collecting tires. Caveman with alien-skull club. With this method I could just come up with a couple of illustrations of scenes I'd like to paint regardless of genre and it would just be a matter of playing seven degrees of separation to connect them no matter how disparate. Either way I would want the book to have some sort of message even if it's just, "everything is meaningless. everything is nothing."

Monday, April 11, 2011

Gearing Up

Gearing up for the big painting. The surface has arrived as well as a couple of paints I ordered to fill gaps in opacity between colors. Shot reference for the female, the bard and the mage. Just put together this little maquette to get an idea of scale between characters and to shot them under various lighting conditions so that I can unify the lighting from the various photoshoots for the individual characters. Threw some flour down in case that white would be able to kick up some light. Not nearly as reflective as real snow I'm sure. Also gathered some reference for the rocks and trees.

Next weekend some armor I bought should be arriving and I'm going to shoot reference for the dwarf. Then I'll start to make some selections from my toned paper studies. I'll post some of them here sometime. Like I said before, I'm really trying to give myself no excuses for a failure. We'll see if it works. Need to get some larger brushes. I know this composition isn't the most complicated but I'm hoping some dark figures on a light ground will help grab attention. I'm hoping that keeping the composition simple will lead to fewer headaches. I'm looking forward to putting paint to masonite but I'm trying to really do all of my homework before that test. The commission pays well but not enough to cover armor and models so I have to just fit it in around the rest of my better paying work.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011


Couple of recent pieces. Top one was a private commission. It was fun to do a piece that was way over the top. Tricky since the client wanted a flaming hammer, glowing armor, an illusionary image of a volcano erupting and a figure that's darkness. Decided to make the flames more stylized. Haven't heard any complaints but still not sure if I shouldn't raise the realism. Probably change the volcano to some kind of magic symbol  when I go to make prints so that it's not confusing.

Second piece is a cover for an eBook. Bottom section and top section will end up being covered with text. It was also a bit tricky. Basically just had hair colors and ages. The problem for me was that all of the characters are wearing cloaks and facing what would be the light source. Stylized the magic part a lot like I did with the fire on the other piece. Again, not sure whether it was the best decision. Gives them a photoshop look but at the same time I'm not sure I'm totally against the more graphic look.

Thought I'd bring up a problem a new illustrator may not expect. Sometimes people won't like your work. In fact they'll hate it and not because of  your drawing, rendering,color choices or composition. It'll be because it's not what they expected. One of my very first gigs was for a product that had several editions before it and I had to illustrate a race/monster that had changed several times throughout. For some reason I was directed to illustrate a version that wasn't the most recent. Well fans hated it and posted all over forums saying they hated it. The company never spoke up and said, "hey this is what we wanted." They just ignored the complaints and really that's the right call. I have to admit that I was agitated over the whole thing and wanted to scream, "it's not my fault! They asked for it!" It's tempting but don't do it. It won't do any good and will likely hurt your standing with an art director. You also have to remember that art directors won't see some fan complaints on the interpretation of something and decide not to hire you. Other artists and ADs know how the art process works and would never lay the blame at your feet.

On a related note, I'll have some new work being released sometime soon that I bet will have some fans screaming about the design. Kind of dreading it and already feel that urge to scream out, "I was just doing what I was told!"