Thursday, November 20, 2008

Figure Drawing, pt. 9

It's been well over a year since my last stint of figure drawing, which I was attending at the Asheville Fine Arts League (it was in downtown at the time, but has since moved to the River Arts District). I attended their evening drop-in figure drawing sessions for a couple months. It was a pleasant-enough bike ride to the League, which was more of a classical drawing and painting academy than anything. Naturally I highly approve of such institutions. Had I had easy access to it, I might've chosen something like that for college training. You don't get a degree, but it seemed that you did get good, solid training there. At Art School, you do pick up some more applicable professional advice from people more in the illustration world than the fine art one, but you'll also run into professors who seemingly can't draw a straight line. I did my best to avoid those types.

Now out in New York, there are tons of good opportunities, with the city being chock-full of art schools and working artists of all stripes. I fully intend to try a few out, but I began this week with the Society of Illustrators "2-on-2 Jazz & Sketch" night. The idea is they have 2 models at once and 2 jazz musicians (a pianist and drummer in this case). Held on the 3rd floor, where there is also a bar over which hangs a fantastic Rockwell painting, the place was completely packed with artists drawing.

A grouping of 5 minute drawings 6.5x9"

The night is moderated and organized by fellow illustrators Arkady Roytman and David Hollenbach, the only familiar faces of the bunch. It'll be nice getting to know other professionals. Arkady has been posting his "Nude of the Day" for well over a year, highlighting one watercolor or drawing each entry, all taken from his regular work at the SI sketch nights. A highly recommended visit, and much respect for keeping up the daily postings, even if they are just art with no commentary. That still takes a bunch of work that I don't do.

20 minutes, 4x7"

My only small complaint is that the poses are sort of art school standard: 10 x 2 minutes, 4 x 5 min., 2 x 10 min., 3 x20 min. I always find those super-short poses to be next to useless. I'd rather cut the 2's and 5's in half, group 'em together, and add a 40 minute pose at the end. But then again, I'm not the one volunteering my time to organize it!

I'm intending to make this a bi-monthly affair, though I won't post the results that often. It's more than a pleasant bike-ride though, requiring most of an hour each way and 2 subway transfers. I'll certainly get a lot of reading done though!

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Thumbnail Clippings

From time to time I'll show a thumbnail or two from various illustrations in step-by-step articles. A "thumbnail" is, traditionally, a small sketch (perhaps intended to only be as large as a thumbnail) that is quickly and roughly done, to establish in the most basic sense what a composition might be. By not investing much time in them, you quickly cycle through ideas at their most base levels. Once a number of these are done, an artist will pick a few to develop further and, through subsequent whittling, decide on a final image.

On occasion it's a toss-up between 2 or more ideas. There have been times when, looking back, I preferred a concept I didn't choose at the time.

As stated in earlier posts when shown, these are never meant to look good--they are meant to inspire real images. I've often been very shy in even showing them--an artist always likes to put his best face forward. But, with the caveat that, as far as craft is concerned there is very little, perhaps you'd enjoy this batch of thumbnails. In some cases these are alternates to images you may have seen. This installment features art from the World of Warcraft Trading Card Game.

Unused alternate thumbnails for Nightfire

Used thumbnail for Apprentice Merry and alternate for Inner Focus

Used thumbnail for Darbun Steppeheart, alternate for Breen Toestubber

2 alternates for Jaedan Sunshot

In general these are done at about 4x5" at 300dpi, in Painter 9. I usually just use two tools--a scratchboard rake and a sumi brush, in 2 colors--pure black and white.

Monday, November 03, 2008

4 Years of Exits

I can hardly believe it myself. Four years. If you'd asked me four years ago, I would've stated my intention to be still be blogging four years later, but might've expressed doubts that I would still be doing so.

First off, I was pretty shocked at my own chutzpah in blogging to begin with. People who don't blog know instinctively that there is a lot of ego involved in blogging (all the while reading blogs nonetheless). It's the ego of speaking and expecting people to listen. And I'm not normally that type, in person. I don't get into involved conversations unless the other party expresses somehow that they actually want to hear what I have to say about something--I don't just trample people with my opinions and thoughts. I love asking other people questions to get to their thoughts, however, so perhaps I just wait for similar interest to arise. Here, I felt a little more safe--here was a blog linked off my website; people who ended up reading would do so because they were already inquiring, in a sense, by visiting my site.

Which brings up readership. I made, and continue to make, very few efforts to promote my blog at all. This is coupled with the above, with not having a huge need to say, "Come hear what I have to say!" I've often questioned the wisdom in that--after all, there is an unspoken sense of advertisement implicit in an artist blogging, so shouldn't that aspect be maximized? Readership was scarce for a long time, but has steadily grown. This makes me happy, of course, but I did write for much of the first year mainly for the entertainment of crickets and web spiders. I don't get lots of comments on this blog, but I do get comments from people in-person who tell me they read this blog, sometimes very regularly (subscribing to the RSS feed helps). Those encouragements surely have resulted in my still being around four years later, and with weekly entries when I know every other artist's blog I read updates far less regularly. That's not even a criticism--I know what it takes now to blog regularly, and it's a discipline that can easily fall by the wayside during times of heavy deadlines. I've been there.

I have been loath to make Exit Within a store. I often post images, particularly sketches, which aren't available on my website at all (yet), and have sold a couple here and there through interested parties contacting me after seeing them posted in that way. The prices on those are pretty reasonable, and each time I've posted them I've been tempted to include a price and a purchase link, or to do so for all other pieces of art posted. Reason tells me I should be doing this, but I haven't yet. I've been told that in general I'm often far too unwilling to "put myself out there." That's probably true, so I'll continue chewing on that one.

Though topics have ranged, I am proud to have kept this blog free from political discussion. Having launched on a presidential election day means every 4th anniversary will fall on or about the time of another election, like this one. It's not that I am not a political creature, but I know from my own experience that I don't like going to websites that have nothing to do with politics, conceptually, and then suddenly having politics thrown my way. You have political sites you visit when you want that kind of reading. When you visit a site about videogames, cats, cuisine or whatever, do you really want some gamer/cat lover/restaurant critic telling you why you are stupid or otherwise for holding various political opinions, or whom you should vote for? I submit that you do not, and that that also goes for fantasy illustrators. So my politics-free pledge is one I have kept and will continue to keep, and one I wish more folks would make. Let's keep that stuff for personal interactions, cafe-talk and dinners; for dialogue, not monologue.

Four years ago I was still living in my hometown of San Jose, CA. Since then, I have lived all over the place and now live in NYC. Four years ago I was 20 pounds heavier and had closed my gym membership back in CA due to lack of use. Now I'm running marathons. Four years ago I was finding myself having just broken through an artistic plateau and making great gains. Through these four years I have explored the realms of that ability but now find myself a bit plateaued again, and on the verge of the next breakthrough. Four years ago, Champions of Kamigawa was the newest Magic set, and now it's Shards of Alara, and I've been blessed to still be a fairly regular contributor to the game the whole way through. The list goes on.

But some things haven't changed. I have my life, my health, and my wife Monica still by my side. My cat is still around, and is still a (expletive). I have continued working at my craft steadily, pushing forward as I endeavor to make my art the best it can be despite the many, many hurdles life as an illustrator can put before you.

And Exit Within is still around, and not going anywhere anytime soon. I sometimes wonder if I'll run out of things to say. Perhaps, which is why regular entries in certain series help "pad" the content a bit. If I had to pontificate each week this wouldn't have lasted--certainly the large blocks of text turn some people off vs. more image-centric entries.

When people have asked me to describe--whether in terms of artistic, emotional, or personal growth--how I've changed over time, I have often answered, "More of the same, but better." So that's my goal with this blog for the next presidential term, too. More of the same, but better.