The musings of a fantasy illustrator. Artwork, art-talk, and randomness.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Figure Drawing, pt.11

A: 4.5x5.5" pencil
L: 8.25x3.5" conte pencil


Hmm, I intended on doing figure drawing twice a month. Turns out at this rate that once every other month is more like it! As we've settled in out in NYC, I've kinda been pacing myself with activities. There are tons of things to do, some which I've mentioned, some which I haven't--openings and other art-related happenings. I think given the other things I do, I've informally decided that I can do one extra-curricular art-related thing per week. Doing so always takes up half the day, which when you add in other stuff means that blocks of work can get eaten up quickly. There was a convention recently, and since my last session, the holidays. So, yeah, twice a month is going to be tricky. This is a busy city. Maybe I'll have to chronicle some of these other things I do, if I can do them without sounding like a gossip-magazine, going on about all the cool illustrators and folks I get to rub shoulders with.

In any case, drawing last night. Located on the second floor of the Society of Illustrators, which is the bar as I've mentioned, the walls are decked out with some killer illustration from the Society's permanent collection. They recently swapped out the display and added in some phenomenal works by the likes of Cornwell and N.C. Wyeth. I kicked myself for not thinking to ever bring my camera to photograph this stuff, since when it gets rotated out who knows when I'll see it again. So, that'll have to happen, and serves as motivation to get me back to drawing again very soon.

Settling in, I actually wasn't feeling too ready-to-go. However, I was mostly happy with the results. I complain about it all the time, but the 20 minute limit kills me. For the last pose of the night, the ol' folding chair was brought out. I mean, you can't do seated poses without a seat, and folding chairs allow people to see the model from more angles. But they're ugly, and they just make another element you have to include in a limited period of time. I don't often do full-figure drawings anymore, often because of the time limits. On this one, as I started in, I realized I wasn't going to have time to do any rendering because I did want to get the whole figure in. So I just did it as a contour drawing. One thing you can see are interior contour forms--basically I often draw this way, drawing interior shapes, the shapes of major shadow areas. With more time, I then shade these areas and break them into smaller forms. You can see it in other drawings in this series. So these last two exemplify two opposite ends of my approaches--contour on the left, and mass-drawing on the right. Usually done during shorter poses, and with fatter media (conte crayon in this case), the goal is to mass in the shadows, and draw more by indicating these masses than focusing on the outer and inner contours. So things like the distinction between the legs gets washed out, as I focus more on value (light/dark) than line--and in this case drawing the line that would distinguish the legs would've been more artifice than anything--the distinction was really quite blurred out, indicated more by the shadow shapes at the knees than anything.


L: 6.25x9" pencil R: 2x8" conte crayon

Monday, February 16, 2009

Economic Downturncrisismeltdownemergencyapocalypse....

So how are you doing?

You can't turn your head without seeing a graph chart these days, most of them trending steeply downwards, as the world economy rides a well-greased slide. I do hope that you have not been affected too terribly by it, but I know that some of you have been, and undoubtedly others will be.

Over the last few months we've sat down here at studio Gallegos and reviewed and reappraised our plans for the rest of '09. Before sinking in time and money, there were important questions to ask regarding the coming year's conventions and activities in the light of the economic realities we all face.

2008 was sort of a milestone in terms of events. Between Magic Pre-Release signings and conventions I was a very busy guy. I think '08 was my year of most events. Well, '09 is looking a lot leaner. I'd targeted a few cons to try for the first time this year, increasing my load over '08, but in light of where the world is, I've had to cut back. The potential list had been: NY Comic-Con, Boskone, Emerald City Comic-Con, San Diego Comic-Con, Gen Con, Dragon Con, World Fantasy Convention (in my hometown of San Jose, no less). I've crossed out the ones I've decided against. This does not include events like this weekend's appearance in Rotterdam, Netherlands--as an invited guest, it does not have the same sorts of expenses involved.

This all makes me sad. I'm working on the informed presumption that many of the people who like and purchase my work are in financial pain, and that even more of them will be in pain over the next 9 months. So, before I plunk down $4-5k on total convention expenses for all of the above, plus up to 7 weeks off of work, unpaid, to attend all these conventions, it's important to really sit back and decide what's more likely: that I could do them and recoup the time and cost, or that I'd be better served saving the expenses for all these shows, and then working for 5 of those weeks (hopefully)? There are intangibles involved, mainly revolving around networking. Can I make up the difference by instead putting some of that money and time into advertising?

More sobering still: what am I doing to the economy on my own by these decisions? Airline tickets will go unpurchased, hotel rooms unbooked, the Field and Rei do Gado restaurants unpatronized, and so on. Super Shuttle will miss out on fares to the airport. Starbucks will certainly sell fewer coffees. Those decisions will contribute to some of you, maybe, being negatively affected in return.

And that's how the economic cookie crumbles, one consumer at a time running for cover.

Back with some art next week, I promise.

Friday, February 06, 2009

25 Things, pt.2

13.)My older brother did a lot of art, too. As kids we would draw comics, fold them up and staple them, then sell them to each other for a dime each, until my brother caught wind of how often Marvel and DC were raising their cover prices. By the time we outgrew that, our newly-discovered capitalism had sent our prices skyrocketing to about a quarter each. Had he continued in art past High School he'd currently be at least as good as me, but he didn't and I'm kind of glad--I really do not need even more competition in this field.

14.)My first painting was a copy of Derek Riggs' Iron Maiden cover for "Somewhere in Time." My brother and I tag-teamed it in Acrylic. We later collaborated on "Stranger in a Strange Land" by the same artist. I'd never listened to Iron Maiden and didn't care for it when we played it while working but, damn, those covers were always awesome.

15.)My first job was selling movies at Suncoast. While working there, the aforementioned Mrs. Lowry showed up as a customer, whom I had not seen in 10 years. She was still lovely. My second job, and the one that got me through college, was as a "highlighter" working for the just-about-to-explode Lightpost Publishing, of Thomas Kinkade fame. This brings no end of laughter and derision from anyone who finds out, so I'm happy to let you in on the fun. I recall spending some days at Tom's house, we'd drive up with entire editions--thousands of prints, and he'd sign them. I'd pull each print from under his hand so we could get through the stacks sometime that year. We watched movies on video while we did this, including a documentary on Rockwell. He was nice to me and supportive, except for the time he ridiculed my car.

16.)Back in those days, Lightpost was quite generous, and each year you worked there they'd give you a signed canvas AP edition print. My now-wife worked there too for awhile (at the corporate office, she told me about the job), so we each got a couple each. We sold them before getting married and they paid for an entire 2 week honeymoon in England and part of our wedding. So suck it.

17.)I couldn't afford to get a degree at CCA, so attended 3 years. After the first Core year, I realized I couldn't do it, and also realized there were some terrible teachers there--I had the mistaken impression going in that all art teachers were in fact good. So I proceeded to write my course requests each semester thereafter in pencil. When my advisor signed off, I'd erase the recommended courses and write in what I wanted and turned that in--all the good studio courses, with good instructors plus some Art History and literature as my interest dictated. 2 years later I'd crammed all the studio coursework from the degree program and left, saving myself, at the time, close to $30k for the remaining 2 years. Then as well as now, CCA was roughly as expensive as your average Ivy-league school (Harvard '08-'09 is $32k/yr. CCA is $31k/yr). Even after grants and scholarships, it was loan-heavy and painful, and remember I was from an "educationally disadvantaged" area.

18.)After Lightpost I did 3d modeling of medical stuff--organs, systems, etc.. I was trained on the job and got pretty good at spline-based modeling. This was so long ago that I was using 3d modeling software that Macromedia published. You didn't know that Macromedia ever made 3d modeling software? We even got to go to the offices and give them feedback on the fledgling product, which was later canceled. There isn't even a Wikipedia page for the product as of this writing.

19.)I worked a year at Nexon Inc. (of Maple Story fame) back during their first attempt to infiltrate the USA market. I did web design, and all sorts of non-3d graphics work, including some UI design, packaging, and advertising. The main product was "Shattered Galaxy" which got good press but dismal sales, releasing days after 9/11 when no one cared about games for a bit. And if you can't sell in your first month, you're toast. I was laid off shortly thereafter, and Nexon Korea disowned the American branch, then a few years later reestablished new offices elsewhere and continued with great success.

20.)In that vein, after being laid off I was among 2-3 candidates being considered for a packaging design position at Nintendo. I was the only out-of-state candidate, and they decided to stay local, all things being equal. In the years before and since, I've worked exclusively on a freelance basis.

21.)I played bass (poorly) and sang (even worse) in a band until about '04. As I was freelancing most of those years, I didn't apply myself to seriously studying music as I should have. Our first gig was also a couple days after 9/11. Everyone was nice enough not to tell me I sucked. However, I think there were more people there than purchased Shattered Galaxy.

22.)I am neurotically self-critical of my artwork. While I know objectively that I have some talent (compared to, you know, people who aren't artists), when I think about the artist I want to be, or that I should've been by now, or consider the greatness of so many others, I am completely deflated, and this is most of the time. Related confession: sometimes, when I am stuck for an idea or stuck on a painting, I ask myself the following question, "What would a good artist do?" And you know what, asking that question often results in finding a solution, as I think about what good artists would do. I am convinced most of my progress over the years is due to this chronic lack of satisfaction in my work.

23.)Generally speaking, I don't drink. My last glass of beer was in 2006 in England, and it was only a half-pint glass, which my British friends didn't know the pub even had. I will, however, ask for a sip of nearly any drink anyone near me has (provided I know them). This is partially because most alcohol tastes like vomit to me, and I'm curious to see what all the fuss is about (the only beer I can stomach is Guinness, which I'm told is not actually beer, but liquid bread). This does mean that getting me drunk is exceedingly simple: I need to be around enough people who keep ordering themselves different drinks. Eventually I'll single-sip my way into oblivion. But it's never happened.

24.)I have never smoked or used any illegal substance. I was always so uncool that to this day I don't think I have ever been asked if I want to buy drugs by anyone. I honestly don't see the point, and especially for artists who make so little money in general, drugs seem like a hugely foolish purchase. But this factor--low wages as an artist--also greatly contributes to why I don't drink alcohol. I see the price tag of a glass of wine at a restaurant, or a mixed drink, and the thought of paying that is actually completely outside consideration.

25.)I think I like Guinness because it is liquid bread. This is because my favorite foods tend to be bread-related. I am also like a bear out of hibernation every morning, and must have breakfast ASAP or I...well, nothing really happens--I have a very steady demeanor--but I do rush to eat breakfast within seconds of leaving bed every morning. And bread-like things always figure into that, be they bagels, toast, waffles, pop-tarts, pancakes, etc.. I can eat breakfast for any meal of the day.


Frosted Strawberry is typical, but I'd be happy with no-frosting and no-filling

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

25 Things, pt.1

Matt Cavotta recently tagged me in this little Facebook thing. I felt special--I'd been reading other people's 25 things lists and enjoying them immensely. Then I got tagged. That was nice, but now I feel I gotta pony up. Since that's a private page, I'm making the facts public by posting it all here, too. And before you hit me up on Facebook, I must say that I'm kinda keeping it to close friends and colleagues. Sorry, but I reveal enough about myself on this blog for general consumption. But, you get the bonus version--with links and pictures! Now then, here's your pony:

And a dog!

1.) Though I was born on Reformation Day, I mean Halloween, I long ago began hating Halloween. Perhaps it was due to a few costume parties I had thrown for me when I was very small where I was a clown, or Frankenstein's monster, or a hobo. Perhaps it's because my costumes always sucked, so what was the point? I rarely celebrate my birthday, and even though I try to avoid it, it often seems to still be bad news. Recent birthdays included being laid up in a hospital E.R in Italy, and spending it alone in Troy, NY at a shady pizza joint.

2.) I played football my freshman year of High School, because it was a manly thing to do and I liked football. I was second-string center, mainly because I could not for the life of me hike a shotgun. I stopped caring about all sports by the end of high school, and stopped watching them entirely as well. Except for the Olympics, which I love.

3.) I did not play football my sophomore year, when I might've changed positions (tight end?). I was debating whether to do it, and then suffered a ruptured appendix which laid me up in the hospital for a week and made the decision for me.

4.) I skipped a year of elementary school. I suppose I did well on some tests I was sent to during the last hour of class every day in second grade, whose purpose I was not aware of. I'm not sure what prompted the tests, but I probably did my best on them because I thought the administering lady, Ms. Burns (Mrs.?) was pretty, and wanted to impress her. I remember she wore tall boots with her skirts, a combo that has doubtless inspired many acts of heroism and greatness throughout history. Had I known what they were scheming, I might've done poorly on purpose because my second grade teacher whom I had to leave, Mrs. Lowry, was gorgeous. Apparently my parents named me Randy somewhat presciently.

5.)My first name is actually Randy, not Randolph or any other imagined expansion. I was born without a middle name (it was very sad), but was convinced from my earliest years that it was Richard. One night, probably in first grade, my older brother told me I didn't have a middle name, and we bickered about it in the back of the car. Finally I asked my mom, rhetorically, because I knew I was right, "Mom, my middle name is Richard, huh?" She hadn't been paying attention and automatically responded, "Yes, yes." I smiled smugly and owned it. When I found out years later that I had been had, I made it legal in 8th grade. My British friends greatly enjoyed learning that my first two names are therefore Randy Dick.

6.) My earliest memory as a child is of seeing Star Wars in the theater during its re-release I think in 1978. I only recall that I must've fallen asleep in my chair, because my earliest memory specifically is of being woken up during the first scene as those spaceships flew overhead, impossibly huge. My brain melted, and when it coagulated again I found it had been cast in the die of a fantasy artist.

7.) The first music cassette I purchased was Eddy Grant's "Killer on the Rampage" album, featuring the classic hit, "Electric Avenue." I was 8.

8.)I met my wife when I was 14 and we started dating when I was 15, or, as she likes to say, "Before he had chest hair," which is true. I knew within a year that I would (or at least could, provided she stuck around) marry her, and would've done so at the earliest possible legal moment but for family and societal pressure to marry later. I married her at 23 and still can't believe how she hasn't figured out what a horrible mistake that was. I proudly count it as my greatest trick.

9.)I spent a month one summer as a kid in Harlingen, TX. I happen to have family there. It was hot as hell and there was very little to do but go to the mall or the public pool, both of which had cooling-you-off as their primary qualities. One day, at the mall, there was a crowd in the center--we went to see what the matter was and it turned out that Muhammed Ali was there, and was going to sign autographs! I have no idea why, but we waited in line and I shook his hand and told him he was the best. He had just been diagnosed with Parkinsons that year, and looked a little shaky, but was in good spirits.

10.)My first concert was Duran Duran, with Erasure opening. This was on the "Strange Behaviour" tour. My first concert was supposed to be Culture Club the year before but Boy George got arrested for drugs that year and the tour was cancelled, and the band subsequently broke up. I was a huge fan of both bands growing up.

11.)I suck at math, but didn't always. In 8th grade I won second place in a math competition held at UC Berkeley for MESA students. I didn't know MESA was a program for "educationally disadvantaged students" but I went to school in East San Jose, which is considered...educationally disadvantaged. MESA failed in that they were trying to get us poor East Side students to enter careers in Math or Science, and I chose Art. By 9th grade I had fallen so far behind in Algebra 1 due to slacking off that I never recovered. In Geometry I spent the first semester not doing a single homework assignment. However, we were told that our semester final test grade would replace all lower test scores, and that test scores would comprise something like 80% of our grade. Crazy, huh? I basically failed every test along the way. The day before the final exam, I crammed the textbook and got the highest grade in the class and a B- for the semester, for one day's work. My best ROI ever. It was a very proud moment as every brainy kid who thought I was a total loser for reading Xanth novels during class looked at me incredulously. The second semester, after proofs and theorems and logic were out of the way, and Algebra crept back in, I had no such luck. My relationship with math was over, permanently.

12.)On that note, I didn't read much for pleasure until the summer before 10th grade. My English teacher sent me the first 2 books of Piers Anthony's "Incarnations of Immortality" series (On a Pale Horse, Bearing an Hourglass) in the mail, after I expressed an interest in the series on account of their covers. I was hooked from then on, and read voraciously and to such an extent that I neglected almost everything else in high school besides art, and my girlfriend. When I got wheels my Senior year, I would cut class to spend hours at used book stores. Yeah, I was hardcore.