I have been working with another artist on a cover for a dice box. My contribution is to provide the top box art, which he will then use a laser etcher to add to the precision-cut wood boxes. At present, we’ve landed on a 10″ by 2″ box (5:1 aspect ratio). The current piece is just me going a bit silly on the rendering since ultimately the final piece, minus either of us doing post etch work, will come out black and white. If I was serious about it, I would clean up my lines and coloring. Nevertheless, I thought it a pretty cool design worth sharing.
Well, I got a lovely surprise this morning when I woke up – someone dropped out of the art show at Norwescon. Well, okay, that’s not lovely news, now is it? Bad Ward! But it did mean that as I was on the waitlist, the show coordinator reached out and asked if I’d like to participate. Huh? Of course I would!
Granted, I did not have the frames ready for hanging, but when has a little bit of last minute rush hurt anyone? After a quick detour to Michaels for hanging tackle, and Home Depot for some tools … I was off to the art show to hang my stuff. It took me more time that I hoped, and some stuff got messier than I would have liked due to the hanging wire making my hands messy. Note to self: white frames not a good idea going forward. But some 90 minutes later, I got everything hung and labels printed. I’m not really expecting anyone to buy my work, but its nice to have finally made it to the Norwescon Art Show – largely since it was Norwescon two (or three?) years ago that got me to really think about getting back into pursuing art as a hobby after a nearly 25-year hiatus. And secretly hoping that I may someday be able to afford it as my second career. But I’m not there yet – both skill-wise and financially for that kind of transition.
I did have one treat before leaving my exhibit: a young girl saw one of my pieces hanging, and immediately dragged her mother over to see while exclaiming “oh my gosh! oh my gosh! oh my gosh!” so I may have at least one more fan after this show. 🙂
Post Note: If you are curious what piece the little girl liked, keep on reading below. It is the one piece none of the panelists liked. Which is a good note to self on know why audience.
Then at 3pm today I also participated in the artist workshop where you can have your work critiqued. Julie Dillon happened to be on my panel, which is an extra treat since she was the artist guest of honor for the first Norwescon I attended … and as noted, it was here that got me really interested in getting back into art. And without putting to strong a point on it, it was Julie’s presentation that year that helped me believe I too could really make the leap back into art in a serious kind of way. So it was especially lovely to have her participate today. I also had an art director from Paizo Publishing, along with another generalist artist and two avid art collectors. So quite an eclectic set of folks to review my work.
If you are interested, I’ve attached below my raw notes from the session. What follows is a more considered summary of the experience.
To give some context, I’ve historically not enjoyed hearing critique of my own work – I was frankly too immature to listen to feedback and incorporate it in my younger years. And in the past few years – as I’ve traversed through the Dunning-Kruger effect – I grown as an artist who can really see my own weaknesses much more than I could two years ago, while simultaneously seeing in other professionals strengths that I do not yet possess. And while I think I vastly more emotionally equipped to handle critique than some twenty-five years ago when I was in high school, I nevertheless found it a surprisingly emotional experience. This is not to say it was not a wonderful experience; it was. It’s just that it was subtlety and even sublimely different than what I expected going into it.
To be brutally honest, on reflection, I had secretly hoped I’d hear a bunch of people tell me how awesome I am – I am not. And of course, the entire point of going into a critique is to find the places where either you are blind to, or re-inforce your understanding of known weaknesses. Yes, people will generally try to frame any critique with compliments on areas that you are strong, but no one is there to blow sunshine up your arse. And they did not. That all said, I walked away with no new surprises, and got great triangulation through very consistent feedback on areas where I know I am weak. So all in all, a very worthwhile hour of critique.
What is most interesting and curious to me is the difference between the pieces I like the most and they liked the least. In particular, pieces where the narrative was strongest was the most appreciated by the panelists. For example the three works titled Hello, Morning Reverie and Visitor stood out as being the strongest in narrative, and all were universally liked. That does not mean there was no feedback for points on improvement with this pieces, but it seems that strong narrative will gain you a lot of forgiveness when some parts of the piece do not work. And therefore the corollary to this is that pieces with little or no narrative are consequently open season for very strong negative reactions.
Another surprise is that the first piece, Dragon Eye, did not read as a sleeping dragon by anyone. Of course, since I drew it, I can see nothing by a dragon. So that was an interesting bit of feedback I’d never received till now. They all saw either a very abstract piece, or even a spaceship … but no one saw a dragon eye till I noted the title of the piece. And because there was no strong narrative, I think a lot of the panelists got hung up on it. That said, at least one panelist seemed on the fence to liking it since the subject was a bit elusive at first.
Even though I least like Morning Reverie stylistically, it seemed to be one of the stronger pieces for everyone else. And ironically, Earth & Sea – which I like more than the others, was panned universally by the panel of folks. And it evoked the strongest negative emotions from one of the panelists in the most uncertain terms. (And hint to the post note above, it’s this latter piece which the little girl loved.)
One of the consistent pieces of feedback was that if I were to pursue a professional career then I really need to nail a single style – or minimally have portfolios specific to each style. Given the work I brought for review is all over the place, this did not work well if it were for a professional review. So that is good to know – especially as a “jack of all” kinda person, this is actually quite important feedback if I ever decide to pursue this hobby seriously as a professional. As the art director noted, when they hire an artist they want to know that person will produce work in that very specific style. So I guess that makes a lot of sense. Granted, I sorta feel as an artist I cannot call myself an capital A Artist until I’ve mastered a more painterly style … which is something I kept noting in the works presented. In particular, line art and illustration come very naturally to me, and a part of my journey is to discover a more painterly style within me. Anyway, I digress. Back to the feedback, I gotta focus on nailing perspective and anatomy, two places where I’m sufficiently off. Generally speaking, my use of colors, textures, and details around rendering were strong. But where people generally tripped up were on anatomy and volume/form.
While everyone (read: me) wants to hear they are awesome – I found it far more encouraging and useful to hear some very consistent feedback and reactions from people unfamiliar with any of my work. And it was re-assuring that the areas where I feel I am weak are also the areas where others noted I need to work on; minimally I feel more confident I am on the right track.
Onward and upward!
not immediately obvious but in a good (?) way at least for a collector.Dr Seuss
Composition interesting but opening the eyelid would increase immediate recognition.Too abstract. Temper between what kind of art you want to make — interesting vs selling.
Riding the line between line or representational work.
Possibly open up eye and change some color top and bottom
cool textures and color story.
Shape of head and eyes that are off for a professional.
Everything should be planned out in the narrative for professionally for a brief or beats.
Work more on anatomy … structure of the head.Drawing from life and facial features at muscle memory.
Get back to basics
Woman and dragon pull against each other
Woman’s anatomy feels off
Schoolism.com you can audit classes specifically for facial anatomy and color theory
Ear distance seems off for a human … use reference material but do not just copy
Dragon head is not sufficiently contrast … details not popping.
Dragon coming down over shoulder
Anatomy Coloring Book
Texturing and rendering good
Anatomy needs work
Fun textures and shape
Curiosity and mystery
Front left foot looks a little not far enough down … from perspective it appears off
Earth & Sea
hire for a specific style
professionally try to nail your own style and not have too many styles per portfolio
Roots do not translate well … are they tentacles
Face works better since it is more stylized and allows for more exaggeration
What is the concept or narrative?Confusing what the story is? There are scenes, but over arching story is missing.
Roots do not grow that way – really does not like this piece at a deep level (my read of them, not their words)
Water is chasing the roots away. … but narrative is missing
Story is strong … resonated with people much more
Face and body language much stronger … allows for much more story to tell
Colors are cool
Lighting from background
Perspective and anatomy … get back to basics.Core skills need to be built up
Readability is harder.Contrast is competing, not helping viewer
Well, we arrived a little later than we had originally planned. But that is okay. We arrived in time to quickly register, and then move over to setup a table at Art in Action from 5 to 6p today. While it was a bit quiet, we stilled had a few people stop by. Given it was the first day of the Con, that is not too surprising.
I spent my time working on taking a quick sketch – one I did for a client awhile back that we did not move forward on – and decided I’d try my hand at rendering it. I suspect I may take another pass at it at a later time. Nevertheless, I really enjoyed having a chance to interact with folks. And I even had a few people who took me up on the offer of a free sticker (or two). Yep, I have stickers! So if you are at NorwesCon this year, do not hesitate to hit me up for one. 🙂
That said, tomorrow I will be a part of the Art Workshop where I show my work to a combination of professional and amateur artists to get some further feedback. It’s always just nice to meet other like-hearted folks to share in our intersection of passions of art and all stuff fantastical.
And I will be out again on Saturday from 4 to 6p again at Art in Action. If you missed me today, do not hesitate to stop by on Saturday.
For those attending Norwescon 41, I will be participating in Art in Action. I will be showing my digital art process and tools for anyone interested. Note, I am not a professional, but an avid hobbyist; so my motivation is more purely to meet folks, and since I wanted to some time to just sit and sketch, what better way than to make myself feel exceedingly awkward by doing so in public space where anyone and everyone can come up and say hello.
I’ve been sorta been dragging my feet on doing value studies using movie scenes, although I know they are highly recommended by a lot of people online. I have really no good reason for this aversion per se, but I’ve always been adverse to using references. I mean, I use them from time to time, but I have long-standing belief started in childhood that everything had to come from my head, or directly by examination of 3D objects – never 2D photos – in order to qualify as an artist or art. At some point, I should post on that but I digress. Regardless, I know it’s something I really need to get over.
So fast-forward to nearly 45 years old, and now I’m studying movie scenes to better learn about composition and values. For those interested, I’m taking Austin Batchelor’s Udemy course, Digitally Painting Light and Color: Amateur to Master. He has a lot of excellent resources online, including his YouTube channel. One interesting argument for using movie scenes is that generally they have had a lot of people involved in their production thus compositions referenced are likely better references than just picking something random of the interwebs. And by using a photo with just a focus on values and composition, you really do liberate yourself from solving a lot of other problems that you’d normally need to solve starting from the proverbial blank canvas. Again, these are meant to be studies, not artwork itself.
What I found interesting about this exercise is summed by the fact that is actually far more valuable than I first believed. Its actually very hard to limit the proverbial palette to just three (3) values – you really have to make some hard decisions on what to keep and what to leave behind. Also, working without any zooming in really help keep things fluid, similar to how a lot of people recommend doing thumbnails, really does forces you to solve the 30,000-foot view of the image; so often its easy to get lost in adding details you quickly lose sight whether a composition really reads well. I highly recommend people interested in trying this exercise to remember to stay fast and loose. Every time I tried to get into details, I realized I lost much of the charm and flow.
That all said, there are a few things I want to tighten up in future studies. In particular, I did not try to strongly match actual values or too strongly match the original representationally albeit to read at-a-glance; to wit, some images do not look too strongly like the original. I just went fast and used whatever three values I selected at random. That all said, I will continue to refine my approach to more closely match the actual photo in future studies.
Interestingly enough, I found these studies very easy to do even when I feel I’m blocked on my own work. And by spending 10-15 minutes per photo you get a pretty close examination of another image, along with what works and does not work in the original.