Sunday, December 30, 2012

Goblins for the break

I don't know what these guys are saying to each other, but I don't think the guy in the back cares much about anything.

No color, in fact this was just about 50 mins of blissful carefree doodling. Sometimes you need a break for a palette cleanser.

Now with color

Taken to a more dedicated color comp level. I'm hesitant to continue for fear of tying myself down with one image rather than exploring with many others. Maybe I'll return to it soon.

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Last night's Drawing

While nowhere near the level of finish one should have to begin a painting with, I'm going to be using this to do a color comp later today. I like the feel of this, want to see what I can do with it.

Inspiration was from the film 'The Name of the Rose' which was playing as I was tinkering in Photoshop.

Friday, December 28, 2012

A short note on finding the handle on a piece

Sometimes the hardest thing in creating a piece is in finding your love for it. Are you working on something that you couldn't care less about? Is it a personal project that you just can't seem to find the love for.

If you are, take a step back. What was it about this piece that made you start it in the first place? Was it an assignment from a client? If so, why did they ask you? Was it something about your ability that made them choose you? You need to remember why they asked you, why they felt you had that something the others didn't. If it was purely financial that they went with you, then move on to the next step...

What is it about drawing / writing that excites you? Is it the creation, the craft? Is it the final image that you get to show others and feel proud of? Is it the learning aspect, the chance to be exposed to new challenges that take you further up the ladder?

Take that excitement, that carrot, and PUT that BACK in your piece, because you have lost it for some reason. If you are drawing a car, and your favorite part is the craft, and you are using a method that abbreviates that part of the process, stop immediately and go back and start looking for the way to put that back in. Take note of what tools you are using, how you are using them. Are you bored? What extra flourish can you add to the task that would make it more exciting?

If you are drawing a portrait, try remembering who that person is. If you don't know anything about them, try adding a story to their life that is 100% fake but interesting enough to add some spice to your project. Make it exciting, or creepy, or raunchy, or just downright silly, but ADD a story and find that carrot again.

If you are writing an article about something boring, stop for a bit and ask questions from the standpoint of the reader; what would they really like to know about the subject? What kind of a person would be interested in this subject? Why? How can you make the article so completely shine in their eyes that their mind explodes? Dig a little deeper, and you might find a way out of the swamp.

None of these are for everyone; the point is to explore your motivations and your skill set for the right answer to boring assignments. You might have to change how you see the piece before you can find the way to love it again.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

A little world-building

Oy vay, this was a learning experience.

Next time, I'm going to remember to find ways to make abbreviating forms work for me. You don't have to draw every inch, every window. There are lots of tutorials, lots of books to see just how little they need to fool you into thinking you're seeing a city. Hell, I have oodles of art books with this kind of work in it.

Also, find some great brushes for decay and destruction; that can help age a new city up real quick.

Here's tonight experiment. See you tomorrow!

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

When lost for a subject, look in a mirror...

Nobody knows you better than you, so your portrait better be accurate. This took a bit longer than the 90 minutes I cordoned off, but I did learn that there's no reason to not throw away what you've done if you think it's completely wrong, even if you're 50% done with it.

Tomorrow I'm going to aim for something a little more... Epic. Need to start stretching my muscles for the task at hand, Science Fiction.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

One sketch a day?

In order to get back into the groove of drawing (and, frankly, do something I've never done before, even at school) I'm going to be trading sketches with my nephew (another budding illustrator / artist) on a daily basis to encourage us both to, above all, produce results.

One man's sketch may be another man's finished product (or scribble), so I'm using the term 'sketch' loosely. In this case, anything under 90 minutes.

Today's sketch was a mind-worm that hit me just as I was sitting down to do something Star Wars - Christmassy. I think I may have been inspired by a comic book shot of infant Luke playing with something Ben gave him, but I can't pinpoint it. Anyways, it came out much more sad than I expected!

Monday, December 24, 2012

Quickies are fun for everyone

Yeah, bad joke in the title, but whaddyagonnado?

I put this together this afternoon to see what I could do in a couple hours. I definitely am learning a lot from these speed drawings. Glad to feel the muscles coming into focus.

Merry Christmas!

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Stretching some ill-used muscles

It's been a while since I've free-handed some artwork on the computer. In a spur of the moment decision, I opened up a browser window and grabbed one of the first images I could find that was somewhat compelling and might put my observation to good use.

Also, I wanted a face.

Anne Hathaway is the golden child of the moment, this year has been very good to her (and sometimes not), and she's got an atypical face; I wanted to try to accentuate her face without making a caricature.

I can see a few things are off even now, after putting it up. But you gotta start somewhere.

For more of my work, go here.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Inspiration via iTunes

So I managed to put down some great notes the other night at AN OUTSIDE LOCATION. You know, like far away from my office and home. Hint hint.

Part of it was the location, of course. The other part was that I'd heard a particularly striking piece of music earlier that day. It stuck with me, and it felt like I was watching a music video of the song, but with elements of one of my stories happening as the narrative happening in the video.

That ever happen to you? Everybody has different muses, I suppose, but in my case it is music. Some of my best stories grew out of those beautiful, unexpected songs that just seemed to click with the subject matter. I'll buy the song, then play it again and again when I'm trying to find the thread of the plot or emotion in the written piece. It almost always pays off.

But sometimes you can force it, and nothing happens. One of my recent pieces was coming along too slowly when I realized I could find a song for it, and move it along. Kind of like an audio delivery of a creative ex-lax. (Thank you Uncle Steve.) Ends up that the song I found that I thought I liked ended up not helping much after the first listen; there was no connection to what the story was becoming, it only seemed to match what was already there. I haven't listened to that song or the album (which I'd purchased) for weeks. Perhaps it will latch itself to something else in the future.

I have a moleskin notebook, filled with notes and scribbles, and almost all of the best ones happened while listening to music. That's my muse, my doorway to creative solutions.

What's yours?

Friday, December 14, 2012

Friday Night is Party Time (zzzzzz)

This week has been a lesson in the 'Careful what you wish for' category. It also seems to bolster my already high opinion of 'Tempting the Gods'.

Making up for lost time this week has left me completely spent. But it did allow me to have some really great traffic time for mulling over my ideas; luckily there was plenty of time stopped to permit me to write down my thoughts. :-/

Currently my battle plan is to rough out all the stories I plan to have in the 'omnibus' edition (currently numbered at 20) and return to each like a buffet. I think this cross-pollination will allow better overall quality and should keep my learning curve from being that visible as I continue to write.

It also allows me the conceit of a shared universe amongst several of the stories, similar to Larry Niven's N-Space, or Stephen King's Castle Rock stories. Will all the stories be in one universe, or only some, or will there be distinct universes that include more than one story each? All good questions to chew on; I've already gathered them more or less into 4 or 5 different universes, each with a different focus on how the world proceeds from here.

And when those stories are roughed out, then I can begin roughing out the illustrations, tailoring their layouts to make sure they aren't too similar but act as a great set together.

So, that's my plan thus far.

How was your week?

Sunday, December 9, 2012

The Cult of Done

I prefer this approach to 'Git 'R Done!': The Cult of Done.

In short: Do ANYTHING. It's a start.

Ideas come by accident

Nobody ever came up with an idea on purpose. Sure, they planned out to come up with a solution to a particular problem, but the idea that solved it was never there until they happened upon it. Semantics, I  know.

But it's all I could think about after seeing this. This just illustrates how much FUN being a creative type can be, in spite of the poverty.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

The Idea Locker

About to turn in for the day, but I thought I'd put down a few words about my Idea Locker.

I was inspired to use the phrase from the movie The Hurt Locker (definitions vary, but the one I latched onto was a soldier's slang for a really bad place to be). In this case, I'm talking about the place where I get my best ideas and inspirations.

Where do you get yours? The shower? Riding your bike? Taking a walk?

I'm lucky in the sense that mine comes when I'm driving. Not in the 'easy to write down ideas' sense (but now that I can dictate notes to my phone, it's not so bad), but that if I want to get inspired all I have to do is jump in my car for a few minutes, turn on some music, and let my mind focus on the mechanics of driving and negotiating myself through traffic. It takes only a couple minutes before the ideas start coming through.

Why does it do this? I'm guessing it's the distraction: I have to focus a certain percentage of my brain on important things (that if I ignore, will kill me), and it relaxes the muscles that are always tense and hyper-focused. If I try to come up with an idea, consciously, I will almost never get it. Or it will be a bad idea, which is even worse.

Try to think about where you've gotten your best ideas. If it is happening in a place you can't take notes, see if there is a way you can reproduce the elements of the situation without having to do it for real.

It just goes to show that the brain is like any other part of your body; it works best when relaxed but in some level of use.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

"Day Jobs" and Tempting the Gods

As a freelance graphic designer, it's always been a roller coaster ride when it comes to finding work.

There have been some really dry stretches and during those times I'll usually pick up a day job for a year and change. It is great to build up the resume (just in case), not to mention helps with the immune system and is nice to make new friends and learn new skills that otherwise wouldn't be in your area of interest.

Nowadays, things have been pretty steady due to a strong major client and a good supporting cast of small businesses that have minor updates here and there. I've been out of a 'day job' for about 5 or 6 years now, and I don't anticipate ever going back, but you never know.

For instance, this year my wife and I finally purchased a home, left the rental market behind, but it took a huge chunk out of savings. And I've been eyeballing that moat for a couple months now, watching as things dwindle in real cash and rise in credit owed... it can get scary, ask any small business owner.

What do you do? Well, first thing you do is LOOK FOR WORK. Duh. LinkedIn, Craigslist (yuck), even maybe Elance, land of the 'logo contest'. These are all places you can find work, in addition to asking friends and acquaintances.

There is another thing I do, too. And it is much more fun than any of those other options.

It's quite simple, actually. I find a project I would love nothing more than to have a lot of free time to work on, and begin it in earnest. I do dedicate some time for outright searching of online job classifieds, but in my heart I KNOW I'm working on The Project.

And, then, suddenly, disappointingly even: Work falls in my lap.

I call this 'Tempting the Gods'. DARE the powers that be to interrupt your Most Important Project. I've found that more often than not, they don't disappoint in trying to disappoint me by tying me up in paid work.

And so it has happened again. I will continue to work on my Most Important Project, but those durned Cloud People in the Sky have thwarted me again for the most part, leaving me only a couple hours a day to work on my own personal projects. The nerve!

So next time you are looking for work... sweating bullets because nothing's coming up... watching the budget dwindle or even disappear... Well, yeah, continue to look for work. (It's no good if you're on the street!). But make a project that you'd LOVE to have more time to work on. A personal project, unpaid. Do what you can to make the time to make it happen.

And then, maybe, just maybe, perhaps more often than you expect, someone or something will come along to interrupt that work with money.

Monday, December 3, 2012

A Change of Place can Push Your Pace

Tonight I took the ol' laptop out on a date to Barnes and Noble. We hadn't been out for a while, we needed to get reacquainted.

It felt like old times, really. I bought a bottle of soda and brought it back to a small table at the Starbuck's cafe inside the bookstore, hooked up my headphones to my phone for musical separation (there was no outlet nearby and I didn't want to waste my laptop power on playing music), and settled in for a good hour of writing.

Why there? Why not?

If you can get away from your usual place every once in a while, DO IT. I'm not kidding. Get your ass out of Dodge and settle a colony somewhere away from your writing place. You'll be amazed at what that can do.

Don't forget to wear headphones (comfy, obvious headphones) that serve a dual purpose. They provide a barrier from the outside, a separation that puts your mind into your story effortlessly. You don't even have to play music. Just make sure that there's something that can keep the outside from creeping inside. The dual purpose is that they act as a deterrent, keeping people from trying to start a conversation with you. Oh, sometimes they'll try nonetheless, especially if you are a good looking gal or chap, but resist it with a smile and carry on.

Tonight I surprised myself by starting on a story I hadn't realized I was ready to begin. I wrote a good 2K words on something I hadn't a single word planned before I sat down at Starbucks in Barnes and Noble.

A change of scenery can be magical. If you are able to move around, do so; your muse will thank you for it.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

On giving your creations time to breathe

Anybody here drink wine? Red wine? Alright alright, put your hands down, you winos. Stop hooting.

There's a time period after you open a bottle of red wine that you need to allow it to breathe; it changes the quality of the taste and smell, usually to your benefit. You'll see aerators for sale that speed up the process (often as it flows out of the bottle - just an example, not an endorsement), and that's good for when you just can't wait to taste it.

Some things, though, you just can't speed up, not if you want to do it right.

Many creations fall into that category of THINGS YOU CAN'T RUSH. The irony is, of course, that in this day and age, everything needs to be done yesterday. And I have to admit that some of my best work was done in a lightning stroke of effort and inspiration, and some of yours, too.

(But not really. All the elements were there, percolating for days, weeks, maybe even months, or YEARS, before they finally broke down the barriers and, like a horde of fast-running zombies, engulfed your creative space and ate all the brains you had available.)

My point is that everything shows its flaws after time. If you have the time and opportunity, let your stories and paintings breathe a bit; put them away, go concentrate on another piece, or crack open a new book you've been wanting to read, or do your taxes, or watch a movie. FORGET ABOUT IT.

After a bit you might be tempted to go back. If you have time, DON'T GO BACK. Wait a little longer. Pretend it's your birthday present, and you have another week to go.

When you go back, you'll find the piece has changed. You'll see both growth and flaws in places you never expected. It's up to you to determine whether those flaws add value to the piece or detract from it. Sometimes letting a wine breathe too much can change the flavor in a way you don't like.

Take those flaws, those growths, and either excise them, correct them, or use them as the seedling for another piece or story. That's my favorite part; taking the rejects from one piece and using them as the ground for a new one. Some of my best pieces have been rejects from previous efforts.

Above all, if you can afford to take the time, let your piece breathe. You'll be thankful for it.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Small things starting small

I don't really need to explain everything right now. Let's just say that somebody is turning a significant age in 2013 and would enjoy having accomplished one of his goals.

What's the goal? To produce a collection of short stories and illustrations that the average science fiction / fantasy / horror junkie would enjoy. Why this? Because I remember discovering 'The Gunslinger' by Stephen King in the school library, and it really clicked with me, especially since it had such great illustrations by Michael Whelan (both full color pages and bw ink vignettes - you'll see that influence on my choice of design for my book). It helped me discover a larger world of great imagery both written and painted. I want to give that back to the ether, hopefully for someone else to pick up and read / enjoy.

Disclaimer: I'm NOT equating myself with Stephen King or Michael Whelan. I AM saying they were a great influence on me in High School, and I'd like to thank them someday, personally.

As this project develops and grows, I'll be sharing more about my own background, and why I feel I can pull this off, but the most important thing now is to GET IT DONE.

See you tomorrow.