Friday, March 30, 2012

The Good, The Bad, The Ugly

Often we see works of art that leave us inspired with dribbles of saliva flowing down the sides of our mouths. Sometimes that's just an excuse for random dribbles of saliva that flow down our mouths for no reason. What we're experiencing is the end result of long hours of work without the frustration, dookie sketches, obscure chicken scratches, that huge phase(aka the ugly phase)prior to finish, and artist's block etc.

Not every job that lands in our email is going to have the same potential for inspiration, cool imagery, or creative freedom. However, it's our job as illustrators to take these challenges and consistently create engaging, quality imagery from the given narratives. This is something that I and I would suppose everyone else has dealt with at some point. Depending on many various factors there's an ebb and flow and compromise that sometimes occur. For example, how strict are the parameters of the job? How much creative freedom are you given? Sometimes the client is set on a concept that doesn't have a lot of wiggle room and the job becomes more of a technical exercise. If the opportunity for concept isn't available then make the best technical piece that you can. Every once in a blue moon there's a flash of inspiration that happens with little effort. The art director loves your idea and it turns into a killer piece of art. Wham and Bam. I'll take more of these please. However it works out we should all have certain standards for the art we create.

Here are some sketches I've been struggling with. Sometimes I get stuck on predictable ideas and compositions that I just have to grind through before something more inspiring comes to mind. Sometimes it takes time for a good idea to strike. With looming deadlines that extra time may be a luxury. These are all factors that we illustrators work to refine and become more efficient at. Something that I still work on.

There is definitely a different dynamic when working on a personal piece of art where time and freedom are more available. I personally feel I create much better work with a certain amount of artistic autonomy and have the time to see the painting through. Whether or not such an image would sell more books or magazines is up for debate. Hopefully, clients are contacting you because they like what you do. Hopefully, the work you are representing yourself with are works that you yourself like and enjoy working on.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Sidebar Nation Interview

Here's the interview. Hope you enjoy it:)

Sidebar Nation Episode 181

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Sidebar Nation

I recently had the honor of being interviewed by the awesome guys over at Sidebar Nation. The interview should be available early next week. I'll be sure to post the interview when it's available.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Q's and A's

Hi Eric,
Your work has been a great influence on me ever since I started painting with acrylic washes. As an art student, I have been exploring a lot of possibilities with materials and techniques. There are just something I can't figure out myself even with extensive research and practice. Without a doubt, it is still my responsibility to figure out my own process. However, it would be very helpful if you could help me answer a few questions. I have been struggling with these problems for a long time already, but haven't found a right solution or person to ask. I sincerely hope you can help me out or guide me to the right direction.

1. For an under-drawing, using graphite, do you seal it with fixative before painting your washes? Or are your graphite done with hard pencils and does not bleed when washes are applied?

I do my final drawing and usually some shading with graphite. After applying my first light wash of acrylic over the entire painting and letting it dry the graphite is usually pretty sealed up. I don’t have too much of a problem with the graphite smearing on the first wash even with a 2b/3b pencil. If you are getting some smudging I would try a harder lead.

2. In such respect, how does a black monotone under-drawing affect the colors on top? Artists like Alex Ross makes use of this aspect quite significantly. Traditionally, blacks are frowned upon, but many illustrators make use of it as a underlying value to paint over.

I think using black as black and for darkening certain colors are fine. However, when you use black to darken certain colors it may not turn out to be the color you want. For example if you’re rendering a yellow object the color will probably shift towards a more intense and warmer yellow before entering the more neutral shadow area. Adding black to yellow will not warm it up. It will most likely give you a somewhat greenish tint. So using black can be fine just make sure that you are getting the color you want before applying it to your painting. Using a test sheet will help to see what the paint looks like on paper prior to using it on your actual painting.

Doing a black/gray under painting may also work fine. But again be aware of the color intensity that you are going for in the end. If you’re painting transparently remember that colors have their own inherent value and therefore may not need much of an under painting. Red is a great example of a very intense and inherently dark color. I would probably keep the under painting more focused on the core shadow areas where the values are the darkest.

Of course don’t forget to have good photo reference and a color study prior to starting on the final painting.

3. Do you find a need for an under-painting with black and grays after your graphite layer? Will this process be considered unnecessary since it is basically doing the same thing?

It depends. Often graphite shading on a white page looks dark enough, but when seen next to some dark paint it may not be as dark as needed. After my graphite shading and initial acrylic wash I usually go straight to whatever color is required.

4. As a student or even working illustrator, how do you manage with the extra amount of time that is required for layers to build up with acrylic washes?

The amount of time allowed for the project will help to dictate size and complexity of the work. So if a job has a quick turn around it may not be the best time to paint the largest or most complex painting you’ve ever done. Most printed images are not very large. So most paintings can be done at a manageable size. Of course this depends on the artist as well. Some artists can do amazing paintings at a large scale over night. Unfortunately, I’m not one of those guys.

5. Artists who work similar to your style use watercolor along with acrylic. Do you think it is necessary in order to capture an extra sense of transparency or are acrylic washes enough? Is air-brush another viable option?

I think it’s personal preference at this point. Each medium has different characteristics. I use acrylic. However, I don’t think using one over the other is a necessary choice. Plenty of great artists use mixed mediums. As for airbrushing I don’t have any experience using it so I’m not the best person to ask.

Hope that helps.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Student Interviews

I get emails from students every now and then with art related questions. I've recently been getting more than normal and a request for a phone interview as well. I try to answer as many as I have time for. Unfortunately, my time has been quite limited. So besides sharing a few sketches I'm struggling with I thought I'd also share another Q & A.

Thanks, for such a quick response. I actually saw some of your work in an illustration annual. I'm doing a presentation on an illustrator that I feel is influential, for my introduction to illustration class. I compiled a couple questions below. Thank you so much!

1. It looks like your work involves a great deal of layering. What are some of your choice materials to use?

Yes, I paint in very thin, watered down washes of acrylics on watercolor paper. Nothing special but it does require a lot of time. Sometimes more than I wish to give.

2. How do you deal with limitations in projects, when you feel like you can't insert your own artistic voice into the work?

You always do the best you can. Not every job has the potential to be something great. Sometimes clients know what they want ahead of time or have certain criteria that must be adhered to. That being said, they called you for a reason. They like your artistic vision. So you should try your best to make it your own. A good illustrator can make a great piece of art out of a mundane idea. That's our job. I think that's part of what separates great illustrators from the crowd, the ability to consistently do great work regardless of the assignment.

3. Illustration students often hear about the importance of developing a style that defines their work. How do you think you arrived at having the style you have today?

No one lives in a vacuum. We all have our influences. I think we should all be looking at other great artists and be open to all sorts of other creative venues. Try to be aware if you’re being too influenced by one artist in particular. If so put them on the shelf for a while and surround yourself with different artists in different fields. Constantly expanding our range of influences can be helpful, especially since it can be easy to get into a cycle of predictable solutions for problems. I try to do what appeals to me the most and make art that I like as opposed to what might seem like a trendy style. I’ve never really considered myself as having a very notable "style". Although, over time it kept developing further and eventually became more distinct. However, this was something that happened naturally over time and for me was less about forcing myself to find and stick with a style.

4. What sort of illustrations would you say viewers tend to be the most responsive to?

The paintings that I really enjoy working on also seem to resonate with the viewers. These are often the paintings where I have just enough art direction and freedom to make good art. For example, the pieces that have been accepted into Society of Illustrators or Spectrum also tend to be some of my own favorites.

5. What do you think are important things to consider, when a student is putting together a portfolio?

1. This sounds obvious. But good art work! Be honest with yourselves and your peers. You help each other more when you’re honest and constructive. Compare your work to the people you admire and other professionals or even the best at school. Are you up to par? It's a very competitive world out there.
2. Presentation. Whether it’s your website or your physical portfolio it should be clean and user friendly. The images should be consistently sized with similar borders. Everything should feel cohesive. In a physical portfolio it’s best to have the strongest image first, 2nd strongest last, and the 3rd strongest should be your second page etc with your weaker pieces in the middle.
If you’re at a convention or meeting an art director in person be sure to have a business card or postcards to leave behind after a portfolio review.

You may have heard this before “an Art Dir. may judge you on your weakest piece”. Because if they hire you that's what you may deliver. You're weakest piece should still be up to a certain standard. If you have a boring assignment it’s up to you to develop an engaging visual. See each assignment as an opportunity to push out the current weakest piece in your portfolio.

6. Students that work traditionally sometimes feel pressured by the growing presence of digital work in the market. Would you say that there is still just as great a demand for traditional work as there is for digital work?

Ultimately, I think if it’s a good image it’s a good image regardless of the medium. That said, I’ve heard art directors say that they sometimes miss getting a great painting in the mail that would then be shared around the office. Personally, I’ve been to some illustration openings where I was hoping to see some originals only to be let down by small prints. I guess it depends on the context. But overall I think it’s become less of an issue.

7. What do you feel is the most challenging thing about working as an illustrator?

Besides trying to have a consistently outstanding body of work promoting yourself is a challenge. Getting that first opportunity to prove your self can be frustrating. Constantly trying to expand your network and clientele is very time consuming in the beginning. Hopefully, at a certain point people will begin to recognize your name and work. But one can't be complacent. Have a website, start a blog, do whatever you can and keep people updated on what you’re doing.