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Monday, July 26, 2010

And Now, A Word From The Peanut Gallery....

Hello! This is Jynx, a figment of Kat's imagination. She's finally letting me have a word on her blog and it's about time! I do all the gritty work for her after all!

I started out as a fictional character in an ongoing Star Wars D6 campaign as a special forces operative for the Rebellion. Since then I've worked my way up to Lt. Colonel.....I am guessing it's for my ability to patch up people after blowing them into pieces. Well, what did you think!?! I'm a demolitions engineer extraodinaire! (Ask around, it's true!)

In addition to all my duties to the Rebellion I help Kat out by acting as her muse, inner voice, and that annoying voice in the back of her head that tells her it is late and she ought to get some sleep! I am her ambassador at the game table, letting her get into my shoes in order to better experience life in the Star Wars universe. Taking that one step further........she also likes to torture me by making me act, do, and wear odds and ends in the weirdest places when she is struggling though a project. 

But it's all good cause in the end we need one another. Without her I wouldn't least, I don't think I would. And without me...well, without me she'd have no way to  blow off any steam when she got frustrated and had to work through a project (now the pun is intended). 

Right now she's sleeping tight with her face in her paint palette and a lung full of knock out mean....

Well, it's been a real slice, but I gotta go. Besides, I think she's coming to!

Anyways, remember any of the awesomeness you see come of Kat has me to thank too...

'Behind every good artists is a grenade wielding poster child'-Jynx

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Villainous Me!

So, I mentioned before that I met Fred Hicks or Hero Games at Origins a few weeks ago. After looking at some of my work I got my first freelance commission! WOOT!!!

Currently I am working on 6 villain designs for their Villains game book....and they are all of ladies!!!

This couldn't have been any more up my alley and I know I am lucky to land this as my first career job even if it's only freelance! I am so excited and already have a million sketches done in just a few short hours after getting the  specs in. Tomorrow I will clean up the pencils on all six hopefully so that on Monday I will be able to scan them in and send them off for approval before moving onto the finished pieces.

So excited! Post my work as soon as I get the ok to do so which probably won't be until after they are published but that's no worry!

Welp, back to the sketchbook to clean up these ladies!

Friday, July 16, 2010

Some Watercolor Ladies

Some days you just need to not care about the technical aspects of life and art and just spread paint around on paper like you did as a kid. Here are some doodlies I did this morning while watching some belly dancers. They are loose gesture drawings that I then went over in paint later, keeping things really loose.

Watercolor class is nice and all but a lot of times it gets really frustrating, you feel that you fall short of your expectations....and the instructors. So I guess sometimes you just have to paint it out. Art's about figuring things out after all, and I would rather be frustrated in these pursuits than on actual illustration pieces that have more work involved.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Designing Your Portfolio: Vexations From An Artist Who's Been There & Done It

There are a lot of things you have to do yourself in order to get it right, and building up a portfolio is one of those things. It's hard work, mind numbing, and very tedious, but well worth doing in the end. 

I am fortunate enough (though more often than not I feel it is unfortunate) to have a class dedicated to building up a personal brand, portfolio, and website among other promotional things such as business cards, postcards, and learning about resumes and such. And fortunate enough to be able to take advantage of networking to get critiques from professionals in the field about the process of making a portfolio. 

A few things that are key is that it should look professional, be unique to you (express your voice), and consist of around 15 pieces that look polished and focus on what it is you like to do. One thing that has helped me to think about my own portfolio process has been WoTC Senior Art Director's blog In addition there is a very awesome art community to be found there for help on such topics as this. 

But, to the main business.....

For me, a vital part of my art has come from gaming. I wasn't fond of it to start and it took years to get me to sit down at a game table to play anything at all. But eventually it grew on me......or rather, out of me. I created a character that really stuck and has become an integral part of my life, my sweet little demolitions engineer, Jynx. She can blow up things in a fictional sense when I would love to do it in real life......things like homework assignments, creepy clowns, and the Easter Bunny (<---he is EVIL!). 

So when it came time to branding our artwork and tying that unique identity into our presentations it was very clear that Jynx had to be a part of that (she threatened to blow up all my hard work if I didn't).

The above image is the introduction page of my process portfolio. I wanted to mimic the feel for the process as is seen in my sketchbook, so I scanned in pages of my moleskin sketchbook to create a template. From there I added the image of Jynx scribbling what I came up with for a tagline (and the title of this blog) 'Madness to the Method. It felt appropriate to use this as a tagline as anyone who has seen my sketchbook can tell you it is quite messy in there. Yet from the madness come some pretty cool pieces in the end. 

Surprisingly a lot of non artists don't realize how stressful our line of work is, and how much junk we have in our minds. 

To set the feeling off I added some early sketches of my character in the background, ghosting them to make them look more sketchy, and finally adding in my name and information. This is important in case for whatever reason your portfolio gets separated from you. (I also tore the edges of the paper where the binding would be so that once placed into a portfolio book they would look like real pages torn out of a book).

With the intro page out of the way I am free to begin to plot out the interior pages of my process portfolio. While I did feature the final pieces in this portfolio, it is really more about how I got to the finished piece rather than the finished piece itself (though it is still important). A process portfolio can be an important tool to take with on interviews to clients so that they can get a feel for how you work. It can also help to open you up to conversing about your line of work and what it is that you love to do.

For me this is true. At Origins Convention 2010 only a few weeks ago I took a few of my process portfolio pages with me to show. I didn't have a complete portfolio together at this time, and I didn't even have them in a nice folder at all since I was still in the process of putting it together, yet it was able to help me not only get my foot in the door, but work as well. (Well, and my friend David helped too since he introduced me to the art director who then took a look at my stuff).

While I didn't have a complete portfolio with me I was still able to confidently talk about what work I did have to show. And I was also able to get critiques from other artists on putting a portfolio together. 

The above pages are facing pages, one that shows my process and the the other that shows the final piece. A process portfolio will be more useful in a commercial sense so that companies can see how you work. But it can also be useful for concept work, since process work is also vital to this field. 

With the process portfolio done and out of the way it is time to move ahead to the finished portfolio. Here I have moved away from the sketchbook feel because this is more integral to polished work. The design reflects another type of professional branding that I used on the written side of things. The design follows suit with my design resume (that means that it is my resume that has been dressed up a lot nicer to be handed out once I have already gotten an interview). Again, this is an introduction page to my portfolio and it is important to put your information here in case you lose your portfolio but also to remind the person looking at it who you are.

I switched to black out of necessity I will admit here. One of the pieces featured in my finished portfolio looked so out of place on a white background that I decided to use a black background instead.

Here is the same piece from my process portfolio modified to fit into my finished portfolio. There is a big difference in how the piece looks now with a cleaner and simpler design than in the first portfolio.

With this I made a template once again that has the title of the piece, what it's application would be, the original dimensions, and the media used. These are tidbits for the person looking at it which might strike up questions about the piece during a review or interview.

The finished portfolio pieces should all look polished and as though they are already published. While the majority of the work in this is student work that isn't mentioned in the portfolio. Instead I use applications of what the pieces intended use would suit.

Making a portfolio is by no means an easy task, and each one is different. Also, I am not happy with the final result of my own portfolio because I am always striving to do better, but with that in mind I also  know that in the next few years my portfolio will go through a metamorphosis. I am not sure if I will ever be happy with it, really, but I don't hate it either. I merely see there is room for improvement, just no way of getting there yet.

But some day.....

And of course, the most important thing is that if my unfinished process portfolio and my own confidence in what it is that I do was able to help me get my foot in the door then I have already accomplished something.

So for anyone struggling with putting one of these together:

Yes, they are a pain in the ass and you will want to veg out on the couch with a beer and not pay any attention to it, hoping that some magical elf will come in and make it for you.

No, you probably won't be happy with the first couple ones that you produce, but it's magic in the making!

Get feed back. I know it's scary to open up and show people what you are working on, not to mention talking about it. But that's the thing, you need to show people and talk to them or else why bother in the first place?

One thing I have observed in my own experiences is that while commercial illustrators (like ad people) will hoard their secrets like a dragon does a coin that most artists out there will give you some scraps. I am not saying all commercial illustrators are so with holding (a fair share of them aren't), merely that it is my experience that professionals in the field(s) I am pursuing are and have been willing to share information and opinions when asked.

Worse thing comes to worse is they ignore you or turn you away.

Take what crits you get with a grain of salt and always be polite about it. Remember, that you aren't the only one getting help when you ask questions. A lot of times that I have asked for advice it spurred the artist or art director to considering something else that had nothing to do with me at all. Nurture relationships the same way you do your art or children (<---no I don't have any kids of my own).

You will have late nights up tending to the needs of your art, spend hours fussing over it, get angry and send it to the corner, feel guilty and apologize to it later, snuggle up with it late at night. Like all good things, they happen over time. I won't say anything about patience, since I never seem to have any of it to be honest, but you will get through some how.

And no matter what, don't do anything that isn't you or what you like. Why risk getting stuck in a place like that for the rest of your life?

Hope this has been helpful.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Character Profiles

I have to say that watercolor figure painting has some good play in the rest of my work, even if I still don't get real wild with my paint. We were doing some head studies of skulls and plaster casts, and doing studies like that helps me to understand certain features better. Like how light effects thins, is  bounced around, and about the structure of things. 

I think this is an important tool for all artists, not just illustrators and concept artists. After all, things have got to look right. 

Anyways, I did a quick head study of an alien I made up for a game scenario in the Star Wars game group I belong to (<----yes, I am a nerd). 

She's based off of a race called a Theelin in the Star Wars universe, an alien that was in the movies. Rystall Sant (the character's name) is in Jabba's palace as a singer, and also shows up in Attack of The Clones as the diva at the opera house and again earlier in the movie as an ad on the holonet when Zam is taking a sniper shot at Obi Wan. 

Wow, that iw really nerdy.......heh.

Anyways, it's a cool looking alien species that is half human and fun to do. I did this in watercolor and ballpoint pen in my moleskine watercolor sketchbook just as a doodle, but I was surprised to see that a lot of the study I did in class shows through in this piece. 

The way that some of the features turned out, and how I blocked certain areas out for shadows followed the same patterns as I used in class. For a study it came out nice, I think eventually I will do a full figure in a scene somewhere.....some sort of a harem perhaps. 

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Self Portrait Final

So it's Thursday, and I wasn't planning on bringing home this piece to work on so I busted my ass to get it done in class today. Yesterday I added text copy and the jelly fish to the image with clear acrylic media (Golden soft gloss media) mixed with water. It acts as both a glue and a sealant. 

I also started to go in in some choice areas with colored pencils since the media take a while to dry. 

After the media dried over night I was able to go in with my watercolors. I put colors down in a butcher's tray so that I could access more paint. Again, this took a while to dry so I went into my face once again with colored pencils and watercolor. My figure is the only thing not treated with a coat of the clear media, providing a totally different texture and way of working the material. 

I went in and detailed some areas here though camera phone doesn't let me get into the detail. At this pint I was pretty happy with the piece. I added some opaque watercolor flicks with a brush and at the same time also pulled color off of the media. 

A close up of my face. I really like the way this turned out and it was neat to putz around with new things while still retaining a lot of the watercolor methods. While this is collage this is still at least 50% watercolor. 

All in all the media used is watercolor, colored pencils, clear acrylic, scans and printed copy, and water lifts. 

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Self Portrait: Update

So Tom looked at the pictures Liz and I took of ourselves in class today and gave us the go ahead. Unfortunately we wasted an hour of class time where we could have been working to print out stuff and buy supplies. Seems that I've gone through two and a half watercolor blocks already in class.....that's an insane amount of paining!!!

So, about thirty minutes to print out some photos, ten minutes shopping for watercolor paper and tracing paper (well, it should have been 10 minutes but the clerk behind the counter kept talking).

When I was finally able to get back up to class it took me about ten minutes to trim the paper to size and tape it to the board.

Ok, I will be honest with a big gripe I have. Tom's class has been working on this project for a  little over two weeks now. There are some amazing things being done, but it seems there are only two students in his class who have actually done any real work and are almost done. I am baffled a bit by how slow some of those kids work!

Liz and I started today, and the project is due on Monday the 13th. That gives Liz and me today, tomorrow, and Thursday to work since there is no classes on Fridays (it's a Summer thing) and because I can't see either of us brining home our pieces unless we feel the absolute need to do it. 

So, up above I was working from a picture I had taken of me. The first stage was laid in in pencil (<---ugh, I know), and rendered in ball point pen. Unfortunately this was the very end of class, so I only spent about 20 minutes on this part if that much. 

So during lunch I went ahead and laid in a very simple wash. I normally work on hot press watercolor paper, but given that this is supposed to be a collage I wasn't confidant that 140lb hot press would hold up to the barrage of things I would throw in this piece, so I am working on 140lb cold press (gasp!). 

Colors used are yellow ocher, permanent rose (<---pink, you can't live w/o it), and burnt sienna. This is just a real quick wash to get me into the piece. 

Lunch came and went, leaving me some time to add some paint and also to cut out some old journal pages that I had scanned in and printed out. I actually traced around my portrait with tracing paper and used it to cut the inside edges of the paper so that they appear behind my head. After that I used clear acrylic media with water to form a type of glue, and stuck a bunch of torn up tracing paper to it. Then I hit it with paint and let it drip down. 

Lastly, I began to add in some tone and do some starter detail work that may not be as apparent in the scan as it is in real life at this point. I also realized I had made my forehead a little too large so I will be working to lower my hairline (because I don't suffer from premature hair loss, I just shed a lot).

Unfortunately Liz and I had to drop our projects for the much dreaded portfolio class, but we are eager to take up our brushes again tomorrow. I am looking forward to adding in my jellyfish!!!

So, still a ways to go, but I think we can get it done by Thursday. How's that for a quick turn around as a 'fine artist'!?! (<---Illustrators kick butt!!!)

Friday, July 2, 2010

Breaking Bounds: A Self Portrait

My watercolor instructor assigned a self portrait piece to the 202's.....and since Lizzie and I are the only 301's (<----at least I think we are 301's), he wants us to do the same project.

I suppose it's kinda cool. We have to utilize watercolor with at the very least also adding in scan/ photo copies and at least one other media. And he want's it to be straight on with kinda a blank face...something about an empty vessel.

Currently I was reading that artist Iain McCaig while doing concepts of Padme Amidala, first drew imagesof Natalie Portman with a blank face. Looking at his things I found this hard to believe at first, until he went on to mention that by adding in things around her was he able to elude to emotion and atmosphere. I think this is quite interesting and would be a challenge to tackle while doing my own portrait.

I have a few ideas in mind of what I want to include, but I am not doing any real preliminary work for this, at least I don't plan to. Taking some advice from Pablo Picasso 'You have to have an idea of what you are going to do, but it should be a vague idea'.

I do know for sure that I want to include some journal pages, possibly some poetry I have written in regards to my love hate relationship to my art, and jelly fish. I know, it sounds weird.......and pretty vague. How do these things fit together? Well, your guess is as good as mine.

I am a little worried about deadlines....we haven't been given one. And because Liz and I don't really hang out in Tom's actual classroom while we work (no, us cool kids have claimed a room of our own where we alone rule), neither of us really know how long the 202's have been working on their projects. I am guessing a week.......though some of them work really slow, so it's hard to say exactly. And we may have a model scheduled the week after next, so............

Anyways....pretty vague, pretty vague......

Ok, so I couldn't help but do a quick 'study' of what I have in mind (did I mention earlier that I didn't plan to do preliminaries..?)

So this is the picture of....myself...that I plan to use as the basis for my piece......well, unless my teacher tells me to take another pic....(I like the dirty mirror....can you tell I hate cleaning?)


Here's a quick scribbly of what I kinda have in mind. The image is 11x20 inches vertical.....I'm actually thinking that the pages will be a mix of copied journal pages and sketches that I will then moosh, stain, ect....then add into the piece for some flavor. 


And a real simple color study. The colors will be in watercolor.......maybe over a clear acrylic surface, or maybe straight on everything. I dunno (<----trying to stay vague). I want some drips and blooms in there for some added flavor for sure....

Ok.......I promise to leave this alone.......I promise. 


Thursday, July 1, 2010

Art: The Never Explored Ritual

When most of think of performing a ritual or rite, we gather together our thoughts, we ground, and we pull out our tools: the broom, the wand, the censer, the cauldron, the boline, the cup, and the book of shadows. But what of other ritual magic and tools?


The beading droplets of rain pound against the window, tinkle on the metal gutter outside and follow the ditch down into the street and the sewers. Music softly adds an atmosphere, the smell of sandalwood rises into the air in softly curling plumes of smoke before the mirror. I inhale, eyes closed in serene meditation, and thoughts swirl like in a gale storm against the blackness of my mind. Images come and go, fleeting, like deer on the run. Graceful lines, teasing glimpses of an outstretched arm, colors ebb and recede on a distant tide. 

It is hard to quiet the mind when the hunt begins, hard to pick a prey. And sometimes boundaries are crossed between realms, and other things come to visit or to haunt. Things of simple beauty, of dark desires, of terrible splendor. 

There is never a focus, but there is an idea. It's a matter of locating it, and being quick at your craft to capture at least a small part of it. 


There is the mirror, which reflects the image of an artist, a candle set a few paces off to her right casts a glow and throws her features into shadows. In her lap lies a different sort of book of shadows, a large bound sketchbook or a watercolor block. In her hand to channel the energy is a brush or a pencil. Her eyes gaze into the mirror, seeking, looking at the figure and willing her hand to begin weaving her spell. 


The magic is never tapped into. Like the concept of energy it is neither created nor destroyed, but always alive and always in existence within all beings. Art is an extension of the self, an intimate magic, something that touches upon every person who experiences it. 
So as soon as it becomes apparent that I will make something the magic is spilling forth from the cup: the artist. 

I sit and lines begin to emerge on the page, loose and full of energy, testing, seeking guidance from Dread Muse's hand. And yet there is an underlying confidence in the practice and repetition of such a ritual, come from steady patience and study for well over a year and a day. And still now in ritual it is all experimenting, still adventure, still a search for something that only the artist is aware of.... sometimes. 

The image is now fully captured in lines, the faintest touch of shadows and lights are there upon the form. Not a battle for good or evil or to conquer, but each serving its purpose in coexisting peacefully, one melding into the next. 

Brush is applied to the paint, and paint is smeared across the surface. To an outside view people might think why would someone spend a lifetime shut away in a room spreading paint onto boards? But to the artist it is a breath of life breathed onto the page, birthing a subject in a long and arduous labor. It is fueling magic, feeding it; creating another world a kin to the one we all share. It is a window through the self to other times, other places, events, and persons. Like the bards who sing their tales and sorrows, or the writers who speak of dreams and wonders. 


Why is it that we are drawn not only to the final piece of rendered work but the process of it being made? We spin our craft in a way that sometimes we are at a loss to describe, because we are taken in the moment, only pausing when needed to examine, to reflect, to take a break. We ourselves are fascinated with the ritual work of others like ourselves, watching a blank sheet of paper transform into something tangible. And we watch, and we try to reason, but it is like watching a flower bloom in time. 

And here is another type of magic enchantment or charm work that we often overlook in our time trying to render our idea and bring it to life. That we are able to spellbind our audience as they watch us working. 


The doors to another world are left open wide in our wake, allowing others to follow behind. Dreamscapes stretch into the distance, disappearing beyond tree lines, beyond waves crashing on rocky crags, beyond sandy dunes, and arctic ravines. Sometimes footprints leave a trail, inviting one to follow. Sometimes figures emerge in the distance, or play around us like fairies dancing among reeds. 

There is the thought of the artists, the intention in mind, the story spun out. But not only one path exists, the one intended to be trodden. The artist is aware of other journeys, of other quests to be found within this place they have created. 

The illusion stands, ready to be taken, to be believed in. It can change your world for as long a time as you chose; offer you a chance to explore the environment, the denizens, and other emotions. 


All things have their price. Often I find it is leaving behind a piece of who we are, sometimes in exchange for other things, sometimes for naught. Sometimes it is in sharing, giving away part of us, part of our magic to someone else. 

But more often than not it is destruction. Power comes with prices, and for each it is different. Sometimes paper tears between my fingers, denizens of that other world scream in silence and die. Dread Muse laughs knowing that like a drug you seek her out. 

And sometimes she is kind, and allows you a lapse of happiness. 

After all, there are no wards in our craft. No sacred salt circles to keep madness at bay, only to provide blooms in watercolor. But it is our way of magic, an extension of ourselves.... and we offer it to you, the viewer.