Alright, so in my last blog post, I was going to try doing a digital art challenge to improve my digital painting skills, but right after that, I got a really bad flu, then went on vacation right afterwords. After all that, I’m finally back at 100% and getting back to my normal routine.
For over ten years, I’ve had this fantasy genre story about a dragon rider, his dragons, and the adventures they go on, in my head. When I first came up with the idea in middle school, I drew these comics all the time. They weren’t anything overly dramatic or serious- just silly, fun comics more based on the early 90’s comics featured in Dragonmagazine (such as Dork Tower and PVP).
I don’t remember how it started, but I do remember being grounded a lot (for good reason!) in middle school. I drew these comics because I couldn’t watch TV or play computer games.
As I got older, I wanted to write a more dramatic story. My characters would go through more high stakes adventures, have more tragic backstories,- Dragonslayers would be legitimate threats instead of minor nuisances, yadayada. I would keep writing and rewriting and rewriting the story. Finally, I came to this conclusion: it’s been over ten years, and I have nothing published or online.
I wanted it to be perfect before releasing it. These characters are still in my head, they have a story that needs told, and it must be in comic format (because I’m an artist).
Looking back, I realized one of the first things that really jumpstarted my art skills were these comics. I learned how to draw landscapes so that I could draw more beautiful environments for my characters to live, I learned anatomy and poses so that I could draw my characters better.
Here’s one problem I’ve had with my story: I have certain things that are constant: like my characters, the genre, and the places, but I’ve come up with dozens of different plots for the story.
So! To overcome this, I’ve decided to play a game: Schrodinger’s Webcomic: All realities exist at once until a comic is drawn and put online… or something along those lines. My plan is to upload a comic panel, then play on the previous panel, then keep everything as consistent as possible. So no retcons, or anything like that (hopefully).
It’s going to be fun! It is fun so far! I’m already learning a lot about digital art in the process.
If you’d like to check it out, The Webcomic is called Dragonrider’s Dance (might change the name. It’s still in the early stages). For now, I’m going to be uploading every Tuesday and Thursday.
Day 2: Practice Drawing Lines (or go to line boot camp)
From here on out, practice drawing lines for 5 minutes prior to additional exercises
Day 3: Writing a story/ sketching concept
Day 4: Line art
Day 5: Color
Day 6: Different Color Pallets
Day 7: Finishing Touches- simple background
I’ll using these series of videos by Marco Bucci to help me:
Hours Total: 3.5- typical week at a university class.
Well gang, I’ve done it! I’ve worked extra shifts at work, stayed late, would’ve come in early if the boss wasn’t always 3 minutes late, and I finally got my new graphics card, which means I can now create digital paintings again! Hooray!
So, Mr. Meyer and I got the graphics card installed… slight hiccup though… the motherboard mistook the new graphics card for that scumbag that ran over her chihuahua with an SUV… repeatedly, and in short used the lame-ass excuse, “did not recognize the new hardware”, which was FRUSTRATING, but we got it figured it out.
But then when I went to test the one thing I broke my back so hard to save for the stupid thing… aka the brush lag on Paint Shop Pro…
… it STILL wasn’t working. Thankfully, I got up at 5, immediately called up support, and two hours later, it’s finally working. It involved uninstalling and reinstalling the thing, point is it works.
It was NOT the most frustrating day of my life, but it was kind of pain, yes.
Boy do I love my 7 Day challenges. I always mean for them to be 30 days, but that always sounds too daunting, but once 7 days have past, usually the remaining 23 days go by without a hitch!
So, adding on to my 3 Hour Workday Challenge, the next 7 days are going to be more about enhancing my digital painting skills. Learning Time is going to consist of 30 minutes following along tutorials on how to digitally paint, and 1 hour Commissions is going to be dedicated to spending 30 minutes on two digital “commissions” I’m working on (they’re not real commissions, one is an example character design piece I’m working on and one is actually a gift for some good friends of mine), and 60 minutes dedicated to Business (probably learning photobashing).
On top of that, I’m also going to be posting various things I learn:
Here is what I did today. A self portrait. Much like how the artists of the Renaissance worked in the old days, a common recommendation among digital artists is to make a black and white painting, then add color over it. Hence why my painting looks like something from Haunting of Hill House (or was that Betrayal At House on the Hill…? Ah whatever).
If anybody knows a horror game board game maker in need of an artist who also isn’t dumb enough to ask said artist to work for free, please let me know! email@example.com and all that!
I’m thinking about writing in the near future something to do with the philosophy of digital art vs. traditional art, but in a nutshell, I want to expand my knowledge and artistic ability as much as I can, so lately I’ve been learning more about how to add “digital artist” to my arsenal of titles.
Now any digital artist worth their salt knows that mastering masking layers is the key to creating the best digital art there is… at least when I’ve been watching tutorials by guys who do this sort of thing for a living, that’s what they say.
I don’t use Photoshop, I use Paint Shop Pro, which is less expensive than Photoshop, but still more intuitive and user friendly than Gimp. Even so, knowing how to use masking layers is not as intuitive in Paint Shop Pro as the other more expensive program, so I spent the whole morning at my computer learning how to make masking layers.
On a slightly unrelated note, there’s this new self portrait trend on Instagram where you take a photo of yourself and paint half of it. Here are a few examples below:
Now, it looks like a fun challenge, of which I definitely want to take part, but there’s a teeny-insie-beensie little problem.
AshMeyerArt has a very VERY strict policy of not having any photos of the artist!
Self portraits, yes, but no photos! Darn!
However, I figured out a way AROUND this problem- inspired by Caravaggio. I have taken a photo of myself in a dark room, and have a light source on one side of my face. You can barely barely BARELY see the half of my face where the photograph is.
So, I have the photo getting printed (I do not have a good printer at home), but while I’m waiting for that, I used the photo for my learning how to make masking layers.
That was when I discovered Paint Shop Pro has this fun little plug-in called “Pic to Painting” where you can take photos and put a painting filter over them. I had a lot of fun playing with it this morning, and I also used the masking effects to give that painting to photo transition:
So yes! That was a lot of fun! I’m still going to use a traditional medium (I thought oil paint, but I realize watercolor would also be interesting, especially with the pretty pastel light effects that this image inspires), but I really think that digital art can help enhance traditional art, and vise versa. I’ve seen oil painters use Photoshop to create their references, play with color pallets and almost work as a way of practicing making the painting before they use those expensive oil paints to make their finished product.
I’ve been keeping up with my daily art- and my one hour dedicated to “business” has been really helpful to get me inspired, figure out what about my art do I like that could also create an income. For the past few weeks, I’ve been teaching myself a “class” on character design- which means finding successful artists in the industry and learning what they do.
I do feel like I’ve hit a bit of a block because I really need a new graphics card, so I’ve been putting in extra hours at my day job to make digital art, now, am I a digital artist? No! I’m an oil painter, but it’s still a very valuable skill to learn if you’re like me, a huge nerd who’s always loved designing characters.
When I was younger, I wanted to be a comic book artist, I designed characters and wrote entire stories all the time. I’ve never stopped loving doing that, and while my career path has diverged into the art history/conservation side, I want to get back into character designing. The more I’ve been doing it, the more I realize how much I loved it!
So, an easily attainable goal I have is- build a portfolio!
As such, I’m kind of taking this learning backwards, rather than learning character design first, I think it’s better to learn how to build a good portfolio- that way you know what art directors and clients are looking for, and can make your art reach that goal.
My portfolio will consist of character sketches, a few variations (characters with different color schemes and costumes, turnarounds, poses, and of course splash (the kind of art you would put on your wall).
I’m really excited about this because it’s an opportunity to hone my art skills in various ways: story telling, figure design, still life art (maybe your character holds objects that you wouldn’t generally draw otherwise), and even making some beautiful, print-worthy art!
Wait a minute! I already have a few character sketches! Lookie here!
Okay! So, goal for next week: Make more character sketches (maybe less scribbly), then I’ll post them here!
I don’t quite know what prompted me to do this, but I’ve started the day by turning on a silly song (lately, it’s been Melodika Bros’ cover of System of a Down’s Chop Suey, brewing coffee, grabbing a glass of water, and while the coffee’s brewing…
…and dance like a silly person!
So! 5 Benefits I’ve noticed:
1. It’s Good Exercise
Dancing, taking many steps all at once like that gets your heart pumping, your blood flowing, and it doesn’t even take that long. Unless your job requires a lot of movement, chances are you’re going to be spending most the day in front of a screen whether that’s work, school, or even at home.
2. You Start the Day More Confident
Like before, how dancing is good exercise, moving your body boosts your confidence. I think the silliness factor helps a bit- not being afraid to make an utter fool of yourself in private, practicing doing that a while, then when you’re out in public, you can be a little silly, but more confident. So, that exercise, confidence boost, and starting the day a little silly can make you a more interesting and charismatic person. Most importantly, your energy will affect others, and they can have a good day in turn!
3. It Carries on the Rest of the Day
Think about this, if you start the day by reading a negative news, or miserable because you’re dreading work, then you’re stuck in traffic and that jerk cuts you off, that’s just another thing to add to your list of misery. Starting the day off by moving your body, being positive and silly, and having a bit of fun, in my experience, I found diminishes these negative experiences. Rather than, “Great! I spilled my coffee everywhere, what ELSE can go wrong?” you end up thinking, “I’m in such an an AMAZING mood! I never want this feeling to go away!” And you don’t! You look around, and find more happy things, it didn’t rain on your way to the train, there’s a cute bird playing happily, and adorable dog out for her walk walked right by you and you have the confidence to ask her owner if you can pet the dog! The owner ignores you, but no big deal! Today will still be awesome!
4. It Makes You More Creative
At least it does me, as an artist, creativity first thing in the morning is very important to me. There is evidence to suggest that grogginess helps with memory and creativity, not only is that lingering grogginess still there, the dancing helps me to put my desire for creativity and productivity into overdrive. I want to make more art, build my art business even more, heck this is the second article I’m writing today (scheduling it for the next day, of course) all because I started this day happy. In fact, the things that generally bother me- ie, the dread of going to my day job, are nonexistent. There is only now, and I must create!
5. You’re Happier!
So, you started the day with exercise, more confident, having a much better day, and more creative. Have more days like this, and you’re happier!
I haven’t posted anything on this website in a short while, but I definitely have been keeping up with my 5am morning routine (only slept in once since I started waking up at that time again in December and that was only until 5:45!)
For those of you who might remember, back in December, I did a 3 Hour workday challenge where I got up at 5 am then dedicated 30 minutes to Learning, 1 hour to working on projects, 1 hour learning Art Business related stuff, and 30 minutes blogging.
While I’ve still been getting up at 5am, a couple things happened that made my morning routine go out of whack. For starters, I used up my whole sketchbook (yay!), but that meant I didn’t have a sketchbook to continue practicing art during Learning Time, and the other thing was my painting projects got to a point where they feel 99.999% finished, but I feared if I did anything more with them, I would ruin them (Law of Diminishing Returns).
Well, today was all about learning how to draw hair! I followed this digital painting tutorial using pencils!
Warning, this is a long post, but at the end are my personal reflections on this challenge that I hope will help you too!
Learning Time! (30 Minutes)
Yesterday, I tried making Loomis Method heads on my own while I watching a video and the results were….
So, I re-watched the first video I watched seriously on the Loomis Method, Proko’s first video out of the series to catch what I missed.
In my sketchbook, I wrote specifically what I’m struggling with looking back on the heads I drew. As I watched the video, I looking for the possible solution to those problems, and, sure enough, the solutions were there the whole time!
Sometimes, you need to watch something twice to get it.
But did it work, Ashley?
In the remaining time, I watched another Witcher video and sketched a few Loomis heads without any guidance, and yes, I already see improvements. They look much more solid, much less squished (not squished at all, I might add), and I felt like I had a lot more control over where the heads were facing. Plus, I focused more on the head shape rather than getting obsessed with the features.
Commissions (30 Minutes)
Due to the fact that it was News Years Day, my favorite art store was closed, so I wasn’t able to get a giant tube of Titanium White, which meant I was at a stuck point with my commissions. I will be going to my day job today though, and I’ll get a tube of paint on my lunch break!
So now I know my favorite art store gives its employees holidays off too! Splendid!
So what to do, then? Well… for the Draenei painting, I put a layer of silver acrylic paint on the subject, then finished the background.
A few months back, I painted a portrait on a silver background, and I liked the way it looked, so I’m using it here.
And it’s been slightly less than 30 minutes… so what am I going to do?
… 30 minutes of drawing whatever I want!
Actually, while I was drawing this, I was listening to pep talk which was essentially saying, “Anything worth doing is worth doing badly.” It was saying that when you are on your journey to reach your goals, there isn’t a linear “I’ll do this, then this, then this, then I’ll win.” You’ll actually be wandering a desert, you’ll fumble, fall down, make mistakes, some of your effort will go to waste and you just need to figure out more what NOT to do rather than what to do.
It was very inspiring. That’s how I’m feeling a bit with my Trello board and getting my art to generate an income. So, that was something I needed to hear. There’s a lot I want to do, and I don’t know what I’m doing. It felt like I was being given permission to work on T-shirts designs on Tuesday then get a price list for commissions made on Wednesday.
Maybe that wasn’t the point, but that’s what I took from it.
Business (1 Hour)
So, I’ve decided that I’m going to PRIORITIZE commissions. The reason is because lots of people are asking me if I take commissions, especially since I started drawing fantasy portraits again, but no one is asking me to make cute coffee T-shirts…
…as much as I want to and spent all evening last night designing this only to realize I can’t sell it because “But First, Coffee” is trademarked, so I’m designing DIFFERENT coffee shirts instead…
So, today, I made a checklist on Trello to get my brain to prioritize that. Complete with deadlines and everything. I want to get my Character Commissions launched by the end of February.
Well, I have a little bit of time before I have to leave for my day job, so here are my reflections since we’re at the end of the 7 Day Challenge!
What was this challenge?
This challenge is to, before I leave for work and on my days off too, dedicate 3 hours of uninterrupted dedication to my art. Learning how to do something new or brush up on something I could improve on (30 minutes), commissions, projects for other people, etc (60 minutes), and working on only the business aspect be that learning how art business works or actively doing something to build my business or brand (website, creating merch, updating platforms less frequently used platforms like Tumblr, Patreon, etc) (60 minutes), then blogging (30 minutes- it always went over though).
Why did I want to do this challenge?
For starters, I was feeling more and more down. Maybe it was mostly the change in weather, but I was feeling less motivated. I went back to sleeping in until the latest possible moment, then most of the time, I didn’t want to do art.
I wanted to go back to working on my art every morning before facing the daily stress that comes with work. I also needed to update my practices. For months, even if I did wake up at 5, I was only spending 30 minutes on art because that’s what worked at a previous job I had where I started work earlier.
Now, my current day job starts later, so I have so much extra time, so it was less motivating to wake up even though I now had extra time to work on my goal of becoming a stay-at-home artist. I would work for 30 minutes, feel a little accomplished, then watch videos for entertainment, which brought in that sinking feeling of guilt that you get when you know you have something due, but you’re actively procrastinating. This wasn’t the case for me, but I still felt like I could have been putting my time to better use.
This challenge was a way to better manage my time outside of work.
Did this challenge accomplishment what I wanted?
Not only did it accomplish what I wanted, but it even brought me things I didn’t know I wanted until I got it. My portraits are improving, but just the learning part helped me feel energized and challenged, I got a lot of work done on my projects, and the business side is much more organized, but I’m also EXCITED about trying so many new things and feeling better about myself as a person for trying something that I will not excel in everything at right away.
I think this was thing that motivated to get up at 5 am the most. When I had this time dedicated just to learning, even if that was brushing up on things I learned a long time ago and needed to maintain. My brain felt stimulated and challenged.
The active learning where I had to force myself to evaluate the progress I was making especially so.
I think it’s important to remember that art is something that you can always be learning how to do better. How to improve and add even more beauty to this world. It was fun to keep progressing and figure out what I did to get over hurdles. Hopefully I can make this a daily thing and learn even more stuff!
I always have something I could be working on. Even though these “commissions” were just things for family members (who tend to be more forgiving when life gets in the way) it felt great to be continually making progress. At times, it was a “Learning Time” in and of itself (What do you do when someone gives you a bad reference?”
Business is a completely separate ball game from art, and I don’t think a lot of artists want to put the time and effort in to make this work (and no wonder, enough time and effort goes into art making as it is). For a while, trying to get the business side of art going was stressful because a) there are so many streams of income that your art can generate and I want to try them all. Sometimes I get excited about one stream of income one day then a different one the next and b) when I did get super into something to promote my business and brand, I would stress that I’m not getting any actual art making done.
This is why I spent an entire hour every day dedicated to it because of how big and how many factors there are.
Trello has been a life saver because I can put my ideas in one place, have checklists and progress bars that give me that sense of, well, you know, progress, and be more organized and less stressed.
I feel like I now have given myself permission to try different and new things and giving myself time to figure out what works best for me. I’m also having fun with it.
Not only that, but what if my effort is for naught? What if I spend hours say, researching how to and designing T-shirts, and nobody buys them?
Well, I learned all this stuff along the way, how online shops work, how marketing works, and I have cute coffee t-shirt designs that I can add to my portfolio in case someone down the line wants to hire me for such a thing.
I’ve been struggling with self doubt and fear of trying new things because what if I spend all this effort only to find I’m just wasting my time? This week, I learned those fears are invalid. None of it was a waste of time, I had a lot of fun, I learned a lot, and eventually, something WILL work. Art and art business is hard work.
The alternative is not putting in the hard work, staying still, then coming at the end of my life regretting not putting a little extra time into doing something I loved just because of the excuse, “it’s too hard.”
Sorry, I know this entry was long, but it was meaningful, and thank you so much for going on this journey with me. If you’re an artist, I HIGHLY recommend taking part in this challenge too. I learned a lot and no doubt you will too.