Category: creativity and inspiration

Getting My House In Order

Getting the Monster Girls up on Redbubble is a big part of my push this year!

When I first started this blog, my intent was to share my journey as an artist.  Over 2016, however, I noticed most of my posts here have been Sketch Diaries about my creative process.  It’s time to get back to form with a long rambl-y semi-personal post!

How is my artistic journey going these days, anyways?  2016 was an odd year for me.  I didn’t go to any conventions or do any big events due to a limited budget.  Being so disconnected from the art world made me feel pretty bummed about this past year.  However, taking a break from being in the scene was time that I really needed to get my myself in order, business, personal, and art-wise.  I’ve managed to stay hyper-focused on producing art for the Ladies of the Months, which has been one of my central goals and drives of late.

Finishing this series has taken precedence for me for multiple reasons.  I have a bad habit of flitting from one project to the next and following my excitement down a new rabbit hole before actually figuring out how I can market and sell what I’ve created.  This happens so often for me, especially because I have so many multiple art styles vying for my attention, from the friendly colorful stylization of my Monster Girls to the elegant tediousness of my Art Nouveau work to the painterly surreal narrative art I’ve been ultimately trying to evolve my work towards.

Last year, I came to the realization that this is a huge part of my lack of success as an artist.  I’m not a bad artist, by any means, but my huge amount of varied work and lack of cohesive presentation, as well as any consistent large body of work I could market to consumers hinders my success.  I have so many things sitting on my computer that I’ve moved on from without properly utilizing them (ie. the Monster Girls and my Rapunzel comic).  How do I choose which ones have value for me to complete and which ones are better left as a learning experience?  I’m still learning the answer to that question.  As far as I can judge, it’s a matter of being honest about the quality of the end product and how marketable it actually is to an audience.

For the future, I want to change my love of different styles into a strength.  For me, this has meant learning when and how to pick similar things in my art and sort them better into websites and ‘brands’ that appeal to their unique audiences.  I’m at that point in my artistic journey where I’ve stepped back to take stock of my large varied body of work and how I can make what I’ve already created work for me.

For instance, the Ladies of the Months can aid me with approaching the Fine Art market.  My Monster Girls can be the central attraction at anime conventions.  My narrative art can appeal to the crowd open to Imaginative Realism or my fantasy writings.  This seems like such an elementary observation now, but it’s taken me the past 5 years (the time I got my business license) to realize how to funnel and package myself as an artist.  I’m learning to embrace my experimental nature, while also reigning it in and becoming more able to recognize what I can utilize for my business before I move on to that next adrenaline rush of a new project.

All in all, I’m more hopeful this year that in the near future I’ll finally start seeing myself being as successful as I want to be and that I’ll make a clean, clear connection to the audiences who enjoy my art.  The big picture is finally becoming clear, as is my own mental image of myself and where I want to be as an artist.  Slowly, but surely!


A lot of my slow boiling realizations about my art and how I connect with my audiences have come about thanks to Greg Spalenka’s wonderful Artist As Brand workbook. I very highly recommend it!

Where Do Ideas Come From?

A conversation with a fellow artist got me pondering that age-old question again. Where DO our ideas come from?  There are so many books, lectures, and blog posts on the matter, but I wanted to throw in my two cents.
I’m sure many of you have gotten that question from someone “Where do the ideas for your paintings/writing/etc. come from?”  It’s always asked or implied with this far off look, as if we have this magical ability to pluck the ideas from the gauzy glitter spangled ether as if they are tangible things waiting for our nimble, magically imbued fingers.
Any successful creative professional will tell you that coming up with ideas takes just as much practice, if not more, than actually honing your skills and techniques.  Learning how to draw is only a small part of a larger equation.  In the words of one of my favorite characters, “…a mind needs books as a sword needs a whetstone if it is to keep its edge.”

Just as an artist needs a healthy visual vocabulary of paintings, references, and experiences to keep their imagery unique and original.  Art isn’t just about drawing well, but making those little cross-connections between one emotion and another to produce something that is uniquely you and that others will also identify with.

Want to make great paintings? Study great paintings.  Learn what art impresses you.  Learn about who other people consider ‘masters’.  Familiarize yourself with what your tastes are.  How can you ever expect to make the connections that lead to discovering your own visual identity if you aren’t learning about the things you like and drawing the things that you like?

Chipping away at that nugget that is my visual identity as an artist is a slow process that only happens over a long period of time, practice, and study.  Yes, study. Even when not in school, one MUST study.  It’s when you’re an artist out on your own without an art teacher looming over your head making you study things you think you don’t really need to know that you realize it’s all on you, bub.  If you’re not learning, it’s your own fault and nobody else’s.   It’s not the fault of that artist who always gets better ideas than yours, either.  They worked hard to make those glimmering mental connections. They put in the hours of practice and expanding their  knowledge base and you have got to do the same.

For me, I have this idealized image of myself in my head that I’m slowly putting together from tidbits of likes and tastes that I am constantly accruing in a mental archive.  I want to be an artist with the beautiful sensuality of Mucha, the emotional depth of David Mack, the immersive qualities of Waterhouse, with the fairy tale sensibilities of Trina Schart Hyman.  This collection of themes that are to make up my perfect artist identity have nothing to do with style, but the ideas which I hope will drive the kind of work I would like to put out into the world.

Read the whole map on DeviantART to learn what the numbers mean.

But then I also want to be me and I’ll never be me until I distill all of my tastes into something else, altogether.  That’s going to take time and painting.  Then painting some more.  If I’m not evolving, if I think I’ve found perfection, I’m fooling myself. This goes for people I think have the best ideas in the world, as well. The moment they stop learning and growing, there’s something that’s going to stagnate in them, too.

I’ve also had another artist friend tell me they don’t believe in looking at other art for inspiration for a project because it corrupts what they’re doing.  I believe this to be one of the biggest fallacies I’ve ever heard.  If you’re never drawing on the energy of all the wondrous history of art that’s spread behind us, how can you ever do anything new in full awareness of what has already been done?  The connections won’t come to you in a void.  You’ll never learn anything new if you don’t expand your view forwards AND backwards.

This is why fashion designers, production designers, animators, etc. have things called ‘mood boards’ (collections of all the things they want their products to be like).  I think as artists we hate to think of our end result as a ‘product’ that is in any way ‘designed’.  It should be an emotional, deep ‘thing’ we experience without any help, or it loses value.  Yet another fallacy perpetuated by the  antiquated traditional ‘gallery’ institution of thought.
So if you find yourself thinking you’ll never have any good ideas, crack open a book, a movie, or, better yet, get yourself out of the house!  The biggest ingredient in good ideas is to go out and experience life.  That’s something that solitary artists easily forget to do.

DON’T FORGET that when you reach your saturation point for awesome ideas by other people to shut off the internet and use it to inspire yourself to CREATE instead!  It’s easy to get caught up in how great everyone else is in comparison to you. IT’S A TRAP!

Stop.  Breathe.  CREATE!

My Top Ten Posts of 2012

Hard to believe we’re finally in 2013!  It sounds so futuristic. I remember when Scifi movies would say ‘In the year 2015’ and it would sound so far, far away!  Well now here we are and it’s the 4th year in operation for this little art corner of mine on the internet.  I thought I’d continue the tradition of rounding up the most popular posts of the year every time we ring in a new year.  I calculated popularity by seeing which posts got the most views in Google Analytics.
Have a rundown of my art from 2012, while we’re here!
Yay! Images make my text posts less boring.

1. Review: Noah Bradley’s The Art of Freelancing

This was my very positive reaction to Noah Bradley’s helpful and revealing video about what it takes to be a successful freelance artist. It is not a motivational video. It is pure facts and the truths of this business. Worth every penny paid and I’ve gotten some of the best advice from other freelancers in Noah’s Facebook group, which is only accessible to others who have bought this video.

A wonderful dialog between myself and other artists discussing my personal health issues and other issues common to artists, including weight gain, neck aches, etc. Some great advice shared in comments, all around!
An in-depth look at the creative thought process and info gathering that went into my painting, Persephone Queen of the Underworld.
A review of Stephanie Pui-Mun Law’s beautiful and inspiring compilation dedicated the Minors in her Tarot deck and why I thought it worth having in any artist’s collection.
My first ever Critique Corner post! I hope people will send me more to crit, as they are quite good practice for me.
A moment of angst and reflection on my part. I talked about everything I wish I had known before I got into this biz in hopes that it might help you guys out.
My experience in shopping for that holy grail of art tools, the Wacom Cintiq. I talk about everything from how to get a cheap price on it to a good bag for transportation.
A discussion of why it’s important to turn your artistic eye inwards to truthfully access your art and your career goals.
Talking about how to say ‘no’ to a job and why it makes almost every artist feel like crap.
10. DragonCon 2012 To-Do List
A run-down of all the tasks that go into preparing for a huge con like DragonCon!

Onwards to 2013 and another year of great discussion on art, inspiration, and all the rest here at this journal!

What I Learned from NaNoWriMo

I think I’ve only just today recovered from the sleep deprivation that was last month’s flurry of creative writing called NaNoWriMo.

For those who don’t know it, it stands for National Novel Writing Month, in which you attempt to write a 50,000 word draft in 30 days!

Some folks have even moved on to perfecting their draft from this month into actual novels.  Winners get the self-satisfaction of having met such a goal, as well as a 50% off code for the incredibly useful novel/screenwriting/etc. literary organization software, Scrivener.

I didn’t manage to make it to 50k words (more like 18k), but what a learning experience it was!  Here are a few things I learned during this wild writing ride:

1.  Refreshing the Creative Well – The most important thing I learned is that having an outlet from your main craft which you can pursue without too much expectation can really refresh your inspirational well!  I’ve been feeling so tired and overwhelmed lately and participating in NaNo was just the shot in the arm I needed to find my motivation again.  Thankfully, the characters I’ve been exploring for NaNo have given me the right kind of urges to illustrate my own scenes, draw concept sheets, and much, much more!  It’s an amazing cross-pollination of inspiration.

If you’d like to read some snippets from my NaNo Novel, you can check them out here to see what I’m talking about. (WARNING! Unedited raw draft stuff plus some cursing. Melakim is quite the foul-mouth.  I love her.♥)

–  A Ceremony for Creative Thought – I was made pointedly aware that I have an actual ceremony for my creative process when it comes to writing.  It requires doing something to transition my brain from ‘work mode’ to ‘writing mode’ by resetting it with either exercise and/or an episode of something brainless (like One Piece) to empty my head of work thoughts.

I must then have coffee and something sweet before I sit down to keep me going the whole time, lest I stop and have to retrieve a snack partway and ruin the flow.  I also must write after everyone is asleep because any interruption throws me out of my flow.  Music was a particularly powerful tool for keeping me in the ‘mood’ of the story. I began my nights almost every night by listening to Song of Exile for Ramah’s scenes and What the Water Gave Me for Melakim’s scenes. (I’ve got a whole playlist for novel writing, if anyone’s especially curious what I listen to)

Getting immersed is important for me. All e-mail notifications and social media outlets are banned from my sight while I am doing this.  I need to apply this to my art time too. I have a bad habit of hawk-eyeing my e-mail, messengers, and other things while I work and it probably does  make me less productive than I could be.

– Sleep Deprivation is Unproductive – I haven’t done this many late nights in a row since college.  I can’t say that pushing myself this way really ended up making me more productive, in the end. Maybe it is for short term bursts just to get words on paper, but I think I prefer to be much well paced and less sleep crazed as I continue to write this draft in the future. Not sleeping does not help my mood or creativity, but rather causes me to doze off in the middle of trying to think of the more mundane details of a story while I’m writing.  It needs to be a balance of keeping our bodies healthy AND being properly productive.

– Routine Equals Productivity and Accountability – By the same token, scheduling myself to write almost every night really gave me a sense of accountability for doing this activity.  It made me look forward to it each night and set a high bar that something, ANYthing needed to be done at this point in time, or I am returning to old habits where I’d convince myself the tiny accomplishment wasn’t worth it because it would never amount to anything.  I think I need to push my art and drawing time the same way if I really want to get to the next level in my skills.  Those tiny studies and sketches are going to equal improvement, no matter how insignificant they might feel, at first.

All in all, it was an amazing experience!  I am hopeful that by the time the next NaNoWriMo rolls around, I’ll have a full draft to be editing.  Or maybe I’ll use it as an excuse to write the adventures of that immortal Gypsy vagabond that’s been chilling in the Neglected Characters Bar in the back of my head?  You never know!

So did any of you do NaNoWriMo?  What did you learn about yourself from this experience?  How has this informed your other creative habits?  Share with me in comments!

Inspiration Dies a Slow Death

I was having a discussion with a dear friend of mine recently and she said something that really struck me.

“The less I read and sketch and talk to people, the less urge I have to draw.”

It struck me because I notice I’m having, and have had, this problem for while now. I’m quite certain I’ve even talked about it in this journal before so some of this might sound like a broken record.

There was a point in time where I had this incredible need to draw or I would just get antsy and feel completely worthless.  The ideas were bursting and they had to be let out, or ELSE!  Of course, this urge was strongest before I started attempting to do art professionally and I suspect most pro artists deal with this problem as they transition into the craft.  Nowadays, the Need to Draw is nearly gone, but the feeling of worthlessness when drawing doesn’t happen hasn’t gone anywhere, despite the fact I know bloody well that I’m not worthless.

Thinking on it, I was the most productive while I was in school.  I hung out with other artists and we sketched in mad hazes of creativity in the lunch room.  We had life drawing sessions, assignments, and access to a large library to encourage us to draw all the time and never stop.  Even all those seemingly pointless assignments led to more productivity after hours as I let it inform my personal work and bring it to new heights.

I think that’s one of the best lessons college taught me, despite my reservations about the need for college in a previous entryOnce you’re out on your own, it’s easy to let yourself slip out of the habit of keeping your mind (and body) active with inspiration.  There’s always work or time with family or just wanting to stare into space and watch the TV because you had a long day.

I used to read a book a day.  Now, I’m lucky if I read a book a month.  It’s tough and I have to force myself by holding that next art book hostage. No more books till I finish what I have! This is tough for an art book bibliophile like me.

I used to travel to gardens and paint by creeks. Nowadays, I make excuses that I can’t afford the gas or the parking or the food.  It’s partly true, but the fact remains I need to get away from the computer, the monotonous routine that deadens my inspiration, and the environment of distraction that is my current household.

Another particularly hairy problem when it comes to the decrease in that urge to draw is this sense of being rushed every moment of the day.  If the art isn’t going to be a successful piece I can make money off of, my motivation to do it goes way down.  This dying motivation to draw is at cross-purposes with the fact that I need to do studies, sketches, etc. to keep my skills sharp and to improve to the next level of technical skill I need to get the kinds of jobs I want to get.  There’s a sense of urgency I know I need to learn to shake because every piece I make can’t go in a portfolio and that is a hard fact of the industry!  We have to make more than the minimum if we even want to dream of being successful.

I’m learning to accept that drawing a lot of bad art is a natural part of having one or two great pieces to include in any good portfolio.  This fact has been harder to digest than I thought it would, especially after my most recent portfolio reviews where I was informed that only 5 out of my 20 or so pieces were really worthwhile.  That is one hard pill to swallow, for sure!

I’m working on a few solutions for myself, the big one being the creation of a blog called Artist Ambition.  I started it to house all of my own little assignments for myself, like Draw 100 Heads or Paint with a Complementary Scheme.  It’s open to other artists too, since I figure I’m not the only one who wrestles with this gradual dying of the Creative Urge or the lack of motivation to draw those boring things that need to be drawn to increase our skills between those masterpieces.

(Drop me a line if you want to join!  It’s completely open to everyone right now, no matter your skill level).

Next up, I am hoping to make a monthly trip I’m calling The Inspiration Vacation.  Once a month, I’m going to get myself out of the house to go to a museum, a park, or a garden and just sketch, paint, or otherwise focus solely on things that inspire.  I can afford a small outing once a month.  There will be NO guilt of ‘ohh I should be working instead!’ attached.  Being inspired  IS an integral part of my job and I can’t ignore it, even if spending money on something as intangible as inspiration may seem like a waste to everyone else around me.

Finally, I have to say what an incredible burst of motivation I’ve had with actually doing something else creative instead of drawing.  Recently, I’ve been taking part in my first ever NaNoWriMo using my own original characters as a spring board and I have got to say that I have not felt this motivated to actually draw in a long time!  I find myself wanting to do concept art for their tattoos, armor, etc.  I find myself wanting to do story boards of the dramatic scenes I’ve discovered in this flurry of writing. Something magical is occurring here and I’ve found there’s a fertile ground here in my own intellectual property that can certainly be milked for my own devious needs.  I think also pursuing a craft outside of your work can really help refresh that creative well.

So here’s to my continuing education and the end of this long ramble!  Do you struggle with this lack of motivation to create art? How do you deal with it?  If you take inspiration vacations, where do you go?  I’d love to know!