Category: my artistic journey

Investing In Myself

After the last post discussing how things have been going for me over the past couple of years, I realize I wanted to talk more about the Ladies of the Months and what this series means for me right now.  I realize that after years of chasing freelance work and trying to break into game/RPG/publishing companies with my portfolio that I made an unprecedented decision…

…I decided to invest in myself.

The Circle of Self-Doubt

To be clear, there’s nothing wrong with working for other companies/employers other than yourself.  Goodness knows I’d probably be making more money right now if I did!  However, the race to be hired was becoming tiresome for me, personally.  Every time it seemed people were interested in my portfolio, they wanted me to work for an unrealistic wage OR my work didn’t match their projects. “Thank you for sending in your work.  We will keep you on file” was an automated message I saw too often.

Somewhere along the line after numerous rejections and/or low paying bids, I realized I was running in circles.  What did I really want from these jobs, anyway?  Validation?  A decent wage?  Listening to my friends in the industry (particularly the folks over at One Fantastic Week), I wondered if maybe these jobs weren’t as glamorous as they seemed?  So much of an artist’s creative work is used for products they have no monetary stake in.  

Even saying that, I’m not going to lie. It’d be very nice to have a Magic the Gathering or high profile book cover gig under my belt, but is being hired for jobs like that the only thing that makes me a ‘real professional artist’?  It certainly feels that way sometimes.  This feeling was yet another road block in choosing to work for myself.  I needed a ‘real’ gig to make me a professional and spending time on doing my own stuff was a waste when I should be making work to fit in to get me hired elsewhere. If you ever feel yourself blocked and unable to properly performance on your work or like try to make your own crossword

Even then, my gigs with self-publishers and the companies who did hire me still did not feel like enough to make me ‘a real professional artist’, even if I was.  This notion of validation is one of the worst fallacies of this industry that keeps people with valuable and marketable ideas from investing in themselves because they’re too busy doubting themselves and their own worth to even consider it. 

Inception

Something changed for me in the past couple of years.  With the advent of crowdfunding and Patreon, a little light led me off the beaten path. Investing in my own ideas started to look more feasible.  I started up my own Patreon and have been growing with it slowly, but surely, as I work on the Ladies of the Months series

The Ladies were something I wanted to work on for myself but also a project I judged to be marketable and appealing to others beyond my own scope.  I could make many products from them, including calendars, prints, art books, coloring books, etc.  

One of the best real results I’ve had so far is that in being over halfway done with the series currently, I have a stellar consistent body of work I can show off!  Lately, I’ve started formulating Kickstarter plans for the future, even if my first try at Kickstarter was a failure and a blow to my ego that I almost didn’t recover from.

Survival

I also need to share that I’m lucky I have a supportive partner who helps keep us afloat.  There have been times we have had to suffer and scrounge.  Thankfully, we’re in this together and we accept these consequences together.  He’s been with me when I’ve made these decisions, he’s with me when I mess up, and he’ll be with me with this grand scheme of mine succeeds or fails.  My husband’s faith in me has helped me more than I can express!  If I didn’t have his support, things would be so much harder.  I’d probably be working evenings instead of being able to focus on this venture full-time.

We can’t travel as much as we want. We can’t buy everything we want.  We can’t go out to eat with friends often.  When we’ve had medical emergencies, we cringe at the thought of the increasing debt and have sometimes delayed doctor’s visits.  These are the realities of choosing to make less money while you’re building a business and didn’t have a lot of money to start off with.  Save before you take the leap. It will help you so much!  We actually had savings, but medical emergencies hit us pretty hard.  It can be really scary at times!

The Untaught Freelance Skill

In choosing to invest in myself, I’ve had to say no to some gigs so I could maintain momentum on the Ladies.  That crushing feeling of guilt and self-doubt comes every-single-time I say no!  I could be growing our finances more if I just worked overtime, had no social life, and slept less.  I’m trying not to compromise my mental and physical health just to stave off this guilty feeling. It doesn’t do me or my loved ones any good.

They really should teach the delicate art of refusal to all artists.  It is okay to say no to a gig that you’re unsure about.  You are not an entitled Millennial for doing so.  You are not a loser.  You should be paid fairly.  You should believe in the value of your own projects.  If you truly need money, no one should think less of you if you take a non-art job or do decide to take a crappy gig.  Do what you need to do.  Take care of yourself!  You are the only one you should hold yourself accountable to, not the elitists who will tell you you’re not a real artist/are a sellout/ starving artist etc. if you do this or that.  

I’m going to call this untaught freelance skill Self-Accountability.  You are your own best judge and you know what you need to do to survive and succeed at your goals.  You may take risks, but take them with full awareness and make a decision you can’t blame on anyone else.

What Next?

I’m not sure yet if the light that led me off the path is a Wisp leading me to my doom, but I’m eager to find out!  My worst fear in this life is to die with regret.  The chance of failure is worth the feeling that I at least tried to do the things I have always wanted to do and that maybe, just maybe, I led a remarkable, or at the very least happy, life!

And if the Ladies of the Months fail to be a monetary success?  I will at least still have work that I’m proud of, that’s meaningful to me, and that has a type of longevity in its versatility of subject matter and potential merchandise.  The immense feeling of having completed something so ambitious will last me a long time and gratify me on an emotional level that can’t be bought with money.

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. One of the things I have been focusing on lately is getting my https://alldrainserviceplumbing.com/ drain cleaning tips to remodel my bathroom.

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!

PS.

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!

Art Goals for 2016

At the beginning of every new year, I like to set myself a few goals, as opposed to New Year’s Resolutions which always seem to fall to the wayside for me.  I usually have a thousand ideas going in on my brain, so doing this activity also helps me wrangle them into a format that helps me remember what I want to be focusing on.

First off, let’s see how I did with my 2015 art goals!

2015 Art Goals

1.  FINISH PD1! And my other online courses (Figure Drawing Fundamentals and Fundamentals of Color and Light).

Alas, I still didn’t finish Proko’s Figure Drawing Fundamentals or Painting Drama, though I made a lot of headway starting Painting Drama over from the beginning. It was making much more sense a 2nd time around, despite the fact I got waylaid by horrible life events and never finished…again.

2.  Finish my Rapunzel comic after all these years! It’s very nearly done.

YES! I finished this project that I’ve been working on since senior year in college!  You can read the whole thing here.

3.  Finish my cover portfolio and submit it to my target publishers.

I turned my portfolio in to a couple of my target companies, but never heard a word back.  Here’s hoping that more no’s (or never hearing back) will equal a single ‘yes’ some day, but I’m going to keep myself busy with my own IP’s in the meantime!

4.  Fully launch my art book review and resources site, The Muse’s Library.

I managed to get The Muse’s Library up as a blog and Patreon, as well as sync my current stock gallery to the new brand name! It’s all set and ready to expand.

5.  Teach myself how to make a music video just because it looks fun!

I DID IT!  I created my first anime music video for Vampire Hunter D Bloodlust!  It’s a little rough around the edges, but I learned a lot and hope to have fun with more videos in the future!  Video editing is becoming another hobby of mine.

6.  Spend more time writing for my novel-verse. I miss writing!

I managed to create a mock up book trailer during my IP Development Mentorship, write a fully detailed 3 act synopsis for Book 1 and finish all of the basic character bios.  I’ve taken some giant steps forward in preparation for my first novel this year!  I still have such a long way to go, but as they say, every journey begins with a step!

7.  Draw/write enough to publish a yearly sketchbook.

I think I’ve done enough Monster Girls for a little booklet, though it’ll probably be a coloring book instead of a sketchbook.

8.  SmartSchool/IMC???

Alas, I didn’t have enough funds to do either this year.  I’m still saving and hoping.  I’m considering a GoFundMe if it seems like we can’t get enough funds on our own within the next couple of years.  I’m also considering doing a writer’s retreat instead, if my focus is going to be writing this year moreso than art.

9.  Get out of the house more!

I did okay at this.  I occasionally made it to geek trivia with friends and did art meet up with other friends.  My motivation died off pretty early on though thanks to extreme stress and illness, however.

10.  Exercise and eat better!

My SO’s illness this year which requires low sodium has inspired the both of us to eat much better now.  A bad reason, but a good result!

 

2016’s Art Goals…starting NOW!

  1. I finished Rapunzel so now it’s time to create a special ebook edition with unpublished sketches and try to publish it on ComiXology or elsewhere.
  2. Continue (and hopefully finish) the Ladies of the Months series! I have big plans to expand this IP into a lot of different things once they’re done (calendars, a sketchbook, coloring book, etc.).
  3. Wrap up the Monster Girls and produce prints, stickers, and coloring pages of them.
  4. Finish world-building prep and get my first draft for Song of Exile finished! (Or I’ll settle for at least 3 chapters, instead)
  5. Create basic character concept sheets for all main characters in Song of Exile for concept art practice.
  6. Start publishing video reviews of art books for The Muse’s Library!
  7. Finish up Painting Drama, Proko’s Figure Drawing Fundamentals, CtrlPaint’s Concept Art Portfolio Builder, and Color and Light with Schoolism.
  8. If I can get the Monster Girls and Ladies of the Months wrapped up, start back on my Kushiel’s Legacy cover redesign and illustration project over at Kushiel Concepts!
  9. If I can get enough new work produced, start hitting up conventions again! I’m not rushing this one, however.
  10. Go to a park or museum I’ve never been to before and sketch!

That’s a lot for me to try to do in a single year, but I’d rather aim high and see how it goes!  What are you all hoping to achieve this year?  Give me your top 10 art goals!

Summary of Art 2015

Thoughts on 2015 – It’s been a tough year, no lie.  A lot of IRL challenges meant I spent a lot of time off instead of making art and that sent me into a spiral of depression that was hard to escape (I’m still not completely out of it).  When I was finally able to get back to creating art, I had to drag it out of myself.

On the upside, I completed The Rapunzel comic, which has been in the making for years!  I also finished the IP Development Mentorship with Robot Pencil and laid the seeds to a fantasy story I’ve been working on for over 10 years now and that’s something I’m majorly proud of!

My best piece this year was probably Blood of the Few.  I really pushed myself to strive for something different and cinematic!  This piece plus all the other work I did for the mentorship was yet another step in the direction of a personal project (Song of Exile) that I really want to push forward with in a major way in the near future.

Next Year – I’ve decided to do more writing and have planned to split my schedule between wrapping up some of my ongoing art projects so I can dedicate myself fully to Song of Exile.  If there’s anything I’ve learned from our trials this year, it’s that life’s too short to wait on doing those things you’ve always wanted to do!

List of Art for 2015’s Summary
Last year’s Summary of Art:
For an expanded look back of my progress as an artist, check my other art progression meme.  It has my art since the age of 9!

Does it Pay to Specialize as an Artist?

I was quoted in an article over at CreativeBloq, “Does it pay to specialise as an artist?” 

Featuring some familiar faces and some of my own art and thoughts as well!  I’ve struggled for years to find my artistic voice and sort out my passions from my wide array of interests. Hopefully these words of wisdom help others figure things out for themselves as well!

Book Club: Artist as Brand Part 1 – My Core Virtue

It’s been an introspective week for me while I ponder my current re-branding efforts and enjoy a much needed vacation after the convention/Halloween rush.  I’ve been enjoying the time off to clear my mind and to start reading Greg Spalenka’s book, Artist as Brand.  I thought it’d be interesting to write about my journey as I read this book and (hopefully) learn a little more about myself and my art!

I found the book for a great deal on the Nook.
Or you can buy it via my Amazon referral link
and give me a little kickback!
You can also buy direct from the author!

This book really called to me thanks to recommendations from other artist friends and for the fact Spalenka is also an artist himself.  I’ve read a fair few marketing books, all which read like dry instruction manuals.  Artists, however, are a different breed of business.  We are in the business of passion and vision.  There’s an undefinable element to an artist that can’t be quantified by marketing and price tags.

Spalenka has a unique insight having worked in publishing, entertainment, genre art, and fine art.  Artist as Brand compiles Spalenka’s advice as given in his workshop meant for artists seeking to define their vision and business and also offers person to person workshops on the matter.  This book is the self-paced version of his workshop.

An example of Greg Spalenka‘s dreamlike art.

The preface of the book addresses Spalenka’s experiences moving between various industries as an illustrator, all which seemed to keep an artist’s visions at the whims of a larger machine at work, none of which seemed to satisfy his own creative instincts.  It wasn’t until he saw artists selling well for themselves at conventions that he realized the potential of micro-businesses, or artist as self-representing entrepreneurs.

As an Arts Admin MA, I studied the potential of the internet to allow artists to connect directly to their audiences for my thesis and I couldn’t agree more with this emerging trend.  Artists are now more able than ever to nurture private collectors through the interconnectivity of the internet and other opportunities outside of the expected ones.

But that means so many of us need to figure out what it is that we can offer when we don’t have a business calling the shots.  What is our vision?  What is that special something that we have that no one else does?  This book is all about that discussion.

After Spalenka’s bio, the first instructional section deals with defining what your Heart Virtue is.  This doesn’t even relate directly to what you like to draw, which I found interesting, but also somewhat confusing.  What core defining value dictates your emotional reactions to the world around you?

I found this offputting, at first.  Wasn’t this something only fine artists really needed to think about?  As a genre artist, I’m not too concerned with political or emotional statements in my art (if that was where this book was headed).

But the more I thought about this section, the more I realized just how deep the rabbit hole goes.  It’s not just any ol’ fantasy art that appeals to me.  Most of what I enjoy and what I’m passionate about creating is fantasy art that makes an emotional statement, that says something beyond the surface prettiness of glamorized and idealized figures that most fantasy art portrays.  Fantasy art and literature, after all, are a mask with which we can tell the spiritual and moral stories that pertain to humanity as a whole.

Spalenka guides this introspection with several questions which help you to figure out what your heart virtue might be. Mine ended up being this, which I suspect will change and be refined as I go along:

I am devoted to unlocking the potential of creativity in myself and in others through self-discovery and acceptance.

How this pertains to my art, I’m not quite sure yet, but I’m looking forward to finding out!  I’m purposefully leaving some of this discussion vague so as to not give all of Spalenka’s knowledge away for free.

This book has been an enjoyable revelation thus far and I hope you will go show him your support, if you find my journey with his book interesting and helpful!

Next: My Core Virtue’s Emblem