Category: personal

I’m Moving + Discontinued Prints Sale!

It’s been a long time since I’ve posted any sort of personal update here! I’ve been super busy with my nose to the grindstone on the Ladies of the Months series attempting to make something of it while my longtime boyfriend is being the main breadwinner. It’s a rare chance to really put my focus and attention into something grand without having my attention split by a day job, so I’m taking it!

Speaking of my boyfriend, we’ve had the opportunity of a lifetime to move into a rental house for a great deal! We’ve got a few months to pack up and move to the new location, so it was about time I went through my body of work and made an honest assessment of it. I’ve known this for awhile in my heart, but I’ve been slowly, but surely, moving away from Art Nouveau work. After I wrap up the Ladies of the Months, I feel like it’s time to really give my passion for character-driven fantasy art and writing a proper go!

And did I mention that the new place will have room for separate writing study AND studio spaces? As well as a garden?  I am SO hyped to set up the new space!

With all of this in mind, it’s about time I retired that old work that’s no longer representative of my quality level as an artist or where I want to go with my work. There’s no point in clinging to it, especially with this move coming up!

I’m a little intimidated discontinuing about 80% of my older work, but that’s great incentive to make so much more new work that saying goodbye to all this old stuff won’t matter later!  I’m sure Art Nouveau won’t be disappearing completely from what I produce.  There will simply be less of it while I focus on other artistic paths.  In the meanwhile, this is the best time to grab any of my older work, if you want it!

The following prints are being DISCONTINUED!

After they are gone, they are GONE FOR GOOD, as I will no longer be printing them!

Buy them here for as low as $1!


If you’ve ever wanted any of my older work, now’s the best time to grab it! Once these are sold, I am not re-stocking any of these selections.

Hope you all are well. See you after the move with pics of the new studio space!

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!

Sketch Diary – Satyr



Today I’ll be talking about how I created Satyr for the 30 Day Monster Girl Challenge.  For my version of Satyr, I went with my own fantasy twist of a well-known figure from Greek and Roman mythology.

The Satyr of myth is usually a mischievous male with the lower body of a goat who is known to lecherously pursue nymphs and dryads.  The Satyr were also drinking buddies with Dionysus, the god of wine and merriment.

For more about the Satyr, check out one of my favorite Greek mythology resources,



Tools and Techniques

For this painting, I used Photoshop CC and a Wacom Cintiq 21UX.

Concept Inspiration

For my Satyr girl, I wanted to go with the theme of grapes to honor Dionysus and his wine, so she ended up with a purple complexion crowned with grapevine adornments.  Like many Satyrs, she is also a player of instruments, in this case a flute.



A selection from my references for Satyr.


Art Process

Step 1. Quick digital gesture drawing done to capture the movement and energy of the pose. This isn’t very precise and is more about energy than accuracy.wip-satyr-01

Step 2:  A cleaner line art is drawn on a layer atop the gesture. I used Lazy Nezumi Pro set to ‘subtle’ to help stabilize my lines in Photoshop and make them smoother.


Step 3:  Added a base layer of color so no background color will accidentally show through.wip-satyr-03

Step 4:  Added the flat colors after much deliberation on what her skin color should be.wip-satyr-04

Step 5:  Colorized the lines to make the grapes, grapevine, and flute stand out.wip-satyr-05

Step 6:  Added a shadow layer using warm grey above everything clipped to the Group and set to Multiply.wip-satyr-06


Step 7:  Added a highlight layer painting in white set to Overlay. Also clipped to the Group.wip-satyr-07

Step 8:  Final touches of pure white in key places such as the leaves, grapes, and hair to help lead the strengthen the focus, flow, and dimensionality of the piece.




For more in-depth instruction on how I created this image, Pledge to any $10 and up level at my Patreon to gain access to the narrated video tutorial!  You can also buy the individual tutorial separately at my Gumroad shop, but you won’t receive the other extras you would by purchasing via Patreon.

You can watch a video preview of the tutorial for Satyr without narration here:


Confessions of an Artist: Embracing Defeat

This post needed some humor so here it is!
This post needed some humor so here it is!

It’s been a long time since I wrote a personal/art career post here.  The main reason for that has been the absolutely disastrous year I’ve been having.  Rather than continue putting on a happy face, I thought an entry of candidness might be more helpful.  After all, I started this journal because I wanted to talk about my journey as an artist and I want to stay true to that instead of let this place devolve purely into WIP’s and self-promotion.

This year started with my partner nearly dying from heart complications from bronchitis.  Nearly dying being terrible enough on its own, the ensuing mentally draining recovery topped with an icing of medical bills made a perfect cake of disaster.  The funny thing is, we were more prepared for this than most and those savings got us through a difficult time, including the time immediately after his recovery where my partner was let go from his job.

I’ve said in the past we’re a single income household, with my art bringing in some income, but not a lot.  There followed another extremely stressful and depressing period where we both weren’t sure what was going to happen next.  Even still, my partner reassured me that it was okay to continue trying to do art as my living (because he’s awesome and so, so loving).  We had enough to live off of and emergency measures in place.

But I had something to prove.  I didn’t want to be a money sinkhole when we were in such a period of turmoil.  Here I was in my own little dream world trying to squeeze every penny out of my art, which only made it harder to create anything with that pressure to make everything I made worthwhile and profitable.  I spent more days tied up in a lack of motivation and depression than producing anything at all.

As this year wore on and other medical catastrophes and setbacks happened, I hit a low point.  I gave up for the briefest milliseconds on the notion that any of this struggling to be a professional was worth the suffering it was putting me (us) through.  It felt like everywhere I went, people I respect were bombarding me with the fact I was especially failing this year, that I should be farther than I am.  I needed to be stronger!  My insistence that I could never show weakness and should react by working harder and beyond my limits only worked against me because I turned all of that stress inwards, causing my own physical and mental health to decline.

In a strange way, finally accepting defeat this year has been freeing.  I have become increasingly aware of the long game and the shortness of life here on this earth.  Entering the IP Development Mentorship with Robot Pencil earlier this year was a game changer for me.  I have a lot of ideas I’ve always discredited because they weren’t producing results RIGHT now, but here were several professionals telling me my ideas are “F**king awesome”.  I’m not sure I would have entered this mentorship otherwise if I hadn’t been in the place where I was just so tired of struggling and really wanted to give those unacknowledged passions a chance they would not have gotten otherwise while I was obsessing over proving myself.

It’s funny how we need permission to just do the thing we always wanted to do…

Luckily, we’re doing much better now.  Kev has been making leaps and bounds with his recovery and has also found employment.  We continue our game plan to let me build my art career.  And while I feel guilty for having this privilege when so many other artists don’t, I’m not going to squander this opportunity with guilt anymore because I’m trying to impress those who quantify success as merely money, when success in life is so much more than that.  That path leads to elitism and becoming the kind of person and artist I don’t want to be.  With our income stable for now, I have also started saying no to a lot of jobs that I feel aren’t going to advance me as far as my personal projects might.

I’m still terrified of the unknown and of waiting for another bad thing to happen, but I’m hoping that surviving one terrible year means we’re better equipped the next time.

I suppose if there’s any advice for other artists to take away from this, it’s that sometimes you have to embrace failure because it’s one of the best ways to learn how to do anything right, that other artists who you admire more often than not are projecting a self-image of success (even when it’s not true), and that doing so doesn’t make them any less of an artist.  Also, try to save up backup funds for those rough times because they are waiting to sucker punch you in the gut when you least expect it!

Meanwhile, I’m still here…a little older and a little wiser.

Artists and Mortality

It’s that time of year again. The breezy day in November where I wake up and realize I am now a year older! 32, to be exact.  Birthdays always have a way of making me feel introspective about myself. Lately it seems everything does. An effect of getting older, maybe?

Even before today, something clicked when I was at IlluXCon where younger artists placed their portfolios in my hands and asked me about their work, trusting my knowledge in a way I suppose I hadn’t really trusted myself just yet. Giving them advice reinforced a confidence in me that had been quietly buried by self-doubt. Then, of course, I went and did the same thing putting my trust in artists more experienced than myself to give me guidance about my work. The art industry is a wonderful place like that. Everyone’s constantly growing and learning together. Everyone has a voice all their own.

Being around so many artists, young and old and in different phases of their career, made me realize I was in that sort of ‘middle child’ group. I’m not well known, but neither am I unknown. I’m in that gap where 95% of artists stop in their career at a crossroads and decide that having a family takes precedence or giving up is more prudent than pursuing that silly creative career. The clock is ticking in so many ways, biologically and creatively.

I think this is the answer to the question Jon Schindehette asked in the Women in Fantasy panel at IlluXCon. (paraphrasing here) Where do the 20 to 30 something female artists go after they’re just getting their first portfolio reviews and breaking in to the illustration jobs?

They’re making that decision of whether or not they must take the time out of their lives to do other things which society has deemed, with some exceptions, squarely in the role of the respectable woman that usually preempts having a career – specifically starting a family. You CAN come back to your career later, but it is hard and no matter whether you do or don’t, it takes time to settle into that new family structure.

All this is layered on on top of the troubles every gender of creative professional faces, a big one being the societal pressure of ‘Why are you following a career that won’t make you money or is as important/useful as a doctor/lawyer/etc.?’ In my experience thus far, turning 30 makes or breaks your determination about what you are going to be doing with the rest of your life.

Personally? I have no desire to start a family and until that desire hits, I’m focusing on a career. My experience with family comes from watching other ladies I respect in this industry deal with the trials and triumphs that comes with starting their own as well as pondering greatly on the matter, myself. I give massive props to those of you who start families AND pursue a career both at once! You must have eyes on the back of your heads…and elbows…and everywhere else! You have more strength and will than I can ever imagine having.

So then what AM I going to be doing in 10 years? 20 years? It’s easy to drive oneself mad thinking about this, but I think it’s important to sit back and do so every once and awhile.  If you don’t, you have a chance of getting trapped in that 95% of people who aren’t going to make it because they never get out of the infinite loop where they get too comfortable where they are, are so mired down by frustration, OR never know where they should push themselves to advance in their art and career.

I am 32 today and in 10 years I do not want to be where I am now. I don’t want to be the Known Unknown. The fact of the matter is when I hit 60 or 70, that’s the time I plan to retire and enjoy the rest of my years doing whatever I feel like doing just because I can. I don’t want to hit my stride so late that I am merely a flash in the pan or that I waited so late to get myself ‘there’ that I just can’t turn out what younger artists can because I don’t have the energy anymore!  What’s more, I have a lot of paintings and words in me that must come out before I die.  They MUST or I will have failed myself because no one can get them out of that colorful pit of a brain but me.

It’s not fame I’m after, but Mastery. If I happen to gain fame for being so damned badass at telling the stories I want to tell with my art, than that is the kind of fame I approve of. Earned fame, not cheap fame. Artists and creative professionals don’t get this until they have paid their dues to the craft. Till they have been rejected 100 times or more. Till they have made 10,000 failed drawings to get the 1,000 amazing ones. Meeting the various masters of their craft at IlluXCon was proof enough of this. Most are not young and took many years to refine themselves into the flawless illustrators we view them as.

So there it is!  The answer!  Time, patience, and an honest appraisal of where you are and where you’re going, but also don’t forget to acknowledge what you’re doing right!  The simple act of getting yourself into this mindset is a step in the right direction.  It is a stone in the path you are building before you.

And on that note, I am ending this post by beginning a yearly tradition of filling out this MEME on my birthday!
You should fill it out too and show me what you got.  Let’s improve together!:)
See the full image and download the template.

Artists and The Illusion of Failure

Well, guys, I messed up.

I had so many big plans for this year and I haven’t achieved any of them.  I had an action plan that began by entering Painting Drama, a course on narrative composition, with a dedication to push my artwork to the next level.  I had an actual written strategy guide to paint exactly four portfolio pieces to present at IlluXcon this year, which is coming up next week.

I’ve only managed to do ONE in all this time.

Life has been chaotic beginning with a very traumatic death in our family.  Just when we were starting to breathe again, we also had to deal with unexpected health concerns and our apartment flooding, which resulted in having to pick up and move yet again after having moved less than six months ago.

But of course, my artbrain can’t see the cause of my ‘failure’, it only sees the effect.

It tells me “If you had slept less and painted more, you would have succeeded!”

“Why can’t you focus and be more productive? There is nothing physically wrong with you!”

That little voice inside that most artists have telling them that they’re crap for not being productive doesn’t acknowledge the fact that we are not machines programmed to plot points on a paper no matter the circumstances.  We drive ourselves to succeed, even when we are not up to the task, even when our work would suffer from our lack of focus, when sometimes we just need to take time to heal instead.  When we don’t hit a certain benchmark of success, there is a dangerous point where we feel like giving up because the steps to succeed are just too small and too ineffectual.

And that is where the illusion of failure wraps us up in a cushion of despondency.  I messed up, so why should I keep trying if it will never pay off or show results?

Thankfully, I can say after going back and forth with these feelings, I can whole-heartedly tell myself STOP THAT.  Sometimes, life is just out of our control and there is nothing we can do except acknowledge this fact and move on to the next thing.

Art has never been about the end result.  For me, it is about the inspiration.  It is about the joy I get when I take a story out of my brain and express it in such a way that another person outside of my own brain can feel the drama and the passion of it and be inspired.

(Honestly, if I ever painted the ‘perfect’ image, I think I would lose some interest because where is the fun in never learning something new? OR I’d have to get a perfect image every time from that point onward and striving for that second achievement of perfection would just drive me on more!  Or I’d just go a little insane by the end…)

Art is about doing what I’m passionate about every day because that is how I want to live my life.  Spending 90% of my time here on earth at a job that bores me to tears is not how I choose to live or what fulfills me as a person.  When I do a non-art related job to pay my bills, it is also a way to support me while I create.  It is never ‘that thing I do because I failed at art’.  Considering it a failure is only a matter of perspective.

And so it is that failure is an illusion.  I have failed only when I stop doing what I’m doing or stop acknowledging my own passion as an artist.  Sure, I may have messed up and didn’t paint all the things I wanted to paint in the past, but that does mean I cannot create more in the future.

Being too old, too broke, too slow, these are only self-imposed restrictions that do not exist until we let them control us.  As long as a brush/stylus/pencil and sketchbook/canvas/etc. are in front of me and the ideas are stuck in my brain, there is the potential for art to happen.  I can succeed.

I strongly consider this 4th year of operation as Angelic Shades Studio to be my Year One.  I’m starting over with a new focus, a new dedication to the narrative works I’ve always wanted to create, and a new drive to really get my name out there.  I will not be afraid that I am not good enough anymore.  If something is not good enough, I will simply ask myself and other artists and AD’s “How can I improve?”  I will be fearless in accepting critique and showing my work to others.

I will not stop.  Stopping is not an option.

There is no spoon…nor is there such a thing as failure.

Thinking Long Term

It’s been a minute here since I’ve really sat down to post in this journal since I moved into my new digs (other than the short jaunt through the studio). I’ve been slowly, but surely settling into the new space and entering a brand new phase of my life and art.  A whole new balancing act has begun and the time was needed to sit back and consider this without spreading my energies too thin across the net.  I’ve fizzled out of conventions this year for the same reason.  I needed time to sit back and gaze upon my work with a long lens without the obsessive selling haze of conventions and have decided I’d rather be concentrating on producing new and improved work, instead.

Another big change for me is the fact that I am living with a wonderful, loving partner who has willingly agreed to take on the bulk of our financial burden so that I can concentrate solely on my art career.  It’s a definite switch from my previous situation, which involved barely combating my student debt with part-time work, leathercrafting, and getting by with what little commissions, royalties, and art sales I could make.  Some might find this surprising, but even though I’ve been doing this for a few years, I still consider myself more towards the beginning than the end of this endless journey to becoming a professional artist (or, to define this term more accurately ‘professional artist’ being an artist who makes the majority of their living off of their art).

The prestigious and encouraging Echo Chernik, whom I met at DragonCon last year, gave me the advice that it takes at least 10 years to establish yourself as an artist.  By that measure, I am only 4 years into this and only ‘middle-aged’ in my career!  If so, the last couple of years were my ‘mid-life crisis’.  I’ve been struggling, mentally and physically, with this career path and if it really was worth the heartache it caused me with my debt, neck/shoulder issues, and the feelings of failure that come with not being where I wanted to be.  Your words really hit home for me Echo!  I had to stop holding myself to the standard that I was a ‘failure’ at being an artist because I haven’t reached my predefined level of success in a mere 3 years.

I’m sure some people are wondering “Well you have someone supporting you now. What are you worried about?  Kick back and relax!”  As a proud, independent, and highly stubborn woman, it’s hard for me to admit that I have to rely on anyone else to help carry me in any sort of fashion at all.  A whole slew of guilt can result from this arrangement with one’s partner, including, but not limited to:

– You comparing yourself to your partner’s profession (and therefore measuring which one is more important or worthwhile)
–  You feeling guilty that they’re murdering themselves at work while you have ‘the easy route’ because you enjoy your job. (Thankfully, my spouse very much enjoys his work, which makes this worry easier to handle!)
 – And finally the kicker for any modern woman, the fear that you’re reverting to old stereotypes where you are the content wifey who stays at home and cooks the meals and does her cute little art thing on the side (aka. art is not a serious job that will make any sort of serious money and therefore, again, not considered a serious persuit).

But if there’s anything that I’ve learned about art, life, and love, it is a balancing act.  Before my boyfriend and I could come to this decision as partners, I had to examine my direction first, ask myself the tough questions.  Is pursuing art as a career worth the struggles we’ll have along the way?  Can it really equal any sort of serious money, in the long term?

In the end, my answer was ‘yes’.  If talking to other professionals who have ‘made it’ has taught me anything, it is that an art career can be both fulfilling and lucrative, but it hardly ever just falls in your lap!  One of the most important revelations I’ve had in the past year or so is that I needed to seriously sit and consider What am I passionate about painting and where does it line up with paying industries?  A lot of people fall short doing this (to which I highly recommend every single one of you read Jon’s portfolio-building series over at The ArtOrder RIGHT THIS MINUTE).  Then, you are in danger of stumbling into the trap of Oh I’ll just draw pretty things and someone will find me.

This is dangerous trap because it often leads to disappointment and I will tell you right now it can equal a lot of wasted years of meandering boredom with what you’re doing or opening up your portfolio one day and realizing you don’t have a single consistent example of the Cool Stuff you want to actually draw and get paid for. (This has recently happened to me. A client asked me for samples of a book cover and I had only…two viable examples. Ugh!)

I am realizing that every job and every opportunity that will come in my career is a victory not just for myself, but my partner as well. He believes in what I’m doing and knows that it is not a fancy or a phase, despite the fact many people around us are prone to think of it as such.  Most of all, he respects it as a job which requires the same amount of dedication, if not more, as driving somewhere and working for a paycheck.  These factors of understanding and respect were essential for us to agree upon before we could ever settle with our current arrangement.  I share these feelings here as a matter of posterity for those who might be dealing with the same conundrum of a work-at-home partner and any of the guilt that might be involved.  It takes balance and respect without judgement of yourself or your partner from either side.  It takes clear communication of what you both expect to achieve together.  Most of all, I know that if this wasn’t our arrangement, I would still be pursuing the same goal.  My path being made easier isn’t an excuse or a reason for success.  You gotta want it first, else you risk not just your own success, but a loved one’s as well!

For now, I’m quietly phasing out the distractions from my career goals and working towards building my portfolio as a book cover illustrator (which branches out into all sorts of fun things, like CCG art and RPG art).  I have one simple goal for this year besides that, which is to attend Illuxcon and get my name out there to a few targeted companies.  I’m keeping it simple, maintaining my balance, and already I am feeling so much better for it!

I hope to bring you some actual ART to this art blog the next time around.  Till then, congratulations for reading through my entire wall of text!

My Portfolio Building Homework Part 4a

Sisyphus – the story of my life.

Once again, I am inspired by The ArtOrder’s latest portfolio-building exercise and what I’ve learned lately about my work, my regrets, and my future as an artist.

All of my art supplies are in boxes right now and I am here sitting on the verge of a big change in my life.  I’m moving to a new area with my significant other as well as taking the first steps to realizing a strategy I have been ruminating on to re-invent my art and myself.

All of this pondering on who I am and where I’m going has me realizing that there is little divide between who I want to be as an artist and what I want to be doing as a career.  I’ve looked back on my own work and realized that I’ve only started painting the things I want to paint in this past year.  I’ve made due in the past by trying to fit my art into a box (the fine art box, the licensing box, etc. etc.) just so I can be doing art and making money, ANY kind of money, so I could call myself ‘successful’ at this livelihood as long as I’m doing something creative.   My approach to being successful has been completely backwards.

I’ve been struggling in my career as an artist, unable to find a focus that I felt fit me 100% or to achieve the kind of monetary success I want.  It’s taken experimentation, a good deal of floundering with jobs I grew bored with, and a great sense of failure that I’ve had to overcome to get to this point.  I’ve struggled with the advice from others that “Not every job is going to be interesting so you need to compromise to pay the bills”.  This is true to an extent, but I realize now that if I’m bored with my work 90% of the time, there are far easier ways to be bored (and get paid better) than stagnating in a field of art that is more destructive to my drive in life than useful.

I’m sacrificing a lot to be an artist and I think where I end up in this career should justify the hardships of pursuing it, not just let me ‘settle’ because I’m doing something creative, therefore I should be happy.  I need more than monetary success, I want Mastery.  From every Master I have had the pleasure of meeting lately, this has been the constant secret ingredient. Their passion has led them to the top of their game and to monetary success.  Companies seek them out because they show drive to mastery, professionalism, and focused specialization. And by specialization, I mean that art directors think “I’ll hire this artist because I know them to be very good at drawing X thing, which fits my project perfectly!”  When you’re a jack of all trades, nobody can really identify anything with you, or they identify the *wrong* thing with you (ie. I think I’m better known for my leather masks now than my actual paintings. Funny how that worked out!)

Getting to know myself better as well as asking myself some tough questions in the Painting Drama class and the ArtOrder’s portfolio-building series have really peeled away a film of indecisiveness that I have been blinded with for a long time.  It’s no coincidence to me that both of these places didn’t jump right into ‘what are your technical skills like’ at the beginning of the program.  Instead, the very first thing you do in both is to ask intensely internal questions.

Who are you?  What are you passionate about?  Where might your passions fit in to the art industry?

It’s no wonder Jon calls this exercise “The Insanity Loop” where we do the same thing the same way and get the same results.  How many times have I written in this journal that I’ve formulated a strategy to enter a particular field of art, only to find what I am trying to do wasn’t right for me after all and then I am sent right back to square one where I’m not getting any of the kind of work I want?

The answer for me has been a simple one.  I am not presenting the kind of art I want to be doing, rather I’m maintaining a status quo of doing the work that keeps my head above water. True, we all have to pay bills, but again, I’ve reached this breaking point where I realize I could be working at a different profession and make more than I’m making now with art.  The pure act of creating is not enough to maintain my happiness and well-being in life.  The mental strain of not being successful at what I’m doing with my art or actually painting the kind of work I want to paint has made me realize that it’s make or break time.

I need to aim higher than I am and figure out a better strategy than ‘do art and they will come’. I needed specific strategic planning and that is what I am finally doing by asking the tough questions I wasn’t asking before, or accepting the answers that I was afraid to act on for lack of my own confidence.

Apparently it’s been a rather cathartic couple of months for me!  I finally feel I’m on the right path in my career.  I’ve got a strategy to paint the types of things I have always wanted to paint and I am far more confident that this simple baby step forward will help advance my career in ways that mere blind enthusiasm hasn’t in the past.  It’s taken this turning of a harsh lens inward to realize what I’ve been doing wrong.

I hope this rambling has proven useful to someone else out there who might be trying to figure themselves and their goal out.  A lot of us start out with such a broad expectation of ‘I’m going to draw and get paid for it!’ but then let our experimental nature and broad artistic interests distract us from applying a pointed strategic approach to anything.  Another important lesson I have learned recently is that there is a difference between an interest and a passion.  A passion is what my career will be.  An interest is where I will spend my time having fun without the worry of judgements or money.

Jon’s portfolio-building series has been one strategizing method which has worked for me.  Maybe it will work for you too?  I’d love to hear your thoughts and feelings in comments, if you’ve taken on this exercise for yourself.  Share with me!  I don’t want to be the only one rambling here.

I’m Moving!

This has been in the works for a long while now and it’s finally official!  Kev and I now have a move-in date and will be moving into an apartment of our own January 2013!  It’s a lovely two bedroom place on the north side of Atlanta that’s within driving distance of a lively art community and the sights and sounds of the city!  As much as I love the quiet countryside, I’m happy to be moving to a part of the city where the art community is much more accessible.  I’m going to enjoy being so close to museums, theaters, and many of my friends from college.  The north side is also pleasantly spread out with just enough green that the city doesn’t feel so oppressive.

This move marks the beginning of what I hope to be an all new drive to solidify my future as an Illustrator, with new surroundings to refresh my focus and my inspiration.  Living with family prior to now to save money has been really challenging, even though they mean well and I did manage to save up enough to work down some of my student debt.  The challenge of getting into a creative mindset for work with family around has been especially difficult, but I am hopeful that these new surroundings will be far more conducive to concentration.  There’s also a fitness center, tennis courts, and pools in the complex we chose, which will be great for keeping our health up and dealing with some of my muscle damage issues.  Best of all, the second bedroom is going to be my new studio!  I admit sleeping and working in the same room has started to make me see faces in the yellow wallpaper and that simple separation of location will do my mental health and motivation so much good.

I was cleaning out my closet to take note of what I’ll be moving and realized that I have a lot of old stock lying around here!  In an effort to get rid of it, I’ve posted an infographic showing all of the inventory I’m trying to clear out.  Much of it is discontinued with limited stock, so get it while it’s hot because once it’s gone it’s gone for good!

My shop –

So I’m counting down the days and enjoying my current break from leather crafting. I’ve wrangled up a seasonal day job to help some of the costs of the move while I take a break from mask-making.  Exhaustion, muscle damage, and burnout have all had a hand in this.  I would really like to return my focus to creating the art I need to further my career, while keeping masks as the labor of love for enjoyment they were meant to be.

I’m also filling up my last few days here with studying the CS6 Suite (via a new sub to Adobe’s Creative Cloud) and catching up to technology. I’ve gotten the CS6 Classroom in a Book and am enjoying learning of all the new improvements Adobe has made to their graphics suite.  I am hopeful getting up to speed with technology will open up new doors for me that might not have been there before, in addition to all the other changes going on in my life right now.


I Wish I Had Known

A detail of Da Vinci’s contribution to
Verrocchio’s Baptism of Christ

I’ve been in a rather introspective mood lately with the move coming up.  We’ll soon be in a new place with new opportunities and so much to explore!  I’m also turning 31 next month, which has led to the inevitable ‘feeling old’ mindset.

I can’t help but ponder on things that I wish I had done differently when I first started seriously thinking about being an artist.  I’ve spent a lot of time discovering things myself the hard way and if I can save anyone else the years of heartache that can be wasted in the limbo of the Unknown, than I consider this an accomplishment!

I wish there had been a person there to tell me these things and that is why I am going to tell them to you now.  Disclaimer: These are all from my personal experience so I’m sure not everyone will agree.

I wish I had known…


…that I didn’t need to go to college to be a successful artist.

Not to say that you cannot learn much in college. I had wonderful teachers who taught me the fundamentals of life drawing, composition, etc.  I expanded my horizons and knowledge base in areas outside of art.  I made some friends that are friends for life.  I experienced the independence of being self-moderated, which is valuable for any person growing up.

But if I could go back now and do it all over again? I would either attend a program in an atelier or I would skip college all together and attend specialized workshops at The Art Department, Illustration Master Class, etc.  These classes offer the kind of specialized training I would need to make a career, whereas college courses of the traditional focus tend to avoid the business side entirely.

In the end, college left me with student debt and degrees that look nice on paper.  Sad fact is most AD’s hiring right now aren’t going to care what degrees I have. Portfolio is King in the Land of Illustration.  Having a degree is a must if you want to teach, but if you don’t (which I currently do not have the desire to), then it is not very useful.  If you do attend college, check your curriculum carefully before you sign up!  Make sure they are teaching the kinds of courses you need to succeed as a business, not just in creating art.

…that there is more to the field of art than Fine Art Galleries.

This stems from the last bit of advice. I went to a very traditional college that focused on the creative side of art.  We learned how to draw ourselves as shapes and how to curate gallery shows, but we did not learn how to manage clients, file our taxes, or run an art business. Illustration was a dirty word. Getting paid to do art and make a living rather than do art purely for art’s sake?  That was ‘selling out’.  So many options were blacked out for me in college that I only discovered when I graduated and started talking to pros directly at conventions.

There are scenic artists and concept artists, matte painters and graphic designers, the list of creative professions goes on and on!  There are many ways to make money AND do art rather than accepting the so-called badge of ‘honor’ that is ‘the starving artist’ whose biggest ambition is to sell a piece for thousands at a gallery.

If you want to do this, go for it, but keep your options, and your mind, open.  Money does not equal selling out, it equals ‘paying the bills’.  If you think money is selling out, than do your research.  Da Vinci was painting the faces of cherubs as an apprentice before he moved on to doing portraits and commissioned pieces for the church, as was common for many of the great masters.  Living entirely off of art we do for fun is a quality of the lucky and the hard-working.  It can happen, but you have to work hard for it!  A little serendipity doesn’t hurt, either.

…that listening to negative people wastes time.

 When I first started to plan my future with the anxiety of that graduation ceremony hovering over my head, I was bombarded by voices telling me ‘you’ll never put bread on the table with art’. Growing up, I have discovered this to be true in some respects.  I am not making a living off my art alone yet, with my current work supplemented by a Day Job and online art business.  I spend a lot of time keeping my head above water right now and trying to get my work to a level which I can compete for better paying jobs.  Like any profession with a specialized skill, there is a lot of competition and you have to be willing to get your work to that polished level if you want to make it a living.

However, I have to wonder if I had spent more time on the things that called to me in life if I would have spent less time meandering about Majors in college trying to find a slot I could fit myself into?  “MAKE MONEY” they said, so I was a Business minor for awhile.  “HAVE A FALLBACK” they said, so I became an English and Studio Art double major.  I wasted so much time (and money) moving further from my goals because I let other negative people dissuade me from even investigating other options.

 If you don’t know what you want to do, don’t be afraid to ask professionals about their work!  Learning about what is expected of them can help you learn more about what your preferences might be as a professional (and save you on some college bills).  As for having a ‘fallback’? That is a personal choice everyone has to make.  A ‘fallback profession’ can be handy, but I found it ultimately to be a distraction that personally hasn’t done me much good.  Getting a part-time job, internship, or apprenticeship could be handy to help keep you afloat and to earn valuable job experience while you are pursuing art, if you don’t want to pursue dual professions.

Again, so many options were blocked for me from the start because I let other people dictate those choices.  Parents can be a particular block here.  My best advice for handling them is to try to educate them on the options that are out there.  Do your research!  There is more to the profession of Artist than the starving artist living out of a tiny apartment selling work on the sidewalk and living off hopes and dreams, which I fear is the most common mental image that people have.  Talk to people working in the business right now. Ignore the people who say ‘don’t do it’ when they are not informed enough about the industry to give you such advice.

Surround yourself with positive and inspiring people because they are the key to maintaining focus and inspiration! Find sketch groups, art societies, and other people on your wavelength to counterbalance the negativity. Negative people only waste your time and break your focus.

As for me? For as much as I wish I could have done differently, I’m thankful for the skills I’ve learned and the people I’ve met along the way.  I’ve not given up yet and I feel that this move is going to equal a bump in productivity and positivity for me.  I can’t wait to share the fruits of my new found focus.  They are germinating as we speak!

For now, wishing you all inspiration and hope!