Category: common mistakes

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!

7 Things About Digital Painting from a Traditional Artist’s Perspective

My master copy of a traditional painting with digital paint.

It’s been a frustrating and gratifying experience for me as a watercolor and color pencil artist to switch to painting digitally.  There are so many glorious things about digital just as there are so many things that can make it really difficult to master.

Here are some of my random observations on the digital painting experience as someone with a background in traditional painting.

1.  Digital is NOT Faster

No, digital is not faster.  Perhaps it is if you aren’t trying to replicate the look of traditional paint.  But in my experience, particularly when replicating a painterly look in digital, you’re going to spend a lot of time layering and layering just to get rid of the pure plastic colors that digital brushes apply by default.

There are some ways around this mechanical computer generated look, such as scanning in your own textures from traditionally painted swatches and programming them into your brushes.

Corel Painter and Photoshop have brushes you can program to emulate this randomness, but it’s not as good as the real thing just yet.  There are still too many patterns that are predictable that the eye recognizes, like computerized paper texture, which contributes to that sameness that so many digital pieces have that I mentioned earlier.

Plus, if you’re a control freak like me, you’ll spend many an hour trying to paint everything at the same level of detail until you realize that zooming out makes all that work for naught.

2.  Addiction to Layers

It is so tempting when you first start painting digitally to just have everything on multiple layers.  Why wouldn’t you?  You can control all the things ever and make everything PERFECT!  Don’t fall into the trap!  Merge your layers when you can.  For one, merging layers is easier on your computer if you don’t have a lot of processing power to spare and makes your files less humongous.

Another advantage of merging your layers is that you can retain those ‘mistakes’ that make traditional paintings have that lovely painterly feel to them.  Painting over your mistakes instead of deleting them creates a ghost or haze that makes your edges feel more organic, while merely selecting and deleting leaves a perfect edge.  Our human eyes are very keen to patterns and perfection, which can make an image seem harsh and plastic, a very common occurrence that makes many digital paintings have a certain sameness to them.

A suggestion if you’d like to change your image later is to save your selections as Channels, that way you can still retain the advantages of painting on one layer.

3.  Addiction to Undo Button 

Now that I’ve had the ability to Undo every tiny mistake, Step Backwards, Step Forewards, and change every little pixel, a weird thing has happened when I sit down with a traditional pencil and drawing pad.  I am downright afraid that I’m going to mess it up!  My ultimate power of control is gone and I’ve lost my confidence with dealing with traditional media.  If I pick the wrong color, that’s it, game over, man. GAME OVER!

It’s going to take some re-training to get my confidence back that it’s okay to make mistakes.  Digital has made me the ultimate control freak, whereas traditional media is all about letting go of that control and accepting the somewhat randomized results of how the media works, especially with something like watercolor.  For me being the control freak that I am, traditional media helps to balance my propensity for spending too long trying to make everything perfect.

4.  Mark-Making Still Matters

At least if you want to achieve a painterly quality in your digital work.  A lot of folks assume you can just drop a fill into a digital canvas and you’re done.  While you can achieve certain kinds of highly stylized effect like this, if you’re aiming for a more realistic painterly organic effect, your lines still matter.  Blending takes time and care and usually the same awareness of your marks and how you’re using them to define contour as you would have as a traditional painter.  

Also, things that might happen more naturally with traditional media, such as the pooling and blending of colors that form that wonderful randomness in your skyline take dedicated effort to achieve in digital.  In digital, randomness is carefully constructed.  You have to add the randomness to your skin pores to make that surface convincing. It doesn’t just happen thanks to the properties of your paper, glazing, and pigments.  Filters and Brushes with custom effects can help.  They get better with every version of Photoshop, but they still have a ways to go.   I haven’t used Painter much, but I hear it’s getting better at this as well.

5.  Shiny Plastic People

I don’t know why, but when I first got into digital, I assumed it’d be easier to paint skin.  There were all these nifty tools and pore brushes and amazing things that seemed to do all the work for me!

Nope.  All I got for about a year of painting people digitally was shiny plastic grey people or shiny plastic pink people.  It took master copies, many failed practice paintings trying different techniques, and brushing up on my color theory to really start bringing life to my skintones.

I still think every time I paint a person digitally that I try a different technique each time.  The more I paint digitally, the more I realize it isn’t about how you do it and any one right way, it’s about doing whatever it takes to get a good looking end result!

6.  Missing that Good Ol’ Tactile Feeling

For as amazing as digital is, I’ve found I still can’t get the same finesse with my lines, especially with inking.  Cintiqs are amazing things made of unicorn dust and the tears of artists, but you still have to rotate the canvas with Rotate View, which takes that many seconds longer than just turning your canvas in real life.  I am personally just faster at working with sketching and inking on paper, which I hope to integrate in my upcoming digital pieces.

Here’s just one example of Wylie’s
amazing combination of graphite
and digital.

I used to think I shouldn’t mix media like that because I wouldn’t know how to categorize it online or that the purists would hate me (leftovers from my own snooty traditional art program brainwashing), but now I realize I just don’t care as long as I get a cool image in the end that tells the story I want to tell.

See the work of Wylie Beckert as a great example of what you can do when you free your mind to the potential of combining traditional and digital.

7. Layer Masks are Your Friends

Learn them. Love them!  I used to paint everything the hard way and then curse myself when I’ve made a mistake I can’t take back because I’ve overpainted or deleted my original layer.  Layer masks allow you to retain your original work and visually change it without having to commit to those changes.  I’m probably speaking voodoo moon language right now to those who have no clue what layer masks are.  To you, I say start here.  Learn, my grasshoppers. You will not be sorry!

And yeah sure it may lead to the ‘Undo Addiction’ I was previously talking about, but that’s okay!  As long as you have the useful potential of layer masks available to you, you might as well use it and face your Undo addiction later like I’m doing.  You’ll get over it…eventually.

So why do I keep painting digitally if it seems like it drives me crazy?

– I don’t have to keep the paintings under my bed. I am seriously out of space for storing them in our apartment (and parents’ basement).  No, I don’t want to pay for environmentally controlled storage because I am cheap/broke and that type of storage is friggin expensive.

– Being able to change an image indefinitely comes in handy!  When a traditional painting is done, I usually can’t change it much. However, if something ever bothers me about a digital piece or a client requests a change, I can most likely go back and fix it after it’s done.  This is also a double-edged sword which sometimes makes me feel like my work is never done with any particular digital piece, leading to obsessive necromancing of my older pieces.
Also, if I mess up in the middle of a piece, I don’t have to start it from scratch as I would if it were traditionally painted. I can simply alter what segment of the image I need to.
– Solvents are dangerous and I don’t want them near me. I would try oil painting if I could, which is really the effect I’m trying to achieve in digital, but there is no ventilation in this apartment. Experimenting with water-based oils and non-ventilation friendly solvents is going to take time I don’t want to commit at current (and again that storage issue).
– Because I can play with color schemes in a fun way that lends itself to discovery (IE. love me some Hue slider!)
– Digital images are great for clients who need their images easily scaled to different products and sizes without having to go through the process of having to scan/photograph a large traditionally painted piece.
– On the occasion I want to animate parts of an image, digital is SOOOooo much easier to do this with!

    For me, digital is an extremely useful and versatile tool.  While I understand why someone would find a traditional piece to have more sentimental value because an artist was able to touch it and pour their soul into every stroke, I’m the kind of artist who doesn’t paint for the process (at least on most occasions).  
    I paint for the final image and the story it tells.  
    Digital expands my vocabulary for visual storytelling in unexpected ways that I have learned to love and that have made my journey so much more efficient in many ways!

    So I ask you, purely digital artists, what are the challenges you face trying to learn traditional media?  It’d be fascinating to hear from the other side of the learning divide!

    Artists and Schedules – Maintaining Creative Flow Without Going Insane

    As is usual with any time that I’m forced to sit on my duff with hours of free time, I start thinking of a thousand ways to strategize what I’m going to work on next, how I’m going to improve towards my career goals, the meaning of life, etc.  Gallbladder removal has been a massively introspective and motivating time for me.  The whole year has been, really, as constant road blocks have forced me to slow down and think of my physical and mental health more carefully.

    I’ve finally had to admit to myself that my schedule hasn’t been the healthiest.  I have often ended my work days feeling anxious and unfulfilled.  I never seem to get enough done!  I would often find myself working late and fretting, which in turn, worried my partner on multiple levels.  That constant feeling of ‘not getting enough done’ made me unhappy, just as the constant nagging feeling of ‘you should be producing more’ made the times I should have been relaxing with loved ones a nerve-wracking experience. I always wanted to ‘escape’ and slink back to the studio to work because if I could just get one more thing done, I could finish and be at peace and enjoy myself during downtime, guilt free!

    Enjoying myself outside of work and even simply doing art for fun became a distant memory.

    I never could put my finger on why this always seemed to happen to me until I sat down and wrote an hourly work schedule representing my work habits as they were.  I split my time between leather crafting in the mornings, illustration client commissions after lunch, and finally, the rest of whatever’s leftover of my day, should I finish client work, was spent trying to cram in those precious portfolio pieces and studies that are so important to the long term development of my career.  Broken down, I was only getting a couple hours dedicated to each thing and that’s barely enough to enter any kind of ‘flow’!  I define flow as that creative trance you enter which usually takes me more than two hours to achieve since I have a very particular work space I have to set up, which usually takes some of that precious time to arrange.  I don’t work well in spurts, it seems.  Discovering this about myself has proven so very useful!
    The solution?  Schedule myself and train my brain to be satisfied with what gets done in a day.  It helped to start thinking of my leather crafts as a part-time job, which it has become, much to my surprise.  Leather crafts make up a good chunk of my income when art sales are low.  The schedule is looking something like this now:
    Monday to Tuesday – Work ONLY on leathercrafts!  That way I can take time with my craft projects and look forward to those days coming later in the week when I can return to my true love, illustration!  I’ve noticed delegating these days for only crafts has actually made me more inspired to do this kind of work because I don’t mentally associate craft-time as ‘the time I take away from doing art and rushing to fill every order before arttime’.  I actually have had time to create new patterns and have some exciting new product lines to release in the near future thanks to the simple switch of days!
    Wednesday – I update my website first thing with the rest of the day dedicated to art at the coffee shop.  I noticed my website was constantly falling behind because I had no set time I’d update it, so I’d just forget!  Including website updating on my weekly schedule has helped me to keep it updated, which is important for any Art Directors who might have their eye on me or others who need to see that my site is updated and I am active.  If my website is already up to date, I spend that time posting to other neglected galleries online because goodness knows there’s enough of them!  Behance, FurAffinity, Epilogue.  The list goes on!  As much as I wish I had a personal webmonkey to handle all of my website updates, I’m still only a one-woman show, at the moment!  Forsooth! I’ve even managed to fit in time I actually leave the studio in this schedule!  A little fresh air goes a long way when you start seeing faces in the proverbial yellow wallpaper of your studio walls. 
    Thursday to Friday – Glorious 2D art-only days!  I’ve decided to start my art-only days with warm-up exercises, either life drawings or daily prompts (ie. Spitpaint).  Then the rest of the day can be spent in creative flow, rather than split up trying to do a billion different things, which just hasn’t proven conducive to my sense of satisfaction and frankly my productivity as an artist!  Trying to do everything has given me a year in which I’ve not produced much at all, for as much as I scramble and am ‘busy’ all of the time to the point of nervousness when I am not working.  I also know if I don’t make time to do studies, I’ll just skip right to trying to solve the ‘masterpieces’, and that’s a fast ticket to frustration since I’m not stopping to learn what I need to learn to attain the level of Mastery I need for the kind of work I want to be doing.
    Saturday and Sunday – I try not to work these days unless I am behind or have a rush deadline.  It is incredibly important to me that I do not work every day of the week!  Everyone needs the downtime and these are days I’d rather be spending time with loved ones.

    And there you have it!  My prototype of a schedule.  I’ve tried it for a week already and I must say I’m already feeling ten times less stressed out!  There’s no telling how this schedule will be upturned by conventions, rush orders, and other such things, but I can say from experience thus far that discovering what my tolerance for a creative flow has been a life-changing experience.
    So my advice to you and any other freelance creative professionals is to learn what your ‘flow’ threshold is, especially if you’re like me and have to work your art time around other activities.  The excellent book Creative Time and Space: Making Room for Making Art really helped me as far as figuring out how to get the most out of my day.  Artists from all walks of life, married, with kids, full-time, part-time, etc. give their best advice for how not to go insane keeping your ‘creative flow’ strong.

    How do you maintain ‘flow’ throughout your day?  Share your tips in comments!

    A bit of shameless self-promo before I go. If you do end up getting the book, you can use my Amazon referral link to buy it and give me a nice little earning from your purchase! I’d appreciate it very much and the book is well worth adding to one’s library if you are a creative professional.

    Confessions of an Artist Part 4

    On the last “Confessions” post, we talked about the merits and downfalls of tracing. Many of you revealed that I am not the only one to start out in art with early tracing books. It was also interesting to hear about how I am not the only one to suffer Dragonball and Sailor Moon anime influenced phases. I do wonder sometimes what the next influential phase of infectious art styles will be for the future generations of artists? Perhaps Avatar: The Last Airbender, Naruto, or Inuyasha styles?

    This week I’d like to make yet another confession.

    I have only in recent years learned that piling artwork under my bed is not the best practice for storing original art. Even worse, there was a point during my high school days where I was storing art with….cardboard and plastic wrap. Yes, the plastic wrap from your kitchen. (Don’t try this at home, kiddies!)

    Oh sure, it is easy when we start out to believe that art is just for fun, so why not toss it under the bed or on the next most convenient pile on your desk? It will be fine until we dig it out again, right? Eventually, we graduate to stuffing them in trapper keepers and accrue piles of shiny notebooks, folders, and trapper keepers with papers sticking out of them. Things like pH balance don’t exist for us when we’re young and naive and, like our art, we view ourselves as immortal. The art will always be there when we need it.

    I learned my lesson the hard way when I went to dig out old work, seeking something to display for a student show, and found that most of my work was yellow, stained with cat puke, or torn and ripped at the corners. Lesson being, don’t store your art under your bed if you can help it. So, I’m here to implore you to please, as early as possible, form good storage habits for art if it really means something to you.

    Some basic things to remember for storing your art properly:

    • Paper, especially newsprint, is prone to yellowing. Store it out of the sun where possible. Use higher quality thicker paper like Bristol board or illustration board when you can instead of cheap drawing paper from drawing pads which is easier to damage. Drawing pads are great for practice sketches, but higher quality paper will make your masterpieces last longer.
    • Masking tape, scotch tape, and certain types of mat board contain acid, which can cause staining and yellowing. General rule of thumb: If it’s physically touching your artwork, it needs to be acid free (archival)!
    • Cardboard is NOT archival unless you special order archival backing board or cut your own backing from acid free board.
    • Certain media such as pastel, charcoal, and color pencil need to be sprayed with fixative to preserve their color and to insure that they do not rub off. Acrylics do not need to be sprayed, though they will benefit from being sealed with a protective layer of varnish. Oils, on the other hand, require a layer of varnish to set the colors.

    Some simple storage solutions for your art:

    • Storage & Display Portfolios – Buy storage portfolios instead of trapper keepers. I recommend Itoya portfolios. They are fairly affordable and come in multiple sizes to suit all needs. Their pages and mounting paper are archival/acid free and the portfolios look tons more professional than your shiny hot pink Lisa Frank trapper keeper. You can also customize the spine to show your name by sliding the paper out and replacing it with your own like this.
    • Carrying Cases & Large Portfolios – Storing larger work over 14×17 inches can be problematic. If you can store them in a carrying case portfolio or keep them in their original art pad binders, that is better than piling large work loose somewhere where they are easy to damage. Another alternative is to properly mat and frame the large work and hang it up on the wall
    • Plastic Bins & Paper Copy Boxes – Storing larger framed work can be tricky. If you can’t put it on the wall, it is best to store frames upright in copy paper boxes or large plastic bins with protective styrofoam sheets or cardboard in-between. If you stack your frames with protective sheets between, just don’t stack them too high or the weight could damage the frames on the bottom. For additional protection, you may want to wrap each frame individually with bubble wrap. Most times, you can go to large stores like Sam’s, or other department stores, and get handy cardboard bins or paper copy boxes for free or low cost.
    • Plastic Storage Drawers – For storing smaller framed works and stacks of portfolios, you might want to invest in good plastic storage shelves. I prefer shelves which have closed walls as this helps to keep dust from gathering on your work. Be warned! Don’t skimp on buying good plastic shelves, as the cheap ones will bow and are only useful for storing very light objects. A general indicator of a good quality plastic storage unit is that the plastic is opaque instead of clear.
    • A Good Plastic Bin
      A Bad Plastic Bin

    My Home Setup

    Just about all of my supplies and materials are kept in the opaque plastic shelves on the bottom with lightweight portfolios, mailing envelopes, and small originals kept in the crappy clear drawers sitting on top of the ‘nice’ plastic shelf. I still have art piled under my bed, but it’s generally the stuff which I don’t mind being damaged or it is still snuggly attached in its original art pad.

    I have tons of copy boxes and over the shoulder carrying case portfolios in my room and basement which store framed art, scraps, large art, and other supplies. My setup isn’t perfect yet, as my large canvas work still sits relatively unprotected and leaning against a wall, but it’s a start!

    My final word of advice is to start storing your stuff properly as early as possible. You don’t want a possible masterpiece to be ruined by carelessness and trust me that cat puke is the most horrible permanent yellow you will ever see.

    Those of you who are already practicing good habits, how do you store your art? Do you have anything to add to this list of suggestions? Feel free to share photos of your storage space!

    Confessions of an Artist Part 3

    Last week’s discussion led us into the exploration of breaking out of our comfort zones. This week, I want to make my most horrifying confession of all.

    I was a tracer.

    Now, before you throw stones and Nerf balls at me, let me tell you the story of a girl who loved her Barbie fashion paper doll set. There was never more delight in stenciling in the trendy orifice-free figure of Barbie and tracing on any variety of clothes that she wanted. Why, there was even a texture sheet to rub on leopard patterns, zebra stripes, and more! This budding artist found hours of entertainment and a confidence in her finished fashion designs that blossomed into a genuine interest to explore more and the confidence to continue. The act of tracing blew on the embers of interest in visual design that the girl would grow up to discover later.

    Over the years that followed, I switched methods to freehand tracing, the act of ‘eyeballing’ an image and copying what I saw rather than tracing it directly. I copied my favorite comics, Wild C.A.T.s and Jim Lee’s indomitable Zealot, Jack Kirby’s glorious reign as artist of the Uncanny X-men, the luscious lips of Michael Turner’s Witchblade. Eventually, I graduated to copying the poses only and filling in my own character’s details.

    However, when I tried to draw without a reference, I failed miserably. My works carried a tinge of what I had copied for so long. My figures had diamond shaped feet, pouty lips, perky breasts, long legs, teeny waists, and exaggerated muscles. Copying the work of others for so long left an imprint on my sense of anatomy that I was not able to wash away till I began studying the Golden Mean in high school. Even still, that was only the beginning of what be a long and grueling journey to learn what ephemereal bones, muscles, and physics went into making human figures look human and not like statuesque anatomical anomalies.

    My anatomy finally began to improve when I was exposed, literally, to nude models in college. Like many, I snickered at the unveiled human form and all its strange nooks and crannies, at first. Eventually, I came to see the beauty behind the skeletal structure and the awe-inspiring complexity of natural musculature. The difference between drawing from a photograph and drawing from a live model must also not go ignored. To fully understand the human figure, one must be attuned to the little things that seeing a human figure with your own eyes can reveal; the subtle way a model holds the tension in their shoulders, the shadows cast by the joints hooded just beneath the skin by flesh, the elegant sweep of shadow as a model turns their head. All of these tiny experiences lead to an understanding that seems barely noticeable at the start, but begins to show itself as you practice and absorb the intrinsic knowledge of how the human form breathes, moves, and shifts.

    Sometimes the puffy lips inspired by Turner’s Witchblade still raise their poofy little heads up in my art. I still use references to help insure my anatomy isn’t wonky, but I have learned the important lesson that one can never rely too much on copying what one sees. Stock and photographs can be useful for adding realism to one’s work, but it is fairly easy for it to overpower your art. For those among you who may not be able to afford life drawing courses, take your sketchbook outside and draw people in the park. Draw your face in the mirror. You may get some funny looks, but in the end, most people are absolutely delighted to learn you’re an artist and are immediately intrigued by it.

    Remember to put your reference away after awhile and let your imagination fill in the rest. It can be a hard thing to balance the perfection of a photo and your own knowledge of anatomy, but practice will make perfect. Hands, and particularly thumbs, remain a constant challenge for me, as does the physical anomaly of man-crotches in jeans or tight pants.

    The mysteries of figure drawing continue to elude me and as such, I find I never stop learning.

    So tell me what little secrets you might have to reveal? What malpractices did you have while you were learning how to draw? Or, if you have any now, how do you hope to improve your drawing processes?

    My Favorite Figure Drawing Resources:
    Figure Drawing: The Structure, Anatomy and Expressive Design of the Human Form by Nathan Goldstein
    Posemaniacs – A site full of 3 dimensional figures which you can rotate.
    Lockstock – One of the most beautiful galleries of classically inspired stock images on DeviantART
    Cobwebstock – A gallery full of knights, cyberpunks, and other great stock featuring a male model.
    Andrew Loomis Figure Drawing Books – A downloadable collection of figure drawing books from skilled figure artist, Andrew Loomis.

    Find more resources at my forum.

    Confessions of an Artist – Part 1

    As I enter the current round of trials in my life where I seek to find a way to organize myself professionally and to push my artwork to the next level, I’ve realized there were a few things I wish I could have done differently in the past or that I wish I had received proper advice on. I’ve made some mistakes and I feel that sharing some of them might help others, which has thus begun the first of what I hope to be a series of “Confessions of an Artist” so that hopefully someone might avoid the mistakes I made, or at least be able to face their own challenges with some sort of advice in mind.

    As an artist, I’m still growing and still expanding my horizons so it’s not my intention to speak down to you as if I have already learned everything there is to learn. More than likely, I’ll keep making mistakes and learning new things as this wonderful world of art evolves.

    My Confession of Discouragement

    This is the biggest mistake I have ever made. Moreso than a mistake, it was an attitude I nourished early on in my life when I was in high school. I got a failing grade on my AP Art portfolio and despite my love of the arts, I let other people, including my parents, talk me out of trying for scholarships to attend art school.

    “You’ll never be able to feed yourself as an artist.” Everyone intoned unanimously. “Art school is just a waste of money!”

    I tried not to listen, but when you are young and reliant on your parents for college funding, you tend to go with what they want for you. And so instead of even trying for those scholarships, I went to a state school to earn a degree in English so that I might one day teach school and be able to afford to feed myself. That is not to say that teaching is not a noble profession and that I won’t someday do it, but I’ve always felt my fate lay elsewhere in more business-related ventures.

    The more college classes I took, the more I started leaning towards art, art education, and business courses which soon pushed my education past the 4 year mark. By the end of it all, I had a double major in Art and English, a partial minor in Business Information Systems and far too many years of school under my belt. I regret my indecision and how much time I wasted as an unfocused student in a fine arts program that taught me next to nothing about commercial illustration, the field I was truly interested in. I must not be too harsh on these years in my life, however, for I learned many skills and met so many wonderfully talented students and professors at my college. My life would not be the same without having attended the college that I did and meeting the inspirational people that have entered my life since.

    It was not until I worked through my lump of doubt after 7 years of undergraduate school that I bit the bullet, applied for a scholarship to the Savannah College of Art & Design, and managed to somehow obtain a significant fellowship, without which I would never have been able to afford graduate school. It showed me that it can be done, if I tried hard enough, and kept on trying. I only wished I had tried earlier. Now as a graduate of a Masters program, I’ve only just now begun to accept the mistakes I’ve made in my earlier decision making and have learned to move forward with my art career, a career which you are destined to fail at if you are not determined.

    I am driven by the thought of “What if I had tried for those scholarships earlier? What if I just take the safe route and get a 9-5 job with my own cozy cubicle?” Sometimes the answers to these questions still terrify me…

    My parents, and most parents, are right to worry about those of us with a twinkle in our eye and an itch in our palms to be artists. It is not an easy profession. You will most likely starve for your first few years until you are more well established. Only the most organized and driven of artists get jobs right off the bat. The competition for art jobs is massively high with more qualified candidates in existence than there are jobs according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. To survive, one must be driven to improve, organized in their finances, and willing to work more than 40 hours a week starting off in most cases, particularly in the illustration field where you must meet serious deadlines.

    The most common mistake I see in younger artists is that they think to themselves “Hey I like to draw. It’s fun. I should be an artist!” They give no real thought to how they can unite their love of art with a marketable format. This is a mistake of mine as well that led to much discouragement with the fine arts program at my college because I just could not find a gallery which would accept my kind of work. I felt like I was playing myself false…trying to inject themes into my work that would make me appeal to a wider “fine art gallery” audience when my heart lay elsewhere in more literal illustration. It did not even occur to me that someone COULD make money off of fantasy and book illustration until much later on. There were more options than the gallery (especially with the advent of new internet technologies) and I believe that to be a major discouragement for many artists going through traditional fine arts programs even today.

    Even without the insistence of the gallery world, most young artists I know fail to even research what markets are out there that they might apply themselves to. Again, I cannot reference the GAG (Graphic Artists Guild) and the Bureau of Labor Statistics enough. Young artists, or even those who just feel lost, I encourage you to inform yourselves about your options. Art as a profession is not simply about drawing or painting. You must siphon your talents and skills to where they most suit your artistic drive. There are set designers, art directors, fashion designers, concept artists, scene designers, graphic designers, greeting card artists, and a whole multitude of specialized industries dealing with all facets of art. If you cannot reconcile the market with your work, you are merely pursuing a hobby, a personal pleasure, that will end up discouraging and frustrating you in the end if you try to make it your sole means of income.

    Sometimes, even if you like to draw or paint, it is better not to pursue it as a profession if you find it impossible to push yourself to adapt to the demands of a business environment. And sometimes, this is okay. Some people are happier and more inspired without the expectations of business dealings hanging over their heads. That does not make them a failure and that does not make those of us who do business ‘sell outs’ ( a whole other rant there I’m saving for another entry).

    In the end, all I can say is this.

    Keep your eyes open, always work to improve yourself, research your options, expect to be driven hard and keep your head held high. There are artists who have become successful out there. They are not just random figures of serendipitous fate. They worked hard to be where they are now and they ignored those who told them that they couldn’t do it.

    I wonder, how have you all faired? What mistakes have you made? And what have you learned from them?

    My Confessional is always open.