Friday, October 31, 2014

Learning to Juggle

-By Howard Lyon

For the last few years, I have been branching out in both subject and market.  I have continued to illustrate, painting for Magic: the Gathering and other clients in the fantasy/sci-fi market but have also started to do some religious work and am also preparing work for galleries.  It has been a challenge.  This article isn't about religious painting or fantasy illustration, but about working and promoting yourself in two very different genres.

Initially, I kept my religious work and illustration work on two different sites, but this last year I launched a new site where they sit side by side.  I still have separate stores and blogs, but it is hard to miss.

Some days I am relieved to have my hands in multiple markets.  I enjoy the creative variation as well as the opportunity to diversify financially.  I have broadened my market and opened up new opportunities that might not have ever been presented otherwise.

Ashcloud Phoenix - Magic: the Gathering
Then at other times I worry that I am diluting my "brand", softening the impact I could potentially make in either market.  There is only so much time in a day and the fact is, I am doing half as much illustration work and I could do twice as much gallery/fine art if that were my sole focus.

The truth is, I have never been happier.  I have come to the point that I don't sweat what might be for what is (most days).  As long as I am improving, working hard and smart, I find this work to be increasingly gratifying.

Feed My Sheep - 11 x 14 oil on panel
I have often heard the advice to pick something and go after it 100%.  I can't disagree with that but what if you have a drive to do comics and gallery work or children's book illustration and horror?  I can only speak to my own experiences so that if you are considering engaging in what might be seemingly divorced markets you might do so with a little less trepidation.

Here are the benefits/insights I have found:
  • When I switch from one kind of work to the other, I come back each time with a renewed and increased energy.
  • My audience has doubled over the last few years.  Google Analytics has given me good insight into how my audience has changed and what they come to my site for.  On and average day traffic is nearly a 50/50 split between my religious work and fantasy work.  
  • Producing work consistently for a market is key to keeping it moving forward.  Regular releases help to keep your audience engaged even when there is less work coming out.
  • The two markets I have been producing work for have offsetting seasons.  I focus a little more on promoting my illustration in the spring and summer and my religious work in the fall and winter.  If you should work in a couple markets, that might be something to consider.

Master the Way - Magic: the Gathering

Here are some challenges:
  • I sometimes feel that I have to sacrifice one opportunity for another.  That being said, when I was solely doing contract work, I felt that way all the time.  
  • Some customers have expressed concern or disdain at my spectrum of work, from both sides.  I suppose there is a further risk of not being taken seriously by some as long as I have a foot in both markets.  
  • There is an added measure of stress.  I can't pin it down exactly, but there are more things to juggle.  Even if I did the exact same amount of work, with two markets to feed and grow it is more hectic.
  • I keep more inventory on hand as far as prints go, so that I can ship quickly.  This requires ongoing investment that is greater than when I was fulfilling one audience.
  • My social media relationship... "it's complicated."  Building your social media presence takes time and regular effort.  If you want to keep your social media separate, it can take a lot more time.

King of Kings - 36" x 48" oil on linen
If you are currently working happily in one field, but want to dip your toes in another area of work I offer this advice.  Be patient.  Connect with artists working in that market and ask for advice with shows and marketing.  Schedule time each week to do research/promotion and stick to it.  Accept that this is a compromise.  Prepare to work a little harder at first.  Enjoy every day you get to work as an artists, whatever it is you paint/draw/sculpt/create.

I can't say that I will always split my time between these two fields.  The road I think I am on seems to change as I traverse it.  Check back with me in 50 years and I will let you know how things worked out.

For fun, here is a time-lapse of my Feed My Sheep piece.

And to balance that out, some gifs showing the progression of a couple Magic cards.
Master the Way
Warden of the Eye
Thanks for giving this post a read.  I would love to read your thoughts and experience in the comments!
Howard Lyon
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Happy Halloween!

Thursday, October 30, 2014

The 7 Deadly (Art) Sins: WRATH

-By Lauren Panepinto

I'm back this week with #3 in our series on The Seven Deadly Sins, as they apply to Art and Artists. This week, we're going to tackle one I know we've all had to deal with from time to time (and some of us more often than that)...the big doozy: Wrath. Rage. Anger. Ire. I think Wrath has a nice biblical ring to it, so we'll stick with that.

This is one I don't think I need a dictionary definition for. No question, we have all felt the burning fire of wrath in relation to our art. Maybe it was after a hard critique in an art class. Maybe it was infuriating client feedback. Maybe it was a late or lost invoice and an unhelpful accounting department. Maybe it was an Art Director who killed one of your pieces. Maybe it was an artist who pushed their deadline and then still delivered sub-par work. You'd have to be a saint to truthfully say you've never felt the flames of ire and a need for vengeance urging us on.

And as an art theme this week, I am giving Bosch & Blake a well-deserved break, and illustrating this post with some of my favorite depictions of Medusa from art history. Medusa is the mascot of the sin of wrath. In some tellings of the myth, she was so consumed by the fire of rage that she was turned into a monster, with poison-spitting snakes for hair. I invoke Medusa here for an even more specific reason, because she was, in my opinion at least, unjustly wronged. In Ovid's version of the story, she was a beautiful maiden priestess of Athena. Poseidon desired her and, as Greek gods were apt to do, raped her in Athena's temple. That's enough, in my book, to become poison-spitting mad, but the story is that Athena got so pissed at the defilement of her temple that she turned Medusa into a monster who would turn everyone she looked at to stone. That's Medusa doubly wronged in my book, (talk about blaming the victim) and she had every right to be pissed the f#*k off.

Medusa and Perseus by Laurent-Honoré Marqueste, 1876
No matter which version of the story you want to follow, Medusa was turned into a monster by the sin of Wrath. But when your anger feels righteous, it's sometimes the hardest to control, because it is a justified anger. But it will still burn you.

I keep using fire analogies for a reason, because I am going to talk about two more: "Flaming" clients and "Burning" bridges.

Flaming someone has been around since long before the internet, but the audience was in most cases small, and controlled. Even if you got drunk and loudly complained about a client in a crowd of people, chances were you knew who had overheard. If you wrote a scathing review of another artist's work, it was usually contained to a pretty insular audience. But it wasn't a good practice then, and now, with the exponential growth of our own personal audiences, it's nothing but a lose-lose situation.

Medusa by Caravaggio, 1597
No one says you can't rant, or vent, when you have been wronged...just keep it to a controlled audience. We all have safe spaces. I have trusted colleagues and friends that I can bitch to when I need to. We all need to, sometimes. However the internet is not a safe space. You cannot control your audience. Whether you are writing on a website or blog or on social media, the evidence of you losing your shit is there for anyone to see. Forever. And sure, your friends may know that the client (or AD) completely deserved to get chewed out...but are you going to be there defending your side of the story to everyone who happens to read that post? Even if you are always in the right, and miraculously you are also always perceived by the casual observer to be in the right, it still paints a pretty dangerous picture of you as an artist who will fly off the handle and start a smear campaign if something goes wrong.

I'll be honest with you, the first thing I think about when I see an artist horribly flaming a client online is "Wow. What if a job they do for me goes awry (as sometimes jobs do, no matter what you do to avoid it)...will I be the next rant target?"

Does it keep me from working with an artist entirely? Maybe not — it depends on how ugly that rant was — but I will certainly hesitate before I assign them something of mine.

Medusa by Bernini, ca. 1630 
Ripping someone apart on in a public place shows a lack of self-control, and more importantly, a lack of empathy. I am absolutely not saying that the client is never wrong. I am also not saying that if I see one or two frustration-fueled rants on the internet that I am going to hold it against someone. But if I see a LOT of nastiness and negativity coming from a person who especially goes so far as to name the other party publicly, well then yea, I admit it, I am not going to want to work with that person.

Also remember, email to an AD or client is also not a safe space to flame someone. I've said it many times before: ADs all talk to each other. And clients network too. If you rip someone a new one in print — whether it is on social media, OR in a "private" email, or heck, even in a written letter — you are burning more bridges than you know.

Medusa and Perseus by Antonio Canova, ca. 1790
This is going to sound unfair to a lot of you, and I'm sorry, it's not fair. A wise man once told me, freedom of speech is not freedom from other people judging that speech.

Sometimes the best thing is to get it out of your system. Write that nasty email, and then leave it in the drafts folder for at least 24hrs. Rewrite it the next day when you've calmed down. Send it to one of those trusted peer friends. It's almost never worth the potential of burnt bridges. The worst part is, you'll probably never know that's why you're not getting the commissions you want. Trust me, it's not worth taking the chance. There's always a firm but professional way to say what you need to say.

And then go out with a few friends (and maybe some whiskey) and get it all off your chest in private.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Upcoming Art Books for November 2014

-By Dan dos Santos

The month of November is proving to be a stellar month for new art books... particularly November 11th for some odd reason (perhaps our resident publishing expert, Arnie Fenner, can shed some light on why that is).

These books aren't out yet, so I can't personally attest to their quality, but they've peaked my interested enough to place them all on pre-order. I thought I would share with you some of the ones I am most excited about.

Spectrum 21

What more do I need to say? Spectrum has become the definitive source for great Fantasy art every year. If you're not buying these annuals regularly, you're honestly doing yourself a great disservice. This volume will be the first volume not edited by the Fenners, and I am super excited to see what changes (if any) John Fleskes has in store for us.

The Art of the Simon and Kirby Studio

I'm a big fan of comics, and of Kirby in particular. And although there are a lot of books on Kirby's and Simon's work out there, most are just sub-par reproductions of sequential work that they've done over the years. I'm hoping this book will finally be the book that does their work justice. The book is oversized, at nearly 10x13 inches, and almost 400 pages thick. Supposedly, much of the artwork contained within is scanned from the original drawings, and not just old comics.

Inside the Art Studio

I'm a sucker for a pretty studio. Not only do I find workspaces inspiring, but it's always cool to see other artist's work setups in the hopes that their clever solutions can inspire you to make your own space more efficient. This book will take us on a tour of 37 different artist's studios, from many different disciplines.

Drawing Beautiful Women: The Frank Cho Method

Oh man. Frank Cho is brilliant, and Flesk is a great publisher who always puts pride into their work. It's a great combo. There is no way this book isn't going to be great. At 120 pages, this is an instructional art book which outlines Frank's method for drawing attractive figures, specifically delving into anatomy, mediums and even storytelling.

The Art of Robert McGinnis

There are already 2 other books out there on McGinnis' art, but one focuses on mostly his Western paintings, and the other is a catalog of thumbnail sized images which hardly does his work justice. Until now, there has not been a book that truly focuses on showcasing his illustrative art. I love McGinnis' fine arts, but I love his paperback covers and movie posters even more. This is probably the book I am most excited about on this list.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Flight Line

Greg Manchess

This is the last week of my show in Paris at Galerie Daniel Maghen, ending on Halloween night.

The opening was a great success as I sold quite a number of the new paintings I’ve been sharing here on Muddy, and the gallery is eager to do another show in about two years. I already have plans to paint large, grand themes!

Initially, the gallery’s request was for me to paint whatever I wanted. Who wouldn’t love to hear that? But it also means that it comes with the responsibility to produce work that excites people. I’d learned many years ago that if I can focus enough to excite myself about a subject, then it’s more likely that a client will respond to that same excitement if I can get it across in the painting.

Flight Line was the first piece on my board, derived from my interest in raptors, aviation, and pilots. Combining a classic mythical creature with this theme seemed out of place, but oddly made sense. I made several sketches and still wasn’t sure that anyone would appreciate what I loved about it.

The image’s seed was planted from watching so many movies about WW1. The pilots rallying for their sortie. Similar to the canvas biplanes waiting along the dew grass flight line of the Lafayette Escadrille, the gryphons pull against the restraints of the mechanics who prep the beasts for launch, awaiting their individual pilot-trainers.

To build the image, I sketched each gryphon and pilot separately, then combined the pilots with their birds. I traced these sketches onto separate sheets of tracing paper and then laid them onto a main sheet so I could move them around, to find just the right composition. I projected that final sketch onto my canvas and traced it off. The finished piece is about 48” across and took several days. Lots to cover. 

I’ve got a new world to write about now. The visual tease is enough for me to create the background history to flesh out the story. This is how stories start, especially for artists, and especially for the new crop of artist-authors that are coming up.

Flight Line was also the first painting to sell in the show, followed by Night Patrol which is also part of this same world.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Inspiration: Pascal Dagnan-Bouveret

Pascal Dagnan-Bouveret was a French Naturalist painter. Born and raised in France in the late 1800s, Pascal studied at the École des Beaux-Arts under the tutelage of Alexandre Cabanel and Jean Leon Gerome.

Pascal was one of the first painters of his time to implement the use of photographic reference, allowing him to bring greater detail and a heightened sense of realism to his works. The medium was relatively new at the time, and Pascal's use of it influenced many of the more traditional French Academic Painters to begin using it as well.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Seven pieces of good advice that stayed with me

as usual, interpret this image however you please
David Palumbo

Last week, while recording an interview for an upcoming episode of Creative Trek, I was asked to share a piece of advice which has stayed with me over the years.  A few jumped to my mind at that moment and then later that day I kept thinking of others, so I thoughts I’d jot a few down here on Muddy Colors. 

1: Be prepared to pay your dues

I grew up in a family of artists, so it is inevitable that much of the good advice I’ve received over the years would come from my parents.  This was one that I heard again and again before I even began learning to paint.  Basically, be grateful for every job you can get because it takes a long time to climb the ladder.  Not every job is going to be fun and/or easy, so be ready to tackle the low rent and uninspired jobs with a professional attitude.  Looking back, I find this to be very much a tightrope.  On the one hand, you don’t want to be taken advantage of and there are plenty of people out there looking to exploit you as far as you will let them.  Opposite that, you need to be humble and know that, at least when starting out, you should be following up as many opportunities as possible.  Finding the balance is hard and I think most of us only get it after several stumbles, but a humble attitude will help a great deal.  I’ve seen several people with tremendous potential wash out because of their egos and an attitude that the world owed them some kind of special treatment.  This is not really a business for prima donnas. 

2: Don’t teach yourself the mistakes of others

Early on, I had some ideas about working as a comic artist and was fortunate to have a portfolio review by Joe Quesada.  After looking at my (in hindsight) very crude pages, he told me that he felt I was looking too much at other comic artists and not enough at real life.  He told me that, while you can learn a great deal by copying the work of those who inspire you, the vast majority of your study should be direct observation.  When you copy another artist, you are copying their mistakes and teaching yourself their bad habits.  Working from life, on the other hand, lets you train without that baggage clouding up the picture.  You are much more likely to develop your work into something unique if you learn from the world unfiltered.

3: Lead with the work

About the time that I graduated from PAFA, I was exploring fine art and had a meeting with Neil Zukerman who runs the CFM Gallery in Manhattan.  He was kind enough to talk with me not only about my work but about making contact with galleries cold.  Basically, when someone walks into a gallery off the street and requests a review of their work, the automatic assumption is that it will be either a poor fit for that gallery or just simply horrible.  To save everyone a lot of time (and to avoid the automatic brush-off), he told me to introduce myself while simultaneously handing the curator a sample (print, postcard, etc.) of my very best work.  Maybe they will be interested and maybe not, but it will get things right to the point and hopefully let you lead with a good first impression.

4: Don’t worry about being fast, just worry about being good

In my first (of several) portfolio reviews with Magic the Gathering art director Jeremy Jarvis, he wondered if I might be rushing my work.  Many aspects were sloppy and would have been much stronger if I’d simply slowed down and taken my time.  Speed comes from the confidence of experience and, if I wanted to be fast, I first had to learn how to slow down and get good.  Nobody is impressed that you turned out a bad piece quickly, but they are impressed when you turn out something really good.

5: Don’t forget to push the design

A year later, I sat down with Jeremy Jarvis again at that same convention for another review.  My new portfolio had all new work which I had taken my time with and paid close attention to strong technique.  What I’d failed to pay attention to was my character, costume, and environmental design.  Jeremy pointed out in piece after piece where I could have pushed things to be more interesting, more lived-in, more unexpected, and just MORE.

6: Don’t be scared to be different

As I was starting to get work more steadily, I began feeling frustrated in my process and technique.  I had always felt that, to be a fantasy artist, I should be working in a tightly rendered highly detailed and polished style.  After all, that is what fantasy art usually looks like, right?  My frustration was that I was growing more and more interested by painterly work along the lines of NC Wyeth and other early 20th century illustrators and this was at odds with the mainstream looks.  I was lamenting this to Greg Manchess, one of the few current fantasy artists I knew who did work outside of that tight render box.  After going on and on about how I wished I could work looser but was worried about this and that and the other thing, he just said something along the lines of “well, yeah, I don’t know, why don’t you just try it?”  I was struck by how simple that made it seem and how ridiculous it was to have not realized this myself.  It was a few years before I really changed my process, but in that time I was working on personal pieces and experiments which ultimately proved to me that I needed to shift direction.  The first and most important step was to stop worrying and just do something.

7: Make your work with purpose

This last one was not advice given specifically to me, but something which I’ve heard Rebecca Guay say to students many many times.  Whatever you make, you need to make it your own in some way.  Find something to love in every piece, find something personal to contribute to every assignment, and always know what you want for the viewer to feel when they look at your work.  If you don’t make your work with purpose, it will have no impact.

Friday, October 24, 2014

The ART and the ARTIST

by Greg Ruth
MYSELF collaboration with Alan Amato

Whether we like it or not we all live in the age of the selfie, and along with this codified narcissism comes a public desire and duty to not just behold the work of a creative, but to place that creative's self alongside in a way unheard of before now. Whether we like it or not, we have and must be smarter about how we present ourselves as creators, alongside our creations or otherwise.

The artist must now pass as a figure on the landscape as well as his or her work. Even hiding from it can create a public persona that can affect this. There really is no way of getting around it. We live in a time where it's harmful to not recognize and comsider this as artists. Better to know this going and have a hand in shaping your public persona because if you don't, someone else will, and you may not always like what gets crafted. For what is usually a class of malcontents and privacy protectives, facing forward to the public and taking the initiative is a hard sell. And the better you do, the more successful you are at your work, the more difficult this will be. The stakes get higher and as the circle widens and widens, you'll begin to have less and less control over your public self, no matter what you do. Below is a guide to just a few of the essentials to consider.

Nail Down Your Purpose.

Decide not just that you like to make work, but why and to what end. Now if you're in a rarified position where money isn't an issue, this gets cloudier, but for the rest of us coming to see and understand clearly what our purpose is as artists is the best way to manage how we present ourselves as artists. This is likely the hardest part and the one that's going to come only after you need it. It comes down to having a clear and cogent understanding of your work, and where it's center lies, and I confess I am still trying to sharpen focus on that one after twenty years of professional work. Even so, the sooner you get a solid sense of what the trunk of your tree is, the branches and all that business with leaves and fruit will come later and more easily. You'll be able to spot what is a proper venue to put a public face on your art, and what isn't. You'll develop the keen and enviable sense to detect a bad move or a wrong kind of interview before it gets out of hand. And when speaking publicly, whether it's a simple Q&A, or a long form podcast interview, you'll keep to your task, and get in front of your skis- whether that means not disclosing a pre-publication secret, or getting overly smug or inappropriately jokey in a public forum that can rebound back to you and how your work is seen in a negative light. In all fairness this should be last on this list, but given it's the most important bit... well here it is at top.

It's different for men and women.

Sad but true and not to be forgotten. Men are seen with a far less critical lens and must carry even less baggage when it comes to how they choose to present themselves with their work to a public audience. It's easier for men and it's kinder. It's not fair and it's getting better, but painfully slowly and never fast enough in my opinion. The objectification brambles are real and they are serious and it's a good idea to know this going in- not to dissuade any women artists for going in, (in fact I'd love to see the exact opposite), but to know the landscape and its laws before they hit you in the face. Women know this already for the most part having to live with it their whole lives, but we men need to be better aware of it so we can know how to speak to it intelligently and defend our fellow artists when they need it. Honestly the differences and peculiarities of how a male and a female artist's experiences differ deserves an entire post. And it'd still not be enough. There's a long history of ugliness that can be entirely seen as cause for this kind of interaction to be fraught and tricky. It doesn't have to be, and the backwards facing types that haven't moved passed the gender restrictions of the last century are sometimes best combatted by being dismissed or ignored outright. Never let another tell you who you are and what you should be doing, especially with your art.

Don't blur the lines between the artist and the work.

Unless that's kind of the point. Assuming it's not, as an artist it is a terribly intimate act being put out into the world by showing your work. Remember that for the most part, the work is not you and any negative or positive comments or reviews aren't so much about you but about what you did. It's little comfort I know. These are after all, our babies and seeing them in jeopardy at the hands of negativity gets our fur up. Getting too drunk on positive comments can be even more dangerous, even though it doesn't feel like it is. Thing is, a scathing negative, or even more so, one repeated, can be a fount of help in terms of seeing areas that need improvement. This is one of the main reasons for showing your work to others at all: it's hard to see one's own missteps. Sometimes it's just not nice and there's nothing to glean, but really often enough, you can improve your craft a great deal by learning to stand up to negativity or criticism. It's a talent I would argue that is second only to the talent of making work itself. We as a species learn little from our successes, but learn tremendously from failures. It's an ancient hard wired part of our biology and it can be of great service to our art if tamed and directed properly.

Don't confuse your ego with your art. 

SELFIES cover from the story
Which is really an extension of the previous paragraph. Separating yourself from your art is really about separating your ego from your art more than anything else. Whatever you do, however much you push it away and stovepipe it on the outside, on the inside it is of you and from you and that is unbreakable. Making art as personal therapy doesn't really work- not for me. It's poor therapy and tends to produce myopic, indulgent, and even maudlin work. The discovering of yourself in making art is more electric from the discoveries of your hidden self as opposed to being overly conscious of what your doing. Sometimes it can take many years to then look back and start noticing themes and patterns. Putting yourself and your art out into the world can speed this up a lot. The key is to make sure, even in the process of making the work, you maintain enough distance to identify when you're doing it for the wrong reasons. Ray Bradbury once said "If you find that, when sitting down at your typewriter, you begin to think about how great and successful your story will be or make you, stop. Get up and do something else. Never write until you're ready to focus on the story". It's hard not to get excited about what you're working on and the imagination sometimes loves to pay act scenarios where you take over the world with your work. Art is an act of supreme arrogance by its very nature, so dreams grandiose and ridiculous are bound to spring up. Nevertheless, these are not relevant to the work or to you, and if taken too often or too seriously, can harm both how you present yourself to the worl and what you should expect from it.

Choose how much you want to be out there, and stick to your guns.

DEADLINES from The 52 Weeks Project
 More can be better at times as much as less can be. No presence means someone else is writing your biography, and that's rarely a good thing. In fact at best it tends to be wrong a lot more than is fair, and at worst, is a disaster of misinformation. If you're going to social network, give interviews etc... do them well and only up to the point you will want them to be. Meaning, set your boundaries and defend the hell out of them. The more popular your work gets the more demanding the publicity aspect of your outward persona will be called out to play. Learn to say no when it goes to far and make sure to be smart about where you go. Sometimes it can be too much, you go out to far and can start drowning. We see it a thousand times over, and it is the midwife of the meltdown or flame-out. Thing is as your work gains more traction with its audience you will find both opportunities and a need to present yourself to that audience more. I've done five interviews this last week alone, not including the radio spot thursday, the book tour for Coming Home and the various articles I've been tasked to write over the next month. It's all lovely but really exhausting and everything a mixed bag can be. It's far and away a different animal than the one I came in on, and though important overall no doubt, keeps me from spending as much time in the studio as I prefer. Part of me still considers that work, and this other stuff... I don't know... not work. But it is. It's all of it the voice through which others can be brought into the work, and those already familiar can be given more to digest. So I find I myself am moving these goal posts a lot more often recently. It may or may not last, and as much of a disruption it may all be, it is a rare and essential opportunity that needs to be taken advantage of while it's happening. The dividends of a concentrated public face were proven to me completely in the success of The Lost Boy, and it's a lesson I plan on learning. So even if this stuff starts to overwhelm, it's important to be able to say no when you must and when you can't, know that it's a finite thing. Next season they'll be interested in someone else and you can get back to what you love to do. But when you do, if you do it right, more will be paying attention, and the next time a project comes out, there'll be that many more to digest it.

Beware the pigeon hole and the siren song of success too early. 

Sample art for THE SEA SCARF 
This can happen by the had of the artist but is more often a consequence of the artist as being so popular at a given time they become married to that time. We can all look back on certain periods of time in our culture and point to artistic styles or icons. Peter Maxx would not at all have the same experience if he came out now as he is, than when he did in the 1960's and 1970's. An artist that becomes too much a creature of the period in which they live, are endangering their relevancy down the road. Sometimes this is unavoidable, and sometime sit's so huge it doesn't matter: I call this "The Spock Effect". Nimoy is more than Mr. Spock and in the past has railed against being seen as anything else. However, he has also come to realize the value and benefit of being so married to one ethos, and has learned to hug it. In some ways you're lucky to be blessed with such problems, but it runs counter to the destruction/invention cycle that makes good are, and if you lose yourself to it, then your work will undoubtedly suffer. Like most things that will come to you via your art, you will serve yourself and your work best by keeping a clear head and using that incoming stuff to your advantage. But you have to stay sharp, and occupy a measure of distance so you can make proper choices. That's where the trick is. So being an art star rising like a firework can seem exciting, but it can also exact a terrible price on your future. Don't wish for early super success, and pity the artist that experiences this. Without the firmament of self and of the work that only time and experience can bestow, the raging storm of success can tear you apart. Or at the very least leave you a misguided egotistical jerk, oblivious to how out of touch and lost you really are. It's not always the result but it wants to be, so be careful and mind your speed.

The pitfalls and successes of social networking are real and lasting.

Our current digital and informational age means we as artists can be closer and in touch with our audience in ways impossible to imagine even as recently as when I was just starting out. It can make us feel a bond we would be lacking, can provide a resource for advice and wisdom, and it can be a terrible distraction to the making of the work. Generally the benefits for oneself far outstrip the consequences. Make time for it, get on a schedule and you'll have a much easier time of it overall. The larger your circle gets in the social media world, the busier it will get. You'll not be as available and that will only get worse. If handled properly, social networking can make a paltry showing at a book launch a crowded success. It can bring attention to work otherwise lost int he minute-to-minute recycling of work and art. More people can see and share your work. Even just some silly banter or some quick advice or conversation with a reader or follower can have seriously important practical effects. Learn to be patient, and succinct and you'll do fine. Know and identify what each of the venues provide, and make sure they're a good fit.

Jeff Mack and myself at a school event
and signing
As much as a vibrant online society can be, it doesn't hold a candle to actually meeting these folk, or showing up at an event, opening or book signing. The impact you have in person is a million times deeper than the one you may have online, even at its best. Looking your audience int he eye, seeing how they look at your work, all of it... there really is no substitute for it. It's not easy for a lot of us, but we need to learn to swallow hard and dive in. The tale of the hideaway genius makes for good copy, but doesn't really work in the real world. Again, know your boundaries, but don't run from them. Push right up to the edge, and meet your folk. Conventions, book signings, in store appearances, hell even just going out with colleagues for a beer... these all count and they all of them conspire to help work and learn how to stand alongside the work you do as an artist, without getting in its way.

Don't be a jerk. 

The Torment of Saint Anthony
by Michaelangelo
Seriously. Some of us are natural jerks, but that doesn't mean we can't learn to be kind civilized human shaped creatures. You don't have to be everyone's best friend, but everyone deserves your respect. Even the jerks. Especially the jerks, because when you're dressing them down, you'll likely be doing it in front of others and that is not a pretty sight. Here's a thought exercise to prove the point: Think about how you feel when some troll starts tearing into a perfectly nice person and that person continues to be nice despite the trolling. Now think about the troll who gets the person to troll back so you get to see a muddy troll war unfold. Which person do you respect more? This really comes down to being able to keep the emotional heat in check, recognize when it's getting a bit far and choosing the right way to cool that down before you start going nuts. Try not to speak ill of others, or talk down other people's work in interviews because everyone is someone's favorite artist. It's perfectly acceptable to state simply it isn't your thing, but you can always find something to compliment. This is especially true in portfolio reviews and even more so in online correspondence. Basically the core rules of polite behavior you learned in first grade still apply. Actually they apply more than ever. We all still have high regards for Picasso even though the by all accounts, the guy was a jerk. This is not a success for Pablo. He is who he is and maybe that personality is what fed the work... who knows? I have never met a pain in the ass artist whose work was made better by their unpleasant personality. When you speak you represent your work and what you make in some way. Be a friendly positive person and people will actually be more interested in your work as a result. A painting that doesn't change can be loved more by this. The opposite can happen too.

Learn how to speak cogently about what you do.

A buddy of mine just saw a movie at a premier he thought was incredible. He called me to tell me all about how blown away he was while watching it, thinking it was easily the best thing he'd seen in years. Then the actor (drunk) and director came out to do a Q&A and by degrees, he said his appreciation of the film shrunk with every word they uttered. ALl the deep meaning seen in the film was just being imported, or even if not, the speakers were so inane and feckless in how they talked about it, they made their work seem feckless and inane. You can spoil a perfectly great piece of art, book, story, or song by not knowing how to speak about it in a way that adds to its value. It's a lot easier to blow a good thing like this than not, and really this is a skill that can only be learned from doing it over and over. Learn to listen and fold the perspectives of your audience into how you speak to them about the work your making. Don't get caught up in your own self loathing and shoot down compliments and mistake that for being humble. If you feel like you have a hard time with this, default to the Hippocratic Oath: Do No Harm. Meaning say less than more. Better to seem enigmatic than idiotic.

SIX WORD TALES collaboration
with Stiles White
Overall each of us must face our own audience in our own way. I wouldn't want it any other way actually. It's what makes our community so vibrant and rich. But it is a skill and one even those blessed with a talent for it, must learn to hone and use properly. We're past the age where as an artist you can hide away and hope success finds you. There's so much good work out there, so many qualified and accomplished visionaries making their work and sharing it, you'll just get lost in the noise if you don't stand up and participate. Whether you like it or not, whether you think you're capable of it or not, you must and should do this. If you can't represent and celebrate your own work, how can you expect anyone else to? Sure it's scary, sometimes utterly breath-stealing terrifying. But that's a reason to do it if for no other reason. Good art is made by seeking out what scares you and learning how to overcome and ride it to new and surprising places. A lot of this stuff is really just common sense. Some of us just have that and are set, others of us, like me, have to learn it and oftentimes learn it the hard way. Ultimately the most important lessons are learned by doing, so consider this post a kind of basic map, rather than a cure. You may well have to go through some of this yourself no matter how much advice you digest. So... Be bold, be brave, speak your heart and be nice and you'll only aid your cause and make for yourself a better and happier career. You are best served by being your own best advocate. These are your children, so learn to speak up for them, defend them and make them grow into something fantastic.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Forging the Iron Throne - 2015 Calendar Painting for 'A Song of Ice and Fire'

-by Donato

A short and simple post today as I am working on a portrait and need to keep going while the surface is wet.  These photos are fairly self explanatory, and I apologize for not that many color oil progress shots,  but once I get working in the studio, I hate to stop!

Initial lay in of figures and composition in graphite.  Note the reference for the previous painting of RiverRun still on my drafting table.

Final drawing - very simple and rough due to the limited time constraints on this image.  Less than two weeks remained to finish this image and color check the other paintings before the deadline.

Sealing the drawing with Acrylic Mat Medium.

Acrylic washes to establish tone and movement, as well as the patterns created from the twisting swords.

Up on the drafting table, ready for oils.

First pass on the background/swords in oils.  Flying fast with the paint here!
Development of the figures in oil paint and mediums.  Note subtle modifications/changes of the figures from the references into the final oil painting.  They are more suggestions, than concrete sources of information.
Final Art: 'Forging the Iron Throne',  30" x 30", Oil and Oil Mediums on Panel, 2014

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

IMC Registration, NOW OPEN

Registration for the 2015 Illustration Master Class is now officially open.

There are limited seats, and they ALWAYS sell out, so if you're interested in attending one of the most educational and inspirational weeks I've ever experienced, don't hesitate and
sign up now.

This year's list of instructors is pretty amazing, and consists of:

Greg Manchess
Donato Giancola
Boris Vallejo
Julie Bell
Rebecca Leville-Guay
Mike Mignola
Dan dos Santos
James Gurney
Scott Fischer
Greg Ruth
Irene Gallo
Matthew Kalamidas
Iain McCaig

and this year's special guests are...

Mark Chiarello (VP and AD for DC Comics)
Jonathan LeVine (Owner and Curator of Jonathan LeVine Gallery)
Brad Kunkle (Fine Artist)!

Painting by Brad Kunkle

The class, which is admittedly expensive, is still one of the best deals you can get in Art Education, in my opinion. The student teacher ratio is about 7 to 1, and the instructor roster is a who's who of the industry's best. The limited class size, the great instructors, and the intensive schedule make for what many students have told me, is a 'life changing experience'.

More information abou the class, registering, and about payment plans can be found here: