Thursday, March 31, 2016

Dream Cover Show at Krab Jab Gallery

By Lauren Panepinto

I'm really excited to announce a project I've been working on for months now with a great gallery, some fantastic artists (some of whom you'll know as fellow Muddy Colors contributors), and an expert jury of Art Directors. In fact, some of you might have already seen some of the works in progress on social media, but here's my official announcement and some of the final pieces:

Marc Scheff

I met Julie Baroh (half of Krab Jab Studio) last year at Spectrum Fantastic Art Live, where she volunteered to give a great seminar on how illustrators can break into the gallery world. (She has since posted the material here on Muddy Colors for you: Demystifying the Gallery World Part I, Part II) Since then we've kept in touch and she asked me to guest curate a show for Krab Jab. Now I know I literally wrote the article on Saying Yes, but I was still super intimidated by the idea of curating an entire show. I know I've gained some experience with Every Day Original and Visionarium over the past year, but I have to admit, Marc Scheff is the muscle behind most of EDO and Visionarium is a small show, where the artists can do anything they want. What the hell did I know about seriously curating anything?

Dave Palumbo
Jeremy Wilson

Julie has been a champ hand-holding me through the process, and over time we mulled over a lot of different themes and concepts for the show. As much as I do love collaborating with the entire Orbit team to produce book covers, there are a lot of artists whose work I love that I don't get to use frequently enough, and I was very excited to get to work with them on a gallery show. In a way I was making a Dream Team of illustrators. But what theme should I have them create pieces on?

After a while I finally realized I should play to my experience and my strengths. I would have my Dream Team illustrate covers for their Dream Book Cover Assignments.

Dan Dos Santos
Scott Fischer

Now, I could have picked a Dream Team of 50 (if not 100) illustrators, and getting to just 20 artists was one of the hardest things I've had to do. There are artists that were unable to fit the show into their schedules, and there are artists I wish I could have fit into the show that I unfortunately had to leave out. And for once I couldn't blame my editors for the choices. Curating is hard.

Allen Williams
Rovina Cai

Over the months it has been really thrilling to see the work come together. I loved hearing what books each artist chose (and in some cases re-chose once they changed their minds) and the reasons behind their choices. I'm not going to put in these captions what book goes with each illustration - for now I want to see what people will guess.

Wylie Beckert
Chris Buzelli

Although I did see most of the thumbnails for the pieces, I did very little art direction. And I loved seeing how the artists played to their strengths, but also how many of them have decided to push the envelope a bit and use this as an opportunity to get experimental with their work. I'm so excited that Julie, Krab Jab, & I were able to give them that opportunity.

Julie Bell
Anthony Palumbo
Right now all the pieces are on the way to the gallery to be hung, and I'm working on the catalog for the show. I'm going to be turning all the illustrations into proper book covers, with typography, to accompany each original. (Yes I promise there will be some Muddy Colors process posts to come on that.) Let me tell you, I'm used to performance anxiety when doing covers for high-profile authors. The pressure is worse now. I don't want to screw up anyone's gorgeous illustration with less-than-amazing type!

Rebecca Yanovskaya

Vanessa Lemen

And to add some fantastic icing on the cake, we have a jury of Art Directors judging the final illustrations. Thank you to Irene Gallo from Tor Books, Jon Schindehette from Treehouse/ThinkGeek/GamesStop, and Zoë Robinson from Fantasy Flight for lending us their professional eye. The top choice will be getting the cover of the catalog!

Winona Nelson
Tran Nguyen

Last but not least, I'll be headed to Seattle for the opening, but the night before Krab Jab is hosting an artist talk with Brom, Laurie Lee Brom, Jeremy Wilson, & Marc Scheff, with me as moderator. If you're going to be in Seattle April 9th or 10th, definitely come visit. Tickets to the artist talk are available here.

Well, back to getting all the book covers done for the show. Stay tuned for process posts on that here on Muddy Colors! And thank you to Julie & the Krab Jab team, and most of all thank you to my jury and my artist dream team!

Boris Vallejo

Kim Kincaid

Laurie Lee Brom
Take a look at all these gorgeous pieces and see if you can guess what book each artist has illustrated…Post your guesses in the comments below...

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Building Basic Portfolios

By submitting to shows and getting my work out there, it exposed the portfolio to a wide range of clients. This allowed me to adjust the book with imagery that reflected the market place, but also allowed me to stretch. 

Greg Manchess

Portfolios can be agonizing to figure out. What do clients want to see? We find ourselves thinking, “if they just knew that I can totally do dragons, they’d put me on their cover!”

No, actually, they won’t. The client is like you—they don’t read minds, and they won’t see your potential beyond what’s right in front of them.

I’ve compiled a list of basic standards for different types of portfolios. They are quite simple examples but they are not suggestions. These are necessary basics for what a specific portfolio should contain for an artist to get work.

A portfolio doesn't need to be all things to all possible clients. Clients will be looking for all kinds of topics, so don’t worry that you don’t cover every subject they want. That’s fairly impossible. However, if they see that you can draw horses when they need leopards, you might be able to peak their interest enough to stay in touch and show them future work.

A portfolio should be flexible. In other words, you can move samples from your fantasy book to your mainstream book if the job calls for it. Research your client to find out what they want to see, and what they buy.

Your book is a sample of what you can do. Precisely what you can do. It reflects your basic control of subjects and how you’ll handle an assignment. Obviously, the idea is to show your best work in the book, and certainly, clients assume that what they see represents your highest level of skill. They will not read into it and assume you will do a better job for them. Generally, your book is a deal maker or breaker.

Stay smart: they will not see your super genius just by looking at your coffeeshop doodles. Know that you can only convince a client to use your skills if you show them what they buy. But also stay practical. Your beautiful tabletop still lives will not get you a portrait job. Adjust accordingly.

Again, the list below shows basic themes necessary for a portfolio in each of the different areas. Though this is where I differ from most ideas about a successful portfolio: I’ve always taken the long view. That has provided a steady, working, and successful career. It comes down to this:

Starting out, your interest should focus on getting work instead of getting medals.

Strive for a book that showcases your skills, what you can handle, and show how you can handle that. Clients will be looking for that first and foremost. Let’s be honest. If a client wants award-wining artwork for their project, they’re going to go after award winners first.

But not every client needs that. Careers are built, not born. Yes, we’ve all seen amazing examples. Many of the stories you’ve heard about people “making it” without trying are exaggerated at best. Sure, there are the rare few. So what. Hint: you might not be reading this if it was you. It wasn’t me either. I’ve worked for every break I ever got. You’ll get them, too.

Bottom line: study what a client uses and publishes first, and adjust your work to reflect that. The client is telegraphing what they are all about. Recognize this. Then apply it to your portfolio. Your personal vision for creating work that ‘wows’ them is something you work towards, not something you spring on them. Not at first anyway.

Besides, it makes for a better story. Somebody that makes it because they’re gifted is boring not fascinating. There’s so much more riding on hard, focused work than some miracle of birth. Eventually you’ll learn to focus your portfolio toward the one or two things you do best, and get the kind of work you enjoy. That’s generally how it works…how it’s always worked.

As you read through these, notice what topics are shared by all these portfolio examples. Your work should be versatile enough in the beginning to handle as many as possible:
Figure work
Multiple figures
Room settings

When you’re stuck deciding whether to add another landscape versus character, or another dragon versus a figure, always err on the side of the human figure, unless the request is specific. Clients will be more receptive to your skills at painting convincing people than merely monsters and “cool stuff.” 

And my own personal suggestion. If you handle light really, really well…you’ll grab their attention to anything. It’s not just rendering that amazes. It’s the light.

Your work changes over time. Give it the patience it needs to go to places and work for clients you may not have suspected working with at some point.

Mainstream portfolio
A mainstream portfolio needs to cover quite a range, but is often editorial based, idea driven and cerebral. But it can easily shift towards specifics for advertising, book, or institutional clients.

  • portraits x3 

Do at least three portraits of someone instantly recognizable. One portrait is not enough. You might’ve gotten lucky. Two means you might’ve been able to copy the first one. Three pushes the idea that it’s not a fluke.

  • multi figs

You’ll need a scene with multiple figures interacting. This easily shows composition capabilities, as well as staging and drama.

  • scenic

Multiple figures in a broad landscape works doubly well.

  • indoor

Necessary to show staging and architectural skills.
  • street scene

Many assignments involve cities and typical scenes within them. It’s nearly unavoidable.

  • autos

If you’re showing cities, you’ll need to demonstrate how you handle cars. They don’t have to be precise, but a client can use it.

  • horses 

Of all the animals besides pets, horses come up the most. For historical aspects, fantasy, sports, and sheer drama, horses have it. If you’re good at them, you’ll get work.

Science Fiction portfolio
A science fiction portfolio may seem restricted to Buck Rodgers-style images, but in fact they should be quite broad in appeal. SF has a wide range of aspects. Focus for: book covers, magazine work, calendars, gaming, conceptual work.

  • multiple figures 

In situ, in scenes, as above.

  • figures in space suits 

Figures in motion doing any number of spaceman things: running, floating, working, zooming, fighting, dancing, what have you.

  • helmets 

If you’re good at helmets, it portends how you handle tech.

  • tech 

Futuristic technology is a must. How you indicate it, how you design it.

  • high tech indoor 

Technology, indoor setting, with lighting. Very helpful.

  • spaceships x2 

You must show how you design, stage in a composition, and handle spacecraft. Period.

  •  landscape, planet scene 

Preferably with figures in it, as above. Barren. Craters are good.

  • alien(s)

Don’t get so bizarre that a client can’t tell what the heck it is.

Fantasy portfolio
A fantasy portfolio may seem open ended, where anything is possible. It’s best to hone fantasy images to a manageable range so as not to confuse a client, but to get them to remember. Focus for: book covers, magazine work, calendars, gaming, conceptual work.

  • full figures 

In costume x3

  • fig in armor 


  • multi figs 

In a scene, interacting. Maybe on horseback. With armor.

  • faces, character designs 

Design characters that are unique, but reflect a sense of classic portraiture.

  • dragon x2 

Make them believable. Don’t give them butterfly wings. Don’t make them so complex a client can’t enjoy their anatomical structure. 'Wow' them with good animal form, but be practical.

  • energy waves 

Every wizard throws ‘em. Might as well get good at it because somewhere along the way, a fantasy story will need to show the magic stuff a character is nearly always going to spray around.

  • scenic 

Again, with figures, but this time with wonderful light, color, and staging.

  • indoor scene 

As above. Preferably in a castle, with multiple figures doing stuff. Not just sitting around looking regal. Think Lord of the Rings meets Shakespeare.

  • castle 

They can be boring or dramatic. Show them how it’s done.

  • horses 

What? You thought you could get away with no horses? In Fantasy?? See Multiple Figures above. 

Horror portfolio
A horror portfolio has very narrow usage possibilities, but see this as opportunity to expand that range. (go read all of Greg Ruth's posts) Focus for: book covers, magazines, calendars, gaming, conceptual work, comics

  • faces x3 

Do some horror portraits. Make them unique, but don’t overdo it.

  • multi figs 

A scene with figures doing creepy things or in a creepy setting, or both.

  •  indoor scene 

As above, but in a creepy indoor setting. Treat this like you are designing a stage play. Include good lighting, good costumes, good makeup. Preferably with a staircase (to show that you can handle repetitious forms without boring a viewer).

  • old house 

You’re gonna want to have one. Because …cool.

  • zombie 

They’re still hot.

  • ghost 

How good are you at painting vaporous apparitions? Do this well and you’ll have their attention.

  • cemetery 

Always a good call as it can show how well you handle light across multiple shapes, and how spooky you can drive a scene.

  • lighting 

How you handle your light in creepy scenes, indoors or outdoors, is critical to your success.

Concept Art portfolio
Most of the portfolios above overlap in application and that’s good for an artist. Conceptual work is mostly confined to movies and gaming, but some of that work can be stretched for use in other areas. That’s because so many topics are needed in concept work. Much like a comics portfolio. Focus for: animation, live action, gaming, product design, toy manufacturers

  • scenic 

Like a location shot for a film.

  • architecture big bldgs and small intimate bldgs 
  • multi figs as above, but within a scene 
  • character: full fig x3 

At least three full figures, with costume design.

  • character: facial x3 

At least three faces to show emotional expressions.

  • costume design 

If you work it well, you can combine with the full figures.

  • armor 

Three figs in armor not to be combined with the characters above.

  •  street scenes: futuristic street, historical street 

Handling historical vs futuristic will show your range.

  • animals, 

Mythologic animals, and again, horses. Won’t Pegasus be easier if you knew horses? How’s about Medusa if you know snakes? Centaurs, Minotaurs, unicorns, gryphons, etc.

  • machines 

One tank is not enough. One cool steampunk machine is not enough. Be able to repeat your successes.

Comic portfolio
Don’t restrict yourself to just superheroes, unless you have a burning desire. This field is burgeoning and stretching into many aspects of storytelling. Focus for: comic pages, comic covers, cartoons, gaming, product.

  • character full figs x6 

Real people, in street clothes. Show your costume design here, and you might include a few where they can see your anatomy at work.

  • multiple figures 

In a real setting, indoors and in natural, outdoor settings, interacting.

  • panel pages 

4 to 5 page sequence, show how you can design panels to read and flow.

  • city streets, autos 

Real cars, real buildings in real cities. You can include a lot of the suggested elements for this portfolio within these pages.

  • animals 

Horses, mostly…(seriously? you’re still wondering? This is a plus for any portfolio.)

  • character faces 

A dozen facial expressions, minimum.
note: superheroes are not entirely necessary, unless you really just gotta get into that.

Along the way, you'll enter shows to keep your work in the public eye. Many times it can expose your work to just the right people at the right time.

Tuesday, March 29, 2016


by Cory Godbey

Typha is a beautifully animated short that I just recently had the good fortune to stumble across online.

The story is as simple as could be but what really caught my attention is the color. Yes, I like the design and the style just fine but I just found these delirious, vivid colors inescapable.

The values are impeccable and the surreal palette serves to enhance the otherworldliness of this very terrestrial journey. I believe it's well worth three minutes of your time!
Typha, a young girl living in a miniature village is chosen by her people to accomplish the rite of renewal : She has to bring the egg of life to the forest spirit before he passes away.

Credit where credit is due! I first saw this short film because of a tweet from Zac Gorman.

Monday, March 28, 2016

Studio Equipment : Plants

-By Dan dos Santos

Like many artists, I keep a Hepa Grade air filter in my studio that I run periodically if I happen to be painting with a lot of paint thinner or varnish. And although we have discussed air quality and safety before, and will discuss the specifics of that filter in another post, there is an even easier way that you can quickly improve the overall air quality of your studio almost immediately...


Not only will plants convert the CO2 in your stale studio air into Oxygen (providing you with better, more energizing air), but plants can remove an amazing range of toxins from the air as well, including some toxins that even an expensive air filter won't get.

NASA recently conducted a Clean Air Study to identify the best air-filtering indoor plants, and compiled a list of the 18 best plants for improving air quality. All of these plants can be commonly found at local flower shops, or even the Wal-Mart Garden Center.

This infographic (kindly made by lists those 18 NASA-recommended plants, and also lists the common toxins that each plant can treat.

It's important to know that if you work at home, putting plants in the studio alone may not necessarily be enough. The way my house is set-up, air is continuously collected throughout the whole house, gathered, filtered and redistributed through pumps and vents. So for my family, it's important that we have many plants spread throughout our entire home (and not just the studio) since all of the air is shared.

I also opt for for plants that are extremely easy to take care of. Personally, I have a lot of Philodendron in my house, which are damn near indestructible. And although the Philodendron isn't included on this particular list, it is well-renown as being a great air purifier, particularly the Heartleaf (Philodendron scandens ‘oxycardium’), Selloum (Philodendron selloum), and Elephant Ear Philodendron (Philodendron domesticum) varieties.

Now that Spring is here for many of us, it's a wonderful time to go to a local garden center and pick up a few plants for your studio. A nice plant shouldn't cost much more than $20, and and will not only improve the quality of air in your studio, but it also adds a splash of color and vibrancy to your work environment. I have personally found that having a living plant in your studio just seems to make it so much more inviting and enjoyable to work in.

Saturday, March 26, 2016

Using Unconventional Painting Tools

-By Vanessa Lemen

The three stages of this painting show the underlying layer of marks made with spatulas, combs, and drips, and then the softening of the atmosphere in the top layers
Some folks have shown interest in the tools I use for the mark-making in my paintings, so I thought I'd do a post here about some of them. Besides alternating between bristles and sables for different effects and purposes, there are some lesser known or unconventional painting tools I use for many of the marks that my paintings consist of. In fact, the unconventional tools are what I tend to use more than the more conventional tools, much of the time. I use the word 'unconventional' only because it's a word that we all can relate to as a definition, but I don't necessarily find them to be unconventional in the sense that I find them to be quite practical and expressive, and they suit the purposes I'm after in my own work. I tend to layer several passes of mark-making to build up the depth, leaving one layer of drips and splatters to dry, and then cover it with paint in order to pick out with a spatula or squeegee to reveal portions of the marks underneath. All of the paintings in this article combine a few layers of different marks made and tools used.

Here are some of the tools I use...


Not to be confused with a palette knife, the tool I'm referring to is a silicone baking spatula. It's used as a pick-out tool and works especially well on smooth, slick surfaces to wipe away at paint that has a little bit of medium (such as linseed oil) mixed in. My favorite spatula is a small one from the Dollar Store. It's got just the right flexibility to it – not too firm, not too soft – which makes for some great marks. It also has a pointy corner on the flat side, and I can make some good small marks with that, as well as using the whole flat edge for larger marks, and the rounded corner and edge for smaller rounded marks (because it doesn't lay flat to the surface as the flat edge does). There are also sculpting tools that can be used to get the same type of effects, and these are also made in varying degrees of flexibility. For larger marks, I go for larger spatulas (or squeegees – see next). I have several of these, with varying flexibility and texture to the silicone. Laid on its side, a spatula can be used to smear the paint using a bit more sensitive pressure. When using them, it's good to keep in mind that tilt and pressure sensitivity make varying marks. Here are some examples of marks made with a spatula:

A spatula was used to make a lot of the marks in both of these paintings, and some splattering and softening was incorporated as well on the top layers for atmosphere

The spatula is my favorite quick sketch tool.  These paintings are quick sketches from life


A shower squeegee is a good size and usually has a bit softer/more flexible piece of rubber and a short handle. This is used for pick-out in larger paintings, essentially making the same types of marks that a spatula can make. Here are some examples of marks I've made with a squeegee:

A squeegee was used to carve out big shapes around the figure on the left and as a reveal for the green layer of paint on the right

Faux Finishing Combs or Rakes

I use these combs for picking out striations or a pattern of lines. The Martha Stewart brand flexible combs are the best (the grey rectangular ones in the top left of the photo). They have the perfect flexibility, in my opinion. This brand also has a less flexible faux finishing comb, as most other brands do. Those are not as fluid, but do make the same kinds of marks. These combs are many-sided, and fit in your hand nicely – they can be bent or straightened, and each edge has a different style row of teeth on the comb. I have a few different versions of these – with pointier teeth that make smaller marks, or with flattened teeth that pick out a bit wider marks. I've also cut into a few of my spatulas with scissors to make my own more organic type of combs. The direction in which you align the teeth and pull the tool across the surface will give you varying width between the lines. Here are some of the marks I make with these combs:

A comb was used a lot in these two, as well as spatulas, and dripping of solvent on the right

Super Soft Puffy Brushes

I use these to soften out areas and create more atmospheric edges or to lose edges or striations in brushwork altogether. These types of brushes are often found in the watercolor section at the art store, or you can try makeup brushes from a drugstore or department store. I have varying sizes of these brushes and I always use them dry to soften already-existing paint on the surface. Getting them wet with solvent or medium changes their texture, so in turn changes their purpose. The varying sizes are important for different areas of the painting that they're used for. Big areas of atmosphere need a bigger brush, and small areas that need edges softened would require a smaller soft brush. Here are some areas in my paintings where I've used these brushes:

Lots of softening with big soft brushes in these, as well as dripping and splattering solvent

Solvent (Mineral Spirits or Turpentine) and the Tools to Apply it With

I use solvent for splattering and dripping. I usually have a separate container for the solvent I use solely for splattering, and a different container of it for when I mix paint with it to drip or splatter thinned color. I use the clean solvent as a pick out method, and apply it by flicking a brush or tool with my finger to spray it, or pressing it against the surface to drip the solvent out of the brush, or by shaking the brush or other tool at the surface to splash it with solvent. On areas with just the right amount of paint on the surface, when the paint is still wet but not too wet, the splatters and drips pick away the paint when the surface is laying flat. It's fun to watch the marks appear like magic. Here are some examples of the marks I can make with solvent:

A lot of splatters and drips in these, as well as spatula and combs, layering the effects

Using drips in different directions, and some spatula and softening with big soft brushes


There is really an infinite number of ways to make marks. The list above is mainly the mark-making tools that I use frequently, but I've been known to try random things a lot too. I use paint scrapers and palette knives, and I've cut into brushes, spatulas, and foam core with scissors to make more organic strokes or striations. I've also used wadded up towels and old t-shirts, pieces of scrap plastic, found objects, rubber stamps, etc.. so many things can make interesting and unpredictable marks. Also, I've found sticking two surfaces together and pulling them apart, or laying a board flat onto my palette, and pulling it up can give me some really interesting results. Sometimes, I've built up a texture on the surface first with different acrylic mediums, or thick oil paint (which takes longer to dry), and then use the mark-making tools on top of that textured surface. Many of these marks I've made are what I use to create new digital brushes, too, and they give my digital work an organic or traditional feel.

What are some of your go-to unconventional tools? Let me know in the comments section.  I'd love to give them a try!

Friday, March 25, 2016

WORKING ART: Dancing in Public

by Greg Ruth

That time at IMC around 1am when the schoolyard bullies, iain McCaig, Dan Dos Santos, Greg Manchess, Scotts Brundage and  Fisher stole my ink and brushes and we all made bad drawings together.

Making art is ALWAYS a private event, not matter who is watching. It is however something else entirely for everyone who makes it, especially when we are asked or invited to draw in front of others on purpose. For me, it gives me the palsy. But we live in the era of dvd extras for everything now and there is a heightened expectation to reveal oneself behind the curtain more and more beyond usual realms of academia. Folks really do love to see artists at their craft, and frankly so do I.... however, this is not such a simple and easy thing when seen from the other side of the lens. Drawing and painting in a room full of people, on stage, or via video is not for everyone and everyone has their own combinations of limits and coping mechanisms.  This post is inspired by a conversation I had with Vicki WIlliams after I responded to a request to film my process by essentially cry-dancing panic with some mild hiding under the table with my hands over my ears. Despite the drama, what came out of it was a really great discussion about how we all see these two forms of public dancing so differently and so I set out bothering some friends for their input on the subject. I thought I had carefully chosen a small enclave of artists I like that would provide a wide range of viewpoints, and as always was surprised and happily had those presumptions tossed to the wind. (Except for Iain McCaig who if you've ever seen him draw in public know he delights in it purely, perfectly and without ego). Turns out this is hard for all of us, and the question then becomes about how far to take it and how to cope with such an event. The end result was a confirmation that making art is for others as is for me personally: a deeply private and intimate affair not always meant for others.... but sometimes.


"I never expect brilliance of myself in a demo- what I rely on more is showing my basic skills as a draftsman / thinker in the hopes that I'm bringing some good things to the table- just putting the faith in my own experience and that I am going to deliver some valuable info even if it's not my most focused A game. As the A game can really only happen for me in am In and un-distracted place in the studio."

"I never START a gallery intended piece as a demo- I only work on it once the idea and major drawing and conceiving is well underway. Once that part is done- I can be almost anywhere. But also I don't plan to get a LOT done while doing a painting in front of people - just enough to teach some stuff thats important ."

-Rebecca Guay 

"I almost never draw in front of people. Doing location drawings, demo for figure drawing class, or drawing in sketchbooks (latter, I seldom do) is not an issue. It is about actually inking the final drawing that is my illustration, I don't do in front of people. It is so much so, when I go on a business trip out of town, I don't draw. I seldom ever draw outside of my studio. I have to have the perfect light (which I adjust neurotically with my desk lamp setup), and all the tools has to be there and there in order. Then, I can do my real drawing. I may be a neurotic one. But when I do school visit, I clearly tell them up front, I do anything, but I don't do drawing demos."

"I am neurotic perfectionist, so the beginning of drawing (again, the real drawing that will become illustrations, and not sketches or life drawing, etc) is always hard. I get really stressed out until the drawing is on track. You know, sometimes, especially in the beginning, things are not looking so smooth, and you feel like you are about to ruin it or save it... So, I can't really have anyone around. I may be in a bad mood, and I can deal with it myself. Not with other people..."

-Yuko Shimizu 

 "I have mixed feelings about demos. On one hand, I love the feeling of helping students...peeling back the layers of mystery for those who have trouble with traditional media. It is very rewarding to help those who feel lost and are searching for their voice. I searched for a long time for mine and watching demos as a student helped me see what was possible. I enjoy the act of drawing and painting in front of others in a no pressure situation, but when it's a scheduled demo, it gets tricky for me. I usually have to have a rendered pencil drawing ready to go. I've gotten flack for that, but my defense is usually that I'm demonstrating how to layer media, not how to render with pencil. The truth is that I'm usually so nervous that my hands sweat, and then the pencil won't blend, and then the water media won't soak into the paper because of the oils from my hand. So my process works a lot better when I can just paint in front of students. That being said, I'm usually still nervous. I've done about 7 live demos...some go well...some not so well. My mindset is "I'm here to help the students". That's it, if I accomplish that, that's all that matters. I don't need a good piece in the end. I'm not sure what it is, but I usually just rely on muscle memory to do the work. I'm usually talking the whole time, answering questions, and my brain just shuts off to what I'm doing. I've learned to cope with that by doing an image that isn't that difficult for me, one where I know the possible outcome. If I can take away some of the pressure, the image usually turns out okay. Sometime though, it's a mess, I'm a mess, and I can't wait to get the hell outta there."

-Edward Kinsella

"You mentioned "public performance" and I guess that's what it is. It's like a party trick or a game. I can't do 'real' work in front of people. I tried that at IMC last year and it was a horrible failure. I need to be at home in the studio with all my stuff around me, the TV on and the freedom to pace around and talk to myself. I need to be alone in my nest with the voices in my head. Drawing for people at shows or IMC--When it works best its a game--like a challenge--Draw this odd thing and have fun doing it. The best drawings I've done have probably been the most fun--Like a Canadian Dragon or a couple really unmentionable one. Those are the things you would never do on your own and have no idea how you would do them till you start the drawing. Drawing Hellboy or one of my other characters--With stuff like that you get a variation of a drawing I've done a zillion times before--It will be safe but maybe a little lifeless. Also when drawing in public there is a very good chance the drawing will be bad--Hopefully not terrible, but there is that risk. So you really have to be prepared to be spontaneous and hope for the best. For me it's just a whole different thing than working at home on 'real" stuff."

-Mike Mignola

"I think I got wired wrong on the people-making conveyer belt. I LOVE drawing in front of people (and public speaking and washing dishes, so there were a lot of screw-ups in the wiring department). I love drawing by myself too, and that beautiful focus you get when it's just you, the paper, and a good piece of music. But when you draw in front of people, you have the gift of umpteen free models, all in fascinating poses and infinitely poseable too. I don't worry about screwing up--I expect to screw up as part of the process--letting people watch that is all part of the fun. But the really enjoyable part--alone or with an audience--is that moment of revelation, when two plus two equals something more than four, because the collision of ideas and honest-to-god-hard work just produced magic. If I just replicate that experience in front of an audience, the magic always shows up there too (though sometimes only in the last few thrilling seconds!). Ray Bradbury described it as jumping off a cliff and building your wings on the way down. And I wouldn't miss it for the world."

-Iain McCaig

 "I've only ever done one weekend type class and a few short videos online. It's very difficult for me to do. When I work I want to be isolated. I believe I could easily manage living on a space station if I could just work (except for my wife and kids). My process seems much the same as many others but there is always a portion... When things seem to magnify and it's just me and the work communicating back and forth. That part... I've never been able to demonstrate in any meaningful way. The few demos I've done are really me just repeating conversations I've already had.

"I'll also add that working in a room where everyone else is also working feels different to me. I was in Toronto in a room not much bigger than a cubicle but we (5 of us, elbow to elbow practically) were all very focused on our own work. That kind of energy is kind of invigorating in a way."

-Allen Williams 

"Drawing and painting outdoors from life is as crazy and risky as wingsuit diving, except that you can't get hurt. Whenever you paint outdoors, people think you're putting on a show, and come up to talk or watch.

That can be a problem, as I explain here:

Usually when I'm starting out on an outdoor painting, my confidence level is fairly low, and the piece doesn't look like much, so it can make me a bit squirmy to be out in front of people. But I figure they're just curious, and they probably admire someone who is willing to try. Unless they're coming to kick me out or shut me down, which has happened plenty of times.

Here are my ten tips to deal with curious spectators:

Drawing in front of an audience as part of a planned event is another thing. It's really a kind of performance. I've done everything from Vaudeville style chalk talk gags for bored first graders to oil portrait demos at art schools. For both, I lower my expectations about how good the painting is likely to turn out.

That's because I have to fire up both brain hemispheres so I can talk and draw at the same time, something I'm not as accustomed to doing as art professors are. Also I can't predict the outcome because I don't have a single tried-and-true system of painting. My procedure is all over the map and I may come at the subject with pencil, watercolor, casein, gouache, or oil, depending on how insane I'm feeling.

Sometimes I do a lame drawing, sometimes I get lucky and it turns out OK, but I figure that the talk and conversation is as important as the results, and people get something out of seeing your rig and your palette and all that"

-James Gurney 

"I've done them before and I'm sure I will again, but they're a real pain to set up (prepping something to work on, transport of materials, and the unpredictability of how productive those couple hours will be, the distraction of a crowd, conversation, and working in a strange space). They're of limited value (how many people can realistically be there to see it, how much can you achieve in a couple hours real-time). The plus side of a live demo, from an educational angle, is that they're potentially interactive so you can answer specific questions as they occur. Also, people can maybe get in close and really see what you're doing.

I don't much enjoy live demos. I've survived two where I had some kind of materials crisis (one where my painting had been left in a cold space and the underpainting was still wet, one where the venue didn't have any solvents and I had to paint with industrial turpentine found in a supply closet). Live demos are always stressful because so much can go wrong."

-Dave Palumbo 

"I get this asked a lot. I don't have any issues with filming my drawing process, if I don't have to do it in front of people, including the camera crew.  We can't make all the random social media followers happy. As to make a record of the creative process, filming is a really good option. I just get annoyed when strangers casually expect us to provide for their entertainment purposes."
-Yuko Shimizu

"I will share sketches and and some process pics occasionally - But for many many reasons I don't give the whole kit 'n kaboodle to everyone on insta and FB I feel like there are things that I want to reserve for just the people who are most passionate and connected to me personally. Opening up my process to thousands of people - picking apart all of my process and or making comments on it "oh this reminds me of x artist" can be too much . Comparisons are SO odious. I try actively never To compare one artists vision to another. It only feels good to be compared with another artist when your an amateur - not once your well into your vision and intention- then is just feels kinda awful- at least to me. I'm kinda curious where other weigh in Of course I don't dislike people for saying the things-I understand it comes from a desire to relate- Their intentions is GOOD- that's the saving grace- but man nothing can take the wind out of your sails and fuck with your process when working on a body of work for a show -when your feel like you've made something special and possibly a reflection of your soul in the moment- and get "Looks like ....x" In your comment window. Yet one more reason to keep a few things precious ."
-Rebecca Guay 

"Nope, not vertigo-y fear or excitement, just joy. Joy from the magic of making. Your social media question got me thinking, though. I don't post any WIP and rarely even finished work on social media. I've never stopped to question why, but maybe it's 'cause social media taps into the opposite dynamic from live drawing. The latter binds an audience together into one shared experience; the other (social media) seems to be a soap-box thang, good for rousing discussions and argument (when people behave), bullying and bickering (when they don't). I love to share the joy and the process I find in making stories or drawings, but that's not really the time for discussion or argument, and it's never the time for bullying or bickering."
 "Truthfully, I don't mind anyone watching me make stuff, anytime, anywhere. It's NOT sharing that's hard--all this 'can't show or talk about it for several years' that drives me bananas. But as you know, there's a lot of trial and error in concept design, and it's often as exciting as watching the grass grow. Demos are more like pieces of entertainment; even recorded sessions are heavily edited and enhanced (as in my Gnomon DVDs, which were sped up in post to Superman speed). Like you, I love watching recorded demos and workshops, even though it's mostly the outside stuff that we see and not all the blood sweat and inspiration whirling about inside. That's where I'd like to be!"

-Iain McCaig  

 "It's much easier for me to record because I can forget that the camera is there... But I've only recorded small sketches... I should mention whatever I've recorded I've done for Vicki. She wanted to try and experiment in terms of  social media and reach. In our situation it worked rather well. It does feel like someone watching you get undressed a bit though. But I do like seeing other people's process even though I know a person's process is not their "art".

-Allen Williams 

"I'm actually all for video demos. I think they neutralize pretty much all of the downsides of a live demo: you have control over your environment, control over time (editing and shooting time lapse to allow multiple stages of a process), you can reach a potentially infinite audience, and you only have to share the results if you're happy with them. They may be less responsive without live Q&A, but I think the ability to manipulate time more than makes up for that and you can always answer questions in the comments.

The principle downside to video is that it's a lot of work. I happen to enjoy shooting, but setting everything up and then editing and possibly recording voice over is time consuming, and dramatically more so the more in depth you want to go. Quick instagram videos and short youtube clips are relatively easy. Full process DVDs are a major headache. Everything in made easier if you have someone helping you, but that costs money.
One thing I will add, particularly with video and social media sharing, is that the promotional reward from doing demos is also worth considering. I've found that, for things of quality or with unique character, the more people can see and understand the creation process the more they like it. It's like watching shows on food network. When I see an episode for somewhere I know and learn what goes in to making the food, I enjoy it more. Hearing about the ingredients, seeing how much work, care, or thought goes in to it, and maybe just seeing that someone cares enough to record and present it, all makes it more enjoyable the next time I go in (or gets me to go in the first place). Hearing someone speak passionately about what they make makes me like it more. Understanding how a thing came to be makes me like it more. So, seeing how an artist works tends to have the same effect on me."

-Dave Palumbo 

For my own part, I find the entire idea of creating work in public an exercise that can be accurately described as sweaty-making. Since I was a kid, making art has always been the thing I do for my one square inch of pure freedom, and a place I absolutely must keep as such to continue. Drawing in public makes me feel too vulnerable and that can make me tighten up and be nervous, and as such make for bad drawings. I've never made one I like in public for this reason and likely never will except by perhaps following that whole monkey with a typewriter writing Shakespeare thing. Maybe. 

Art done publicly can be really fun, and should be... No one wants to see a grown ass man crying in front of others. When they come to see you draw they look to you for hope and encouragement, and even some mild deferential crying can be a part of that, but really I find it's best just to dive in and not expect too much from one's self. I, like Yuko, rarely ever draw outside of my studio. Like Mike, I need my studio cues and things that let me know I'm safe in my creative nest. Like Edward I get greasy sweaty hands and things go wrong with the materials after. But like Iain and Jim, I hope to get better at it.

However, this new age where we all get to see more of each others' personal lives doesn't afford an obligation to do so or to be so. It's always best to ask and when getting an answer know all answers are the right one. This is a very personal thing you are asking of an artist and while I envy those who can freely perform their artmaking in front of others, I am comfortable with my own mania against it generally or at least have to come to accept it- moreso now that I hear I am not alone in this. Good to leave some magic and mystery to it all out there.

My deepest thanks to those who contributed their time to this, and sharing their insights. It represents what this new age of social media does best: celebrate the variety of our differences as a value. Thanks to Yuko, Iain, Rebecca, Allen, Vicki, Ed, Dave, Mike and Jim for making this possible despite their busy schedules/running from local law enforcement. Without you, I would have been required to write my own post this week.