Thursday, September 25, 2014

If you're going through hell.

Keep Going.

I've been hesitating to write another blog post until I felt sure I had something positive or rewarding to share. I realized I was procrastinating, and worrying about silly things. I probably could have shared multiple updates on the projects I've been doing over my absence.

I've been in school struggling with a full load which I've gone ahead and reduced to 3 classes. I've had a bit of self-discovery on the way, and am going to have some stuff evaluated for my betterment. I'll leave it at that for now, because I don't want to lead anyone (family especially) down a wrong thought path until I know more.

I always want this blog to be positive and have positive impact on any readers who spend their time with me, so I'll share some good things that have occurred since my last post.

I finished my first traditional, sight size drawn, painted cast study. All done in studio from life. Blood, sweat, and some tears. I really feel like it has pushed my discipline to another level and certainly my patience. I was very worried in the beginning but I am very pleased now here at the end. Below is the final and a gif of how I went about it. I'll attach an album if you'd like to spend more time going through the steps.

full album:

I've also spent a good bit of time doing landscape alla prima paintings from life. It feels like it's been a while since I've stood in nature and just observed. I'd go so far as to say I've never done that really. It's been very rewarding, even if I don't feel very confident about my skill in it yet.

I'm confident with the steps I'm taking now, that the rest of this semester, even this year, should go well. This past month, month and half, has been rough, but I'd like to say it will get better. I won't say it will get better though, because, honestly, everything takes work AND time.

If you're moving slow and it hurts, keep going. If you're crawling, understand that's progress, and keep going. Even 30 minutes a day is more than 0, and that's the only attitude that'll do.

 Fight to stay positive, and fight to keep going. 

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Loot and community challenges

Loot of the Week:


Clint Cleary’s YouTube channel isn't jammed packed with videos but the content and delivery of what is there is pretty top notch. He just released a video on making images for Magic the gathering cards, and I felt it was very insightful. I strongly recommend subscribing to his channel and watching what he does have up.

Draw or Die-

This is the group I mentioned last blog, and after having submitted my piece and seeing all the submissions I've reached some conclusions. First and foremost having another creative community that talks and isn't afraid to critique is wonderful. I love that aspect of this group. However I will say, I’m not 100% sure how I feel about the rolling art directors, or how the contest is judged but since there aren't prizes it is hard to really complain if you don’t place well. Not saying I deserved top consideration, just saying in general. I've included my progression WIP below and the final image built from the design thumbnails in blog 6.

Private Sanctuary-

This is not art related but for me falls in the bandwagon of providing inspiration. This is all about D&D and Pathfinder 3.5, the role-playing tabletop for those that don’t know. I love pod-casts, when they’re good. I am not caught up on their most recent work, I always prefer to go back to the first posts and work my way forward. However, I have found it immensely entertaining, and thought provoking. Especially considering I just got invited to a Pathfinder campaign and I've yet to have a chance to play it before now.

Progress Report:

Commissions: My knight painting is finished and I’m going to hopefully deliver it this weekend. I’ll snag some photos and throw it up here if she doesn't mind.

‘Parasyte’: I finished her on time and submitted. This was a 3 day paint for me, all said about 15 hours after I had my sketched sorted out. I pushed the face first and then tried to systematically work my way down the figure. Then I just started building up all the elements together once there was enough paint on screen. Pushing/Pulling lights and darks, trying to understand form and keep it interesting. See below.

Intentions and Critique:

My goals right now are working on the next Draw or Die challenge, due Sept. 7th. (Join uuuuussssss). Probably also going to spend a ridiculous amount of time painting my pathfinder character because I fall in love with the creation process super hardcore and I'm also really excited about supply shopping this week or early next week because classes start on the 18th. My productivity will take a forced boost, which should be nice, and of course I will share as much as I can. This blog is really helpful for granting some insight to my motivation/inspiration and understanding my own direction. I’m going to keep learning, pushing and painting so thanks!

See you soon!

Monday, August 4, 2014

A full plate and stopping.


Time flies when you’re not looking. So much keeps happening! Lots to say and yet I can’t quite seem to say enough.

Loot of the Week:

Iain McCaig- Visual Storytelling DVD’s on Gnomon. So far, I’ve finished the first part of four, and I have to say I am hooked. The first part of the series focuses on making key frames, or illustrating key moments in a stories progression, and how to tell a story beat by beat. It’s really cool because it challenges a lot of what I thought I might know on the subject. He talks in length about illustrating moments in the character’s stories but not focusing on the design of it all. It’s more about the story at this point, getting it out on paper and then going in and designing how things look and function to support the storytelling. I’m definitely eager to watch the next bits.

Maciej Kuciara- – A 3.40 hours of workshop talk at Art Institute. Holy shit. 1.5 hour lecture, 1.5 demo and about 40 minutes of Q&A. If nothing else watch the lecture part. If you think you are working hard now, you’re not. There is so much reality in that first hour, and so much more of it than can really shake you up if you've been stalling.

****Personal Loot I can’t share.

The Atelier Experience: I’m not sure if I have talked about it here but before the creation of this blog, and my decision to stay in GA another year, I was hellbent on moving to San Diego to attend Watts Atelier. I made some important, tough financial decisions and here I am. Moreover, I decided to finish out my degree, because getting paid to go to school for a year will allow the most time for self-development at the moment. So I thought, and still do, I guess this blog will help judge that huh?

Anyway, I say all that to tell you that I’ve gotten help from the only painting instructor that really believes in my career choice. He is helping/allowing me to do a directed study in lieu of an advanced painting course and together we will work on replicating an Atelier experience for the semester. I’m beyond ecstatic.

Also, go watch Hercules with Dwayne Johnson. So awesome to see how they took the mythos and expanded on some stuff. Guardians of the Galaxy on Friday and TMNT a week after. Get hype!!!

Progress Report:

Honesty time? Yeah, I feel like I’ve been typing this a bit much lately, but this blog is full disclosure. So, last blog I was cranking out Illuxcon painting for scholarship consideration. I’m going to list out my issues straight forward and then we can decide how much of it is b.s. excuses.

  • Poor planning, materials related. Didn't know if I should do oil or digital, and sat on the fence long enough to lose steam.
  • Cut my own canvas, primed it and transferred pencils twice. The first time I used an acrylic wash of color to seal in the pencils and scrubbed the graphite away. That was very demoralizing, but I got it right the second time. 
  • Painting, however, was an ultra pain. I’m not sure and still not sure why but I could not get juicy paint application at all on that canvas. I used a gambling, no solvent medium, Liquin, and Linseed oil. Nothing seemed to make my paint workable like I’m used to so I got very low and stopped the painting. 

Needless to say that painting has been put on hold, and I will probably revisit it after I get the kinks sorted out a bit more. My only condolence for this is I've started reading Art and Fear, which I'll post a full review of later. There is a bit of the book,early on, dedicated to stopping versus quitting. I've always viewed stopping as quitting and it has always bothered me. The reality there, though, is you can only quit art once, but you can stop as many times as you need to get where you are going.

Outside of that hang up I've done a fair bit of gesture, so design studies of ancient Japanese archers, another portrait club session, some fan-art and started work on a illustration for DRAW or DIE on Facebook. So, that brings us to:

Intentions and Critiques:

Well, August is rapidly here. My intentions for right now don’t extend much beyond getting shit done. I *still* have an oil painting commission, one of the two from multiple posts pack, that is about ready to get dropped off to its new owner. Alongside that, I have what I’ll call “Archer”, “Parasyte” (Draw or Die 3 more days), and some SMITE fan art for their art show on Thursdays. Did I mention school full-time coming? Well, anyway, see you guys in a week with new Loot and Progress to report.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

A new place, a model's face, and the great ant waste.

 First off, Sorry for the late post everyone. I'm officially moved into my new place with my roommates, minus some small errands (slaying the once dormant ant lineage that ruled our laundry room for far too long), but 99.8% of my stuff is here, and I'm functionally setup. Enough, at least, to write this post finally.

I want to try a new format for my post, since I'm still in the beginning stages and play with how I write out this journey. This will be the first post under this new formatting.If you have suggestions or just want to add something in general don't hesitate to write me a line at For reference when I talk about last week or this week it may not be in the scope of Mon-Sun. Most times I will be writing about things in retrospect or forecasting future stuff.
Let's get to it!

Loot of the Week: 

I found a YouTube video and channel from a fellow aspiring/freelancing artist, Forest Immel. He's got 3 or 4 up now at this posting and I have to report on his video's about study habits. Very thought provoking and really cool to hear him talk about what he is doing and even better is to see how he interprets info he's gotten from watching pros. 
I've embedded the video here, but go to his channel here and spend some time there. It's really cool.

Holy crap. This is a hub site for all the best gumroad tutorials sorted by artist. It is amazing, and very very overwhelming. I haven't bought any just yet because I'm terrified of hoarding information just for the sake of having another tutorial or technique in my inventory. If you're curious about how a certain artist works though, check this out. Just don't get to caught up in all the shortcuts. 

Lastly, and it isn't art related, but it is very important to anyone aspiring to sit in a chair and paint all day at the computer. I found some really cool workout change-ups and information that include super hero themed workouts, Supernatural themes, and even Britain's best detective themed work outs. It is very fun, and backed by quite a smart sounding trainer. Check it out for sure if you're feeling a bit stuck in a rut with your current routine. 

Progress Report: 

Below you will see three model's portraits that I have done over the course of two different sessions. Each on is about an hour and all done in charcoal. I'm ashamed to say I am very rusty but enthusiastic as I see many opportunities for improvement. 

Intentions and Critique:

So, I can keep this part fairly short for this post because I know what lies ahead of me exactly. I have a commission of a knight I have been working on that's got a deadline for the first or second weekend in August. It needs my attention bad. Perhaps more urgent or imposing is the 7 days I have left to submit a painting for consideration in the Illuxcon Scholarship. You've seen the thumbnails, or some of them but that's all I've managed to do since most of my studio has been in a box.
My goal for the next 7 days is that painting, and studies directly applicable to the painting each day. Something I've been wanting to try since viewing Forest's video above. I really feel like it will help give solid direction to my studies since I know where that new information will apply. 

That's it for now, I'll post again in a week with pictures of how the painting goes/has gone. 

Until then, happy painting!

Monday, July 7, 2014

Following through, and Social media

*I’m going to keep updates once week, at least for this month as I try to get some big stuff off my plate. * 

For now, I’ll share with you a work in progress I've been piddling on after viewing a lot of YouTube
videos and reading about using the smudge tool in Photoshop.
Also, I took some time to start thumb nailing on my Fourth of July getaway/delivering commission weekend trip. I am working out how to illustrate a couple, not having sex, but retaining that essence while considering the context of the book scene. I won’t go into it just yet, because I’m still exploring. I’d like to find a composition that says what I want without words. 

Lastly, and although it isn't within the parameters of my schedule, I worked on a landscape oil painting for my family while I was out of town. I bring this up as an example that I couldn't/didn't want to stick to my schedule around family, but I found ways to practice the craft with my time. Which is the over arcing thing that needs to happen for progress. 

I wanted to share with you an interesting poll and journal by one of the concept artists I follow on Facebook, Suzanne-Helmigh. I participated in the poll, and was eager to see her conclusions about time management, practicing the craft, and having a professional career as an artist.

I want you to check it out, so I won’t spoil it here, but go read it:

Personally, I have spent a chunk of time refreshing Facebook while I’m ‘thinking’. This does two major things that detract from my art focus. First, it floods me with influences both good and bad, which in turn I feel forces me to think about things one way: the way I’ve seen it done. Secondly, it creates a comparison bug, and I can’t help but think about my age and where I am in skill level. This is something that will completely drain you if you let it, and the only fix is to limit time wasted on silly tasks like browsing websites without a defined purpose.

As I leave to figure out all the wonders of moving into a new apartment, I will leave you with a couple links that I have recently found while brainstorming for this next painting.

Gurney’s Journey: On gamut masking/mapping:
He expands on this greatly in his book Color and Light

And amazing Armor Tumblr:

See you next week!

Monday, June 30, 2014

Being an intermediate, and looking to the future

Alright, you've dedicated the past year, two years to really developing your skill set. You've got a firm grasp of the basics and maybe even sold a couple pieces of your artwork. You don’t suck, but you are not gainfully employed entirely off your art. To make matters more confusing, your artistic development has started looking like peaks and valleys. If that sounds like you, as it describes me now, then congratulations are in order. You’re an intermediate. Now it is time to:

Study all the things!

This is what I've got on my curriculum for the next year or so. This is the general over arcing things I need/want to fix after having gone to Spectrum back in May. Marc Scheff gave me an awesome portfolio review and really laid out some food for thought.

He also recommended I check out smArtschool, an online mentor-ship style program where you can work with an amazing artist in small classes. I checked out their site after talking with him and it looks amazing! The only reason I'm not signed up immediately, is my personal budget and I'd like another year under my belt before I dive into a mentor-ship like that. Be sure to check it out though!

Keep in mind new info may be released and as I learn more about my chosen profession I may refocus to align my study with new goals.

Goal #1- Anatomy:
  • George Bridgeman: Complete Guide to Drawing from Life
    • Really in depth breakdowns, treats the human body as a machine, which helps understand how to convey real movement.
  • Andrew Loomis: Figure Drawing for All It’s Worth
    • Some of the text seems dated, but wonderful knowledge bombs about ideals/templates, talks about the human form in perspective. Haven't found a Loomis book that didn't help.
  • Glen Vilppu’s lecture series on figure
    • A video series that I only got just recently, give him a quick YouTube glance, he is considered one of the strongest figure instructors guys of our time. 
Goal #2- Light and Color
  • James Gurney’s aptly named book “Light and Color”
    • Grounded in oil painting this book really provides great insight to all different types of lighting scenarios and how that effects color. Great pictures, examples and a pleasant read.
  • Color Studies from movie screens- Focusing on learning different cinematic lighting. I.e. DreamWorks movies versus Sci-Fi so on and so forth. 
  • Plein Air painting from life- Focusing on learning to understand color via observation in real time.
Goal #3- Design
  • Iain McCaig’s visual storytelling Gnomon DVD- Learning good character design
    • I attended his workshop at Spectrum. This guy is amazingly entertaining and full of gold nuggets. I have high hopes for these videos. 
  • Costume studies from movie screens: Trying to understand choices they made and why it is cool/successful/interesting.
  • Finding historical reference and trying to gain a mechanical understanding of armor, tools, war machines, buildings etc. 
Goal #4: Business practice
  • This is a research goal, and as I find good books or articles I will link them for everyone to have. Remember how I said this is our small business? That wasn't just an analogy; we’ll need business sense to make a profit from what we love.
  • Also, go sign up for Drawn and Drafted newsletter. Chances are you'll want there book "making Art Work". I attended Marc Scheff and Lauren Panepinto's Bootcamp at Spectrum, and had a complete revamp of what I thought I knew about art and business. They even had handouts and you can get them from their site on my sidebar!
At this stage, if you haven’t already, you should seriously get into some forums, and start a sketchbook. Critiques are invaluable, and extremely necessary for growth here. I’m on Crimson Daggers, and have loved my experience there. You can also try or something newer like permanoobs. Let me know about your experience over there.


This is my planned schedule for July. Grab the template here.

 I made it this past Thursday and already I have some hang-ups. I’m not going to change the schedule though, because this is the stuff I was getting at in my last post. I have two big events that are going to eat two consecutive weekends. I’m relocating with my roommates, and I have to deliver a commissioned oil painting four hours away in my home town. Life happens right?

Aside from that, I learned about Illuxcon’s Scholarship opportunity for degree seeking artists like myself.

Link here: Illuxcon Scholarship

So, that’s going to be my secondary focus in every time slot dedicated towards commissions. You really do just have to roll with the punches. Just understand that any amount of progress is still progress and that is the only goal. It’s going to be stressful, but between my calendar, my goals, and a fair bit of coffee I am positive I’ll survive July.

I hope this propels some thought about what you've got lined up for the next month. Just stay positive and seize the moment!

Friday, June 27, 2014

Making The Time

As promised in my last entry I want to take some time to highlight my efforts in time management and study materials and give you the nitty gritty of what's been working versus what has not.

Before I get into that though, I want to take a moment aside and make it crystal clear to you that I really don't believe success will come from just what you're willing to do to get it. It's more than that. I think it is really going to come down to what you're willing to sacrifice to get where you want to be, whether it’s mindless TV binging, Netflix marathons, clubbing, or even constant outings with friends. You and I are going to have to treat this just like a job...better yet, as our small business. It's going to take 40-60-80 hours weekly of constant work to get this bad boy up and running and more still to turn a profit. That's okay though, because can you seriously imagine dedicating that time to anything else that would yield half as enjoyable results? Me either.

And for anyone thinking they don't have the time, or they can't find the time, let me just say, you have to MAKE TIME for this.

Do the math. 7 days a week, 24 hours in a week is 168 hours. You can work a 40 hour work week, commit 40 hours to art, and you'll still have 88 hours for sleep/food/gym/etc. Which, breaks down to an easy 36 hours sleep, 21 hours of food, 4 hours of gym time, with 27 hours leftover for commutes/bathroom breaks/hygiene/ etc. Obviously, these are not personalized but come on tell me again how we don't have time, exactly?

It was that realization that led me to make calendars, that and an old post by Dave Rapoza when he was studying. I strongly advise laying out a calendar like this, but not so that every detail of your life is laid out. No, this calendar is a goal, a structured ideal of what you want for every day. Life happens, shit happens, but when stuff starts going awry and you need to not think about what you're doing next the calendar has it laid out for you.

This is Dave Rapoza's study schedule he followed that led me to make my first one:

And this is my first one, clearly I was quite into micro managing my time:

It really helped and worked for a while there. My biggest problems are, and have been, when midterm or final paintings were due for class. That's really when you see if you've been budgeting enough time for projects or not.

What should I be studying?

Unfortunately, that really depends on your skill level. What do I think is needed for the beginner? It's gotta be the big three, understanding 3D form in 2D space, understanding human anatomy, and getting grips with value. Forget color until you can manage values well.

Scott Robertson is my favorite perspective and forms in space guy. "How to Draw" is the title of his book and just wow. Also, he does Free Tutorial Fridays on YouTube, check him out!

I used for photo reference when doing gestures, and I still do. Proko YouTube channel is an amazing entry point to learning the human figure and Andrew Loomis' "Figure Drawing For All It's Worth" Aside from that I jumped in a figure drawing class ASAP.

Understanding values starts getting into painting itself and if you're going digital I'm going to recommend you start at and check out Matt Kohr's extensive library. Consider strongly spending $10 on his basic rendering digital download. Fantastic aid for the cost.

Links to all these references can be found to the right, in my 'Awesome Links' section.

In my next entry, I'm going to talk more about intermediates, where I feel I am, and what I'm doing to improve. Also, I’ll include info about the upcoming Illuxcon Scholarship deadline, and my current projects.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Getting Started and Planning for Success

Who are you, exactly?

Hmm. My name is Nicholas, and I'm 24 year old dude living north of the Atlanta metro in GA. I'm an artist, and a current art student. Though, I will say on that last part I hope to continue to be a student for a long, long time. Okay, so maybe not a student forever, but I definitely want to strive to always continue learning.

And for prosperity, I've been studying art academically since Fall 2011, but if we're being serious I haven't really, really been studying longer than Spring 2013. So, about a year and a half now I've been trying to put my nose to the grind stone and figure out what it takes to become a professional. Which leads me to my next point.

Why am I making this blog?

Well for starters, I want to catalogue the journey from where I was, where I am now, to becoming a full-fledged professional, i.e. paid, artist, freelance or otherwise.

In this past year and some change, I have done a lot of trekking through the murk to find out how people made the transition from something close to myself, to a professional. If I'm being frank, finding answers has been hell. The biggest points of aid have come from direct human contact (imagine that) at two conferences I managed to go to, Spectrum Fantastic Art Live this past May and Massive Black in Dec.

I want to share resources I have found useful, highlight learning strategies I am trying, deliver some clarity from the unknown, record field reports of my progress as I study, and invite any struggling soul to fight the good fight alongside me.

Baseline: where I am now, where I was, and what I am planning.

Currently? I am enrolled at a University, studying Drawing/Painting. There is one professor who is a staunch realist, and if I'm to be entirely honest, the only one who seems to support my endeavors towards this career. Which is a character designer, illustrator and all things fantastical while maintaining a sense of strong realism.

These pictures should show you the amount of progress I've made in the last year and a half. I've included some from 2012, where I was doing minimal research, had no idea of what kind of people, or info was available and I was literally flopping about on my tablet.


My next blog post will entail more specifics, including time management and the practice regimens I have tried, and the one or two I am going to be using here in the future.

There is so much to learn, but knowing that means nothing if we don't take action.