--When did you start drawing?
| All kids draw if you wedge a marker in their stubby paws, I just never stopped. I was a VERY shy kid with no self-respect whatsoever, I latched onto art almost immediately as a source of praise and redemption. Now that I have cheapened my lifelong love of art into a form of surrogate self-worth, the real answer is twelve. That summer a combination of questioning my future career, reading too many art books, and falling suddenly in love with Disney movies went critical, and I decided I wanted to be an animator. I committed myself from then on to taking drawing seriously. (Not long after that Disney culled its 2D feature film studios. I decided to pretend like that didn't happen, or might be reversed.)How did you start drawing?
| First, at midnight, I spread the entrails of a freshly killed weasel on the altar of the Mighty Satan... Ah. No, sorry. That was how I got my good looks.
I started drawing in serious by cleaning the local library out of all its drawing books. Not How-To-Draw-Pre-Pubescent-Anime-Girls-type drawing books, I mean stuff like human anatomy and portraiture. As everyone says, it's helpful to study what real people look like before you exaggerate them into cartoons. On the suggestion of every single art book out there, I also started sketching things from life, mostly just objects, but it was useful for starting to understand lighting. I also about destroyed our Treasure Planet
DVD, since it was one of our only 2D animated movies on DVD at the time, by re-watching it, pausing it, playing the animation frame by frame, and redrawing my favorite scenes frame by frame. To this day I get the odd, shocking comment that my art 'looks like Treasure Planet
', which I find hard to believe, but I guess I shouldn't be surprised.
I was just barely starting to form characters and stories of my own at this point, but I mostly drew endless, endless fan art. Which is fine
, and I'll get to why in a few. Did you go to art school? Should I go to art school?
| I started college as a biology major because I was too lousy to stand up against the expectations of family, friends, and the responsible adult world we all know we have to go out into and not starve to death in. A few semesters in, my ecology class was driving back down from the mountains after... tagging sagebrush or something, and I was listening to the professor have a very candid discussion with a student about what it's like to work as a biologist. He said for most everyone it's hard work, long hours, and doesn't pay much. It's something you'd only purposely do if you loved it. My mind boggled. That's exactly what I'd always heard about art. I had a very miserable, bipolar month with the two sides of myself mauling each other over, and then I decided to pursue art. My dad was disappointed and my relatives had a good chuckle at me (and one side of me was still not accepting the other) and that was all painful until a protective layer of stubbornness and humor formed.
Changing schools mid-education is obnoxious, so I just stuck around my university and transferred into its woefully underfunded and talent-deprived art department. This wasn't so terrible for me, since I've always taught myself, but I watched most of my classmates who were not initially very good at art only barely
progress by graduation. That is so rude of me to say and nothing I would ever say to their faces, but I am trying to pass out a warning here. Partly to say, look for schools that seem to attract good art students, that do serious portfolio review to par down classes to people who are serious about art. Usually you can find student artwork online somewhere as well, go see if it's any good. Not to say that your classmates' skill will give you a better education, but it can be a sign that the professors are teaching well, aaaaand it will make school infinitely more exciting if the other students are awesome and inspiring, and not just getting degrees in art because they heard it was easy and they had no other particular skills.
Obviously, I have not been to a private art school. In my observation, they are WAAAAY too expensive for the average person to pay for, especially since artists are not exactly pulling doctors' salaries when we graduate. This is only my experience, and only since you've asked, but I've met a number of people who went to private school, they are mostly all still paying off their loans many years later, and an alarming number of them are still honestly not all that good. D:
EASILY ninety-five percent of what I've learned about art has been from observing what other artists do and from practice on my own time. Screw school. Some jobs will want that shiny diploma they give at the end, so you might want to get yourself one, but seriously. Art isn't like memorizing a math formula and plugging in the numbers. Professors will not beckon you into their office and whisper trade secrets into your ear. In school you're gonna have to identify your issues and you're going to have to practice those things. You're going to, in fact, learn how to sail around the professors who have dried up so badly that they will
try to tell you how to make good art, according to their personal vision and definition of 'good' (and of 'art').
I am glad I went through the fires of college for almost every reason except what I learned in class. Bear in mind I went to a kind of crappy school, though. I KNOW there are awesome, rigorous, bash-your-brains-against-the-desk-until-you-bleed-gorgeousness schools out there, and you should definitely try to find out which ones they are and should go to them if you can, and wish.
My general advice to those hurting for money but wanting to study art: consider keeping your day job and study art (ie, practice the hell out of it) yourself for a while. While you save funds and make plans you will get better by the day, and I think art school is a thing best taken at a running start. (By which I mean, you should be at far more than a basic level when you start college.
Seems like a waste of money and time to me otherwise. Become reasonably good on your own, then go to college to learn more advanced things once you're ready.) Well then, how do I teach myself art?
| OBSESSSS. Two big things.
One, observe. Be. Freakin. Interested. In what other artists have made. In the physical and emotional world around you. Take everything in, try to see how it was made, or how you would make it. Surround yourself with the art you love- this could be art books, photo books, galleries online, a movie collection, and your personal art horde on your hard drive. Hold on to anything that impressed you, for its color, composition, the stylization, texture, motion, etc. Anything that made you think you'd like to make something like that sometime. Worship things. Identify what you loved so much and pull those things out. Eat everything. Artists are hungry monsters. We push and pull each other up via inspiration.
Two, practice. YES, everyone knows this one. But...I really want to get better, but I can't get myself to practice!
| Ok. Here's the thing. If you draw without purposefully learning new things from other artists, you will spin wheels. If you only watch other people and don't do, same deal. You have to be proactive about doing both. I am a firm believer, standing on my one single data point, that doing these things together cannot fail to make you vastly better over time.
If you are finding it hard to practice, I suspect you have gotten stuck in that peculiar rut where you believe there is a certain, official way to practice, and that is it tedious and awful and involves memorizing the human muscular system or drawing train tracks in one point perspective. And so you're putting it off, and just not doing anything in the meantime out of guilt.
And sure, that's stuff to look at one day, but that is not your problem right now. You have a problem with your actual artist's motor heart core thingy. There is no reason to make art if you don't love doing it, remember thissssss.
Presumably you do or did love art, why was that? What was it you loved to draw again? Was it animals? Was it video game characters? Was it mech suits? Dragons? A fandom? Well-endowed bimbos in gratuitously skimpy skirts? Or was it not drawing? Was it actually painting that you love? Animation? Sculpture? Interpretive mime? Jeebus-- find that thing again! Love thyself and take time to do nothing but puke out stuff you want
to draw. Ideally, never stop doing so again. Even when you get a job. Especially when you get a job.
You can absolutely learn form, lighting, balance, appeal, and perspective by painting bowls of fruit, or Sonic the Hedgehog riding Shutterfly. One of the perks of teaching yourself is that you control your subject matter. So make it fun. Waaait, it's worse than that! I have teh Art Block! D:
| I think art block is a very finicky thing to address and not only varies from person to person but from moment to moment.
The first thing I'd suggest is taking a second to mediate on what's going on in your life. No, srzly. Sometimes our art making suffers when we're distracted by something random, like some spat you got into with a friend that was never really resolved and it's been making you bitter even since. Kind of thing. Or your first pet died a month ago and you're still shaken. Or there's something you're putting off doing. I think it's easy to regard our art-making like a different channel we flip to, expecting it to just work. When it doesn't, we blame ourselves and rue the day we ever fantasized that we were even one tiny little bit good at this heaping load of putrid garbage... when in fact something may just be wrong with the antenna/receiver/wi-fi/whatever tv comes in on these days. Look and see if your art woes aren't actually offshoots of other troubles you're having.
This leads into two theories I have about art block that may well only apply to me for all I know. Again, I suspect this is a complicated issue.
CONFIDENCE. I am increasingly certain that for myself 'art block' equates exactly to 'confidence at low ebb.' Because I have found my mad, awful art block scribbles in the bin later on... and they don't look so bad, actually. It could be that art block is less that you've apparently suddenly forgotten how to hold a pencil, and more that you're in a very critical, cautious mentality at the moment and not in the mood to produce anything less than perfection. I actually stop drawing immediately when I feel this way, and go do something else for a while. I find it passes faster when I'm not itching at the wound. This applies almost exactly to my writing as well. Although...
The only trick that I've found works kind of reliably for me is to change media. If I'm shit with a pencil I'll try with a pen. If that's crap too maybe it's colored pencil time, or paint, or digital paint, or clay. If art continues to stick, I like to take that as a sign that I should plop down and do some writing instead. And if NO CREATIVE OUTLET WHATSOEVER is working for me... I honestly start sleeping a lot until the day I get my powers back. But very usually tripping over to a different medium seems to help dance around whatever blocks I'm hitting.
I suspect there is a class of us that sometime becomes very exacting, and if every little line isn't coming down just as we like we get furious. In which case switching to something deucedly hard to control like watercolors may prove helpful... let go of the illusion of control and all that. Sometimes I like to turn the pressure off on my tablet and paint with a really organic, rough brush until I'm back to being ok with getting messy and making mistakes! Whoa, a brain cell just fired from fifteen years ago right there. What materials/programs do you use?
| Haha, just answered this one. Specifically:
I draw on regular printer paper with a mechanical pencil with .5 lead! I find that combo smears the least and scans the cleanest. I do not draw in a sketchbook, I hate working in bound pages and I always have. I like being able to shuffle pages around on my clipboard and the freedom to vanish from the face of the earth pages I do not like.
My sculptures are made of Sculpey and Super Sculpey clay and painted with acrylics and probably a lot of my saliva from fixing the brush tip.
I paint digitally in Photoshop CS4 and CC although I used CS3 quite happily for a long time. I have an Intuos4 at home and a 5 at work, both mediums, and I don't actually notice a real difference between them. Both real good tablets. I previously had a Bamboo Fun, which I'd recommend to anyone wanting to try a tablet but not needing anything too fancy. (They don't make new ones anymore, but maybe the Bamboo line is still decent? Wacom just makes nice tablets in my experience.)
My scanner is a small printer-combo pushing seven years old, was never a high end thing to begin with, and nothing I'd recommend. It does all I need, though. How do you make the BrainSpews? Is that like, one long paper you draw on?
| What? No! Heavens! I get asked this constantly! Where do you guys live where there are ninety-inch long papers in circulation? Do you think I draw on scrolls? They're just long Photoshop files I dump scans into. If I did a 'tutorial' on this it would be shamefully simple, but I'm considering it because of the aura of utter mystery that seems to surround those files. Heh... sorry. I'm just confused by how often this gets asked! How do I get a job in the art industry?
| Hell if I know, frankly. A company actually approached me before I even got into the business of searching and applying, because I am spoiled like that I guess. I am just barely into my second year working at my first professional job right now, so I have so little knowledge about this kind of thing it's silly. I will say this. You may be holding a college diploma, but if you cannot illustrate/animate/design/etc. like a badass you will have far more trouble finding work than if the reverse were true. Art is one of those great/terrible areas in which your ability to do is really important. Point being, and you knew it was coming to this: put so much effort into a strong portfolio. Which is just a way of saying, go out, get good, make some art that will blow socks off. (See: How Do I Teach Myself Art?) There is no reason for a company to hire you (and certainly to keep you) if you have a diploma that says you make good art if you don't make good art. The diploma may help you climb ladders once hired. But I suspect being killer at what you do does the same trick. (All my own speculation...) Are there any books you'd recommend?
| Yup! Their titles pretty much explain what they're good for. These are actually some of the books I started with as a kid. I don't use them much anymore, but they were super helpful in the beginning! Drawing People: How to Portray the Clothed Figure
by Barbara Bradley The Art of Animal Drawing
by Ken Hultgren Drawing Portraits
by Douglas Graves Do you have a website?
| Nope! I also have no other blogs, forums, galleries, or web presences of any type! This is the single place you will find me online. Doesn't that just make things simple? Do you work for Disney?
| Weirdly, I kind of do. My company does contract work with them, mostly webpages and games, so I have, and am doing so at the moment, actually. But what you're probably getting at: am I an animator at Disney? Hell. No. I am pretty much nobody and pretty much ok with that. Do you want to work at Disney?
| You know, the more I learn about Disney as a company the less I desire to work there, which has been less than a lust for many years now. I actually really, really like the kind of job I have now, in a micro-environment doing smaller projects with just a few people. And I am actually more of a DreamWorks fan anyways. Where do you work?
| I work in a tiny (I think there's sixteen of us?) but surprisingly productive game design studio that is bizarrely found in western Idaho. Together we make games, apps, and websites, usually for children. We have a few internal projects but mostly do contract work for big fishes like PBS, Disney, The Jim Henson Company, and Warner Brothers. I usually do illustration, concept work, and design with some animation on the side. This week I got to design something involving diminutive equines and their magical fraternity that I'm not allowed to talk about, rigged an evil stinkbug overlord for animation, and did character design for actual Jesus actual Christ actually somewhat against my actual will.
My first favorite thing about my job is that I get to make stuff all the fricken time. Second, my coworkers are awesome to be around. Third, we balance a lot of projects at once so there's variation and unexpected assignments on a pretty much daily basis. One time I animated an entire civilization being destroyed by a massive fart. Another time I painted over ninety portraits of celebrities as Lego figures. One day I had a piece of the ceiling crash down on my desk because our building is ghetto. I have seen the man who invented the Furby with my own eyes. These are the adventures of the working Tox. Do you take commissions?
| Not anymore. I did for a long time, but it's just not possible with my day job. They're unlikely to open again until I lose said job. In any situation, I'd post a journal if I was taking them again. Even if your commission is super extra special, I'm serious, I have a lot of pain in my hand even when refraining from personal art. I physically, and literally, can't handle more.Are you going to write your stories into a book?
| My stories are pure self-indulgence and publishing them has never been my concern. It would be really cool to try to write one of them into a book. I love books. To be completely frank, I am a piece of lazy unmotivated garbage and the odds of me doing such a thing are hilariously slim. The little short stories I sometimes post take many, many months of procrastination, rejection, rediscovery, and rewriting. I am very slow and nervous about writing and should apply my own advice at improvement towards changing that. Where do your characters come from? What inspires them?
| Acid. LSD. Having been dropped on my head as a child. Observing the world and other storytelling and harvesting all the tiny bits that I find interesting, the bits that I almost like but feel I would love if they were just a bit different, the things that I hate that I think I could either do better, redeem with an interesting spin, or lampoon the hell out of as they so justly deserve, also random thoughts that make me laugh, and just occasionally cool dreams. I think I might be more fiercely driven by things I don't like than things I do like. Don't fix what isn't broken, yeah? But I love sticking my arms deep into the cess of culture, pop culture, entertainment, politics, history, mythology, and religion and pulling out these stupid cliche turds to use as clay for my, my... terrible metaphors. How many stories do you have?
| I... don't have stories, I have characters, if that makes sense. I'm very character-centric, versus plot-driven. I see each of my characters as stories. I suppose most of my major characters are fleshed-out enough to be decent protagonists. But I'm very lazy about plots.
Almost all my characters on dA are from one 'world' which I refer to as the Network, for reasons that are now antiquated. It's much faster to list those who are NOT from that universe- Morgan, Magda, Tobin (and friends you've not met yet)- because they exist in my only other universe, which we call Hellecker. The Network and Hellecker are totally different boxes in my mind and have nothing to do with one another. The Network is a lot like our modern world in a lot of ways and contains copious amounts of satire and almost annoyingly scientific magic. Hellecker is more of a classical Renaissance-flavored fantasy world and a lot more indulgent, flagrantly unexplained shut-up-and-accept-it's-just-magic magic.
I do have characters outside these two playgrounds, they exist in the research and development department in my head where they stew until I find them a home and am not too embarrassed to share them. The hell is up with your user name?
| Altalamatox is the name of the first city I created in my Network storyverse. It's pronounced 'al-TAL-uh-muh-tocks.' You can call me Tox! M/F?
| Heh, right. I prefer that you refer to and consider me the sex that you think that I am. I am far from offended if you guess 'wrong.' I dislike thinking about myself in gendered terms, and the internet is a place you can be just your thoughts and free from the biases of your appearance, if you so choose. Understand that I'm not trying to 'trick' anyone about my sex online, I am merely personally ignoring it. Humor me and my quirks. What's the weirdest thing you've ever eaten?
| I don't think this is a FAQ.Go on.
| Wasabi, mint ice cream, soy sauce, bits of fortune cookie, Coke, and part of a napkin mixed together because no one else at the table had the balls. That makes you ugly and stupid.
| How rude.