Ask An Artist-Blog series- Back to the Art

Okay, so my last few blogs in this series have been pretty…Well, more about philosophy than physical art. Nothing wrong with that, because most of what art is, is philosophy. But Today I’m gonna answer a few questions about the actual physical process of creating art.

Todays first Question Comes from Philip,

“How much of a piece is planned before you start and how much just pops up after you’ve started?”

Laying out the comic collage for my Avengers painting. This collage changed at least 8 times before I started gluing things down.

To me a great piece of art has been planned for as long as you have been alive… but we’re not going to talk philosophy so much today right? Right. So, Lets try that again.
To me a great piece of art is both planned and spontaneous inspiration. Because Art is so emotional you have to allow a painting to change and evolve while you are working on it. Sometimes, in the middle of a painting I’ll think I need to add some texture, or a different color scheme. Or sometimes, I have an idea in my head, and when I paint it, it just doesn’t look as good as I had imagined in my head. This actually happens more time than not. But that is the great thing about working big and being able to see it in real life. I’ll often stop, stand about 10 feet away and look at the piece. Let my mind wander over the piece and  make judgements as to what is working and what isn’t.

One of the reasons I am REALLY REALLY enjoying my comic book collages, or what I call “Painting with COmics” is that the only planning I have before hand is that there will be a comic book collage behind my painting. I literally have no idea what my collage will be about or what it will look like before I start. I first cut out as many different related comic book cells, then start laying them out all over the surface of my piece. I not only want there to be some sort of story being told, but I also want the layout of the comic cells to be interesting and compositionally sound. So As I am laying the comics out, I will often change my mind about 12-20 times before I commit to something. This is very exciting to me because it promotes my creativity to work streamline and in the moment.

Now, with all that said, it’s good to have some sort of structure when you begin. I mean, unless you’re creating abstract art, almost all art has some sort of foundation to it, a basic plot at least. Some pieces for different jobs are obviously very structured, but for me, I like to build a sort of frame, like a house, but I don’t commit to any type of wall or doors. I just build my house (painting) as I’m going.

Confused yet? 🙂

The next Question comes from Mark

“Is it possible to make a career in art without going to school for it?”

Absolutely. It is one of the great misconceptions in the art world, that you have to go to art school to have a career as an artist. 100% not true, in fact, you will find that perhaps MOST professional artists did NOT go to art school. I could write a whole book about art school, and you all wouldn’t believe half the stuff that goes on there… there’s a whole lot that ain’t about art(Toke, Toke:).
I went to art school, in fact I studied at 3 different art programs. The First was the TINY art program at California Lutheran University, where I went to play basketball. The Second was at Ventura Community Collage, who had a better art program than most Universities. Finally, I attended and graduated from the Kansas City Art Institute with a BFA in Illustration and Design. 3 completely different experiences, and 3 completely different tuitions!
Cal Lu was a great experience, but not so much because of the art classes. It was great because at a University, I was surrounded by students of all different studies. There is no way I could learn everything offered on campus, but by making friends with an education major, a Geology major, a Math major, Psych ect. I got a taste of so many different walks of life and information. It really opened up my world of possibilities. As an artist, this was invaluable to my growth and the scope of subject matters I was familiar with.
Ventura CC was my next stop after I had quit playing basketball and decided to focus on my art. V.C. was known for having a stellar art program with really great instructors. Lucky for me it wa sin my home town, so when I moved back home after Cal Lu, I picked up right where I left off. Now, VC was very different as they REALLY focused on building art skills. Drawing, Painting, Ceramics, Sculpture, and printmaking were all intense in building a foundation. This was a HUGE for me because it made me slow down and not rest on a what I was already good at. Of all the Art Programs I’ve been in, I learned the most SKILLS at Ventura College.

A very Old self portrait I did during my time at the Kansas City Art Institute

Then there was the Kansas City Art Institute… It would be an understatement to say that I have had mixed emotions about that place since graduating. BUt, I’ve come to realize, if you don;t walk away from art school with mixed emotions… you just never got invested into your art school experience. Funny thing is, I walked out of art school thinking I didn’t learn much more than how to pack a bowl or how to make a bong out of just about anything. But in reality, almost 15 years later, I recall on my experiences from art school almost everyday. As a professional, so many of the things my teachers would tell me now make sense, and I’ve come to value everything they told me. I think I was so invested in my art school experience that I didn’t realize how much I was a part of it, and how much it had changed my life. It’s hard to explain, but perhaps a lot of that is just where I was emotionally and in maturity. I did learn a few physical skills in art school, but I can look back now and see that art school got me to take the most important step in becoming the PERSON I am today.

With all of that said, There are no rules to becoming an artist. Any artist can find his/her inspiration from anywhere and from anything. All of us have a different path to take, and in the art business to be quite honest, art school does not teach that which you need to be a successful business artist. You learn ALL Of that as you are trying to make it.

To me Art school was a path I chose to take, and I took advantage and learned from all the wise art wizards along they way. I can’t say that there are not advantages to going to art school. But you should never feel like you HAVE to go to art school to be a successful artist. If you go to art school, you should WANT to go to Art school, but try to really understand why you want to go. Because you feel it’s the next logical step? Or because you honestly feel there is something valuable you can learn there.

My Last Question today comes from Kathy

When doing your personalized Star Wars cards, what facial features are the most difficult to animate?

First, lets clarify that Animate is to give motion to, e.g. Animation. I get this question your asking is what is the most difficult facial feature to draw, but to make look like you can anticipate movement.  The honest answer to both is nothing is more difficult to draw or paint than anything else in the whole world.  I’m not saying I’m such a master drawer that nothing is difficult for me. I’m saying nothing is difficult for me to draw because I learned the foundations of drawing. Any good artist would probably tell you the same thing. Drawing is actually very basic, and there are easy steps and understandings that, unfortunately most aspiring artists skip or don’t want to do. Trust me, I know, drawing circles and spheres and cubes and grey scales is not sexy. It’s downright boring, but it is necessary. In basketball, you see these players looking really cool and doing amazing things. Behind the scenes, the mechanics they work on to make it look cool and sexy… are not cool and sexy. I can’t tell you how many hours I used to spend just working on the release of the ball from my hand. No baskets, just me and the ball, practicing the perfect form with my hand. Drawing is the same thing. You HAVE To practice the structure building process of a drawing. Once you have a firm grip of the fundamentals, literally NOTHING is hard to draw… it’s just a matter of drawing what you see by using the skills and fundamentals you have worked on.

So don’t skip those fundamentals.

Book Cover for Sketch Card Mania

Here is a great place for a plug! I have written two books. The First is Creature Features: Draw Amazing Monsters and Aliens, the second I co-authored with Denise Vasquez and it’s called Sketch Card Mania.  If you are really interested in learning the fundamentals of how to draw literally ANYTHING, both of these books are a great first step. Creature Features walks you through over 40 lessons of drawing creatures, but the important lesson is that all of the lessons use the basic drawing fundamentals that I was taught. Sketch Card Mania gives a few of the same kind of lessons, but it also teaches you how to make your own sketch cards, and how to promote your art.

You can pick up both books directly from me at my online store!

Example pages from Creature Feature:Draw Amazing Monsters and Aliens

End of plug:)