Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Boot Camp: Week 1

"My mind rebels at stagnation.
Give me problems, give me work [...]!"
Hello, my friends and readers. I'm going to be trying something a bit different here in this blog post, as I want to talk about something a little more personal. Lately, I've been rather hard-pressed on what to do with myself as an artist. Self promotion is definitely not easy, and at times seems downright impossible within the void of the Internet. It has been a difficult learning process to say the least. On top of that, and probably most importantly, I also have been feeling under challenged as an artist. True, I'm constantly being challenged by deadlines and the projects I'm currently working on at the moment, which I never seem to have enough time for, but I really do need more than that. I need more than just the constant juggle of prioritizing and time budgeting, which can get pretty monotonous. That is pretty much the word I would use to describe how I have been feeling lately, monotonous. I feel like I hit a wall with the progress of my art, that I'm not thinking of anything new, that I'm not growing in my abilities. It is like I've just become an assembly line for churning out work. I don't want that! I want to feel as if I am improving in my work, being challenged mentally and creatively, so as to reach a new summit in my artistic ability. I've definitely realized that I need this due to the new sci fi graphic novel I've taken on, Infinity's End. The vision I have for this graphic novel is somewhat above the level I can currently achieve, or at least the work I'm currently creating isn't reflecting the vision I have for that project. It is going to take a new approach from me, and I really don't know what that is quite yet. :-/
Spongebob Squarepants is always applicable...

Enter Art Camp, or as I like to think of it as, Art Boot Camp. I follow a variety of freelance artists whose work I admire on Twitter, and one of them is Noah Bradley. His work is exceptional, superbly crafted, provocative, and full of intensity and deep sobriety. I especially love his Sin of Man series, which you'll find on his website as well. Through his tweets, I became curious by his online art courses which make up his Art Camp regimen, and decided to check it out. What I read there about the material, the reasons why he started it and what he wanted to achieve with it really resonated with me, and it seemed exactly the sort of thing that I needed! Not only would I be learning from experts who are actually in the field that I want to be in, but I would be given material that I can really chew on and use to help expand myself, exploring new creative avenues. The course I'm currently going through is one that is taught by concept artist, Titus Lunter, who is partnered with Mr. Bradley, and it is on the topic of Environment Concept Design. Just from the first video alone for week 1, I found myself instantly inspired and it jump-started my brain into deep thought. I began to analyze myself as an artist, putting together the puzzle pieces of what I've been wanting to achieve through my work, but hadn't put a name to yet. It wasn't as if the things expounded upon were new to me, the different artist habits he outlined were things I already do on a consistent basis, but it gave me the means of an outlet and helped me to realign my thought process. I think it was also inspiring to hear someone else talking about things I feel are important as an artist, and hearing them from a fellow concept artist at that. It was really encouraging. Of course, I'm not out of the woods yet, but I feel like I am getting the mental and creative instruction necessary to push myself forward as an artist. I'm on the right path.

Danielle, you maggot!
Give me fifty more!
Now, one of the things the video went over was allowing yourself to be free to explore the canvas, to not be worried about composition or concepts just yet, but merely do free-form creating, seeing what you can come up with, playing with brushes and images, finding what looks right, and what you like/dislike about shapes and structure. This is something I'm actually not particularly good at doing, since I am an artist who always knows what I'm doing and why I'm doing it. I always have a set vision of what I want to create inside my head, and I merely transfer that vision from my head to the canvas, making it fit closely as I can to the original. Spontaneity and improvisation do not come easily to me, as I find myself hesitant and uncertain if I don't have clear idea of where I'm going. However, I do see the value in pushing myself in this area, because I might be able to find something new and different that I haven't done before. So, as part of the homework assignment, I decided to put this into practice. I'll never be able to achieve full on stream of consciousness creating, because it just isn't my nature, but I tried to keep myself from fully interpreting the images in my head, but allowing them to just be on the canvas. Or as much as I was able, at any rate. Fifteen thumbnails were the requirement, so I started the first set with some pencil sketch thumbnails. No matter how much Photoshop I use in my work, pencil will always be my treasured medium. There is nothing that compares to the feeling of tangible paper and graphite. It is lovely. ^_^ Here are the first eight thumbnails, where I also outlined the goals I wanted to achieve for this entire assignment exercise:

I felt pretty excited and confident about what I was coming up with here, even if it looked like some weird abstract art. It wasn't about making sense, though, but about allowing myself to work with the visual concepts in my head and getting them to come out organically on the page. After doing that, I moved on to the second set of thumbnails, this time using only Photoshop paint brushes. I experimented with different brushes that I have, and just continued doing what I was doing, hoping something cool happened:

Again, I enjoyed and was happy with what I was coming up with, even though it isn't the end goal of what I want to achieve just yet. I believe I'm heading in the right direction at least. For the last three thumbnails of the set, I decided to do them a little bigger and do a combination of pencil and Photoshop. This is usually my preferred art style, combining pencil and Photoshop, so I thought I would try it it out. I also was a little more intentional with them, taking ideas from both sets of the above thumbnails, and seeing what I could come up with. They didn't turn out as well as I had hoped, but I did feel like I got somewhere with them, so it wasn't a total loss:

Thumbnail 13 
Thumbnail 14
Thumbnail 15
Well, that is the end of week 1 for me and some of my thoughts on the whole process and what has been going on with me. I do hope to be able to find what I am searching for, as well as see a marked improvement in my art. I'll be posting about this as I go, but seeing as I do have many projects and that this is a self-paced online course, it isn't going to be too rigid. It is a twelve week course, but I probably will be taking longer to go through it. Making it too rigid will defeat the purpose of what I'm trying to achieve, which is free-flowing creativity and allowing myself to explore. These things take time. However, I do hope to be consistent, so there will be updates!

Oh! And before I end my post, as part of the homework assignment for week 1, you are supposed to take a picture of your creative space, seeing as it is all part of the introspection of the self as an artist. I decided to post that picture here, since it might be fun to share it with my followers, in case any of you were ever curious:

What my creative space normally looks like. ;-)
Yes, there it is. (Do you think I need more Sherlock Holmes wall art?) It is WAY cleaner than it normally is on a day to day basis, but I had to straighten it up for this photo. You don't need or want to see that. But I enjoy my creative space, my sanctum sanctorum as Sherlock Holmes would have called it. (I may have a little obsession here.) I love my desk especially, which is a drafting table that I turned into a desk. I use it as both now, taking my compy, whose name is Holmes, (I need haaaalp!) and other electronics off whenever I want to do some sketching. It works really well and it has a great industrial style! I <3 it! And yes, that's a legit octopus glass table down there. I <3 that as well! I love octopi as an aesthetic design motif! ^_^

Thanks for reading, my friends! I hope you enjoyed my angsty artist babblings!

He makes everything beautiful in its time . . . Ecclesiastes 3:11

Sunday, January 10, 2016

Infinity's End: A Graphic Novel

Dr. Josef Sarton my protagonist.
"He has put eternity into man's heart, yet so that he cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end." - Ecclesiastes 3:11

Hellooooooo. *echo echo echo* Hey, everyone. It has been an age it seems since I've updated my blog. Dust has been gathering upon these lonely pages. It has been for a good cause, though, since I have been quite busy with all sorts of work, projects, and art pieces that I haven't had any time to write a good blog post. Alas. That's why it is a good idea to follow me on my Twitter or Instagram or Facebook, as I post more regularly there about my current projects as well as any random thoughts I might have on the angst of being an artist or most likely, just my geeking out about science and current tv shows I'm watching. I also post about local events that I am attending, i.e. book signings and art festivals. That's actually been one of the main reasons I've been quite busy: PROMOTION. It has been a journey and I hope to one day write a blog post about it, but currently I'm just trying to stay afloat in the sea of media that is out there. Few more things to mention before I move on to my topic, if you aren't aware of this already, I have a Square Store, where I have various art items for sale. Most of it is Marvel-based artwork, with a smattering of Sherlock Holmes and my own original art. So, please, check it out! And always keep an eye out for sales or giveaways! Then, there is Elijah: A Graphic Novel, which is now available on Amazon. Free shipping! It is actually a better deal than going through Blurb.com because of the free shipping. And finally, the book of poetry by Brittany Ward that I collaborated on, A Planet-Sized World Layered in the Brain, though still available for print on Lulu.com, is on Amazon Kindle now for $5! So, please, peruse and check those things out!

art by Joey Camacho
I shall now direct your attention hither to my latest project of love, my newest graphic novel, Infinity's End. If you have been following my blog then you might have seen posts where I've done character concepts and illustrations based on this story, and where most of my time is spent geeking out about quantum physics. Yep, I'm still at it. This project is going to be the biggest and most challenging I've done yet, but I'm so excited. It is a story that has evolved and grown for quite some time ever since I finished reading Isaac Asimov's The End of Eternity. This story was directly inspired from that book, the little seed that has now grown into this epic tale of illumination and quantum physics. I can't even remember how it all began, exactly, but thanks to my friend (they aformentioned Brittany Ward), I fell in love with quantum physics and science fiction, and decided that the story that had been ruminating in my brain would be a perfect candidate for expressing all that I love about both topics. Quantum physics is the foundational structure and conceptual inspiration for Infinity's End, and this is very intentional. For one, in pop culture, quantum physics is usually regulated to something that explains weird and inexplicable phenonmenon and nothing more. People with teleportation powers? Because quantum physics. Parallel worlds converging? Because quantum physics. How does this high tech machinary work? Doesn't matter, because quantum physics. I don't mind that necessarily, since sci fi usually likes to explore more epic concepts like black holes, time travel, and other dimensions, but it doesn't even try to break down quantum physics into something applicable for a story, which I think is unfortunate. Though, I was actually rather impressed that Marvel's Antman kind of went there, (of all movies!) where at the end, Scott goes quantum in order to go through objects. I loved the mystery and the suspense they created surrounding it, especially since Hope Van Dyne's mother was lost to the quantum world during one of her missions, not being able to return. That was one of my favorite things! I hope in the next Antman they will explore this concept more and we'll learn exactly what happened to the original Wasp.
This book is awesome!
You should read it right now!

Anyway, so I thought there was so much untapped potential in bringing the science of quantum physics into a story. I mean, it is just a gold mine of concepts, really. Our reality at the smallest of levels is incredibly bizarre, wonderfully mysterious, and so counter-intuitive to how we perceive reality from day to day. It is shocking, beautiful, and exciting! And it is the clearest explaination of the universe, as the classic form of mechanics, the movement and interactions of large objects that we see and experiece, is only a part of a deeper reality. For example, what we understand as a solid, like a table or a tree, is not "solid" in how we conceptualize it, for most of what we see is made up of mostly empty space and energy. An aspect of what makes something "solid" or gives something "volume" is that certain types of electrons that surround the atom's nucleus cannot occupy the same quantum state as other types of electrons at the same time. This is call the Pauli exclusion principle. A very simplified explaination, but this why we don't fall through surfaces, because of the electrons' repulsive force against eachother that keeps macro-sized objects from occupying the same place at the same time. This is made even more astounding by the fact that while reading the above explaination, you are imagining an electron as an object in of itself, a single entity, just like you or me, but it isn't. It actually takes on a wave-function, which means while we are prohibited from doing strange things like occupying eachother's space at the same time, the electron is not so finite! An electron (as all sub-atomic particles) exists in a superposition state, which means it doesn't have a set point in space, but is spread out like a wave, and this wave isn't like a water wave, a physical wave in space, but a probability wave. It is an abstract, mathematical estimation of finding the electron within any given point in space. Reality, then, at the quantum level, becomes very fuzzy! Yet, it is amazing because it is that ambiguous and nebulous quality of matter that enables the tangible nature of our reality to work. So, you could say that our understanding of reality is shaped by quantum physics, which is, in of itself, entirely the opposite of that understanding! It is mind-boggling!

Also, read this book.
Because science.
And that is what I love about studying quantum physics. It forces you take what you had perceived of reality and turn it on its head, look at reality from another perspective. It this aspect that has inspired me for my graphic novel, where I want to explore this idea of what it truly means to understand reality, as my main character, my somber little physicist, searches for the ultimate answer to universe. I cannot wait to share this story with you all!

Oh, and before I end, I want to give a shout out to another book, Warped Passages by Lisa Randall. This book is amazing! Seeing as my graphic novel is so heavily reliant on science, I've been giving myself crash courses in quantum physics, and I came across this lovely book. Lisa Randall is a theoretical physicist and particle physics expert, and there has been no one that I have come across who explains the strange world of quantum mechanics quite like her. I was actually able to understand so much of what other science popularizers had just taken for granted. She defined particles and what they were for, took the time to explain very complex aspects and problems of particle physics, and gave fuller understanding to popular scientific theories of today. Through her book I was able to realize that I had no real concept of what "mass" truly was and she gave me a better sense of what the Higgs boson actually was. (The Higgs boson is what gives elementary particles their mass). She also gave her own theory for gravity (the only force that has not been quantized or made to fit within the quantum mechanical framework, i.e. we haven't found a gravity particle), which was fascinating and evocative to the imagination. I highly reccommend this book if you are interested in diving into quantum mechanics. However, I suggest also that this not being your only introduction to the material, as I found that it helped to have familiarity with it already. Quantum physics is some pretty heavy stuff! And just when you think you have grasp of it, you end up realizing that you actually don't. It's so fun!
Robert Fludd, English physcian.
Utriusque Cosmi (History of the Two Worlds) 1621
Pretty etching.

Anyway, so that's my latest update, and without much further ado, I present to you my tumblr website for Infinity's End, which is the whole point of this long-winded post. Now, I decided that instead of debuting this graphic novel in published form, I am first going to be releasing it as a web comic, and instead of releasing a page a week, I'm going to be releasing a chapter every two weeks, and this is where I'm going to be doing it. I just found Tumblr to be the easiest platform to do this in, and it would give people a chance to share through reblogs. For now, though, you can peruse through character pages and through a brief history of my world that I have created. I have character drawings up, as well as an artistic diagram of a model of the universe that I created specifically for this story. If you are confused by any terms that I use throughout the material, I also have a glossary where you can look up definitions. I'm going to be continually adding to this glossary as I write, since not only would it help with explaining the material I create, but it will also educate people on scientific concepts, which I think is important! So, it is my hope that you enjoy this. Unfortunately, it shall be a long, long while before I can get my graphic novel going because of all the work that is involved, but if you follow my graphic novel on Twitter and Facebook, you'll be able to stay up-to-date with the latest! I will also post any concept art that I do as I am forming my universe and story, so you won't miss out on anything! ;-) Well, thank you for reading! Click the link below to find our more about Infinity's End and discover the beauty of science and the Unknownable...

He makes everything beautiful in its time . . . Ecclesiastes 3:11