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


  1. Danielle this is an awesome post! I know you don't normally share your personal journey as much, but I think you should. It's good for you, but also shows people kind of the other side and what it's like to pour your life into art. You make it look so easy! but as we all know it's definitely not. I died laughing at the Cheat Commando. :-P Anywho, those thumbnails are awesome! I can already see the inspiration brewing. Keep it up!

  2. Very cool! You need to write more personal posts...thus saith the INFP. :-P Also, you and that weird Octopus table. :-P Anyway, it's great you found a course to help you in your creative slump, haha! We all need help in our moments of stagnation. I need to do something about my songwriting in this regards, as I feel I hit walls in my songwriting process, feeling like I'm not really coming up with anything beyond my current skill level. Hopefully you continue to see lots of improvement in yourself. Your homework assignments look very interesting and neat.

  3. Haha, so declared the NFs!

    Thanks, guys, for the encouragement. It definitely helped me to write this all out, to make sense of things, so I'll try to do more personal blogs. Haha. And it helps to get encouraging feedback from my sisters. :-)

    Knew you would love Gunhammer, Alexis, haha.

    Yeah, Erika! You need to keep at it with your songwriting. I know it has been hard currently because of everything, but it is important. :-)