Musician, writer, artist, gardener, Jane-of-all-trades.
I write about Mass Effect and my Rhi Shepard far too much, and occasionally post diary entries from Disco, the technicolor amphibilizard dragonborn. There's also a lot of politics and baby goats.
Joker is starting to look like Joker and Rhi is starting to look like Rhi! IT’S AWESOME! \o/
I’m really kind of upset that I have to go to bed within the hour. Dammit, clock, STOP for awhile, okay? THERE IS ART TO BE DONE.
Made a spreadsheet of all my Copics thus far this morning -mostly to avoid buying duplicates when looking at sets or going to the art store-, and I found out a few things:
1) I have a huge amount of Copics that I’ve accumulated over the last 2-3 years and will probably have to invest in better storage.
2) I only have 2 violet colors. D=
And on an unrelated note, I’m redrawing Ophidian-Larfleeze, and I’ve suddenly realized that I subconsciously push the ‘why boner’ envelope every single time I draw him that way. Well.
Ha, I started doing the same thing (for the same ‘can never remember what I already have when at the store’ reason) with my prismacolor pencils. Then I discovered that someone online had already made an awesome coloring chart with all the ID numbers and spots to ‘sample’ each color (so you have a good idea of your palette). It works really well — you might try something similar.
Also, I admit, sometimes a nice brainless color-in-the-lines task is kind of a nice way to wind down.
I draw in public a great deal; on the train, waiting for my bus, at a café with my friends. I like having something to do with my hands, and since the options of a lengthy period of sitting still are either a page full of sketches or a lapful of napkin confetti, I find it pays to have my art gear on me.
As a consequence I always end up with at least one curious rubbernecker eyeballing my sketchbook. I don’t mind. I’m a comic artist for godssakes – my business is creating art for public consumption, to entertain and enthrall. It’d be pretty damn hypocritical of me to hide my scrawls. Half the most delightful, vivid and insane encounters I’ve ever had were with perfect strangers over the contents of my sketchbook. Art’s a powerful uniting force, a basic language we can all share regardless of race, creed or gender. I love to engage with people over art.
What I love less is the inevitable conversation that follows:
“That’s so lovely. I wish I could draw like that.”
“Well, there’s no reason you can’t! Do you practice much?”
“Oh, no. I’m not as talented as you.”
Pardon me, strangers, but that’s a giant load of poo.
Everyone begins life as an artist. When we were kids, we were allowed to run wild with our crayons and imaginations. Nothing was off limits, no creative barriers were built around us. We had no concept of our own limitations, so there weren’t any.
But then, somewhere along the line, we learned we could be bad at stuff. Remember that day? The first time you were told you couldn’t play tee-ball for interschool tournament because you weren’t as good as the other kids? When the loudmouthed kid in the back row looked at your painting (or worse, your teacher) looked at your collage and asked why the hell your dog looked like a squashed weasel? Somehow, through environmental pressure or cultural conditioning, we developed the idea that to excel at something, you had to be talented from the get go.
Comic art isn’t about talent. I’ve never met anyone who fell out of the womb with an ames tool in one hand an a hunt crowquill in the other, ready to wow the scene with their perfect Jim Lee crosshatching. Comic art isn’t about sloshing paint about on an easel to pin down the colour of your emotions, while wearing chunky earrings and blasting Orinoco Flow. Comic art isn’t something you can pick up in a vacuum. You can’t wake up one day and be good at comic art.
Comics are a skill, and every skill has to be honed and perfected.
Every comic artist currently sweating over deadlines spent hour upon hour cultivating their skills. They studied anatomy books, attended life drawing, talked to other artists, swallowed their pride and begged for critique, and they spent most of their waking hours drawing. I’m good at art, and I’m grateful when people express a liking for my work. But I’m good at art because I spent hours upon hours hunched over a sketchpad, dissecting techniques from the masters of my craft and trying to replicate them for myself. I’m good at art because I took every criticism as a challenge, and proved naysayers wrong by isolating my shortfalls and mastering them. I’m good at what I do because I’ve dedicated my life to it since the age of seventeen. It’s an unpopular opinion, but I honestly don’t believe in talent. I believe in application.
If you wake up in the morning, switch on your art brain, buy a sketchbook and spend the next four years doodling in every spare moment, you’ll be a better artist than when you started. If you wake up in the morning, compile a huge folder of stock reference images and tutorials, borrow art books from your library and study the crap out of them while doodling in every spare moment, you’ll be a better artist than you would have been merely by sketching. If you wake up in the morning, grab your reference file and work on things that challenge you, drawing hands or ankles over and over again until you nail them; if you talk to other artists, get your work critiqued and surround yourself in an environment that forces you to think, breathe and live art, you’ll be a better artist than you could ever dream.
Every comic artist I admire and respect worked hard to get where they are now. There’s no comic book cinderella story. In this fairy tale, the princess’s fairy-god-editor took one look at her handful of scribbles and kicked her backside from here to the palace, and made her redraw the whole lot from scratch because she can ALWAYS do better. In this fairy tale, the princess is covered in ink and exhausted from a four-day convention spent kissing up to other artists in an effort to learn new techniques. In this fairy tale, there’s no happily ever after because if you’re ever content with where you are, you won’t strive to be better.
I’m glad people like my art, but I’m not talented. I just draw all the damn time. I’d challenge anyone who doubts their own ability to do the same – push past that initial ‘can’t’, and I guarantee you’ll be impressed with what you can do.
It’s like Natalie Dee put it “The only things you know how to do when you’re born are eat and complain.
That said, usually when people say “I don’t have the talent for it” it’s code for “I am politely recognizing your skill but don’t actually care enough to want to learn it myself.” It’s like telling someone they could learn to speak Polish, yes, theoretically, they could, but they probably won’t unless they really want it and have a particular use in mind.
I always disagree with people who say “talent” isn’t real, because to me, talent represents aptitude, inclination, or drive towards a certain skill set. You have to put in the effort no matter what, but everyone is wired differently and some things will just click with people. You know, the ol’ “Nobody’s good at everything but everybody’s good at something”.
I encounter this with both art and music, and I always wince when I hear ‘talent.’ I’m willing to to believe that some people are naturally better at a given pursuit from the get-go, but that only puts them perhaps one rung up the ladder from everyone else — and it’s a long ladder.
The problem with starting any of this as an adult is that you’re more aware that you suck when you start. Of course you suck when you start. That’s what beginning is all about. The only reason children learning an instrument don’t have this problem is they’re usually totally thrilled to be making noise. The other place kids benefit is awareness of time and responsibility. As a grown-up it’s harder justify putting in the hours at something you’re bad at because you have so much else to do — and if you don’t put in the hours, you don’t become better. (This is the problem that’s driving me batty with art at the moment — I need time and have too may obligations).
For my part, when I see someone with a skill I admire but don’t share (like sewing, for example) I usually say “That’s amazing. I’d love to learn, but I’d need another lifetime.” or something similar. Or, y’know, just compliment them on their work. :P
A belated introduction. The name “drawing contraption” was inspired by a clip board device I invented, but it actually refers to any artist as a whole. If you want, you are a drawing contraption.
Part of the process of setting up a Wordpress blog is to come up with some sort of tagline. At the time that I started Drawing Contraption, I had some small sense that I should challenge myself with the tagline. Make it a mission statement. So I did.
Translating Beauty with an Array of Complex Machines
I’ve got a long way to go before I get any good at that!
As I explained to my friend Tschombe Brown in a discussion about this tagline, the array of complex machines includes brain, arms, fingers, mechanical pencil, pen, scanner, computer and the internet that all these things are connected to. And other people and their complex machines that are connected to all this through it!
Translating would be both interpreting and creating something new. Basically, and succinctly, art.
What I didn’t do there was describe what I think beauty is. That’s the trick, isn’t it?
And, I mean, clearly art isn’t all about “translating beauty with an array of complex machines”. It’s a hard word to define. You could decimate entire painting classes just be asking them to collectively define art by the end of the hour. But, based on the etymology of the word — the Greek word for “skill” — and the way I hear people use it, I think it could be described as something like this: The act or result of expressively using skill. Seems boring, but it really isn’t! I’ll explain later.
Passion often plays a part in that, too. But it doesn’t have to.
So, end of tangent. End of explanation. My goal is to, from here on out, use this blog to learn how to “translate beauty through an array of complex machines”.
Which I already do. I just want to do it better.
Now, here’s another question apocalyptic to art classes: Why?
My answer? Because learning is fun! And learning to do this is funner!
What would be your reason?
Damn it, Fenmere, do NOT make me rethink my official “I DON’T CARE” stance on the question of “What is art?” That stance has served me well for years, and now you come around with a definition I actually like?!
I mean seriously, do I have to draw you more bloody art class crime scenes?
I’m behind on the 30 day OTP challenge, but refusing to stress. I AM still drawing almost every day, which is the real goal for me, anyway.
It’s just that I got hung up on drawing them kissing.
Kissing is hard.
(I told my boyfriend that last night at dinner, and he said, “You don’t usually seem to have much trouble with it.” So I suggested we check — you know, for science — and leaned across the table to kiss him. It turned out there was too much table in the way. Kissing is hard!
But I digress.)
It doesn’t help that I’m not very good at drawing mouths to begin with, and profiles — where it’s easiest to show kissing! — are tough, too. I’ve been sketching smooches off the internet for practice, which works fairly well.
Of course, when you google ‘kiss’ for photo references you spend a lot of time scrolling past Gene Simmons’ tongue.