Friday, January 3, 2014

A New Year, and a New Outlook

This week has been filled with introspection and self-evaluation. I imagine you would be hard-pressed to find anyone who's week hasn't been filled with introspection and self-evaluation, but I guess that's beside the point. What I'm really getting at is that although last year was a huge year for me in artistic growth and progress, I feel like I have a huge amount to learn before I can even begin to do illustration for a living.

In 2013 I completed my first-ever printed sketchbook. It was a big accomplishment for me. As a project, it was primarily a study in conceiving and executing a project from start to finish. I was thrilled to have a printed collection of my drawings in hand. It made me realize that seeing my work in print is one of the things that really makes me happy. Just the fact that my pictures are getting out into the hands of people and making them happy was a huge accomplishment to me.

That being said, there were many things about the project that felt hurried. While the drawings represented my personal voice as an artist, there were still elements about the drawings that felt forced. Areas of skill that still feel shaky. Foundation work needed where there was none. Now I'm not saying this to completely shoot down my Sketchbook. But I want to make it clear that although it was a great accomplishment for me personally, I think it was a wee bit... premature.

In recent years, I've been forcing myself to create finished pieces. Planning full-scale works has been beneficial, but all too often I've found myself working through a piece and figuring out the basics as I go, simply hoping to come through at the end with a good piece.

What I find lacking in my work is mainly due to the absence of regular practice. Meaning, every time I do a finished painting, I realize that there are things that I am inexperienced at that are contributing to the difficulty of the piece. A finished painting is not the place to learn anatomy or color theory. Yes, I will come out of that piece knowing more about it, but I will actually be doing myself a disservice by putting pressure on myself to perform without rehearsing.

So, I feel like the last week has given me an opportunity to reflect and identify needs in my whole approach to art-making. While I still feel like I need to be creating new pieces, and building my portfolio, I definitely need to spend much more time improving my skills along the way.

Since I am primarily self-taught, it is up to me to find the best ways to practice skills like proper use of color, anatomy, image composition, and new materials and techniques. My question is: how can I consistently maintain a habit of practice in these areas? What are specific ways I can bring my work up to a standard that I'm pleased with?

I intend to start answering some of these questions myself, but I think I'll be also reaching out to other illustrators, art directors and you for answers! What are some ways you commit to daily practice? What skills do you find essential in your own work? Feel free to voice your opinions in the comments or on Twitter or Facebook. I'm interested in hearing your ideas for goals and ideas for making 2014 the most productive year for illustration that we can!

As always, Onward and Upward, and I wish you all the best in your New Year!



And finally: I offer these brief articles that I read today relating to this topic of New Year's goal-setting, improvement, and resolutions that I greatly enjoyed and benefited from. I hope you will too. - A great article on using your time wisely to accomplish your artistic goals. - "Do and Do Not" A pragmatic method for self-improvement by Lamp Post Guild co-founder Mark Johnson - Mike Yamada & Victoria Ying - I recently discovered their art and their informative blog. They are committing to teaching and mentoring through podcasts, blog articles, and Q&A's this year, and their theme is helping artists maintain their New Year's Resolutions.


Seth Rosamilia said...

Love the post, and I appreciate the links and thoughts. And I'd say that even if the sketchbook was a tad premature from a perspective of having a sketchbook full of perfect, flawless pieces, it still probably has benefited you simply from undergoing the process of putting it together. As someone not yet in college, and having had only minimal art instruction, I don't know if I have any answers to your questions, but I'll be eager to see what conclusions you come to. Happy new year!

Will Kelly said...

Seth, I agree. I did learn a great deal from putting together the book. I don't want to downplay that in any way. However, in the future I intend to be more active in pure practice before launching into a project like this one. I think overall I will benefit greatly from it. Thanks for your input, and I hope you are having a Happy New Year so far! Looking forward to seeing lots of new art from you this year!

Abrian Curington said...

I battle the same problem! I think we were about at the same level deciding to compile sketchbooks this past year. But I was drawing more often because of it, plus Inktober where I was inking everyday and creating art for applications, other people and still for my own project (since the sketchbook was only one part of a larger whole)... All this made me more confident in my abilities.

So for me the key is to keep giving myself projects and entering as many contests as I can (all of which have been free so far)!

Good luck and lots of practice in the upcoming year!

And Seth, not having entered college yet doesn't mean a thing when it comes to giving great art tips! Your advice is always great.

Will Kelly said...

Abrian, you're spot on. I think doing lots of work is key. But I also think you do need to identify the type of work you need to be doing in particular so you don't misuse valuable time in pursuing art that isn't genuinely yours.

And ditto, Seth. Your opinion absolutely matters. You're a part of the art community with a voice that needs to be heard!

Thanks for the comments, both of you!


Abrian Curington said...

Oh I haven't found a direction yet which makes the art that I do feel a little pointless. I know what I like but I don't seem to fit anywhere yet. I just keep making what I like And trying things that I haven't thought of doing before just to see if it's what I should go toward.

Someday we'll all figure it out!