Wed 30 May 2007
Yes, the dreaded artblock. Usually, it just starts as an innocuous little worm of doubt; you feel like you haven’t done something quite right with a piece. But before you know it, it can grow and grow until it seems like everything you draw or paint looks wrong, before you’ve even put a few strokes on the canvas! Art block, to me, is a little different from having that gloomy self-doubting attitude (although art block can and usually does come with that attitude). You can still feel pretty good about your past works and have a good attitude about your art, but still, nothing comes out.
It’s important to explore where you feel your creative spark comes from when you’re trying to banish art block. Do you think you get your inspiration from some sort of spiritual or mystical outside source, like a muse? Do you feel like you have no control over that source? If so, that can be a problem. That puts you in the mindset that you’re nothing more than a passive channel through which this creativity flows, and when that mystical someone turns off the faucet, you have nothing of your own to give. Which isn’t true! While sometimes I do feel like I am being driven to paint a piece by someone other than ‘me’ I try very hard not to depend on that all the time. After all, I do have my own two hands, my eyes, and brain, so I should be able to create without the aid of a muse… right? A muse is also a good excuse to say ‘I just don’t feel inspired right now.’ And while that may be true, it doesn’t mean your technical skill and years of practice have fled.
That said, a lot of my art blocks seem to come from negative thinking. As I draw, I start to think ‘this looks wrong’ or ‘why can’t I get this to look right’ and it can devolve all the way down to ‘I can’t draw at all.’ And that’s nothing more than a self-fulfilling prophecy. Think it, and it will become true. If you can catch yourself right at the beginning of that thought train and replace those thoughts with ones like ‘this looks pretty good,’ ‘I handled that bit quite well,’ and ‘I can draw’ sometimes those little pushes can be enough to steer you away from an art block. You can also take a little break, take a walk, or draw something else less important - doodling with no clear intent is a good exercise.
So to recap:
- Muses are one good source of inspiration, but depend on yourself above all for that creative spark. It IS in you, trust me!
- Nip those negative thoughts in the bud, and replace them with positive ones.
- Take a break from the piece that’s frustrating you for a while.
I feel like this post so far has been about preventing art block, so I’m going to address being in the middle of an art block next, and how to push out of it more quickly.
So there you art, sitting with a blank piece of paper. Is there an image in your head that you want to draw, but you just can’t get it out? In addition to thinking positive like I detailed above, try doing these other things:
- Flesh out what you want to draw in your head as thoroughly as possible. Think about how the scene is laid out, how the composition works, how the characters will be positioned, right down to their fingers and toes (if you have characters in the piece, that is.) If it helps, listen to some inspirational music while you do this.
- Do some thumbnail sketches. Don’t start with anything big and fancy, just fill up little 2-4 inch high boxes with the vague elements of what you want. Do as many as it takes to make you feel like you have a good grasp of the piece.
- Do some studies of individual elements that you want in the piece - from real life if possible. Also do color studies, composition studies. The goal of this step is to get your artistic mode to kick in so your technical skill and talent will start to flow freely once again.
- Put yourself under a deadline. This only works if you really believe you need to get the art done by the deadline. It’s really not for everyone. I tend to only work well with this when I really do have an actual deadline.
These steps also work well for me if I’m in the middle of a piece that I lost my nerve on.
But what if you have no ideas in your head, nothing you feel like drawing at all? Well, give these steps a go; they might help you find that creative spark one again:
- Look at other art. Especially artists whose work you find inspirational. You could go to the library and check out books on the old masters and newer artists as well, or you can look around on the Internet (which is the best place to find quality fantasy and sci-fi work, if you know where to look. I recommeng both CGTalk and the GFXArtist elite galleries; that’s where I go when I’m feeling uninspired.
- Look through your old sketchbook. If you keep a sketchbook, look through it! Even if you keep all your old digital files, have a go through those too. Oftentimes when I’m looking through my older work, I’ll find an unfinished piece that had a great thing going, but it was something I just wasn’t prepared to paint yet. You can give those old ideas another shot and see if you can make them work this time.
- Listen to some uplifting, inspirational music. This is the same idea as looking at other art; I actually prefer listening to music because it’s an entirely different art form, and thus the inspiration isn’t quite as obvious.
- Doodle without thinking That’s right, just get out a pen an start scribbling! One of the things I noticed when I was younger was I placed way too much value on my art supplies - heck, they were expensive and I didn’t want to mess them up. But remember, those supplies are there to be used. It’s much more a waste to have them sit there, unpainted or undrawn on, than to have them be used in a piece of art (even if it’s something you don’t particularly like.) If you’re very worried about wasting expensive art supplies, go get some cheap ones. Computer paper is just as good for drawing as Bristol is, and any old pen will work. When you doodle, try not to think of anything in particular that you want to draw - just put lines on the paper and see what comes of them.
- Try something in a new media or style. Sometimes my art block comes from simply being bored with my current media. If that’s the case, the solution is easy - I try something different. Watercolor, gouache, acrylic, oils, termpera, ink, pencil, scratchboard, digital: there’s many, many different media out there and it’s fun to try them all.
This is what I personally do when I’m art blocked - I hope these tips can help others as well.
Mon 28 May 2007
As some of you may know, I work on 11×14 paper for my comic - but my scanner is only about 8×12, so I do a lot of stitching. I’ve actually become quite adept in stitching art together. This piece was actually stitched together using my methods from 6 different scans. There are no noticable seams, I hope!
What you need to do first is scan your pieces into Photoshop. If you can, butt the edges of the piece up to the edge of the scanner (this’ll minimize the headache of having to rotate the pieces in tiny ways later on.)
Okay, you’ve got the pieces in Photoshop. For the record, I’m using CS2, but you can use down to at least 7 for this method. Now, rotate your piece to right-side up. (That’s Image>Rotate Canvas)
Now go to Image>Canvas size, set the values to percent, and increase the height (or width if that’s the way you need to extend) to 200%. Also make sure you set it so all that extra canvas is being put on in the area you need it.
Fri 25 May 2007
Another week, another update. I have to wonder if anyone ever catches me in the middle of updating this thing.
Wed 23 May 2007
Artistic skill is a lot like a plant: they need both rain and sun to thrive (I’m speaking metaphorically in concern to the artistic talent, of course.) If it rains all the time, the plant will be drowned out. If it’s sunny all the time, the plant will wither and die. Skill won’t drown in rain or wither and die in the sun, but it still won’t thrive with too much of either.
What am I talking about with the rain and sun? I’m actually talking about attitude, with the sun being equated to a good attitude, and the rain being equated to a self-doubting, or more gloomy attitude.
If you have a good attitude about your art all the time, you become complacent and your art stagnates - if you feel good about something already you’ll have no desire to improve on it! I’ve seen it happen with a few artists - they work on their art, build a small crowd of fans, and (I’m guessing) they think ‘this is pretty good! I’m going to keep doing this.’ This is all right if that’s your goal with art, but if you’re focused on improvement, that’s a bad attitude to have. And I don’t want to imply that feeling good about your art is a bad thing - far from it! But feeling good about your art to point where you think you need to learn nothing else is a very very bad thing.
A good way to pull your head out of the clouds is to simply go to gfxartist.com or cgtalk.com and look at the ‘best of’ galleries they have there… seriously, I’ve never really had this problem so I don’t rightly know how to address it. But I have a feeling if you put a more critical eye to your art, and ask for (and a ready to accept) a bit of harsh criticism on your art, you’ll be going down the road to accepting a more realistic view of your art.
On the other end of the spectrum is the rain, the gloomy self-doubting attitude of ‘will I ever be good enough? My art is so bad!’ And this is the kicker - I guarantee EVERY excellent artist goes through periods of self-doubt like these. You simply cannot improve in your art if you don’t doubt its worth or skill every now and then; this is the impetus that leads an artist on the road of artistic improvement.
The difference between these excellent artists and okay ones is they don’t let the periods of rain bog them down for very long. An artist shouldn’t wallow in these bad feelings, they should pick themselves up and examine what’s making them feel that way, and then make the necessary changes to help improve themselves and their art.
I find many more artists have problems with too much of the rainy attitude as opposed to the sunny attitude. But how does one get out of that rainy attitude? Personally, I think it’s all about your mindset. When I have one of those gloomy attitudes roll in, my thoughts at first mostly revolve around how much my art sucks and how I’m going nowhere with it. It’s easy to get into a downward spiral with these thoughts, and once you’re way down there, it gets harder and harder to go back up. The best way to manage these thoughts is to examine them logically and rationally. Figure out what parts of your artwork you don’t like, and make steps to improve those parts. Stop thinking ‘my art sucks’ and start thinking ‘my art is pretty good, but it could be a little better.’ Even if you don’t believe it. If you think that all the time though, the key is that you WILL start believing it. But you have to keep that thought in your head completely, and not secretly think more destructive thoughts.
If you find yourself unable to do the things above, it might be time to step away from the pencil for a while, and do something that occupies you fully, and preferably something that makes you feel accomplished and good about yourself. I like to clean, exercise, work on my website, etc. After you’ve done that for as long as you need, hopefully you’ll be refreshed and ready to change your mindset about other things, like art.
So really, it all boils down to, too much of anything can stagnate your art. Hopefully this makes some sense. :>
Tue 22 May 2007
You know, I think I might actually like Hot Pockets, if it weren’t for the cheese. I hate that cheese - and this is coming from a Velveeta lover! I imagine Hot Pockets gets their cheese through some sort of deal with Satan. Not the conventional ‘I’d sell my soul for an unlimited supply of mediocre cheese product’ kind of thing, but more of a general business deal, where Satan, being the industrious fellow that he is, tried to get into the cheese making business a few millenia ago by purchasing the most disgusting milk imaginable, stuffing it in his nether regions, and promptly forgetting about it until Hot Pockets dropped him a line saying ‘Hey Satan, we need a good source for ass cheese. Know any?’ After purchasing Satan’s ass cheese, they proceed to water it down and put it through the blender so many times, the end result resembles something I’ve seen come out of many a sick kids’ noses.
Yeah, I don’t want to be thinking about stuff like that when I eat a Hot Pocket.
But lo and behold, Hot Pockets has trotted out their Barbecue pockets once again! (I say once again because I distinctly remember buying and eating them once when I was in college several (hundred) years ago. Don’t be fooled by the ‘NEW!’ sticker.)
I had a barbecue chicken Hot Pocket. And it was good. The sauce tasted like Barbecue sauce, and the chicken tasted like chicken. Not hard to do, but I’m surprised by how many frozen food companies can mess up both of those.
Bolstered by this success, yesterday I went in search of another chicken Hot Pocket. Alas, there were none to be found at the local Safeway, and that was the only thing within my walking distance. However, there were some intriguing barbecue beef Hot Pockets. Going against my better judgement (beef never EVER turns out well in frozen food) I decided to try them. After all - no cheese AND the chicken ones were good! It seemed like an acceptable risk, right?
Wrong! There was no beef to be found, only strips of rubber that were maybe slightly less tough than I imagine the sole of a shoe is. I suppose if your daily diet consists mostly of shoes you might find these tasty. But everyone else, stay far far away.
To Hot Pockets: I suggest you change the packaging of these ‘beef’ pockets thusly:
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