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Thursday, July 28, 2011

Ah sweet internet, it's so good to see you again!

Ever get cut off from the internet and feel absolutely lost? My internet was down all day yesterday and while the frustration was eating away at me I was able to hunker down and do some drawing and my productivity was much better. Makes me want to sign up for that selfcontrol app I heard about but sadly it is only for Macs. For now I'll have to try out a similar extension for Firefox called leachblock. Distractions are dangerous and I am guilty of surfing news sites when I should be drawing.

With a lot of commissions pouring in at this time (yay), I really want to up my productivity and the speed at which I work so that I can get more art in every single day. I was supposed to get up this morning at 5:30am and get to drawing, but after the hubby woke me on his way out the door for work I soon fell asleep again. Drats! I didn't used to try and get up at ungodly hours of the morning. It wasn't until I read this mind altering article on the differences between professional artists and amateaur artists that I decided it was time to make a change. Still, it hasn't been easy being a stay at home mother to two very young children and get art in, but if Brad Rigney can be a stay at home dad and do work for top clients like Massive Black then I can find a way!

Maybe I need to create a crazy schedule like this guy. What I like most about it, is that he always puts time in for studies to keep learning every day. That is something I yet to do- once I start on a commission it is usually my only project until it is completed. But by following a schedule like this I might be able to work a couple of projects at once AND still get in some practice speed paintings.

My next problem is speed. I want to be able to make a decent income doing this but I can't get in enough projects in a month to make it work yet. I know that part of it comes down to how much I charge for my services, and with time that rate will increase. Until then, I need to draw draw draw and push myself to get past working on details at an early stage.

My last steampunk piece is a great example of how NOT to do a piece. I started out planning to make a very soft elven maiden drawing for Exotique 7's call for entries. I soon realized that I can't do uber soft like Melanie Delon and it was time to do my own take. Problem is, it took me nearly 20 hours to get to that point and I had only worked on the face. Then I decided to take it in another direction and spent countless other hours trying to fix artistic problems that should have been solved early on in the thinking process. All in all, the piece took entirely too long. During that time I could have been working on another concept portfolio piece (these pretty characters are fun to do, but they aren't your typical commercial type of art). Sometimes it's best just to move on and get to the next project like . Oh well, lesson learned.

I'll be creating my own schedule here soon and try to stick to it! So how do you balance art and life?

Sunday, July 17, 2011

The sincerest form of flattery perhaps? Copying vs Reference

As many of you probably know, there is a well known fantasy artist who recently was accused of pasting elements of several other peers works into her own and painting over them. This artist has since sold these images in her books. Now this news did interest me as I was a fan of her work, but it interests me even more as one of the artists she is now accused of stealing from. Whether her affirmation that she hand painted everything is true or not, it did get me thinking that perhaps this is a great time for healthy discussion about the use of "reference".

Now there is a large divide in the world of art. Those who happily use reference images they find online and those that shun the practice. In case you wondering, I put myself in the "happily uses online ref" category. Let me explain why.

I define reference as some sort of imagery, whether perceived naturally or through photos/videos, which is used to help draw/paint/sculpt a new piece of art. Referring could mean a quick glance to establish a similar mood, color combinations, or to brush up on creature anatomy, or it could be in depth copying with methods such as "gridding" where the image looked upon is copied almost exactly. (Tracing is a different method and involves copying and pasting, projecting, and painting over other imagery and is another discussion altogether).

Now the debate isn't so much about either method, but whether or not the person using said imagery happens to have permission to use copyrighted images for reference or tracing/painting over. The answer may surprise you. Under most copyright laws in the world, as long as the imagery created is a "derivative" work and not a copy, it can be used as reference but copying and pasting someone's work into your own without permission is a much more dangerous practice. However it is important to mention that what is allowed under law is not necessarily looked upon with acceptance in prominent art communities.

Now I had a professor in college who does commercial art for clients based in California including Disney and other big name movies. As someone in the field, he explained to us that art directors don't care if you don't know how to draw a turtle from memory or not, if you have a project due at the end of the week you had better have an anatomically correct rendering of a turtle. Say there are no turtles around- you had better humble yourself and find some online reference. So how do you use online reference and still feel good about yourself at the end of the day? I find the key element to all of this, is to what extent you refer to something.

Referring to me, means looking at something, learning from it, and making something new. It means creating something similar with different angles and perspective, lighting, or mood. It's okay to look at online reference, and even other artwork. For example, below I have two images, one a reference image I used to create the other.


Character by ~akizhao on deviantART


Elven Concept by `lithriel on deviantART

Now if you look the images are almost identical in mood and color combinations but they are entirely different in every other way. This type of referring is usually called inspiration but it is reference all the same.

The best way to use exact reference, as my professor explained, is to build up your own library of stock photos, or buy them online if you must refer to something directly. No amount of reasoning can save your hind end should you use something copyrighted and get your publisher sued.

Now there are some times when copying directly can be a good thing, like when doing master studies. However studies are used for learning and not for making money. Even fan art, which I have done my fare share of in the past, can be a fun release provided you give credit where credit is due and don't profit off of your work.

So where do you draw the line with reference?