I wanted to write some back story on that last piece.
Last year I won a pretty large grant, and I decided I would use a portion of it to participate in the Illustration Master Class out in Amherst, MA. This is a weeklong course, where you study either painting, digital painting, or comics with world-class illustrators, painters, editors, writers. People who work in the industry and can give real world advice on what you're doing wrong with your brush as well as your interpersonal marketing.
There's about a hundred students. Class starts at around 9am every day and ends around ...honestly, between 2 and 3am every morning. Most of the instructors are up all night in the studio with us. There are lectures and breaks throughout the day, which are all amazing and all different kinds of guest lecturers come and speak. The instructors are each masters of their crafts, many of which are artists I've followed since I was a wee lad. And many of the students blur the line between student and instructor, they were so goddamned good. Most of them were coming from all over the world, some as far as Australia. Some students were not incredible artists, but still well-versed in the world of fantasy/sci-fi art.
Enter: me. A kid who happens to live an hour's drive away, very self-taught, a self-professed shitty painter with minimal experience with oils. I also don't work in that same realistic style that is really at the center of much of the teaching. But I'm not about resisting, I'm about learning. I decided I'd take the painting side of the class. I threw all of my acrylics in a box and headed over.
Well, acrylics were not taught in the painting side, there were instructors who worked with it, but they were multi-skill, so they were mostly teaching the computer-side. The instructors on paint-side were all about oil and watercolor. I went over and visited the digital side quite often. They were teaching painting in Photoshop and other raster
-based apps. I work in vector
, which apparently is quite unusual.
Even if I switched over to digital I still would have been a little bit lost. Yes, I'm admitting that I felt lost for most of the time. I had a couple of good studio-mates, Jason and Andrew who got me through, but I was sick for the first few days and just felt like I was drowning, completely inadequate to the task of being any kind of an artist.
During the week, each student is expected to pick a theme from a few pre-determined assignments: A spaceship landed on a snowy planet, a scene from Dune, and dragon/human figure. Almost everyone picked the dragon theme, because it was so open-ended. I decided that I wanted to do something different. What came into my head was the same old D&D covers that I remember from the 80's. They're good, but I've just never been attracted to them.
I like cyborgs, zombies, tough women and tits. Life gets easier once you figure out what your brain likes to make. For me those things are totally juvenile, and that's aok. Do I need anyone's approval? Not usually, no. But that week I was floating through a world of people who had never made that decision.
Cyborg dragon it is.
Here's a few thumbnails of what I was thinking of:
The sketches went over well with the other students and instructors, and I learned how to mount sketches to board and get going. Except that I had no basis in oil and I felt like I just floundered all week. No. I felt like I was hiding all week. I had one or two good days where I felt like I knew what I was doing, but I basically came home feeling like a failure. I'd learned a lot concept-wise, but the hands-on painting, I felt like I'd just warmed a very expensive seat for a week.
It went into the later-base. The hell with it. The 'painting' I made is buried in the back room somewhere. As soon as I got home, I was knee deep in client work and I applied a lot of the new principles to that work. That was good, but I've had a year where I've been feeling like I fucked it up.
Recently, I pulled out the sketches and color studies and looked at them with new eyes. Then I applied the image to my current working style. I changed the size scale of the piece to my current preference which is 1:3 vertical, or 3:1 horizontal. This piece uses much of the lighting and other concepts ideas that I learned that week, but it's still got a lot of me in it. I don't know that it's my best work, but I wanted to give it an honest go, learn the rules and see what works and what doesn't.
Below is the fruit of that effort. I can't imagine anyone has read this far, but thanks.