Today is the first day of Inktober, something I’ve been wanting to do for a couple years now. Inktober is a drawing challenge to create one ink drawing a day throughout the month of October. It was started in 2009 by Jake Parker, an artist whom I admire and respect.
My current challenge to myself is to hone my inking skills while drawing more frequently and embracing the position of “Finished, not Perfect”. I need more finished drawings in my life, and less perfection.
I will be posting an inked drawing every day this month. I do not promise perfection. In fact, I know some of these drawings may be downright crappy. But I promise to show up. And if you’re an artist (or an aspiring artist), I encourage you to show up to. Just click on the Inktober logo above to learn how.
With that, I’m grabbing my sketchbook and uncapping my inking pens. Inktober, here I come!
A Moment to Remember: Working between illustration masters Dan Dos Santos and Scott Fischer (Photo credit Joseph Weinreb)
While I was at the Illustration Master Class in Boston, I picked up oil painting again. (Well, I actually oil painted in college, but let’s just say that oil paint and I parted on bad terms). Yet after studying fantastic artists like Rebecca Leveille Guay and Dan Dos Santos, it began to dawn on me that there were more than one way to use oil paints (shocker! I know…)
So before the week at IMC was out, I was determined to crack open my tubes of oil and get some paint on my hands. After all, I was surrounded by oil painters—was this not the best place to give oils a second chance?
After watching Dan Dos Santos’ painting demo, I asked him for some pointers and suggestions for an oil study I had started. I showed him the simple sketch I did, loosely based off of a bad reference photo I found online.Half-expecting the “just keep trying” speech that some people give, I was surprised when Dan kindly offered to help walk me through the steps. But first he reminded me that if I’m painting realistically, I’ll have to have proper lighting for accurate referencing. (By the way, did I mention that I’m terribly lazy at acquiring good reference shots? “I can just figure it out in my head…” always seems to be my lame excuse.) But I was there to learn, so I grabbed a couple friends to help take a photo of my face with better lighting. Using the lighting reference shot, I shaded my sketch and showed it to Dan.He gave a couple suggestions (move the eye back a bit and broaden the neck slightly—it’s amazing what other people see in your drawing that you don’t), then instructed the next step of spray fixing the pencil sketch, and then toning it with a couple light layers of burnt sienna acrylic washes.Next, Dan showed how to seal the acrylics and create a matte base for the oil paints by covering the piece with a couple light coats of matte medium mixed with molding paste (spelled like “molding”, yet pronounced like “modeling” pasted. Why? One of the mysteries that the world will never know…)
After the matte medium/modelingmeddling molding paste mixture dried, it was time for the main stage production: oil paint! I felt my heart beating fast as I hefted my box of archived oil paints to the table where Dan was sitting, nervous of totally botching up this beautiful medium in the presence of so many professional oil painters. But Dan was ever gracious and helpful as he arranged a basic limited palette with which I could start, and showed how to lay down the first base layers.
Next, Dan had me mix three different swatches of skin tone, and lay them in while heavily referencing my lighting photograph, all the while being careful to not muddy the shadows that I had previously put down.
Things started to blend together as I continued to paint, and Dan demonstrated a few handy tricks when it came to facial features.
Also, it is essential to maintain proper nutrition throughout long bouts of painting…
“The Passing of the Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup” Recreated in the style of the Sistine Chapel (Courtesy of Christine Rhee)
But eventually after all the focusing, hard work, (and peanut butter cups), it all was worth it. I was pleased with my first oil study that I had done in over seven years.
I still have a lot of practice to do, but it’s a start. Thanks Dan for the crash course!
As a graduate fresh out of college, what are you expected to do? Get a job. Harder said than done, right? And what’s even harder—a grad art student holding her diploma and wondering what the heck she was supposed to do next in life.
Thus how I found myself the summer of 2011—living in a new state with my husband and somehow expected to do something with my degree. I knew that by glancing at my portfolio I was nowhere near “making a living” off of art. So for the next several years (and by the grace of my benevolent husband—incredible art supporter and breadwinner of the family), I built my portfolio one image at a time. The conversations with people would typically go:
Friend: “Oh, you’re an artist? What do you do?”
Me: “Well, I’m currently building my portfolio…”
…is what I said for at least 4 years. Riveting, right? Practice makes perfection. A looooooooot of practice.
As much as I worked on my portfolio, I knew I was still missing out on critical knowledge that I had been unable to cull from undergrad. Basic knowledge like functioning as a working artist in the professional world, or advanced techniques in the mediums like oil and watercolors. (I kid you not…taught myself watercolors through trial and error. I scare myself thinking of all the terrible habits I’ve formed without proper training.) Not to fault undergrad—there is only so much time in college to teach the everything, and some things just get missed. As a fantasy illustrator, I wasn’t sure what to pursue next. I knew I wasn’t at the level to illustrate professionally, and I wasn’t sure if grad school was worth the money, (plus at the time we were moving so frequently that I couldn’t settle on a program before we’d move again.) I was very much on my own. The little art community I had tended to be a few friends who dabbled in art, but most of whom were not pursuing it professionally. I worked alone mostly—practicing and teaching myself–half of the time not knowing what I was doing.
It wasn’t until sometime around 2013 that I discovered the Illustration Master Course. I had never heard of anything like it. One hundred aspiring and professional illustrators convene at Amherst College for one week of guidance and tutelage by some of the top world-renowned fantasy artists. One week to work in-studio with these professional artists; to watch them paint and pepper them with all the questions you’ve ever had about technique, application, and life as a working artist, and then directly apply what you’ve learned to your own painting right there in the studio. The best way to learn is to observe another artist directly—something I didn’t have since undergrad. I knew that this was one program I had to do, and registered for the program in Fall 2015.
Eight months later, on the eve of my departure for IMC, I found myself stuffing art supplies into my suitcase and figuring out how to fit three large artboards in a protective portfolio case. All those years of waiting led up to this week, and suddenly I realized how I didn’t know jack squat about what I was doing. Were my skills good enough? Am I artistically ready for the information that will be thrown my way, or will it be wasted? The last several years I spent running on artistic fumes, and I was scraping the bottom of my creative well. And if I wasn’t already feeling nervous enough, I was conveniently experiencing one of the biggest art blocks I’ve had. Perfect. Just in time for my blank sheet of paper to be critiqued by Boris Vallejo. Those nightmares of standing naked in front of a crowd never felt any realer than that moment. But at the same time, I felt a kind of wonder—a kind of magic beginning to brew in the air. The excited chatter from other students online spun wonderful tales of IMCs long past. Of glorious memories and of fabled artists to tread those sacred halls. As I hefted my luggage to the airport, I felt much like Mister Potter as he embarked to Hogwarts for the first time.
When I greeted my peers on the beautiful grounds of Amherst College, a certain magic began to fill the air. Artists—like me—interested in the subjects I’m interested. Griping about the struggles of watercolors, and squealing over the latest and greatest pen tablets. For the first time, I could talk with a fellow artist about the best way to paint a dragon, or the pros and cons of pursuing web comics. And that wasn’t even the first day! I went to bed feeling excited, though experience has taught be to be wary and still remained doubtful that things could get much better than that.
I’ve never been more wrong in my life.
Fayerweather Hall (aka: Hogwarts for Artists)
IMC completely took me by storm. From the moment I stepped into Fayerweather Hall, I was swept up into a world that I never knew existed. All kinds of artists and illustrators working on their projects–oil painters, Photoshop wizards, gauche gurus–with a diversity of inspirations and stories in their heads. All with different but relatable artistic journeys.
And then of course there was the faculty (or should I say Headmasters?) People whom you’ve read about, awed over, and whose art you’ve totally fangirled over—right THERE. In the flesh! Actual people who you come to find out are also humans too who joke, smile, and enjoy a meal with you in the dining area. Real people who also possess the impossible magic of raising up imaginative worlds from a humble sheet of hotpress watercolor paper. Truly, these people are wizards in their own right.
Sam Weber and Donato Giancola during a critique.
Dan DosSantos painting demo
Donato Giancola at his easel
Every day was a force of nature. The amount of information and inspiration was so overwhelming—like going to take a sip from a water fountain and getting a firehose in the face instead. Value, composition, color, movement, mediums, lighting, reference, and all kinds of valuable artistic knowledge kept coursing our way. We’d bounce from lectures on value and composition, to an oil painting demo by the talented Greg Manchess.
Greg Manchess demo
Greg Manchess talks oil painting
And somewhere in the midst of it, we found time to apply some of our newfound knowledge to our own masterpieces…
Let’s just say it’s a work in progress…
Before we knew it, Sunday was upon us. Time to pack up, sign sketch books, and get one last hug in before saying sayonara.
Todd Lockwood–dragon master extraordinaire.
Mike Mignola–the original creator of Hellboy comics (and very nice guy).
Greg Manchess–gracing my sketchbook with a ninja polar bear.
I can say in full confidence that this was one of the most memorable weeks of my life. It exceeded my expectations in every way, and I can’t say that about everything. There was a mixture of sadness and excitement as we all parted ways—partly wishing to remain in the creative environment forever, but also looking forward to returning to our own studios to make spread some magic into our own corners of the world. I leave feeling refreshed, inspired, and at home in my new-found art family. Once a part of IMC, always a part of IMC. And you know, there’s always ‘next year’…. 😉
Thanks for reading!
Hungry for more info on IMC? Check out their website at http://www.artimc.org/
Also, be sure to watch this awesome video about our week at IMC! (featuring IMC 2016 special guest Marc Scheff and IMC 2016 attendees Priscilla Kim and Tawny Fritz),
Hey friends! I’m finally grabbing a second to upload photos from the amazing Tidewater Comic Con! This was my first year participating, and I had a blast! I sold a good number of prints and received a lot of positive response.
Note to Self: buy some banners to cover up the back side of other’s booths. Wheeeeee cardboard!
I’m starting to run out of space to put prints…
“Hero of Time” (original watercolor)
We saw R2D2…
…and a crazy-amazing Decepticon!
Our good friend Kat happened to also be visiting us that day, so we had the privilege of showing her around her first comic con! (Note our awesome matching Star Wars shirts!)
And of course, my husband Cody is always incredibly supportive of all my crazy artistic endeavors. 🙂
And there were these two really fun and silly girls that kept me company throughout the con. They even gave me an adorable crochet Baby Groot!
I had a fantastic time—thank you for all my friends who came out to see me! 🙂
Alright. As if this spring hasn’t been insanely busy already, I have ONE LAST thing on my docket before I get a bit of a break. This “thing” is something I’ve been waiting to do for about three years now. It’s called the Illustration Master Class, and it’s a week-long intensive art course in Massachusetts. This is something I am SUPER EXCITED for. Because this course is unlike any other: a bunch of artists get together for a week of fantasy and sci-fi illustration mayhem. We will have the unique opportunity to socialize with professional illustrators in this field, watch them as they paint, ask questions, receive mentorship, explore new mediums and techniques, network with other artists, and generally be on an incredible creative high (or so I’m told). As I’ve been prepping for this trip, I feel a little like Mister Potter here as he’s ready to embark to Hogwarts.
Except we’ll have oil paint instead of owls, and paintbrushes instead of wands. But with our imagination, we can go anywhere we want. Even to Hogwarts. 😉
All I know is that it’s going to be a magical experience, and I’m looking forward to meeting my peers and seeing where my artistic journey will take me next. See you guys on the flip side!
Just dropping in for a quick update to say I had a really amazing time at RavenCon last weekend! Met a lot of cool people and made new friends and contacts. This was my first time hosting a booth at an artist alley and felt that it went very well. My booth received a positive response and sold lots of cats, dragons, and turtles.
My table! 🙂
Lots of cats and dragons…
It’s not every day you get photobombed by a man in a kilt. :P
The best part was being able to share my love of illustration to others and seeing people getting excited about my art. Hours and hours of working alone in my studio is totally worth it to see a little girl’s face light up with delight at the sight of a dragon. 🙂
Thank you for those of you who came out to see me! And a huge thanks to my amazing hubby for supporting me in my art endeavors. Love you babe! 🙂
And be sure to stop by Tidewater Comic Con coming up May 21-22, where I will be hosting another table. My table will be A409, and I will be selling my usual wares. Come by and say hi!
That about wraps it up for now. Time for me to hit the studio and start drawing–see you at the Tidewater Comic Con! 🙂
Virginia Beach Conference Center
If you’re looking for something fun to do this weekend, come check out RAVENCON!
Friday April 29 – Sunday May 1, 2016 Doubletree by Hilton Hotel, Williamsburg, VA There will be panels, workshops, vendors, costume competitions, concerts and more–PLUS I will be selling prints in the RavenCon Artist Alley.
Yes, ART PRINTS! Featuring fantasy, cats, Japanese culture, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, dragons, and more!
Check out the RavenCon website for more information on tickets, hours, and con activities.
It’s going to be a really fun weekend, and I hope to see you out there! 🙂
After a long hiatus, a long winter, and an even longer artist’s block, I’m finally blowing the dust off my blog page and giving it a fresh spring makeover. *cracks knuckles* So let’s do this!
First of all, thank you to everyone who is reading this. That means that you have taken the time out of your day to read my update. That also means that you’re still somewhat interested in my art happenings. You’re invested, and I appreciate that. So a big thank you and welcome to my updated and renovated website!
A quite update on the last six months…
2015. To be completely honest, a rather challenging year. From picking up and moving our life across the world, my incredible husband and I have slowly been putting roots down in our new home. It’s been a long time coming, but we’ve started getting into a new rhythm of life. We’ve met some wonderful people, got plugged into the community, and have nested well into our lovely new home. The thing with moving and adjusting to a new place is that it takes time. It’s intriguing to see the seasons of life echoed through the growing seasons of plants. Through life’s hard season—the “winter” season—I found myself in a place of waiting and rest, just like how a bulb hibernates in the winter ground. Though as time progresses, a little bit of green growth pokes through the cold, frosty ground…and one day you find yourself in a new, warmer season of life. It’s a beautiful, hopeful image.
A while back some of you may remember that I started the 52-Week Challenge. This project began in January of 2015 and challenged illustrators to post a weekly picture according to specific theme. By the end of the year, I planned on having a total of 52 illustrations, better artist skills, and a broader portfolio.
I got as far as summer, and never finished.
I found myself falling behind and growing frustrated with my inability to keep up, and eventually halted altogether. But now as I reflect back on the challenge, I have learned a few things:
First of all, I started the challenge in the middle of our major international move. That by itself ate up any free time I had, not to mention it consumed most of my creative and emotional energy. More importantly, I found that I attempted to create a beautiful, fully-rendered color image complete with backgrounds—EVERY WEEK. FOR 52 WEEKS. My ambitions were a wee bit high. Contrast this to my Alphabook challenge, which was only 26 weeks long and focused more on spot illustrations of single characters, sans backgrounds. And unlike the 52-Week Challenge (which requested people to submit only finished pieces of art), Alphabooks encouraged people to submit really whatever they had, even if it was a rough sketch. When I was doing the Alphabooks challenge, I felt alright posting the occasional crappy sketch—knowing that it was okay and I’d do better next week. With the 52-Week Challenge, I felt pressured to make every piece my magnum opus, and therefore when I had a bad illustration I felt it reflected poorly on me as an artist.
All this to say: I learned a lot from doing the 52-Week Challenge. Is it a bad challenge? Absolutely not! It’s a fantastic way to hone your creative skills and rub shoulders with other artists. I would highly recommend it. What I WOULDN’T recommend is having unrealistic expectations and instead know your limits. But hey—that’s why we challenge ourselves in the first place. That’s how we learn and grow.
But now, let’s talk about more fun things:
As you can see, I’ve given my website a much-needed makeover. Take a moment to check out the galleries, which have some new images and surprises in them. (new art! YAY!) Also, I have created a new Facebook page for my art ongoings. I plan on using my Facebook Page to more frequently post quick updates, add photos of works in progress, and post any art-related content. Check it out, and don’t forget to “Like” it! 🙂
In April, I will be participating in my first convention ever! If you’re in the DC area, come check out RavenCon. I am super stoked to be hosting a table in artist alley.
And in May, I will be hosting another artist alley table at the Tidewater Comic Con!
Keep posted for more updates!
Alright, I can hear you saying, “Okay Jess, this is great…but what about your art? What’s are you working on now? What’s next?”
One thing about me is that I’m pretty good at cranking out art, but pretty terrible at actually posting it. So you’ll be happy to know that I have several folders packed FULL of sketches, characters, and illustrations just waiting to make their debut. My challenge to myself is to spend more time sharing my artwork with you and giving you sneak peaks at my upcoming projects. Projects that may involve a dragon…
A cat with the “gift” of gardening…
And maybe a space angel…
Oh yes, get ready. Because I am SO excited to introduce you to some friends of mine. I promise you will love them. 🙂
I hope this gets you a little excited for what’s to come. Thank you all for sticking with me through my artistic (and life) journey. As I stand on the brink of what I consider a new year, I survey a hopeful and bright future laid out before me. I’ll leave you with an image and a quote from Guster’s song “Parachute“:
But how much strength does it take For exploration For split decision? Or are you stronger to remain?
Opened the door Knew what was me I finally realized Parachute over me
Can you remember the first thing that inspired your imagination? Typically it’s something from a book, or a movie, or (for my generation) a video game. Something so impressionable that you still can recall your thrill and excitement as you followed the storyline and characters. How about we take a trip back to 1992 for a moment, shall we?
Okay, I’m going to do something that is really going to date me. 1992 was preschool for me. Yes, like handpaint-and-apple-juice preschool. I can already hear half of you groaning and rolling your eyes at my juvenescence (and for the other half, I admit that I’m starting to sweat when I realize that you weren’t even born at least a decade afterwards—that’s just scary.) With that aside, here I was—young, little impressionable and imaginative Jessica running around in my pink jacket. (Yes, I went through a fleeting phase where pink was my favorite color. But I later came to my senses and realized that green was far superior. You’ll see why in a moment.)
Teeny-tiny Jessica with her best friend Anna in all their preschool glory.
I can’t remember when or how, but somehow I was exposed to our favorite lean, green, pizza-eating ninja team—Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles! (in a half shell!) It was the old 1987 show that kicked off the whole TMNT cartoon phenomenon. I remember being so enraptured and intrigued with them to the point that several other preschool boys and I would play-pretend TMNT. I of course claimed April (duh!), and we would go on all sorts of ninja adventures together. Ahh, childhood is the best.
TMNT 1987–Shell-shocked pizza kings!
Fast-forward 20 years later. Summer 2012. I had long since forgotten TMNT—it always held a special place in my heart, but I never kept up with it. One Saturday morning in summer, Cody and I plopped down on the couch and flipped on the TV to see the faces of Leonardo, Donatello, Raphael, and Michelangelo on the screen. But…different. More CGish. It was the 2012 reboot of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and it was all done with computer generation. I was skeptical—I tend to be very picky about my CG animation, as much of it is done poorly. We were about to skip to the next channel, but somehow my thumb never made it to the ‘channel up’ button. Somehow—amazingly—we were fixated. The dialogue, the action sequences, the humor, and even the aesthetics had us glued. And then I felt it again. Bubbling up inside me was some long-lost childhood excitement. For a moment I felt like a little girl sitting on the couch again; feet too short to reach the floor, yet riveted with the story and excitement of everyone’s favorite ninja turtles kicking butt and taking names.
And what’s not to love about TMNT? The creators of the 2012 reboot did a fantastic job. Don’t tell me you’re not head-bobbing to the beat of the 2012 intro.
So in honor of our masked mutants, I decided to practice my digital skills and have some nonsensical fun. Bright colors, bold outlines, and total liberation from correct anatomy and realistic proportions. I had so much fun with these portraits. I hope you enjoy them as much as I do!
Leonardo (“The Leader”)
This dual sword-wielding ninja leader is always spearheading the attack and leading his team into the thick of battle. His tactical combat style is both deadly and precise, and he always manages to keep a cool head even when the fighting gets hot.
Donatello (“The Brains”)
The brilliant-minded Donatello is the tech-and-mech genius of the crew. With his abilities to craft gadgets and tinker with biochemistry, he is virtually capable at creating anything the crew needs. Add to that his wicked bo staff skills, and the bad guys have one formidable opponent!
Raphael (“The Brawn”)
This hot-headed fighter is like an unstoppable train once he gets going. His intensity in battle and thirst to take down the bad guys makes him a force to be reckoned with. And while he may not admit it, he cares deeply for his brothers. Though it won’t stop him from giving them a hard time every now and then.
Michelangelo (“The Jokester”)
Aliens, foot clan, or even mutant monsters never seem to bring this happy-go-lucky jokester down. With a grin on his face and a trick up his sleeve, Michelangelo is always ready for fun—especially if it involves pizza. But don’t be fooled by his juvenile demeanor, because he’ll be spinning his nunchucks and taking out enemies faster than you can say “BOOYAKASHA!”
So what are you waiting for? Grab a slice of your favorite pizza and hop on the couch for an episode of TMNT. Doesn’t matter if you’re four or forty—you’ll never be too young (or too old) to be a fan of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles! 🙂
Happy Friday everyone! (Or Saturday, for our Japan friends. 🙂 ) Giving you a boost to what is hopefully an already good day–and if it isn’t, I hope this makes it better! I present to you: the next three art pieces in the 52-Week Illustration Challenge (a weekly themed drawing challenge that you can find here on Facebook).
Week 16: Structure
This is one of the last pieces I did while I was in Japan, and therefore special to me. I’m not sure if it is a farewell to the memories I’ve made there, or a greeting to the new adventures and stories that Japan has seeded into my mind. No doubt a bit of both, and hopefully more of the latter.
Who is this girl? Where is she, and what is she doing?
I am sure we will see more of her…
(Easy Paint Tool Sai, Photoshop; done while listening to SimCity 4 soundtrack, specifically the songs “Shape Shifter” and “New Terrain”)
Week 17: Fluffy
A cute, fluffy little ewok for your enjoyment. : )