Saturday, November 7, 2020

Questions from Nicholas

Nicholas, an art student, asks:
"You spend a lot of time doing demos and tutorials on your blog and other platforms such as Instagram and YouTube. I greatly admire how you are willing to give away so many techniques for free. What made you decide to share all this information with the world rather than teaching at a university?"

Around 2007 I started sharing online by downloading info about painting onto this blog. I was recording those art thoughts down in notebooks and on cassette tapes before the Internet happened, and I realized I could do a digital version of it that other artists could discover. The comments and questions stimulated further thought. 

When I was an art student, this stuff was like secret knowledge because they weren't teaching it in the art schools. You had to dig in old, obscure books and libraries to find it. To an extent I still feel that a lot of the information we're talking about on the blog and other socials is not generally taught. 

I lectured at about 40 different art schools between 2007 and 2013. It was exciting to meet kindred spirits among art teachers and students during those visits. It was also interesting to see how art training in many places has really gotten better. However, I didn't want to teach in a university setting, because getting a particular curriculum approved in an actual art department is a very political process with a lot of battles that I wouldn't want to waste my time fighting. Before the pandemic, students had a lot of good choices in real art schools. Now I don't know what the options are for prospective students. You tell me! 

Once I figured out how to produce video for YouTube and Instagram, I realized that there was a real opportunity. The tools and methods are easily accessible. I could share the experience of painting as the adventure that it really is. Most of my content is free, but I enjoy producing the in-depth videos for Gumroad downloads. 

Lately I'm focusing on filming not only the demos but also the theory behind them and practical exercises that learners can actually do and then share with each other in online communities. I'm grateful to my followers for supporting my work and learning along with me.  

One of my private sketchbooks -- mostly unpublished -- is called "Art by Committee."
When I was painting paperback covers for fantasy novels in the 1980s, there were stacks of paper manuscripts cluttering up my studio. I would snip out an excerpt from a random manuscript, tape it into my big sketchbook and bring it to a cheap restaurant where my art buddies and I would sit around and use those prompts as sketching inspiration.

Nicholas continues: 
"The biggest lesson I have learned studying illustration is the importance of drawing everything around us, all the time. I try to draw in my free time as much as I can, but I know that for myself and many of my peers it can be difficult to juggle school projects with personal projects. How do you manage to not get burned out with all the work that you do?"

Sounds like there are two issues here: time management and motivation. You can structure your time by carving your day into chunks and making room for your own projects. I built an animation stand in my apartment in art school, and when I was in university before that, I made cast latex masks in my spare time.

Ideally you should be able to weave your personal projects and school assignments together. When your teacher gives you an assignment that you're not too thrilled about, talk to them and see if you can bend the terms of the assignment to include challenges that you wanted to do for yourself.  

Being burned out has never been an issue for me. I always had my own sketchbook going when I was in art school or when I was working in an animation studio, and I've always been happiest when I've been doing art. I think the best thing about my art school days was that I was always in the company of other art students my age who liked to goof off by drawing crazy cartoons and painting. 

I recommend hanging around all kinds of artists, both imaginative artists like animators and cartoonists, and observational artists, like atelier people, plein air painters, and urban sketchers. Be sure to have sketchbooks that are crazy and unhinged and politically incorrect, where you don't have to worry about how people will react to what you do. 

The blessing of our current era is that any artist or writer can publish for free and develop an audience with no filter. But the curse is that we must do our creative work with the awareness of an unseen and unseeable audience watching over our shoulders all the time and judging everything we do. 


Steve Gilzow said...

A generous, wise reply with an arresting image. World Con 88? Love the rowboat and rooftop. We are all beneficiaries of your institution-free, personally fulfilling journey. As always, thanks.

CerverGirl said...

I second what Steve said so well.
I’m enjoying the sketchbook work that lends itself to daily practice without reservation, and the availability of online courses that have information I desire without obligation of travel time or expense right now.

CForester said...

Your last sentence is so profoundly true. The creative mind can go beyond others judgement.

Susan Krzywicki said...

Giving and sharing - you do it so well.

Chattopadhyay said...

I find that do a lot of plein air painting in oil. What medium do you use to speed up drying of oil paint while working outdoors?