One Year In: What I’ve Learned

On Illustrating

In my last post, I talked about what I’d learned in my first year of writing for publication.  I learned a lot in that first year.  I’ve also learned a few things along the way in regards to illustrating.  It’s been an exciting time, and I’d like to share my top 6 tips for aspiring artists.  I hope they help.

  1. Digital art is freaking awesome!  As long as you have the right tools, that is.  Have you ever tried to draw with a mouse?  That’s an exercise in frustration.  With a good drawing tablet, it’s sublime.  My fabulous wife bought a Wacom tablet for me last Christmas… er, the one before the one that just passed.  This thing is great.  It’s pressure sensitive and pretty accurate.  With digital art, you get easy layers, undo, perfectly clean erases, and you never run out of materials.  I’m just giddy.  It’s a little slower than traditional art because you have to reconcile where your physical pen is with the one on screen (unless you have some major bucks), but beyond that digital art is just sublime.  I wrote about my initial experience in more depth here.
  2. Painting of a Macaw using ArtRage

    Painting of a Macaw using ArtRage (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

  3. Photoshop is not the end all be all.  Photoshop is the 800 lb. gorilla.  There’s probably nothing more powerful out there.  I know that at some point, I’m going to want to use it, so during breaks from writing and illustrating the 2nd Derrick and Max book (yes, I finished illustrating the 1st one!), I’m gradually learning Photoshop.  Until then, ArtRage is pretty sweet.  If you’re just making the move from paper, it’s way more intuitive than Photoshop (and way cheaper, too).  You owe it to yourself to check it out.  Think it’s only for amateurs?  Think again.
  4. This is a great time to learn how to draw.  The Internet is a fantastic classroom and source of reference material.  YouTube is filled with videos of people drawing, teaching technique, showing examples, etc.  It’s inspiring.  And if you need reference material, there is no shortage of it out there.  If you can use Google, you should be able to find anything you need.
  5. Don’t let anyone tell you that you’re doing it wrong or you’re not good enough.  There will always be critics.  If it makes you happy, then you’re doing it right.  If you like it, chances are there are like-minded individuals out there who will like it, too.  Love your art.  That’s the main thing.
  6. Trying something new can be fun.  Challenge yourself to try and learn.  Until I started illustrating Derrick the Dog, I’d never tried to make up cartoon characters.  I didn’t know how to draw something that would need to remain consistent over several images, things like head and body shapes, colors, backgrounds.  It was all a learning process.  And there are definitely some things in my Derrick the Dog drawings that I don’t love.  But overall, I’m pretty happy with them.  I learned a lot, and I know I’m just going to keep getting better.  Most importantly, I had fun along the way.
  7. Above all else, enjoy yourself.  Art is supposed to be fun.  Maybe if illustrating is your job and you work for someone else, you might have to do things that aren’t fun.  But for everybody else, it should be fun.  Remember the joy you had when you were a little kid with a piece of paper and a pencil or some crayons.  That’s the kind of fun you should have.  Don’t worry or beat yourself up because you don’t think it’s good enough.  Try again.  Practice your technique.  Study the technique of artists you admire.  If you keep it fun, you’ll keep at it, and before you know it, you’ll be better.  The more you draw, the better you’ll get.  And that’s a good feeling.

Well, those are my tips.  Make 2013 your year to try something new and take some chances.  Get inspired.  The Internet is the great teacher and equalizer for artists with something to say, whether your art is words, images, or something else.  I wish you all the best.

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