Tuesday, December 29, 2015

New Year, New Practice Method

Hi everyone. I've been busy taking Anthony Jones' class and later practicing everything I've learned from the experience.

I've put in place a new approach to my training, which is based on these principles:

1: Excellence: As Thomas J Watson, the founder of IBM,  once said, "The formula for success is simple: double your rate of failure".

My number 1 training principle is "double your rate of failure", i.e. increase workload and output and don't be concerned too much with the outcome quality as long as the work rate is maintained.

2. Speed: do not backtrack (draw over the same line twice), do not go back and correct.

I had to learn to speak and read Russian when I was around 8, since nobody spoke English in elementary school in Moscow, I city I ended up in after spending most of my childhood in New York and Montreal. The way I did it was by saying short words quickly and many times during the day. I was talking a lot of nonsense in the beginning, and the kids around me probably thought that I was an idiot. Also, they all had a good 7 year head start on me. But within a year I caught up with my peers and eventually my proficiency with the language got me into one of the country's top linguistic schools.

3. Efficiency: Time it! 30-10-5-3-1

Work for no more than 30 minutes at a time, then see what is slowing you down (thank you, Anthony Jones, for this amazing training method). Figure out how to improve performance and time it again. Test, Fail, Evaluate (rinse and repeat).

Once the process is smooth, decrease time available to complete the task (30 minutes, then do the same in 10 minutes, then 5, 3, 1). Yes, it will probably fall apart around 5, but do it anyway. Then give yourself 30 minutes again and do the same thing you did an hour ago, but 3 or 6 times faster.

The human brain is highly adaptable, use it well.

4. Sustainability: easy, easy, HARD, easy, easy, BOSS FIGHT!

If you ever played video games, I'm sure you've experienced being frustrated by clicking buttons for 3 straight hours and not getting anywhere, only to find yourself breezing through the difficult part a week or so later in no time at all, right?

I'm still perfecting this, but I decided to apply basic game design patterns to my art training and the enjoyment and productivity have increased significantly.

5. Balance: 52 -17 or 25-5

Not long ago I read an article about workplace productivity. A major research institution did a study and found out that human beings are most productive when they alternate working at full focus with periods of complete rest (as in walking away from the desk and doing something completely unrelated to any work, or even not doing anything at all).

So either 52 minutes of work and 17 minutes of rest or 25 minutes of very intense work and 5 minutes of rest.

Also, I've committed to a sketch-a-day personal challenge. I started with studies of reference photographs and eventually switched to making my own designs. The rule is that I will make a 30 minute sketch daily (or no more than an hour, hour and a half daily design). Here are a few recent designs.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Art is already there

For years I've been trying to put into words what I've been aiming to accomplish.

This morning, I was watching Miroslav Grosser talk about singing in overtones when he said:

"you don't need to produce anything, it's already there".

That's the phrase I've been looking for. Honest and beautiful art is not and can not be artificial, it's not technique or special knowledge. It's already there. Discovering it within and learning how to make it come up to the surface has apparently been my goal all along.

It must be a good thing, I've been focusing on practice instead of creating finished pieces. There appears to be no way to learn what lies in the heart except through bringing out everything and anything that comes out.

I'm happy to re-affirm this to myself as I am now aware that my studies were intentionally and unintentionally focused on reaching a goal I couldn't yet put into words.

And since you were kind enough to endure my ramblings, I'd like to share a few studies for my Light and Color Schoolism class with you.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Diffused light study for schoolism class

I finally signed up for the Schoolism class I've been trying to get into for a few years now: Painting with Light and Color with Dice Tsutsumi and Robert Kondo. I took the non-feedback version. I love it. I wish I had the time and money to get into the instructor-led one, but I'm thrilled with all the information I'm getting.

First week is studies in diffused light. I'm supposed to produce 5 painting. Here's the first one and the process: composition, value, final

Saturday, August 8, 2015

How to become a good artist. How to improve without too much pain.

Ever heard of practice, practice, practice? I did. But practice what and how? And how do I make sure that what I'm practicing is actually making me a better artist?

I've been dreaming of making beautiful art for years, inspired by amazing modern and classical works. I tried and failed and tried again. The progress I was making, if any, was negligible. And I couldn't understand why my art was not getting better.

Most things are relatively easy to learn. You read the instructions, you follow the instructions, and if you do both things well, then relatively quickly you become proficient at whatever it is that you are doing (math, reading, writing, driving, languages, etc).

Why doesn't learning to draw or paint work this way?

It does. But not as quickly. Unless the artist has amazing natural talent, one usually doesn't get immediate success or instant gratification. In fact, the student often gets rewarded with frustration instead of a sense of accomplishment after all the hard work.

So what are we doing wrong? Are we missing something important?

Yes and no. It's quite common that we're missing the correct mindset. Anyone who expects instant gratification from artistic effort is setting themselves up for disappointment and pain.

The secret to becoming a proficient and capable artist is in the correct practice routine.

Disregard the frustration, because it will always be there (at least that's what they tell me, and I believe them) and focus instead on following a routine or a training schedule, day after day, week after week. Art training needs to become a habit. But it will only become a habit if the training is enjoyable or gratifying. In a few months, or a few years, the accumulated skill will start coming through. Things which seemed impossible will suddenly become much more agreeable and less challenging to produce.

So what kind of practice routine gets us there?

Although I figured out a few things along the way, it's not until I saw Jazza's new youtube video, that I realize the success in learning art is as much hard work as it is following a smart training plan. I knew about the hard work part, but I couldn't figure out how to diversify my practice. Thanks to Jazza, we now have a clear and practical presentation on this topic:

Here's the summary of Jazza's video plus a few comments and notes which I felt like adding:

4 methods of training:

1. Innate - things you do on a regular basis if art is your job

2. Inspired - art that inspires you. Things you want to make studies of (copies of your favorite art), trying to get the look and feel that you enjoy. Copying is not a sin. Many of the things we learn, we learn by copying others. Claiming that a copy is your own original work is, or course, a no-no. Doing studies (copies) is like singing in the shower. It can be fun, but probably doesn't need an audience.

3. Developmental - the bread and butter of success. Drills, drills, drills. When your hands hurt, take some aspirin and do more drills. Or take a break. The latter is probably smarter.

4. All of the above 3 combined

6 types of developmental exercises:

1. Art study. Pick a picture you would like to study (copy). Draw it and redraw it over and over. Give yourself less time to draw it with each repetition. Good idea to use a timer for this one.

2. Life drawing. Take anything you see, from a human model to an old shoe, and put it on paper. Don't try to be "perfect" (there's no such thing). Do try to make several drawings from different angles in one session. If it looks like a mess, don't worry. You did the work. You turned 3D into 2D using the skills you have at this time. That was your goal. Creating a gallery-ready masterpiece was not the purpose of this work. Making you or your friends go "Wow!" was not the purpose either. Don't make it harder than it already is.

3. Tutorial marathon. Pick a tutorial, preferably something inspiring and fun,  and do it over and over. Or pick a bunch of tutorials and do all of them in one session. Mix and match.

4. Deconstruction (simplify). Take complex scenes (photos, movie frames, art from your favorite artists) and reduce them to the most simple and basic shapes, or values, or colors (or all of the above).

5. Construction (fill in the blanks). Take simple representations of things: silhouettes or pictures of mannequins, or even random shapes.  Fill these blank shapes with enough detail to clarify and describe the actual object (face, car, human, animal, rock, etc)

6. Practice based on your flaws. Whatever you are good at, you will naturally get better as long as you keep doing what you are doing. That's the easy part. Finding what gives you the most trouble (or mild discomfort) and patiently drawing or painting these subjects  will eventually make the problem disappear. It will either "click" or gently become a natural part of your abilities. It will also become part of your comfort zone. Make sure you always find the time to work just outside of your comfort zone, but don't push too far. Practicing art does not have to be a painful experience. We want to continue working and improving, not quitting and starting over, right?

Happy art training!

Huge thanks to Jazza. The man is a brilliant artist and an excellent teacher.

Friday, May 15, 2015

The Man in The Iron Mask cover illustration process

Just finished this "vicomte de bragelonne" cover for Scott M. Fischer's class. Here's the process from concept to completion.

Thursday, April 30, 2015

Witch and Golem Final

This is the most complex piece I've done so far. Scott Fischer guided me through  the whole process. It was an amazing learning experience.

Here are a few early compositional studies I did for the piece.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Design process for Witch and Golem

Been working on an image for Scott Fischer's illustration class.

I love looking at other artists' sketchbooks, so I decided to put together a design process diagrams for my upcoming "Witch and Golem" piece. I hope to release the final within a few weeks.

Monday, March 16, 2015

Stuff from February - March 2015

Here are some of the random pieces I did for my classes and on my own from the middle of February to the middle of March: anatomy studies with Mike Mattesi, freehand sketches, experimenting with Alchemy and Amazon warrior assignment for Scott Fischer's class.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Monday, February 23, 2015

Force Anatomy Studies

Was fortunate to get into Mike Mattesi's Force Anatomy class at the very last minute. Learning a lot and enjoying the assignments. Last week was back muscles.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Class with Scott Fischer: first assignment

Completed my first assignment for Scott Fischer's illustration class. This one was very challenging on many levels ( it was a creative self-portrait assignment ).