Harmony of my heartsong, my beautiful dream, my level 99 heartbending warrior priestess; My only true love-
No date is too extravagant for you.
We would wander through the forest in mid-afternoon sun and pick fresh avocados from the fresh avocado bushes. We would take them to the precipice of Togetherness-Mountain and eat them there with a hint of lime as we watched the sun smoulder and wane on the distant horizon.
We would chase one another down the dim aisles of empty thrift stores, between beams of light catching glittering dust motes in their hazy dances, and buy pre-owned couches that reminded us of eachother.
We would play violins, even though neither of us can play violins, in the public squares of a-town-of-your-choosing with our hats out full of money that other people can take.
We would go to Toys R Us.
We would cuddle and watch Netflix.
We would dance. OH HOW WE WOULD DANCE.
If this sounds amenable to you, please come down out of your fame cloud and meet me at the mall foodcourt for sushi and scintillating conversation.
Ahhhh the managing of the websona!
A conundrum faced by all of us in this inernettiest of eras.
Web-presence is a pretty crazy thing. I am super prone to jump on board the cults of personality that crop up around internet personas, and to envy bitterly the perfect instagram lives of even my closest friends to the point where I realize I am jealous of their photos of a brunch that I ATTENDED.
My point is, things are not always what they seem around here, and it’s easy to get lost- there are no rules for art professionals on social media- everyone does it differently.
I would suggest two things, and they are…opposites:
First: You can never get bitten in the buttocks for something you never posted. Caution is always a good thing, and if you think it might not be a good idea, professionally, it might not be. You never know who’d reading, and your rant about how “FROZEN TOTALLY SUCKED BWUUUHHH” might lose you points with the interviewing team at Disney. Seriously. This stuff happens.
Keep it positive- you can never lose by being polite, cautious, or kind.
If you don’t have anything nice to tweet…maybe don’t tweet it.
Second: Take a risk with actual self expression. Honesty is amazing and vulnerability is powerful. Yes, this is in tension with point one- (and if need be, there is always ANONYMITY!) but nothing is more boring than the antiseptic hyperprofessional web presence of someone treading too lightly.
For instance: The fact that I dig on Jesus may lose me a few followers, or even put off potential employers. But it’s important to who I am, and those people probably wouldn’t have enjoyed working with me anyways. No loss.
Say what you mean, stand for something, show us who you are and don’t hide all the flaws, sketches, or struggle. I’ve personally found that the internet is a better (even meaningful and lifegiving) place to be when I am not trying to project a false image of pristine art-success at people. People hate that. I hate that. Ew.
Honesty is dangerous, that’s why it’s worth it.
Am I gonna rant every now and then about terrible, objectifying female character design? You bet I am. Do I work for a company that is guilty of a lot of that? You bet I do. Does that scare me a little? You bet it does!
But you pick your battles and try not to give anyone just cause to jump down your throat.
Think before you speak. But don’t let that shut you up entirely.
So be kind, cautious, but not so cautious that you miss out on the good stuff. Most of all be real.
And…try not to say mean things about people you hope will hire you. They’re reading.
Only ALL THE TIME
That’s a pretty good question- one of the biggest challenges of freelance is time management and I am…
Well, see, time management is more like NUMBERS and PRODUCTIVITY and not very much like COLORS or FEEEEELINGS, so I can’t say that I care for it terribly much.
But, like taxes, laundry, dental diligence and parallel parking- it’s one of those things that you have to grit your teeth and figure out if you’re going to be a “grown up”. I guess.
The truth is that more often than not, in professional art-making (of any kind, not just freelance) deadlines are tight, work is needed, and whatever-it-happens-to-be is perpetually DUE TOMORROW.
You may have heard the quote floating around somewhere- “Inspiration is for amateurs”. It’s a tough love kind of quote, but it’s true. Professionals can’t afford to wait on inspiration, or for every piece to be “exactly what you want it to be”.
One of the biggest parts of working as an artist is building up the ability to be “good enough” under pressure. There are moments when you have enough time, or just the right assignment, or the perfect inspired moment of euphoric artistic conception.
But sometimes they just need a blue lizard man with a sword, and they need it tonight. In those moments you just need to do it- doesn’t matter if it’s not mind-blowingly original- just look up some lizards and google some swords and get to it. With enough practice and a few tricks in your bag, you can solve just about anything on the fly to a good-enough level.
In concept art, illustration, and just about anything I’ve done, I’ve discovered that when it comes to process: function has to proceed form.
It has to work. If it’s a big, bruisery Ogreman or an illustration that tells the story of the aforementioned Ogreman- it needs to serve it’s purpose and meet all the criteria (clarity, readability, messaging/storytelling, etc) before it needs to look pretty.
I try to spend as much time as I can squeeze on the idea-part of the process- coming up with the plan, sketching, designing, thumbnailing- setting the ground work up. After that, the rendery finish is icing. If by the deadline the rendering isn’t all done, but the idea is working and ticks all the boxes, I wind up a lot less embarrassed in the meeting!
"Well you see the Lizardkin Swordsman would have a sword…if I had time…to draw…a sword. But as you can see, the individual scales on the inside of his forearm were really tricky, so-“
First and foremost do the job*- if you can help it, do it well.
*I will say this all with a caveat- whenever possible, don’t send/show something you hate just for the sake of showing something. Many a time have I padded out a PSD with some extra (awful) sketches just to show them I was busy and they have PICKED THOSE ONES. ALWAYS. WITHOUT FAIL.
You were warned.
That is to say: it can’t hurt to try. It’s not a given, most people are busy, many are stressed, and some aren’t interested in portfolios-
“NICK KOLE SAID YOU WERE A MAGICAL VENDING MACHINE OF ART JOBS, PLZ EMPLOY” isn’t going to win you a lot of friends…or win ME a lot of friends…so don’t say that.
BUT I can truthfully say that I have made 3 initial contacts over the booth at cons with Dark Horse, Disney Publishing, and the Flight anthology. We chatted, portfolio’d, exchanged business cards and eventually those each led to Actual Work. It was NUTS!
I realized that I just needed to take the first step and…ask (politely) o_o
It’s like that one pretty girl in highschool that you never asked out because rejection is PAAAAINFUL and it’s easier to live with the beautiful unfulfilled dream of what “could have been”, and you spent the whole of your early 20s pining and writing bad poetry in your sketchbook and…just me?
Maybe if I’d asked her out she might have said yes. Or if she’d said no, she could have told me it was because I smelled bad and wore silk dragon shirts- either way: Useful!
My point is, you can’t know if you don’t ask- and asking has resulted in some surprising, sometimes life-changing answers for me.
So get in there, you irresistible art pro Casanova, you.
Show them your moves.
A kind anon asked if I could tag up some of the Art related questions I answer so they’re all available as one- but I did a little more!
#Artvice will bring up all the art related questions I’ve answered around here :D
#nicholaskoleart will show you all muh art! (at least what’s on tumblr)
#EmmaStononymous will tell you the tale of a torrid romance sketched out across the feeds of tumblr one anon at a time. It all starts with a piece of Gwen Stacy fanart…
Now all at the bottom of the sidebar in my shiny new theme! :D
MUCH LOVE TO YOU ALL YOU AMAZING INTERNET HUMANS YOU
Seriously, you guys rock, hope these are helpful!
A conundrum to be sure, Emma!
First: ENCOURAGEMENT! But Ira Glass is better at that than I am , so I’m gonna turn this over to him for a second:
Making awkward work is normal! Keep making it, and don’t stop- I know it feels scrappy right now, but stopping is the only way to guarantee you never get better. Press on!
Practical advice: keep copying stuff you like, alongside drawing from life and studying photos. Eventually you’ll start to understand how it all works and you’ll have a visual vocabulary to draw from when you want to draws ideas of your own conceiving! Originality is overrated- make art that is sincere, stuff you really love- worry about if it is “original” later.
I will say, Emma Stone, it’s amazing to me that we struggle with such similar artistic questions. I mean sure- you’re a glamorous, famous, hilarious actress beloved the world over…and I am a beardy comic book illustrator, but still- I feel like we’re really CONNECTING here. Who knew being an actress and drawing-wizards-while-watching-netflix had so much in common!
Yours with unperishing love like a forever-flame,
Life is actually treating me well. Too well. Suspiciously well…something must be going on…
Character Design! Work! Breaking In!
I think one thing I’ve learned is that opportunities come and go at times you will never expect- the readiness is all. The most important part of getting a job in “The Industry” is first and foremost doing the work you want to do. When opportunity comes knocking, make sure it finds you hard at work making neat stuff. “Oh, why hello Opportunity!” you’ll say “I didn’t see you there- I was too busy working hard and producing art of HEARTBREAKING SINCERITY AND BEAUTY. Want to see?”
So build a portfolio of work that you love doing (because if you don’t love it, you WILL get hired for it, and you WILL quietly resent people for being made to reproduce work you hate).
Do your best work and then post it everywhere- build a web presence- use tumblr, deviantart, behance, twitter, instagram, facebook, and LinkedIn to share your work and put it in front of peoples eyeballs- that’s been a huge help to me in connecting with work. And be friendly while you do it! Write back to people, say please and thank you, curl your moustache and buy flowers for pretty ladies just because the sun is shining! Or…you know…whatever…
Being a nice person is a bigger part of getting hired than you realize. Your work is a HUGE deal, but nobody wants to work with a jerk. Don’t be a jerk.
Get brave, get social, go to cons- get yourself to San Diego Comic Con or NYCC or PAX or ANYTHING with a portfolio in hand, well dressed and cheery and ready to go up to anyone at any booth and ask if they’d be interested in taking a look. Worst case they say no. Medium case they give you great advice. Best case you get MAD HIRED YO. This was how I landed work with Disney and the Flight Anthology. No fooling.
Work hard, love deeply, don’t be a jerk, do be brave, do post your work, do go to cons, do grow a curly moustache.
Then: GET MONEY GET PAID.
It can be done. You can draw and get paid to do it. BELIEVE IN YOUR DREAMS.
Oh, Emma Stone-
I thought of you while I was answering that last Ask- I hope you find it useful!
I know you’re not much of a one for painting and drawing, and are just pretending you’re interested for my sake.
But if you DO want to try life-drawing some time, I know a great model who would love to pose for you (hint: IT’S ME)
I hope your Valentine’s Day was as incredible as mine was, just knowing you exist.
…and I hope you enjoyed the fleet of carrier pigeons I sent, with their messages of chocolate love.
Write back soon,
Thanks for the excellent questions!
I’ll start with a style- which is a question that comes up a lot with friends and students.
And actually, it might be more closely related to your questions about life-drawing and landscape study- bear with me!
Style is a tricky thing- I would be extremely wary of locking too closely into a “style” for your work.
It works differently for every person- I, personally, find that working in a consistent and predictable style bores me rather quickly- If you look around my galleries, I do rendered concept art of a certain kind, but I’ve also developed a different way of working in watercolor, and on cartoons, on art-deco inspired posters, with and without line etc.
A lot of what people call style is taste, or a tendency to repeat certain themes or colors or shapes again and again- it can be SO limiting to confine yourself to only one ‘style’. You will do this anyways, without trying- so why limit yourself?
Style like that can be copied or stolen- it is not so unique as you might imagine, to draw hands or faces in a certain way, and if you put too much artistic stock in that you may be disappointed when someone else “takes your thing” and does it better.
I predict that once you get into a ‘style’, you will spend a lot of time trying to get back out of it.
It seems to be the fate of many of my friends and peers- but it’s how you grow! You have to change in order to learn. Artists who have an unchanging, consistent style kind of baffle me. I don’t think I, personally, could be happy doing that.
If you sense that I have a “style”, it is not because I am trying to- hopefully it is because the combination of things I love and the way I just naturally draw have grouped together into something you recognize. It is also because I am comfortable with things a certain way and I have a “comfort zone”- in some ways that’s good and in some ways it’s a crutch.
But you will learn when you push or are pushed out of that comfort zone of style. Which is why (here it is!) Life-drawing and landscape studies are so awesome!
One of the only ways to break away from seeing things only in terms of ‘style’ is to get back in touch with the Real World. To draw joyfully and simply from life, and to let those studies and observations “increase your visual vocabularly”. You will learn new things about trees, fingers, armadillos and back muscles when you look around you- and those will feed your work. Your unique point of view will help shape those into a ‘style’ in a more natural way.
Rather than copying the way another artist draws hands, for instance, look at real hands! You’ll come back to even your cartooning with unique new observations about how hands work- and you’ll discover the way YOU draw hands along the way.
You will always have a point of view- a beautiful and unique perspective on the things you love and paint, a set of tastes and interests that are your own- but this art thing is not all about making yourself SO DIFFERENT for the sake of being different. Sometimes it’s amazing to learn, without the lense of ‘style’, what we have in common. So don’t be discouraged when your art looks like someone else’s- be excited that you’ve discovered someone with a similar point of view as you! Learn from them! But keep growing and keep changing- style should be fluid.
And, as a bonus, if you study from life and are able to adapt to a number of different styles- you will be a much more useful artist in the workforce, and a whole LOT more work will open up to you!
I’ll have to get to the color theory thing in another ask, since this is already a BOOK :p I hope this helps a little! It’s an ongoing struggle of mine, and I am realizing I need to get back out there and do some more life-drawing, like, NOW.