Why you should get out of your art bubble

Last week we wrote about why it’s good to be an art hermit and look at less art. This week is an argument for the opposite. Why it’s good to look at other artists’ work. Self reflection in solitude is helpful but if you want a career it’s not just about you. Even if you’re a hobbyist, if you share your work with others they won’t respond well if they don’t relate to it.

bouguereau
Bouguereau Study by Taisa

 

If you want a career of art it’s important to know what’s going on in the market. Family and friends will give compliments because they care, so it’s important be objective about what skill is required. Looking at other art in your niche allows you to compare skills to other artists and get an idea of what’s required.  Magazines, galleries, and social media groups are all good places to start . Art directors and other potential clients frequent these as well, so they give an idea of the quality to aim for.  Art doesn’t have to be made to appeal to masses but while creating it’s helpful to be aware of these things.

On a personal level, looking at art helps interact with other artists and their audience. You won’t discover beautiful new things if you don’t look for them. Socializing with creatives online and in person leads to interesting conversations about any facet of art. You learn new things by listening or may help someone else.  When seeking out artwork, you can find new places to showcase your work too.

And the most obvious reason looking at other peoples’ art is helpful is that it’s inspiring. If I don’t feel like drawing a quick look at paintings and concept art makes me want to draw. Seeing awe-inspiring art gives me a higher level to aspire to. It’s impressive to see what’s possible. None of us has all the answers. After study and research it’s good to see how others solve artistic problems. When looking for inspiration, variety of art consumption is beneficial. A variety of influences breathes new life into your art.  Constantly looking at new ideas avoids stagnating from the same habits. You discover whole new mediums and genres. Without that variety there is a risk of getting entrenched in the same habits. Seeing new types of art breaks the comfort zone of only seeing things you make every day.  You can find things that appeal to you that you never would have imagined. Sometimes you don’t even know you like something until you see it.  Doing art for yourself is rewarding, but there’s a whole world to be seen.

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Being an Art Hermit

We don’t just enjoy drawing and painting, we also like looking at work by other arts. No matter how many hours we create, it’s still inspiring to witness a created piece. We know how it’s done and it still feels like alchemy to turn a 2 dimensional surface into what looks like a tangible thing. So obviously we love consuming art. But sometimes it’s healthy to take a break from looking at other peoples’ art.

Sometimes artists compare our art to others’ to an unhealthy degree. It’s good critique ourselves, because our work has to stand out in the crowd. Critique brings about improvement. But everyone has the potential to add unique content to the world. We may have positive attributes in our work. But sometimes we appreciate the art of others so much we think ours is disappointing by comparison. In our constant appreciation of colleagues we fail to appreciate our own positives. Just because you like someone else style, or subject matter, or technique doesn’t mean yours has be the exact same.

Beaugureau Drawing Study
“Bouguereau Drawing Study” by Taisa Willoughby

 

Consuming artwork makes you aware of trends and what other people like. This is useful, because if you want to have a career in art, it has to appeal to people besides yourself. But when viewing art, we have to remember just because something is a trend and works for others doesn’t mean we are all beholden to that. Creating beautiful, funny, or engaging art isn’t about ticking off all the checkboxes to making the perfect painting. It comes from an individual’s skills, thoughts, experiences, interests, etc. There is no recipe to making the perfect thing everyone likes. New things are born from all the aspects of the art-making process. We have found our most satisfying work doesn’t come from making the appealing things we think an audience will accept.  Nor does our technical improvement come from going down the list of fundamentals without second thought. On a subjective level, ideas can come from experiences, interests, internal places. Technically, art is such a vast discipline, it’s daunting to know where to start. We study most effectively when we concentrate on fundamental skills as they become relevant. Looking at other peoples’ art can give an idea of where to start, but know one knows your mind better than you. You know what you want out of your art, so it’s up to you to learn what you need.

So examining our art independent of others enables honesty. Do I really like the type of work I do? What do I like so much that I have to be the one to make it? What do I have to say through my art? What styles, subjects, aesthetics appeal to me? Not my family, social media, art teachers, magazines. Me. Whatever the answers are, proceeding to create it in a closed environment makes it more comfortable without fear of consequences. It allows you to recalibrate your art, so it’s about why you loved art in the first place. Recapturing the naïveté of drawing purely for personal work. So the art has been distilled to the essence of Taisa or Tyra.

Consuming art while brainstorming leads to absorbing other artist’s ideas, styles, subjects, etc, subconsciously. This isn’t necessarily bad, since there is no such thing as a 100% original idea. It can be a problem, though, if we shut down our own work just because we saw something else. Or we run to other artists’ solutions before we give ourselves a chance to try. The artistic equivalent of asking the teacher for the answers because you’re scared of getting it wrong. Even if I’m not being an Art Hermit for the day, I don’t like looking at art while I’m doing preliminary sketches because I want to exhaust my ideas before I look to others. I don’t want to eliminate an idea just because someone else or no one else did it.

The variant of going to outside art for all the answers is that we fall so in love with an artist or style that we copy only that directly. Especially if you have a small amount of influences. As I said, nothing is completely original. We all have things we see in others we are inspired by and want to copy. But we should understand or selves and why it appeals to us, so we can incorporate it in a meaningful way. We see art we like, but we aren’t that artist. That artist has their own life, experiences, education, influences, etc. Copying another artist directly on every single aspect will leave your work looking derivative. We all have more than one influences, we don’t have to do the same work as a few favorites. Evaluate and bring various sources into art, not just the one favorite artist.

All of this does not mean we hate the idea of taking inspiration. But if you have lost sight of what your doing with your artistic life, it’s good to take a day or a few to remember what you are doing. You’re the one that is making your art. If you aren’t content with it, you have to be the one to figure out why. No one else can tell you what you like. At Jaunty Cat, we sometimes evaluate our art, technically and subjectively and ask if this is what we want. How should we make our art. Do you sometime need a break from art consumption? What did you learn about your art while you became an art hermit?

Competing in a Saturated Market

Response to Roberto Blake’s video: competing in the saturated market

His question of the day was: the idea of competing in a saturated market scaring you off and keeping you from putting yourself out there?

I was going to slap together a little blurb in his comments section but instead will write a full post on this. I understand that this is something that others face as well so I will share this in this public platform in the hopes that this post as well as Roberto’s original content helps so, done take a chance on some idea.

Growing up Taisa and I assumed that a proper life would be to go to school, be good students get a job which will keep us employed for 30-40 years. Get a pension, retire and then mosey on off to the grave. We were risk averse because it wasn’t necessary for the above goals and in fact, competed with the prescribed life formula. It was risky to be risky even if the reward would be better. As stated in the post on why we don’t draw anime anymore, we didn’t have the tools to draw slick digital art like the top artists on early 2000s DeviantArt. I for one assumed that being competitive wasn’t an option. The fact that art is so competitive kept us from taking art seriously as a career option for a long time.

The only thing that made me think that I could do it was the points in life where it was necessary. I put myself out there because I had to. The alternative was to just get by in degree program I didn’t care about and eventually work jobs that I hated. So the option for us was binary: make ourselves competitive or be miserable forever. We weren’t even hurting anyone or doing anything unscrupulous, we wanted to draw some pictures. When the conversation was reframed in those terms that is when we stopped caring about challenges or others’ expectations for us. We figured out the things that we needed to do to improve because when it boils down to it those challenges tend to be excuses that feed into fear.

As Roberto stated near the end of his video on this subject; if you aren’t pulling the trigger on what it will take to tailor your life, if you aren’t engineering your ideas or contributing to the solution you aren’t allowed to complain. There are stories that we wanted to see in the world so instead of complaining about jobs or what other people are doing we are stepping out on faith and making it happen.

My final note on this is that everyone who has created successful things in some way started with nothing just like the rest of us. Even if a super great artist had a parent who taught them, that person still had to put the pencil to paper. Even people with inherited wealth can squander it away. Using other people’s innate superiority or privilege is actually an excuse to not do things when you break it down and just feeds into a fear of not starting.

Check out Roberto Blake’s video on the subject,  we are more than happy to send traffic his way!

In summary, we know that there is a saturated market but we chose not to care.

His question stands: is the idea of competing in a saturated market scaring you.?  Share this post with someone you think is letting fear hold them back!

Stop Drawing Anime?

We didn’t always draw anime as kids.  In the beginning we would doodle characters from western animation, make up our own characters, and copied from books around us.  Even as we would draw anime, we would occasionally draw things not in that style.  But from the ages of 9-17 anime took over the life of our art.  That coencided with the height of Cartoon Networks Toonami.  During our teen years we discovered art on the internet (remember that dialup noise anyone!) and Deviantart.com.  We saw people do those slick drawings that turned out to be digital paintings. For various reasons, we were stuck with traditional art and it became apparent that there was no way to make our stuff look that ‘cool’.  So we stuck to being as best we could with traditional art.  We did mess around with online tutorials and those infamous “How to Draw” books; y’all know the ones I mean.

By the time we were a couple of years in college, we had all but stopped watching anime for various reasons.  When we decided to pursue art as a career, we did not delve back into anime for the following reasons:

-we spent so much time on learning fundamentals.  We took the time in school to learn what we could.  As I said above we did dabble in the basics of art but we did only the bare minimum that we thought we needed to make cool little drawings.  We didn’t exactly know where we wanted to end up when we started taking drawing classes but we knew that we needed to build a solid foundation.  At that time we didn’t want to focus on making a style.

-we started looking at other types of art/media. Soon after we immersed ourselves in basic art we took a look at art history, architecture, graphic design.  We had to as part of our degree program but we did learn that there were so many disciplines!  There were so many cool things in the world other than anime.  We couldn’t just unsee all of it.  We also broadened our horizons because we were becoming more aware of our worldview at the time.

-we needed to look into realistic career options.  The options that we were aware of did not leave room for the style.
-there where things we wanted to articulate that weren’t served drawing anime.  When we were younger we saw art in books or maybe on the internet.  Those works were seen basically out of context.  But we were seeing these digital paintings and cartoons on a screen, in their element…they way they were meant to be consumed.  It wasn’t a fair fight!  Then we were going to museums and galleries as adults.  We’ve seen work from Kinkade, Dutch masters, Hudson River school, pre-Raphaelite paintings, life size portraits IN PERSON.  Even work from contemporary artists is impressive in person but when I saw my first gold leaf medieval painting face to face at the Nasher museum in Durham I knew that there was a standard that I needed to reach for; especially with the subject matter I wanted to explore.  The anime style would have handicapped our artistic expression.

Should other artists do anime then?
This is not a hard and fast no.
BUT…

we do implore our fellow artists to do the following in the early stages of your artistic journey:
-get multiple influences
-study fundamentals
-figure out where you want to go with your art and assess the practicality of this plan
Please realize that anime style may not survive all of that but the experience will be rich and rewarded!

So what do you think?  Please comment on your experience in different styles.  How did you decide to make the art you do now?

Video: Drawing foliage

Our newest video is up on YouTube!  It contains Taisa working on the pen and ink drawing phase of what will become an acrylic wash painting.  She explains her process, a few tips and tricks and there’s even some of our twin banter on there.  Comment if there is content you’d like to see from us and share with someone who would find this type of content interesting.

 

Conclusion of Inktober2017

October has concluded and it kicked my butt.  I am working on a few oil paintings that I’d like to get done by the end of the year.  Taisa, however, went all in with it.  She got some amazing ideas out of it including but not limited to a full blown narrative!

In conclusion of this awesome art community event, it’s very important to use these community events as a learning experience.  We implore you guys out there to not use these things as a means of drawing just to say you’ve drawn but to use it to hone specific aspects of your work.  That’s my inspirational blerb for today.  Have a great week!

No Half-Baking

As an artist, facing an empty piece of paper is always daunting. Even worse is making that last brushstroke and seeing all the things that you could have changed. I don’t think there’s anyway to avoid that feeling, but it can be reduced. A lot of problems at the end would have been easier to solve in the beginning. As we have learned by trial and error do not half-bake your art.

original doodle
Tyra’s original sketch of “Escape From Babylon”

Any idea sounds like a groundbreaking masterpiece at first. But as you go along things can fall-apart along the way. When you analyze the problems after completing a painting, what went wrong was the fundamental structure. The idea wasn’t thought through, the design wasn’t solidified, or perspective or value wasn’t drawn correctly. These errors are near impossible to repair with final glazes. The sooner you can fix your mistakes, the better. It’s always tragic to erase a lovely detailed part or a drawing because you put it there as an after thought.

Epic Couple sketches
Notes and Sketches

Tyra and I make narrative paintings, so we start with stories. Our ideas for narrative and composition get more fleshed out as we go along but we like to start out with an idea of what we want. As a painting is worked more questions get raised, what does the environment look like, what is the lighting, what is the subject wearing. We have found through painful painful error that it is best to answer these questions as soon as possible. If you notice something is not turning out successfully, that’s not the time to procrastinate. Go ahead and change it while it’s easier to do so. Going further won’t make that part go away.

We try our best to have the best art we can. Every time we draw and paint we treat it as if it is going to be the best thing we’ve made. Not every thing will be successful, but that’s okay. Even when we catch errors in finished work the important thing is that we learned something from it. If you forget to add something in your painting and notice it later, that artwork will always be there to remind you not to forgot about that aspect the next time you paint.

Escape From Babylon complete
Tyra’s “Escape From Babylon” completed

– Taisa Willoughby