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A debrief on my first commission work: Weekly Art Dispatch No. 29 🎨

6 September 2021 - Reading time: 6 minutes

Last week (Dispatch 28.5) was an eventful one: I completed up my first ever paid commission work as a freelance illustrator. This week it was back to business as usual (the things I put on hold for commission work), and I wrapped up a number of projects in Drawabox and personal art. Commission work is stimulating and exciting, but once it's done, it sure feels good to go back to working on my own stuff!

Drawabox (Study Art)

I finished Drawabox Lesson 6. Going to take a break from this course for about a week or so to do my personal work, before continuing onto the next lesson, the 25 Wheels Challenge. Slowly but surely, I'm approaching the end of the Drawabox course.

Some art things I learned from this lesson (apart from realizing how much I enjoyed the geometry/math part of it): estimating/eyeballing proportions; how to simplify details and the decision-making process behind simplification; and just developing my spatial understanding.

Final piece of homework for Lesson 6 (the "boss battle"): my Xbox One controller, orthographic views and final construction.)


Personal Work

I've finally finished a third piece for my Anthem fanart series.

Archie Thorne and his Storm javelin (mecha).
Character belongs to a friend and fellow videogamer from the Anthem fandom.

Process shots: linework, colour flats, and values.

I began this piece at the beginning of August, but got interrupted repeatedly by various art priorities, so it was a bit of a struggle to pick up and maintain the momentum. But this character belonged to a friend, and the friend knew I was drawing him... knowing that I had to deliver the goods got me to the finish line!


I mentioned digital art craftsmanship in Dispatch 27. So my focus this time was honing craft, as well as practice the general workflow of creating this sort of digital art. I think I've improved on the craft, but I feel like I'm going about it in a somewhat haphazard manner. I was introduced to digital craftsmanship through Ctrl+Paint, so revisiting those lessons is a long-term task on my "Art the Craft" learning list.

On the matter of image composition... I initially drew the background quite differently, but a peer in my art community gave me constructive critique. It took a bit of workshopping and tweaking, and I think the final composition and style of the background is a lot better than the original. I'm continually grateful to this art community for giving me feedback and pushing me to improve and learn more.

Original background (left) and final version (right).
Changes made: remove the gradient and make it cel-shaded to match the rest of image, adjust the angle of the background shadow, make the blue glow on the right arm more obviously flames/glow.


Vega's first commission work: a quick debrief

This happened so quickly, and ended so quickly, I've only had time now to process the whole experience.

The summary: I put together an art portfolio and submitted it to a local print magazine that I subscribe to. The publisher invited me to pitch an editorial illustration to accompany one of the essays in their magazine issues. And so I did, from concept sketches to final illustrated work (digital), in a turnaround time of 1.5 weeks.

It was an exercise in getting my business structure up and live, and refining my illustration workflow -- all in a cracking hurry. I'm incredibly thankful I had some pieces of the business in place (including tax registration and a pricing rubric), so the learning curve involved pulling these pieces together into a whole, plugging in the gaps (such as invoicing -- not small matter at all!), and experiencing a complete start-to-finish process of commission work.

This was a terrific experience of what art-for-work feels like. (It feels creatively stimulating, nerve-wracking, and exciting all around.) Many thanks to this client for giving me, an emerging artist, a chance -- and when/if this article and my art gets published, I'll be sure to post an update to the Dispatch.

Where to next? Continue to enjoy making art and being thankful to God (from whom all creativity comes) for the opportunity to do so. Work on my craft and my portfolio, keep an eye on the art industry landscape for clients/projects I'm interested in working with and can pitch my portfolio towards. And keep taking steps forward.


Next week's topics: I've finished most of my ongoing projects and cleared the deck, so it's time to start new ones.

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I'm Vega.

Welcome to my blog.

My Weekly Art Dispatch🎨 is posted every weekend (usually on Sunday) to this blog and email newsletter.

I may occasionally blog about writing other creative projects; book and video game reviews; and real life stuff.

Email me at: vega{at}greatskyriver.net