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Learning to be a novice again: Weekly Art Dispatch, No. 17 🎨

18 April 2021 - Reading time: 5 minutes

This second week of digital art was more challenging than last week.  I finished a great pencil drawing and made some mediocre digital drawings; started thinking of turning professional and was encouraged not to think too much about it yet; and tried to come to terms with all of it.

Study Art

Digital painting went relatively well.  My aim was to copy existing photos to get familiar with a basic painting method and learn how to manipulate colours and brushes.  In this second painting study of still life, I started exploring the powers of painting on layers (handy) and using clipping masks (even more handy).  I'm definitely more comfortable with using digital tools now.

My painting (left); photo reference (right) from Flickr, ©2017 Serena Tan.

I'm still moving through Ctrl+Paint's free video library.  Also watched several great videos by Sinix Design: his introduction to digital painting for beginners, and this YouTube playlist about design theory.  Amongst other things, he addresses image composition and values in an accessible, practical way that I can apply immediately.

Sinix recommended doing two-value studies on artwork by good artists, as a way to train one's eye to recognize what good composition looks like.  I plan to tackle this study in the coming week.

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From Hobbyist to Professional, and how to think about it.

18 April 2021 - Reading time: 4 minutes

I initially wrote this for the Weekly Art Dispatch #17, but it became long enough to be a separate blog post.

This week, I was prompted by real-life circumstances to think about my "art career".

All my life I've noodled around with art as a hobbyist: drawing what I enjoyed, learning bits and pieces here and there, not really taking things seriously.  (That's the short version; there's a longer, more complicated story behind it.)  Now that I'm taking my art life a lot more seriously now than I ever did before, a question emerges: What does it take to move into a professional/freelancing space, especially when I don't have any formal art training?  Is there a certain mindset shift that I have to make from hobbyist to professional?  Am I caught in a kind of "hobbyist paradigm" that is unhelpful, and how can I tell?

I'd recently discovered a Discord chat server oriented to art freelancers and professionals, so I asked my question there.  The professionals were kind enough to answer, and they basically said this:

  • Focus on improving your art and drawing what you love; and
  • Be realistic about your skill level, and do your research about your dream art jobs.

More importantly, they gave me a reality check that went like this: The hobbyist-to-professional move will become clearer when you reach a certain skill threshold.  You're not at that threshold yet, so don't stress about all that now.  Just focus on what you can do right now -- which is improve your craft, and enjoy what you do.

Sound advice. This reality check prompted me to consider an even more fundamental question than "hobbyist vs professional": Why am I in the art game in the first place?

On one hand, I draw because I love drawing, and keep coming back to it even when I've tried to give it up.  But I'm also trying to realize a childhood dream of being a professional artist -- or at least, making some kind of income from it.  And there lies a tension.

There's a tension between those two things: doing art for its own sake, vs. doing art as a means to an end (making a career).   There's also a tension between aspiration/ambition, and being realistic about my current skill level and capacity for doing art-as-work.  On one hand, I don't want to embrace mediocrity and settle for the "I'm just a hobbyist" paradigm (which is how I've spent my whole life thinking).  On the other hand, I don't want to let ambition and striving overtake my love for the craft, smother that love, and leave me burned out, disillusioned, and discouraged -- which is not uncommon in the art world.  I suppose all creative endeavours contain that tension between aspiration and realism, between passion/personal investment and hard-headed business objectivity. And a healthy approach to a creative "career" is to keep both forces in a productive balance.

While thinking on all this, I was reminded of my Christian faith...

Don't stress about this or chase after such material things, because God my Father knows what I need, and has a purpose for my life and my art. Opportunities will come at the right times; and even if I miss them, opportunities will keep on coming, they may just look a bit different.  Don't worry!  Doing my art with joy and glorifying God with my enjoyment is the most important thing here -- so focus on that!

Well, I think my faith and those professional artists are right.  So I won't stress about this "hobbyist to professional" question, and instead just keep making art I love.  But also remember to stretch out of my comfort zone -- and digital art definitely accomplishes that!

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First adventures in digital art: Weekly Art Dispatch, No. 16 🎨

11 April 2021 - Reading time: 6 minutes

At last.  After waffling and putting it off for months, I finally dived into digital art: put aside all my traditional drawing and went in cold turkey for the entire week. What a grand adventure it's been, and still is!

I've never done any digital art because the learning curve seemed daunting, and it was just easier to stay in my comfort zone of traditional drawing.  But now I'm taking my art life seriously, and in order to achieve my personal art goals and endgame, I can no longer avoid upskilling into digital.

For my drawing tablet, I'm using a medium-sized Wacom Intuos I bought several years ago -- and it is now, finally, fulfilling its destiny.  For software, I'm using Clip Studio Paint Pro (CSP), although I experimented with Krita for a little bit.  (CSP routinely goes on half-price sale; Krita is free and open-source.)

Workspace ergonomics is ever important.

For my traditional drawing, I bought a big angled drafting table.
Angling this drawing tablet?  A lever-arch folder is enough.

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Quarterly Art Dispatch: a look back at Q1, 2021. 🎨

5 April 2021 - Reading time: 7 minutes

In Dispatch #5 I laid out my Big Art Goals for 2021; amongst other things, I said I'd write a reflection on my progress and accomplishments every quarter this year.  Well, April is here, so it's time for the first Quarterly Art Dispatch.

Art I made

Early in this quarter (around Dispatch #6), I set myself a goal of firstly finishing an illustration a week, and then upped the goal to two illustrations a week.  I've always struggled to finish the creative projects that I start, so this goal helped me to organize my workflow and pace myself in order to finish work.  It also taught some good creative mindsets, eg. finishing a "good enough" piece is better than trying to grind out perfection.

For the most part I met my goal of finishing one illustration per week, and at one point was able to increase it to two illustrations.  So I know my pace and capacity!

Illustrations finished this quarter. I've drawn a lot more than this, but these are the "finished pieces".

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Weekly Art Dispatch, No. 15 🎨

28 March 2021 - Reading time: 7 minutes

The IN/BREAK: Transept 2021 exhibit continues, and my art series has already debuted there.  Unfortunately I've been quite swamped IRL this week so I'm still writing my reflection of the experience.  I hope to post it within the next few days, before the exhibit closes on 2nd April.

In the meantime, this is my Transept exhibit page with my series of four artworks.  I also posted them on Instagram and Tumblr.

Concept (Study) Art

I continued what I began last week, in dispatch #14, and dove back into the concept art/character design process.

I already had a project in mind: this bunch of original characters (OCs) who are kicking around in my head.  I know they're loosely associated with each other, but I don't know them terribly well, nor do I have a clear "story" or "theme" for them.  I want to pull them all together into a coherent ensemble cast and develop a consistent and distinctive visual theme for them.  That was easy to figure out!

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Weekly Art Dispatch, No. 14 🎨

21 March 2021 - Reading time: 5 minutes

IN/BREAK, the Transept 2021 art exhibit, opened this weekend!

Link to the Transept 2021 online exhibit

Who they are (quoted from their website):
"Transept is a group of artists and theologians connected to The Institute for Theology, Imagination and the Arts at the University of St Andrews exploring the intersection of theology and the arts, where theory meets practice."

The exhibit is held online, and runs from 19 March to 2 April, 2021.

This exhibit features many amateur and professional visual artists, writers, poets, playwrights, and multimedia producers.  The curators are debuting works every day, a few at a time.  My series of four works will be released on 23rd March.  (It's not out yet, as of writing this Dispatch.)

I'm honoured that my artwork could be part of this fantastic exhibit.

I'm working on a 'Debrief and Reflection' post, as I've learned a lot from the month of producing my series of 4 works for Transept (aka: my "Big Art Project").  I want to also feature my artwork in this reflection, so I'm waiting for my art to debut in the exhibit to post it.  Expect an additional, special Dispatch in the middle of this week.

In the meantime....

Fun Art

Since I began writing the Weekly Art Dispatch, the vast majority of my art has been fanart, or drawing original characters that I already had designed before.  This week's drawing was my first attempt to get back into original character design/concept art. It was a bigger challenge than I expected.

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I'm Vega.

Welcome to my blog.

My Weekly Art Dispatch 🎨 is posted every weekend, usually on Sunday.

I also blog about writing and other creative projects; review books and video games; and may mention real life stuff from time to time.

Comments are now open on blog posts. I also like receiving email! Write to me at: vega{at}