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Stepping out of an art hobbyist mindset: Weekly Art Dispatch No. 26 🎨

27 July 2021 - Reading time: 7 minutes

This was a big week for the Dispatch: I reconnected with an old friend who's now an art industry professional, did some serious soul-searching about art as a career, and made more breakthroughs in digital art.

Fun Art

The week began with some pencil art...

Gift for a friend. And before you ask -- no, I don't know anything about JoJo's Bizarre Adventure.

"Tree of Prismatic Overgrowth," a prompt from the Chroma Corps art challenge.
I'm not sure how clearly the tree's prismatic leaves can be seen... one day, I might do a digital paint over this sketch.

...But I've been on a roll with digital art ever since last week's successful sketches, and I had a new breakthrough this week.

My Freelancer character and his javelin (mech). Fanart for the videogame Anthem.

Things I learned from this:

  • The shape-only painting style which I was practicing last week has its limitations. It's still easier for me to conceptualize more complicated drawings by sketching them out -- as I've always done with pencil drawings.
  • Begin the rough sketch with a very thin pencil, and harden the linework on a new layer with thicker pencil.
  • The sketch layers don't have to be removed, they can be kept in the final drawing for character/effect - although I have to be circumspect about this.
  • Block in shapes/silhouettes to help establish 3-dimensionality of the figures. This comes in handy when I start shading.
  • Continually manage values using a "value check" layer -- seeing values definitely helped me place colours more purposefully. (And I think I managed to create a pleasing colour scheme here.)
  • I have a lot to learn about painting with colours and designing a colour palette (eg. I want to use a colour wheel more purposefully), but something that helped was to group colours together into a value hierarchy: light, medium, dark -- and then paint while regularly monitoring with the "value check".

This is the closest I've gotten to replicating my traditional/pencil workflow in digital -- and I'm very happy about it! The next step: do it again and internalize the process. Time to draw more Anthem fanart!

Process layers: lineart (left), value check on colours (middle), colours and shading (right).

"Art the Business"

This week, I made contact with an old acquaintance who is an art industry professional, doing work in concept art and illustration that I aspire to do. Ever since we reconnected, I'd been thinking a lot about how to make the mindset jump from hobbyist into professional.

I haven't thought about the professional/work side of art for some time -- partly because I don't quite know where to start, and partly because I'd been afraid to make that step. Learning and developing my drawing skills is all well and good, but I've been a hobby artist for so long, it's intimidating to even start thinking of my drawing skills as a "marketable service", let alone freelancing for work.

This friend came along at the right time. He asked me some pointed and fundamental questions such as: "What kind of work do you want to get?" and "What art projects are you currently working on?"

Those were surprisingly hard questions for me to answer, especially since my answers are old, lifelong dreams and goals that were buried deep and then forgotten for years. When it comes to "Art the Business", I kind of knew that those were the next questions I had to face -- and I just needed someone to come and say them point-blank, push me to actually do the hard work of digging up those old dreams and turning them into actionable activities.

Not easy to dig through the strata of emotional baggage to pull out those old dreams. It gave me a headache, but it was worth it. I have answers to those questions now -- as well as more clarity about what kind of art projects to pursue next, and what next steps to take. Some things on the to-do list are: pull together a focused portfolio, make an ArtStation account, polish up my social media presence on Twitter, and start casually looking at the freelance job landscape. And of course, make inroads on those old, old art projects that I'd always wanted to do, and can do now.

I'm thankful to this friend for taking the time to light some fires and make me face the questions I'd been avoiding. There's a lot of work to do, and it's daunting -- but it also feels good to have more clarity about a way forward into the professional artist mindset.

Next week’s topics: more progress on digital fanart for Anthem. Maybe I'll start recording my progress towards Art the Business.

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