Monday, January 4, 2016

2015 - A Year in Paint

2015 in my studio looked a lot different

I feel for the past several years that my year in review posts have been a bit negative, or at least had a frustrated edge to my thoughts and feelings towards making art and the gaming industry. I am happy to report that this is not the case for 2015. Starting in August of 2014 I turned everything on its ear art wise in my life and began working traditionally for my clients. Not only have I produced more in art in the past year than I have in any year that I can remember, I made more time for myself to do non art things as well as make art for myself. So, that's it! I am making more art, I am happier with my art and art making, and I am making more time to do other things in my life. 2015 was really really good to me and I am optimistically looking ahead to 2016. Is there a need for me to keep writing and you to keep reading? Let's see as I dig a little deeper…

The Big Switch

I have spoken at length about my transition from painting digitally to traditionally here on the blog. Simply look to my wrap up of 2014 or any of my traditional process posts this year. This transition does need to be addressed again because of how it has made this year a much more positive one. I started out as a digital painter. I am comfortable painting digitally and I think I do a pretty good job at painting digitally. Painting traditionally has been a roller coaster of pleasure and fear. No matter how crazy the transition has been the one result is that I am making real life tangible paintings for the first time it my life. Having the tangible painting has in and of itself has been worth ALL the hard work to get to this point. Even if my traditional painting skill set is not currently at the level I may be able to reach digitally, it is in my hands and is a real object. All I need is time and more experience with the media to bridge the digital / traditional quality gap. I can now make precious and unique items that I can never have with a Photoshop file. I have always had my drawings, but paintings and drawings are a little different.

Jabba's Rancor
Star Wars LCG - Imperial Entanglements
14 x 11 - Acrylic and pencil on board
Art Director - Zoe Robinson
Original - SOLD
© 2015 Lucasfilm, Ltd. TM Lucasfilm, Ltd. Under license to Fantasy Flight Games

I will be the first to say that I have always had a bit of an inferiority complex when it came to how I felt about my digital paintings compared to other artist's traditional paintings. I didn't feel like I was a "REAL" artist. Which is silly, I know, but I just did not feel I was making anything when working digitally. No matter the tool, the quality and impact of the art is what matters. I realize this more now than I ever have in my entire career of making art. It does not matter if the work was done digitally or traditionally. Does the work meet the needs of the client? Is the work successful? What does it matter if you use paint or pixel? It only matters to the artist making it and the collectors that will want to own it. I paint traditionally now because I NEED to.

The mighty pile. Current stock of traditionally painted work. Not all has been released, many secrets to come!

I will be honest, the last three paintings that I produced in 2015 were painted digitally. They are most likely the best three digital paintings I have even painted and way better than the work I was doing digitally before I made the switch to tradition media last August. I made the choice to paint these pieces digitally, I knew they needed to be at a level I have not yet reached traditionally. Which is totally okay. I also needed to have COMPLETE control over the painting to tweak and edit them from start to finish and I have that level of control when working digitally. The client I was doing these for requires my best work and I made the call to do them with a tool that allows me to do just that. I was more than surprised to see that after more than a year of not working digitally that my skill set had actually improved! Which makes sense, seeing how I had a certain level of learned skills already working for me when I started painting traditionally. It does not matter if I was working with paint of pixels, I am painting all the same. When I made the switch in August of 2014 I made a promise to myself to only paint traditionally for the foreseeable future. I went over a year just working in paint and plan to continue to do the vast majority of my work in paint. I have one client and one assignment that will continue to have me pairing digitally for the time being. Which is totally okay. The right tool for the job. That is being professional.

More ME time

While I don't have any tangle evidence that I worked less this year, it certainly feels like I have. Not only that, but I feel I have worked less while still producing more. What I can say is that in 2015 I traveled to Jamaica, Italy, German, and made multiple trips to Disney World this year while making more time in my schedule to spend time with my wife and friends. I did all these things and still produced a pile of paintings and drawings by the end of the year. I see this all as being really important and directly related to my happiness in 2015. While I am happier with what and how I was painting, I am also giving myself time to NOT work. For the first time in… forever, I feel like I am not working constantly. I am busy, of course, I work two full time jobs, how could I not be busy, but I have been making the time to take breaks, to travel, and to play. Case in point, for the previous two of three weeks from when I am writing this I have not made any art. I have down a little scribbling and a revision for a client, but I made a conscience choice to clear my schedule and take a break. A break to clear the mind, a chance to catch my breath, see friends, play video games, do holiday stuff, clean up after holiday stuff, do some stuff around the house, sleep… the stuff I will not have a lot of time to do in the coming months most likely. For the first time in a long time I do not feel guilty or regret about not working, and I am not fixating on filling my time with work. It has been glorious. For once, I feel like I am relaxed and ready to start the new year on the right foot. …a rested and relaxed one. I am finding it interesting with how much I can do when I try to do so little.

Burg Eltz
Near the Moselle River between Koblenz and Trier, Germany. Possibly the best castle I have had the chance to see in person.

Life Beyond My Studio

2015 was filled with more art activities that did not center on me being in my studio working. Every year I have had two big art events, Gen Con and Illuxcon. This year, for the first time, I have been looking for other venues and avenues to do art things outside my studio. Don't get me wrong, Gen Con and Illuxcon continue to be a lot of fun and are true highlights of my year. This is when I get to see my art family. Illuxcon was especially amazing this year as I was part of the Weekend Salon for this first time. This then leads into my recent announcement that I will be part of the Main Show of Illuxcon in 2016. I am both humbled, excited, and energized by this news. Illuxcon has and continues to be near and dear to the wife and I. Earlier in the year I was a special guest at the Space Coast Comic Con, and it was an extremely fun time. Can't say enough about how much fun it was to be a part of the Space Coast Comic Con.

My booth at the Space Coast Comic Con featuring my shiny new set of Pro Panels I bought this year to help me do events just like this.

One of the biggest personal events for me in 2015 was my RAWR! show at 621 Gallery in Tallahassee, Fl. I posted a lot about it, but it was a big deal for me and a blast to do. It was a long term goal to show in a gallery and it was a very interesting and educational experience. Really interesting to see people interact with my work in the wild. I had work accepted into Infected By Art 3, which came out a couple of months ago. I really like what IBA is doing especially in connection with Illuxcon. I took part in a very fun Free Comics Day event as well as a couple local Magic the Gathering events. All of these things have added to my over all enjoyment and happiness in 2015. I do not need these things to be happy, but I am finding a lot of fulfillment and happiness through them. It is nice to see my hard work paying off in the world beyond my studio. I am hoping this will continue into 2016. I am already scheduled to be a special guest this February at Pensacon in Pensacola, Fl. I am finding that getting out of the studio is good for me and makes me more focused once I return to it.

The big wall at my 621 Gallery show featuring my first 100 redesigns from the original Dungeons & Dragons Monster Manual.

Paint Like NO One is Watching

I have spent a lot of time over the years worrying about my art and if I was good enough or if it was "right". I have searched for shortcuts and tricks. I have been on a quixotic quest for the PERFECT line. Now… I just want to make art that makes me happy. That could be personal work or it could be from the assignments that I choose to take on from clients. I have been spending a lot of time lately playing in the Star Wars Universe and that has been really really fun. I have added myself and my voice into the monolith of Star Wars and could not be happier about it. I have recently returned to do some work on Magic the Gathering, and that has been a lot of fun. I have been doing some personal pieces when I feel like it, and that too has been fun. Are these all amazing, perfect paintings? I don't know. My clients seem happy, but I was happy with them before they were. Making art is work, don't get me wrong. I have said it time and time again, making art is hard work that requires a lot of time and effort to succeed at. Now though, after many years of ups and downs, it has become something more and I am getting more out of it. I am finding a joy and happiness that does not require an external qualifier to make it so. It has taken a long time to get to this point. Not sure this is were I will always be, but this is where I am and it is just fine for now. Is this because I am working traditionally? Maybe. It could be a product of my time in the industry, the level of experience I have, or some other ephemeral aspect of maturation. Who knows… but I certainly have no problem with it.

Wicket W. Warrick
Star Wars LCG - Solo's Command
14 x 11 - Acrylic and pencil on board
Art Director - Zoe Robinson
© 2015 Lucasfilm, Ltd. TM Lucasfilm, Ltd. Under license to Fantasy Flight Games

In Conclusion

Work hard, play hard. For far too long it was all about that first part. I was working a lot and working hard. This behavior led most likely to many of my previous year's recap posts. This led to me being burned out and fed up. Thankfully I found a way to change it all and in turn restart and refresh my outlook on art and life. Nothing is perfect, how can it be, but things are sure a lot better now!

I need to point out, above all, if not for the continued support and aggressively relentless encouragement of my wife, none of this would have even been possible. I have traveled a very long way with my art and all of the highest heights and deepest depths have been weathered with her at my side. Could not have down it without her.

Dear wife giving me scale reference in Germany. RAWR!

Thanks is all for another exciting Monday on the blog, see you back here on Wednesday! Until then...

For more samples of my work or to contact me regarding my availability head over to my website:

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