Thursday, August 24, 2017

Choose Your Weapon

-by Heather Theurer-

I was practically born with a pencil in my hand. That would have been tragic for my mother, so we’re all glad that wasn’t actually the case, but ever since I could manage to keep a pencil firmly in the grasp of my childhood fingers, I was constantly in the process of drawing something or other. All the way through high school, a wicked sharp, yet plain Jane #2 pencil was my artistic weapon of choice.

Once I decided that I was going to dive into painting, however, drawing started to take a back seat. In fact, it almost became non-existent at one point as I traded one weapon for another—the paint brush. Very loose sketches were all that I put effort into before advancing into the painting stage. A couple years back, however, I gave myself a challenge. I posted it on Facebook that I would do one drawing every day for a year. That’s 365 drawings. I don’t know about anybody else, but to me that sounded like a lot, especially since I already had some other serious work to accomplish during the same time frame.

I started out easy—light-weight sketches that I could push out in 20 minutes or less. But as the challenge progressed, so did my sketches. Nearing the end of my challenge (which consequently only lasted 187 days instead of 365 because of a major contract that came into play), they morphed into full-blown, detailed drawings requiring 4 to 5 hours of my time on a daily basis.

At first, it seemed like it might be a step backwards to go through this exercise. What I discovered, however, was that my painting skills increased as my drawings became more intense and complex. At the end of it emerged a painting that has become one of my favorites (for more reasons than one) and I attribute much of it to my daily drawing challenge.

I’ve often asked myself why this was. Why was my painting affected by regular, intense drawing? The conclusion was that in the midst of all that drawing was a boatload of serious observation. To get the image right, I had to pay attention to everything about the thing I was drawing. Of course, keeping in mind the importance of the overall composition is key to the success of any painting in the end. But paying especially close attention to textures, lighting, shadows, interactions between colors and reflective objects, as well as understanding proportions, scale and the value of line versus shape ended up influencing this particular painting in ways that it never had in the past with previous creations.

My suggestion? Encourage yourself—force yourself even—to open your eyes. Observe. Soak up all the details and then decide which ones are important enough to include. Weed out what’s not necessary to the success of your art. But most of all, physically work at it. Don’t just observe and think that logging it away somewhere in the recesses of your brain is going to make things come out right. Get it out on paper, work out the kinks and make all of that observation a reality. If it’s anything like what happened for me, you’ll see your art grow exponentially—if you fight for it. Choose your weapon and go for it.

Crimson Ribbon

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Getting Organized: Part 1

BOOKS OF DOOM #4 COVER (originally slated for #3). 2005.
Oil on masonite, 16 × 24″.

(Finished in Feb 2005)

I have in my possession an artifact of great historical importance to myself and no one else: my digital calendar. Beginning on Monday, February 28, 2005, it records nearly every event of my life, both personal and professional (including the hours required to write this blog post). If accurate, during the course of that initial week I spent 6 hours at the gym, cleaned the bathroom for 1.5 hours (filthy, I'm sure), went to Costco, a friend's book signing, and Drew's party (I can't recall who Drew is at the moment).

Boring, I know... but bear with me.

The vast majority of the week, however, was spent making comics. I finished painting 2 covers, varnished and photographed 2 others, and began painting the 4th page of an X-Men book — all in all, 68.5 hours of work. I know this because I used iCal, Apple's default calendar app, not like an appointment book, but as a time log and to-do list. Nearly a decade later, haven't stopped keeping track.

Oil on masonite, 16 x 24".
(Finished in Feb 2005)

Although I've upgraded computers twice since then, I still use the same program to monitor my "man-hours," albeit with a few more bells and whistles. I now keep Calendar (formerly iCal) linked to my Google Calendar account, which keeps the information in the cloud, and hence accessible from multiple devices. There are several sub-calendars within the program, meaning I can separate different types of tasks and toggle them on and off. They're also color-coded to help me organize things at a glance. My current list includes Projects, Books (to keep track of what I'm reading), Personal, Blog and Email, Art Sales, and $ (to help keep track of bills and such). You can also subscribe to calendars like US Holidays, Phases of the Moon, and Birthdays from your contacts list.

I used to keep more detailed notes on each event. That lasted for a week.

But you probably already knew all this — what I want to show is how I utilize that information. By far, the best tool I've found is GTimeReport, a web site that will tally all those hours and organize the results according to my own specifications. I used to enlist the help of another app that required each entry to be labeled with special tags in the note section, but this one needs no special designations, making it far easier to use.

To use it, you must have a Google account (automatic if you have a Gmail address) and be willing to give the program access to read the calendar. I don't take this step lightly, of course, but permission is granted through Google's own site, so you never have to reveal your password.

this information can also be exported to spreadsheet apps

It only accesses your calendar when you ask it to, and only for the designated interval. I always choose the "Show summary table" option, which combines and tallies similarly-named entries. This makes it easy to read and organize, especially since a single project can have many phases. I like to keep them separated so I know exactly how long each part took. (I used to record the details of each event in the Notes section, but now I put most of the pertinent information in the title so I can read it at a glance.)

a Timetrek screenshot

If you'd rather not do that, there are plenty of other options. My colleague and friend, Katherine Roy, uses Timetrek, a time-tracking app that lets you clock in and clock out (or even take a coffee break). Although I haven't used it myself, it looks very easy to setup and manage.

SABRETOOTH: OPEN SEASON #4. 2004. Oil on masonite, 16 × 24″.
(varnished in Feb 2005)

So what? Why keep track of your hours in the first place? Because no one else is going to do it for you. Since nearly every project I do comes with a flat rate, I need to have a solid idea of how long it will take me.

I've said this before, but it bears repeating. Keeping track of hours matters little for the project at hand — the true purpose is the accumulation, over time, of working data, the ultimate goal being the rejection of projects that pay too little or, more importantly, require more time than available. There's no substitute for experience, so this will naturally be more difficult for those illustrators just starting out. The hope is that staying organized will make whatever experience you do have more meaningful.

Part 2: Organizing projects, deadlines, and $$$.

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Minimal: The art of Sebastián Dufour

-By Julian Totino Tedesco

One of the things that I was hoping for when I was invited to be a part of the MC staff was to, every once in a while, share the work of artists from my corner of the world; namely, Argentina.

While there are many argentine artists working for the US and European market, I thought it would be more interesting to showcase the work of those who, by working mainly for the local market, might not get much exposure outside the region.

Such is the case of Sebastián Dufour, and for those of you who didn't know his work, you're very welcome.

Sebastián works as an illustrator for local magazines and newspapers, and I became obsessed with his work since I saw it for the first time, many years ago.

Why did I became obsessed? Well, despite the obvious quality of his work, what struck me the most (and still does) is how he manages to boil down the information to the minimum possible detail.

This is especially remarkable when doing portraits, where he manages to get a likeness with just a few strokes.

John Lennon.
The Beatles.

Pete Townshend, from "The Who".

Writer Gabriel Garcia Marquez.

Often times, his work takes an almost abstract quality.

From the book "Samurai"
Published by Taeda, 2008.

From the book "Samurai"
Published by Taeda, 2008.

And of course, there's the textures, those wonderful textures...

Sebastian's work has a very unique voice that I thought was worth sharing, hoping that it would inspire you, the same way it inspires me.

As a bonus, here's a video of Sebastián painting a mural inspired in the Disney's animated movie Moana.

To see more of Sebastian's artwork, you can go here

Or you can follow him on Instagram.