Art Buddies

I've joined a great online group of artists and storytellers. I'll be adding their links to the "cool places" column on the right. They have helped me focus and proved what I have suspected for a while: sharing ideas is an important part of the creative process. It is great to have a place where like-minded people can discuss techniques, resources, struggles, and goals. It's a place for critique and support and to discuss projects and creativity in general. I'm excited about the group and psyched about working on and finishing some projects!


the girl takes the leap / some color stuff

More practice drawing people. I used a photo of my daughter as reference. She's about to jump down an inflatable slide.

The point of these quick sketches is to work on poses/anatomy/form, but looking at her pants and skin tones is reminding me of something I've been meaning to do for a long time. I need to create and save some nice color palettes on my computer. I'm currently just slightly altering the default palettes, which is only wasting time and negatively affecting the outcome of my work.

Working with color digitally has many benefits:
  • It's not expensive like paint
  • It's not messy like paint
  • It's not permanent like paint
  • Mixing colors is easier and faster and can't be wasted or ruined
  • The ability to adjust opacity and layering is an artist's dream come true
Good color palettes will allow me to take full advantage of these benefits. Just another thing added to my to-do list (at least fooling around with color is fun).

There are tons of great books on color theory. My current favorite is:

The Designer's Guide to Color Combinations
by Leslie Cabarga
This book uses a source photo (a theater poster from the 1920's, a children's book illustration from the 1950's, an advertisement from the 1970's, old wrapping paper, etc.) and uses the color scheme on some new layouts. Good stuff.
The Art Nouveau movement of the late 1800's and early 1900's was largely a style of architectural design. I like the print artists associated with this movement. They were a huge influence on the psychedelic art of the sixties and the style is still popular on gig posters, fantasy art, and in advertising today.
Here's an example from a book on Eugene Grassett who made a whole series of designs based on the diversity of the world's plant life. Spectacular colors:

Catalogs and ads are great (and free) places to pull some nice color ideas (and poses) from, too. The Sunday paper usually has some decent ads, but I also recommend getting on mailing lists for interior decoration retailers like Pier 1 Imports. Their catalogs have page after page of interesting color combinations.
A friend and fellow artist left a comment with a great color resource. Thanks, Gina. here's the link to Kuler: http://kuler.adobe.com/#create/fromacolor
I'll be spending some time over there!
Here's another site: http://www.colorjack.com/
And last but not least, is this cool little tool. Just copy the url of any image and this site will instantly make a palette from it: Color Palette Generator

Here's a sample using one of my images.









Illustration Friday: Propagate

Here is my submission for Illustration Friday: Propagate. To learn more about yappers see my previous post: The Yapping of the Yups.


Topet & Rehmy

...Aaahhh shuda...
...Gupa Nupa :) ...
...Ning-a-ning-a Ningu...
...Gunda = Yub Yub...
... lol...


Fan Mail!

I received a piece of fan mail! There was also a small figurine with the letter. It's not the best craftsmanship I've ever seen, but it's the thought that counts. It's moments like this that make all the years of hard work and sacrifice worth while. I wonder how they found my address and then put the package under my pillow without waking me.


Tips on Caring for & Communicating with Your Artist

Every group of people has their own frustrations and pet peeves. The things that bother a banker, or an athlete, or a retiree, or a brand new mother are all different (and there are plenty of blogs to prove it.) Artists have their beefs, too. Your artist friend, family member, employee, or potential contractor has probably come across the occasional person who has either no respect for artistic skill or no understanding of artistic skill (maybe just this afternoon, which could explain their grumpy-pants attitude).

Tone is hard to convey in writing so please keep this in mind as you read: this post is not intended to sound condescending or make artists sound like a bunch of cranky malcontents. I hope you find it entertaining, informative, and a helpful in the understanding of your artist!

No artist wants to hear the following statements. Sometimes they come from well-meaning friends or family, sometimes they come from potential clients, and sometime they come from know-it-all strangers (who don't really know it all). I haven't personally heard all of these, but I've heard variations of most of them.

--"Hey, you like to draw. Why don't you draw a portrait (or caricature) of my kid (or car, or pet, etc.)?"

I don't like to draw, I love to draw. I love to draw so much that I have lists and lists of things that I want to draw. I will never have enough time to get to even a small fraction of these things and it makes me kind of sad. So yes, I love to draw MY STUFF. Pay me to draw your stuff.

--"How fun! You get to draw whimsical little drawings all day!"

No, we don't. A successful artist / illustrator (especially a freelance artist/ illustrator) must be a salesperson, a promoter, an accountant, a researcher, and a bookkeeper. We must manage inventory and supplies, build a strong network, and constantly educate ourselves on current tools and technology. Then, with any luck, we find a few clients who will actually pay us to make some artwork (which is rarely "fun" or "whimsical".) Then, the majority of us wake up and head to our day job.

--"Hey, I have this great idea for a story. I'll let you illustrate it. If I can get any money for it, I'll give you some."

Dude, write a professional contract and pay me for the work that I do. If you want to let me in on some of that sweet success down the road, put it in the contract. I'm willing to compromise, especially if I like your idea. If I'm going to work for nothing, I have dozens of my own stories that I'd rather invest my time in.

--"You're good at drawing. Can you draw me a logo for my new company, quick? Don't spend a lot of time on it or anything."

You just want to pay for a 1/2 hour's worth of work. Concepting, researching, and sketching, often takes as much or more time than the actual creation of a final piece. If "quick" was an option, don't you think we'd always use it? I've had ideas stew in my head for years before I've ever put them down on paper.

There's this great saying:

  • You can have it fast.

  • You can have it good.

  • You can have it cheap.
Pick two.

--"You could totally get a booth at such & such "starving artist" expo."

When I hear commercials use the cutesy term "starving artist" it makes me a little angry. How would you like to get paid $39.99 for fifteen hours of work? Add to that the cost of supplies. Add to that paying for the booth you "get" to set up at. I don't understand why any artists support these expos. I'll take my chances at a legitimate convention, art fair or gallery where a piece of art is actually considered valuable. People think that a $39.99 painting is worth $39.99. People think a $300 or $3000 or $30,000 painting is an investment.

That being said, I personally have very few pieces that I would price over $100.

--"All you did was Photoshop that."

Photoshop is not magical. Neither is Illustrator, Painter, or any of the other (expensive) programs that an illustrator is expected to own and know how to use. They are incredibly complex and can be quite frustrating. There isn't an "awesome" button. Also, you need to come up with ideas and have the ability to translate those ideas to suit each specific project. Computer programs are tools and there are skills required to make them work.

--"You should enter this contest I saw online. The winner gets $150!"

These "contests" are a way for cheap companies to take advantage of naive artists. They get dozens or hundreds of pieces created to their specifications and only have to pay for one. This is called SPEC WORK and it devalues every hard working illustrator who is trying to provide for him/herself and his/her family. Imagine going to a restaurant and ordering 20 or 30 items off the menu but only paying for the one item you liked best. It's ridiculous. Artists should not be expected to work for nothing. Here is a website with more information: no-spec.com

--"You'll never make a ton of money with this stuff."

You are right. The thing is, I'm not really interested in new fancy cars, or an electronics-filled "man cave"(possibly the most annoying term ever created), or other expensive junk. I want my wife and kids to be comfortable and happy. If that means I need to have a day job, so be it. A lot of artists have the same goal: make enough money on each project to pay for the time spent working on the next one. I'll be happy with that. Anything beyond that is just icing on my cake.

--"Wait, you watch cartoons and read kids books even without your kids?"

Yes, and at the risk of sounding pretentious, I understand them on a deeper level than most other adults. I am totally fascinated by the processes and people behind the production of great stories and artwork. This is what I want to do. A musician digs a little deeper into music, an athlete notices a great play as it develops, a politician sees a situation he/she can take advantage of (ha ha), etc., etc. An artist notices details and ponders how and why these specific elements work in a scene or on a page.

--"OK, draw up some sketches (or comps, or drafts, or layouts, or whatever term this potential client uses) so I can decide if I want to use you on the project."

This is often the most time consuming and mentally challenging part of any project. No other profession exists where a worker is expected to start the job before he/she is hired. Artists have portfolios, resumes, and samples of their work for a reason. Did you see something in my portfolio that you liked? Do you think my style will work on this particular project? If the answer is yes, then hire me. There will be plenty of opportunities written into the contract for alterations and (if you must) your creative input.

--"Can you fool around with some ideas for this project in your spare time?

No. I don't have spare time. I have a full-time family and a full-time job. Your project is not a hobby for me. I am serious about producing quality work for paying clients and building a reputation that allows me to eventually freelance full-time. If I had spare time, I'd have no problem filling it with my own to-do lists.

So there you have it. I know this is a long post but it feels good to get this stuff out there. If you made it all the way here, thanks for reading! I assume you know exactly what I'm talking about, or you care enough about an artist in your life to try to understand him/her. If you find the information useful or relevant, please pass it around. The more people that understand where an artist is coming from, the more colorful and creative our world will become!

One more thing I want to add: There are many situations where artists should and do donate their time and skills. Helping out a friend or family member or donating to a specific cause or charity is a valuable use of artistic talent. It's good for everyone involved and as a bonus, the artist may get a nice piece for his/her portfolio.

-Denver Wagner Feb.2010


the Boy & the Bread

People are difficult for me to draw, but it seems that more and more of my stories and ideas actually have these silly, mostly hairless creatures in them. I have put off drawing people for too long! I am now committed to taking the steps required to get better at it. I shall draw several people every week. With practice comes improvement. I will not post any nude drawings of my wife because my wife will not pose nude. Also, she probably will not find much humor in the previous sentence. Here is a quick sketch of my son with a loaf of bread.


Illustration Friday: Adrift

Here is my submission for Illustration Friday: Adrift.


The Forgotten Wildlife: Cliff Leaper

The cliff leaper clings to the glossy Marble Cliffs that line the coast of the Nufsed Sea. When it is hungry, the cliff leaper launches itself at one of the many species of seaflogs as they fly by. The cliff leaper opens it's mouth incredibly wide, and swallows the seaflog whole. The weight of the seaflog causes the cliff leaper to plummet to the sea below. There, it will float for several days while it digests it's meal.

The membranes of fatty skin that stretch between it's limbs allow the cliff leaper to glide great distances and ride the thermal currents that rise from the warm water below. These flaps of skin are also filled with black pockets of air for floating on the surface of the calm Nufsed Sea. When the cliff leaper's meal is fully digested, it climbs back up the smooth surface of the Marble Cliffs using a suctioning technique and repeats the whole process.


The Who Rules!

The day the owl awoke while the sun was still out
He squinted his eyes and looked all about
He thought the afternoon was awful and he spent it poutin'
Until the sun finally set behind stoney Stone Mountain
The owl pursed his beak to let out a great HOO
But surprised himself with a cock-a-doodle-doo



Bark is a character from a story my daughter and I have been building on called Morgan Monster Hunter & the Crypto Kid.
It's a mix of Alice in Wonderland, Universal monster and 50's B-movies, The Spiderwick Chronicles, cryptozoology, mythology, and legends from around the world, Scooby Doo, and Stand By Me (minus the dead body and the swearing, of course!), all contained in the normal school and family life of 11 year old Morgan and her genius friend, the Crypto Kid .
We take turns adding characters and adventures before bed. It has been entertaining...and the world is quickly expanding. I wish I had more time to play around with the character designs. Bark was discovered in a cave in the woods behind Morgan's house. Morgan rescued him from the horrible Spider Lord of the Underground. She had to create a dog disguise for the little creature so her parents wouldn't get suspicious.

Of course, Bark can't "bark" and makes strange noises when he tries, raising suspicion in Morgan's parents anyways.


Illustration Friday: Muddy

Zombies love the soft muddy ground following a rain storm. They also love brains.


And Shirley Was Never Seen Again

This is an excellent site for classic and new comic strips: GoComics.com http://www.gocomics.com/

Some of my favorites are:
  • BC by Johnny Hart
  • Calvin & Hobbes by Bill Waterson
  • Fox Trot by Bill Amend

Unfortunately, Gary Larson's The Far Side is not available (legally) online. It is my favorite comic of all time.


K is for Koala

I thought this name was pretty clever... then I googled it and wasn't as impressed with myself.


V is for Vulture

Thanks, Kathe! Here is her logo suggestion: Vulture Valley Collection Agency

Still taking suggestions for animal company logos.
.It's fast and easy.
Letter+Animal+Business/Group/Product = FUN! FUN! FUN!
See Monday's post for what letters are done. Leave comments or suggestions below.


Fly Full Frog

Hop, Croak, Ribbit. Croak , Ribbit, Hop, Hop
The fat, fly-full frog has come to a stop

.No more earthworms or beetles to munch
Not one more bite of bug until lunch

The flies fly boldly and then their luck ends
For a frog has lunch every twelve seconds


Illustration Friday: Focused

Thomas James at Escape From Illustration Island (a great illustrator resource site!)is running a contest this month, which finally got me to start posting at Illustration Friday. I've been wanting to submit some pieces over there for a while. They post a topic on Fridays, and artists have a week to illustrate their interpretation of it.

The topic this week is "focused". This is an older gouche on bristol piece. It was in pretty bad shape but I thought there was some potential in it. I spent about an hour and a half cropping it, cleaning it up, and tweaking the color. I got it to the point where I like it quite a bit.