In sort of a limbo

  • This October I changed workplace, and went from designing for newspaper advertising, to designing for packaging. It has really been an uplifting change for me, it was about time too - 11 years in a struggling media-industry has been trying at times.

    So my art has been put on hold (again), but I'm trying not to beat myself up about it. My new years resolutions does not contain any hairy goals of quantity or large projects - it is simply to keep drawing and enjoying the process. As I mainly see myself as a graphic designer, and wish to continue with this, art should really be something that gives more than it takes in my life.

    So this January I'm starting Croquis once a week at my local Art Society. Croquis / quick sketching / gesture drawing is something I think I will both enjoy and build my skills with.

    And I have been drawing a mermaid. I was so frustrated with trying to thumbnail my Kvitebjørn Kong Valemon -piece (the Polar bear, if anyone remembers) that I drew a chubby mermaid instead. Now I want to develop this further and are stuck in the same "I hate to thumbnail"-fase. Oh dear.

    This is my original mermaid, done in Sketchbook Pro on my Galaxy Note tab
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    And this is a sketchbook page with what was supposed to be thumbnails :p
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    I need to work through this, but I still need to enjoy the process.

    And I would like to wish everyone here a very Happy New Year 🙂

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    @Camomilla oooh - Package design should be fresh & exciting after 11 years in newspaper advertising, and it should bring some new, fun challenges too!

    I totally hear you on disliking and probably wanting to bypass thumbnails and prep-work. Of course, I think it is even harder to attempt to tear down something that has so much time, effort, & measure of completeness in order to totally rebuild it. This can be stifling.

    I think that you have a great tool on your side, though. You said that your intent for the next year is “simply to keep drawing and enjoy the process” with a perspective that “art should really be something that gives more than it takes in your life”.

    Theoretically, this intent & perspective of yours frees you from “hating the thumbnail phase” or any other “unfinished” phase as well as any need felt to share with the external world (though I hope you do keep sharing!), for it is an intent & perspective that values process over product and values personal fulfillment & enjoyment over burdensome pursuits.

    I say “theoretically” because we all want some sort of ROI on our process (i.e. a product); however, that ROI could include personal growth (learning, improvement, etc.). Similarly, sometimes the unspoken desire of what we want our art “to give” is income or a sense of accomplishment or a sense of worth/value amongst others (i.e. respect, importance, praise, etc.); however, that which the art gives could include the opportunity to explore the wondrous world around us or introspection of personal values & perspectives or a pursuit of communication & relationship development through art.

    It’s hard to find words that help you (and myself) specifically “enjoy the process”, but perhaps we can all mutually encourage one another to cherish engaging with the creative process, viewing it as valuable & enjoyable in of itself.

    My hope is that you may find that what you perceive as limbo to perhaps be a gift to be capitalized upon — hard to do, I know, yet invigorating if able to be achieved.

    The Croquis sounds like it will be a great way to facilitate your enjoyment. While doing it live is probably best (also since you get to be around others, which I think is important), if you find yourself wanting to do more at home or as you find free time, you could use online resources that allow you to change models/poses at set time intervals, like or

    Definitely keep enjoying creating the art so we can keep enjoying what you’ve created!

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    @QuietYell Such nice words and a really enlightening perspective! I do believe art, like storytelling, is a human instinct. It can be suppressed (and so many people do!), but to be really happy and satisfied as a human being you have to express yourself in one way or other and "create" something. So it does not have to be linked to any return or grand plan - it is just a way of being human. At the core I think we all do art because we could not NOT do it, not because there is something special to be won from it.
    As for prep work - though I have been drilled so much that I came to enjoy it, I feel it is a little bit like meeting your soul-mate. Sometimes you date a lot, or go to a lot of social gatherings and meet lots of people before you find one with whom "it clicks". And sometimes it's just love at first sight. And sometimes you recognize that one and only love and sometimes you do go and date a lot of other people before you realize that the first was the one made for you. I am not sure the metaphor is clear but that is how I feel about it 😉

  • @QuietYell and @smceccarelli Thank you both for taking the time to write a long and insightful replies to my post - your views add to my train of thoughts in a very positive way!

    I think I need to define better what it is about making art that appeals so greatly to me. What about it makes it rewarding, and where in my process i feel fulfilled. I have a tendency to overthink things, but it's just my personality, and I really can't help it :p Ever since I was little, I have loved the process of making the marks. When the marks represented something, brought something to life, it was like magic to me. The pieces I have enjoyed the most making, have been the pieces with no plan, where something grew and evolved as I was drawing. However, in regards to end-result, I see that the pieces that are more designed somehow has other good qualities. But they were rarely that fun to make. You might say I'm an advanced doodler :p

    I have thought a lot about a reply you gave me @smceccarelli, in my Polar Bearl-post about the fear of starting a big project, because I felt I wouldn't do it justice. You replied something along the lines that; of course I wouldn't do it justice, because no one can convey exactly what is in their minds. When we see other works of art, we sort of assume that the finished product is exactly what the artist envisioned, not knowing how it evolved as it was made. I think I also need to let go of the notion that the my hand should be able to function as a Xerox-machine of the images in my head.

    This goes very well along with your statement @QuietYell about engaging with the creative process, it being valuable and enjoyable in of itself. I think this goes right to the core of it; I need to let go of some degree of control, and explore more. The joy of making the marks and seeing where they lead me, must surely be possible to combine with conveying the mood and narrative that is in my mind to begin with.

    When I make thumbnails, I mainly think of design. And I work as a designer, so I am very familiar with this. If I could approach the thumbnailing process with the same exploratory mindset, I think I would find greater joy in these as well.

    I am so happy for this community. Even though I don't post much, or is very active, it is always rewarding to see and read what others post. Thank you.

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    @Camomilla You are very welcome! I think that I should probably review & define what it is that appeals, is rewarding, and is fulfilling about making art to me as well, not to mention overall intent, purpose, goals, etc.

    "Advanced Doodler" - hilarious!

  • Two more pages from my sketchbook. I'm trying to explore more, but still staying within a theme. Somehow I'm hoping this will loosen me up some, when there is no constraints. And like the last page, I decided to use a charcoal pencil rather than my technical pencil - this keeps me from getting too detailed so that i can explore the shapes more.

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    This is really unstructured, and I do cringe a little looking at these pages. But somehow I got a bit closer to getting to know my mermaid character. I'd like her to be at bit "faceless" or have limited facial features. I don't want her face to read any emotions, so I need her to have very little to no expression. I want to hint to eye sockets, perhaps some nostrils and a mouth, but I still haven't figured out the face shape in profile yet. I would like the impact of my final piece to be in the elements interacting, and I feel that a neutral expression in the character(s) will aid that.

    So far my mermaid faces look very mask-like, or alien. I am very far from any compositional decisions, but I am still enjoying this, so my year is off to a good start 🙂

    Oh, and there is also a lot of random stuff. Which I have no idea why I put there :p

  • So I did another tonight, pencil this time. Still fairly loose, I think, trying not to obsess over the fact that the hand looks terrible :p This is an exploratory sketch, trying to figure out the shapes (and perhaps a little composition). I'm thinking I'd like to do something like this. Yes 🙂

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  • Great to see you exploring shape language for forms. I think the step you are missing is that you have no clear direction in which you are headed. And, whilst this can be liberating, it can also hold you back as you find your way. If I may offer some advice? It would be to take a step back and define what it is you are trying to do, what are your trying to depict, what is the story you are telling? Why is this character interesting, what is she doing, where is this happening, and at what time? Has she just defended the oceans from an evil tryant or is she just discovering her identity? Once you give yourself some 'story' to work with, your ideas will flow more easily and your sketches will come much faster. I hope this helps? Regards, Rob.

  • @RobinSlee Advice is always welcome, I am so glad you took the time to look at my sketches and giving me your input!

    The subject matter I am exploring with these sketches doesn't really have a narrative, at least not yet. But I do have some thoughts around why they appeal to me at a more emotional level. Mermaids are somewhat of a kliche, but I am not aiming to draw yet another pretty girl with a fishtail. The lack of facial features and neutral expression frees the being from falling into categories like "good" or "evil". Some things just is, and there is no agenda behind it; much like nature. The skull is significantly smaller than her, telling me that she is somehow larger than life (or perhaps death) and has substance and presens. The jellyfish has a more obvious duality to it; both beautiful and toxic, yet the mermaid is unaffected by this. She somehow relates to the skull, but we don't know how.

    I really want to paint this now! I'll see if I do some more sketching first, though 🙂

  • I did thumbnails! Hah! I don't really like any of them, they are sloppy and crude. I told myself they would be value and composition studies, but I clearly have a lot to learn about both concepts :p

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  • @Camomilla really interested in seeing where you take this idea? I still have the same observation though. Without story, the image will suffer. Why is she holding the skull? Has she just discovered it and is curious? Or has she just killed this guy and is now remorseful? Or is she totally not bothered and wondering why am I even holding this? I hope it's not the latter 😉

  • @RobinSlee I love that my sketches evokes so much curiosity for you - the subject matter is intriguing for me too. At this point I don't have a story, and I don't really think the narrative is that important to me (yet, anyway). Right now I think I'm exploring being in a limbo - being detached somehow, and it seems to seep into my scribblings. I made this spread in my sketchbook the last few days, and even though the scenes are not in the water, the feeling I get from them are much the same. I specially like the thumbnail on the bottom left on the left page, even though the composition is rather boring. The one on the right page (bottom left) has a much more interesting perspective, but being so close to the subject takes away some of the alienation, and makes it more personal in some way.

    I can't help but feel that my thumbnail attempts are helpless and underdeveloped. It is not something I would post anywhere but here, I think. But I want to do more, and do them more spontaneously. In stead of thinking an image through in my head, I would like to get a general feel for the shapes before forming an opinion.

    And croquis is starting the 30th of January - so looking forward to this! Very scary, but will surely loosen me up and hopefully bring more energy to my characters.

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  • And I keep exploring 🙂

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  • So I started my mermaid piece. And even though I said I would try to enjoy the mark making, I am struggeling with rendering. I lack experience. I really shouldn't expect this to be very enjoyable until I am somewhat more familiar with my rendering tools. My need to constantly check out new tools is NOT helping the situation, so I think I need to accept the fact that there will be struggle. Technically and artistically.

    And speaking of new tools. I have purchased my first Cintiq 😃 To replace my very, very old Intous 2 A3 tablet, which Wacom no longer makes updated drivers for. It must be somewhere around 15 years old. So now - with a just slightly used Cintiq 22 hd on my desk - I have one serious upgrade to my setup.

    So this is where I'm at. Made with Kyles watercolour, impressionist and guache brushes. I know.

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  • So this is where I'm at at the moment. The colours are a bit more saturated, and I have made helpless attempts to clean it up a bit. I really don't know what to do or where to go next with this. Somehow it doesn't look finished to me, but I don't know what it needs to get there. Perhaps practicing some photo realism would get my rendering skills improved, but I also do like the painterly look a lot. I think I will also crop it a bit on the left and right sides - right now everything is sort of floating (haha).


    And I have been doing croquis once a week for three weeks. Here is a sketch from imagination where I try to draw from what I have learned. I kind of like it. Although this isn't finished either :p

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    @smceccarelli I was doing daily doodles wvery week on my facebook page. What I like about doodles is that they are off the top of my head and I have no requirements fo rperfection-just fun. I just stopped for awhile so I can get serious but I might start again. People seem to like them 🙂 That's the free, expresseive exercise we all need!

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    @Camomilla beautiful sketches, Camomilla!

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