Landscapes or ... what?



  • I come before you today in a strange mood, to ask a strange question.

    I have been "Sunday painting" for years--mainly landscape painting. Late last year I started doing some digital painting, and thought that this, perhaps, would be a good time for me to get into illustration. I had a loose idea I would like to write and illustrate a children's book about an astronaut kid in strange landscapes--though now I see how common that is.

    But I find that I continue to be drawn more to pure landscape painting, even in the digital format. I get quickly frustrated with myself when trying to bring the "visual storytelling" element to my work. And, for whatever reason (perhaps because I've never been happy with how I draw or paint people or characters), I seem to avoid even digging into learning how to do it, though on the conscious level I really want to, and despite my current subscription to SVSlearn.com.

    Meanwhile, I DO consider myself a storyteller. I have come out high in the rankings in some short story contests, and am now finishing up a science fiction novel. But I don't want to give up on the image-making, and ideally I'd like to combine the two things.

    I guess my ask here is -- looking at some of my digital paintings (you can see some at www.spaceprophet.wordpress.com ), do you consider that path worth continuing down? Or ... I don't know. Any recommendations? I guess I'm just existentially frustrated, here.



  • @CosmoglotJay Hi! I have a background in fine art and I feel your pain! Why do you want to get into illustration instead of continuing down the road of landscape painting? Ultimately I think you should keep going with whatever interests you most because--at least in my experience--there is no easy road with art, so the more you love what you do the better chance for success you have because you'll want to keep going. I love painting landscapes too, but I was a lot more excited overall about children's illustration and completely changed my style and have spent the last several years building a new skill set to go after that. If it's something that excites you, go for it! Enjoy putting characters in your landscapes and playing with it and see where it takes you.



  • @CosmoglotJay If you like the idea of working on children's books, I'd say it's worth pursuing. Figure out what attracts you to drawing landscapes and try to apply that to characters and story elements if possible. I just completely redid my children's book portfolio in a new style and it's difficult at first if you're not as good at the new thing (ex drawing characters) as you are at what you normally do (in your case landscapes). If you've already got a good foundation, I would say to try the character design and children's book courses on SVS and just try to play around with drawing stuff in that vein, even if it's not your best work right away. A good place to start is with a story or character you're already passionate about, but don't worry if it doesn't immediately look how you pictured. I've struggled a lot in the past with shying away from certain subject matter that I felt I wasn't good at drawing, but the only way to get better is to practice 🙂 That being said, it's also fine to just draw landscapes if that's what makes you happy!



  • First of all, I think your landscapes are beautiful and I think your style, with the nice colors and shapes would make beautiful illustrations. With that said, my background is in oil painting and I feel your pain too! What if you scan in one of your landscapes and play with adding a character - sitting on rocks, climbing rocks and trees, walking on roads etc. Starting with silouettes first might help and then add detail. With digital you can erase so easily that you can just keep working at it until you get it right without messing anything up. Find references to help with poses. You can draw larger if necessary and scale them down to fit in your landscape. I would suggest you have a graphic display monitor if you don't already. They're much easier and more fun. If you really want to do this, hang in there and keep trying. I get frustrated too. I go one direction and then the other. When I hit a road block, I analyze the problem and search for a solution that makes sense for me. I hope that helps!



  • Hi @CosmoglotJay, awesome landscapes!! How about a graphic novel with lots of awesome landscapes?


  • SVS OG

    @CosmoglotJay dude! Continue making art! I love your pieces. I can see you have a good handle on light and color, perspective, and composition. You’re on to something here.


  • SVS OG

    I think you are really onto something with your landscapes. Have you tried to do anything with them? Sell or display them? I think you are in a position where you could build a business just off of your landscapes.

    Since you've got a good grasp on landscapes, it would be interesting to see if you could formulate a plan to fast track developing a character style you're happy with, that would fit well with your landscapes. Only you can decide if that's worth doing however, and if you could let go of the "what if" if you decide not to pursue your skills in characters. It would give you a bit more freedom, but some people definitely make the decision to forego characters completely (though probably not children's book illustrators), and there's no wrong or right answer. I know personally I dreaded the thought of having to place characters in environments, and now I'm almost starting to prefer doing environments to characters. It was not an easy process to get there however.

    Have you done the dream portfolio challenge? It might be interesting to see you do one for characters or character interacting with landscapes. It could help focus the process if you do decide to pursue the addition of characters.



  • @CosmoglotJay

    Two things, starting with Im carrying on with my astronaut character in different storyline lols, what other SVS members have with mice we can have with our astronauts.

    Second apart from adding more landscapes/environment focus into children book focus, have you tried a top 20 landscape/storytelling collection of other artists work -I have one on Pinterest (mine is landscape not the storytelling part).

    Also (thirdly ish) Andrea Korveshi paints with the combo I think of what you may be looking for without going into children’s book territory.


  • SVS OG

    @Heather-Boyd Gave a very good example of an artist to look at. Look at how simple the shading and shapes are in his figures. The silhouette of the figure takes it 90% there. I don't think it would take much to practice and develop that skill.



  • I'm in the same boat. I'm a graphic designer, painting as much as I can in my spare time. Although I love painting landscapes I feel that there is something missing in some of them - that they need a bit of narrative. I have always avoided painting people, animals and buildings as I considered them too difficult and feel if they are going to spoil my painting I would rather leave them out altogether. But recently I was asked to do a set of illustrations for a book which includes a farmer, Santa, reindeers, sheep plus the farmhouse etc! Instead of saying no I accepted the challenge, joined SVS and am now sketching characters/buildings and hoping to join in the monthly challenges to better myself. I'm not sure if I will go down the digital route yet but I will see how it goes. Jay your landscapes look like they are ready to tell a story - it's definitely a path worth following if storytelling is a passion, and if your heart's in it then why not...



  • Thank you everyone for responding.

    @NatLundeen I want to get into illustration because, well, I enjoy storytelling and I feel as though I SHOULD be able to bridge my interest in the visual arts with storytelling. In part because that would mean I could focus my energy more effectively--not have it feel as scattered between the two in such disparate fashion, if that makes sense? I used to also record music and play bass guitar, but I gave those things up to have more time for these other arts, because I wasn't able to put enough energy into them all to even improve. Further focus into visual storytelling, it seems to me, would leave time for promoting my skills as well, without having to give anything else up.

    @Melanie-Ortins I think what you say makes sense, especially with starting with that character I feel passionate about. In my head, the book I want to write and illustrate is actually a lot more "primitive" in visual style than my landscape style is shaping out to be.

    @deborah-Haagenson Thank you! I think I may just try inserting characters into some of my existing landscapes. For some reason I worry they will end up looking like one of those situations where people buy paintings from thrift stores and then paint over them or into them! But I guess it's about trial and error. I do have a newish iPad Air and Apple Pencil. Been using Procreate since about January, on top of my use of the Affinity softwares on both iPad and my PC (with a non-monitor graphics tablet).

    @Jeremy-Ross Thank you! Now there's an idea ... in fact I've had people respond to pieces I've submitted for monthly Challenges with similar suggestions. I'll take this as a hint that I should consider it more seriously.

    @Nyrryl-Cadiz Thank you! I'm going to continue in one form or another!

    @TessaW Thank you! I have posted them on the blog where you looked at them, on instagram, and on facebook. Generally I only get a handful of "likes" in any platform. The number of times @Will-Terry, @Jake-Parker, and @Lee-White have said something to the effect of "if people are 'liking' your work on social media, that's an indication that you're onto something and can move to the next level" is part of what has got me worried, actually. Apparently there's something I'm missing about how to increase my number of followers/likers/whatevers--and that makes me question whether I could actually make any money by selling them, since those two activities seem similar in kind. Though, really, there's nothing I'd like more than to do that. And I like your idea about formulating a plan for fast-tracking the development of a sympathetic character style. I'll need to think about that. I have done the dream portfolio challenge on Pinterest, for children's books illustrations and, separately, for landscape paintings--though, go figure, I have had a much easier time finding landscape images I salivate over (so to speak). I will give a go at the specific characters/characters interacting with landscape type you mention, because I think that would go a long way.

    @Heather-Boyd Heh I'm all about forming an SVS astronaut club. April is for Astronauts? I'm going to look into Andrea Korveshi. Thanks for the recommendation! And, like I mentioned above, I'll give a go at that particular sort of Pinterest inspiration board.

    @Lisa-Pickard That's exactly it--I feel like I'm finding deficit in inserting narrative into my landscapes, and maybe this is why they have not found much engagement. I'm glad you get to do that set of illustrations. Let me know how that progresses, will you?

    Thanks again, everyone. I really needed someone to "talk" with about all this. You've all given me some good directions to go.


  • SVS OG

    I can only speculate from watching other artists online and experiencing art in person, but I would be careful about how you gauge the impact of your work from social media at this point.

    First, how long have you been posting your work? It sometimes takes a good amount of time with constant and consistent posting to gain traction. It also looks like you could up your tagging game a little.

    Second, I feel your landscapes could benefit from keeping them traditional, and marketing them as pieces to hang in your home. This would probably be a career path focused on art fairs, galleries, and online sales. I feel including process shots/videos as well as photos of your work hanging up in a stylish home would really up your social media impact.

    Lastly, personally speaking, there are a lot of types of art I would choose for my home, that I don't typically consume online. While I think your landscapes do look really good online, they would make a very nice impact presented in person and looks like they would work well on both large and small canvases.


  • SVS Team SVS Instructor Pro SVS OG

    @CosmoglotJay "Apparently there's something I'm missing about how to increase my number of followers/likers/whatevers--and that makes me question whether I could actually make any money by selling them, since those two activities seem similar in kind. Though, really, there's nothing I'd like more than to do that."

    So this brings up an interesting question. There are two ways to go here, 1. you continue down the landscape path knowing that there might not be much money in it or 2. You add, change, modify what you are doing in order to increase sales. So the question is what do you really want to do and why do you want to do it?

    If money is the issue, and you want to make money in illustration, you have to cater your product to a buying audience. This takes constant work and you might not love what you have to do to your work to make it hit. But I would start looking around and seeing which pros are doing work that you would like to do and how are they getting paid for it. However, if adding these things to your work takes away from the enjoyment of it, you really need to consider that as a sign that you might be going in the wrong direction.

    If you don't actually need to make money from it, there is nothing wrong with going in your own direction and continuing with the landscapes. OR, you need to find out how to market the landscapes to a buying audience. This is easier said than done, but you need to find the group of people who want that. I can tell you from experience, however, that the landscape buying audience I am familiar with will not buy digital work. The typically value physical paint much more than other art markets. But that is from my limited experience here.

    Either way, I wish you luck on your journey. It's hard to figure these things out and it just takes time and effort to get a handle on what works and what doesnt.



  • @TessaW You make a good point. I suppose I haven't been posting on social media for as long as it would realistically take to gain traction - or at least not consistently posting for that long. It feels like forever - but that's probably due to the weight of emotion behind the thing rather than the actual amount of time and exposure. Gah, it's frustrating how wrapped-up in identity this all gets; and I sure wish I were less invested in what other people think about these things. But there's no way to not be when you're looking to build a money-making venture. Right? In this area of life I feel like one of those sea anenomes that furtively peeks out from its protective coral only to shoot back in at the first sign of danger - which in this case is the outward appearance that nobody gives a damn. I'm not really like that in other areas of life. I'm taking it as an indication of how much this all means to me. Leaning into the fear, as it were.

    As for that tagging game: totally flummoxed about how it works. Almost seems like you've got to write an essay about the art piece with a hashtag in front of every word. But when I see that happen on other peoples' artwork some part of me balks.

    Your point about the consumption of art online vs. in person is a really interesting one. I seek out landscapes online - but that's likely because I'm so taken with them, and looking to produce them. Somehow it hadn't even occurred to me that there might be a difference in how I consume online art with how most other people do. (Theory of mind, ftw!)



  • @Heather-Boyd Your recommendation of Andrea Koroveshi was an awesome one. He does such cool stuff! And gives me some ideas about pressing into more drama with lighting. Fun!



  • @Lee-White That's an insightful parsing of the issue. I do graphic design as part of my - ahem - portfolio career - and would like to press deeper into the illustration element. Actually, I've been paid for illustrations in the past, but they were for political mail and nothing I would feel comfortable (or even proud) to post to a website portfolio. And I would like to write and illustrate my own books, in sort of a painterly-yet-primitive fashion. I know I've come to the right place - where an illustration career begins. So as far as that goes, it's like you said: time and effort.

    Maybe my hang-up is in this concept I've got that I need to combine everything into one big effort. It's probably in reaction to my [cough] portfolio career, where it feels like all these different fractured efforts that, yes, are making me money, but leave little time for me to put effort into other things that I care to combine.

    Then again, your observation about buyers of landscape paintings valuing the physicality of actual paint is a fascinating one, and something I hadn't considered. Yet when I think back on my initial experience falling in love with landscape paintings in Santa Fe all those years ago, there really was something about the paint itself (even though what my family ended up buying were prints) - and when I see landscapes online I find myself imagining the paint itself in them, which is a large part of why I try to emulate physical media as closely as I can when painting digitally.

    So now that I've taught myself some of the fundamentals of digital painting it may be time to press back into acrylics. (I can't stand how long oils take to dry.) Actually, I'm thinking I'll do both: make these digital paintings as a method of composition and working out problems, then re-painting my favorites of these in physical media.

    I saw your video showing how you project your sketches and make larger paintings from them. I've done this in the past - but mine is one of those old school (and old-school) projectors that require transparencies, so I find myself having to do tracings of my sketches in sharpie before I can make the paintings from them. That extra step is frustrating because, well, it's an extra step, and also because it feels like I'm making a translation from a low-res translation. Need to look into projectors that plug into my computer, perhaps. That's what you use, yeah?



  • @CosmoglotJay I also like Anton Fadeev. Certainly like his wild colours and large scale almost panoramic drama.


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