'The Dwarven Explorers' Process

One of the stretchgoals for my Kickstarter campaign for The Prophecy Sketchbook involved me taking a sketch chosen by the backers and turning it into a new illustration. The backers voted and chose 'The Dwarven Explorers.' This was one of my favourite sketches from the book and I was very excited to bring it to fruition...

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End of a Long Sleep

A recent painting I made, click to enlarge.

Thieves Luck

Hey! I've spent the most part of the last year working on a freelance project that's currently unannounced. I've been having a blast with it, its a deck of cards and the style and content are quite aligned with the stuff I like to do in my personal work. They'll be printed fairly small so I have to work in a way that's a bit different than I'm used to. I'm now able to show some of the stuff I'm doing so I should be able to share more now. Here's one of the first cards from earlier this year, click the thumbnail to enlarge :)

Here's some stuff

I've had a chaotic year in terms of work and my living situation, so its been hard to remember to update stuff like this blog. Things seem to be settling down a bit now, so here's some recent sketches. I have a folder of unfinished personal work that I really want to go through and finish off.

I've also been playing around with making paper mache mask in my spare time, here's a creepy hag mask I made. Its really cool seeing how different it can look when different people wear it, and also seeing people have fun using something you made. 

Sketch Splurge

So I've basically spent the last 4 months balancing freelance, (poorly) attempting a book project, and trying quell my crushing self-doubt about my work. Here's some random sketches that have come out along the way.

I've been trying to illustrate an old English fairytale called Childe Rowland, and I have very little to show for it. I've learned that I'm great at starting things and terrible at finishing them. Perhaps being a bit more transparent about the process would help keep me on track, but I have commitment issues about announcing projects to the world. Either way, posting stuff I've done definitely helps me feel like I have some structure in my life and I should do it more.

Exploring the World of Lines

Gustave Doré, HJ Ford, Walter Crane

Gustave Doré, HJ Ford, Walter Crane

Hey everyone!

I've been very busy this month working on a large amount of thumbnails for a project I'm involved in. It's been great for my ability to draw and plan images, and I definitely want to carry it on into my work.  In my spare time I've just been doing little experiments with pen to try and find a style I like. Working in line is something I've been interested in for a while, because I'm a huge fan of artists like Gustave Doré, HJ Ford and Walter Crane. I tend to slap on values and rendering before really exploring what I can do with a drawing, mostly out of fear of making something look cartoony. Changing media has been helping me free myself from the restrictions of working from habit or trying to fit in with the digital illustration community, and instead just doing what I enjoy.

What I want to create VS What I actually create

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I've been having a hard time coming up with things to talk about on here every week, so I'm thinking of only posting when I have something to share. I initially made this blog to be sort of devlog for directing my personal work, but it ended up with me just moaning about the realities of being an artist :'( I'm gonna try and make this more about the artwork and achieving my 'vision' for what I want it to be. 

I'm trying to keep away from painting at the moment. One thing I've learned about myself recently is that I really like drawing in a way that could be considered 'flat'. I love perfect symmetry, I love profile faces, and I love archways and circles framing people. Looking through even my earliest stuff, I can see I always loved this, but I moved away from that and just copied how popular artists on CA.org painted in order to improve.

So I know that this is how I want to work, but whenever I start painting I feel compelled to work realistically. I guess this is either by habit or feeling like people expect me to work a certain way, and they may not like it if I switch up. There's definitely some ego involved there too, some urge to try and show people I don't suck.

I have an inspiration folder of artwork that sums what I want to make, and the majority of it looks entirely different to what I make right now. Lots of it is not realistic, some of it is borderline ugly to look at. Last year I got closer, with 'Somewhere in this Land' and 'Immortal Bond' achieving some elements I like, but I was still playing it very safe.

This year, I want to take some risks and create artwork that might be less technically impressive, but more in tune with what I want to create.

And now, here's some of my recent stuff that goes against everything I just said:

Post-Christmas Energy

Hey!

I'm back in Berlin after spending the Christmas holidays in my hometown in England. It was very good for me to be taken out of my usual routine in order to see things from a distance.

I didn't realise how burnt out I was before the vacation. Burning out is a subtle thing that you usually don't notice happening. I wouldn't define it as working too hard; I think burning out usually occurs when you're creating too many things without sufficient creative stimulus going into your head. But it can't just be the same old creative stimulus on loop, you need to have novelty. This can come from listening to new music, discovering new artists, reading new books, and meeting new people.

I've been pretty awful at keeping any of these things up recently, and I want to change that. I moved to the super-cool city of Berlin recently and have put embarrassingly little effort into going out and meeting people. It'd suck to spend the whole time I'm here just working and not really enjoying the place. I've made a little list of cool stuff I'd like to experience or accomplish in 2016, lets see how many I can get ticked off.

Here are some sketches and a WIP of that horseman piece. I'm not sure if how much further I'll go with it, it doesn't really feel like my kinda thing so far.

-Sam

Regular Update

Hey everyone!

Not going to be writing much this week. I'm currently trying to get some freelance work wrapped up before the incoming holiday standstill, while also fighting through a nasty cold and some sleep problems. As you can imagine I'm not in the best writing state right now, but I don't want that to put me off updating so here's a sketch I actually liked from this week.

I bought Kyle's Dry Media Brushes off Gumroad and I've been having a great time playing around with them. It feels a little weird advertising on here, especially since I don't usually place that much value in brushes, but I really like this set and its worth giving a shout-out to. I love dry brush inking, but in traditional ink my heavy hand usually ends up making a blobby mess of everything. Its very cool to be able to fix things as I go in PS while still getting tasty textures and brush strokes. Worth checking out if you like that kinda thing!

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The Work Side of Things

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So Monday has rolled around again and I'm feeling some strange pressure to try and keep this blog interesting. Its a very exciting time for me right now, but since its mostly tied to freelance work I can't say much. This makes it really hard to paint an accurate picture of current life, as I mostly spend my time working these days. I'll give it a shot anyway.

I had quite a few low points in my career this year. I got out of school and realised that I had no contacts. I struggled to find any work and when I have, I've usually been grinding out large quantity on fairly low pay to make it work. I'm below the minimum wage, but I've often been surprised how little that impacts my quality of life. Highlights from this year include being told by a prospective client that my 'A-Game' was in no way worth $400, and a landlady telling a banker that I'm 'basically unemployed' after seeing my income. It honestly felt like starting from the very bottom. Indeed, this was the first year it ever occurred to me that maybe 'just doing freelance' instead of getting a real education and job wasn't the smartest choice I ever made.

This whole time, I've been hanging onto the vague hope that if I just keep making more personal work and trying to strengthen my style, I might eventually get hired by someone because they want me for my 'look', and not because they need a spare artist to make more generic stuff. I made around 30 illustrations this year, and only 25% of them were the personal pieces I posted online. I doubt I'd show a lot of the freelance stuff I do even if I was able to, since a lot of it doesn't even look like I did it. The further I'm getting into my personal work, the more alien it is to be asked to paint cute flying hampsters. 

But I'm starting to notice a change, and that's why things are exciting right now. For the first time ever, I'm being approached by people who want the style I'm showcasing in my personal work. That's probably as much as I can say right now, but hopefully it gives people a better idea of what's happening on the work side of things. 2016 should be very interesting.

This last week I had a short break after spending the last couple of months making an illustration a week, but managed to tie up a personal piece that's been kicking around for months. I'm also hacking away on the other personal piece currently called 'Sentinel,' which I want to have tied up before the end of the year.

Thanks for reading, have a great week!

-Sam

What happened to the Big d?

Hey everyone,

One thing I often get asked by people who have been following me for a while is: “What ever happened to The Big D?” For those who aren't in the know, The Big D was a Sin City rip-off comic I ran a few years back following a noir detective who had a penis for a head. The idea was formulated in 2012 from a funny mistake while sketching. I ran with it, it got a laugh and then I didn't do anything with it. About a year later I decided to make a short webcomic called The Big D, putting this character in a noir setting. The lack of response other than 'LOL he is a dick' after the amount of hard work put into it stung. And what did I expect? That was as deep as the idea got. In truth, I'm not even sure if I liked the idea or if I was just excited by the idea of others liking it.

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I then started trying to write a second issue. I think I created a whole story, thumbnailed pages, drew quite a few out, and had 2 of them painted before I realised that it was all built on nothing. It didn't matter how well I executed it because the story was so bad. So the next logically step seemed to be to contact a writer about doing a short standalone collaboration. I'd gotten too into ideas of a big main story and just wanted it to be fun again. I got in touch with a writer through Reddit called Louis. He's a great writer and wrote the whole thing faster than I could draw it. I got the whole thing thumbnailed out (which doesn't look like much, but man that is that hard) and painted up to page 8 before I realised that the project was still just too big. Or more, the crazy amount of work just wouldn't be worth someone skimming through and saying “lol he's a dick” all over again. I kept trying to plow through but eventually pulled the plug. I feel super bad, even now, for Louis who had grinded the script out and didn't get to see it come to fruition.

I'd like to say that The Big D was the only time I made this mistake, but I can safely tell you that the most viewed image on my Deviantart is a satire comic about Ash from Pokemon being a sad war vet. Unfortunately that one struck a chord with 13 year old Pokemon fans and, even now, I get comments telling me how emotionally compelling it is.

I learned some key lessons from these experiences. Its easier to make something that's a cheap joke than it is to make something that you care about. Ultimately that's just a defence mechanism against exposing the real you. That would make you vulnerable to people's opinions, and that can hurt. I liked that people found my idea funny, until I realised no one really cared about it., myself included. You can't expect people to care about something that you yourself don't really care about. At the end of the day, using a cheap joke or gimmick in an attempt to engage people will leave you with nothing.

What it really taught me is that you have to love what you do. I listened to people's reactions before even taking a moment to consider what I enjoy. If I at least loved my idea, it wouldn't have mattered what anyone else thought. The last few years I've been feeling out what art is about for me, and its proving to be an endless and fulfilling discovery process. Nowadays, there's never a question about whether or not anyone else will enjoy my work, because I'm only satisfied when I enjoy looking at it.

I wanted to write this post to properly bury any past projects in hopes of moving onto something with more substance. Hopefully this will also help people understand why I cringe a bit whenever people ask me “What ever happened to The Big D?”

-Sam

Take a Moment

Hey everyone!

This last week was great. I had a lot of introspection, mostly on things I worry about and what I want to do with myself. I spend a lot of time dreaming about how great things things will be if I ever become successful with this art thing, but I rarely take the time to enjoy the now. I realised that as long as I'm working hard, worrying about how everything is going to work out is just an extra burden that isn't worth carrying. I've noticed that by sending out more positivity into your surroundings, your surroundings in turn make you more positive. The opposite is also true, causing the famous downward spiral. An example of this is that I'm trying to write a list at the beginning of the week of all the awesome stuff I'd like to do alongside all the boring adult stuff that I need to do. I've been having a hard time mixing the two and finally feel like I'm getting the hang of it.

I finally got my PC shipped to the new apartment in Berlin, and decided to clean up the colossal mess that was my art folder. In my mind, I'd put where I was in my routine before I moved in August on some kind of pedestal that I need to work to reach again, but moving over my new work to the PC made me see how much work I've been doing these last 3 months alone. I was surprised at how much I've grown, especially since at the beginning of this year I could barely put together an illustration after the Atelier. Sure I'd learned a lot at the Atelier, but I hadn't been using the muscles in my brain for image-making the whole time I was studying. I could make a face pretty, but was absolutely crippled when it came to making a remotely interesting picture. I should take more time to look at my progress, since seeing the results of hard work is really the best motivation to keep going.

In my bout of positivity I'm trying to post my work around more without feeling the usual weird shame. Been trying to put some stuff on Reddit, and while its been a fairly quiet response I've been happy with the reception I've been getting. I fully understand that my work isn't the most exciting thing to the masses who want tits and explosions, but those aren't the people I'm trying to get to see my work. I'm looking for people who love slightly more esoteric work where you have to dig harder for meaning or to find stories between pieces. I'd love to create a collection of art that is more like a long, vague book than a flashy movie. I'm currently shaping up my plans for 2016 and I'm going to finally take some risks to try and make my ideas into something tangible. I think constantly about things that I'd love to create, but usually submit to the fear of it not being popular enough to make money. Time to get over that. I should have quite a bit of time for myself over December to formulate some big plans. Getting very tired of saying 'next year is the year.'

Oh and one of the best parts of this week was finding out I have a huge park near where I live. Love the Autumn weather and atmosphere, has a huge influence on my artwork. If you're an artist who finds themselves glued to the computer all the time, go outside and see some nature!

I challenge everyone who reads this to do something they really enjoy this week, even if its difficult to find the time.

-Sam

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A Change of Approach

Hey!

I managed to force myself to update, and its looking like I'll be updating weekly. I've had some cool ideas for things I could share on here so it should be fun to see how it works out.

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As I mentioned in my last post, I want to use this as a place to update without having to condense my work or my thoughts into a bite-size 'Like-able' post on Facebook. Hopefully it can be a little more honest than the way a lot of us artists end up portraying ourselves on Facebook too, I always find it a little alienating to see how few people can talk about stuff like stagnation or depression. Maybe its because not enough people would 'Like' to read about that, but struggling with your own laziness/ego is a never-ending reality of trying to be productive. I'm not saying that social media should be a doom and gloom, but people should be more comfortable with sharing their insecurities so others see that its natural.

Anyway, I mentioned last week that I want to produce one piece of personal work a month. I remember listening to this episode of One Fantastic Week with Noah Bradley as guest. They talked about how most people can't produce just one piece a month for themselves, and its stuck with me since. I make a lot of artwork for other people's projects, and really need to start pushing my own work for some long-term rewards.

My current habit for personal work involves scribbling a vague feeling and some esoteric notes, and then I repaint over and over on the same piece for 3-6 months before finally finishing it. The piece has usually transformed through 2 or 3 different iterations during this time. This is usually just down to poor planning on my part, starting without knowing what I want.

 

This is kind of weird, because I usually only spend 3 days doing a piece of card art for my freelance. I want to try and bring in more of that formulaic approach and still capture the initial artsy-fartsy 'feeling' that I want to achieve in my own stuff. I'm going to document my process with the piece I'm going to be making this month. I'll probably do a mid-week post with some sketches and write what I'm thinking while doing them.  

 As a reward for checking this out, here's a first look at my new personal piece: 'Somewhere In This Land.' This was a step in a new direction with the frame, trying to focus more on decoration. I must have started this in April and its been hanging over me like a black cloud since. Happy to be moving forward from it!

Thanks for reading!

-Sam

Back to posting

So, I wanted to make a blog to create a little bit more structure to my posting. I have a tendency to disappear for months at a time without posting anything, which makes it a little difficult for people to keep updated with my artwork.  

I've had a very busy year so far. Between leaving education at the start of the year, needing to scramble for freelance work to stay afloat (the endless headache) and moving to a new country, its been hard to get a continued schedule with my personal stuff. 

Despite this, I have been noticing some sort of narrative beginning to emerge throughout my personal work for some time now. I've been through a lot of personal growth in terms of finding what I like to paint and why. Now, I don't exactly have the best history with personal projects, so I'm not jumping on the --!!PERSONAL IP HYPE TRAIN!!-- until I have way more content. Alongside this, I have for too much shame than is good for me and find it hard to write posts on the internet without cringing and deleting it. Hopefully this can be a place to play with my ideas before putting the pieces together into something tangible for a wider audience. 

The main issue this year has been that I just didn't make enough personal paintings. I've done a crazy amount of stuff for jobs for other people, but with my own work I've been way too meticulous. A by-product of my Atelier education is a mixture of patience and perfectionism that have been kind of crippling. I want to stop spending 3 months slowly dragging out a painting that I come to hate and start working with at least just trying to make one personal piece a month that I actually finish. I want to keep some kind of rhythm to these blog posts that aids me with that, but whether its weekly, bi-weekly or monthly I'm not sure. 

Anyway here's some art you won't have seen yet to make it worth all the reading.

-Sam

Titania's Majesty for HEX: Shards of Fate

Duncan the 'Great Shield'

Some personal concept sketches from 2014