Weekly Update 4-30-18 | Time Off, Game On!

Hey guys, it’s Julian. And I have been away.

Well, not really away. I’ve been right here, mostly making and packing and listing stuff for my Etsy shop. I hit 25 sales and I think Etsy’s algorithms must have (for some dumb reason) rewarded that, because all of a sudden I’m hecka busy and getting 3 orders a WEEK instead of 3 orders a month!

Like I said. Hecka busy.

I’ve been actually taking time off of my Tarot deck, and “artsy art” in general. I say artsy art because I NEVER want to say that things like design and bookbinding are not art. Making traveler’s notebooks and inserts is no less art than painting, so if you’re more a craftsperson than a painter, don’t ever say to yourself that you’re not an artist! But yeah, I’ve been working on bookbinding more than sketching or inking.

But it’s time to get back to it. My deadline for the inking of my Tarot deck is (hopefully) in mid-June, and I just found out I’m going on a super remote camping trip in May, so I really don’t have time to be taking a break.

I don’t really regret the break. I didn’t draw for about a week, and that’s okay. I was in the middle of losing a job and re-negotiating a lease, so I was emotionally exhausted and just couldn’t face the blank page on top of all that. All’s well now, though, and I really feel that it’s time for me to get my head back in the game.

Deciding when to take a break is not something I put a huge amount of thought into. If I’m too exhausted/overwhelmed/emotionally fried to deal with art, then my art is going to suffer anyway and I’ll have to take a longer break later, so unless I’m really close to a deadline, I don’t tend to think much of taking a break. I don’t take long breaks – rarely longer than a few days or a week – and I don’t plan my break. I don’t plan the end of it, at least. I just tell myself “I’m on break right now and I don’t need to think about work until I’m back to work.” Then, once I’ve been on break long enough to be able to think straight, THEN I think about getting back to work and when I should do that.

So that’s what I did this week. Monday I just said to myself “I feel dead, I’m working on losing a job and getting a new job, plus I have to deal with the leasing office, I’m exhausted. I’m going to take a break.” And it is Monday again and I didn’t really think about deadlines or workload or what percent I’ve finished, until yesterday. At which point…yes, I did freak out a bit and hurry back to work and inked 3 pieces.  And that’s freakin’ great! As long as I can finish my work, as long as the project gets done, I’m happy.

My point being: As much as possible, take breaks when you need to, and as much as possible, don’t stress while on break. But don’t let yourself STAY on break too long. I’m in a bit of a luxurious situation in that right now, at least, I CAN take a break from my art job for 5 days in a row. Not everyone can do that. I can’t break from my day job, but I can at least take away the stress of assigning myself 7-10 art pieces a week too.

Start where you are. Use what you have. Do what you can. And that goes for caring for yourself, too. 🙂

Anyway, thank you to everyone who’s been reading along, watching YouTube videos, buying from my shop…it’s awesome to have this much support. 🙂 I’m really excited about upcoming videos (and yes, there are upcoming videos!), and am going to continue to do 2 a week whenever possible. I really do appreciate everyone’s support, though. You guys are the bestest. 🙂

~Julian

Drawing from Life: Benefits, Tools, and How to Get Started

Drawing from life is an incredibly rewarding, surprisingly fun practice for any artist, and I hope that others will learn from my experience and do as I say, not as I have done, and NOT wait 18 years into their drawing study to start doing daily drawing-from-life.

Drawing from life is also known as observational drawing, and refers to drawing something that you are looking at, rather than drawing something you’re imagining or “from your head.” Drawing something that’s physically there in front of you is ideal, but even drawing from photo references is excellent practice. There are many reasons why life drawing is such an essential skill and practice to cultivate; here’s a few that have been most obvious to me:

  • You’ll need it later: The ability to draw from reference is essential for any artist. Every artist, even fantasy artists and surrealists, will need at some point to draw something that exists in the real world – and some of those things will NOT be objects that are familiar enough to draw from memory. Could I draw a rhinoceros right now, off the top of my head? No. Probably not. But if I don’t cultivate the art of drawing from reference, I won’t be able to USE that reference effectively.
  • Build your own reference library: Say you eventually need to draw a shoe. Or a pincushion. Or someone’s ponytail in a hairband, in detail. If you can say “Oh, I’ve drawn that before,” it’ll be much easier to do it. But if you’ve never drawn any of those random things before, you’ll be making it up as you go along – which is fine, but it’ll take longer and you’ll be sort of reinventing the wheel in some places. 
  • It teaches you to look: I’ve always believed that art is less about making marks on paper and actually more about learning to look and see what the world really looks like. Making marks on paper is the easy part, believe it or not. Mentally translating what we visually process into an idea of how something actually looks, and then sending that to your fine muscles to draw on paper – that’s the hard part! So drawing from life challenges you to really look, and see what the world actually looks like. It forces you to draw things as they appear and not how you think they appear. It’s actually an intense right-brain exercise that most people never cultivate, including many artists.
  • It increases your visual/artistic vocabulary: I have found that my favorite thing to draw plein air is people on the train. I definitely suffer from “Same Face Syndrome” with my own art, but when I draw people at random, I end up challenged to draw clothing styles, body types, and features that I might never have chosen voluntarily for my own characters. Plus people on the train are usually so wrapped up in their phones that they don’t notice me (thank you 21st century!), so it hasn’t caused any trouble so far.
  • It’s actually pretty fun: I always thought “I don’t want to do drawing from life, that’s where they make you draw a shoe.” But really, once you start looking, there are fascinating people, structures, objects, plants, vehicles, and other things all around us. Visually fascinating, if not interesting otherwise, these unique visions will jump out at you if you just get yourself to start looking with drawing in mind. And it will be fun, I promise you.

What tools do you need? Really, whatever YOU are comfortable drawing with/on. I do recommend self-contained tools like pencils, pens, or markers, rather than paints or inks, because you’ll often be out and about doing this and it can get difficult to manage a whole watercoloring setup when you’re at a bus station trying to draw an interesting architectural structure.  If you’d like to see what I personally bring with me, check out this video tour of my pencil case:

So how to get started with this fun, useful, valuable practice? I want to do a whole YT video on that, but here’s some tips to get you started…

  • Devote a sketchbook to it: If you can afford to, get a small sketchbook (or a cheap one) and use it as your life-drawing sketchbook. I have one that I made myself, a 5×7” hardbound sketchbook with Coptic stitching and 200 pages. If possible, bring that sketchbook with you – EVERYWHERE. You never know when or where you’ll see something that you want to capture in pencil (or charcoal, or whatever you use).
  • Have a daily quota: Say to yourself that you have to fill half a page, or a page, or five pages, or do three individual drawings – but just pick a number and stick to it. I recommend choosing either two to five individual sketches, or one to two pages, to start off with. Challenge yourself to fill that quota either every time you go out plein air sketching, or three times a week, or flat-out every single day – whatever works and will keep you drawing on a regular basis. I actually am just trying to do 200 pages/drawings in the next 8 months, 5×7”, in pencil. But I am sticking to that goal.
  • Have accountability: Post on an Instagram account, or in a Facebook album, whenever you make one of those drawings. My accountability is my Instagram, julian_jaymes, where I
  • Play scavenger hunt: Imagine that there is one really interesting person/object/structure out there for you today. (Believe me, there is at least one that you’ll run into each day.) Go walking around your town, or the next town over, or the woods – whatever you like – and try to find that one thing. If you find something better on the way back, double points!

So get out there and draw what you see! You don’t really have to go anywhere special; just drawing items in your house will definitely still help. But it’s so fun to have adventures out in the world doing art and getting outside your studio on occasion.

I do plan to do videos on plein air/urban sketching/observational drawing in the future, on my YouTube channel, and will definitely post links here when I make those videos. 🙂

~Julian

Weekly Update 4-9-18: Life Drawing, Book-Binding, and Even More Tarot Cards

Hey guys! Julian here. And have I got sketches for you!

In the olden days, when I was on DeviantART all the time and emo was a serious thing, we used to post what we crudely called “sketchdumps” – essentially collages of sketches we’d done over the past week/weeks/month, but which weren’t “nice” enough to justify giving each one its own post.

This, my friends, is a sketchdump.

Each of these images is a page from a sketchpad I’ve been carrying around – mostly on public transit, as you can probably tell. All the art is done in graphite pencil, since that’s what I carry with me when I’m out.

I enjoyed these so much that I decided to devote a whole sketchbook to “out in the world sketching.” But I didn’t really have one…so I made one! Yes, I have learned Coptic stitching method, and have been making some sketchbooks. Just little projects for fun, but you can find a couple on my Etsy shop, just so y’know. 😉

So this is my plein air (out-in-the-world drawing) sketchbook:

I like the idea of it so much that, at least for now, I’m giving it its own page. You can find it at Julian Jaymes > Works > Life Drawing 2018. I’ve also been working on a whole special non-update blog on life drawing/plein air sketching, so stay tuned for that sometime this week!

And yes, I’ve been working a lot on my Tarot project this week – that hasn’t gone anywhere. Here’s the latest:

Still just drawing and inking, because I can’t afford the watercolors I need right now. With my disability pay dipping and my job situation up in the air, things are more than a little tense financially. But with any luck, I’ll be able to get those paints soon enough. I’ve got til the end of the year, after all – and until I get the paint, I’ll be endlessly inking, which I don’t mind at all. 🙂

Anyway, I hope everyone is doing really well. I’m going to have more timelapse drawings (“speedpaints”) soon, I promise, WITH a top-down camera setup (thanks to a wonderful patron who ordered me a desk mount for my phone).

We live in interesting times, friends, but art has survived this far, and so have we. Stay strong.

Until next time…

-Julian

Weekly Update 4/2/18 – Arteza Frustration, Art Budgeting, and Day Jobs

So the Arteza brush pens are NOT working so great for me. 😦

There are several issues with their pigments, mainly that they reactivate so easily after being applied to the paper. This means no second layer, which is, to me, kind of missing the point. Watercolors can be layered. That’s, in my mind, how it should be…ugh.

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[Pictured: The issue with Arteza brush pens is that you can’t really go back over and do another layer or “wash,” and that’s one of the main watercolor features that I want to have.]

More importantly: There comes a point, in watercolor exploration, where you want to begin to actually paint with watercolor, and this requires “Actual Watercolors.” It’s unfortunate that the medium is expensive to get started with, at least in terms of artist-grade materials, but such is life with watercolor.

Ugh.

I’m looking at Mijello Mission Gold watercolors, which are lovely and artist grade AND reasonably affordable (ie not the $400 I’d be spending on Schmincke). I chose to go with tube watercolors because a) I like working straight from the tube, and b) I can always refill an empty pan palette with those tubes if I so desire.

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[Pictured: A cheap Winsor & Newton Cotman watercolor pan set, to illustrate the convenience of pan watercolors. Fun fact: These Cotman paints are actually awesome and I need to use this little sketchbox more.]

Will still be working on 9×12″ Canson XL Watercolor paper, and with Dr PH Martin’s Black Star Waterproof India Ink, and the same old brushes and such. Just changing the paints.  In the meantime, I’ll be sketching and inking a ton. 🙂

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[Pictured: Ink work of the King of Cups from the Julian Tarot.]

I want to thank everyone for shopping with me last month – March 2018 was the best month my Etsy shop has ever seen!! I am amazed. I made about $90 and had 8 orders. I am so blown away by everyone’s support. It’s amazing. I can actually get those watercolors this month!! And yes, there will be an unboxing video 🙂

I’ve been making and selling a lot of traveler’s notebook inserts, which are the #1 best selling thing in my shop. I’m looking into making some personal-size ones, too, since those seem very popular too. To be very honest, I’m a little bummed that they get so many views and my paintings get none…but I am mostly just happy to have a hobby that pays for my other hobby (travelers’ notebook pays for watercolor).

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Are there any patterns you’d really like to see on the notebook covers? I’m open to suggestions. 🙂

Unfortunately/fortunately, I am leaving my current day job in a couple weeks. It’s just not been a good fit; I need a lot of training to do what they want me to, and they aren’t able to provide it, so I don’t see a point in sticking around and making everyone (including me) even more frustrated. It’s almost a relief, though.

I’m hopeful, though, that my Etsy shop will get me through the worst of the next few months. Watch for sales and new items. Here’s sneak peeks of what’s coming out on the shop soon…

And that’s about all I’ve got for today. Until next time!
~Julian