Weekly Update 1/22/18 | New Materials for Old Artists; Choosing Proper Paper; and Creating Consistent Content

Hey y’all! It’s Julian, and this is the weekly update for January 22, 2018. I’m going to be talking today about being an experienced artist with new materials, the value of using appropriate paper for whatever medium you’re working in, and also my main New Year’s resolution.

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First off, I don’t pretend to be a highly experienced artist – I just mean that I’ve been drawing for about 15 years, and seriously studying since 2016, and so I’ve tried a lot of things and failed at a lot of things. (“The beginner artist has ruined dozens of pieces; the expert artist has ruined thousands.”) So I kind of know what I’m doing…with a few things. Ink pens, I’m good at. Markers, I’m pretty good at.

But dip pens with bottles of ink and watercolor painting?!

Nope. Nope nope nope. I know NOTHING.

And yet I am trying those things right now!

I’m very new at watercolor. I reeeaaaally do not know what I’m doing. I’m screwing up a LOT. And yet…I’m having a blast!! It is actually really fun to not know what you’re doing, and to make mistakes, when you have the right approach and the right mental attitude towards it. Personally, I love trying new mediums and screwing up. I don’t always love screwing up (it’s really annoying when I accidentally plop ink in the middle of a beautiful painting!), but I really love the overall experience of trying a medium I’m not good at.

I think it’s because I love the challenge. I love that each medium has pros and cons and that each tool solves some problems and causes others. I love figuring out how the heck to work with each medium.

I’ve gotten to the point in my artistic life, I think, where I can just try new things and it doesn’t emotionally destroy me when I fail, or mess up, or whatever you want to call it – when things don’t go the way I’d imagined. The thing is, I’ve accepted that art will NEVER go exactly how I imagine it. I never will be able to pull that perfect image directly out of my head. Ever. It’s just not going to happen.

But once you let go of that pipe dream of perfection… gosh it’s fun to try!

Jimin Watercolor

Now about paper. Paper is so, so important. I think my latest piece (the boy in blue, aka Jimin Park from Kpop band BTS, pictured above) is proof of this.

I used a bit of watercolor from tubes that I got in a set of 12 for $5 from Michael’s. These watercolors are probably a nightmare to a pro, and yet even in my hands, on decent paper, I got pretty darn good results (well, I’m happy with it!). But crummy paper, even with nice watercolors, would have turned out super messy. Maybe, when I have some really much nicer watercolors, I’ll do a video discussing/demonstrating this.

My excuse for a long time was “I’ll ruin the good paper! It’s not worth it to invest in good paper! My art doesn’t deserve good paper!” That was BS. It is, to me, the same as saying “Well, I’m investing in the red and orange pencils, yes, but if I buy nice blue and green pencils, I’ll ruin them. Never mind that I’m using the reds and oranges. Nope, can’t invest in blue or green.” See? The paper is as much a tool as the paint/pencil/marker.

My point is this: Invest in paper. Doesn’t have to be Arches. Just at least buy the right kind of paper. So if you’re learning watercolors, invest in basic watercolor paper (Canson XL is great and very cheap!). If it’s uncomfortable to use fancy paper, remind yourself: Someday you will be working on fancy paper anyway, so you might as well get used to it now!

Get comfortable with the “fancy” paper as much as you get comfortable with the pen or brush. You can always have a “messy page,” a spare piece of that paper that you JUST use to test colors/paints/brushes/etc. Or doodle on a page or two. Just get your brush wet and get something on that freakin’ paper!!

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Finally, I want to talk about my biggest New Year’s resolution, which was actually just the choice of a Phrase of Intention for the year. Many people choose a “word of the year,” but I chose a phrase: Create Consistent Content. It’s my aim, my goal, my guidance for the year. When I don’t know what to do with myself, I intend to turn to this phrase and remind myself that the key to building a brand, and also the key to building a creative practice and improving on one’s work, is Creating Consistent Content!

Yeah. Yeah, I know it’s cheesy. But it’s helping me so far.

I had to find a way to quantify this, though – how to know whether I am indeed creating consistent content. Thus, here are my goals:

  • Create one color illustration (9×12″ or larger) every week in 2018. (Bonus points: Make 55 total so that it’s a bit more than once a week.)
  • Release a comic issue every other month in 2018, for a total of 6 issues. (Bonus Points: Release an offset-printed collection, containing the first 5 chapters plus the prologue, at the end of the year.)
  • Make a net profit of [number I won’t share] off of my art.

Basically these goals are to keep me accountable to that idea of Creating Consistent Content. I wanted to share them so that you can help keep me accountable too.

Well, this post is already late, so I’m going to send it off to y’all. Thank you again for all your support, and please do check out http://www.etsy.com/shop/julianjaymesart if you’d like to purchase anything and help me towards my goals!

~Julian

Creating My First Tarot Deck!

Hey y’all! Big news…

I am currently working on my first original Tarot deck!

Yep, I’m finally doing a proper full Tarot deck. It’s going to be full color and fully illustrated, and will largely follow the Rider-Waite-Smith system. I’m drawing inspiration a lot from the Millennial generation – no, please don’t wince; we’re not ALL bad. (Mostly. Not all.)

I’m bringing in a lot of the “aesthetics” (sadly accepting that this is the new meaning of this word) that have become so popular on online platforms like Instagram, Pinterest, and yes, to an extent, Tumblr. The “boho/hippie” revival will be featured in the suit of Wands; “pastel goth” and Lolita fashion in the Cups; “emo/scene” in the Swords; and, my personal favorite, the “Witchy Aesthetic” in the Pentacles (what other suit could I choose?).

I also intend to incorporate, to an extent, the Millennial attempt to embrace diversity. I realize that this is probably a controversial decision, since representation is so painfully heavy-handedly (and badly) overdone in a lot of media. I do not intend to, like some movies and TV series, populate my world with a perfect collection of token stereotypes (which is not, by the way, good representation). Representation in Tarot and in art is a topic for another blog (perhaps a series) but rest assured that not everyone in my deck will be a fully-abled neurotypical straight white cis male who conforms to all of society’s rules about how he should behave.

Nope, I get bored WAY too easily to just stick with THAT. 😉

I’ve completed two cards.

Eight of Swords:
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Four of Wands:
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These are just very rough previews – the actual cards will likely be quite different.

If you’d like to hear more about the process of creating these cards, here’s a video I made rambling about everything from Cardcaptor Sakura to inaccurate representation in media to Instagram and Pinterest fashion boards…

Yes, it’s a terrible thumbnail. No, I don’t like YouTube either.

I also have a big announcement to make soon, though I can’t make it yet because it’s a collaboration of sorts, and I don’t make a habit of revealing my commissioned works before the commissioner permits it. But rest assured…something big is in the works. Something…epic.

~Julian

TCL will be shipping Wednesday!

I’m still learning to set up pre-orders, but for now, TCL will be on sale tomorrow and shipping Wednesday and Thursday.

Here’s a preview…

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Please stay tuned and I’ll have the whole thing posted here soon.

I’m getting re-excited about this project. I had honestly lost some of the “fire” while doing the last few pages, but now that it’s going to be printed, I’m super psyched. 🙂

~Julian

The Cheyenne Line is complete.

Sunday, 7/30/17, 9:15pm

Yep, I just finished inking the last page. I’m a bit worn down, but I thought I’d write out some of my thoughts and reactions before going to bed.

To be honest…I got sick of working on this one. Not sick of drawing or being an artist…not sick of the plot, song, or characters…just sick of being on the same old project that should have been done in  a month and a half, not 3 and a half. I’m still learning about pacing and the importance of rest days; I’m still developing a system so that I can work sustainably (read: without driving myself out of my mind!).

But I’m okay, that’s the important thing.

Oh, and the comic is done. On time. That’s the OTHER important thing.

I’ll be fixing up some last-minute errors tomorrow (Monday), and then printing it Tuesday-ish, and then on Wednesday it’ll be shipped out. A limited number of people will receive a free copy, but anyone can purchase a copy on my Etsy shop (it’ll be listed there as soon as I have printed copies to sell – haven’t figured out pre-orders yet).

Good night moon, good night room.
Good night art supplies, good night weary eyes.
Good night deadline, good night Cheyenne Line.
Good night Staedtler pens, good night, all my dear friends!

~Julian

Stuck In The Middle With Artist’s Block: Dealing With The Mid-Schedule Slump

Imagine this – or perhaps you’re in this situation now…You’ve had your great start to your artistic project. You’re not yet at the panicked marathon of the last week before your deadline. You’re in the mid-schedule phase.

And you AIN’T DOIN’ SHIT.

We’ve all been there. (Well, I mean, there’s probably a few artists out there who always, always work ahead of time and stay on schedule for EVERY project, but I’ve never met one, so I’m speaking to the rest of you.) You know how it is. You get off to a great start, working ahead several days, doing extra sections. You’re on top of the world. This thing is gonna turn out GREAT! You’re confident in yourself as an artist, and nothing can bring you down.

And then you have a few weeks left and you can’t work.

You know that you’re running out of time. You know that if you don’t get back to work, you’re gonna hit that deadline at 90mph and end up with a creative hangover for weeks after, which will bleed into your next project and totally screw you over. You know this.

And yet you still can’t freakin’ work!

So how the hell do we get back on track?

Well, I don’t have a solid solution. Part of that is because I really believe that each artist’s artistic process/path/life is totally different, and comparing them is just apples and oranges. But part of it is that I haven’t mastered this myself either. As I write this, I am about 52% through my latest comic, The Cheyenne Line, and I have 13 days until printing. 13 days to be COMPLETELY done with the pages. I don’t even know if 15 pages in 13 days is possible for me, plus editing and doing the cover, but I have to try.

And here I am writing a blog post.

So I guess that’s tip #1: DON’T go write a blog post about the situation. DON’T go make a video about how you “really need to get down to work.” DON’T get on social media. (I’m doing this on my own site, though, so don’t even post to your own site!) Instead, talk to a friend about it. It’s a lot easier to get motivated via a  5 minute phone call than making a 45 minute video.

My other big hang-up is tip #2: Don’t start over, edit, revise, or touch-up previous sections/pieces. This is not the time to fuss over proofing the stuff you’ve done before. I’m tempted in this moment to go back and “fix” previous pages, the ones that are really bugging me, but I just can’t. I need to get down to work on TODAY’S stuff. I can edit another time. (Writers often struggle with this, and I certainly do.)

A tricky one is tip #3: Make a distinction between inspiration and time-wasting. There is definitely a difference between skimming your favorite manga for inspiration and spending 4 hours re-reading your favorite series to avoid your work. And it’s totally okay to have YouTube in the background to keep you company, but not if you’re spending more time surfing channels and finding the perfect video to accompany your work today than you are actually working!

I’m stealing a quote from Molly Roberts of HerSpeak for tip #4: Get real about your excuses. Deep down, you probably actually have a pretty damn good idea of WHY you’re not working. Get real with yourself about it. Talk to a friend or journal about it. Dig deep if you need to. Are you afraid of failure? Afraid of success? Are you hurting from an insult to your work? Are you stressing about something entirely unrelated? To me, trying to work on your creative stuff when your soul is hurting is trying to plug in your phone when the cord is so tangled that it won’t reach. It ain’t gonna work ’til you work out those knots. Do what you gotta do, babe.

Finally, thanks to my dearest love, I have tip #5: Just do it for 5 minutes. Just 5 minutes. This is an exercise in forcing yourself to do SOME of the work to see whether you’re having a real issue or just wasting time. Whether you enjoy and/or get motivated by those 5 minutes is a great litmus test for whether you need to work on other stuff, or whether you’re stalling. And hell, even if you realize you really need to take care of other things, it’s 5 minutes more work than you would have done otherwise.

I really hope that these help. They’ve certainly helped me, in terms of getting me to get myself together and realize that I CAN work and that I NEED to.

BRB drawing.

~Julian