INKtober Day Thirteen – Kids Don’t Know How Good They Have It

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Inktober day 13 by jeffrey johnson of red herring illustrationI remember having a pretty huge collection of magazines when I was a kid. Not that kind of magazine, I’m talking about stacks of National Geographics, HOW, Modelers Resource, Star Log, Wizard, and Artist’s Magazine. I’d spend hours reading articles, looking at tiny, grainy pictures trying to figure out how they did it, and being inspired. NOW though. Now, we live in an amazing world now, where ideas and experiences can be shared in a way that I never thought would be possible.

I went to the Saint Louis Small Press Expo this weekend, and was talking to a girl who makes ‘zines the old fashioned way still. On a photocopier at Kinko’s.  In a world of print on demand, that’s pretty cool, and it reminded me of the first time I did anything like a blog. In 2004, right after I’d moved to Saint Louis, I’d never heard of Live Journal, or blogger…I didn’t even know what a blog was. This was back when not everyone had the internet yet, AOL still existed, before Facebook, and even MYspace. I’d write a two page letter every Wednesday, then go up to Kinko’s and make photocopies of it along with that week’s sketchbook pages, and mail the whole package to four or five friends.

Often, if I’m going to practice something, it takes more than discipline. I tend to need a reason to practice. Friend’s make great accountability buddies, and writing letters was a way to keep in touch, stay focused, and build discipline.

Kid’s don’t know how good they have it. Today, I was able to hang out with a friend in Virginia on Periscope. We chatted while he worked on a watercolor sketch and I washed the dishes. There’s almost no way I would’ve even met him in 2004, much less formed any kind of friendship.

Then tonight, I chatted with another friend over messenger about a HUGE project idea. I’m half a state away, eating terrible fries in a diner and talking about ideas in real time. We’re able to share pictures, make lists, and look things up like we’re working in the same room. Pretty amazing.

Then, I’ll share all this with the world on Instagram, and Patreon. Kid’s really don’t know how good they have it. 🙂

 

redherringjeff on patreonThank you for stopping in! If you enjoyed what this post, I’d like to invite you to visit my Patreon page at Patreon.com/redherringjeff which is where I post content first, including some things that I don’t post anywhere else. Again thank you for looking, commenting and sharing. Your support means the world to me.

INKtober Day Twelve – What Do You Do With It?

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inktober day twelve by jeffrey johnson of red herring illustrationSometimes, I think there must be a lot of people out there with nothing on the walls in their houses. Which seems weird to me, because I use framed artwork like some people use wallpaper. If there’s a blank spot, we need to find a picture to fill it with.

A large portion of my income is from Art and Craft shows. I’m what I call a gregarious introvert, while I definitely like to spend time by myself with my thoughts, I also really like to talk to people. So I love doing craft shows. Standing behind my table and talking about the things I love most in the world is one of my favorite things in the world. I get to see and talk to people about their interests, get real time feedback on my work, and enjoy the sunshine and fresh air. My job is usually pretty awesome.

My booth is full of prints and original art. This is how I make my living. My artwork opens the door for all kinds of great conversations about children’s books, fan art, copyright, and demonstrations. There’s usually at least one question about custom commissions, and talk about demonstrations and class presentations. People love stories and sharing their mutual experiences. That’s awesome.

I was at a show recently though, where I was asked “What do you do with these?” more than once.

What…?

…Uuuuummm.”

I have a general discussion banter that I’ve developed over the years. Some of it is boiler plate comments about the work, or greetings as people come into the booth. I like talking to people and this gets the ball rolling. Questions like this though, throw a wrench in the smooth flow of my pitch. I’m so used to making and thinking about art that I don’t always think about what you DO with it. To me that’s a given. Art is part of the fabric of my life and I can’t imagine not looking at it every day. So, I don’t always realize that most of the art in our world is encountered in packaging and advertisements.

Most of us aren’t going to hang a cereal box, or even a book jacket or record cover for that matter.

Most of the art on our walls is school pictures.

Maybe it’s time to think more about what you would do with it.

redherringjeff on patreonThank you for stopping in! If you enjoyed what this post, I’d like to invite you to visit my Patreon page at Patreon.com/redherringjeff which is where I post content first, including some things that I don’t post anywhere else. Again thank you for looking, commenting and sharing. Your support means the world to me.

INKtober Day Eleven – Staying Out of the Way

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Inktober day eleven by jeffrey johnson of red herring illustrationI often have to remind myself that the dishes can wait a minute while I help my daughter draw a heart. I can wait to read that article, or write that blog post until I get the paints out for the girls to work on. I have to remind myself that sometimes my daily routine gets in the way of theirs. They don’t need me to do most things for them, but a little guidance or encouragement goes a long way.

Kids are naturally curious, and creative. They are people of action who ask questions, make messes, and start projects. Kids ask for help whether they need it or not, because they like to do things together. Also, because they’re not afraid to admit that they don’t know how to do things.

Adults on the other hand, are good at getting in the way. Usually, it’s because we know a way to do something, or because we don’t want to stop what we’re doing. Adults get tired of questions, whether they know the answer or not. Adults don’t like to clean up messes and they like projects that have an end. Adults don’t like to ask for help.

Adults…don’t like to admit that they don’t know how to do things.

Kids are good at learning things, and I try to be careful about what I teach them.

I need to learn to get out of the way of learning.

for the kids.

for me too.

 

redherringjeff on patreonThank you for stopping in! If you enjoyed what this post, I’d like to invite you to visit my Patreon page at Patreon.com/redherringjeff which is where I post content first, including some things that I don’t post anywhere else. Again thank you for looking, commenting and sharing. Your support means the world to me.

INKtober Day Ten – The Elves and the Shoemaker

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inktober day ten by jeffrey johnson of red herring illustrationDo you remember the story The Elves and the Shoemaker? The story goes that a shoemaker would cut the leather for the next day’s shoes every night before bed. When he woke and went down to the shop in the morning, he’d find that the shoes would be mysteriously finished. He discovers that elves had been entering the shop in the night to do the work of assembling his carefully chosen and cut shoe pieces. The more I think about this story, the more I wonder who was the artist, and who was the laborer?

The two characters in the story, represent two aspects of the artist, which really can’t exist without each other. There are no elves to do the finish work for me. Doing the initial work of observing, thinking, and drawing though, set me up to do make art more quickly and professionally. Putting in the hours making patterns and cutting leather honed the shoemakers craft. Putting in the hours drawing and dreaming hone mine.

I’ve been loving watching other artists work through INKtober this year, and I think the community aspect of the challenge is amazing and helps push us all forward. This year I’ve been especially inspired by Lucy Bellwood (@lubellwoo on instagram) with her #drawyourdemons series, and Scott Fischer (@scottmfischer on instagram) who has been doing really amazing videos of his INKtober drawings.

Doing the daily chores of building the craft behind the art allows me to grow in ways that focusing on making finished work just can’t. Facing the challenge of working as a gift, for myself, without expectation of “payment” has been rewarding in ways that I suspected but didn’t really expect.

  • Allowing myself to admit that the work makes me anxious seems to be helping me face that anxiety.
  • Doing it for myself means that it doesn’t have to be perfect.
  • Because I don’t need it to be perfect, I’m able to embrace mistakes.
  • Fearing the mistakes less means that I’m more likely to experiment.
  • Moving forward. 😀

I feel like the drawings are getting stronger, and I’m enjoying doing them more every day. I’m really excited about tomorrow.

redherringjeff on patreonThank you for stopping in! If you enjoyed what this post, I’d like to invite you to visit my Patreon page at Patreon.com/redherringjeff which is where I post content first, including some things that I don’t post anywhere else. Again thank you for looking, commenting and sharing. Your support means the world to me.

INKtober Day Nine – Like Drawing Birds in Flight

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inktober9_web“It’s scary not loving the job that everyone thinks we should love. It’s terrible waking up and feeling like what you love is a burden.”

I wrote this on a post-it note sketch I did earlier this summer and has been a theme this year in both my personal and professional life.

Doing the thing that I love most in the world often makes me anxious. This is something that is looked at as fun, and magical, and easy because drawing is a talent that artists are born with. It’s something that I’m supposed to be good at. My family’s relying on me to be successful at this, so I need to get this project done right. I need to get this project done quickly, on the first try…with little or no preparation, and it has to be good. There’s no room in my schedule for mistakes.

As this INKtober project progresses, I find myself taking on more complex subjects. I’m taking on harder subjects that move more. I’m taking on subjects that are able to actually tell me that I didn’t do a good job at drawing them. Thinking about drawing these things makes me anxious. I find myself casting around for a different idea, one that I feel more comfortable with.

I can still push myself way out of my comfort zone with out making it more difficult than necessary. It’s hard enough drawing birds without trying to drawing birds in flight. What I’ve ended up doing instead is adjusting my approach to the drawing.  I’m putting down quick guidelines to find the relationships between parts first. If I need to, I take a picture to reference later in case my subject moves, or in case I do. I have these tools that I can use if I need them. They’re there to make my job possible. It’s not cheating. It’s okay to use them. That’s part of the process.

“I haven’t done this before, but I’ve done other things I haven’t done before, before. And it came out okay, so I’m not afraid of this.”
-Louis CK

 

redherringjeff on patreonThank you for stopping in! If you enjoyed what this post, I’d like to invite you to visit my Patreon page at Patreon.com/redherringjeff which is where I post content first, including some things that I don’t post anywhere else. Again thank you for looking, commenting and sharing. Your support means the world to me.

INKtober Day Eight – Managing Expectations

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inktober8_webHave you ever talked yourself out of an idea because you felt it couldn’t possibly turn out how you see it in your head?

Here’s what happens. I’ll go to work at a show, telling myself that I can do some drawing during down times. It’s cool having a record of my experience at shows. There’s usually interesting people to see, and at least one interaction would make a good story.

One of the challenges I face when drawing from life, or even designing new illustrations, is facing the fact that I might fail. Or really, just working past my comfort zone and distilling what I see down to what’s necessary. Right now though, I’m talking about drawing from life. Specifically, drawing people from life, out in the world, doing normal people things. While I like people paying attention to me, I hate being noticed, and the world is full of people who might notice me. This makes it difficult to observe and draw people in public.

It’s so easy to form this picture in my head of doing a loose, comfortable drawing in my sketchbook. I see other professionals do it all the time. It’s so easy to imagine, even though it’s totally NOT how I work. So I get to the show, all set up, my little busy work chores are done, I’ve made a sale or two, and there’s a lull. My sketchbook is there, ready for me to do something amazing, funny or insightful. That’s when the anxiety kicks in.

It’s so important to manage expectations, and remind myself what my sketchbook is for. It’s so important to remind myself that I LOVE what I do. Managing my expectations is something that I can have control of.

  • It’s okay if I don’t finish the drawing.
  • It’s okay if I get *gasp* caught.
  • It’s okay if it’s a mess.
  • It’s okay if it’s terrible.
  • It’s okay if the idea is stupid.

Sketchbooks are about the process. A process that I know and love, and in which mistakes should be welcome if they show up to the party. It’s definitely easier to talk myself out of doing things that are difficult. It’s more rewarding to do them anyway, though. In spite of the knot in my stomach.

redherringjeff on patreonThank you for stopping in! If you enjoyed what this post, I’d like to invite you to visit my Patreon page at Patreon.com/redherringjeff which is where I post content first, including some things that I don’t post anywhere else. Again thank you for looking, commenting and sharing. Your support means the world to me.

INKtober Number Six – Fitting In

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Inktober day six by jeffrey johnson of red herring illustrationMy dad gave me this Ukelele a little more than a year ago, after I’d told my mom that I wanted to learn how to play it. I already know how to play the guitar, after a fashion, so really how hard could it be to pick up the Ukelele? right? I can probably count on one hand the number of times I’ve actually picked it up and played it. This usually involves hunkering down at my desk, watching YouTube tutorials while following along. It’s very slow, and I want to jump right to the fun stuff. That leaves not enjoying it enough pick it up often, and not having the time to learn to play well enough.

Somehow though, there’s always time for facebook. Not that I’m totally against social media or anything. I’ve met some of my best friends on social media, and this whole project wouldn’t even be possible without it. It does take up an awful lot of my time, though. Time that I could be doing anything but scrolling through my friends’ thousand thoughts. I like the sound of that phrase. 🙂

It’s hard fitting new things into my daily schedule which is already really full of other things. Adding daily sketching just for the pleasure of it to the day has so far been really rewarding, but also kind of taxing as I struggle to adjust my day and keep up with the routine. The struggle is important though. I feel like it’s pushing me in a good direction.

Maybe at the end of the month, I can take what I’ve learned here and use that insight to work out a strategy for maintaining the passion to practice. Both daily drawings, and ukelele. 🙂

 

redherringjeff on patreonThank you for stopping in! If you enjoyed what this post, I’d like to invite you to visit my Patreon page at Patreon.com/redherringjeff which is where I post content first, including some things that I don’t post anywhere else. Again thank you for looking, commenting and sharing. Your support means the world to me.

INKtober Day 5 – When the Exception Becomes the Rule

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inktober day five by jeffrey johnson of red herring illustrationI was talking to my friend Leighton (@johnnyampersand) at Archon while
he looked over my first INKtober entry and he commented that he liked that I lay
out clear goals. I like to go into big projects with a plan, I call it my project manifesto. INKtober, with it’s thirty-one drawings surely counts as a big project, right? The plan includes rules, and usually it also includes goals. I like to know WHY I do things, it makes it easier to keep going when I start to question myself later.  The rules for this year are pretty simple:

  1. Complete 100% of the thirty-one drawings.
  2. Use only Black felt-tip pins.
  3. Do a majority of the drawings from direct observation.

I try hard to stick to this so it all stays consistant. It’s easy to get distracted or to fall behind and quit. Especially towards the beginning of a project, I think about that show “Trading Spaces” when one of the couples would invariably question the designer because they couldn’t see in their mind the vision of the finished room. The plan gives me a net. It gives me something to trust that everything’s going to come out all right. It’s something to look back on and check to make sure I’m still on the right path.

The rules also help guard against exceptions that undermine the goals. One of my top goals for INKtober this year is to have 100% completion. After a busy day in the studio, I looked at the clock and realized that it was 11:00, and I’d put off my journal entry all day. I needed to get that drawing done, maybe I could use the page of dinosaur sketches I’d done in my work sketchbook. They were in ball point, but that is ink…that would count, wouldn’t it? This justification reminds me of when a dieter has their “first” desert in five days, or an ex-smoker has their “first” cigarette in a month. We often say it’s our first exception, unintentionally implying that there will be more.

While I could use those drawings and fulfill one goal, I’d be making an exception for another. If I make an exception once, then how easy will it be to make an exception again? So I started working on the drawing, falling asleep at my desk. I got up and finished it first thing this morning, but I’m glad I started on it last night.

redherringjeff on patreonThank you for stopping in! If you enjoyed what this post, I’d like to invite you to visit my Patreon page at Patreon.com/redherringjeff which is where I post content first, including some things that I don’t post anywhere else. Again thank you for looking, commenting and sharing. Your support means the world to me.

INKtober Day Four – Good Enough

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INKtober day four by jeffrey johnson of red herring illustrationHere’s what happens to me. I carve out a special time to get out and do some art. Usually drawing. I might even go to a special place to draw, some place that inspires me on some level. When I get there though, I often get stuck and wander around like a last minute shopper on Christmas Eve. How do I decide what, in this special place, is good enough to draw?

Maybe, I need to stop and ask myself if I’m just too intimidated by my one expectations of the place and event. Do I really feel like nothing is good enough to sit and draw, or do I ACTUALLY feel like I’m just not good enough to draw anything? The lesson I’m learning over and over this year is that facing fears leads to growth. Make the tough choice. Fill out the application. Teach the class. Embrace failure. When I worry about special perfection, or even success those thoughts seem to cause failure far more frequently than actual failure does. I don’t know why I like the sound of something causing failure more often than failure, but I do.

While I love still lifes for practicing techniques, and focusing on setting up different compositions filled with many shapes and textures, my relationships are rarely made with things that don’t move. Even especially warm memories of a particular nick-knack likely has a human element to the memory. So if I’m going to do the work that’s meaningful to my whole self then I need to get out of the studio and draw living, MOVING things.

Drawing animals from life is pretty intimidating. They move and my perspective on them is constantly changing. Something I’m coming to realize as I sit and quietly observe them in my sketchbook though, is that this also gives me an opportunity.  I’m given a chance to form a relationship between me, the animal, my sketchbook, and the drawings. I learn things about them by having to draw four versions of them at once as fast as I can, while filling details in while I wait for my next opportunity to see what I missed.

It doesn’t have to be one, perfect image. Actually, I think it shouldn’t be that. That’s what cameras are for, and how they are often used. To take that one image that requires no thought or shared experience. Drawing Animals from life is meditative. As I wait and watch them moving around, I can make many incomplete drawings and embrace inperfection.

 

redherringjeff on patreonThank you for stopping in! If you enjoyed what this post, I’d like to invite you to visit my Patreon page at Patreon.com/redherringjeff which is where I post content first, including some things that I don’t post anywhere else. Again thank you for looking, commenting and sharing. Your support means the world to me.

INKtober Day Three – Blue Turtle Shell

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Inktober day three by jeffrey johnson of red herring illustrationOne of the things that I love about still lifes, is that they tend to have a very structured complexity. There is a huge variety of shapes and textures in even the most basic of setups.

This drawing presented some challenges that I didn’t expect when I began it. Ink is very binary, in that it is either on or off, black or white. So it’s a pretty unforgiving media. How do you show different tones and textures?

It’s difficult to pay attention to these changes, much less remembering to pay enough attention to what’s going on to recognize the need to change tactics. That was part of the point of the doodles on the first, manifesto page of this project. To remind myself that there’s more than one way to make a mark.

 

redherringjeff on patreonThank you for stopping in! If you enjoyed what this post, I’d like to invite you to visit my Patreon page at Patreon.com/redherringjeff which is where I post content first, including some things that I don’t post anywhere else. Again thank you for looking, commenting and sharing. Your support means the world to me.