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.

INKtober Day Two- Be Honest

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INKtober Day Two by Jeffrey Johnson of Red Herring Illustration

Does anybody else do this? I tell myself that “I need to do work harder” or “I need to do more…” Whatever that more is. I asked for this skull for Christmas about five years ago as a reaction to one of those “I need to do more…” moments. Specifically I need to do more life drawing and this will help me understand form better.

I’ve owned this skull for (at least) five years now, and have drawn it twice before today. Both times were this summer as a lesson in the drawing class I teach at the community college. There’s a lot of things like that in my life, and I could probably doa lively little series on languishing dreams. That sounds a little morose though, so I won’t…probably.

This personal “You know what I need” conversation is part of my Love/Hate relationship with art books. I’ll say something like “Bernie Wrightson is such an amazing artist! He was inspired by watching hours of old ‘Hammer’ monster movies as a kid and drawing the whole time. Maybe if I did that too, I can get as good as him!” Ha-ha-ha!

First off, I’m not a little kid anymore. That ship has sailed.

Second, I’m inspired by the Muppets and the Goonies. Love and adventure. Monsters don’t really do it for me.

Third, and probably most important, I missed the main message of the statement. “DRAW FOR HOURS DOING SOMETHING THAT INSPIRES YOU”.

I need to work harder. 🙂

kaGh5_patreon_name_and_messageThank 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 1 – Making Marks

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INKtober Day One, Making Marks by Jeffrey Johnson of Red Herring IllustrationJust in case you’re not familiar with Inktober, it’s an internet community event started by Jake Parker. Anyone can do INKtober, just pick up a pen and start drawing.

INKtober rules: 1) Make a drawing in ink (you can do a pencil under-drawing if you want). 2) Post it on tumblr (or Instagram, twitter, facebook, flickr, Pinterest or just pin it on your wall.) 3) Hashtag it with #inktober  4) Repeat (you can do it daily, like me, or go the half-marathon route and post every other day, or just do the 5K and post once a week. What ever you decide, just be consistent with it. INKtober is about growing and improving and forming positive habits, so the more you’re consistent the better.)

Every year, I approach Inktober a little different, with mixed results. This year my goal is to have 100% completion. The goal is to use only Binary, black and white pens, and do a majority of the drawings from observation.

The focus of these drawings is to develop:

  1. More confident mark making
  2. Stronger daily work habits
  3. The practice of “sketch journaling”
  4. Open myself to the vulnerability of making mistakes with confidence

Making marks that are either there, or aren’t with no shade in between is both thrilling and terrifying to me. I’m used to working without an eraser, but not without the ability to choose which of my fuzzy lines is the right one.

This is going to be an adventure.

kaGh5_patreon_name_and_messageThank 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.

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Inktober – Finding the Passion to Practice

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inktober_webSeveral years ago, I made the decision to put away miniature war games and focus on art. The idea was that the artists who I admired didn’t just get good at it. One day, they made an actual, active choice to be a better artist. They intentionally decided to begin doing the work of being an artist. I realize that it might not sound like a huge epiphany. I mean, it’s pretty obvious really. Coming to that crossroads of working a regular job, and then going home to play games, or working for myself, creating something new was a big deal though. That decision changed the course of my life.

I began looking seriously at artbooks, mining techniques and inspiration. I’d go and draw my apartment complex in the mornings, slowly beginning to  learn to see my world and tell it’s story. I’d spend my lunch breaks sketching story ideas and characters, and eventually telling illustrated stories about my life as a dad. Looking back, even with four years of art school behind me, I still knew so little of the craft of making pictures. Heck, I’ve been doing this professionally for ten years and still feel like I’m stumbling around in the dark. I still have a lot of work to do.

The year I got my first job, I went to an art conference/workshop in Montreal. Needing to have a portfolio for the workshop meant that I stopped to make one, and having that made it possible to get hired to a small graphic design shop when I got back. On portfolio review day, they asked me what I wanted to do with my art. What was my end goal for being there. I don’t know that I’d really thought about it before that, you just made a portfolio and got a job, didn’t you? I just wanted to make things and tell stories, so I told them that I wanted to illustrate role playing games and children’s books. While those are two very different markets, that statement set me on a new path, narrowing from “I want to make art” to “I want to tell stories.”

First though, I had to make more art. A lot more. I wasn’t there yet.

That first job at the graphic design shop was hard. I had to produce drawings quickly that were good quality, and were things that I wouldn’t normally draw. There was a lot of pressure, but I was building a visual vocabulary as well as expanding my portfolio. Which allowed me to get work for an indie game publisher called Hex Games.

locoviathan_webRole playing games don’t pay well, but I got to do a lot of work under someone else’s direction. It gave me the opportunity to draw a lot MORE things that I probably wouldn’t have drawn otherwise. I began to learn to draw backgrounds. I learned more about painting cover art. I became good friends with the people at Hex Games. Work that I’m passionate about helps me grow in ways I never really imagined. I believe in Hex’s mission (whatever that is) and love working for them.

The whole point here is that even as a professional, there’s room for growth. It’s important to keep striving for mastery of our craft. It’s important to do the work that we love, as well as the work that keeps the lights on. Maybe if we do enough of both of those things, they’ll eventually be the same thing.

kaGh5_patreon_name_and_messageThanks for joining me today. If you enjoyed this post about my personal journey, and would like to see more like it, I’m doing daily INKtober drawings accompanied by journaling over on my Patreon page. If you’d like to help support this and other projects like it, Patreon is a great place to do that. Check out my pledge page here for more details. https://www.patreon.com/redherringjeff

Life With Girls – Spekto Petrom

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026_spekto_petrom_webI was on the Pottermore site the other day, messing around with their new Patronus quiz (mine’s a dappled gray mare) and it reminded me of this Life With Girls strip that I did a couple of years ago. Nothing chases away a gray mood like an active three-year-old with a drumstick wand. 🙂

Why We Make Things

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I wrote this article a couple of months ago on my Craft Monster show blog. Being a part of a community has always been a big deal to me, and Craft Monster has allowed me to meet and hear the stories of so many of my local makers.

gnome_knitting_webBeing a Craft Monster, I know quite a few creative people from many different walks of life. Making things brings us together as a community, but we all have different reasons for doing it. Talking to our community about it, we hear things like “to keep my hands busy”, “Because I literally wasn’t good at anything else”, or “Because the things around me ceased to be made by humans and human made things are way cooler.” Whatever the particulars are, it comes down to this: “Makers gotta Make.” We also need to make a living though, and it’s these two things that inspired this blog post.

I usually don’t do that, since that kind of time investment isn’t good for business.

binx_potMy friend Karen of Binx Ceramics makes wonderful animal, and gnome figurines. She posted this little pot yesterday with the caption:

Let myself spend all evening decorating this little pot. I usually don’t do that, since that kind of time investment isn’t good for business. I can’t price this thing what it’s worth, but the methodical painting of this pattern was the meditative process that made tonight perfect. How do you price that?

This is a difficult question that we all face. How do we make time to make things just because we want to see them in the world, when we have to justify that time and effort against making a living? Is that kind of time investment good for business? In his speech “Make Good Art” to the University of the Arts Class of 2012, Neil Gaiman said this:

Something that worked for me was imagining that where I wanted to be — an author, primarily of fiction, making good books, making good comics, and supporting myself through my words — was a mountain. A distant mountain. My goal.

And I knew that as long as I kept walking towards the mountain I would be all right. And when I truly was not sure what to do, I could stop, and think about whether it was taking me towards or away from the mountain.

Art is made in a gift economy. Sometimes that gift is the work, given to ourselves as we make things and get better at our craft. Sometimes that gift is the finished item, made from love and then moved into a commodity economy to be sold at market. Bridging those two economies without sacrificing our craft or our profit is probably the most difficult challenge we face as independent makers. Is the investment of time on something made purely for the love of making that thing good for business? I guess that depends on what mountain you’re walking toward.

You can watch the entirety of Neil’s speech here: http://vimeo.com/42372767

Please take a minute to check out Binx Ceramic. She’s pretty awesome: https://www.etsy.com/shop/binxceramic

kaGh5_patreon_name_and_messageThank you for being a part of my community! Your involvement is part of what makes it all possible. If you’d like to help support this and other projects like Craft Monster, Patreon is a great place to do that. Check out my pledge page here for more details. https://www.patreon.com/redherringjeff

Just Do The Work

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Something I find myself thinking more often than I really want to admit is “I wish I’d learned this earlier”…often while having to remind myself that I may have not been listening. I was out of college for four years before I really began to take the idea of making a living from doing art seriously again, and I had I had a lot of catching up to do. During that initial time of working to put together some sort of portfolio, I remember thinking that I may become a competent artist, but would never become a really good one. Part of the reason for that was a lack of practice. In order to make good work, I had to do the work.

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Often the fastest way to do something is to just do the work. One of the first lessons I needed to learn is this: Don’t mistake procrastination for finding inspiration. Artbooks, blogs and pinterest are great, but they don’t do us any good if we’re not out there creating things too. As a bonus to getting out there and making things is that eventually we’ll be adding to that great pool if inspiration. I started a blog, and a project where I was planning on using my most readily available model, me, to do a series of 100 self portraits. This eventually turned into little autobiographical cartoons. The point is though, that I was making things.

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Every day’s a good day when you paint.  Sketch, draw and create every day. It doesn’t have to be the Mona Lisa, we can just jot down ideas, write notes, figure out poses and compositions, practice forms and experiment with techniques. Our sketchbooks area great place to work on building a visual vocabulary to draw from. It’s also a great place to warm up our eyes, hands, heart and head before we tackle bigger projects for the day.

Finish projects! Actually, Jake Parker has a great video about this, and he says you need a product, not a project. He makes a great point, because a product is a larger body of creations with a purpose. Sketches and studies are just the beginning, finishing them and putting them to a larger use is how we grow as artists.

kaGh5_patreon_name_and_messageThank you for stopping in, and I hope you enjoyed this article. If you’d like to support this blog, and other ongoing projects like it, please consider pledging a dollar or two on my Patreon page. I appreciate every one of you, and couldn’t do this without you.

 

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