IlluxCon 7 Post-Con Blog Post

I really don’t have any idea where to start with this one, but I know I need to get the post out there.

If you aren’t aware of what IlluxCon is, here is a quick description:

IX is the first, ground-breaking art show, symposium, and celebration dedicated solely to imaginative realism—bringing artists, students, collectors, and art fans together for an annual gathering intended to inspire and create further awareness and zeal for imaginative realism and all that’s encompassed in the realm of the fantastic.

Why I Attended

The biggest reason I attended was because most of my favorite artists were going to be there. I assumed at the very least, I would get a couple of portfolio reviews and be able to hang out with friends I’ve made in the industry so far. I had no idea what I was in for and how extremely amazing this con would be for both my career potential and myself as a person. I learned a ton about the industry, the artists, and myself. I’ll get into all of that in this post. Hopefully.

What I Learned About Art

The biggest thing, I think, is about oil painting, and how accessible it actually is. I was extremely intimidated by it, what with the chemicals and brush cleaning and canvases and and and and. But what I learned is that you can lower your exposure to toxic chemicals with things like walnut oil and linseed oil, as well as using mineral spirits and turpenoid in tiny, measured, rare doses.

I also learned that you can paint on illustration board! The suggestion was to gesso both sides first, so it doesn’t warp, and I’m eager to try that method out.

I also learned that there IS a big market for traditional paintings, which I did not realize. I thought collectors had gone the way of the buffalo, but it turns out, they are out there and they are excited about us. I met one collector, Ray, who told me is ready and willing to buy my oil paintings in a couple of years when I’m in the main show. I earned a collector based on my potential.

What I Learned About Myself

It’s actually impressive all the things I learned about me in the 4 short days I was at IlluxCon. I learned that while I’m extremely introverted, it turns out that it doesn’t really affect how I am in large groups of my own types of people. I didn’t need nearly as much time to recharge after hours as I do when I’m surrounded by non-art folks, also known as Muggles. bahaha. I was shocked to find myself reluctant to go to bed, at 4:30 am after a long day of talking and socializing and attending talks. I wanted to stay up all night with the people I had met. I wanted to keep laughing at Petey Pablo impressions. I wanted to talk until all hours about the passions of the other artists and what drives them to create art. It was intense, it was fun, it was refreshing.

I also learned that I seem to have broken free of my longtime initial shyness. I used to be extremely intimidated by professional artists and art directors, and I would talk myself out of approaching them. After attending Spectrum Fantastic Art Live and now IlluxCon, I seem to have grown out of this and am much more comfortable striking up a conversation. I’m no longer lurking along the walls. Now, when I see an artist I’m excited to meet and talk to, I am more apt to walk right up to them.

Pardon me, I see Donato over there, I must make contact.

 

The most important thing, I think, that I learned at IlluxCon is this: This is where I am meant to be. It is literally the greatest feeling on the planet to come to the realization that the thing you love, loves you back. I get to paint elves and dragons and Westerosi characters and you’ll pay me for it?  I can pick up oil paints and paint Conan and someone will pay thousands of dollars to take it home and hang it on their wall? I can join this community and be welcomed with open arms by the people I admire most in the world? I learned that without a doubt, I will work my ass off and do what it takes to find my place in the ranks. I already feel like I belong, and I don’t even have paintings hanging on the gallery wall yet. I can’t wait for that day, and I’ll lose sleep if it means making it happen.

Who I Talked To

Um. Everybody. I can’t begin to name everyone but the most prominent and memorable encounters were as follows:

Sam Flegal, to whom I’d like to again apologize for excitedly talking at your face, throwing words out at lightning speed. Awkward.

Thank you for your patience and understanding! Thank you also for encouraging me and my cohort, Char Reed, to pursue our plans for a webcast of our own and sharing your knowledge on how to go about doing that.

Dan Dos Santos, who I learned is a Firefly fan.

Patrick Jones, who is HILARIOUS and, much like Donato Giancola, makes oil painting seem like something I can actually do. Something I actually WILL do. I bought his Oil Painting Techniques book and read it on the plane, trying to shield the cute little old lady next to me from the boobehs. Also, Patrick helped me to realize that everyone has people they consider idols, even the industry titans. His story about meeting Boris Vallejo will always make me laugh.

Lauren Panepinto, Marc Scheff, and Zoë Robinson, who give AH-MAZING portfolio reviews. The things I learn when these super busy rock stars take minutes out of their day to help me improve are more important than anything else that happens. I could rave on for days, but I’ll just leave you with this:

Linda Adair, Michael C. Hayes, Annie Stegg, and Allen Douglas, who were kind enough to share with me their process and tips and techniques, and make me feel SUPER comfortable about starting my journey into oil painting. They were like my own personal oil painting Yodas.

(Allen, I’m sorry we got cut off and I didn’t properly thank you!)

I won’t even try to list all of the new friends I made because I would be heartbroken to leave any of you out, but you know who you are and I love your faces and I can’t wait to squish you in hugs again. We shared drinks and sushi and laughs, and you mean the world to me. If I could, I’d give you…

I had a blast this year, I’m excited for Spectrum and I’m already stalking the IlluxCon page for updates on next year’s plans. I’ll book that hotel room the second they go on sale.

Thank you to everyone who truly made every day of IlluxCon my:

Lastly, I want to yet again thank my mentor, Jon Schindehette (SHIN-de-HET-ee for those who keep asking ;)), for being the one to boost my confidence enough for me to step out into this world. Without your amazing personality and your encouraging words, I don’t know where I’d be right now. I’m just getting started!

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Art Life Myths – First in a Series? Maybe?

Today’s post is going to be all over the place, but let’s see if I can corral the crazy long enough to make some sense out of what’s in my head. I’d like to talk about some of the common statements I’ve heard regarding getting better at art and why I think we are our own worst enemy.

1) I Can’t. I’ve been told directly “I can’t do what you do”.

Here’s the thing about Can’t. If you say you can’t, you won’t; simple as that. I know you’ve heard this before, and you’re having the urge to blow it off and move on, but bear with me here. I used to feel the same way. “No, you don’t understand, I REALLY CAN’T” is what would run through my mind. I’d look at Brad Rigney’s work or Dave Rapoza, or Drew Struzan, and I’d say… I can’t do that.

What I should have been saying (and what I say now) was “I can’t do that… yet”. I eventually realized just that. It’s all about Perspective. No, I don’t mean the technical foundation of 1, 2, 3, etc point perspective with vanishing points. I’m referring to the way you allow your brain to think when you’re thinking about the things you can’t do.

I was chatting via Twitter with another up-and-coming artist about failing. My philosophy on failing is that it’s probably the number one most important thing to master in your creation of artses.

Thomas Edison said (this is my number one favorite quote when thinking about progressing in my art career): “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”

He actually said a lot of things about working your butt off to get where you need to be:
“Genius is one percent inspiration, ninety-nine percent perspiration.”
“If we all did the things we are really capable of doing, we would literally astound ourselves.”
“Our greatest weakness lies in giving up. The most certain way to succeed is always to try just one more time.”
“Just because something doesn’t do what you planned it to do doesn’t mean it’s useless.”

If you work on changing your perspective to “I Can’t” and into “I Can Learn How”, you will become excited to try. The next step is to work on training your brain to not be overly disappointed when you inevitably fail a number of times before succeeding.

An artist on Twitter said this, “I dont learn something from every failure sometimes it takes a while, n by the time u overcome it u don’t notice” (Excuse the Twitter speak, character limits and all that). The important thing in that statement that the artist didn’t even realize he had acknowledged was this: “by the time you overcome it…”

Ah, but you DID overcome it.

I have a specific example with my own art that is relevant to this. I did a couple of cards for Fantasy Flight Games, and when all was said and done, something was still “off” about them but I couldn’t really place what it was. Moving on, I painted an unrelated personal piece called Gun Merchant. One of the things I wanted to experiment with in that piece was distance in the background. I took the time to figure it out and long story short, I nailed it (in my opinion). The piece still has other issues that need working out (visual hierarchy, focal point, etc.), but that just gives me more things to learn in the future, and that’s exciting. I realized while looking at it is that THAT was what was wrong with the Fantasy Flight cards. I wanted to email my Art Director and ask if I could fix them! Of course I couldn’t, they were already headed to print. But in those failures, and the subsequent success of that particular thing in another painting, I learned something new. Now, I CAN do that thing.

Long story short; You CAN, you just have to fail to do it.

2) I Don’t Have Time.

Here’s a worldwide secret for you: None of us have time.

Let me ask you a question. Do you watch a lot of TV? Do you watch a little bit of TV? Do you play games? Do you go out to bars every weekend? These are the things (among many others) that are taking the time away from you working on your art. I’m not saying at all that you can never do these things, however, I am putting it out there that if you truly want to succeed at your art and meet your goals, you are going to have to cut back on the distractions. This is true for things other than art, by the way. Working out is one of those things that nobody claims to have time for.

The bottom line is that you have to organize your priorities. For example, I was a beta tester for World of Warcraft, and played steadily for the next 8 years. I wasn’t even a hardcore raider or anything, but it consumed hours of my day, week after week. “Why am I not progressing in my art?” Well, I was spending 4-5 hours a day in WoW, but only and hour tops on my art. Guess which one I was good at? It wasn’t the art.

When I was at a point that I was ready to take my art seriously and understood that my “don’t have time” was just an excuse for myself to justify why I am not where I want to be with it, I realized I had to sort out my priorities.

I gave up WoW cold turkey. I haven’t played in three years. Do I miss it? Oh yeah, nearly every day. Will I ever play again? Very likely, in the future. You don’t have to give up your time sinks entirely, you just have to put them lower on the priority list. You can’t paint 24/7 and expect to maintain that momentum without burning out, so those distractions are actually very beneficial in smaller doses. Instead of playing WoW, which I knew for myself to be a huge time sink, I chose things that were easier for me to walk away from while still providing a mental break from the grueling process of being the best artist I can be. I started working out and watched a little TV instead.

The reward has been immense, by the way. In the last three years, my art has improved by leaps and bounds, and I’m getting work in the very industry I want to be in. I had a table at Spectrum and attended IlluxCon. I’ve been cold-contacted by Art Directors about games they’re creating. It is happening for me now, and there is NO REASON it won’t happen for you if you’re willing to sacrifice a few things to achieve it. 

3) I Can’t Afford Art School.

Psh! Who can!? Art school is ridiculously expensive and I can tell you that I personally have a raging hate boner for school loans. But guess what, you don’t really need art school. (side note: art school is great IF it’s what you want to do, I’m NOT dogging art school itself)

This industry is evolving, and it’s very exciting. There are so many free and inexpensive resources out there, that you can learn nearly everything you’d learn in art school by sitting at your computer and paying attention. I will say it can be pretty overwhelming because there are so many available resources, but that’s just a matter of figuring out what you need to learn first and what’s most important to you. I will write an entire blog post about this in the near future, and I’ve touched on it in the past, but rest assured that you can get all the education you need just be being a part of the community, and all that requires is reaching out and involving yourself. There’s no secret handshake or initiation ritual to go through to be One Of Us. Trust me on that one. Go to conventions and speak to other artists, artists you admire and look up to, and you’ll very quickly learn that nearly all of them are as excited for you to be One Of Us as you are.

One of the coolest things I realized at IlluxCon was that I was learning more about how to get started with oil painting than I’d have likely learned by taking a class. By taking a class taught by one instructor, I would learn how that instructor likes to paint. Well, how do I know that’s how I would like to paint?? I spoke with industry pros and such majestic creatures as Patrick Jones, Michael C. Hayes, and Annie Stegg, and each one had different tips and methods. I gleaned from them what I want to try, and mentally dismissed the things I wouldn’t be interested in. For me, this was way more effective than sitting in a class learning one way. That said, for you it may be different and in that case, finding a local oil painting class could be beneficial! It’s all about finding your own path.

If you start to feel lost and overwhelmed, reaching out to the community will help. If you’re interested in how one artist does something, ask them how they do it. Obviously, don’t expect a full on class from them, but they may be able to help you find your own path. I get extremely intimidated by people I feel are leagues above me, so I tend to reach out to people I feel are just a bit beyond me, and it’s more comfortable. Again, your own path! You may be perfectly comfortable emailing Donato Giancola well before I ever am.

So, this blog post is getting really long. I may turn this into a bit of a series if I get the chance, so stay tuned. I hope this helps you out some, and please feel free to leave feedback or contact me if you want to discuss things!