I've been mulling over the idea of doing a post about my process of seeking and utilizing inspiration in other artists' work. I've been asked a few times, as I'm sure many of you have, how it is that I came to produce art the way I do. I've thought a lot about it, and it's interesting to me to find that my path along the "art trail" started back to before I can remember.
This post is based solely on my opinions and experiences which you are free to disagree with. Everyone has their own path to follow if you will, but this is mine. My blog, my path. kapeesh?
Everyone has something that inspires them to create art. For me, the things that mad me want to create art more than anything were cartoons. I grew up watching shows like Tale Spin, Duck Tales, Bonkers, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Darkwing Duck, Biker Mice From Mars, and Gargoyles among many many others. Each one of the shows I grew up on influenced how and what I wanted to draw.
That said, once I started to mature and have a desire to create my own characters, I started trying to pinpoint what it was that I loved about the artwork that I loved. Something that's become increasingly obvious to me over the past few years is that all great character artists know their anatomy. It's one of those "You have to know the rules in order to break them" type of deals. You have to study to become good at anything. Art is no exception. I've been under the impression on more than a few occasions that many art students decide to pursue a degree in art because it doesn't require "book smarts"; you don't have to try too hard. Art is art, right? NO. Other people may argue with me on that, but I believe that you cannot become a truly great artist without studying your brains out. There is good art and there is bad art. Anyone with an eye for aesthetics can tell you that.
When someone watches a master swordsman or olympic athlete perform admirably, sometimes you'll hear the viewer say "It's more than a sport/game/job etc., it's an art form". By that phrase, I don't think they meant, "It looks like you just kind of went for it and things worked out. I'll bet I could do that!" No matter what sort of art you create, whether you're Jackson Polluck, Pablo Piccaso, Rembrandt, or Da Vinci, you need to know what you're doing.
Anyway, enough preachy, soap box junk. Now it's time to get to what I really wanted to talk about: STYLE.
A few people have asked me where I learned to draw the way that I do. The answer is EVERYWHERE. I tend to steal bits and pieces of what I admire about other artists' work and inject it into my own. As I said before, childhood cartoons started me on the path that I'm on now which is why my stuff usually has a bit of an animation vibe. However, there are certain things I learned from certain artists and I'd like to share those with you.
The 90's is when I started getting into comics. Comic books were a great resource for me as an artist. That's where I learned anatomy. The first comic book I got my hands on was an issue of Uncanny X-Men that was illustrated by Jim Lee. I read that thing over and over again. Eventually the cover fell off,
My love for comics has never diminished, but eventually I found that the only things I was drawing were ripped dudes in spandex. It was time to expand my vision. Because, let's face it, the number of people who make a living drawing buff dudes in underwear can be displayed on one hand.
That's when I went to college. Oh college. My mind was absolutely overrun with inspiration from the moment I started taking studio classes. The professors and other students were so encouraging and critical at the same time that it made my guts shiver. I'd always been a big fish in a little pond, but now I was surrounded by talented artists who actually knew what they were doing and it was time for me to grow up. I started expanding the quantity and style of artists who influenced my work and it did wonders.
As you can probably imagine, drawing the same thing for years on end can make a person hesitant to try new things. For starters, I wasn't really great at anything else. I thought, "Hey, why don't I just stick to what I'm good at?". Unfortunately, as I said before, there's not much of a living to be made when you limit your abilities that way. The first thing I had to do was learn how to draw girls. UGH! Girls are so small and pretty! You can't do any of the fun stuff you get to do when you're drawing dudes. You can't go and give them super defined cheekbones, broken noses, and facial scars because they'll look like dudes. And you can't give them broad shoulders and bulging muscles because they'll look like dudes. Good heavens. Fortunately, I had some great professors who were willing to sit down with me and teach me how to exaggerate proportions and enjoy drawing the human figure in ways that I'd never really explored before. I learned to enjoy drawing girls and I even draw them for fun from time to time.
One of the resources I've used over and over again when I need to draw women is the fashion blog. There are a million of them out there and some of them take some great photos. I have a friend from high school who became a fashion blogger and I refer to her site whenever I'm out of ideas on how to pose a figure or dress a girl in a good way. Still, sometimes it's been hard for me to come up with unique, interesting female characters because they still don't come quite as naturally as male characters.
Vera Brosgol is a great artist and has a gift for creating unique, beautiful female characters. I love her
Anya's Ghost. I highly recommend it to anyone who enjoys indie comics.
Other great artists who have influenced the way I portray women in my artwork are:
Brittney Lee- She happens to do the most fantastic cut-paper art I have ever seen. I came THIS close to buying one of them when I was at CTNX last year. Beautiful stuff.
Chris Sanders - He is somehow able to get away with giving girls calves that belong on a linebacker and still make them feel feminine. Some of his stuff can be pretty suggestive, which I try to avoid. But that dude's got some major talent.
Claire Hummel - Oh, how I love Claire Hummel. Her stuff is always so gorgeous! Her line of historical Disney Princesses is absolutely fantastic and I have never been able to get over her design of Sekhmet, the Egyptian warrior goddess.
Anyway, there are a few to get you started. Once I started to get comfortable with drawing the female figure I began to notice weaknesses in other aspects of my artwork. Hair, in particular. In all of my drawings, ladies and dudes with long hair just did not work. I guess I figured, "I've got the figure down, why should I bother making the hair look pretty? Nobody's going to care". Except that people do care. It doesn't matter how awesome one part of your piece is. If the whole thing doesn't work together, all people are going to see is the weak spots. I decided to spend a while studying Alphonse Mucha's work. The way that man used hair as a design element absolutely floored me. He paid such amazing attention to detail and he utilized every element in his piece to not only fill the space, but improve the space. Hair has become a joy for me to draw!
The next thing that I noticed I needed to improve was the way I costumed my characters. Up to this point I had a very hard time dressing them in anything other than spandex because I thought, "Why would I want to cover up all that gorgeous anatomy?!? Nobody wants to look at some dumb costume. Look at those muscles! Look at those hips! Look at those kneecaps!" No. Nobody cares except for you.
Anyway, I decided to study someone who had mastered the art of drapery. J.C. Leyendecker. To this day, my all time favorite book I've purchased is "J.C. Leyendecker: American Imaginist". Talk about a gorgeous art book! That man could paint clothing like no one else I've ever seen. He's by far my favorite Golden Age illustrator because you can tell that every single brush stroke is deliberate. He knew exactly what he was doing. Such chiseled, angular folds! Oh, it makes me giddy just thinking about it.
Leyendecker was so inspiring to me, I spent half of the time I was supposed to use working poring over this amazing book. His work directly influenced quite a few of my pieces including these ones:
I have tried to continue to conduct regular personal inventories so that I can continually evolve and improve as an artist. Other artists who have influenced me most recently in my decision making are:
And many many many many more. Always be on the lookout for someone who can teach you something. Even though your work might be adequate, or even super fantastic, there's always someone out there who can do something better than you. That's a good thing. Learn what you can from them.
I hope this post has been helpful. There are a lot of things I'd like to include in here, but just don't have the time. Feel free to comment, post any questions or inspirational artists of your own! Thanks guys. You rock!