life as a sponge

Tom Nash on Underpaintings:

Some of my earliest teachers commented that I “soaked up information like a sponge”. To the extent that this was true, I attribute it to the fact that I spent a lot of time as a child with my brushes and paint trying to figure out stuff on my own. I did a lot of WONDERING. I think that if we make an effort, perhaps beat our heads against the wall a little bit, we will arrive at a point where we have some very specific “blanks” in our understanding and we will be very hungry and ready to have theses blanks filled in. When we finally run across the teacher or the book that has the information we are seeking, we not only absorb it like a sponge, but will retain that knowledge better than if we had never struggled.

Pretty much exactly why I’m taking a semester off from art school.


Also the exercises he sets for himself are awesome:

I draw my portrait subjects from memory before they arrive for their sitting (assuming I have seen them at least once) By doing this my mind is primed to soak up a lot more information as soon as I do see them.

To study how light and shade worked, I set up a still life in flat light in the studio and arranged a more intense spectral light near it, but did NOT turn it on. I then drew the main contours of the forms and also tried to predict and draw what I THOUGHT the shadow patterns WOULD be when I turned the light on. Once I had struggled with it a bit and “wondered” about what I would see, I turned on the light and checked my assumptions. These exercises forced me to wonder about why things appear as they do. I have learned much more about the nature of light on form, and the perspective of shadows, than if all I had ever done was to copy the shapes and colors I saw in front of me as if I were a human scanner.

I put an X on a table some distance from my easel and invent a composition of items I know I have in my house somewhere. I try to picture one main object sitting on the X and the rest arranged around it. When I have taken the drawing as far as I reasonably can, I go get the items and set them up in the same composition that I had invented. Then, sitting in the same place at my easel, I compare that arrangement to my drawing. I instantly learn if I have misjudged the proportions or relative sizes of the objects, but, probably of greater use, is the gaining of a clearer grasp of how perspective affects the shapes of the forms as seen at that specific distance and angle.

digital painting links

My friend Chad just got his first graphics tablet, so I am posting him some links! And you can read them too. Very small sample of what’s out there of course, from a quick run through from my delicious account:


Free videos

Daarken’s Youtube –  concept artist for Mythic Entertainment, just discovered his stuff last night. Some great multi-part videos here.

Bobby Chiu : watch him paint and listen to him talk about art. Inspiring!

Bugmeyer’s YouTube vid – How to remove the white from a scanned drawing. (Useful in perspective class.) Handy list of keyboard shortcuts too.

YouTube – Adjustment Layer Tutorial - adjustment layers are handy for tweaking stuff quickly.

YouTube – Applying Texture Without Looking Like a Douche – tricks for adding textures in Photoshop

Tutorial-MentoringExercises 1-2 by jermilex on deviantART - Video tutorial with sound, quickly replicating a couple of still life photographs and showing his process. He talks about color & light, observation, etc.

YouTube – Lich King – Speed paint - not a tutorial, but watching the process is instructive


Written tutorials with images – Another one on removing the white from a drawing. This one comes with a prerecorded Action (for photoshop cs4) Forums – full blown tutorial of recent painting (big download) – painting of a building, starting from big blocks of color.

David Revoy - Speedpaints and tutorials in many different programs. Some videos here too.

Color Theory + App. Tutorial by gorachi on deviantART - talks about color, light, brush techniques, etc. Very detailed.

How To Make A Digital Painting by Norke on deviantART - very detailed, goes from rough sketch to completed image. Includes some shortcuts and tips for fixing mistakes along the way.


Other stuff

Parkablog Book Review: Fantasy Workshop: Mastering Digital Painting Techniques – Digital painting book review complete with video flip-through. Warning:  Parka’s art book reviews are awesome and your wallet will be in serious danger once you start reading his site. But your eyes will thank you.

The Art Department store – formerly the Massive Black tutorial section. You have to buy em, but they’re pretty cheap. I have the Jason Chan “quick sketch” one – high quality, definitely worth the price. Reminds me I meant to get more of these!

CGTalk – Digital Painting: Tips and Techniques for Beginners With David René, Matellis, LotekK  - couple of exercises to get you used to tablet drawing




Feel free to add more in the comments, I’m sure there’s tons more great stuff out there I’m missing!

stationery love

Dude, there’s a stationery convention? Man, if I lived in New York I’d go to this. I love stationery. I remember wandering through college bookstores and nearby gift shops, collecting beautiful cards to pin to my walls (both cheaper and smaller than art prints, a plus when you live in tiny spaces like dorm rooms or the closet under the stairs.1)

Later I worked at various office supply stores, and was unable to resist taking home endless pens and folders and nifty paper clips. These were also my big letter writing years, where I was obsessed with decorating envelopes and interior pages with drawings and stickers and painted rubber stamp scenes.

And then I discovered Japanese stationery! I’ve lost count of the hours I’ve spent in Kinokuniyas across the state, sighing over elegant papers and cute little erasers and Engrish-embellished day planners. On my most recent trip to Japan I lingered in every Tokyu Hands2 I found, buying tiny notebooks in rainbow colors to match the even tinier Post-Its.

I’m always hoarding blank journals with nifty covers – there are six I can think of off the top of my head, empty and waiting for words or pictures. I’m sure I’ll pick up more before I finish filling these. I can’t resist lovely, useful things. ♥

1. Yes, I lived in a closet under the stairs once. Back before Harry Potter made it cool, even.

2. Quite possibly the best store ever. Luggage! Bicycles! Art supplies! Furniture! Toys! The one in Ikebukuro even has live cats you can pet and visit with! If they sold books and video games, I’d never ever leave.