I'd always wanted to participate in Jake Parker's challenge/activity but found a way to let it slip by, marveling at others work but not jumping in myself. Last year I jumped in and really grew a lot from the experience even though I only did a few illustrations.
Last year I went in not just wanting to make some fun stuff along with the rest of the illustration/art world but to accomplish something more tangible; an exploration or a stretching of something atrophied. I decided to work in ink and cut paper, limiting myself to just those two things. I'm a huge Eric Carle fan and really love collage. It was a big part of my work in college (Don't ask, I'm not showing).
There's a lot of that influence in what I try to do. What happens when I focus on cut edges that are less precise? How does line work to shore that up? Last year's experiments in Inktober left an indelible and outsized mark on my current work. This is very much in line with Mr. Parker's reason for starting Inktober in the first place. He wanted to get better at inking. So what about this year? What rules am I playing by and what's the goal?
My personal 2017 rules for Inktober
- Creepy and Cute: Halloween all month? Yep.
- 2 Colors: I love color and use it liberally. But I really love limiting myself and playing with overlays and other settings in Photoshop.
- 1 Texture: Collage is fun, but what about limiting it to just one random texture file?
- Not ink, but close: I'll try to use my favorite "pencil" in Photoshop with less "command Z" to mimic ink work. (Some folks may say "hey, you're not doing ink drawings!" and that's true. For meeting my goals this year, I want to focus on the mix of color, texture, and "ink" rather than a strict adherence to just ink. Maybe next year I'll roll with just a nib and a bottle of India ink!)
The goal is to push a melding of styles I've been working in over the past few years into something that really feels right. Oh - and I want to go the full month. You can see all of my 2017 illustrations here or you can root me along on Instagram.
Sometimes as an illustrator and designer - I get overloaded on one side. I've been knee deep in design work for 2016 so far, which makes me miss illustration making like crazy. So I carved out a bit of time to play with some new brushes (thanks, Kyle).
I work digitally. Like many illustrators and artists and animators, I transitioned to drawing directly on a tablet monitor (Wacom Cintiq) in an art making application (for me, Photoshop). There are many, many reasons for this, but in a nutshell I can work faster and achieve my artistic goals more efficiently. This is especially important when client deadlines and side projects (like this one) are colliding. None of this is new. I've been working this way for 7 years or so. What has changed is how I view the work I make digitally.
For much of my career, I've been whittling down a style and a way of working. I'm very much in love with texture and pattern (thanks, Mom!). I like naive shapes and lines (thanks Mr. Emberely and Mr. Carle). I like my drawings to be messy and have a real affinity for collage (no idea who to thank...). Some artists really love the perfect shapes and lines they can get on a computer, but I've always fought it in my own work.
In Photoshop, I build shapes using the Freeform Pen Tool. It's a scraggily beast of a thing. It likes to leave "jaggies" (little unintended sharp triangles) randomly. When I'm closing a circular or oval shape it connects oddly, making it look kind of pointy. It used to drive me mad (and still does, sometimes). But it's a perfect illustration of a tool being a tool.
When you use scissors to cut out a piece of an old magazine for collage, you sometimes get odd, unintended shapes. Or you over-cut. When you're painting you sometimes pick up a touch of cobalt blue when you were reaching for vermillion. When you're printmaking not every print is going to have the same ink coverage. You might have a spot that is fainter. We've learned to live and sometimes love these little mistakes.
I tweeted this the other day:
One of the most undervalued “tools” in illustration making on the computer is *not* hitting undo. Mistake making can be good.— Jacob Souva (@TwoFish) August 19, 2015
I've come to the slow realization that fighting against a tools "mistakes' or trying to remove the tool from the work is not always in the illustrations best interests. Working without the perfection of "undo" has given the work some space for something greater to emerge.
I don't need to fool people into thinking what I'm making is perfectly made computer art or conversely - a traditionally rendered image. It's proudly made by hand on the computer.
Well I did it. I finally took the plunge and opened a little shop selling art prints of my work! I'm pretty excited for a bunch of reasons, but I think I can sum them up in these three:
1. I love to make work that inspires young people
Somewhere along the way I began believing that I was just an odd ball. That the work in my head and sketchbook were to eccentric to be commercially viable. While I still think I am an odd ball (my wife agrees), I think I've settled into the perfect home. Art for kids can be a lot of things - but fun, odd, and quirky has always been in my wheel house.
Having two boys has really helped me figure that all out. They find joy in my goofy drawings. And that's enough proof for me to jump into this.
2. I need an avenue to share the work I want to make
I love my clients, but man I love my sketchbook more. I have so many ideas for projects, stories, illustrations and no outlet for getting them out. Lettersetgo.com is that place. It offers complete control of what I make and how I make it. A playground. I'm pretty excited.
3. I need alternative, "passive" forms of income
I've been freelancing for a long time. I have great clients who are passionate about what they do and am grateful to help them achieve it. There is no way around the truth, however. I need to make more money. The problem lies in the time/money balance. If my schedule is pretty full, but my income is not where it needs to be to grow my business and support my family, something has to change. I could charge more, but my rates have been rising a bit over the past bunch of years (like they should) and I'm happy with where they are.
Running my own store might provide the perfect antidote. And you don't get there if you don't start the journey.