Looking back on 2019

What a year it has been, both personally and career-wise! Back in January, I was busy adding the final touches to my graduation project. After that I took a short holiday and I started with my freelance career. Time for a review: what have I been doing this year?

Graduation: finally into the wild

I underestimated how hard it would be to find work in the illustration field, and that made me feel quite self-concious at times. On the other hand, I knew it would take years before I would make enough of my illustration business to quit my part time job, and I was trying everything I could to make it happen. I could feel stressed and sad for not doing enough, but I was already putting in all the effort I could.

I also realized that being alone all day working by myself is something that comes naturally to me. Of course I would start feeling lonely if I didn’t speak to another human being for a week – but I really enjoy being just with myself all day.

In the end I’m still proud to do what I always wished for in five months work: creating concept art for video games! Hope to be able to show you something from that soon!

Global Game Jam

A week after graduation I participated in the Global Game Jam, which was a blast! It reminded me how great it is to work in a team, meet new people and learn from each other in such a pressure-cooked environment.

We kept on working on the game that resulted from the jam, until we finally decided to pull the plug in August.

Although we decided not to continue, I look back upon this as a happy learning experience. Looking forward to the next Global Game Jam in two weeks already!

Heroes of the Ages: A Legend of Zelda Anthology Book

This was my very first collaborative illustration project for a so-called zine, and I naturally enjoyed working on it, being a tribute to a game series I absolutely love!

In February the Kickstarter launched and it seemed to go really well, until a few hours before it would end Kickstarter took the campaign down due copyright infringement. I was quite struck by this case of bad luck, my first dive into the zine community it seemed amazingly fruitful… I guess we became to large to go unoticed.

I’d love to have another try at these community projects, though I have to select them on being for profit. After all, art is my job now!

Conventions and Etsy

2019 has also been a year I had more tables at conventions, with varying results, of course. One cannot expect to do everything well at the first try!

Overall the experience is the same: I enjoy doing it, but I feel I neither a) have artwork that fits in the scene so that it serves the masses or b) have artwork that is original and niche so I can thrive while doing by own thing. In other words, I should critically review what I want to get from these conventions.

Opening an Etsy shop however has surely paid back its efforts: right from the start I was already making a few sales! Without any advertising! I still have to learn a lot about best practises and how to optimize my products, but I’m happy so far! Still, my thoughts about convention artwork also haunts my Etsy shop, especially as Etsy doesn’t allow fan art to be sold.

Art Summary 2019

Let’s end with on happy note. On DeviantART it used to be a kind of tradition for many artist to share a ‘art summary’ whenever a year turned over.

Creating these usually left me with a feeling of not creating enough, but now looking at it, I feel excited to start creating! On to a creative 2020!

Dutch Comic Con Winter Edition 2019

Ah, Dutch Comic Con. The largest comic convention of the Netherlands. Infamous for its visitor numbers and the outrageous prices of tables. To counter that, two friends of mine, Dewy and Sarah, decided to share two tables between the three of us. That way we would pay less and still be present on this large convention.

Was this approach a succes?

One thing we quickly noticed, two tables for three people is somewhat smallish. In fact, we could all just fit all our merchandise and prints in the space. Dewy, having the largest inventory of us all, couldn’t display all her products. Next convention it’ll be probably too small.

Nevertheless, we managed to get everything kinda in place and the rest of the weekend went pretty well. I sold all my Hollow Knight stickers because I forgot to take the last bit of stock with me on Sunday. Lesson learned!

On the other hand, I notice a trend between me and my table buddies – they sell a lot more items than I do. How come? First of all, they offer more products – Sarah has more poster designs and all posters are also available as postcards, while my poster artwork is only available as posters. Dewy has so much fandoms covered with her smart customisation options, that there were almost always people going through her button designs and often people were standing in line to see what’s on offer – standing before my stand.

While the obvious solution would be just to create more (fan) artwork, I don’t really want to go that route. I fear I end up with a lot of stock, spending a lot of money on prints of which I don’t know they will sell. Besides, I don’t feel so comfortable anymore with just creating pretty pictures of someone else’s intellectual property. I fear that they’ll come to get me for that someday, and I rather draw whatever I feel like drawing than to think hard about what’s popular at the moment.

I know a few artists that seem to get by creating whatever they like to do; Evaboneva makes prints of her own artwork that seem to sell quite well. The same goes for Nikki Smits or Ines Borba.

Thing is, they all have a very recognisable style, which I don’t really have? I think my work is pretty generic digital painting; though I like to go deep with my creature designs, they are not unique enough (yet) to really stand out?

Something to work on.

Digital Painting Workflows

I recently finished this illustration for DeviantART’s Cosmic Corsair Original Character Contest.

Not to talk my own work down, but I believe I could do better if I had planned more time for this. Nevertheless, I am happy with what I produced in the time given. Even more, I liked the workflow I discovered while working on this.

This illustration was the first finished piece that I tried to paint almost solely in Procreate. I bought my Ipad Pro a month ago, but I had only used it for study paintings and sketches so far. In the end I did switch to Photoshop, as I really missed some colour editing tools and layer modes. Switching between the programs was pretty easy though using Airdrop and I’ll definitely will create more illustrations this way!

Loish’s Workshop

I was lucky to attend the Intuitive Digital Workflow workshop by Loish in the beginning of October, as a part of the Playgrounds Festival. Loish showed how she approaches digital painting by creating a rough sketch, adding colour and effects with layer styles and finishes her illustrations by just adding details and corrections on top.

GlitchedPuppet

Loish’ workflow reminded me actually of another illustrator I followed for years: Melanie Herring, also known as GlitchedPuppet (Glip) or formerly PurpleKeckleon. Similarly, Melanie starts with a very rough sketch, and adds a rough colour blockout underneath. They then add colour variety using various layers modes. The full walkthrough can be read on her blog.

Both Glip and Loish work with what they have during the proces, building upon their sketch rather than figuring everything out at the start of the painting.

What does it say when two artists I look up to use similar approaches to digital painting? Something in their way of working resonates with me!

I have been following Glip’s work for more than ten years now and her approach has influenced my early digital works a lot. Learning that Loish works in a similar way makes me realize I should experiment with these techniques again. I never liked doing line-art and my sketches are usually quite rough too, which may be why my Inktober drawings tend to take so much time. I’m not the kind of person to make a detailed drawing before diving into colour, I want to sculpt and carve the painting toward a finished design.

The end result of Loish’ workshop: two portraits in different light conditions.

I hope the mobility of the Ipad helps me experiment more on the road with these techniques!

Thoughts on social media and their ‘lifespan’

I just came back from a three-week holiday to the States – during which I used little to no social media. I used to write an announcement on each of my active social media that I was unavailable during my holidays, but this year I only posted a short notice I was going to Oregon and Washington on Instagram. I didn’t write anything on the site that used to be my main place for sharing my work: DeviantArt.

My artistic journey pretty much started there, as many of my generation. DeviantArt launched in 2000, having the claim onto being the very first social media site – before social media were even a thing. I made my account in May 2009 and it took me over a month before I even dared to upload my first drawing – My 13-year-old self was terrified for the reactions of the public!

This year marks my tenth anniversary on DeviantART, a place where I was exposed to a lot of different art, which let me learn what I want to achieve in my own artwork. I found my artistic heroes on that platform! Artists of whom some have moved away from the work that made me fall in love with them (such as the eponymous PurpleKecleon, who goes now by the name GlitchedPuppet). Others have left the site altogether, such as DoruDrutt and HeartGold, Some are still active and creating, such as Shinerai and Kila Zamana. And others am I happily following on other platforms, such as oomizuao and Allison Theus.

I too have grown quite inactive on the site. I once claimed after creating a Instagram account I would never ‘leave’ the site, but what can one predict about the future anyway?

That brings me to the following: DeviantArt has changed a lot since then, and a lot of veterans claim it is not the community it used to be. The site used to have the edge over other social media in terms of sharing artwork, but when Tumblr came around I saw a lot of artists move over there. It seems there are a lot of places online that do things better now than DeviantArt. And now I’m pursuing a creative career, I’m actually worrying whenever the unprofessional reputation the site has gained will hurt me..?

The devs are trying to update DeviantArt to the new age of social media, but I wonder whenever it will bring back the community spirit that has left the site. On the other hand, I suppose it’s only natural to move on and leave some places behind. Still, it feels like I’m moving out of a place where I grew up artistically, even more so than during my four-year Illustration bachelor.

Still, online communities grow and fade, or in the very least change over the years. Somewhere deep down I know I shouldn’t feel ashamed to leave DeviantArt behind, but as the site was so important to me in my formative years, it feels like breaking with a part of myself?

Starting an Etsy Shop

Ever since I started selling prints and other products at conventions, I played with the idea of opening an online shop. After all, why deny all my followers that aren’t able to visit me at conventions the possibility to buy my work? I first intended to host a website here on saskle.com for that, but after talking with some fellow convention goers, I decided to use Etsy instead.

Why Etsy? Being such a well-known shopping platform, customers just use the search bar to look for whatever products they’d like – if I had opened a shop on this website my traffic would depend completely on my own marketing and following on social media.

And I reaped the fruits of Etsy’s popularity quite quickly – I already sold one product, my shop being barely online for one month!

This illustration has proved to be very popular on Tumblr, so I’m more than happy that someone wanted to buy it too!

I do like to move the Etsy shop here to my own website in the future – simply because I don’t like to depend too much on third-party platforms. But for now all my prints, zines and other merchandise can be bought at my Etsy shop!

Two months in: A review of my freelance experience up to now

It’s been two months that I made my freelance position official and actively started looking for opportunities.

I haven’t found any yet.

One part of me feels a bit ashamed for that. It’s not that I didn’t try, I send my portfolio to a handful of studios. And I did get replies, though, most studios wrote me back that while they like my work, they don’t have any jobs for me at the moment. One studio was actively interested and even send me the game design document of their upcoming project, but they could only offer me a share of the project’s revenue – for a project expected to last at least two years, I didn’t want to make that plunge.

I gotta say, though, the last few weeks I haven’t been on the search at all. I’ve had it busy enough with other projects: the Character Design Challenge I’d like to participate with, the MerMay zine I’d like to sell at AnimeCon next week, as well as the graduation show that is in two months. Things that cost me a lot of time, which I don’t spend on acquisition now. And it’ll probably stay like that for the rest of June too, with AnimeCon happening and my graduation show in the beginning of July.

At one hand, I consider myself extremely lucky. I am able to make enough money by working two days per week in a restaurant to pay my rent, the other five days I can fully use for my art practice. Though, at times I worry if I wouldn’t be better of working at a studio instead. A place to go to each day, fellow colleagues to chat with and a steady income.. Only to slap myself in the face and say that I wanted this and shouldn’t complain! Thing is, being alone the whole day, every day, is more lonely than I thought it would be, in a way. I never had qualms with being alone for long periods of time, but now it seems I do miss some human contact.

When AnimeCon is behind me, I can fully focus on contacting people again: I should try to use my graduation show as a networking opportunity. Even though game studios aren’t too eager to look for talent at a grad show of an art academy, I should at least try to invite some people, right? I’m sure my teachers would expect me to!

Plans for the near future

Now that I’ve graduated from WdkA and I’m back from my vacation, I can put all my energy in getting illustration jobs! I’m excited to start this new adventure, though a bit nervous juggling all the tasks that come with being a freelancer. Though I plan to do mostly commissioned work for studios, I also try to keep up with the comic conventions I’ve been doing.

Two weeks ago I shared a stand with Tosca Hamel at the Netherlands’ largest comic convention, Dutch Comic Con. It went pretty good, actually! We’ve made enough to pay for the table, met a lot of new people and had generally a good time. I sold the merchandise I still had from previous conventions, but I also had a few new prints made:

Contact me if you’re interested in any of them! The Zelda prints are A3 in size, Gabite and Grovyle both A5. I plan to open an Etsy shop in the near future, so all things I have for sale can be found easily together.

In other news, I’m hosting a giveaway on Instagram at the moment, ending April 16th! You can win three signed prints and a sketch drawing, please check it out if you’re interested!

I did it, I graduated!

I did it, I graduated! I have officially a Bachelor in Design now! 😀

And here it is at last: the final lineup of harpy characters from my graduation project. Unfortunately I didn’t have enough time to iterate on colours too, perhaps I will still do that later on. 🙂

Retrospective #5: Looking back on 2018

Happy new year everyone! 😀

In keeping up with the tradition, a list of memorable things happening last year!

  • I did an internship at Abbey Games! One part of my contributions are out, the last DLC of Renowned Explorers released 12 December, so I should be able to share stuff soon. :3
  • 2018 was also the year I started seriously trying to sell prints and merchandise. I did my first two conventions, and both were extremely fun! I already have plans to attend the largest Dutch convention in March, excited how that’ll turn out!
  • Back to living on my own! I became good friends with the girl that lived in the space before me, she goes to the same art school as me and we discovered we have quite some mutual friends. She introduced me to a local draw club and lots of other people too. 🙂
  • Human characters! For a long time I felt very uncomfortable drawing them, but I feel I have reached a point that I can draw a person and think, yeah, that looks like an anatomically correct human being XD Due playing pen & paper RPG’s I also made up human characters, I never really did before.
  • Started working on my graduation project in September, which revolves around the mythological harpy and character design. If everything goes well, I’m done with school by February! :O I’m really excited and a little scared at the same time, as I won’t be able to call myself a student anymore, I’ll be part of the workforce!
  • I joined my first Original Character Tournament! Though, can I really say I joined when it has not started yet? The deadline for auditions has been extended twice and I’m still far from finishing my audition comic. 🙁 I greatly underestimated the time it takes to make a comic, and with graduating and other projects I kept procastinating on it. Though as a spectator, my deadline is not the same as for competitors, so I aim for the end of Round 1 instead of January 13th.
  • Did Inktober every other day, and it was much more relaxed that way. Best way to be part of the challenge without taking too much work on my plate!
  • First year I was able to somewhat keep my Instagram updated – still forgetting to post art every now and then. Last spring I wasn’t online much on DeviantArt too, previously my most active social media account. I really want to change that, though it won’t be easy: most people I follow are less online as they start to work professionally. Still, it’s not impossible, is it? :/

What kind of great things happened to you in 2018? 🙂