Stylization Experiments

This is the view I wish I had! I’m only 165 cm so I saw mostly other people’s heads. Still enjoyed it though! My boyfriend took this picture.

I had the pleasure to attend a rock concert again after years! I had given me and my boyfriend tickets to the Red Hot Chilli Peppers last Christmas, and a few weeks back it was finally time. I’m in no way a regular, but when I attend I always immensely enjoy it – live music is really a totally different experience than listening to the same song on record. Though it was kinda short, the end felt a bit rushed and they didn’t play Under The Bridge for some reason, I had an amazing time.

This experience led me to draw the band members and experiment with simplification. I love adding little details, but I feel my work van be stronger by leaving out more and focus on what matters.

I’ve only finished Anthony, because finding the look I wanted proved to be quite the challenge. I changed the pose and shapes countless times, going back even after I started blocking in colour.

When I felt I had the pose figured out, I might have gone astray again by creating more visual noise with detailed shading and tattoos.

I like the result! But I’m afraid I won’t finish the other band members!

The wondrous world of wild plants

I’m keeping a habit of making a short walk every day. Since we moved to a house with a garden I’m all about plants and finding out which species is which. And with spring being in full swing, a lot of little flowers pop up in the green sea of regular grass – making it easier to identify these little plants.

I have no training whatsoever to idenify plant species, so I use the PlantNet app, which lets me upload a photo and its algorithm compares it millions of other uploaded photos to determine which species it is. I found it works pretty well, although I always look for a bit more information on the plant if it’s really the thing. Many species look very much alike, and part of the fun is learning about them!

Identifying wild plant species feels like a lost art. I find it super interesting to be able to name wild plants and learn about their properties. After all, they form the largest part of nature around us, they grow on every roadside and field. I’d love to combine this new-found interest with illustrations of some kind, but I’m not sure what kind of project yet. But I’m thinking!

It was a very good year…

I’m not exactly a Sinatra fan, but I thougth this would make a striking title to my yearly retrospection post, haha! It has hardly been a very good year in many aspects, but I feel happy and humbled that the pandemic hasn’t hurt me or my business financially!

I started this year trying to get a foot between the door in the board game industry. I contacted a lot of companies during January and February and was even asked for a quote for Christmas themed puzzles. I attended OBJECT with fellow BNO members and had my first and last convention on March 7th and 8th.

Don’t look at my sleepy head, I was a bit nervous tabling by myself again! Too bad the convention itself was not too exciting either; there were very little visitors.

And then everything closed down in this year’s first lockdown on March 17th.

Right then I was in the middle of starting to work on a game prototype with Roofkat – I had visited him in Zaandam in February, a good two-hour trip from my house. The lockdown forced us to work via Skype, but it would probably been the same without it.

A lot of my fellow convention artists weren’t as lucky as I was; they depended on the income of events like Comic Con Rotterdam. And one by one they were all cancelled. Some set up a online equivalent: Stay Home Comic Con. People could join the Discord channel, watch streams and there was a website with links to everyone’s webshops. I participated in the stream too (woo, first time!) and I had 60 watchers at one moment! I enjoyed doing it, so I considered streaming on a regular basis, but I haven’t really picked it up yet. Maybe because I’m secretly too nervous for it!

Spring passed and the first holiday I was going to spend with my boyfriend was cancelled. I spend the summer mostly working, trying to enjoy the ridiculous warm weather whenever I could. But with everything live going online, I was able to attend conventions and events I never would have attended live, being too far for me to travel too. I made a lot more international contacts, which might help me in the future. That’s definitely a good thing that this pandemic has brought me!

Some other highlights of this weird year:

  • I made a mural with friends of Draw Club Rotterdam at a local culture centre! We were almost finished halfway March but didn’t get the chance to add the final touches until August. It has become a Frankenstein’s monster of different styles, but it was a great experience working together!
  • I was asked to jump in and create some map illustrations and icons right before Godhood’s launch. It was great to work on that game again after a few years, so much has changed since then.
  • The game VR Giants, where I did level concept art for, had a very succesful Kickstarter campaign! I was able to share some things I made for it, hopefully more soon!
  • I participated in three zines this year: A Pokémon Snap zine, one focused on character design and a monster girl zine. The two last ones had very similar timelines which made meeting the deadlines quite stressful. I hadn’t expected to get in them both!
  • I also participated in the Artstation Keyframe challenge, but should have made more time for it; I was unable to finish it before the deadline. :/
  • And other cool things I’m not allowed to share yet, unfortunately!

Looking back, I definitely want to have another go at trying to get into board games. I think I’m limiting my options too much only trying to do video games. After all, there are plenty of board games in need of fantasy art too!

Between high culture and mainstream media

Just came back from the yearly BNO general meeting of members – yesterday I went to the monthly Dutch Game Garden network lunch. Both events to meet industry contacts, though very different people attending. I often wonder how many people would go to both of these very different meetings, and I feel it must be only me.

Ever since I decided to take a chance on the game industry, I felt a bit of an intern struggle to create work I feel truly fulfilled about. Don’t get me wrong, I love working on game assets and illustrations! I would be quite happy if I could draw buildings and plants for games for the coming years, sure! Thing is, my art school background nags at me when I see more ‘high culture’ designers present their work at events such as OBJECT or Dutch Design Week. It is as if I miss working towards a higher goal, bringing humanity further (which I think those designers aim for), which I cannot really achieve just drawing trees and bushes for some entertainment game.

Prints and objects sold by Studio Kars + Boom at OBJECT. This was perhaps the most illustrative project present at the fair. I think the way of presenting the work (bare wood on the concrete floor) already gives an impression of how conceptual some of the other projects were.

Being among these ‘high culture’ designers at the BNO feels weird when I think about while I sell my work at extremely low-culture places such as Dutch Comic Con. One of my teachers once even implied those conventions are not a place for schooled Creative Pioneers like me. I actually love to present at such low-brow conventions! Is it below my education when most of my fellow convention artists are hobbyists and the work presented is fan art (even though I aim long term for more original work)? That’s a quite narrow way to see it, isn’t it?

While the Dutch Design Week might be the pinnacle of ‘conceptual’ design, it does not reach the masses. I doubt all of the people at the DGG network lunch have even heard of it – which is perfectly fine, what does game development have to do with design furniture? Games need nice-looking imagery, not conceptual ideas, at least the mainstream ones.

Tapping into that, I’ve always seen it as a decifit that I didn’t study Game Art. I’m sure having done a broader Illustration Bachelor has its advantages; I just haven’t found out how to tap into those talents. It’s nice I have a better understanding of art history and contemporary design, have had freeform figure drawing lessons or did projects about the local neighborhood, but those aren’t skills the industry asks for. Those 3D modelling or C# lessons would have been much more valuable.

My graduation project was the first and last time I was able to combine what I simply love to do (drawing creatures) with a statement (representation of harpies and women alike). It seems that my art teachers where more happy about this project than the industry people I have talked about it, but it’s a start.

During this project I stumbled upon themes I found highly interesting and that I would love to develop further, such as helping people connecting more to nature, feeling more part of a whole and the role of monsters and creatures in our culture.

Now I could of course could create games about these themes myself – the medium is perfect for statements short and long. Thing is, learning how to program and design are separate disciplines in themselves. Even though I love to learn to make my own games from scratch, it seems wiser to focus on art for now until I can make a modest income with that.

I think my best bet for now is to try to combine the ‘simple things I draw for money’ and the ‘statements I want to make about the world’ in small illustration-heavy projects such as comics and zines – in such a way that they tick all the industry boxes and make me feel I’m drawing nice things and contributing ideas to the world. That’s enough challenge for now!

Moving to a new neighborhood

Funny thing is, all my friends say, what a nice neighborhood! While I think, uh, it’s still old houses, high crime rate, not really cosy looking, so … What are you talking about?

Don’t get me wrong, I’m glad to have found an apartment here. It’s the first time I have so much space to share with only my boyfriend!

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 the 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 seemed amazingly fruitful… I guess we became too large to go unnoticed.

I’d love to have another try at these community projects, though I will be more selective about their theme and professionalism. My time is much more limited now than when I was a student.

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!

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?

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!

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. 🙂