Friday, June 25, 2010

Tugboat Print Shop

(c) Tugboat Printship, used without permission

Every once and a while, we stumble upon a piece of art that infuriates us. Not because it's against our beliefs or is so terrible, but because it's simply amazing. While browsing, a fantastic blog on printmaking (and a constant source of frustration for Monkey due to it's awesomeness), we stumbled upon Tugboat Printshop. They make Monkey want to punch himself in the face as they're such amazing printmakers.

So the image above is frickin' amazing. The "Bonfire" print is a woodcut print. Yes, that's right, it's a four-color woodcut print. That means the artists (Paul Roden + Valerie Lueth) carved the image into four wood blocks, then printed them over each other to get what is basically a full-color image out of four colors (basically the way CMYK inkjet printers work, but involving a LOT more time, skill, and crazy crazy amounts of dedication and patience).

(c) Tugboat Print Shop. Used without permission.

This other print of theirs is from their "The Deep Blue Sea" series and is on our "we want this" very close to the top. Narwals! Great color schemes! Block printing! Gah, very awesome. In another fit of awesomeness that makes Monkey's blood boil, they even decided to build this awesome little cart when they travel to craft fairs and such to sell their amazing wares.

The Tugboat Print Cart, photos stolen off Tugboat's blog.

Anyway, you should definitely go check them out. Monkey actually gets pretty infuriated by their amazingness, so he has to take a break from looking at their work or he might hurt himself, thus, you know that they're great. Go visit them over at!

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

What Do You Really Want?

Tangential World Cup reference: Keisuke Honda wanted a goal against Camaroon. Read the post and the link between the World Cup and art will be made more clear (hopefully).

What do you really want?

This seems like a bit of a silly question, but how often do you sit down and ask yourself "what do I really want?" As seemingly simple as this question is, it is completely vital to you and following your dream.

Knowing exactly what you want is vital in getting it. If you don't have a concrete goal, how are you ever going to reach it? If you're not sure on the metrics of achieving something, how are you going to know if you achieved it?

Having a concrete goal is super important as it a) allows you to focus on what you want and b) gives you a measuring stick to figure out what you want. If your abstract goal is something like "I want to be a famous illustrator," you're not being specific enough. What happens if you're an illustrator who is famous for being Time magazine's "Worst Illustrator of the Century"? Would that make you happy? Chances are, the answer is no. We're sure what you were thinking of is that you want to be an illustrator that is widely respected and can choose what clients to work for and is in high demand and are making a ton of money. But even then, you're being too abstract.

What do you really want?

What does it mean to be "widely respected?" Respected by a large group of cod fisherpeople from around the world? Or do you mean to be asked by Ringling, Art Center, and the School of Visual Arts to come teach seminars on illustration? If you mean the latter, then that's a concrete goal.

"What Do You Really Want?" is a question that we all have to keep asking ourselves, as your goals can change. Whether they change because you find that you don't want it anymore, of that it was a goal that you think you've missed (more on these later), it's okay. The most important thing is to have a concrete goal that you're prioritizing and making progress towards on a daily basis.

What do you really want?

Once you figure this out, you'll put your brain in the right place to start to figure out ways of making your dream a reality. If you really want to be hired as an illustrator for Magic:the Gathering cards, what do you need to do? Well, you'll need to get a portfolio together, and maybe some research as to the art director is for M:tG at Wizards of the Coast would be a good idea. Are there other artists who you know that might be able to recommend you, or give you info as to the best way to submit your art? Maybe checking out the Wizards website on submission info? Hiring practices? Lots of smaller, simpler steps can be quickly figured out once you answer the question and get a concrete goal in mind.

Do you want to take the Blue Samurais to the World Cup finals? If you do and your name is Keisuke Honda, you bust your ass and train hard and you score a goal against the favored Camaroon team in your opening Group match. Hopefully you will also score a goal against the Denmark team to make your way into the next round, but if you don't, you'll do your best to make sure someone else scores (or at the very least you'll put enough pressure on Denmark to make sure that they don't score and you tie and end up moving on due to goal differentials).

Whether it's World Cup soccer or illustration, whether it's quitting your day job or cooking, you can't realize a dream until you figure out what exactly that dream is. Really, figuring out what you really want is half of the battle. Granted, the other half of the battle is following through, but you can't follow through with a plan that you don't know.

What do you really want? Figure that out, and you'll be one step closer to realizing whatever it is that you want. If you'd like to have our support and make a declaration of your intent, tell us what you want in the comments. Seriously, what do you really want?

Monday, June 21, 2010

Who are you Creating For?

Are you creating for someone else? Some outside entity whose stamp of approval will suddenly make your life meaningful and perfect? While as a commercial illustrator or concept artist, we definitely have to create for other people. Clients set the standard of what content they want, what the characters are wearing, the time, place, date, etc.

That said, in the end you have to create for yourself. Yes, you have guidelines to follow, rules you can't really break, but in the end, we should all strive to create for ourselves. Because it is when you put your full heart and soul into something, that's when you'll find something that works.

Every time Monkey has painted for himself, throwing planning and thumbnailing and color studies and just painted 100% for himself, good things have come about it. The first painting he sold in a gallery was a painting he did more out of being frustrated with his day job than because he really wanted to paint something that could sell. The only piece he ever got into the Illustration Spring Show was a piece that he threw together in a night, painting furiously and driven for six hours.

When you aren't being yourself, people can usually tell. Granted, there are people who do very well at disguising who they are, but in the end, why would you ever want to be someone you're not? Now we're not telling you not to experiment - we LOVE to experiment with styles, themes, moods, subjects, etc. But when it comes down to it, whether we like it or not, there are certain things, certain moods, certain topics that for whatever reason deeply resonate with us.

Monkey acknowledges that octopi and squid are super trendy and everyone paints them and everyone does stuff with them - but for whatever reason he's super into tentacles and squishy cephalopods. As much as she tries to paint other things, Seal always comes back to trees. If she's painting a character, lo and behold she'll figure out a way to paint some trees into the background somehow. This is just who we are. Our most effective pieces are often the ones that we do instinctively, where we let our years of studies and training run in autopilot while we fervently try to get something out onto the canvas or onto our computer screen.

Beyond selling paintings or getting awards is the personal satisfaction of knowing you put a piece of yourself into that work. Regardless of the external outcome (recognition, fame, money, etc.), know that being true to your inner artist is really what's important.

Critiques of your work are important. Other artists' advice can be invaluable, but if you always listen to whatever anyone else has to say (without judging it's actual merit), you'll be stuck playing a game of catch up where you'll be changing your art to fit people who, most likely, are never really going to be that into your art. Why let the downers and naysayers get you down? A critique is one thing (take it into account and see if you think it's actually valid), but comments like "I just don't like it" or "Hmm, that just looks funny" aren't helpful. There are people out there who are so into what they don't like, they probably have forgotten what they do like. Stay away from these people like the plague, and make art for the person who is (or who should be) the most important person: you.

In the end, you may not always have a choice into everything that you create, but if you find yourself struggling with a project for a client, try throwing in something for yourself, and you'll be surprised in what turns out. Don't listen to the naysayers and critics - as long as you are creating for yourself, who cares what they think? So it's time to ask yourself: who do you create for?