Keep­ing fresh it Keep­ing in 2017

New skills Lead­ing artists tell Ju­lia Sa­gar how they’re go­ing to push their craft for­ward in the new year

ImagineFX - - Imaginenation News -

As 2017 sails into view, there’s no bet­ter time to stop for a mo­ment, take stock of the past 12 months and set some goals for the com­ing year.

Con­tin­u­ally striv­ing to evolve your skills is the key to be­ing a suc­cess­ful artist, but it’s easy to lose sight of the big­ger pic­ture. There’s the usual tight dead­lines, de­mand­ing clients, and all-con­sum­ing work or fam­ily com­mit­ments to man­age, but be­com­ing too com­fort­able can also cap your creativ­ity.

One thing’s for sure: to stay mo­ti­vated, in-de­mand and cre­atively stim­u­lated as an artist, it’s im­por­tant to con­tin­u­ally push your prac­tice for­ward. So what are your aims for the next 12 months? And how are you go­ing to make them hap­pen?

“In 2017, I’m fi­nally tack­ling tra­di­tional me­dia, which I’ve ne­glected for way too long,” says São Paulo-based artist Ur­sula Do­rada. She spe­cialises in il­lus­tra­tion for the en­ter­tain­ment in­dus­try, but re­cently ven­tured into book il­lus­tra­tion and has a num­ber of goals for the new year.

“I’m go­ing to start paint­ing in oils,” she says. “And since ev­ery start in new me­dia is painful, in­stead of div­ing in and try­ing to fin­ish im­ages, I’ll be­gin by do­ing more anatomy stud­ies – you can never do enough of those.”

ex­pand your vis­ual vo­cab­u­lary

Her other ob­jec­tive is to paint a set of im­ages that are free from client in­put. The plan, she says, is sim­ply to ex­plore her vis­ual vo­cab­u­lary. “I’ve been work­ing on a fo­cused port­fo­lio for too long,” Ur­sula says. “I’m feel­ing a bit smoth­ered, but I’m cer­tain that tack­ling a new medium and hav­ing more free­dom with the art di­rec­tion of things will rem­edy that pretty quickly.” Dan­ish il­lus­tra­tor Es­ben Ras­mussen also rec­om­mends tak­ing a mea­sured ap­proach to stay mo­ti­vated: “If you al­low stud­ies into your work­flow be­fore start­ing a piece, you’ll pick up new ways to ac­com­plish a cer­tain task,” he ad­vises, “which is al­ways good. It’ll help you keep your spir­its high.”

Es­ben re­cently moved to the US to work at video game de­vel­oper Riot Games, and says that the next year is all about set­tling into life in LA, while grow­ing and

If you al­low stud­ies into your work­flow be­fore start­ing a piece, you’ll pick up new ways to ac­com­plish tasks

nur­tur­ing his craft. His big­gest ca­reer goal is to be­come a se­nior il­lus­tra­tor at Riot Games in 2017 “and make my new best piece”. But for Es­ben – whose in­ter­ests out­side of draw­ing in­clude beat-box­ing and magic tricks – stay­ing fresh isn’t just about con­cen­trat­ing on work. “I want to fo­cus on life. Hav­ing new ex­pe­ri­ences other than just art is go­ing to give me the en­ergy to study and work hard,” he says.

in search of new ex­pe­ri­ences

For il­lus­tra­tor Miles John­ston, stay­ing fresh in 2017 means seek­ing out new, in­spir­ing ex­pe­ri­ences. “I’ve been in dis­cus­sion with a few on­line con­nec­tions to put to­gether a group show, where we build a body of work to­gether. Of­ten a group of peo­ple come up with ideas they never would have found in­di­vid­u­ally,” he says. “I’d also like to start a Pa­treon and put to­gether an­other art book.”

A dig­i­tal artist by trade, Miles has built a strik­ing port­fo­lio of pen­cil draw­ings over the past few years [see page 108 for Miles’ pen­cil work­shop]. He’s been feel­ing the pull of tra­di­tional me­dia for a while, he says, and in­tends to com­pile a large body of oil paint­ings and draw­ings in the new year that feel as though they be­long to­gether. “It isn’t nec­es­sar­ily a per­ma­nent move into tra­di­tional, and I don’t want it to be con­fused as some point­less nostal­gia about the good ol’ days,” he ex­plains. “Some­times I think I want to do a 180-de­gree leap and dive into VR and emerg­ing tech­nolo­gies, but it feels more ef­fec­tive for me right now to slow down and fo­cus deeply on one thing, in­stead of be­ing scat­tered all over the place.”

Miles’ main goal for 2017 is to stop ac­cept­ing work that doesn’t fit him any­more. “I did a few jobs this year," he says, “where although the client was happy with the end re­sult, I felt like I was drag­ging my feet.”

Tricky dead­lines are some­thing that Ur­sula would like to leave be­hind in 2016. “If there’s any­thing I’m al­ways try­ing to fix, it’s ac­cept­ing tight dead­lines for enor­mous projects,” she says. “While I love do­ing them, I in­tend to fo­cus more on qual­ity than on rush­ing pieces out to meet dead­lines.”

early morn­ing art work

One artist who’s fo­cused on per­sonal growth all year round is pro­lific Naughty Dog art di­rec­tor Robh Rup­pel. He wakes up early to fo­cus on his self-ini­ti­ated projects – which range from plein air paint­ings to faux pulp pa­per­back cov­ers – be­fore head­ing to work at the video game de­vel­oper in Santa Monica. This year, though, cre­ative growth has come courtesy of a par­tic­u­larly ex­cit­ing com­mer­cial pro­ject that’s push­ing him to be­come an even bet­ter de­signer. “It’s an amaz­ingly artis­tic pro­ject," Robh says. “It’s like get­ting a PhD in de­sign.”

How­ever, while per­sonal growth in a com­mer­cial con­text is ar­guably the Holy Grail for artists, it’s also an area that can be fraught with fear. How can you be sure you’ll de­liver, when you’ve never done it be­fore? Robh agrees that it can be un­nerv­ing: “But that’s what mo­ti­vates me,” he ex­plains. “If I

It feels more ef­fec­tive for me to slow down and fo­cus on one thing, in­stead of be­ing scat­tered all over the place

were crank­ing out the same im­ages I was pro­duc­ing 10 years ago, it would be de­press­ing. There should al­ways be an evolve­ment of taste, style and skill.

“As far as not de­liv­er­ing, I be­lieve that you can al­ways find a so­lu­tion, if you keep try­ing. That’s why self-growth and study are im­por­tant: the more ex­pe­ri­ence you have, then the bet­ter odds there are to come up with a so­lu­tion.”

For busy artists who feel swamped with work or fam­ily com­mit­ments, Robh rec­om­mends “wood-shed­ding” – cut­ting your­self off from all out­side in­flu­ences to pur­sue an idea – as an ef­fec­tive method for mak­ing time for side projects. Fur­ther­more, ask new ques­tions: “What if I did an en­tire im­age us­ing just coloured squares – could I make it look real? Does every­thing need the same amount of de­tail? Where are the vis­ual rests? What can be elim­i­nated and make a stronger de­sign?”

As for his own plans for keep­ing it fresh next year, Robh’s work­ing on fewer tricks and bet­ter de­sign. “Real growth and progress come when you go be­yond what you feel com­fort­able with," he says. “The job of an artist is to present new takes on what it is to be hu­man, and that comes with ex­pe­ri­ence – miles of ex­pe­ri­ence.”

Clouds, by Robh Rup­pel. “Every­one is dif­fer­ent, but morn­ings are when I’m fresh­est,” he says. Ex­plo­ration sketches for Pro­gram Lis­san­dra, by Es­ben Ras­mussen for Riot Games. “The sketch stage is cru­cial for a good il­lus­tra­tion.”

Miles John­ston in­verted a women’s face in his pen­cil draw­ing, Re­ceiver Por­trait of ac­tor Ster­ling Hay­den posted by Robh on In­sta­gram. A cover il­lus­tra­tion for The Ele­phant and Macaw Ban­ner se­ries by Ur­sula Do­rada.

Like Clouds, Cul­ver Ho­tel is an­other im­age from Robh’s book, Graphic LA.

“To stop your work get­ting stale, look af­ter your body, re­la­tion­ships and men­tal health,” rec­om­mends Miles.

“I work al­most en­tirely in tra­di­tional me­dia right now,” says Miles. Mar­ket­ing art­work cre­ated for Al­bion On­line. “I’m al­ways try­ing to im­prove my craft,” says Es­ben. Astro Mage, cre­ated for gam­ing pe­riph­er­als com­pany Steelseries, demon­strates Es­ben’s skill at de­pict­ing light. Ur­sula’s char­ac­ter art from the game Hex: Shards of Fate. “If you don’t seek mo­men­tum, then you stag­nate,” she warns.

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