3 Ways to Help, 3 Ways to Hurt an Artist on Facebook

Artists and Illustrators frequently use social media, particularly Facebook to show off new art. This is done for a few reasons:

1.) To advertise their illustration to potential clients (they may be friends with many Art Directors and this is a tried-and-true way of keeping them in touch with new work)

2.) To show off new works to collectors who may purchase the work they see.

3.) To present the world with lovely things.

When you see cool art, DO:

1.) Like it: likes are free still and easy, and posts with lots of activity seem to get shown to more people since it is viewed as valuable content and Facebook likes showing content that is engaging. Just liking a post can help the artist out in spreading the art around.

2.) Share it: ok, this takes more work and if you're an artist also a bit of swallowing your pride, but sharing work obviously multiplies an artist's reach.

3.) Compliment or discuss or share a story in the comments, ask questions (but note the Don't list below).

Note that two of the three purposes artists might share work are business-related. Because of that, there are a number of things that you can innocently do that can mess up the artist's ability to accomplish these tasks. Since the comments section can be a free-flowing peanut gallery, it might not occur to you that you are not helping the artist, but unfortunately, you aren't.

When you see cool art, DON'T:

1.) Criticize the artist publicly in-thread. First, your criticism might be valid, or not. Either way other viewers will read your criticism and it could diminish their enjoyment of the art--and if your criticism is off-base, unfairly so. If you'd like to critique the work, DM the artist. If you don't want to do that (the direct way of reaching the artist) then why exactly did you want to criticize in public?

2.) Make fun of or joke about the art. Most artists don't take themselves that seriously, but when you free-associate something you think is funny about the art and point it out in the thread, you are making it easy for everyone else to make the same association. If this association detracts from the art or lessens its impact, you've hurt the artist a little.

3.) Post your own art in the thread: perhaps the artist painted a cool Star Wars piece they are trying to show off to attract interest from people in the industry, and you did a cool art of the same character, too. Don't post your version in the comments--you are hijacking their thread and views. Or, their art reminds you of something someone else did (maybe even better), don't post that art in the comments. Again, DM is your friend if you want to have that conversation with the artist.

Again, most of the reasons artists are sharing art are business-related: trying to gain work or trying to make sales. Since that is how an artist eats, it's important to them, even if social media reach offers only a small effect in this regard. So when you lessen the impact of the art, or innocently ridicule or overshadow it, you inadvertently hurt the artist's efforts at self-promotion, which most artists find hard enough to do as it is!

Most of these tips also can be ported over to Twitter and Instagram, but at least the comment threads aren't as visible in those formats. Nevertheless, good etiquette helps artists. You want to help artists, don't you?

Back to Magic, Vizier of Remedies

Spoiler alert: This post is mostly about my work on Magic: the Gathering in general, but I've peppered it with process shots of Vizier of Remedies, my latest illustration for it.

 "Vizier of Remedies" 14x18" oil on panel Original sold

"Vizier of Remedies"
14x18" oil on panel
Original sold

Magic: the Gathering has been a part of my entire career, from my very first year as a freelancer, before I was old enough to drink alcohol. That relationship is one I didn't see coming, but has shaped everything I've done since. It has been a fairly casual relationship, and there have been years I didn't participate in the game. The longest stint was these past three years.

 Digital study over pencil/pastel drawing. I submitted this to AD Dawn Murin for approval. Approved, with change requested to hair: she should have a styleguide-approved updo. Check!

Digital study over pencil/pastel drawing. I submitted this to AD Dawn Murin for approval. Approved, with change requested to hair: she should have a styleguide-approved updo. Check!

I have worked with I think every Art Director that has held the seat. Considering that each AD has their specific vision for the art of the game, I'm pretty proud of that. Certainly I worked with some ADs more than others. This is doubly amazing for me because I am not one to really make an effort to send ADs emails when I am not working with them. I send each AD an introduction letter eventually, but that's about it, so if I fall out of sight and out of mind, well then I don't really get asked. There could be a longer blog post on that topic, but it is enough to bring us to the present.

When I turned in my last illustration, Treasonous Ogre, three years prior, I went about my business as usual after. When a set or two passed me by, that was not unusual--I was engaged in my large painting Alieis by then. If you don't know the story, it is the painting that led indirectly to where I am now: my still life series started while working on it, and my Hearts for Hardware art would not have started without first painting squash and tomatoes; and by expanding in those directions and enjoying them, I then expanded again into incorporating more landscape art into my mix, which had just been an occasional side thing up to that point. With an extended hiatus from Magic, I had time in my calendar to engage these other projects, which have become mainstays of my work these days.

 After transferring the drawing to my board, I applied a brown wash of color, then began with the final rendering, working mostly background-to-foreground

After transferring the drawing to my board, I applied a brown wash of color, then began with the final rendering, working mostly background-to-foreground

Art Directors changed during that time, with Cynthia Sheppard and Dawn Murin stepping in where Jeremy Jarvis was the commissioning AD last time I worked with them. And clearly I was out of sight, out of mind for both of them. So a year ago I figured I'd drop Cynthia that email saying that I was still interested in working on Magic if that was in line with her vision for the game.

There was one caveat this time, however: I suggested that as much as I was still interested in working on Magic, I was only interested in doing like one painting per wave of commissions, and that I understood that the headache in dealing with a totally separate artist for just one card when there are hundreds to assign might mean it was not worth it, and I was cool with that. Surprisingly, they were cool with that, too. So I've done a piece here or there for them in the past year, and "Vizier of Remedies" is the first to release.

There are two reasons for this limitation: first, it is very tempting to want to take as much work as can be offered because money. But an illustrator has to be aware of their limitations, since this can quickly backfire on them, where they accept more work than they can handle at the expected level of quality. My own work has occasionally suffered on this count over the years, and I realize this sometimes short-changed my client and sabotaged my own career.

 Some folks liked the hands on this piece, so here is a close-up of that.

Some folks liked the hands on this piece, so here is a close-up of that.

 You'll note the background is a bit glowy-er than the painting. I added a bit more extreme light digitally at the end to improve how the shapes read at card size.

You'll note the background is a bit glowy-er than the painting. I added a bit more extreme light digitally at the end to improve how the shapes read at card size.

The second reason was mentioned earlier: I do a lot more things now, and I really like those things. And now that I've added Magic back to the mix in this limited way, I have another thing I like now back in the mix. It has been the busiest period of my entire career, but creatively the most exciting few years. I don't want any one thing to dominate my work right now. I want to have like 6 cakes and eat them too.

So, for at least the next year you'll see new Magic art from me, and I'm quite happy with all of it. Beyond that? Well, that's ultimately out of my control, but I've always tried to enjoy the ride while it's lasted.

Hearts for Hardware: On the Go

 "Mobile Gaming Lv.1" 9x12" oil and acrylic on panel sold

"Mobile Gaming Lv.1"
9x12" oil and acrylic on panel

For many, it is probably hard to imagine not being able to play video games on the go, but for some of us older gamers, there were many years of waiting for this innovation.

Sure, there were attempts before, including early LCD-based machines where you could swap out games, like the Microvision. But between too-primitive technology (Game & Watch) and onerous game changing (Microvision), it took awhile longer before we could fulfill our childhood dreams of gaming anytime, anywhere.

And so I included "Lv.1" in the title of this painting, because really it was here that what we now call mobile gaming got going. 

The original Game Boy was of course behind the times at release too, evidenced by the fact that the backlit, color, 16-bit Atari Lynx released only a few months later.  But power consumption (and Tetris) probably won that battle, especially as Nintendo was coming at the end of a very successful home console start, whereas Atari was already an also-ran by 1989, after nearly a decade of domination.

 "Mobile Gaming is Evolving!" 9x12" oil and acrylic on panel sold

"Mobile Gaming is Evolving!"
9x12" oil and acrylic on panel

Before too long, the hardware began to evolve, first in greater portability then by finally adding color. During this time, handheld gaming became a major business, and the meteoric rise of the Pokémon franchise provided the first major franchise launched on a handheld device.

With my paintings of these, I sought to call back to Tetris, which powered the initial rise of the hardware. I don't like showing game graphics on handheld screens in this series, and prefer not showing game labels, but the Tetris shapes provided a great compositional element.

By the end of the Game Boy Color era, Pokémon had become a major force, and the cartridges themselves began to change, introducing colors and then clear varieties, which I included here to show the evolution of the entire product line.

Though I didn't paint the interim Pocket hardware at this time, you can easily see where it might fit in this series given the way the images have incorporated on these evolutions.

The titles of these two paintings also call back to Pokémon, evoking the constant finding of primitive creatures and over time watching them develop into more powerful forms. I can't always find these kinds of hardware-to-experience hooks, but when I can they are some of my favorite aspects of this series: using the paintings to evoke these other aspects of gaming that are tied to the hardware.

See more from this series at Hearts for Hardware.

The Same, But Different

While my work has shown changes over the past few years, notably in a spreading out of subject matter, it is also true that I tinker a lot behind the scenes. Most of these experiments are not game-changing ones, and most are not even really intentional. But sometimes, at the start of a piece I'll just decide to do something different for no reason in particular.

 "Pine Cone" 6x8" oil on panel Sold

"Pine Cone"
6x8" oil on panel

The last time I did a couple of still life paintings, I did them in a limited palette, as discussed in the videos that resulted. I don't always work in limited palettes, but have done so more often in the past year or two.

When I painted this still life at the very end of 2016, for no particular reason I decided to choose a limited palette: Titanium White, Cadmium Yellow Medium, Perylene Red, and Ultramarine Blue. I hadn't used that Red much, and wanted to experiment a bit more with it.

Happy with the result, when a few days later I did another small painting, and my first of 2017, I took my palette out of the freezer (where I store it between sessions) and, noting that I had quite a bit of paint left, decided to just continue using it, albeit with a very different overall color cast.

 "Concha" 6x8" oil on panel sold

6x8" oil on panel

So this second piece uses the exact colors as the prior one. It's been fun to do this from time to time. I don't know if it'll stick long-term or just remain a way of working on occasion. What I do know is that following this piece, I then worked on a larger 18x24" landscape piece for my Times and Seasons series, and what do you know: I just kept on working with that palette, although in that case I did add Cadmium Yellow Pale because Medium did not have the punch needed for some of what I was doing there. I look forward to sharing that with you soonish.

From there, I took a few days away from the easel to do an event and start working on taxes and stuff, so that paint won't be usable anymore next time I sit to paint. So it's off to a different thing.