I probably should have gone to art school at some point in my life. That’s not what happened, and I’m not entirely sure that it would have done all that much good anyway; I’ve never been especially well-suited to organized education. I’ve done a lot of other things and I’ve wasted a lot of years of my life sitting on my thumbs. In the past couple of years, and increasingly as time goes by, I have begun to try to figure out as much of what I’ve missed in the areas of illustration, technique, and tool use as is useful to me. Of course, I managed to wait until I was the mom of a toddler, not to mention working somewhere between part- and full-time, so the amount of time that I have to spend on this is limited on the best of days.*
As I’ve striven to haphazardly organize some of this information, admire and explore what others have done and are doing, and keep desperate track of the million things I want to try and buy and do and listen to, I’ve come to the conclusion that perhaps a format like this would be useful for myself and for others.
Sometimes (often) my investigations, queries, or figurings-out are very specific – often I see someone’s work and want to know how a particular sort of pen stroke is obtained, or a dry brush technique, or what specific software application someone is using for a certain purpose, or whether something is an etching or a lithograph. There are huge swaths of knowledge that I am missing entirely, and there are areas in which I am bafflingly well-informed, so I may often come across as naïve, misinformed, or both. If I am lucky, someone will tell me so and offer me new information.
Increasingly, it seems, illustrators are becoming more open with their fans about their process and techniques. These are the blogs I pore over. I often subscribe to an illustrator’s blog only to ditch it once it becomes clear that they’re only posting completed work with almost no information about how they accomplished it. I’m not looking to imitate anyone’s style – far, far from it. What I’m looking for are the rare but valuable insight into a tool, or a process, or a mechanism that might help me in my own work. Often these bits of information are small and offhand, but I know they are valuable to others because sites like The Tools Artists Use exist. Illustrators, of course, can hardly be expected to provide this information just to make me happy. Rather, they are often struggling for work and they – to varying degrees – often seem to feel a need to keep their cards close to their vest to protect their hard-earned intellectual fruits of labor. And they often have only the time to post finished pieces, not to describe their intermediate steps. I don’t expect to be given what I want, but it doesn’t stop me from wanting it.
I hope to use this forum to figure out the ways in which I personally want to make images and how exactly I want them to look – neither of which is anywhere near a foregone conclusion. I don’t think I’m striving to be a professional illustrator exactly, so much as trying to acquire at least enough acumen in the areas in which I am interested to create the images I want to create with some degree of facility.
* Among other things, this means that there will be few podcasts included here – even if I have time to listen to a podcast, I can’t use headphones because I usually need to be able to hear my kid/baby monitor. I am trying to get to view more artcasts, because I think those are pretty helpful – watching someone else draw or paint gives me lots of useful ideas and all kinds of information – but my time for those is just as limited.