Some Days the Raptor Hunts You

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Some days are better than others. Some days you just want to forget. One day you might be on top. The next day you might get torn to shreds. What matters is that you showed up ready for whatever comes instead of staying in bed, because no matter the outcome of the day you're going to learn something and be stronger from it.

When you go out an take action it means you might hit a home run, but you might also strike out. In his historic career as a professional baseball player Babe Ruth hit 714 home runs, but he also struck out 1,330 times. You don't hear about the strike outs very often, at least not as much as you hear about his home run record. Your errors are the same way. They are dwarfed by the impact you create by your action. 

So, yeah, you'll have bad days. Days where you didn't get anything done on your list. Days where you put out fires instead of making meaningful progress on important work. There are days where you get sidetracked, confused, blindsided, or hand tied. 

I love this quote from Emerson:

"Finish every day and be done with it . . . You have done what you could; some blunders and absurdities no doubt crept in; forget them as soon as you can. To-morrow is a new day; you shall begin it well and serenely, and with too high a spirit to be cumbered with your old nonsense." - Ralph Waldo Emerson

At the end of a bad day ask yourself this: Did I get up today and do my work? Did I dress for the hunt? If the answer is yes, then know you did your best, learn from you mistakes and move forward. Tomorrow is a new day. A perfect day for a hunt. 

Writing this because I needed to hear it today. Thanks for reading.

Jake

Hunt print is available in my shop: LINK

Learning Hard Skills and Drawing 50 Hands

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Drawing anatomy is one of the hard skills you need to learn as an artist. By “hard skills” I don’t mean difficult. I mean high precision skills that need to be performed with exactness and consistency.

Daniel Coyle, the author of The Talent Code (great book btw) says that these are skills that “have one path to an ideal result; skills that you could imagine being performed by a reliable robot. Hard skills are about repeatable precision.”

When a pianist runs their fingers through scales perfectly: hard skill.

When a tennis player swings a perfect serve: hard skill,

When a basketball player does a free throw: hard skill.

When a worker on an assembly line installs a part: hard skill.

When an artist draws a hand: hard skill.

These are skills that need to be performed the same way every time, almost like a reflex, without much thought.

I won’t get into soft skills here, except for this, an artist using soft skills knows where that hand needs to be placed, and what it needs to be doing to help the overall piece elicit an emotional response from the viewer.

Hard Skills is knowing how to draw. Soft skills are knowing why and what to draw.

To get really good at the hard skills you repeatedly do them over and over, until they become second nature.

“Drawing 50 Somethings” is a drawing exercise I’ve given my students over the years to help them get better at drawing hands, and to condition themselves for learning these hard skills. The repetition of drawing the same thing over and over in different positions, and from different angles is challenging, but effective.

What you’re going to do is pick something that you struggle to draw. For example: hands. 

Next, either take photos of your own hands in interesting, or common poses, or search around online for photos and drawings of hands.

Now begin drawing fifty of them in different poses, angles, and proportions. The repetition of drawing the same object over and over imprints the shapes and characteristics of that thing in your mind, like practicing scales for you musicians out there.

If fifty sounds daunting, break it down into five groups of ten drawings. If you’re doing hands, then the first ten drawings would be open hands, the next ten would be closed fists, the next ten might be hands holding an object. You get the idea.

Once you’ve done fifty hands, try doing feet, or legs, or heads, or ears. After you’ve made it through all of the body parts, start over.

Every time you complete a set of fifty compare it to your reference. Ask a friend or teacher to see if they can spot problem areas. When you draw your next set of hands pay close attention to your problem areas making sure to correct any problems you made in the past.

This is an important fundamental skill, and it may seem boring at first. Think of it as an investment with a high interest rate. The more you invest in it now, the better artist you’ll be in the future. And the more capable you’ll be when you want to answer the why and what questions with your art.

A couple book recommendations on learning and drawing anatomy:

Figure Drawing: Design and Invention Perfect Paperback by Michael Hampton

Morpho: Anatomy for Artists by Michel Lauricella

-Jake

On Being an Independent Illustrator

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I love working as an independent illustrator.

It’s pretty much like being an entrepreneur, except your start up company is your illustration work, and you are the only employee.

  • You set your own schedule.

  • You decide where you want to live.

  • You decide how much vacation time you get to take.

  • You decide what projects you want to work on and what you get to say no to.

  • You decide what people you want to work with.

  • You have to pay entirely for your own health insurance.

  • You bill people, and then are in charge of following up with them.

  • You do all your own promotion.

The more creative, and smart you are in these areas the more successful as an illustrator you will be.

Many illustrators work with reps or agents. These people take 15%-30% of every deal they negotiate for you. But if they are good at their job, you'll make enough money for it to be worth it.

The most successful illustrators I know needed 5-10 years to get their careers going strong enough to start making a comfortable living.

In that time they either relied on their spouses income, they worked a day job while growing their illustration career on nights and weekends (me), or they just lived a bohemian lifestyle with zero dependents.

They needed that time to build their network, master their craft, grow their audience, and wait for everything to click.

Many independent illustrators, myself included, rely on multiple revenue streams to make their living.

So far this year I've gotten an advance payment for a children's book, a couple royalty checks for books I've done in the past, sales from my online shop, sales from online classes I've sold, sales from live workshops I'm doing, money from a convention I attended, money from youtube videos, money from amazon affiliate links, and money from a speaking engagement.

There were a few months there where very little money was coming in, and then in May I made $40K. So you need to be good at managing your money. Don't expect a steady paycheck.

I guess whether or not being an independent illustrator is a good fit for you depends on your personality. If you need financial stability, are risk averse, and not very entrepreneurial minded then I would pursue a career in animation, video games, or entertainment. You'll get a steady paycheck, good health benefits. You just show up, do your work, go to a few meetings, and then you don't have to think about it at all until you arrive to work the next day.

However, if you are constantly coming up with ideas for making money with your art, are willing to bet on yourself, don't like people above you calling the shots for you, and are willing to fall on your face frequently, then there are ways to make an illustration career work for you.

Sometimes I feel like I’m way in over my head and the work load is too much. But each challenge has refined me and made me stronger and better equipped to handle the next project I take on. This wasn't always the job I wanted, nor could do, but I'm very happy where I am right now.


Note:

This post was taken from a response I wrote to an email I received from a student at BYU named Conor Searing. Conor had a bunch of questions about choosing illustration for a career as apposed to entering the animation industry. I answered him privately and with his permission I posted our correspondence here to hopefully help others in the same situation as him. Here’s what he asked:

I was wondering if I could ask you what you do as an illustrator? Has money been a huge stress for you? Do you feel you have enough time to commit to being a good artist as well as spend with your family? If you had any doubts about making a career of illustration how did you over come that?

Thanks for the questions Conor!

My new assistant

One of the perks of working from home is you get to know your kids a lot better. While working the other morning, my daughter and I had a long discussion about saving up money, and ways that kids can earn money. She told me that I forget what it's like being a kid and how hard it is to earn money. Then she asked for a loan to get a mermaid tail and she'd pay me back when she got the cash. I told her I only loan out money for education and real estate. Then I offered to train her to scan my sketchbooks and paid her to do mine. Took her an hour, but she earned $7.

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Style vs Technology in Feature Animation

Just wanted to note that Sleeping Beauty was released 21 years after Snow White was released.

Sleeping Beauty, 1959

Sleeping Beauty, 1959

Snow White, 1938

Snow White, 1938

Sleeping Beauty, 1959

Sleeping Beauty, 1959

Snow White, 1938

Snow White, 1938

The same amount of time had passed in between Toy Story and Finding Dory:

Finding Dory, 2016

Finding Dory, 2016

Toy Story, 1995

Toy Story, 1995

Finding Dory, 2016

Finding Dory, 2016

Toy Story, 1995

Toy Story, 1995

I’m guessing in the first 20 years of Disney animated films the artists were more concerned with advancing style than they were technology. Once they figured out the techniques of 2D animation, style and artistry became the focus.

In the first 20+ years of CG animation the focus has been technology over artistry. “Look how realistic we can make: plastic/wood, grass, fur, water, lighting, different water, wet fur, clothing, wet clothing, explosions, humans...”

In the last 5 years pretty much every CG technological mountain has been conquered. Right? When the artists no longer have limits to what they can create in CG, they can completely focus on style. Spiderverse is the perfect example:

Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, 2018

Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, 2018

Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, 2018

Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, 2018

Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, 2018

Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, 2018

Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, 2018

Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, 2018

I think Spiderverse was just scratching the surface of what CG artists can do stylistically and it makes me really excited for the future of CG animation.

-Jake

I Took Over RhinoShield's Instagram Account

Part of the partnership I have with them is to sell some cases with my art on them included me promoting the collaboration online a bunch of different ways. One of the ideas we had was for me to take over their Instagram account and do a story on there.

For the story I did a look at my studio, the books I've made over the years, and a quick drawing demo. They've left it up and you can still watch it here:
My RhinoShield Instagram Story

And here's the drawing I made for them:

-Jake

The gravitational pull of your work

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Currently Reading the War of Art by Steven Pressfield

I always like to have one foot in a book about creativity, or creating, or how to improve your life. I can't read these kinds books for more than a few pages at a time because they give me so much to think about and process. I can't recommend this book enough. I'm about 3/4ths through it and there's so much I can relate to and apply.

One idea he stresses is that of resistance and how real it is. He spends plenty of time defining it, casting all kinds of light on it so that you can identify it easily in your work. But then he goes the next step and shares ways to fight it, to stab a sword into it and kill it dead...for a day. It always comes back the next day.

The latter half of the book is about the muse, and how we can tap into creative energy and use it.

I'll leave you with one thing I've been thinking about a lot: The gravitational pull of your work.

On page 108 Pressfield says, “When we sit down each day to do our work, power concentrates around us.” It costs us energy to produce something, but when you show up to do it (and by that I mean actually putting pen to paper) the gods of creativity lend their hand and help. At the end of the day you have a small mass of creative matter that's managed to hold itself together. The more you work on it, the more creative mass your project builds, until it has enough pull to get you out of bed each morning and suck you into it every day. However, leave it alone for a day, or a week, or a month, and that energy dissipates. It starts to lose mass and as a consequence has less pull. If you let go of an idea it floats away instead of falling towards the center of the mass.

All this to say, get up and do your creative work and be consistent. It's the only way you'll ever finish a thing.

-Jake

Also reading:

Batman: White Knight: What if the Joker was a good guy? Really good story and art. Like REALLY GOOD.
DUNE: To much going on to explain... but I'll try: a inter-galacti-political storyline with giant sand worms. I read the first half last year, but didn't finish before I left Greenport. Picking it up where I left off. 
All-New X-Men Vol 3: The X-Men from the 60s are sent to the future to stop their present day selves from making a mess. I've been reading X-Men off and on since the early 90s and it's a huge convoluted mess, but man I love it.

Why I Make videos

After 5 months, I finally made another YouTube video.

The reason I haven’t put a ton of love into my channel this year is because I’ve been really busy with projects, and at the end of the day I don’t want to be a YouTuber who draws. I’d rather be an artist who makes YouTube videos.

As an independent artist you are always on the look out for ways to make money and support yourself with your art.

The ideal project is something that:

  1. Uses existing artwork that you’ve already created

  2. Puts something cool and/or useful into the world

So, when Rhinoshield contacted me about making phone cases with my artwork it was a no brainer for me.

  1. I get to use art that I’ve already created

  2. They make sturdy, sleek cases that legitimately protect your phone, and look cool. A useful tool for us phone wielding sapiens.

Part of the deal with them was, they would prep my artwork for the phone cases, manufacture the phone cases, run the website, process orders, and package up and ship the phone cases out to people.

In turn, all I would have to do is some social media posts about the cases. They also specifically asked for a Youtube video.

I’m trying to be as transparent as possible with my Youtube channel. I told my audience that I’d never make a video just becasue I needed to upload a video that week in order to stick to some sort of posting schedule. I don’t want to be a part of the problem of time wasting videos on YouTube.

Also, to just make a video that was all about “BUY MY PHONECASES” seemed a little disingenuous and spammy. So,for this video I did something that I rarely do on my channel: I showed step-by-step how I made the art that ended up on one of the cases Rhinoshield is selling.

I usually charge for tutorials like this, but when I’m already getting paid to do a video, I figured I would give away my knowledge for “free.”

-Jake

Click here to check out my RhinoShield Phone Cases