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The road to improvement is paved in mirrors. 

Over the past few weeks I've gotten the question/comment "what should I study/I never know what to study" a bunch of times.
The past 2 or even 3 years I've been painting nearly every day, but have actually functionally seen very little progress in terms of skill. So what happened?
This has been on my mind for ages now and I'm finally breaking away from it and seeing my faults - so I thought I'd share my advice, my findings and my "secret".

First off, it's all about analysis of your own abilities and conscientious self-reflection. Sounds easy, but it's not. Have you ever met an aspiring artist who has just no idea of their own skill level? They might even get offended at the notion that something might be off.
Cognitive bias is a large part of life, and with art it might be even more prevalent. Look up the Dunning–Kruger effect, for more info. Getting past this is all about honesty towards yourself and total humility (taking a page out of Jaime Mantzel's book on that one).
You have to train yourself (yes, train - it is a skill) to look at your artwork objectively in both broad strokes (eg: anatomy, perspective, composition) but also in small details (eg: "the colour of the skin on the nose of that character is off").
Doing this is basically a catch 22 - since if you knew the colour was off, why wouldn't you just fix it anyway, right? If you "know" your own faults so well then they wouldn't be faults. But great wisdom is in knowing what you don't know.

How do you do that? Context. You put your artwork in context. Not just one context, but many -- for example, you collect and compare all kinds of artwork of artist you want to achieve the "skill level" of and put yours among it. Does it hold up? No? Well, why?
You could also collect artwork that is very similar to the subject matter you tackle for a more honed in context.
Another obvious example is when you do a photo-study. The photo is the context - quite literally, it is the perfect context to see the faults of your painting. That's why its a solid form of studying. You are fed the perfect context on a platter.

For the first 2 years or so of my art-journey, I painted anything and everything and my skill sky-rocketed. The first year was great. The reason being is I knew so little, so anything I did was brand new information.
In the beginning you can cast a big net and learn the large building blocks of art: the fundamentals; present in and essential to almost every piece of art. But as time progresses and your skill progresses, so must the net that you cast shrink.
This is the part where I messed up.
I got stuck in the mindset of "if I paint something every day I'll get good" based only on the fact that that happened the first year. It's not true.
The more your skills develop the more your must reflect on what your weaknesses are and target them specifically with studies. This is a more in depth and complicated way of saying "do art out of your comfort zone."
Because by the time you HAVE a comfort zone, you'll need to start analysing your work and picking studies. This all seems terribly obvious but a reminder can be a great help. When you're in it it can be hard to see.

So today what I did was I broke down art into the big blocks (and some smaller) and I graded myself. This is how I perceive my own skill. In this case, 10 is not "the best ever" but its my own contextual skillset. 10 being my strongest area, 0 my weakest.
Just spending some time figuring this out can be a huge help to your process. There is more than one kind of self portrait you can do. In my case, my drawing skills are far below painting, which has hurt me for a very long time, and is clearly seen in the graph. (the first subjects being more painting oriented, the latter more drawing)



If you still have trouble figuring our your graph (and I encourage you make one yourself), allow me to give you one more insight:

Ever since the beginning I made art and posted or sent it to friends and asked for feedback. Feedback is valuable, of course - everyone knows that. Asking for feedback is what you're supposed to do. So I post online, and sometimes awesome people make the effort to give their input.
Sometimes I applied it, and sometimes I didn't and "took it to the next piece". Good, right? Kinda. But no, not really. You see, when someone gives you feedback, it's important for you to realise they are not critiquing your piece. It's important you realise you. are. your. piece. They are critiquing you. Your skill-set. Not it.
So when someone tells you, "the arm of that guy looks weird", you shouldn't take that as "that arm looks weird, work on that part of the painting it/fix it" - the real value is in that they are saying "You need to work on your anatomy, more specifically arms."
Then you can take that information, add it to your own mental map of your abilities, and get to studying.
www.twitch.tv/jordylakiere

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Made a step by step (6 steps) guide on how to become an artist for Art Stuff episode 36! Hope you like it. Its all my opinion, of course - but yeah :D! Hope this might help some of you out there.

Do some of you remember the golden days of conceptart.org? One of the coolest things from that imo, was the CHOWs (character of the week) and so on. I was missing something like that and I decided to make an art group. If you like daily spitpaint on FB, you'll probably like this! Its essentially the same thing - 3 topics - char/creature/environment, but the deadline is 1 week. Much chiller, allows you to relax and paint the same topic as other people and see the end results at the end of the week.

Check it out, join in the group and get to painting! :D

The group is literally brand new, in its infancy, so tell your friends and share if you think this would be cool and want it to take off! It can only work if this happens :)

www.facebook.com/groups/227988…
After like half a year of downtime, Art Stuff episode 34 is up! :) Now with 100% more awesome microphone and 100% more mytiredface.

In the video I'm trying "Painstorm Studio" and talking about the future of art stuff & pitching a new show I might do. Check it out & leave some feedback! :)

www.youtube.com/watch?v=_vtf5l…
[ I'm moving stuff from my old blog to here, since this is obviously the better place to put it! ]

Hello all!

I have read and had countless discussions on digital painting tablets, and I finally decided to write a thought out blog post about it. I have had the fortune to try a wide variety of different Wacom tablets and the following are my personal experiences and opinion on them.

I'll be discussing Wacom only, since it is a bit of a monopoly. I have not yet tried any other brands because of this very reason, so I won't speak on them either.


What you should look out for



First off, the pen is more important than the tablet surface. This is simply because the surface will not have a lot of different variables. Surface size and levels of pressure sensitivity are the only ones (and wether or not it's a monitor or not). The buttons on the side of the tablets are gimmicky. I can honestly say it is a very rare sight to see a professional use them - most of us have our offhand resting on the keyboard, which has more keys however you put it. (the exception would be sometimes when you work with a Cintiq, the buttons can be usefull then) For this reason I basically disregard the buttons entirely, as I heavily recommend using a keyboard instead. (small wireless one on your lap works wonders)

For a pen, you're looking at more important variables such as weight and balance, and rate of tip decay. The weight and balance will directly influence your wrist and can cause serious issues if you're a freelancer like me, and you paint a bunch of hours every day. The size of the tablet surface can affect your wrist too, but not so much.


Size matters


It matters, except, well, bigger isn't better. I've tried huge tablets and tiny ones. Both have obvious issues. Big ones have you swinging your elbow all over the place, small ones tire your wrist. Both are unreasonable for long, repeated work days. I'm assuming you want to freelance full time (or even half time) and will have a stationary setup. 
For this, a medium (around A4 surface) works best. The intuos A4, or intuos 4/5 medium. Perfect balance.





Lets have a look at the different types and systematically list the pro's and cons:

Intuos 3


+Pen is weighted and sized superiorly vs the intuos 4 and 5
+Pen tips last a LONG time (for some reason)
+Older generation, therefore cheaper.

-Older generation, therefore harder to find.
- A4 is just a tad too large to put in your average backpack, which makes it movement unfriendly
- USB wire is attached to the tablet permanently. It will eventually break open at the attachment of your tablet if you aren't careful, which might need replacing by someone tech savy.

 

Intuos 4


+ The wire can be unplugged on the tablet end. 
+ Looks kinda nice. Black. But who cares, honestly?
+ Medium size is slightly smaller than the intuos3 A4, so it's more portable-friendly.

- Pen is weighted and sized horribly. They are short and light, feels awful in my opinion. For this reason I do not recommend a intuos4 at all.
- Pen tips decay insanely fast for some reason. I have to assume foul play from Wacom here, they must have thought made the previous tips too good or something.
- Might have been a driver issue, but when I tried it the sensitivity of the surface was unbearable. The lightest tap gave me a pretty thick stroke, even at firmer settings - it was harder to get a light stroke than a intuos3.

 

Intuos 5

+ Wireless! Very useful when you like to sit back in the couch with a large screen or similar.
+ Medium size is slightly smaller than the intuos3 A4, so it's more portable-friendly.
+ Pens are a step towards intuos3. They even look like intuos3 + intuos4, which proves my point about the intuos4 pens. They took a step to the past and the right direction; although I still argue intuos3 is a better pen.
+You can use it as a touchpad, so you can zoom, rotate with gestures with your fingers on your pen-hand. Not life saving, but pretty cool little feature if you decide to start working that way. 

-Recent generation, so more expensive. 
-Can't replace the surfaces, which unfortunately makes it pretty bad for long term use.

 

Cintiq


+ Cintiqs are good for a specific type of work. It is definitely FAR superior to do linework. Long, detailing and rendering is also great on a cintiq.


-Bad for your eyes. Don't underestimate this. When you are spending hours and hours in front of a screen, these are things you have to consider. When I switched to a cintiq for a couple of days, putting in the same amount of hours as usual, I had to stop because my eyes were hurting.
- Similarly, your back can take a punishment when working with a cintiq for a long time, as you are hunched over the tilted screen most likely. Not good form.
- A lot more expensive for a relatively unimportant feature.
- There is a lag between input and response on tablets, and on screen-tablets like the cintiq this becomes noticable. 
- Your hand is in the way, which, believe it or not, is a huge problem when you are used to a regular tablet. That said, offsetting the cursor of the pen by 10x10 pixels or so, so you are painting higher and more to the left than your pen tip position, tends to fix this issue and the mental change is quickly done. 

 

Bamboo tablets

They are inferior but a LOT cheaper. Not much to say about it other than that.




Final Verdict!

 

My personal setup is the intuos3 A4. I love this tablet (and primarily its pen) so much I have purchased a backup tablet (the exact same one) before they become too hard to find. They are a little bulkier as mentioned before, but this is perfect for my permanent desktop setup anyway. They are robust enough you can put a hot plate on it and eat, if you sometimes eat at your desk, for example. It can take quite a punch. The tablet surfaces are replaceable too, if you manage to find a seller.

I would recommend staying away from Intuos4. 

If you are willing to invest a little bit more, get the intuos5 medium. It seems like the benefits of the intuos4 and 3 put together. If my intuos3's break, I will upgrade straight to 5 (or other generations if they are out by then). Together with a wireless keyboard it seems like a powerful setup. 

If you find yourself doing a lot of line-art, then you should definitely get a smaller cintiq. The larger ones have obvious issues - they nuke your eyes; and they are simply bulky and expensive. If you get a large cintiq, get a mechanical arm to go with it. It costs a whole chunk extra, but at that price, you are investing anyway. I still recommend a smaller cintiq for lineart and a regular tablet for any other work.


If you are new to painting, and want to try it out, get a bamboo. There is no reason you need anything else. Once you decide to take it more seriously and paint a lot, you'll come to a point where you know you need an upgrade, and then you upgrade - simple as that! Do not waste money on hardware before you need it; as it will not change your skills. ( same with brushes ;) )


The ultimate setup in my eyes is a smaller cintiq to your side for certain types of client work, and either the Intuos3 A4 or the Intuos5 Medium for your day-to-day work. 3 if it's a permanent setup; 5 if you like to travel or sit back in the couch with a projector or such.

In the end, always try it before you buy it. My review is subjective, and your experiences may vary. Test as many tablets as you can possibly get your hands on. 

To become a pro, you must first hate painting. 

Here's why.


Alright, all the cool kids write articles, so I figured I might as well go for it. I have a lot of thoughts on stuff, so it works out well.

"Do something you love, and you'll never work a day in your life."

Today someone posted a comment reply on a facebook post of mine saying the above, as a motivational one-liner. I've heard it tons, and its a nice sentiment -- but this time it resonated, I realized I disagree strongly with what it is saying - and that it is the wrong kind of statement to give an aspiring artist. (I know it was meant well, so much love to the commenter of course!)

Its a dinosaur (Daily painting) by JordyLakiere
(Random daily painting of mine, because yay pretty things to look at!)


I've got a tiny bit of experience now, and this is what I think is more true: If you're a freelance artist, a painter of any sort -- and you want to be a successful, professional. You want to make your money doing this? Then you will have one hell of a journey before you reach that point. You will paint a lot. And I don't mean you'll lose a bit of sleep here and there, I mean you will paint hundreds, if not, thousands of paintings - you might give up friends indirectly for it, even girl/boyfriends - you might develop financial issues in one way or another... And then you haven't even become a pro yet, which means even more painting.
And the thing is -- here's the reality --  you're going to hate painting at one point or another. After a thousand paintings, 3 years in a row of daily practice - or whatever it is - you're gonna hate painting. It doesn't matter if you were born with a brush in your hand, and if it's your ultimate passion - if you truly dedicate yourself, full time, every day - which is necessary for most people - there will come a point where you just outright have a shitty day, and you would love nothing else but to stop painting for a whole month, perhaps even uninstall Photoshop. 

And that, my friends, is the point where you either quit for the day, or you become a professional and you paint through it. This is what sets amateurs and professionals apart. Its a blessing in disguise - when you find yourself hating it, but continuing through the struggle, then you have become a professional. Then you have what it takes to make this into a career. And painting when you really don't feel like it is an IMPORTANT habit and skill you will develop, that most people seem to forget mentioning. So take it from me, I procrastinate a lot. I'm still learning to do this very thing as we speak - but lately I'm starting to grasp its importance, I'm slowly entering this next level of productivity and I urge you to consider this and keep it in the back of your mind, for when you reach that point as well. (Unless you already have, of course!)

So no, "Do something you love, and you'll never work a day in your life.", doesn't work out if you ask me -- because aspiring artists might even mistake their reluctance and procrastination as a "sign" they aren't meant to be a pro, which is simply false. We all have struggles, ups and downs - but all you gotta do, above all: keep painting.


Cheers,

Jordy

jordylakiere.com/
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Art Stuff ep 33 is out! the study thingie of the orc :) Hope you enjoy!

www.youtube.com/watch?v=o82jrk…
Art Stuff episode 32! Talking about talent and how to learn/path to becoming a pro :) Also broke 3000 subscribers, which is awesome!!

No gumroad paid-tutorial-content here, hope you appreciate that it's totally free :P though that might explain why I remain poor and still don't have a cast gold chair. I'm a bad businessman heh. Maybe I'll do some higher quality tutorials for like 5$ later if there's any interest :) (if so, what would you like it to be about?)

In any case, subscribe already!!

www.youtube.com/watch?v=81a2FQ…
Episode 30 is up! aww yiss 30 :)

More anatomy, legs and butt! Hope you like it, comments welcome etc etc

www.youtube.com/watch?v=IsQNCt…
Episode 27 is up! I blurt out all I know about wacom tablet / what to buy / why etc :)

www.youtube.com/watch?v=MyloVW…
Art Stuff episode 26 is up!
It's the start of a brand new sub-series where I'll paint a portfolio illustration 100% realtime on screen, spanned over many episodes (already have 12 hours recorded!) including EVERY single step of the process like mindmaps, shooting ref, finding ref -- EVERY. THING!
This is gonna be a long adventure so be sure to subscribe and whatnot :)

www.youtube.com/watch?v=LuxuGd…
Advanced - Desaturation vs Luminosity, and how to see true values

 I discovered something cool, little more advanced - colour and value theory related. I show the faults of desaturation when checking values, and how to see your true values in a painting. Good stuff for even some of the pros who might not know!

www.youtube.com/watch?v=WUt9Wh…
www.twitch.tv/jordylakiere
www.twitch.tv/jordylakiere