People say it all the time “Don’t give up, never give up, quitters never win, winners never quit.” This is miserably bad advice, quitting is often the best thing you can do for yourself and the truth is winners do it all the time. All the Time. That’s how they win; they quit the things that are losing.
I was recently asked why I had “given up” my dream of being a fantasy role playing game illustrator just because of one bad experience back in the 90s.
First of all it wasn’t one bad experience it was many. I did a pile of work for the role playing game industry in the mid nineties, most of it was never published and almost all of it never paid. There were many ways in which I was far too emotionally wrapped up in the work to be objective about it. In my mind to be paid for this kind of work validated my youthful interests in fantasy and D&D which my family and church had always treated with suspicion. It validated the way I’d spent my time and my money and my mental energy. It validated my years in the Society for Creative Anachronism because I felt like I was drawing from that experience when I did medieval fantasy art.
This being the case it felt like failing to be paid for the work somehow invalidated all of that and made me feel that I had wasted my life.
Also as I’ve mentioned before, my dream never was to be an illustrator and certainly not to be a fantasy role playing game illustrator. I fell into that extremely narrow interpretation of my dream for a while because it seemed to be the path that would lead to my actual dream which was painting fantasy art for a living.
This is an extremely important distinction. An illustrator needs to anticipate the market, keep up with what’s popular, please the art director and meet the specifications of the assignment. It’s a tough job.
None of that will fly in the gallery market. They want to see the art that tore its way out of your soul without respect for what you or anyone else wanted to see. This is art that you may have been trying to suppress, deny, channel or customize to a specific job or market, but now you just cut loose and let it happen. That’s what galleries and collectors want to see, that’s the experience they want to be a part of. It’s also where I want to be right now.
It may sound silly to think of these fantasy paintings as the product of my emotional core, but there’s a lot of personal narrative happening beneath the surface of everything I do now. It’s not all angst or pain some of it is just childhood nostalgia, but it means a great deal to me and it absolutely has to come out.
So I haven’t given up “The Dream” I’ve only given up on an illustration career which I really didn’t want in the first place. When things went badly for me in the illustration business I turned to sign painting which was far more lucrative at the time as well as affording me some respect and appreciation from my customers which allowed me some (there it is again) validation for my career choice. Fantasy led me to art, art led me to sign painting therefore it all works out.
Sign painting is a lot like illustration, but sign painting is as commercial as art can get. You paint exactly what the customer wants often painstakingly copying logos or clip art in the exact corporate colors. There was sometimes a little latitude for artistic expression, but not enough to satisfy me. It was frustrating and repressing and now that I’ve had some freedom I don’t think I could stand to go back.
I’m talking about the clientele not the work itself, I love painting signs and would do it forever if only they could be of my own inspiration and not someone else’s.
Never give up?
The advice should really be “Don’t give up on yourself, give up on things outside yourself that aren’t working” That’s great advice, but in a perverse way it’s easier to give up on yourself and just keep grinding away at hopeless causes than to give up on the hopeless cause. Hopeless causes are beyond your ability to change or influence, while throwing your life away is well within your scope so we do the one thing we have the power to do which is destroy ourselves. We quit on ourselves and devote our lives to hopeless causes while, ironically, deluding ourselves into believing that we do it because we’re not quitters.
Whether your hopeless cause is a boss, or an industry a relationship or a religion you need to know that you’re not going to fail because you quit, you’re failing right now because you don’t quit.
In fact if your career is getting you nowhere you may not need to quit at all, you may need to step back and ask yourself “Was I ever really in this game to start with?”
Ladies and Gentlemen We have a very important announcement! ...sort of... Well it's important, but pretty nearly all of the details are still up in the air... Ladies and Gentlemen Boys and Girls Goblinz and Gobletz! Announcing the Gilead's Goblinz Complete Set Book Release PARTY and Masquerade Ball! YEAH!!!!!!!! When: End of June or early July...or something. Where at Gangplank in Chandler...if construction on their new expansion is finished in time. What's going to happen? ...We're really not sure, but it's going to happen so mark your calendars! Admission is Free, bring your friends. Updates will be posted as it all solidifies, but I want to put it in your minds now.
Everyone who supported my Kickstarter project will be able to pick up their books and other goodies at the party. All the rest of them will be mailed out after that. Since Stellar is working again I can now return to work on the books full time which I'm loving. I don't have a definite timeline, but work is progressing well right now. I hope to see you all soon.
I always draw. Even when I can't think of anything to draw I always draw, I don't understand artists who don't. I understand lack of inspiration, that happens all the time, but when it does I still drag a pencil back and forth around my paper until something interesting emerges from the scribbles. For this reason I have folders full of designs like these that I have done over the years. What they are depends on my mood at the time I look at them. One day I see them as wrought iron work for a fence, another time I see a stained glass window or a carving in a stone wall or jewelry or embroidered trim. They could be anything and they may indeed show up again in future paintings of mine as all of that stuff. But I don't actually make stained glass and ironwork, I make paintings, so that's what I'm doing with them for now.
A few years ago someone looked over my shoulder and said "Hey that looks like an octopus." So I redesigned a few of them to be octopuses which was the impetus of all the octopus paintings I've done.
This week's Frank Frazetta Round Table challenge is "Barbarian Queen".
I cheated a bit on this one because I started with a drawing I'd already done a lot of work on.
This was the original sketch I did in life drawing class. She was just sitting in a plain wooden chair and there was no cat, but she was wearing an antique headdress from Afghanistan.
I worked on it a little more at home, but I was bored with the leopard and I didn't like the straight up and down leg.
So I taped it up in my living room window, hung a clean paper over it and traced it shifting the paper where I needed it to make the pose more dynamic. So now her right leg angles up more and her left leg is at a nicer angle.
Also I changed the cat to a big lizard thing. I just wanted something more deeply in the realm of fantasy.
So that brings us to this week. Here I am Thursday night at the Scottsdale Art Walk in front of Method Art Gallery where I have a couple paintings on show.
I scrub charcoal on the back of the paper, lay it onto a Masonite board and go back over the drawing with a ballpoint pen the re-work the whole drawing in charcoal.
I added a big vase to one side. A friend suggested palm fronds. I was doubtful, but I tried it and I like it.
After spraying it with workable fixative the next day I go over the whole thing with a wash of pthalo blue.
Mixing, Pthalo blue, burnt umber and viridian green makes a dark but slightly warmer shade for the deeper darks.
This milky white stuff is acrylic varnish, as a matter of fact I think it's grout sealer. How archival is grout sealer as a painting medium? Ask me in 50 years. Better yet buy this painting and Tell me about it in 50 years.
Here's the deal; I have some supplies, such as wood and house paint, but I have no money at all, I mean None at all. So I have two choices; I could sit around doing nothing while making excuses and complaining about my situation or I could just use what I have and paint. I choose to paint. What would you do?
Then some white (house paint) to pull out the highlights.
And that's all I got done this week.
So I told you that to tell you this. Sometimes nudity is a tricky issue especially on Facebook. Sometimes the distinction between ART and porn is blurry and some people seem to feel that my work often lands in that blurry area. So sometimes I won't display Ned's finer features on Facebook.
I like posting step by steps because people often ask me how ideas evolve and I don't really know how to describe it, but I can show it.