2 Year Retrospective

To commemorate my 2 year anniversary of learning to draw, I thought now would be a good time to take a look back at my journey so far, as well as look forward to my plans and goals for next year (and beyond).

What has gone well

  • Monthly topic changes

The first 4 months of drawing, I jumped around to different tutorials every day, but in October 2020 I found RadioRunner’s curriculum, which allowed me to better structure my learning. Since that time, he has released an updated curriculum you should definitely check out. I’m still enjoying switching topics of study every four weeks. It has been a great way to gain exposure to many different fields and subjects within art. Casting a wide net like this has allowed me to see what kinds of art interest me. I think it’s important for a beginning artist to have a broad exposure like this.

  • Passion and motivation

Over the last 2 years, my passion and motivation has gotten a major bump every few months. I keep getting more and more passionate about art. In fact, I’ve never been more motivated or passionate about anything in my life than I am about art right now. I think part of the passion comes from returning to a childhood joy, and part of it comes from knowing that if I don’t make a creative impact on the world soon, I’ll run out of time. Also, I’m motivated to become a working artist as soon as possible because I’m burnt out with my current career.

What didn’t go so well

  • Casting a wide net

The downside of experimenting with so many different styles and materials is that it’s a slower path to get where I want to be. I could have progressed faster if I had more focus in a single area. However, without having dabbled in so many areas, I wouldn’t have known what I wanted to do. I would just be guessing in the dark, so I don’t think I could have avoided this experimentation.

  • I still haven’t been exposed to a couple fundamental topics (composition, color).

I originally skipped the composition unit because I felt like composition applies more to image making, and I wasn’t making full images yet. I was just drawing single figures with no backgrounds. I think composition still applies in those cases, but it’s not nearly as important as gesture and structure. However, as I move into full image making, composition will be extremely important. I definitely need to fill that gap soon.

I also haven’t done a proper unit on color yet (although, I’ve read James Gurney’s “Color and Light”). I plan on taking DC1 (Design with Color and Light) at Brainstorm this fall to remedy that.

Looking back, my topics were weighted heavily toward figure drawing since I thought I wanted to be a comic book artist.

  • I waited too long to start digital.

I don’t regret all the time I spent with traditional materials, but looking back, I wish I had started learning the digital medium a little earlier. I was 100% traditional for a year and a half.

  • I haven’t done very much art.

This sounds strange to say since I’ve posted hundreds of drawings on this blog. What I mean is most of my work has been technical exercises instead of creative self-expression. I think that will change this year as I start preparing a portfolio.

Year 3 Plans

My short term goal is to get a job at a game company as an environment concept artist. I believe I can achieve this goal by this time next year. Starting in September, I plan to quit my job and take Brainstorm classes full time, focusing on environment design. By June 2023, I aim to have a professional level portfolio.

Don’t Quit That Job!

Generally, I wouldn’t advise anyone to quit their job in hopes of becoming an artist (sometimes I even wish I never developed a passion for art because it seems to be the most difficult way to make money on this planet). However, in my case I see it as zero risk for 2 reasons. First, I have enough savings to live for 3 years, so taking one year off is financially feasible. Second, if I am not able to get a job as an artist, I can simply go back to software development, which is the opposite of art in that it is one of the most lucrative and in-demand skills on this planet. Another important factor is that I’ve proven to myself over the last 2 years that I have the self-discipline and work ethic to put all my time into art. Some people may quit their job, but then end up playing video games 40 hours a week. I’m to the point where I can draw for 12 hours a day, and I’ve maintained a very consistent schedule for 2 years. I put in 50 hours a week on top of my full time job, and it’s still extremely painful to me that I have to spend half of my time on my job. I know I could consistently focus on art for 80 hours per week if I didn’t have a job. Finally, I’m confident that I can get a job in a year. In other words, I believe in myself. That might be more important than anything else.

Brainstorm classes

Here is the schedule of Brainstorm classes I plan to follow. I’m a little on the fence about whether I should take 3 classes per term (a ~70 hour/week commitment), or take 2 classes and spend the rest of the time on personal projects. There are 2 months in between each term that I can use for personal projects, so I plan to start with 3 classes, and if I decide I want to scale back, I can.

  • Fall 22
    - WB1: Environment Sketching
    - DC1: Design with Color and Light
    - AD1: Form Language
  • Spring 23
    - ENT1: Entertainment Design
    - AD2: Advanced Form Language
    - WB2: Environment Design
  • Summer 23
    - WB3: Advanced Environment Design
    - WB Blender: Fantasy
    - PD ENV: Portfolio Development - Environments

Portfolio Development

Before I can apply for jobs, I’ll need a professional portfolio. I think some of the homework I do for Brainstorm classes will be good enough for portfolio pieces, but I also plan to create my own projects to flesh out the portfolio. I’m basically going to follow the portfolio advice in this FZD video. I’m aiming for 3 projects with 10 pieces each for a total of 30 pieces with a breakdown similar to the following:

I won’t be using the exact IP described in the image, but project 1 will be real world, project 2 will be fantasy, and project 3 will be a classic reboot. Since each project should take 2 months, I could do them in between Brainstorm terms. If I want to pack each term with 3 classes.

Beyond Year 3

After I’m getting paid to practice art, I plan to spend my evenings and weekends learning oil painting. I really like the logical progression and skill building offered by the Evolve program. My long term goal is to do huge, fantastic scenes in oil. Here’s some example inspiration:

The Battle of Alexander at Issus — Albrecht Altdorfer, 1529

Documenting the Process

The whole reason I started this blog (aside from personal accountability) was that I thought it would be cool to have complete documentation of someone going from beginner level to professional in the acquisition of a skill. I’m always dismayed when I hear professionals in any field describing how they got where they are. It’s always something like “I drew a lot as a kid, yada yada yada, I became a professional.” My art journey was an opportunity to document every step of the learning process, so that when I am a professional (fingers crossed) and someone asks how I got there, I can tell them exactly what I did every single day and for how many hours. For this reason, I’ve done very detailed time tracking. As of now, I have spent 3,074 hours and 23 minutes learning how to draw and paint over the last 2 years.

Highlights

Here are my favorite pieces from each unit.

June 2020

July 2020

August 2020

September 2020

Term 1, Unit 1, Figure Drawing

Term 1, Unit 2, Perspective I

Term 1, Unit 3, Head Drawing I

Term 2, Unit 1, Perspective II

Term 2, Unit 2, Figure Drawing II

Term 2, Unit 3, Anatomy I — Torso

Term 3, Unit 1, Head Drawing II

Term 3, Unit 2, Figure Drawing III

Term 3, Unit 3, Anatomy II — Arms and Hands

Term 4, Unit 1, Anatomy III — Legs and Feet

Term 4, Unit 2, Figure Drawing IV

Term 4, Unit 3, Anatomy IV — Bridgman

Term 5, Unit 1, Clothed Figure Drawing

Term 5, Unit 2, Mix of Head, Figure, Gouache and Composition

Term 5, Unit 3, Bargue Drawing

Term 6, Unit 1, Intro to Concept Art

Term 6, Unit 2, Perspective III

Term 6, Unit 3, Value and Light

Term 7, Unit 1, Environment Design

Term 7, Unit 2, Digital Painting Fundamentals

Term 7, Unit 3, Brainstorm School Summer 2022 Part I

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