I’ve just started my fourth year of my Illustration degree. Yesterday, after my first senior studio class, I was sitting down wracking my brain trying to figure out what the heck I was going to do for my semester-long senior project. I wasn’t the only one, thankfully! It seemed like the class was split pretty evenly, 50/50, with people who knew exactly what they wanted to work on or at least have a good idea where to start, and with people like me, who had no f’n clue.
It got me thinking a bit. In all my time at school, from elementary school onward, I’ve been getting by just fine by making things to whatever set of parameters are put up by others. I have been making stuff based on what other people wanted to see. Whether it’s been book reports, essays, or art projects, everything has been filtered through a lens in my head that asks me: “What is the teacher looking for? Just do that, and you’ll be fine.”
Now I’m in a position where the teacher isn’t looking for anything specific. The senior studio is time for me to do my OWN work, and to get feedback and critique to make that work better. It’s where we get a chance to work in a constructive environment toward the growth of our own personal work. There is no assignment sheet saying “Format: 5-page comic”, or “Medium: Watercolour”, or “Theme: Anonymity”. Suddenly I’m being asked “What do I want to do?” It’s my turn to write the parameters.
When it’s within confines set by others I’m pretty good at figuring out how to take a project and make it interesting to myself, but without any outside parameters I suddenly feel lost. What DO I want to do?
I think this is going to be the big challenge for me this year. I’ve been a student for so long, relying on other people’s guidance and deadlines to get me through, it’s sort of become a crutch. I didn’t have to come up with my own personal drive for my work to get me making stuff; other people would do that for me. Now I can’t hide from the fact that I don’t know what the hell I’m doing.
I can foresee a lot of soul searching this year. A lot of experimenting. A lot of mistakes and dead ends and frustration. But I have to keep reminding myself that none of this is useless; I have to start looking at my own desires, curiosity and imagination as a fruitful place which I can draw from to create, and I have to allow myself to create without feeling afraid of failure.
I don’t know why I’m so afraid. That will be one of my hurdles. This is going to be a doozy of year.
Just a heads up that I might use this blog for a lot more soul searching and contemplation than I have before, so I can have a bit of a record of the things going through my mind that might lead somewhere interesting. If this bothers you, I can tag those posts with something specific so they can be easily blocked. Let me know.
Hello, everyone! Sorry for all the text posts on my blog today. I just wanted to send a quick note apologizing for being absent for two weeks– I was in London and Yorkshire visiting with friends and family. Dennis and I just got back yesterday.
We had such an excellent time. Even though we only had a week and a bit in London, we sure made good use of it. We visited the British Museum, Westminster Abbey, the London Transport Museum, the Museum of London, the National Gallery, Covent Garden, Piccadilly Circus, St. Paul’s Cathedral, the Tower of London… and that doesn’t include all the wandering around we did in general taking in the sights and the city and all the excellent restaurants we visited. So good! (We were able to see the Natural History Museum and the V&A Museum the last time we were in London, but as was the case with most of these places we couldn’t see everything in just one visit. We have to go back!)
We were only able to visit Yorkshire for a couple of days (boo) and I spent most of it visiting with family (yay!), but we were able to visit the Hartlepool Maritime Museum to see the HMS Trincomalee (Britain’s oldest still floating naval war ship; spectacular!), as well as a quick visit to Whitby for fish and chips and Runswick Bay. Definitely not enough time… there never is!
(One of the highlights for me was finally being able to see the Yorkshire Moors heather in bloom, which is what I was named for. That was magical. I’m told that the heather had a bit of a rough year so they weren’t as bright as they should have been, but it still blew me away. The moors are such a breathtaking place. What I wouldn’t give to spend more time there!)
Anyway, I don’t have much to show here for my trip, unfortunately. We didn’t do a lot of resting where I would have had time to draw, and by the time we got back to our accommodations in the evenings I was shattered thanks to jet lag and being on my feet all day. I wasn’t even able to keep up with my written travel journal. But I’m home now, and I’m starting school again in a couple of days, so I’m sure I’ll have art-y things to share soon. I’d like to finish up that last WIP I posted sooner rather than later…
Now I have to get myself switched over from summer mode into school mode, which is easier said than done. I hope you’ve all enjoyed your summer or winter! Let me know if there’s been anything exciting I’ve missed. :)
I’ve been watching a lot of movies lately - more so than I have in a while - and I’m starting to notice a really disturbing and frankly frightening trend. A film I watched last night had several female characters surrounding a main male character. Nothing new. Some of them were older women in their 30s. Some in their 20s. All presented as “attractive” to the main character and therefore the audience. What they had in common: thin, long body types. Big eyes. Tiny noses. Straight hair. The main female character - the girlfriend - was almost presented as a caricature. She was demure, cute. Put up with the antics of the male protagonist. Impossibly beautiful. And in the end, despite sleeping with a host of other women, he marries her.
In almost every movie I have watched lately, the kind of girl that gets the guy or is presented as attractive is so impossibly foreign to me that I almost feel like I should hate myself. Which is absolutely ridiculous - yet how could I or any other girl I know live up to it? All of the men in these movies are so varied in physical nature, in body type, in personality. The women at least are sometimes intelligent, out spoken and have brilliant careers of their own. But they have to be attractive in a wholly feminine and cute way first.
I am finding it more and more frustrating that all we are seeing is a regurgitation of the same woman over and over. She is in the music videos, she is on the album covers hand in hand with the musician, she is on the ads on tv and in the magazines. I’m sure she’s a really nice girl and I think she’s gorgeous too, but we are teaching an entire generation that she’s the only thing they should ever need or want to be. It’s so fucking damaging that I want to scream.
I walked past an ad for a new Nike store today. There were a line of people jogging towards the camera, looking appropriately fierce in their Nike gear. I was pleasantly surprised to see a variation in skin colour. Nice one Nike. And yet every single body type was the same.
You can look at the photos I take of myself and think that I have it pretty good - which I do to an extent. I know I am tall, slim. But I also hated myself up until about two years ago, thought my thighs were a curse because they jiggle and touch and my hips were bigger than my boobs, that my face was too long and I was never going to be “pretty”. I know girls in real life who fit the standard that we’re apparently supposed live up to and I used to constantly compare myself and beat myself up. Eventually I got sick of my own bullshit and decided that fuck, I was going to wear whatever I damn well pleased and work the hell out of the cool things about me like my long legs and big hair.
But I still get insecure as all fuck when that little reminder of that woman pops up.
I’m really angry that we all have to deal with this and nobody is doing anything to stop it. I see other women on tumblr perpetuating it to the point where I’ve had to unfollow some people for catering to this unachievable ideal. It’s not okay and I’m so absolutely bone fuck tired of it.
When I was learning to draw, waaay back in the early years of Elementary school, I learned how to draw one kind of female face and body. It was a little formulaic thing that my sister taught me. The girl had long eyelashes, a small, button nose and small chin, full, red lips, prominent breasts, and a tiny waist and high heels. It was silly and stupid, but learning that formula catapulted me away from drawing stick figures, which suddenly made me the best “draw-er” in my class. That was the beginning of me starting to see myself as an artist.
As I continued to learn and develop my skills I continually reached for drawing that perfect woman, because that’s how I thought I should draw if I wanted to be “good”. If I was going to draw a beautiful character, she had to be “beautiful”, ie. like the lily-white skinned ethereal damsels in fairy tales, or like the models in TV commercials, or like the lead female characters in my Disney movies. I worked for hours trying to perfect my drawings of large, eyeliner and mascara-clad doe eyes that sparkled with innocence. I studied drawings and cartoons to try and learn how to draw the “perfect” waist to hip ratio. My character’s legs were always long and slender, and more often than not they wore high heeled shoes or boots. And all this when I was also angry at the fact that so few representations of girls and women out there were anything I could relate to. Even as I hated those depictions and longed for more variety, I perpetuated them in my own drawing because, hey, that’s what “real beauty” was, right? That’s who I thought I wanted to be, and therefore, who I wanted to see in my stories and drawings. Right? (My way of rebelling against the “beauty” paradigms when I was a kid was refusing to colour any of my characters blonde or with visible make-up, for horrible judgemental childish reasons, and also refusing to give them big boobs. Oh, I also drew them wearing high heeled boots instead of regular high heels. I know, so daring and forward-thinking of me, right?)
Needless to say, I had horrible self-esteem issues for the whole of my childhood and teenage years. I didn’t start to climb out of it until I stopped watching TV when I started post-secondary school and started actively trying to love myself as I was. It’s still something I’m working on.
The last five years or so I’ve been more and more cognizant of the fact that when I think of drawing a female person, the first thing I think to draw is a slender, fit character with a “pretty” face, usually white or Western European-looking, and with a sexually provocative swing to her hips. Because I strove so hard when I was younger to try and draw “conventionally attractive” people, it’s now become the default in my head and in my muscle memory, despite how much I intellectually loathe the fact that it is my default. I’ve been working hard to introduce varying body types, skin tones, face shapes, sexualities, gender expressions, and life experiences into my personal projects and work, but it’s something I need to continually work hard at and fix. It should be easy, really, but it requires a surprising amount of mental effort to reverse those stereotypes and “defaults” I hammered into my own head when I was a kid and just starting out with drawing. I’ll never be perfect, but I’ll always try my best to do better.
There’s nothing wrong with drawing “conventionally attractive”, slender women in sexually charged poses, by the way. The problem is when they become the default in our heads, like they did with me. And just like with my own experience as a kid, too much of one image perpetuated as “the norm” can be damaging to one’s self esteem. If it was hard for me, a skinny, middle-class, straight, white, mostly cis-gendered North American girl, imagine how hard it is for everyone.
What does it say about our culture when games routinely bend or break the laws of physics and no one bats an eye? When dragons, ogres and magic are inserted into historically influenced settings without objection. We are perfectly willing to suspend our disbelief when it comes to multiple lives, superpowers, health regeneration and the ability to carry dozens of weapons and items in a massive invisible backpack. But somehow the idea of a world without sexual violence and exploitation is deemed too strange and too bizarre to be believable.
The truth is that objectification and sexual violence are neither normal nor inevitable. We do not have to accept them as some kind of necessary cultural backdrop in our media stories. Contrary to popular belief, the system of patriarchy has not existed for all of history across all time and all cultures. And as such it can be changed. It is possible to imagine fictional worlds, even of the dark, twisted dystopian variety, where the oppression and exploitation of women is not framed as something expected and inevitable.
When we see fictional universes challenging or even transcending systemic gender oppression, it subverts the dominant paradigm within our collective consciousness, and helps make a more just society feel possible, tangible and within reach.
do you use manga studio 5? if you do can you please tell me how to change my brush from a regular "ball" ending to the points and gradients like you see professional artists use? im not sure if that made any sense and all the tutorials on youtube/smith-micros website dont show how to fix that. PLEASE HELP
Right! I’ll see what I can do to help, but just know that I’m a newbie to this program too, and while I’m pretty well versed in Photoshop brush presets and settings, MS5 is a whole other beast. Personally, I haven’t had to delve into the brush settings much at all; I either use the default brushes that come with MS5, or I use Frenden’s excellent brush presets, which are great right out of the box. So, yeah, what you see below is honestly the first time I went looking for these settings. I just clicked on buttons and things that seemed useful, and that got me to where I needed to go eventually!
So, yeah, here’s what I got:
Keep in mind that your interface will probably look rather different from mine; for one thing, I have Manga Studio 5EX, also called Clip Studio Paint, which has some extra features to it. None of that should matter here, though.
So, some step-by-steps:
1. Select the brush you want to alter. For explanation purposes I chose the default “G-pen” brush that comes with MS5.
2. In the “Tool property” window, look along the bottom; there will be two icons, one that looks like a twisty circle-y starburst-y thing, and the other will look like two wrenches. Click on the wrenches. (If this window doesn’t show up for you, use the menu bar at the top of your screen and click on “Window<Tool Property [Brush-Name]”.)
2. b. What opens is the “Sub Tool Detail” window for the brush you selected; this is where all the brush settings are located. Depending on the property you want pen pressure to affect, you’ll want to select the appropriate setting. If you want the brush thickness to be affected by pen pressure, click “Brush Size”. That’s where I went to for the purposes of this example. If you want to affect the opacity (darkness to lightness) of the brush using pen pressure, then click on “Ink”. Keep in mind that this will all look very complicated, but the best way to learn about it all is to experiment and try different settings to see what they do. You can always click “Reset all settings to default” at the bottom to remove your changes.
3. On the right of the “Brush Size” setting, you’ll see either a button with a grey square in it, or some other icon (the grey square just means that no effect is turned on for that brush setting yet; the icon will change depending on what effect is selected for that setting). If you click this, a window called “Brush Size Effect source settings” will pop up. This is where you can tell the brush to be affected by the various features of your tablet pen.
4. You’ll see a list under the heading “Input affecting to Brush Size”. The list will have “Pen pressure”, “Tilt”, “Velocity”, and “Random”. These are all settings that will change the brush based on what your tablet pen does. Clicking the checkbox next to “Pen pressure” will make that brush’s brush size change according to how much pressure you apply to your tablet. And there you go!
So, yeah, again, if you want to change opacity to pen pressure, you’ll go to “Ink”, but keep in mind that MS5 determines opacity differently from Photoshop, so you’ll have to mess around with the various settings to see what gives you the effect you want. But it seems that any setting that can be affected by tablet effects like pen pressure will have that little button to the right of it that you clicked on in step 3, so look for that. I’m just as much of a newbie at this point as you are, by the way! I’m just looking and seeing what might work.
MS5 has very deep and complicated brush settings, but I hear it’s a much more powerful tool for making good brushes than Photoshop is, precisely because of the depth of these settings. It certainly looks daunting and complicated, and it doesn’t help that some of the tool tips suffer from not so great English, but honestly, the best way to learn about them is just to fiddle around with the settings and see what happens! I hope this is helpful to you, I know how frustrating it is to want to do something in a program and not know how! You should have seen how much I raged when I couldn’t figure out how to get the perspective rulers working right, haha…
Good luck! Let me know how it works, and if you have any more questions!
I JUST PULLED OUT A LONG-ASS CURLY GRAY FUCKIN HAIR AND I’M NAMING IT RICK
I was fond of my first white hair, too, but it left me for a hallway rug. They’re fickle, you know.
I got my first grey hair when I was fourteen. I pulled it out, put it in a ziplock bag, and wrote the date on it. I still have it, tucked away in my box of “important stuff”, which also holds things like theatre and festival ticket stubs, random stones found on various beaches, foreign coins, final sticks of incense in that scent that is so hard to find that I couldn’t bring myself to burn, my first tabletop roleplaying character sheet, poems from elementary school friends, bus tickets from that one very awesome day, etc. I’m a bit of a pack rat.
Anyway, now I have a head full of grey hairs along with my dark ones and I’m glad to have them with me. :D We go well together!
I wanted to share this link, not because of the focus around elite educational institutions and career success, but more because of what the answerer says about what comparing ourselves to others does to create a dissonance of self that leads us to restlessness and unhappiness. As artists I think we do a lot of looking at others and comparing ourselves to them, and at least for me I’ve found that kind of aggressive checking of my talent vs. others is not at all motivating or constructive; it actively works against helping me to discover who I am, what my work is. If you struggle with this too, take a minute to read this; there’s some excellent advice here.
A small quote:
Many of us, men and women, didn’t have or weren’t able to follow the path we thought we’d follow when we graduated. Some had family demands; some got sick. Some developed addictions, or found themselves in the wrong place at the wrong time. Some died.
Whether you are an “utter failure” or not is a construct of your ego. Many of us are not the kinds of successful that’s easy to see. Many of us who have enjoyed say, financial success, were extremely fortunate, but perhaps not so lucky in love, in family, or in doing what it was we thought we’d wanted to do with our lives. Many of us understand that no matter how hard you work or how brilliant you might be, you might miss being at the right place at the right time; and that luck has far more to do with “success” than you might imagine. There may be a few of us in that class who have achieved great things that won’t ever be known or celebrated. There are those of us who have struggled with darkness who are very, very happy to simply still be here, and to be able to celebrate the beauty of the world around us. There are those of us whose best, most successful and most fruitful years are yet to come.
Many thanks to Marie Stein for her thoughtful and inspirational answer. I needed this today. :)
Last time I posted about this, they went quick. I know a few folks missed out, so I figured it was worth the heads up!
Manga Studio 5 is like a mix of Painter, SAI, and Photoshop. It’s my favorite app to make art in and, at that price, there’s no reason not to try it too.
The brushes I make for Manga Studio are leaps and bounds above what you can create in Photoshop. And it handles lineart AND realistic color mixing better than Photoshop. Seriously.
I use MS for all my arting.
I’ve fallen in love with Manga Studio. If you’re as angry at paying hundreds of dollars every year for a subscription to Adobe’s Creative Suite as I am you should really try Manga Studio; it’s quickly replacing Photoshop for me for just about everything, no subscription fees required. Its perspective rulers alone are a good enough excuse to make the switch for artists!
And it’s on sale for $19! :D You really should check it out!