Twenty lessons learned the hard way about making a living as an artist
So this is a pygmy own, or a saw whet owl, which I found on a search for ‘New England Birds’. It’s about the size of a softball-sized hailstone. I generally stay away from predators and aggressive, team-mascot birds like Eagles, Hawks, Condors etc because I’d like my theme to be seek happiness via beauty and peace rather than hunting and killing things, and also because I like that humble creatures seek happiness, too.
I relate to insignificant low creatures, sue me.
Also I really liked the burning flowers of my airplane doodle (scroll down a bit) as light sources against the filagrees and fluer-di-li’s, so I threw in those lightning bugs. I have since taken a rasher of verbal excrement from close loved ones for drawing really gross lightning bugs, because I made them the beetles that they are.
Yeah, they’re not cute. Live and learn.
So this is grey paper first penciled as a sketch with an hard HB pencil, detailed with a 2B pencil, and then gone over again to get details right. After that I inked it with a sharpie marker, because I’m on vacation and on the move. Properly it should have been done with a quill pen, but since I’m drawing this in cars, cafes, on family game night, etc etc I stuck to an easier pen. Purists will tell me sharpies suck, and they're not wrong, but remember that this will be scanned and vectorized so the original really doesn’t matter. It’s like the first draft in writing, you throw it all out there with full creative energy and worry about cleaning up details on the computer. Writing is re-writing; drawing is vectorizing.
Then I went over with that damned 30% warm grey Blick marker that is actually pinkish, argh. Still haven’t gotten rid of those because it’s hard to get to an art store, and because Amazon and FedEx are slammed busy for the holidays and because I’m travelling. But I have to get rid of those, they’re terrible. I did greyscale out the image so don’t look for the pink, just rest assured that it’s there and be furious with me.
And lastly I went over it with white ink and a very thin paintbrush. In a perfect world it would be white ink on a quill but I’ve never gotten that to work.
I failed to put a philosophy quote on it because I’m worried that it’s a smallish artwork: I’m trying to create smaller prints so folks will have something cheaper to buy, but the problem is that very small words don’t burn well onto screenprinting screens, and this should end up being less then 10” wide by 8” tall. So I skipped the quote this time.
1) WE’RE ALL GONNA DIE, NOTHING MATTERS AND I LIKE TO DRAW, not to be hysterical. But from that baseline, what artwork to create?
2) Birds are awesome, they’ve got intricate, detailed feathers and stuff. What subject hasn’t been drawn about ten gajillion times? I landed on birds, especially the humbler birds, especially sparrows. Seahorses would also be cool (and octopi!) but not as cool as birds. Here are other great subjects not as cool as birds:
Fantasy characters and superheros: There’s an ocean of artists doing those, heck drawing any other thing = instant niche. Fantasy subjects art quality has been cranked up to an amazing level. Too much competition, I coward. Also my favorite pen and ink artists all end up doing Star Wars or Game of Thrones stuff because it sells, sells, sells and since I apparently hate success and money I don’t.
People = What do we need more people for? we’ve got zillions and zillions. They’re everywhere going places and doing stuff with VERY GREAT SELF IMPORTANT ENERGY, spouting trite platitudes, demanding things, reproducing, making me uncomfortable for no good reason, fuhgeddabodit. People are only interesting to me when you peel back a couple layers of defenses and get down to the good stuff, the crazy unique energy that every one of us has and hides… and that New Englanders hide in particular. Say anything out of the ordinary and New Englanders start digging escape tunnels, they run off to mow their lawn. I like Russians. Pour some vodka into one and be nice to them and suddenly you’re their BEST FRIEND FOREVER AND EVER, let’s break out the crazy! But Ty, you say, if you find people so onerous, what about you, you deplorable hypocrite? Well, says Ty, I’m not doing self portraits, either.
Sexy ladies (speaking of Russians): I likes me a good titillation as much as the next guy but I’d like people to pay attention to the art and message, plz. If they’re in for the sexy they’re not in it for the art… plus I’ve got a ten year old daughter and I’d rather her not have to think of her ‘ol Dads’ sex drive when she looks at my art, or worse, to think being sexy is super-important to get attention. She’s going to do great in this world and she doesn’t need that shit.
Zombies/horror stuff: Pen and ink artists are all about horror but let the sun shine, baby, lighten up, jeez. I gotta live in this head, evil isn’t welcome up in here.
3) I really do have a message to get across, some realworld philosophy that has helped me along.. Why do it with art and freakin birds? Because logic sucks. We rationalize, we debate, we come up with talking points, we try to take the news cycle. It’s all rows and rows of mental cannonades and grenadiers defending the core lizard brain. You see something, you feel about it and then out comes the insults, meh.
Okay that’s it more later
It’s blind o’clock in the morning , icy howling wind in the black night outside is threatening to knock a tree over a power line and set up that Christmas Miracle, as in it would be a miracle if I found our generator and that generator actually started. The great chia state of New Hampshire is blanketed with trees about to down power lines and freeze our pipes, ugh. My agent says make your blogs sexy, what to I do with weener shrinking pipe freezing wind storms? I don’t have an agent.
I’m up and working on the artwork; it’s not going that well, at this point it has layers and layers of watercolor, ink, acrylic, markers and my tears. I used these Blick 30% warm grey markers to color big chunks of the artwork, refusing to admit they’ve got pink hew. My sig other said “Why’d you make it pink?” so I said “It’s not pink it’s warm grey!” and then my 10 yr old walked in and said “Why’d you make it pink?” so I yelled “Warm Grey!” and she said “Sure, like that pink scarf you wear everywhere” so I dropped her off at the orphanage.
So my very subtle color with the watercolors and acrylic came to exactly bo diddly; I hooked the scanner up to the laptop but the scanner refused to work. So I aimed lights at the the artwork, took about eight good photos with my iPad and after a photoshop photomerge it looked like this:
Look at the subtly cool and warm greys, the light blue I put in the sky and swishy bits, the delicate shading.
So I greyscaled all that out and am ready to trace on the iPad, probably on the plane to California for Christmas, I’m the only person ever too look forward to plane rides…