Friday, June 5, 2009

Self-Made Artists, Instructions Not Included



If you were anything like me and were or are considering a career in production art such as illustration, then you've probably wondered whether you needed to go to an art school of some kind. Like me, you may have also taken a stint or two at an art school, and come to the conclusion that it just wasn't working out. This may have been due to going to the wrong school such as a fine arts college that does not support representational art forms. This could be because you went to a more commercially oriented school, and found out that what they wanted you to do was not what you wanted, career-wise. Both of these instances happens quite frequently, unfortunately, and to be honest it is amazing how little you do learn at school, and how what you learn on those first few jobs is what sticks with you for the rest of your career (thus far).

Now, I am not insulting the instituted art education system, and there are a lot of very good places to learn your craft (whether you like the other students is something else entirely, and not the various institutions' responsibility.) However, there are many reason, especially financial, that get in the way of going to these schools, and some of the best classic and modern painters were self-taught. The path of the self-made artists is more than viable.

Which brings us to the above quick study of the beautiful and talented Tanaka Rie. The dirty secret is that what you have to do as a student artist is rather similar to the point of being the same bloody thing as you do as a self-taught or professional artist. While natural talent certainly helps and having an assured group of peers is fantastic, what makes a successful artist is the willingness to single-mindedly pursue your passion, the discipline to practice constantly, and the honesty to always to admit that you can be better. This means working, working a lot actually, and pretty much practicing every day. Being an artist is all about observation and learning, and these require a continuous amount of sharpening. This means that art can no longer remain just your hobby, and if you can accept that, then you're well on your way to being a professional, I'd say. It may be harder without a school, but you can still find other artists to talk with, and other peers to be critiqued by.

Granted, this doesn't mean all that much coming from me, but I can promise you that the various successful and amazing artists I have spoken with and know sing a similar tune, and from them, such things mean the world.

Now, saving the best for last (of course), I'd like to share an example of just how successful self-teaching can be. Without further ado, let me present Ralph Horsley of suny ol' England. For those that don't know, Ralph is a traditional painter who is most visibly known for his work on the Dungeons & Dragons product lines. It goes without saying that his works have graced an entire gamut of the fantasy illustration world, and if you're into Magic the Gathering, look for his amazing art on several of the cards for the Alara Set. Ralph is also a member of Ninja Mountain, an informal group of freelance illustrators, and has "appeared" on several of the Ninja Mountain Scroll podcasts. Ralph did not even decide to be an artist until he was in his twenties, and by his own admission, spent his early twenties actually learning how to paint. Now, after you visit his website and blog, I'm absolutely confident you're agree with me in uttering a sincere and amazed, "DAMN..." He really is that good, and healthy reminder to us all just how far determination, talent, and sheer stubbornness can take you!

There are not instruction booklets (credible ones at least) that can tell you how to make it, but then again, I don't think there needs to be one anyway.

If you've made it this far, then you have my awe and thanks. I'm not sure how I made down this far myself to be honest. I salute your digital fortitude!

*Figure Study, PS, Photo Reference, ~45 minutes.

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