Thursday, February 20, 2014

Randy Gallegos: Oil Painting Demonstration, "Alieis"

Today I have a special treat for you.  My good friend and fellow fantasy artist Randy Gallegos has offered to share some of his wisdom on the BaxaArt Blog.  Randy has done art for Magic: the Gathering, Dungeons and Dragons, novel covers, and so much more.  He has 20+ years under his belt and has a lot to offer artists at all stages of their careers.  I follow his excellent blog and am proud to have Randy as a contributor to my ebook Get Work as a Fantasy Artist and part of the BaxaArt Academy bullpen! 

Studio Visit!

Have you ever visited a professional artist's studio? If you have, were you allowed to watch them work? How does it just happen that the artwork gets made? It doesn't. Whenever you see amazing art online or in-person, you are missing a broader context: the struggle, the hours, the mistakes, the decisions made usually in private, never seen.

For this reason, demonstration videos are extremely valuable. To the extent that you are able to afford them, I'd recommend every artist make a regular habit of purchasing and having a library of demos. Get a hard drive just for the purpose, even. I know many artists who just pop on Netflix while they work. But your work hours are "free" hours, in terms of being able to soak in information, even passively. Rather than suck down entire television series while you work, toss on one of your demo videos and work alongside it playing. They aren't usually easy to watch and soak in all in one sitting, so instead over time, more passively, allow the information to hit you while you work and watch the video on more than one occasion.

So now I'm offering my own
Randy Gallegos: Oil Painting Demonstration, "Alieis" : a 2.5 hour, HD demonstration of me working on a 4x6 foot painting, in oils. That alone is something different among many of the demos I've seen. With 20 years of freelance experience, all of them spent primarily painting, I'm confident that I've made enough mistakes along the way and worked through them to be able to produce a video worth watching.

I hope you'll take advantage of many of the resources available through Baxa Art Academy. When I was starting in my career, there just weren't this many resources available. When I was in college, if you wanted a painting video, it was on VHS cassette, available via mail order, and expensive. But right now, you can download this video while you work or sleep, for as little as $1. One. Dollar. If you think hanging out with me for a couple of hours and watching me paint is worth more than one track on iTunes, then pitch in a bit more. But really, I've set this so that people like yourself can benefit.

Reality Check:

Some perspective: A power-school like SVA in NY (2013-14) is $16k per semester, for say 15 units. That comes down to about 70 cents per minute. My recommended price for this video is $19.99, or the cost of half an hour in a class at SVA. I guarantee you'll get more out of that $19.99 through my video than 30 minutes of one course at SVA. At the very least, for the minimum of $1, I guarantee you'll learn more than during the first 90 seconds after class officially starts and people are still taking their winter coats off and you've been charged $1.

I want you to hold that number in your head: $40/hr. As you consider resources like those presented here at Baxa Art Academy, think about your college experience (if you've had some) and what you really actually learned in any given 60 minutes. Cumulatively you'll get a lot, but you'll pay a ton for it. The resources you can get here and elsewhere--whether they augment or replace a power-school is up to you--are usually going to be a better value.

Click this link to pick up my
Randy Gallegos: Oil Painting Demonstration, "Alieis" .


Monday, February 10, 2014

Creating Images That Catch an Art Director’s Eye

In the field of fantasy art illustration the quality of your work is the main factor that will get you jobs.  But there are other factors besides just being a great craftsman that are crucial to making a good impression on an art director.

In my new ebook, Get Work as a Fantasy Artist, I discuss many strategies for making your portfolio the best it can be so that you can secure fantasy illustration work, as well as many other aspects to creating a rewarding career as a working freelancer.
The following excerpt from the ebook, which is available at, discusses some strategies to make your portfolio intriguing to art directors.

Creating Images That Catch an Art Director’s Eye

Put It in the Illo

Your portfolio is all about communicating what you can do to art directors.  Sometimes you’ll be meeting ADs face to face, but most of the time you won’t, so the best way you can show him you are qualified is by putting “information” into your artwork.  What I mean by that is conveying certain ideas through the choices you make when you create an illustration.  I’m not talking about story ideas here.  That’s important too, as I’ll discuss in a minute.  I’m talking about ideas that show a prospective client that you have what it takes to give him what he needs.

The key is to incorporate the ideas you want to convey in an actual finished illustration.

I know this sounds complicated and abstract, but it’s not really.  Let’s say that you want to show an AD that you understand perspective, can tell a dramatic story, you have a grasp of anatomy, and that you can render well.  The wrong way is to include anatomy drawings, perceptive exercises and standing figure paintings in your portfolio. 

The right way to achieve this goal is to include all those aspects in ONE painting.  It makes your portfolio strong and lean while communicating that you understand a range of ideas and can pull them together in a single image.  So you can do a horizontal painting with the proportions of a Magic card illo of a female vampire in leather armor, leaping through the air to strike (action, drama, tension, movement, costume design), attacking a scantily clad humanoid zombie creature (anatomy, rendering skills, creature design) at dusk (moody color and lighting).  Show the scene from a low camera angle and a tilted axis (interesting camera angles, drama) emphasizing the thrust of mass and an off-balance defender (weight, movement, tension).  And there’s even more going on in this painting than that.

Nosferatu vs ZombieLord © Thomas M. Baxa 2012.
Look at all those things you told an art director with one painting.  This is how you should be thinking when you sit down to compose a new piece.  What do I want to show the AD?  Believe me, even with all this “thinking” there is plenty of room for going nuts and having a blast painting what you love!
You likely already do much of this intuitively and automatically.  But with a little applied forethought, you can make every piece a winner, build a striking portfolio, and most importantly, get lotsa jobs!
Guess what, this is the same thought process you should apply to doing an illustration for hire as well.  Bowl your new client over with a powerfully, well thought out composition every time.  They can’t help but be impressed and want to give you more work.
Ideas You Want to Convey
Here’s a list of some of the things you want to convey to an AD in an illustration.  Of course this varies depending on the needs of the position/job you are applying for.  It is critical that you get to know what is expected of you, so review SECTION 2: Getting Work: Get to Know the Market You’re Interested In below.
Your illustration style   
      For fantasy art, you should work in a fairly naturalistic style, but there is lotsa room to make it your own.  What mediums do you like to work in?  What is unique about the way you make images?
Strong art skills
      Demonstrate your technical prowess, composition, lighting, form, anatomy, and color skills.
What you like to Illustrate
      What gets you excited?  Show ADs what you want to paint by putting that subject matter in your samples.  If you don’t really like painting elves, and you fill your portfolio with elf paintings because you think that will get you work, guess what, art directors are going to think you love painting elves and assign you elves.  And then you’re stuck.  If you suck at drawing vehicles it will show, so don’t put them in your portfolio.
      Illustrations are all about telling a story, so do that.  A knight just standing there doesn’t say much, but a knight on the edge of a fiery precipice staving off flying demons says a lot.
Elicit an Emotional Response
      Along with story, you want to imbue your illustrations with imagery and situations that make the viewer feel something.  This can be done in an in-your-face kind of way, or very subtly.
Suspension of Disbelief
      It’s important to have some degree of representational rendering to the real world elements in your work, so that the fantasy elements you join with them are believable.
      I discuss these art related topics in BOOK 1: Artistic Growth: SECTION 1: Your Growth as an Artist: Learning the Fundementals
Industry specific needs addressed
      You want to have pieces in your portfolio that speak specifically to the types of jobs you want to get.  If you want to do movie poster paintings you better show likenesses of actors; if you want to do children’s fantasy books leave out the sexy outfits, etc.
Genre you want to work in  
      Choose the kind of genre you want to work in.  If you have multiple interests, you can combine them in one illo, like having Predator fighting a medieval knight, or you can have multiple portfolios.  Show subject matter appropriate to your genre and industry.  As always, don’t limit yourself too much, and don’t be all over the place either.
Tell a Story
Illustration by definition is all about conveying a story with a single image.  So show ADs that you can do that.  That’s why they’re commissioning illustrations.   
Before you set out to do a piece, think a little about the story around what’s happening to your characters.  Think of your illustration as a scene in a movie.  Who is your hero?  What is his background?  What is his motivation?  What is he wearing and what is he doing?  What is the conflict he’s facing?  What moment in time best conveys these things?   
Many of these questions get answered quickly and effortlessly because as illustrators we are used to thinking terms of story.  But if you’re illos are falling a little flat, you might want to give some deliberate attention to storytelling.  This is a huge topic and can’t be adequately explored here.  You may want to analyze some scenes in your favorite movies to see what’s happening, or read some good books on writing and story building.
All illustrations incorporate story, even less elaborate types of illustration like concept art.  A simple concept drawing of a single standing figure can offer a lot of back-story about the character, which is a big part of good concept design.
You can imbue your concept drawings (and illos) with story by how you approach the following elements: 
      Level of decay, time period, rich or poor, elements available for armor, culture, intelligent or primitive, society, etc.
      Is he a lover or a fighter?  Aggressive or passive, friendly or threatening
      In the pose of the body and hands, facial expression, and color choices
Background elements
      Even a few simple indications go a long way to establish setting
Artistic elements
      Use composition, light, form, color, line, etc. to create mood and back-story.  For instance, Darksun characters should be rendered in harsh sunlight with hard shadows and warm light, whereas vampires would never be shown in this kind of lighting scheme because they can’t live in the daylight.
Sit down with some of your favorite illustrations and make a quick list of all the story ideas that are put into them.  Not a story that you spin from your imagination, but the story elements that the artist is trying to convey to you.  You’ll be surprised how many there are, and it’s a good exercise that will help you think in terms of story.
Take a look at the illustration called Pyros below.   What are some story ideas being expressed in this concept painting? 
Pyros © Thomas M. Baxa 1996 + 2009.
This creature is somewhat lean and his fingers are stripped of flesh, so he’s some kind of zombified humanoid.  Flame is shooting from his hands and torso.  Not a yellow-orange flame, but a blue flame.  A blue flame means natural gas as a fuel source.  He’s obviously impervious to the flame.  His costume is tattered and grungy.  It’s old, war-worn, and possibly post apocalyptic which tells us a bit about the setting.  The fabric is asbestos, adding to the flame retardant nature of the creature.  He wears unbearably heavy metal armor which tells us he’s stronger than a human.  I could go on, but you get the picture. 
You can read the short story entitled Pyros that I wrote about this character on your mobile device or computer by clicking this link: Pyros on Kindle .
---   End of excerpt   ---

GET WORK AS A FANTASY ARTIST reveals proven strategies to get you jobs!  Get an edge over your competition!  Click the link and claim your future as a freelance fantasy art professional!

Everything to Guide you to a Successful Art Career

·         How to build an effective portfolio
·         How to find fantasy art job opportunities
·         How to solicit companies
·         What Art Directors are looking for – and why they’ll hire YOU!
·         BONUSES if you act now!
·         And much, much more

Thomas M. Baxa has been creating fantasy creatures that haunt the imagination as an illustrator for over 25 years. He works primarily in the role playing game industry where he has contributed to countless games including Dungeons and Dragons, Shadowrun, Vampire, Magic the Gathering, and World of Warcraft: tcg, and much more.

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