Once long ago my mother dabbled in numerous arts and crafts all throughout my childhood and tried to make a living at it. She’d paint, stamp, knit, crochet, weave, tat, macrame, and dip candles both at home and in a little studio she had for awhile. I picked up some of it but I think most of the time I was either watching cartoons or playing games on my SNES. Technically though, all of it was relevant to art in their own ways. Afternoons of watching the aforementioned cartoons and playing video games made me want to draw as a kid – LOTS! I’d draw my favorite characters, I’d make my own, I’d write stories to go with it all. And BE in the stories. And wonder why life wasn’t nearly as cool as all that.
Though admittedly there is plenty that’s cool about real life if you look at it carefully enough. My mother is a massive hippy so she’d take me out into nature a lot and teach me bits about it. I didn’t have anything remotely portable with games on it like a GameBoy or smart phone for most of my formative years (and the latter wasn’t even a THING back then so of course I didn’t have one!), so I had no choice but to actually absorb some of that. Not that I actually minded though, hiking trails and camping was actually fun to me – not anything like kids these days, right? (Kidding, I know some of you current kids love nature too.) So scenery and animals have always fascinated me as well due to that experience.
It also helped in the process of shaping me as an artist that I went to a grade school that had a seriously artistic bent to it – they’d incorporate arts and crafts into everything we did. They also emphasized studying the natural world a great deal. To this day you won’t find anything electronic or mass media there because they literally ban it all as part of their principles and method of teaching. Obviously I didn’t become a technophobe, but having those distraction free moments to create and play in other ways was undoubtedly instrumental in how I ended up as a person and artist.
I like dabbling in all sorts of media, including mixing them together, so the answers to this are many. I break them down individually below.
Ye Olde Fashioned 2D Art
Almost any worthwhile work has to start with concept sketches, usually several. I’ll sketch ideas for individual elements and then compositions before ever touching the surface the final work will end up on. I paint in pretty much all the standard media – watercolor and gouache, ink wash, oils, acrylic. Each work’s demands necessitate a certain media or combination of them so it helps to be diverse! I also love doing full blown works in ink with just a pen, you’d be amazed how much depth you can get with just crosshatch or stippling.
To start, sometimes I sketch something in my sketchbook and scan it into my computer, other times I sketch things out completely digitally using my Wacom Inutos tablet, and every so often I just make something whole cloth and impromptu in this neat program called Alchemy and the result is usually very surreal and a complete work in and of itself. But in the former two cases, once I have a basic sketch in place I paint or trace like a madwoman depending on the style I’m going for. Outlines can be bold and great in more cartoony work but lets face it, when you’re going for realistic they just don’t cut it because real things don’t HAVE outlines!
When I paint it’s in a program called MyPaint because it’s the closest to natural real world painting I can get for $0, but it works pretty darned well despite being the poor man’s option, seriously. GIMP however is my go to program when I need to add more elaborate effects or do web graphics. It’s also free, and also great in spite of being so.
It’s honestly a lot harder to find good tools for 2D animation that are free, so I haven’t dabbled in that for a long time. As for 3D, I learned on both Lightwave and Maya but currently use Blender when the occasion arrives to model or animate in the third dimension. I as of yet haven’t done a lot of that either because I’ll tell you now, animating is time consuming, draining, and will turn you into an absolutely obnoxious perfectionist. And software likes to break, like a lot. But I still love animation as an art form and I’m sure I’ll know when the time is right to go back to it.