Gen Con 2009 Part 2 (Critiques!)
After talking with a few different artists I met at Hypericon I was highly encouraged to enter the Gen Con Art Show. I managed to purchase the last art booth for Gen Con about a week before submissions closed! And boy am I glad I did!
In addition to drawing a ton of Zombie Portraits I also had the privilege to go through several portfolio reviews by some really talented artists and art directors at the con. What was especially cool for me was that a couple of the artists had reviewed my portfolio at other conventions last year, and it was great to get some confirmation that I was improving. The other thing I found interesting was that once again I noticed a trend in the comments I was getting.
I want to take just a moment to talk about getting critiques, as I have done quite a lot of them in this last year. A close friend of mine, who is an aspiring writer, asked me a great question on critiques that I want to share.
“When taking a critique how do you know what feedback is valid and what to ignore?”
Like all things in the creative field to a certain degree you have to go with your gut. In the end art is about expression and as an artist it is specifically about YOUR expression. That said it is more than likely that the person you have asked to look at your work is either a professional in your field who’s work you admire or a art director/editor who you want to work for. That means that in your chosen field they know more than you! Take just a moment to let that stew, swallow your pride, and remember to listen. Don’t defend yourself, and let your work speak for itself.
If you can do all that then very likely you will get some good feedback. Ideally you will show your work to multiple people, and over time you will find that all these different people, with different styles and ideas of the own, keep saying the same things. Those are the comments to hold onto, and hold them tight. Right them down analyze them, and really take them to heart. In the end one person’s opinion may be a fluke or might not gel with what you’re trying to do, but when several people from different backgrounds keep saying the same thing… take the clue.
For me at Gen Con this year I once again saw certain comments about my work made to me again and again. In the past I’ve gone through and detailed each individual critique, but this time I’m going to speak on them in a collective.
The first comment I got a lot was, “Better Anatomy.” I need to work more with models, references, and really nail down the anatomy in a sketch. I need to make sure my figures don’t flatten out when I ad clothing, focusing on the roundness of form. I kept hearing that I was close, but just not there yet.
The second comment I kept getting was that I needed to pay attention to my “Values and Color.” My black and white stuff was fine, but when I moved into color I often lost depth in the image by using the same value of colors throughout the piece. I needed to do a black and white under drawing, before moving into color.
The third and final comment I received a lot was that I needed to work on my “Textures.” I need to make sure that wood, leather, and skin all react differently to light. Specifically making sure that the shadows don’t flatten out the piece.
All in all I felt really good about the critiques I received. I was told pretty much universally that my Explorer illustration was my best, but that the values in my Silia illustration where good, and the color in the Dwarf Surveyor illustration was where I did the best job of blending. So if I can combine better values and color with the dynamic composition of the Explorer than I will be in a good place.
Once again I found all the critiques very energizing and I can’t wait to do some more drawing and painting.
A special thanks to all the folks at Gen Con who critiqued my work:
John Tyler Christopher (Illustrator)
Randy Gallegos (Illustrator)
Jim Pinto (Art Director for AEG)
Wayne Reynolds (Illustrator)
Sarah Robinson (Art Director for Paizo’s Pathfinder)
Jon Schindehette (Art Director for Wizards of the Coast)
Chris Seaman (Illustrator)
Ben Thompson (Creative Developer for Blizzard)
Richard Whitters (Lead Concept Artist for Magic the Gathering)