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Frequently Asked Questions & Requests

Do you have a question? Maybe someone else has already asked it here:

Also see my new section for this site "Recommended Reading" for artists' resource books.

Q: Will you draw a picture for me?
A: Yes, but I charge for my services. You can commission my services for a variety of things. I offer illustration, website and graphic design. I also offer a special service for RPG enthusiasts who want their characters illustrated. Visit the Services page for details.

Q: Please send me more pictures to my email address.
A: I assure you all, I'm not holding out on you. If I felt a picture was worth looking at I would post the picture on my site first thing. Unfortunately, I have just been super busy with work, work, and work and haven't had much time to work on my own projects.

Q: [Please] post more drawing instructions.
A: I am very glad you folks have been finding the instructions useful. I would love to post more, but as I said work comes before my personal pursuits. More instructions will be coming but you folks will have to be patient until I get enough time to draw up another set.

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Q: How do I shade?
A: Well, trying to explain drawing techniques with just words is just about impossible for me. My best suggestion is to go to your local library and look for books on begining drawing. They should have a few books at least and many drawing instruction books offer a section on shading.

Q: My drawings look cartoony and unrealistic, do you have any pointers?
A: I think what brings a drawing to life is the shading. Shading gives the idea of depth and texture and mimics, in 2D, how we would percieve dimensional objects. Spend some time studying your drawings to determine exactly what makes it seem cartoony to you - is it the lines? facial expressions? etc. It could be that your lines are too defined. There are very few 'lines' in life, instead think of a line being formed by an area of lighter shade meeting an area of darker shade.

Q: My dragon's arms look too frail to support the body. What can I do?
A: When I draw the appendages I usually start with a series of balls and ovals to map out the muscles and joints of the arms and legs, that way I can see the basic size in comparison to the body. Spend some time measuring a picture of a dragon that looks proportional to you. To measure, select a part of the body to serve as your unit of measure (on figures it is often the head), then measure the dragon using your unit. So then the dragon is let's say 6 heads long and 3.5 heads high, the neck is 1.5 heads long, the arm is .5 head in width at the bicep, and so on. Using this kind of measuring you can measure anything on a figure of any scale since the sizes are relative to the subject. When I draw dragons the bicep is usually about .5 a head in width and the forearm is about a .25 of a head. You don't have to go by those exact measures either, I certainly don't measure out each part when I draw, but measuring is a good way to start when you are unsure of your proportions.

Q: I'm interested in using color in my work. What can you tell me about colored pencils and watercolor pencils, specifically Prismacolor?
A: There are a number of colored pencil manufacturers out there, Berol Prismacolor among them. I have used colored pencils from Derwent and Prismacolor, and I use Derwent watercolor pencils. Colored pencils are pigmented pencils which use a wax-based pigment mixture for 'lead'. Watercolor pencils (I've heared them called aquarelles - probably because of the brand Aquarelle) are very much like colored pencils and can be used just like colored pencils except their 'lead' is water-soluble. Watercolor pencils allow you to color an area like you are using a regular colored pencil then go back with a wet brush and blend and spread the color like watercolor.

In my opinion it is best to try both colored pencils and watercolor pencils and see which you like to work with. If you prefer to work dry, then stay with colored pencils because the pigment of watercolor pencils tends not to adhere well if it is left dry. If you want to work towards using watercolor, watercolor pencils are a good starting point. I don't suggest blending colored pencil with watercolor pencil until after you are finished using water on your work. The wax in colored pencils will repel water.

As for the brand, as I said I've used two brands - Prismacolor and Derwent. In my opinion, Prismacolor makes superior colored pencils. The colors are bright, waxy and easily blendable, and I've encountered very few, if any, burrs in their leads (a burr is a hard irregularity that you find in some graphite and other pencil leads). The only draw back is that they are expensive. Derwent on the other hand is less expensive, available, and of good quality. If you don't want to pay for Prismacolor I suggest using Derwent pencils.

Q: I am an aspiring illustrator looking to break into professional illustration. Where do I start? Do I need to copyright my work?
A: A little lost? I know how that feels! Fortunately there are guilds and organizations that are devoted to helping us fledglings out into the professional world =) To be totally frank, I am still working on promotion myself, I think more than anything you need time get yourself a name and jobs. I have been pretty passive about that by just building a website and allowing jobs to come to me. I think the successful illustrator who survives solely be her or his craft spends a lot of time networking and promoting.

I recommend building or buying a professional looking homepage for your portfolio (as in a site with very little useless animation, avoid excessive use of patterned/animated backgrounds, be easy to navigate, have clear purpose, and continuity of design). Your online portfolio can be more flexible than a physical portfolio and easier and less costly to distribute. Contact publishers and gaming companies that you think would appreciate your work. Wizards of the Coast has a job opportunities section for their site at http://www.wizards.com/jobs/ as just one starting point. Look at the books you read and the publishers who make them, these are all places you can contact. Also, submit your work to contests and conventions. These are all places you can put your name out and show your stuff.

When you approach employers be confident in your talent and the ability of your work to stand on its own and make sure to send them an example of your best work. Sure you can have a website which showcases everything but they may not take the time to go look without incentive. Some artists create postcards printed with their work on it and with a simple message on the back stating their interest in working with the employer and their contact info. The employer may not need your services at that time but the postcard is easy to file and your contact information will be readily available should the art director be looking for an artist later. Most important, be professional about your approach, be polite, and do not badger the art director. Art directors are very busy people and as busy people they often want you to be quick and to the point. Think of it like you are going to see a red dragon about a job.

Be prepared for rejection. When you are the one initiating contact you may find that they are not looking for your style or just not looking at the moment. Take that in stride and look for another contact.

Elfwood maintains a section called Fantasy Art Resource Project (FARP) which included this article (http://elfwood.lysator.liu.se/farp/published/getting.html) entitled "Getting Published". It has some very good advice about moving into professional publication.

Other Sites of Interest:

Fantasy/Sci-Fi Book Publishers: As to copyright. You already own the copyright on any work you create. But if you want to have concrete legal proof of your ownership of the rights to your work you can copyright it at the US copyright office. Every copyright your register costs about $20 but if the work is unpublished you can register multiple works from multiple years under one copyright. Registering a copyright involved filling out the proper forms, making color copies of the work and sending it to the copyright office with the check. You can find more info at the government copyright office at: http://www.loc.gov/copyright/ .

Q: How do I draw people?
A: Honestly, for drawing people I recommend you seek out someone a bit better qualified than I to instruct you. I am still developing my approach to humans. Check out my list of recommended books here and see if you can find them at your local library or purchase them (they are worth it). If you only want one, I think the Drawing the Head and Figure by Jack Hamm is a great resource for beginners and intermediate artists. Sorry I don't have a ready answer, I hope these books help you - I think they will.

Q: My friends are telling me my work is pretty good. I am thinking about getting it published - what do I do now?
A: Getting published... that is the question. The above post about illustration in this FAQ section may be of some help to you. Are you looking to work as an illustrator or do you have a specific picture that you would like to publish? If you have a specific picture that you are interested in publishing you can seek out greeting card and poster publishers to license your work to. The book, "2003 Artist's Graphic Designer's Market" is a great resource for finding places to take your artwork (you can buy it at Amazon here OR try your local library first and see if they have a copy on hand). You can also self publish through http://www.cafepress.com and host a store site with them. Or have posters printed in bulk and sell to print buyers or through a site like Wild Speculation.

Q: I was wondering what you have done in the way of finding out the quality of your papers and pencils and such in terms of longevity. I also use Prismacolour pencils and Derwent watercolour pencils. I have used a few different types of watercolour paper and sketch paper, and I am wondering what brand would ensure quality in look and longevity. I don't want to sell my art made with products that will fade too fast, and not hold up over time. I was also wondering what you do for printing; do you have them printed for you, or do you do it yourself? If you do it yourself, what printer, ink and paper do you use?
A: Art materials come in two grades, artist and student. Student grade materials are manufactured to be affordable while providing adequate results, this is done by using fillers, artificial or substitute pigments and lower quality ingredients. I am not saying that they are ripping you off when you buy artist grade - but you are getting what you pay for. If you can afford it, go for Artist grade - they will last longer and behave better when you are working with the materials.

Watercolor paper: At the moment I have been using Fabriano Uno paper. It's good quality, bright white, does not discolor and it isn't going to break your bank. Whatever paper you select should be acid and lignin free and made of cotton fiber (100% cellulose). Watercolor paper generally comes in 3 surfaces - hot press, cold press and rough. Hot press is smooth surfaced, cold press (also called Not) is "nubbly", while rough is exactly that - rough. They come in different thicknesses too - the thicker the paper the less likley it will be to buckle under heavy water use. Your colors will behave differently on different surfaces, experiment and see which you prefer. I would avoid watercolor paper that comes in a pad - that is generally good for experimenting but you may end up having the paper start to "fox" and discolor some years down the road. You can help to avoid the foxing by treating your surface with a wash of a bit of Listerine and water (it rids the paper of mold spores that may have taken hold). Go to your local art supply store and take a look at their collection of watercolor paper sold by the sheet. They may have a sampler that you can touch as well to see which kind you like the feel of. Also, store your paper somewhere dry, and not in contact with acidic paper like cardboard or newsprint (the chemicals in these can leech into your paper). You can wrap it in archival tissue to protect it. For more information about papre, go to http://www.cpsa.org/PRODUCT_RESEARCH/PaperMaking.html

Another big factor in the life of your artwork is the quality and lightfastness of your paint - certain pigments have a lower lifespan and lower grade watercolors contain more filler than the higher quality paints. If you can afford it go for Artist watercolors rather than student grade. See Dick Blick's website for their list of manufacturers http://www.dickblick.com/categories/watercolors/ .

Pencils are generally more resillient than watercolor. Both Prismacolor Pencils and Derwent Studio pencils are considered artist grade, though I have no data on their durability.

Whatever you use, remember to treat your drawing or painting with a fixative spray to help protect the surface and the colors. They make UV resistant sprays that will help to preserve your color. Sprays come in a workable fixative that you can use and still be able to go back and add more to your work, and there are others that should only be used after you done. Again see your local art supply store or craft store for fixative sprays.

Printing: Well, right now I am making prints through CafePress. They are more like inkjet poster prints rather than fine art prints though. Many artists are producing their prints in house on their inkjet printers - with the inks of today that isn't bad either - they have special inkjet inks that are lightfast and waterproof (Epson & HP have such) and you can purchase art grade paper for your inkjet printer. I have an Alps 5000 printer myself - its a ribbon based printer that produces great prints but I think it was a mistake for me to get it - it's pretty darn expensive and living in Hawaii makes it hard to get the supplies shipped over at a reasonable price. If I had to purchase a printer again, I would probably go for an Epson. Another thing I have seen is that artists are having their prints done at the photo centers of places like Wal-Mart. It's inexpensive and your get a photo output. I haven't done it yet, but I am considering it.

Professional printing: If you want to have professional art printing you can have giclee prints made of your work. They can be printed on a variety of papers and on canvas and the quality is very near to the original. When going that route you will probably want to have your work professionally scanned or photographed so they have the best possible image to print from. Giclee prints are sold as fine art reproductions and are considered museum quality, the alternative to having the original artwork. Check around your area for graphics shops that are capable of making giclee prints.