During my time as an artist, I have been willing to try a lot of different things that come my way, because you never know what you might be good at until you try. Some things I tried and decided that it just wasn't for me. For example, there was a period of time when I was doing speed painting for a church where I would complete a large painting, about 5 feet by 6 feet, in front of an audience during the sermon message. The minister and I did about 8 or 10 paintings together. It was a great learning experience, but when my family was led to attend a different church, I decided to retire from speed painting because I am not much of a performance artist and I'm not really that great of a painter.
Another thing I tried, which was something I always thought I would like, was drawing caricatures on the spot. I tried it once for a promotional activity for a nonprofit, and somehow I kept getting asked to do them. A few things I discovered about drawing caricatures on the spot is that it is a really hard way to make a picture. Everyone who approaches the drawing board expects a nice work of art, something that will at least put a smile on their face. Thankfully I've never made anyone cry! Frustratingly, the general public makes it difficult for any artist to draw them. They have no concept of looking in the artist's direction and holding still for a couple of minutes. However, the most significant thing that I learned about myself from drawing caricatures is that I really prefer to work in a quiet studio where I can carefully and thoughtfully craft my art, and where I don't have people looking over my shoulder, engaging in small talk. I am truly an introvert.
So, as with speed painting, I have decided to retire from drawing caricatures on the spot. At least I gave it a good try. Now I can move on to other things.
So Sunday came and went. Then I had to make sure I was ready to teach classes for the week. This included subbing for a fellow artist at her school. So as I entered Tuesday, I just realized that it was Art Drop Day, and I hadn't done anything yet. No problem, I thought. I'll just whip up something really quick and drop it off. (Note to self: I hate when potential clients want me to just "whip something up". So why do I do the same thing to myself?) By the end of the day, I was wiped out, with hardly any energy to work on any art, which was how I pretty much felt the entire week. I guess I need a couple of weeks to get back into school shape.
The next week, I started working on catching up on my art to make a late drop, but I just couldn't seem to create work that was up to my quality standards. I think I was just trying to force something that I wasn't totally vested in. So today, with other pressing illustration deadlines, I decided to just stop. Stop doing things that don't really help me, and stop spreading myself thin with peripheral activities that can distract my focus.
Here are the two main reasons why I am saying, "No more" to art challenges:
1. Art challenges are usually created to suite their originator's needs. Think of it, when you look in to challenges like Illustration Friday, Art Drop, Inktober, or Every Day in May, these started because an individual artist needed a challenge to get them creating more art for their personal body of work. They liked their idea so much that they thought they would share it with the world via social media. And so the challenges took off and attracted all sorts of participation. Now, I actually think this is great because it can be difficult as an artist to be self-inspired, so it is sometimes nice to have inspiration from outside sources. Plus, more art in the world can't be a bad thing, can it?
However, there should come a time as an artist develops his artistic vision that he should start initiating his own path and not follow the path of others. And when I think about all the artists that I admire, one of the characteristics that I appreciate the most is their vision and drive to make their own personal mark in the world. Chuck Close was right when he said, "Inspiration is for amateurs, the rest of us just show up and get to work." In the beginning, waiting for others to inspire me was a helpful start in getting a good body of work for my website, thanks to Illustration Friday. But now I feel that my time is better spent on my specific needs and not the general whims of the artistic community.
2. Speaking of time, how much time does one actually have to work on the challenges anyway? Well, 24 hours is the obvious answer. And there are books, articles, and podcasts that are devoted to making more time. But really, that's impossible. We all have the same amount. Those who are more successful with what they do know when to say yes, and when to say no. When it comes to creating art, the process can be very time consuming. There are only so many projects one can take on at a time. For me, with teaching art classes and working on illustration assignments, not to mention the normal but very important stuff like family time, chores, sleep, exercise, and getting the oil changed (that's what I'm doing as I am writing this post), there can be very little time left for little side activities like Inktober. So simply put, unless you have not quite developed your artistic path, art challenges can be a real time suck.
Don't get me wrong. If you are participating in these challenges and they help you as an artist, then go for it. But keep in mind your vision along the way, and make sure to know your limits. You can only burn the candle at both ends for so long, and that's not really that long at all.
Click on thumbnail pics for larger image.
One of the joys of teaching art (though I don't always think of it as joyful at the time it occurs) is that I sometimes have to make up a lesson on the spot or with very little time to prepare. Sometimes it works well in the classroom and sometimes it doesn't (kind of like art). So when one of my high school teachers wanted me to come up with a lesson that utilized his canvas paper and extra acrylic paint, I decided to see what the students might do with a nonobjective abstract design. I was pleasantly surprised by the response. Most students, once they placed the basic layout on their canvas, were able to create work that made a strong visual personal statement, which I don't find really happens a lot with the classes that I teach.
Here is the basic outline of the lesson, which was done with acrylic paint on canvas, but could be done with pretty much any 2-dimensional media:
First, make an "X" from corner to corner on the canvas using any preferred color of paint.
Second, paint an outline of a square, a circle, and a triangle on the canvas using the same color as the "X". The placement and size of the shapes is the choice of the artist. For example they can overlap or not; they may be relatively the same size or vary in size, etc.
Finally, if there is overlapping shapes, smaller secondary shapes will be created. Paint in the shapes with any desired color (chances are there will be at least some overlapping, but even if there isn't, paint in the shapes). Also feel free to experiment with textures and patterns. During my classes I paint my own picture to demonstrate some possibilities that students can take, but they usually are pretty quick to get the gist and take off on their own well enough.
During my classes I was so happy with the results that I thought it would be interesting for me to try the design out for my personal work and make it a series of paintings. For the series, which is still ongoing, I want to see how many directions I can take until I run out of ideas. I think there is a certain amount of discipline that is developed from visiting an idea over and over again and experimenting with a variety of visual directions. Though I am not sure how many paintings I will paint with this series, looking at what I have done so far, I can see there are still many ways that I can take these design elements.
One of the things that I like about nonobjective abstract art is that it doesn't allow representation evoke any assumptions or pretenses about a visual expression. It is what it is, and it is what the artist has created in his own personal way. Jackson Pollock said it best, "Painting is self-discovery. Every good artist paints what he is." I am not sure how good I am at this, but it is my hope to have my art represent who I am in a way that goes beyond words and literal representation.
After this series is completed, I am thinking about having an art exhibition with these pieces. But that would be some time from now, so until then, I will continue on ...
I don't usually use Photoshop that much, so this is a departure from the norm for me. Not quite sure the design works, but hey, you win some and you lose some.
This week's topic got me thinking about introverts and how talkative, outgoing people tend to drain the energy out of those of us who prefer peace and quiet.
This illustration was created with Inia ink, watercolor, and about 18 layers in Photoshop.
If you have my last post, you might think that I have something against Stockton's neighboring city, Lodi. Not really. I just seem to find humor in a lot of things. I think that I use humor as an alternative to getting angry or being negative.
So here is a little backdrop on the illustrations to follow. Stockton is pretty much the hub of happenings in California's Central Valley between Sacramento and the Bay Area. All around Stockton are a bunch of little towns and some smaller cities that try to have a small town feel. Lodi is one of the cities that is smaller (though not too much smaller than Stockton.) Common Lodi attitude has it being an idealistic, Mayberry-like town were no one locks their doors and crime doesn't exist. On top of that, no one in Lodi would every dream of venturing to the evil land of crime-ridden, drug and gang infested Stockton. "Lion, and tigers, and bears! Oh, my!"
So, the reality check is that crime, drugs and gangs actually do exist in the Land of Lodi, just like most cities. In fact, racism is still pretty prevalent at the heart of it's culture though not as bad as 20 or 30 years ago. And when my family lived there, we absolutely locked the doors, even though we lived on the "good" side of the tracks. Unfortunately, that didn't prevent our bikes from getting stolen off our second story porch.
So that leads me to this month's 3rd Thursday illustration challenge put on by the Society of Visual Storytelling. The challenge was to recreate four characters from the Wizard of Oz, not necessarily the four main characters. Since my creativity works in weird ways, I'm not quite sure how I came up with this idea. But I thought that using Lodi's shunning attitude toward's Stockton, and Stockton's ghetto reputation would be satirically funny, at least to me! My intention is not really to offend anyone, but if it does, well then, it's not my problem.
In the end of my hypothetical Wizard of Lodi story, La Dorothy clicks her faux ruby stiletto heels together and says, "There's no place like Stockton." I might just have to pursue this story idea.
Well, it's been a long battle in the City of Lodi to get a Super Walmart established in town, at least a good 10 years, but they've finally done it. I imagine if one followed the money they would find where the persuasion lies. Not only is there a Walmart, they have an entire shopping center built around the infamous big box facility. They have a Wild Buffalo Wings, KFC, Ulta, and much, much more. Lodi has achieved being just like every other city, with all the same things to offer, and nothing new to see. On the up side, no one has to venture outside of the city limits to the dangerous crime infested land of Stockton (we've made Forbes Magazines list of Most Miserable Cities at least a couple of times.) No need to take the log out of their eye to remove the speck of dust in ours (says this Stockton resident blogger.)
I actually feel bad for Lodi. It is a place, like many in the San Joaquin County area, that is rich with culture and interesting people. I think there could have been much opportunity to share that culture with the rest of the world and give an actual reason for people to visit the city. Imagine how much more culture a largely German and Mexican town could offer. But I guess this is not a financially safe notion. Not like yet another KFC or Hobby Lobby. Alas, my thoughts go unheard.
The Society of Visual Storytelling offers a free monthly challenge for the third Thursday of every month. So this month's challenge has artists creating a work that illustrates what is found in a fortune cookie. My fortune read, "You are a person of imaginative, yet honest intentions." I should have went to a real Chinese restaurant instead of Panda Express!
So, using a little creative license, I thought back to my childhood (which seems to make its way into a lot of my work) and remembered walking to school carrying a backpack, but in my imagination it was actually a jetpack and I was flying through space, shooting at, and being chased by starships! Life was pretty exciting walking to and from school in those days.
This illustration was created with watercolor, India ink, and a little bit of digital.
OK, so I'm a little behind the times. I recently finished watching Lost through a streaming service. Anyway, here's my illustration for this week's topic, John Locke, aka, the Black Smoke.
Illustrated with watercolor and India ink.
Since I started Weight Watchers back in October 2014, I have lost over 45 pounds. After meeting my goal weight, fitness has been my next challenge to take on. With my weight loss journey I added a lot of walking to my fitness regimen but I have always enjoyed running as a physical activity. I think it goes back to my childhood when I would run home from school just for fun. That was a good half mile. In high school I ran cross country and track and in the off season I took up running 10k’s and half marathons. I even got into doing triathlons for several years.
That was my first running incarnation. After meeting and dating my future wife, my priorities shifted to less exercise and more time with my honey. Exercise wasn’t totally out of the picture, but it was sporadic. My second running incarnation was after I joined the Army – I joined later in life, thinking it might open some opportunities in the long term. By age 30, I was fitter than most people my age, running 10 miles on a weekly basis by the end of my Basic Training/AIT. However, once I settled into my weekend warrior status, I slowly backslid on my level of fitness. By the time my contract with the Army was over, I was in a sedentary job with pretty much no activity in the off hours. I ate a lot and my weight soared. When I hit the over 200lbs. mark on the scale, I decided it was time to make some changes with my priorities and start treating myself better.
So before Weight Watchers, and also during, I tried getting back into running, but my Achilles tendon would flare up after a few weeks, resulting with me being barely able to walk. I tried all sorts of programs to no avail. Even the Couch to 5k program was too much for me. So I decided to wait until I lost my weight to start running again. Since I had many years experience designing my own running programs in the past, I decided to do just that in order to get back in running shape, but at my own pace. I started slowly running only 10 minutes a day for twice a week with lots of walking on non-running days. That is much less than what the experts say to do, but it was what worked for me. I increased the length of my time running on a monthly basis, not weekly or bi-weekly like many of the experts say. Instead of several weeks it has taken me several months to be able to now run over 30 minutes without getting injured. My thinking is what’s the hurry. I’m at a healthy weight. I’m already exercising and eating well. Improving on my running is just an extra thing that I get to do, and so I have the rest of my life to work on it. I’m blessed to be able to do it.
So now that I have reached a certain level of running fitness, I decided that I want to run my first 5k since losing the weigh - it’s been many years! I thought it would be neat to pick a day of significance, so I thought my birthday would give me a good amount of time to condition myself for the challenge. Plus, this year’s birthday falls on Friday the 13th so I thought that would be extra fun. I thought I would save a little money and hold a fun run in my own neighborhood. I also didn’t want to travel to a running event because it can be a bit stressful and I wanted my run to be as low key as possible. It’s just going to be me running, although my wife said she would also walk the course. Of course every run has to have a t-shirt, so I designed and printed off some shirts for me and my wife to wear during the 5k. After I finish the 5k maybe I can consider myself a “real” runner again.
Who is David R. Vallejo?
I am a visual artist, illustrator, and creative extraordinaire. Here you will find lots of art, works in progress, and some gibberish.