You asked for it…
Q: What tools do you use?
A: On some days, I just use a number 2 pencil on scrap paper, but if I want to make something sellable or keepable, here’s a list of items I might use: Faber Castell ink pens, Prismacolor pencils, graphite pencils of various brands and watercolor brushes with fillable water handles for painting on the go.
Q: I want to draw, but am just starting out and have no money for supplies. Do I go cheap?
A: When I started getting serious about my drawing tools as a high schooler, I went cheap. that worked for some things like graphite pencils, but left me wanting more in many areas such as watercolor, so I had to upgrade. I encourage those of you who are stuck with frustratingly lame tools to use them to the best of your ability, but improve your quality over time.
Q: Did you go to art school or take art classes?
A: I am proud to say that I’m 100% self-taught in my art, the only exception being a brief exploration into a DVD class taught by Thomas Kinkade in elementary school (I quickly found out that he could draw far better than my 10-year-old self could). Instead of paying for classes, I practice endlessly, seek the advice of professional artists through online sources, read art books and watch lectures on YouTube. For me, my excessively-practiced talent has become a marketable skill.
Q: How did you find your artistic style?
A: For all the things that inspire me, I try to only draw what I like to draw. For a long time that meant filling sketchbooks with princess and costume designs that helped me identify the areas I am talented in and develop my skills. Today, my style is appreciative of nature and people, with a certain cartoony flare. Sometimes I’ll switch it up just to see what I can do and where I can improve, which usually leads to great leaps forward in my abilities.
Q: How do you handle “artist block”?
A: Artist block is a tough monster to kill. Whether you have too much to draw and no time to draw it or you just can’t find a picture in your pencil right now, hone your attention by exercising, reading, playing a game, enjoying the company of others, working on everyday tasks or schoolwork. If you absolutely need to draw, do a series of bad sketches or make an aimless scribble and try to find a drawing in it. You could even do an intentionally ugly drawing! It may also be helpful to eliminate stressors from your environment by decluttering, writing your fears down or talking about your problems with a trusted individual.
Q: Who and what inspires your art?
A: I love the classics. Illustrator Norman Rockwell inspired me before I knew I wanted to draw for a living, as did Bill Watterson and Charles Schultz. I used to hate reading, so comic books and images were my preferred way to learn. I credit Watterson and Schultz for slowly teaching me that reading can be fun and that pictures can tell stories. With that, L.M. Montgomery blessed me with my first classic novel, Anne of Green Gables. From there, George Elliot’s Silas Marner and James Herriot’s All Creatures Great and Small series kept that literary flame alive.
Animated films like Beauty and the Beast, The Great Mouse Detective and The Prince of Egypt made me fall in love with seeing drawings on a screen, with How to Train Your Dragon playing a large role in helping me come to terms with the advent of 3D animation. When I got serious about perfecting my art in middle school, Glen Keane became my muse. Since then, I’ve been learning from artists like Brittney Lee, Mr. Jake Parker, Victoria Ying, Shiyoon Kim, Peter de Sève, Tadahiro Uesugi, Ronnie del Carmen and basically anyone who has ever put their drawings on the internet.
Most of all, however, I am inspired by my family and friends, the many places I’ve lived and my life experiences. There’s always a story to be found if you just look around!
Q: I want to be an artist! Where do I start?
A: There are many ways to go about this, but here are some of my recommendations. First, determine your creative goals. Decide if you want to be a freelance illustrator, get published, work for a major animation company or do all three.
Second, draw, paint, whittle, write or craft every day. I know that may sound like drudgery, especially if you haven’t perfected your craft yet, but practice is the only way to get better.
Third, create a collection of your works that could be sold. This could be an themed artistic portfolio, a draft of a novel or a collection of crocheted dachshunds.
Fourth, market yourself and develop an audience. This could entail submitting your portfolio to a company, featuring your work at craft shows or painting on the street.
Finally, develop the practical side of your hobby. This includes getting a website or blog for your work, discovering applicable business laws in your state or province and planning out the financials and logistics of your company.
Also, check out the advice of fellow crafters, authors and artists online or in books. Never be afraid to stand tall on the shoulders of giants!