My Latest Art & Videos

Sunday, April 13, 2014

FIRST IMPRESSION: Proko's Figure Drawing Fundamentals Course NSFW

I've been a huge fan of ProkoTV's figure drawing videos on YouTube ever since I first watched his amazingly helpful "Draw a Head at Any Angle" tutorial, which I still look back on for reference to this day!

For those who don't know him, ProkoTV is hosted by artist, Stan Prokopenko, a talented figurative artist who teaches at the Watts Atelier of the Arts.

I enjoy the way Stan's videos appeal to my visually-minded nature with comparative examples and his very lighthearted and entertaining teaching style.  Rather than focus on the science of anatomy, his videos teach how to break the body down into simple shapes and emphasize expression over 'correctness'.  If you've read Michael Hampton's Figure Drawing: Design and Invention, Stan's methods are very similar.

Lately, all of my portfolio reviewers have pointed to the same thing that keeps holding my work back - anatomy.  Sure, I know how to draw a human figure, for the most part.  But my anatomy is missing that special something, that secret ingredient!

I notice that when I start adding detail, some of the energy and life drains right out of my figures.  My rendition of the joints of the figure also lack definition and understanding, leaving my figures feeling too smooth and ultimately unconvincing.

You might be asking why would someone who's not a beginner want to purchase a 'fundamentals' course?  Now, I've read and looked at many an anatomy book in my day in college and for my own study, but I find that I just can't remember anatomy.  No amount of drawing the skeleton and muscles and labeling the parts really helps me retain how to draw the figure.

My brain needs spatial geometric understanding and hands on training (being the kinesthestic learner that I am), which makes the structure of Proko's course appealing with its simplistic approach and many, many extra examples for tactile learners like me.  Also, as an artist, I am never done learning.  There is too much to know about anatomy to ever be done learning!

And so it was I decided to invest in Stan's Figure Drawing Fundamentals course for $79, including two pose photo packs (one male and one female) at $10 a piece (spending a total of $100).  These packs are a great value considering they include 300 poses in each one.  The poses are very well-lit and professionally photographed.  Once purchased, the pose pack download page includes a convenient link for you to download your choice of a .zip containing high res or lower res versions of the photos, for those of us studying with tablets which benefit from smaller file sizes.

Though Stan offers his figure drawing videos for free on YouTube, his course includes the longer premium content versions of his lessons.  For example, his first lesson on gesture is only 9 minutes for the free version, while the premium content version is 27 minutes.

Here's a look at the download page for just ONE of the lessons (of which you an view the full lesson list here).  I am impressed by the sheer amount of demos available to help students wrap their brain around how to apply the technique to various poses.

Also included are critiques of student homework, which is useful for learning not only what is correct, but what is incorrect along with the common mistakes that most people make in their figure drawing techniques.  As icing on the cake, Proko also brings in other experts, such as Marshall Vandruff and Glenn Vilpuu.

Under each video is a download link, allowing you to store the videos for your own reference or carry them with you for study on the go.  This is priceless and encourages me to invest knowing that even if for some terrible reason Stan's site goes down that I will still have access to my lessons.  Once you pay for premium content, you are granted unlimited access to your poses and lessons for the foreseeable future.

I've only just started this course and am looking forward to seeing how this affects my work!  I'll be sharing my progress and studies here with you, as well as a follow-up review of the overall course when I am finished with it.  So far, I am very impressed by the thought and care put into providing such well-priced and detailed learning resources for artists and I expect to learn a lot from this course!

Till then, go watch some ProkoTV and tell me what you think!

Friday, April 4, 2014

Angelic Shades Studio on iStock

After some debate, I've uploaded some of my watercolor angel images to iStock!  You will soon be able to find my Christmas images available on iStock as well.  You can view my iStock portfolio here:

I hope you'll find them useful for your projects!  iStock has a pretty awesome subscription program now which allows you to purchase more stock for a monthly fee instead of paying per single image.

I thought about whether or not to sell my illustrations as stock for a long while, but was hesitant at first.  I've seen a lot of ire from other artists about how allowing people to buy ready made art devalues the Illustration industry as a whole.  If companies can go download art, why would they hire an artist at all?

I decided to go ahead for multiple reasons, the biggest being that I believe a company will know best when it's worth the money to pay an artist to make custom images for their products.  It shows time and care for that product when they hire an artist to create a unique visual representation that cannot be found elsewhere.  There is a demand for this kind of custom work and product representation.  It may be less than it was before the advent of stock illustration, but as they say, evolve or die!  Stock illustration is firmly entrenched in the industry now and there's not much that can be done about it.

Also, offering stock is a nice way for small businesses who don't have huge budgets to still function when they can't afford to hire an artist, an artist who probably wouldn't want to work for a pittance anyways.  Which then feeds back into how artists like myself can make an extra income stream by diversifying the sales of our art.

I have also decided that the generic seasonal nature of these images made them perfect for sale as stock.  While I very much enjoyed making them, there isn't a personal narration that is attached to these pieces.  You will never see the pieces which feature my original characters or other specific narratives uploaded as stock.

Finally, I won't deny that making a little bit of money from each download is an incentive for me.  Being able to make extra money from work that would otherwise sit in a folder is a precious thing when your income is the sporadic one of the freelance artist.

Happily, I still own the copyrights to my own images and can still use them for my own purposes, which means I do not believe the public consumption of these images will affect my own sales (not that print sales even make up that significant of an income for me, because they don't).

I trust you guys to know where to find the good stuff direct from the artist and you know where to find me if you want custom work!  I will happily create unique art, if you don't find what you need from my stock illustration selection. Just drop me a line!

Stay thirsty, my friends!

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Big Changes at Angelic Shades Studio!

When I started in 2014 after recovering from a less than spectacular 2013, I had it in my mind that I was going to sit back and re-organize my business the way that it has desperately been needing it for a long time, but that I was too scared/lazy/etc. to do.  Fear no more, because change is in the wind!

Separate Identities for My Crafts and Art

This was a tough one. This meant building a brand, website, etc. from the ground up for my artisan crafts.  That brand is Angelic Artisan.

I fought with myself for a long time doing this, but separating Angelic Shades and Angelic Artisan allows me to keep both feeds from both brands relevant to your interests as well as allowing me to share more on each feed, instead of having art and leather crafting topics fighting for attention.

As an example of someone who can pull this off, check out Brenda Lyons, who has splendid birds and fantastical winged beings that echo throughout both sides of her crafting and artistic identity.  It's a kind of continuity I don't have between my art and leather crafts, which makes this separation an even more important one for me.

Have a quick rundown of where you can find Angelic Artisan around the net, for those of you who love my masks and butterfly jewelry and want to keep up:

Main Website -
On Facebook -
On Twitter -
On Tumblr -

I've also established a mailing list for photographers interested in borrowing my masks and jewelry for photo shoots.  Sign up if you'd like to work with me on that!

It's been exciting working with the new photographers who have found me since my business reorganization this month.  Some fantastic photos have already been born of this collaboration!

Featuring photographer, Imagery Atelier, and model, Echo Manika!

A NEW YouTube Channel!

As part of my business re-organization this year, I'm planning to make YouTube my main social marketing hub.  I've been meaning to do this for a long time, but there was such a steep learning curve there where I had to figure out how to use my camera and how to edit the files in Camtasia Studio.

The introduction of Patreon this year, which works in tandem with YouTube in so many ways, meant I needed to get my butt in gear!

YouTube has changed so much!  They now allow people to link their channel to a Google+ Page and then add multiple managers to a single channel that way, which will be useful if I ever hire someone to manage some of these things for me (thinking ahead!).

Thanks to these new features, I have now created Google+ Pages and matching YouTube channels for both Angelic Artisan and Angelic Shades! (Those of you who follow my G+ name need to update to watching my Google+ Pages instead, as I will only be updating Pages from here on out).

ALL of my leather crafting videos will be disappearing soon from Angelic Shades' YouTube channel and have been moved to the Angelic Artisan channel, so please update your favorites, subscriptions, and bookmarks!

What does all this mean for you?  You'll be getting more direct interaction from me with narrated tutorials and hosted events, some of which are already up on both of my channels!

I've finally stepped out from behind the camera and easel to start hosting these videos directly, which is nerve-wracking, but also lots of fun and brings us to a whole new level of interaction!

Evolution of an Artist

Another realization I've come to is that even within my identity as an artist, I've noticed two distinct aesthetics showing through, one being my Art Nouveau style illustration and my more serious mature fantasy paintings.

While I'm not going to separate off into yet another brand, I have started to reconsider many things, such as how I'll be presenting myself at conventions.

My Art Nouveau work definitely sells better than my mature fantasy works, which may mean I will start presenting myself more consistently as an Art Nouveau artist as opposed to a Fantasy Illustrator, depending on the event. For example, my traditional work does better at IlluXcon, while my digital work does better at DragonCon.

I'm excited by this prospect, however, since Art Nouveau gives me a chance to work with traditional paints again, something I don't do so often anymore with all the digital painting I've been doing.

The Future is Now!

With all of these positive changes going on, I'm expecting my business to enter a whole new level with my art and with my interaction with all of you!  It's an exciting time and I'm more hyped than ever to share new work with you and test my newfound knowledge.

Hold on to your butts!

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Who Do I Want to Be? Maturing as an Artist

I've been thinking about this topic a lot lately talking with artist friends.  We've known each other for years.  Many of us know each other from way back in our college days when we'd hang out in the Student Center with piles of books and art supplies and draw together for hours on end.  Since then, we're all able to see how we have changed from the wide-eyed artists who just loved to draw whatever struck our fancies to the more mature artists struggling with what mastery of the craft truly means, or just struggling to find the time at all outside of day jobs and other life pursuits.

I think we've all matured as people and as artists.  We are no longer satisfied with just drawing whatever flits through our heads.  Time is precious.  Competition, for those of us who have gone pro, means that just drawing whatever we feel like is no longer good enough to push our work to the next level.  Back in my teens, there was no pressure to sell art.  There was no pressure to compete.  It was purely art for art's sake with little consideration for the pressure that is making a living off of art.  Back then, I had no idea how this pressure would affect my work in the future.

These days as a more mature artist, it's a constant struggle to not place pressure and preciousness on every little thing I draw. It can't just be a doodle, it must be a MASTERPIECE!  If it is not, I have wasted precious time on something that neither makes me money nor advances my skills in a larger way so that I can compete with the people in the industries I'm aiming for.  I talked about the fallacy of this attitude in my last post (Stuck in 'The Gap') and I know this is the wrong attitude to have.  Still, funny how that happens eh?  I think it happens or has happened to everyone I know trying to make a living at art.

Another thing I've noticed is that I am much more concerned now with style than I ever was in the past.  By style, I'm not talking about a specific visual style, ie. that Quirky Thing that Angela Does that makes someone recognize my work.  Rather, I'm talking about a philosophy of art.  What do I want my work to communicate?  How do I want it to communicate these thoughts, feelings, and moods to my viewer?

Style, to me, is more about what I want my viewers to feel when they look at my work, more so than finding a 'trick' that makes my work unique.  A huge positive of having this perspective later in my development as an artist is that I can now focus my work on a more deep and symbolic level than I ever could as the young, scatterbrained artist who loved to draw anything and everything just because I could.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Stuck in "The Gap"

DragonCon jury time is upon us and it's around this time of year where I have that yearly freak out about whether I have enough new stuff, why I'm not producing more, the paralyzing fear of rejection and inevitable downfall into self-loathing, etc.  I want all the masterpieces I've been attempting to be done now!  I want all of the studies I've been doing to pay off now!

I know the most logical, sensible advice is "Just wait. Everything comes in time after due diligence."

But I've honestly just been impatient and anxious this past month. I don't want to wait for that magical moment where it all just clicks together and makes sense!  I want it all, and I want it now!

My portfolio reviewers keep telling me that my stuff is "Good...but...".  There is always the 'but'.  My current development as an artist is that I am just one small hop between being good and being great.  My portfolio reviewers also echo the same impression of my work.  There's just the slightest gap between my story-telling abilities and just the slightest bit of funkiness to my anatomy.

In fact, I feel I am in the very definition of "The Gap", as Ira Glass calls it.

I know this quote is geared towards writers, but it's applicable to artists just as well.

I wholeheartedly recognize this and I've been asking myself some tough questions of late:

Q:  Am I producing enough work to improve in a timely manner?

A:  No.  I need to be producing way more, at least one fully fleshed out painting a month is my goal and I haven't met that.

Q:  Am I studying enough?

A:  No.  I want to warm up every day with studies, but I've only managed to do studies every other day or so.  I hate that feeling that I have nothing to show people that's polished, other than my notebook scribbles. Makes me feel unproductive!

Q:  Moreover, am I studying the right things instead of drawing the same thing wrong over and over?  

A: For once, I feel like this is the only thing I have managed to get right, lately!  It took me a long time to find teachers whose methods made sense to me, particularly where anatomy is concerned.

I found Bridgman's methods to be more scientific while Hampton and Proko's emphasis on emotion and mannequenization make more sense to the way I learn things.  Chris Oatley's Painting Drama course has also opened my eyes about narrative considerations in composition far more than any Art History course I've taken has.  Finding a teacher who speaks your learning language is so important!  What works for one person may not work for another.

I tend to agree with what Jon Schindehette described in his Intention of Mastery post.  If you're practicing something wrong over and over again, you're only going to learn the wrong way to do things.  Going beyond this, if I can have a specific goal in mind before I pick up the pencil, rather than just mechanically drawing more, I will learn more and be more inspired!

I feel like I will only be out of this 'gap' when I reach the point that Jon mentions.

At some point, the pencil will stop being a mechanical device that I use to make marks on paper, and will start to become the extension of myself that expresses itself on paper through marks.

I am realizing that my expectation of a 'magic moment' of understanding is also a false and debilitating one. There isn't going to be one click, but many small clicks over time.  I also have to realize that knowledge is impermanent.  My mind is not a computer and can only retain things if I am actively studying them and refreshing my knowledge.  Anatomy, lighting, narrative, value, etc. etc. There's just too much information for my mind to retain everything without losing others!

But I've clung to that notion that there will be that Big Moment of realization and suddenly my paintings are better and that's just not how this works.

I may not have too many answers by the end of this entry, but I am hopeful that at least I'm asking myself the right questions!  How about you guys?  Are you stuck in 'The Gap' with me?  What are the questions (and answers) you're struggling with?

Saturday, March 8, 2014

New Patreon Intro Videos

This week I was finally able to complete swanky intro videos made for both of my Patreon pages! You guys should check them out and tell me what you think. You'll get to learn much of the following:

- The specific artist who made me want to be an illustrator.
Why I wanted to be a mask maker.
- What kind of art I was drawing involving masks back when I was a teen.
- What my masks looked like before I discovered leather. It ain't pretty!

Plus other odds and ends. Enjoy the trip down memory lane! 

Now, I can get back to actually *making* art, for as fun as all this video editing has been. So many

The intro for my Art and Illustration page:

The intro for my Artisan Crafts page:

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Critiques, Portfolio Reviews, and Consultations for Artists

This week I tentatively rolled out a section on my website for Creative Consulting.

What means this 'consulting'?  Well, some of you might remember my Portfolio Reviews and Critique Corner articles here on this blog where I was able to provide direct feedback and helpful resources to artists wishing to improve their work.

Sadly, these sections of my blog have faded away after I realized I just don't have the time anymore to do them.  I've been increasingly busy dedicating myself to my own portfolio work as well as nurturing commission work on a grander scale than I ever have before.

However, I really, really hate to see these columns go and I stand behind the way this kind of direct interaction and critique can help other artists in a profound way.  As such, I am still offering portfolio reviews and critiques for modest fees, which you can view the rates here.  If you have a surplus of deviantART points, I also take payment in points for the red lines and paint overs here.

This is a way for you to work with me directly without having to catch me in-person at a convention.  We also won't have to worry about your subject matter, which I would previously have had to censor if it was going to be featured on this blog, which I try to keep Safe for Work.

An example of a paint over and critique featuring the art of Kim Ravenfire.
You can read the full critique here.

An example of a red line featuring the art of Judith Mayr.
You can read the full critique here.

For more examples of my critiques, read on here.

I still plan to participate in critiques online in places like the GoldenCritique-Club on dA and WiPnation, but I will only be able to do so when my schedule, interest, and projects allow.

In addition to paint overs and portfolio reviews, I am also tentatively offering online art marketing consultations.  I've always wanted to do this, but felt I could not until I was at a point in my career where the methods I have studied and experimented with have yielded tangible results so that I can be confidant and justified when advising other artists.

E-marketing and its potential for artists is a passion of mine which I have studied professionally in the Arts Administration program at The Savannah College of Art and Design.  There, I earned my MA after the completion of my thesis focusing on the evolution of audiences and patrons via the expansion of the internet and its social venues.

I'm excited to finally be able to apply what I have learned on a grander scale! I have previously only provided advice via panels at conventions, blog posts at this journal, and private interactions with artists I know seeking advice on expanding their business.

These sessions are meant specifically for individual artists and will focus on their current e-marketing strategies, filling the gaps of their e-marketing knowledge, and discussing which online venues might work best when considering their work.

For those who are new to my work and don't know my history in being able to critique art or speak on the topic of e-marketing for artists, you can also read about my credentials and experience with these subjects on the Creative Consulting page.

I'm excited to foster this new way of connecting and helping other artists!  I look forward to what amazing work you guys might send my way and the trust you might place in me in helping to improve your future work.

Wishing you all inspiration!
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