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2017

The year is coming to its end, and although my blog has been hibernating in the past months, I felt like I should somehow wrap 2017 up in writing.

After summer, I resigned from what had been my daily 9-5 job for 1,5 years. I had been very unfulfilled by that job already for a while; yes, it was stable and paid the bills alright, but it didn’t feed my creativity in anyway nor did it give me a feeling of learning or growing. Although I had already figured that I wouldn’t necessarily need to be a full-time illustrator in order to feel satisfied with my daily work, I was definitely missing some kind of creative challenge.

Soon after quitting I started as a graphic designer and content creator at a start-up that creates tools (e.g. online games) for teaching 21st century skills and programming to kids. I can not even begin to tell you how happy I was to a) get to work for a company whose mission I find important and b) contribute my skills knowing that I could be useful. The nice thing about the job is that although I work a lot with design and also have illustration tasks every now and then, the style is very different from the one of my own. That keeps things exciting and leaves me energy and motivation to work on my personal illustration projects, too. (Unlike when I was freelancing – illustrating first for clients and then for yourself was often a bit too much to ask from my enthusiasm.)

Overall, this year was quite alright illustration-wise. I didn’t make much progress with the bigger personal projects I had planned for 2017, but other assignments kept me nicely busy: I helped with a re-design of a book, made many custom portraits, worked on some personal pieces just for fun and designed materials for one of Finland’s 100th Independence Day events. Surprisingly enough, I hardly felt guilty about not working as much on my personal projects as I had initially planned. During the year I came to terms with the fact that having a day job and trying to freelance next to it or do anything that could in itself be a full-time job can really wear you out in the long run (How surprising!). It’s okay to not force yourself forward if you need a rest or just some brainless spare time instead. It took me 29 years to realise that, and although it might not be the most mind-blowing realisation to many, it is actually a pretty big mental milestone for me.

Instagram is getting filled with Best Nine 2017-photos, so let’s finish with that. Here’s to quitting, starting, learning and taking it easy every now and then – Happy New Year!

Astropad vs. Wacom Cintiq – which one to buy?

Graphic-tablet-review

For the past few years, I have been wanting to digitize my drawing process in order to work more time-efficiently. I have tried moving from paper to screen multiple times, but it always felt like I lost the control of my pencil when I tried to do this with Wacom tablet. Having heard lots of positive stories about illustrators who have switched to drawing tablets with a screen, I figured I should perhaps invest in one as well.

After having done some research into drawing tablets, the best options for me seemed to be the almost legendary Wacom Cintiq or an app called Astropad, which converts your iPad Pro into a drawing tablet. Whilst researching the pros and cons of each option, I watched a lot of Youtube-reviews comparing them. The most useful video was this one.

I’ll spare you the suspense; I ended up buying an iPad Pro, Astropad and an Apple Pencil. Here are the main reasons for why I chose Astropad over Cintiq:

Disclaimer: The following list is purely based on my personal preferences and information that was available prior to purchase.

1. Price: That’s probably the first thing people think of! Getting a new iPad Pro, Apple Pencil and Astropad was a couple of hundred euros cheaper than getting one of the better Wacom Cintiqs. If you buy a refurbished iPad Pro like I did, you can save even more.

2. Functionality: Although Wacom Cintiq is referred to as The Drawing Tablet for The Real Pros, it’s is just that: a drawing tablet. iPad Pro is multifunctional, and since I don’t have a whole lot of smart devices at home, an iPad was a more practical choice.

3. Mobility (sort of): I enjoy drawing the most whilst chilling on the couch. The fact that Cintiq works only when it’s wired up to a computer was therefore a fairly big minus. Astropad only needs WiFi to connect to your computer, allowing you to draw pretty much anywhere as long as you stay within the WiFi’s reach.

Graphic-tablet-review

4. Simplicity: My aim was to make the switch from paper to screen as comfortable and easy as possible, as I tend to get impatient when needing to familiarize myself with something totally new. (Yep, I’m the I-want-it-and-I-want-it-now type.) Astropad basically turns your iPad’s screen into a double screen of your Mac, letting you draw directly into Photoshop or any other app on your computer. Since I already feel comfortable working with the software on my Mac, Astropad seemed much more convenient than Cintiq.

5. Features: My goal was to be able to sketch digitally in a way that would feel as natural as drawing on paper. I planned to use the drawing tablet mainly just for sketching, so although Cintiq is said to have more drawing functionalities, Astropad and my computer’s software seemed good enough for my purpose.

6. Styluses: Apple Pencil is very narrow and pretty much the same size as a regular pencil, whereas Wacom’s styluses are thicker. The nibs of Wacom styluses also recess slightly into the pen when you press them onto the tablet, and that can make them feel less natural than drawing with a normal pencil. As I wanted to be sure that using the drawing tablet would be as close to using normal paper and pencil, choosing an iPad Pro with an Apple Pencil felt like a safer option.

Graphic-tablet-review

To compare Astropad with hand-drawing, I drew another one of my couple comics, which I have so far always drawn by hand. Below you can see the Astropad drawing next to one of the earlier hand-drawn comics. I used a Kyle Brush from the Animator Pencil Package, and was really happy both with the process, feeling of drawing and the end result.

And as a grande finale, here’s my first Astropad-piece in its entity:

The fear of drawing people (and how to get over it)

Here’s a confession: I used to dread drawing people. Drawing animals was my thing, and the thought of human-like hands and faces made me cringe. Whenever I found myself in a situation where I needed to draw human characters, I would sneakily avoid the discomfort zone by drawing abstract figures that lacked faces and some other physical details. That worked quite well for fashion illustrations, but I knew that eventually I would have to take the bull by its horns.

After making a conscious decision to get over my insecurities, I asked myself where the fear of drawing  people was coming from. The answer was quite simple: my fears spurred merely from the lack of practice. I shied away from sketching people, because I had never properly trained myself in drawing them. That is why I always struggled with proportions and perspectives and would rarely be happy with my sketches. Of course, I never expected to be Da Vinci 2.0, but next to lacking the skills and knowledge of drawing human anatomy, I hadn’t developed my own unique style of drawing them either. I couldn’t draw people with realistic proportions and details, nor did I have my own style of drawing them…and that was more than enough to make me insecure.

Today things are very different. I draw human characters with zen-like joy and have left the fears behind me for good. Blimey, I have even been paid to draw custom portrait illustrations, which have become one of my favourite type of commissions!

Knowing that there might be other creatives out there trying to cope with their own insecurities, I decided to compile a small inspirational first aid kit on how to get started with overcoming your creative phobias. So here’s to you, fears: goodbye and good riddance!

Leave your comfort zone (comfortably)

Kindly force yourself to do the things you fear and challenge yourself to practice in a fun way. When I realized I desperately needed practice with drawing people, I decided to give a go at life drawing classes. However, as easels felt quite intimidating, I chose to approach the discomfort zone through my comfort zone and spent the first sessions drawing with my trusted ol’ pencil in my tiny sketchbook. It was a soft and comforting welcome to the fear zone.

Don’t worry about acing everything

Trying different styles and techniques is great practice, but you don’t have to become great at everything. Try water colour, inks, pencils and pens. Go for life drawing classes or try drawing manga. Experiment and don’t stress about creating only masterpieces. My life drawing sketches were never anatomically astonishing. However, I did my best even with the most challenging poses and dressed the naked models with colourful underwear to keep the process of practicing lighthearted and fun. Moral of the story: even if your sketches won’t end up hanging in a museum, each of them will help you improve.

Watch and learn

While avoiding comparing yourself to others, be open to learning from people around you – online and offline. Take part in drawing challenges (like #franuary initiated by Fran Meneses to practice animal drawing skills), watch tutorials, attend workshops, meet up with peers who can guide you or imitate styles and techniques you see on Instagram (Obvious side note: Imitating is good for practice, but copying is very, very uncool!). I created a private Pinterest board of inspiring examples of human characters drawn by other illustrators and used it as a base for experimenting with my own style. That was very helpful.

Give it your own twist & enough time

Next to studying human anatomy at life drawing classes, I spent plenty of time just doodling different kind of characters, playing around with their features. Would exaggerated proportions be my thing? Or funny noses and angular shapes? Perhaps cartoonish, boneless limbs? Sketch by sketch I got closer to the type of characters that what felt truly mine. Learning and developing a style that I now feel strong about took me years, so don’t worry about not reaching your goals over night – it’s a process.