Here's some answers to those questions from part 1.
These are a bit long, so I'm only doing a couple here this time!"How do you fit in social settings with other artists? I've been to a couple animation festivals and networking events but it's always weird, like I don't deserve to talk to anyone because I'm just a lowly terrible animator and they're obviously better than me. What does it take to remove that feeling, and talk to other artists as equal peers so we can have real conversations?"
This question doesn't exactly have a REAL solid answer, but I can try to explain a little bit using extraneous hand gestures you can't see.
Now, I can't speak for all artists out there, but from what I've generally gathered is that you have to overcome the feeling of professionals having no humility. Usually serious/skilled artists don't do the work they do just to gloat about it and hold themselves at a position higher than you just to stroke their egos. IF they are like that, they're probably not worth talking much to, or they're not really professionals since that kind of attitude would make them hard to work with.
However, people who take themselves and colleagues seriously will usually have no problem answering some questions and lending a hand to someone also learning the ropes, if just one time. They were, after all, at an earlier stage of development at one time and had to go through much of the same -- so they SHOULD understand where you are right now.
That said, (and this is really the answer to the meat of the question,) networking with other artists comes largely with being genuinely interested in their work -- not necessarily just finding commonalities in subject matter / style / medium / technique. One of the great reasons to befriend other artists is the diversity they can expose you to. This has a lot to do with knowing your influences, and being open to new (different) ones. Sometimes there are things you wouldn't even think you'd end up being interested in that another artist can get you into. Do you just draw character art all day? Make some friends who do nothing but environmental work! You'd be surprised at how much you can learn from each other as you talk about your areas of expertise. Don't be surprised if you suddenly start adding some backgrounds to your work. Better relationships through diversity make way for collaborative projects where each can input their best. (An inker befriending a colorist, for example.) A LOT can be learned in the process of actually doing WORK with others. The key to the whole thing is to just not feel like you're a nobody, and that there's this exclusive club of "somebodies" that is invitation-only. If you show that you have genuine interest and devotion, no one should outright ignore you.
However, one important thing to remember is that the artists you get to know at events and online (especially online) are not really
your friend. The truth of the matter is that you don't REALLY know that person, and you don't want to overstep your boundaries. If they don't really want to network with you in any fashion, it's not your fault. There are likely a lot of reasons, most probably dealing with a lack of time and availability -- not that they outright dislike you and your work for being "sub-par." (Sometimes that is the case. All I can tell you then is to just deal with it and remember that art is subjective.) The more important thing is that you tried -- which is better than not trying. A big part of the industry is finding the right people. Feeling like you're not apart of *it* will only allow possible opportunities to slip by.
Oh, also, always bring some means to show your work around. Slate devices like the iPad and Galaxy Tab are great for this sort of on-the-go portfolio sharing. They're great ice-breakers and much, much easier to pop out at a moments notice than something like a laptop or a huge portfolio in print form. Slates provide a more sociable method to talk about your work, since the devices themselves are easy to pass around and have multiple people look at at once."Is there a "good" way to make the transition from reference drawing to more imagination based? My from-life painting and drawing has seen huge improvement in the past year; but drawing from my head lags disappointingly behind. Are there any resources or exercises you know of that addresses this area?"
Ask yourself questions about what it is you're trying to create and what its functions are, and what it needs to function like that. If what you're adding doesn't look like it answers that question, then you should probably try something else.
I'll take you through a process I did on this drawing: 3.bp.blogspot.com/--CEtnhRZlZE…
So I was drawing a RTS-inspired structure -- a War Factory. So what does it need, right? This is a place responsible for manufacturing large machines of war. Tanks. Walkers. You name it. So every little piece of this design, how do I know it fits? A lot of it is based on common sense "duh" sort of decisions. If they're building big things, it's gonna need a big space to do it! So let's start with a big hangar-style bay where they assemble the stuff. They're probably doing some metal forging in there, eh? To make those tanks? Gonna need some smoke stacks from the blast furnaces. That might make things pretty hot in there, right? They're gonna need some good ventilation. Let's put some big fans up there on the roof. Well, aside from just the assembly hangar, there's gotta be the actual factory part of the structure, right? The place where the individual parts are manufactured then brought to the assembly hangar to be put together? Let's add a big 5-or-so story tall structure out the side of the hangar where all that takes place. Give them some good ventilation for all that crap that goes on in there, some windows... What about deliveries? They might need a place for supply trucks to unload new raw material. Well let's make the factory raised up a level for loading docks underneath. What about the administration part of the factory? There's gotta be an office somewhere. So, put a little trailer-sized building down in front where it's all controlled from. What about the fuel this place probably needs to run? Well, let's make a pill-shaped tank off to the side, probably full of oil or something. And well, they gotta keep in contact with HQ, right? Add a little communication tower on the top, some little radio dishes up there, and bam! Place is open for business.
The trick is knowing what questions to ask yourself. Depending on how fine you want to get in detail with your design, you'll just need more questions that need answering. I could've gone way more in-depth with the design of that War Factory, but it was ultimately just a sketch, and I wanted to keep the questions basic. When I color that thing, and bring it up to a finish, there ARE going to be more questions, more EXACT questions. Things like "What material is this place primarily made of?" "Is there paint?" "How well kept is the condition?" etc.
When designing something, like, a concept for some aerial craft, don't just think "Okay I'm drawing a plane. They have wings... a body...... a nose... tail...." You'll get a very generic... uh... plane. NO. Instead, ask lots of questions! And each question can lead to more questions, to more DETAIL. "Who is this thing intended for?" "What will it likely be used for?" "How old is it?" "What would it need to (do particular function)." --- etc etc these are a couple good starting questions that can lead to a more enriched final design.
In terms of drawing DIRECTLY from the mind, like, "Visual Memory," as it was called at my college, it's really just a matter of using your eyes. Look. Like, REALLY look. When you walk around, look at stuff intently and think about its individual shapes/pieces as an overall functioning design. Look THROUGH things and pick out their individual traits. You'd be surprised how many of the things you look at can be reconfigured into new things in your head. Just as long as it looks like it's meant to function a particular way without you having to say a word about how it works, you're on the right track. And, of course, asking yourself all those questions will help you get there.
Also, just a little something unrelated that I wanted to talk about:
- SORRY, I SOLD MY THINKPAD X201T A WHILE AGO.
I did a big review on the ThinkPad X201T, (a tablet PC,) last year when I got it. The original review I gave it was pretty positive, my impressions were pretty high. Then again, I was also only getting acquainted with the machine, so I was wondering if I was saying all of those things too early without any real field-usage?
Sure enough, as time went on, big, gaping issues became more apparent the longer I used it. My biggest problem with the X201T, (with ANY Tablet PC for that matter,) is that they all truly have crap digitizers inside. They work fine for some handwriting or some light sketching, but you can absolutely forget about doing ANY serious work like coloring/painting on one. You want pen accuracy? Forget it. The farther you move the pen away from the center of the screen, accuracy and sensor fidelity dive-bombs to the point of uselessness. The pressure on the pens are impossible to hold steady and go from 10% pressure to 100% in too short of a distance. The erasers are spring-loaded. Try doing some light-feathering with one of those -- you'll pull your hair out. Then there's the cursor lag. It exists. And it's nasty. (While with a client one day, I tried to erase the white space from a drawing and found myself having to concentrate completely on JUST keeping the eraser ON THE LINE. I've never had to do that with any other traditional tablet / cintiq. I've never had to undo so many mistakes from JUST ERASING -- AND I was using the eraser tool with the ink-nib side!) Whenever I went back to my Cintiq / Intuos4, I noticed immediately just how much better everything
was. Which brings up the other nail-in-the-coffin -- a complete lack of ergonomic shortcut keys. I rely HEAVILY on shortcut keys for my tablet workflow. Alt, Shift, Zoom+/-, Undo, these are dedicated buttons I need. And just about no tablet PC on the market has them. I tried to find other devices to assist with the lack of shortcut keys, but they ended up all being either too clunky to be practical, or too unreliable in implementation. It eventually came down to the fact that all I could do with my X201T was JUST sketching at what felt like an experience just slightly better than drawing on an iPad. I wanted SO MUCH MORE than that from it, so I realized it had to go since it would be incapable of delivering. -- so out the door it went to eBay.
Today, taking its place is a new 2011 model 15" MacBook Pro. I had a few issues with Apple over the past few years, but whatever, I got over it recently when I realized that taking sides on technology/branding is a pretty stupid and useless thing to do. I'm a lot happier with this machine over the X201T. Using my Intuos4 with it is a far greater pleasure, and allows me to perform serious large-scale work. There are other reasons that I went back to an Apple laptop, but those aren't related to art so I'll leave that for another day.
Long story short here, I won't be available for any other consultation on the operation of the X201T. My impressions here are still my own, and a tablet PC may still work well for you. But for what its worth, I think just getting a regular laptop + a Bamboo is WAY better than a crippled tablet stuck inside a mediocre laptop.