What if you had the very same tools as the artists you admire?

I might be exaggerating a little, but for a lot of people that works digitally, that’s exactly what happened when Kyle Webster’s brushes were made available for free for Adobe Creative Cloud users (the membership itself isn’t free though!) His brushes are loved the world over by artists and illustrators around the world like Christoph Niemann, Sophie Diao, Mark Conlan and Samantha Kallis.

What if the tools that these artists use were now in your hands? What would you do with them? What would you hope you could create with it?

Would you try your hardest to emulate the artists who’ve chosen certain brushes as their favourite? Or would you think of using their works as inspiration for your own practice, studying their strokes to see if you could recreate them? Or would you set out to just have fun with them to see where it takes you?

It’s all good, really.

While having special brushes in Photoshop does a lot to help elevate one’s digital work (or at least make things easier), I realised that traditionally, we’ve been using the tools that have been in existence for a long time as well. Tools that were used by Picasso, Monet, Mondrian: the humble pencil or charcoal. A paintbrush, and a variety of mediums that are in existence until today – oil paints, gouache, watercolour, pastel. Artists who play with sculptures, collages and paper, among the many, many different ways of expression, whether it’s in 2D or 3D.

It might be helpful to remember that the tool(s) that you have in your hand, whether it’s traditional, or digital; is merely an extension yourself. A complex culmination of things that no one else has: your history, personality, hopes, fears, ideas and concepts; along with your emotions, thoughts and passions.

And while we may be wielding the same tool, we’re all very different, and that is what makes art-making so beautiful.

Image: Menina IV: Paintbrush Portraits by Rebecca Szeto – based on Velázquez’s Las Meninas (1656) (source)

How to overcome the fear of trying something new

Credit: Dive by Madame Lolina

Trying something new can be scary, and sometimes, there’s nothing that anyone can say or do to make those feelings go away.

I have no magic answer that will make all those fears and insecurities go away, but only one piece of advice that has worked incredibly well for me: just jump right in.

Imagine taking your first dive into a cold, icy pool when you’re shivering from the chill morning air. I don’t know about you, but I’d much rather be in my warm bed, snuggled up in my blanket, instead of having to face that container of water that keeps lapping at my toes as I wince with dread. Though I love swimming, I absolutely hate that first contact between my body and the water. Every time. So I do what I normally do: tell myself that it’s going to be okay, close my eyes, dive right in, and keep on swimming until I’ve covered a whole lap without stopping. And when I emerge, it’s as though my fears had never existed in the first place, and I was in the flow of things – quite literally. If I had let my feelings about taking that first leap overpower my love for swimming, then I’d forever be on dry land.

Don’t just go back to bed.
Diving right in is also the best way to learn if this new thing is something you’ll like (even if you’re rubbish at it at first). When an idea is just in our heads, we glorify it a little. We imagine how great something is, only to be disappointed when what we churn out is not that great (which almost always happens when you’re a beginner – we all suck in the beginning, there’s no getting around it). The sooner you get over this thought of wanting to be the best at what you do right off the bat, and ignore damaging ones that tell you that if you’re not good at it then you must not be talented in it, the better. That’s just your brain craving to crawl back to bed, where it’s warm, familiar and safe.

The beautiful thing about doing, is that you also learn something new about yourself along the way. You’ll also get better at what you’re doing. But only, and only if, you like it enough to plod through the hard, difficult stuff, and wade through the feelings of inadequacy that inevitably follows an apprentice. The utter anguish of having to re-do something because if you don’t – even though no one would notice it but you – you can’t live with the thought that you could have done better.

So you do.

You unpick those stitches, and do it all over again.
You start with a new sheet of paper.
You rework that lump of clay.

You do it because your love of the unknown is stronger than the shackles that keep you in place, right where you are.

Add in a bit of time, patience, and some good old fashioned elbow grease, and you’ll soon realise that whatever you’re doing is no longer new.

It’s now a part of you.

The water may be icy cold wherever you are, but there’s no better time to dive right in.

Celebrating diversity through new creative directories

https://www.womenwhodraw.com/

Illustration directories (or any other sort of creative directories, for that matter) have come a long way since the boom of the internet. It used to be that they were run by companies who would charge a sum for you to be included in their roster, along with other options such as appearing in their printed catalog/annuals, mailers, promotional items, etc. However, with the advent and freedom that the internet offers, anyone can be a part of (or even start up!) a directory on their own, for very little.

That’s all well and good, but what does this mean, then?

It means that the barrier to entry; of being listed in a collective space online, has reduced significantly. You’re no longer bound by expenses, or gatekeepers that were previously the domain of huge, existing directory companies. They would still have their merits, having existed in the industry way before anyone else. But unlike before, you now have a choice. If someone turned you down, or if the cost of listing your profile/work was prohibitive, you can now list your work elsewhere. For free, even.

http://www.panimation.tv/

Will it work? Will you get more work from it?

You may, or you may not. But with self-promotion, I like to go with the analogy of idea of throwing out as many balls as you can out into the world, to see who throws it back to you. Sometimes it comes back immediately, and sometimes, it takes weeks, months and even years before someone sees your profile and decides to reach out. In addition to the kind of work you produce, luck and timing plays a very big part for every artist that gets discovered online, and by putting yourself out there through various channels, you’re increasing your odds, even if by a little bit.

https://queerdesign.club/

Getting yourself on a list

The biggest difference that we see in the new directories is that it’s more niche. Instead of merely having filters that readers and potential clients could sift through, the entire directory itself is more specific, catering to clients who are looking to add diversity into their hires. There’s a directory for women illustrators. Latin designers. Queer/LGBT designers. Women, trans and non-binary animators. Black designers. Most of them are free, and many more creative industries are following suit, so take your pick and go from there!

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Share with me: What do you think of these directories? Do you like them, or would you prefer a different solution? Do you have more to share? Or what if you have happy stories of being found by clients or fans on them? I’d love it if you would share your thoughts with me!

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