Thursday, August 17, 2017

A Note on Confidence

By Lauren Panepinto
  
It's funny how sometimes trends will happen in conversations, and I think it's the universe (or at least the Muse of Muddy Colors) trying to tell me what my next post should be. Recently I've been having a ton of conversations about confidence. People seem to think I am a confidence expert, and I think they assume my ability to be silly and geeky and loud and have green hair has to do with an abundance of confidence...when in reality they're mixing up the chicken and the egg a bit. The more weird shit I do, the more people love it and the more positive reinforcement for my decisions — that's what gives me the confidence to go do more weird shit like dye my hair and wear leggings and be walk into rooms full of strangers and get up an speak in front of heaps of people. But even more than the wins, it's the fails that reinforce my confidence, because nothing builds your confidence more than surviving something you were afraid of, and finding out it really wasn't that bad. You pick yourself up and keep going, even more secure inside.

By the way, this isn't the first column I've written on the topic, so definitely check out Confidence 101 in The Con(fidence) Game, then come on back.

In that article we talked about Imposter Syndrome, The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck, and Power Poses. Now we're going to fine-tune the conversation a bit.

When we talk about confidence, what we're really talking about is fear. What's the opposite of confidence? Insecurity. And all insecurity comes from fear—generally fear of rejection. Rejection sucks and feels horrible. There have been studies that prove being rejected actually physically hurts. And there's a reason for that. Back in the caveman days, when we were all huddled together in tribes,  we had to work together to stay safe and fed. If you got kicked out of the tribe's cave, it was a toss-up whether you were going to starve or become a sabertooth tiger snack first. Rejection equaled death, and rejection still feels, instinctively, like pain and dying.


But we are not cavemen anymore, and you are not going to die from rejection. Embarassment is not fatal, or none of us would have made it out of high school. Fear exists to warn of us risks. Your goal is actually not to never feel fear, but really to embrace fear and choose to do a thing anyway. That's risk-assessment. And that is the way to gain confidence.

So we fear rejection. That's evolutionarily valid. The fear is there to warn us of a possible risk. But we have to dial the fear back down to match the real-world risk. You shouldn't have getting-eaten-by -a-sabertooth-tiger-level fear for a situation where the worst thing that could happen to you is embarassment.

Confidence is not fearlessness. Confidence is acknowledging that you do feel fear, telling yourself that's a rational response to a scary situation, but then adjusting your response to the actual risks. It's saying I know there is a chance, at worst, that X might happen, but the payoff is probably going to be worth it. And if the worst thing happens, you know you'll be ok. It's saying I know the risks, but I'm going to do it anyway.

Confidence is also not arrogance — It's not I AM THE BEST HERE. It's I AM WORTHY OF BEING HERE. And that's a big difference.


Here's a list of things that people I've talked to lately have said they wished they had the confidence to do:

—The confidence to post sketches and process online, not just the perfect final image.
—The confidence to email art directors their work.
—The confidence to go to a networking event that you don't know anyone at.
—The confidence to go to a new convention.
—The confidence to ask an art director for a portfolio review.
—The confidence to start a big crowdfunding project.
—The confidence to walk up to a group of strangers and work your way into a conversation.

So, ask yourself...what's the worst case scenario? But also remember to think just as hard about the BEST case scenario, because it's at least as likely to happen, statistically. And is generally more likely to happen, in my personal experience:

—The confidence to post sketches and process online, not just the perfect final image.
Worst Case Scenario: people post mean comments about how your art sucks.
Likely Scenario: some friends will like it, no one will say anything bad, maybe some people will say something nice.
Best Case Scenario: It gets a bunch of shares and new followers and nice comments.

—The confidence to email art directors their work.
Worst Case Scenario: an AD will write back and say your work doesn't fit their needs, and ask to be taken off your list.
Likely Scenario: you will get no answer.
Best Case Scenario: An email hits an AD just at the right moment and you get a job out of it.

—The confidence to go to a networking event that you don't know anyone at.
Worst Case Scenario: You stand around awkwardly and don't talk to anyone.
Likely Scenario: You'll make some perfectly fine smalltalk, some awkward smalltalk, you'll make a new friend or two. No one remembers the awkward bits but you.
Best Case Scenario: You end up meeting some art friends, strengthen your peer network, and maybe meet someone that leads to being hired.

—The confidence to go to a new convention.
Worst Case Scenario: you hate it and people are creepy and you go home.
Likely Scenario: You'll meet a ton of new people, get a little tipsy in the hotel bar, and spend the rest of the year on social media keeping up with the new friends.
Best Case Scenario: You make a new art bestie or meet an AD that leads directly to a dream job.

—The confidence to ask an art director for a portfolio review.
Worst Case Scenario: they say they're too busy and walk away.
Likely Scenario: they'll give you a time to meet them later or they'll give you a business card and ask to email your portfolio to them.
Best Case Scenario: They say yes and you guys have a great in-depth review

—The confidence to start a big crowdfunding project.
Worst Case Scenario: it won't get backed.
Likely Scenario: it'll get backed and you'll have to spend way more time than you expected figuring out shipping to all your backers.
Best Case Scenario: It will get 500% backed and be a career launcher.

—The confidence to walk up to a group of strangers and work your way into a conversation.
Worst Case Scenario: everyone stares at you when you try to join the conversation, acts awkward and conversation dies until you leave the group.
Likely Scenario: the conversation will expand and you'll feel a little awkward at first, but settle down and have a nice conversation.
Best Case Scenario: You exchange info with the group, expanding your peer group, and maybe get a job out of it.



Look back up at all the worst case scenarios. Not such a big deal, right? You'd survive any of them and move on. In most cases the potential reward with beat the potential damage by multiple times over. 

And that's how you build confidence. You realize most things fall into the "likely" or "best" case scenarios, and you survive a few "worst" case scenarios and realize they're not actually so life-threatening. Keep flexing that confidence muscle, and after a while that insecurity voice inside you will slowly start to starve and lose volume. And poof, like magic, you too are a confident person, and people will talk about you in that wistful tone of "If I was as confident as you I could...X" and you'll smile and send them the link to this post.






Wednesday, August 16, 2017

SmArt School with Greg Manchess, September 13th


--Greg Manchess

To pull a person into your image for the split-second opportunity you have to capture their attention, you need mad skills to do it. Skill is not automatic and must be learned. Learned through hard training.

And training takes focus.

My SmArt School online class starts up again this September 13th! For 15 weeks we are going to focus on just how that’s done. Over and over again, on each of your paintings, I will guide you to understand depth, value, contrast, line, overlapping, light, and lots more, including paint mixing, and application. Building an image a level at a time, working your way to the finish. With every piece.

I’m not talking about technique either. I’m talking about learning to use each of the principles above to build powerful composition, and composition, used well, will give you concept. Not the other way around.

That’s right. I doubt you’ve ever heard that before. Learn to design good concepts by understanding powerful composition first. In my class, over the course of the Autumn semester, you will learn more about composition than you even thought possible. It takes 100% focus, but the simple principles are easy to understand.

It’s just the massive dedication you might stumble over. But then, you knew that…right?

Join me this Fall and we’ll step our way through it together. We have a great time, and if you want more of an idea about my teaching, listen to what this student said about my class. (scroll down)

Find out how focused training can give you the skills to produce the paintings you want.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Toned Paper Drawings

by Cory Godbey


As I've been working my way through my 2017 sketchbook, one facet I'm particularly excited to show is the toned paper and white charcoal drawings.

While I've been putting together yearly sketchbooks since 2008 it's only been since 2015 that I've included toned paper drawings and studies in those sketchbooks. Why only since 2015? I have no idea. I really should have been doing this all along because they are a joy to create.

They are relatively quick to do and when that white charcoal hits the paper they really come to life. 

One of these days I'll to do a post on the how and whys of creating annuals sketchbooks on a theme but until then here's a look at some of the finished toned paper drawings from my upcoming 2017 collection. If you're going to be in town for New York Comic-Con I hope you'll stop by and take a look! I'll be debuting the sketchbook and related work at the show in October.


If you, like me up until pretty recently, haven't gotten around to exploring what this medium has to offer, the materials list is nice and simple. Low stakes entry point, well worth experimenting.


I start most all my work with a brown Prismacolor Col-erase. From there I'll lightly work up the drawing switching back and forth between a BiC 0.5 and General's Kimberly 2B. For anything darker I'll go with a General's Kimberly 8B (or 4B). A blending stump can be useful for rendering. Lastly, the white charcoal.

As for paper I usually work with a Strathmore 400 series. I'm sure there are others but this one has always done the trick for me.

And here's a quick look at the progression:



I've found that doing these pieces are great for studies or just taking a thumbnail and working it up into a more respectable idea. This might sound simple and obvious but somehow or another it took me years to get around to putting any real time into the medium. Again, I say all this to say if you, like me until relatively recently, haven't given toned paper a shot, go for it. It's a delight.

These can make for great pieces for collectors and they lend a nice visual variety to a sketchbook.





2017 marks my tenth annual sketchbook. 

Over the last decade I've gone from collecting random drawings done throughout the year to creating an intentional series on theme. One of the major things I've learned in that time is that by creating a framework for yourself, by creating works on theme, you give yourself a world to explore. It's concentrated development. When you take one main idea, one theme, and turn it around in your mind you begin to uncover new possibilities and directions that you might not have thought of otherwise. 

I know that's been the case for me over the last ten year's worth of personal work and toned paper drawings have become an integral part in my creative process.