So this is what one year’s creative output looks like (for me). It was a lot tougher to squeeze this year’s art into the photo than it was last year, and I was pleasantly surprised when I got it all together in one place. (It’s also what one year’s beard looks like. I was all stubbly this time last year.)
Putting your art out into the world is a strange thing. I vacillate between bullish self-confidence and agonising self-doubt, often over the same picture, within the same hour. I can cheerfully post fan art on twitter, on my website, on tumblr, even copying in other accounts, and then immediately cringe and want to take it back and/or issue formal written apologies and point out all the crap bits.
I know I’m far from the best artist out there. I also flatter myself I’m not the worst, and when there’s a particular image I’m proud of, I want it to do well. It’s like entering your pet dragon into the Best Small Dragon category at the village fair (it really isn’t, but bear wth me). I give it a benevolent little push onto the stage, a bit of encouragement, I’m pleased if it gets a good reception, maybe a ripple of applause, disappointed if the audience runs screaming from the blazing tent.
But I’m also realistic about these things. If after a couple of tries and encouraging nods the whole thing isn’t catching fire then I take my dragon home and we have a nice cup of cocoa and we move onto the next thing.
Okay, now I want a pet dragon.
In a similar vein, I nearly exhibited a few pieces at the FantasyCon gallery in Peterborough. After some exploratory conversations I realised I didn’t have time to get everything framed, packed and sent by the deadline. I also bottled it. But it started me pondering about such things so I’m slowly starting to have a few bits of art framed in case I decide to exhibit them at future cons. I’m quite pleased with how these two turned out.
My fan art pieces from this year have already found their way onto the internet, here and elsewhere. I’ve done a lot more fan art this year and slightly fewer for Dublin. (I’ve also done a few pieces just for myself, some of which may show up in public in future, some of which were just test pieces.) I’m still trying to find a good balance, but I have the luxury of coming up with my own ideas and mostly it’s about where inspiration takes me. This year, inspiration has mostly taken me to Peter Capaldi who has one of those faces that was born to be painted. I’ve also done old and new school Doctor Who, Blake’s 7, Deep Space Nine, Neil Gaiman’s Sandman, Jeremy Brett as Sherlock Holmes, Babylon 5, and Twin Peaks. All favourites of mine, all done out of sheer affection for the source material.
Moving into acrylics last year (instead of scanning and colouring my line art) has been good for my productivity, and increasingly I’m painting without a preparatory pencil sketch which speeds things further. My portraits of Tom Baker, Roger Delgado and Jeremy Brett were one-evening paints (2-3 hours), Mira Furlan as Delenn took two nights. If I painted like that every evening I’d be a lot more prolific, but sadly I don’t…
The Tom one even found its way (at postage stamp size) into the letters page of Doctor Who Magazine, which would have delighted the 10 year old me who read it from Issue 1.
Some of my more complex art has taken much, much longer. I spent a month working most nights back in January for my detailed painting of spacecraft arriving in Dublin. A more recent one took me 3 months (on and off, working and reworking). I abandoned it once and overpainted large sections before I finally completed it to my satisfaction. I’m glad I did – I’m quite pleased with it now. If I’ve learned anything over the last couple of years it’s to trust the process rather than throwing in the towel when a picture looks bad. But it’s hard, sometimes.
I also tried some larger full face images like the framed Capaldi one above, and the Sandman image, which took about a week each. I might try a few more along those lines.
I was also quite pleased with the raw emotion I got into this Peter Capaldi image, even though it’s not quite as achitecturally solid as some of my portraits. I don’t want to just mindlessly regurgitate promo images in acrylic, and I go back and forth over whether this looks good or not, but I wanted that sadness in his eyes.
My Dublin artwork generally hasn’t found its way here, and won’t until it’s been used officially by the convention so it’s hard to talk about it much (although if you squint behind me in the photo at the top you can get a preview.) It’s been a huge year for Dublin, which won the 2019 WorldCon site selection unopposed, and things are accelerating. There’s already a t-shirt based on slices of my artwork available, which is a lovely feeling…
I also took some postcards of my Dublin art along to this year’s FantasyCon…
I still feel like I’m finding my way with paint – a medium that, until last year, I’d seldom touched since A Level art – but just doing art is a great way of levelling-up. As for next year, my wife just got me some water-soluble oils and some liquid acrylic colour, neither of which I have any idea how to use, so that should shake things up for 2018. I’m also keen to paint more women and more people of colour — something that could probably be achieved by not painting Peter Capaldi all the time, now I come to think of it.