Why Your Concept Art Portfolio Is Being Ignored (Part 3) :: ArtCast #73

A Jealous PeacockMy friend Matt Kohr is a professional concept artist and the creator of the best digital painting tutorial site on the Internet.

So it’s safe to say that he appreciates digital tools and flashy Photoshop tricks as much as anyone.

But in the following interview, you’ll hear him say this:

“I get a lot of e-mails from beginners asking, “What Photoshop technique do I start with?” And I say: “Get a sketchbook and a pencil.”

I’ve never met a successful concept artist who feels like she has outgrown the basic fundamentals of anatomy, perspective, composition and color theory.

…but most aspiring concept artists get so focused on tech and techniques that they forget the fundamentals.

Three of the most inspiring art-gurus on the Internet – Noah BradleyMatt Kohr, and Darren Yeow – join me for the epic conclusion of a three-part series designed to help artists gain attention in the fields of concept art and illustration…

Listen To The Episode:

Before you play the podcast, I recommend reading part one and part two of this series.

[ download the mp3 ]

Episode Highlights:

  • How to gain and maintain attention from art directors and fans.
  • Six art workouts that will strengthen your fundamentals.
  • Find the flaws in your paintings.
  • Why great artists should inspire you to work harder, not give up.
  • How developing your fundamentals will also boost your productivity.
  • Matt & Noah’s art heroes.
  • How to make more time for your art.
  • What to do when you’re stuck on a painting.

“..one of the really exciting things about what we do is that there’s no real end to learning. You can always come back to the fundamentals over and over again. For me, it’s quite addictive.”

- Darren Yeow

Tutorials Mentioned:

Artists Mentioned:

John Singer Sargent

George Inness

Albert Bierstadt

Thomas Moran

John White Alexander

Jean-Léon Gérôme

Awesome Links:

Free Digital Painting Tutorials from Matt Kohr

The Nomad Art Satchel

Darren Yeow on Facebook

Noah’s Art Camp

Ed Catmull’s Creativity Inc.

Alla Prima

The Realities of Being a Professional Artist

The Death of Freelance Illustration

Perspective Grid Brushes

The Magic Box: Everything I Know About Digital Painting

Join The Conversation:

What are your favorite fundamental workouts?

Share your thoughts in the comments below!

Subscribe & Get My FREE Digital Painting Kit!

[ I will never spam you or share your information ]

{ 34 comments… read them below or add one }

Paula

Amazing triple interview. Thank you Chris!
Still watching all the way through the end, but I would like to add something.

I have been working with graphic and webdesign for some time now, and when I was learning something I always questioned “how can I apply this to my artworks?”.
And it always nail down to the same thing: artists (both designers and concept artists) have to build a strong “self awareness” while painting/designing. And that’s something that studying fundamentals and practice build over time.

Young artists have to stop looking at their art with so much love at the point that you won’t change anything cause its “my precious art”. While painting, dive deep into it, but keep that “inner observer” awake, always zooming out and looking at the bigger picture.

When I learnt this at webdesign, it totally flipped the coin on how I was working with my own artworks. You can (and should) pour all the love into your art, but keep yourself alert, don’t take it too personally. Don’t dive into it so deep that you don’t know how to surface and see the bigger picture.

Ok, gotta finish this amazing interview now :D

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Chris Oatley

That is a great point, Paula!

Thank you so much for taking the time to share.

I’m so glad you liked the show!

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Paula

Yup, finished.
Awesome! Thank you very much for your work Chris!
Love to listen to all your stuff when working or sketching, cooking, whatever :D

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Tannie

It really seems like a handful: to love your art but at the same time, don’t keep it so close to your heart, and be mindful about what you’re creating — but you are right, it does take some time to actually implement this all at once and then it becomes second hand nature — you don’t even notice you’re doing it or struggling to do all that at once!

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Savanna

I was bummed I missed this. Thank you so much for posting it!

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Chris Oatley

You’re welcome! Thanks, Savanna! I hope you find it inspiringly ranty! ;)

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David

This was quite interesting again. Listening to the importance of fundamentals, sometimes, made me notice that I have the feel like being about to avoid the “studying-part” of practice. There is a kind of inner voice saying “Boring!”, while in fact it is or might be boring, but it is important to understand how things work.

I tried to keep that voice quiet by mixing studies directly to my personal work. If I do a landscape-study, I try to apply the process directly to an own landscape. Whereas it is my own personal work, I still study the same shape of a mountain, or the way atmosphere works, or colour. It is helping me to stay “actively” interested in the subject matter.

The best thing regarding colourmixing and colourtheory, for me, is to do traditional acrylic paintings. Due to their long process, I recently did three and am working on a fourth one.
While mixing colours, or colourpicking them, in Photoshop doesn’t really make me think “Oh, I need more red, some yellow, etc. in order to get that tone I want or need”, I have to stay focussed in the traditional way of colourmixing. I recommend to work on at least one traditional painting besides whatever else has to be done (it might help).

It improved my perception of colour, so that digital work became far less of a struggle, although I can see a lot of stuff I can do better next time after each 2-3 days or earlier. It can be frustrating to an extend, but it is also a good sign as it means that my skills are growing. (Have to stay positive)

And last but not least: I discovered traditional painting to be a great way to learn more about myself, or my own characters (and my habits). Painting a scene with one of my characters traditionally requires me to spend a lot of time with the process (unavoidable with traditional colours) and also a lot of time with that character. It is like all the time I put into the traditional work forces me to understand a character better, because there is a deeper thinking process in the first place. It affects the understanding of the character’s anatomy and overall appearance, but also the thoughts regarding his/her story and personality. Might sound weird, but it’s really what I experienced so far.
Whereas digital tends to be kinda rushed due to it’s nature to allow a lot of shortcuts.

However, I have one digital painting that I am doing completely by hand as well, to apply the attitude of what I experience with traditional tools to the digital one. Knowing that I could do shortcuts, but not doing such, is a tremendous challenge for the own self discipline.

All in all it works well for me at the moment. (I also broke the urge to upload everything I do as soon as possible)

Thank you for another great hour of listening to your thoughts and experiences, and greetings to you all. :)
I will check out the links as soon as I can.

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Chris Oatley

Thanks, David!

So glad to hear about your artistic growth! …and I’m happy to know the podcast helped to focus your efforts!

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Britny Arnett

So, I started listening to this and I realized that I’d heard it before! It was great to listen to it again. I definitely picked up some things I didn’t hear the first time… especially the tips about drawing boxes, perspective, master studies… somehow I missed that. Now I’m going to test that out.

Also, THANK YOU for answering my question about organization. I really really took it to heart. I’ve gotten a lot better about finishing small things.

The part about Bob Dillon and stories and how to inject yourself into your artwork applies directly to what I’ve been thinking about this week.

Thanks for hosting/posting this, Chris. Great, amazing, inspiring, worth listening to 10 more times.

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Chris Oatley

Thanks, Britny! Haha… Yes! I think we answered one of your questions when we recorded it live, correct?

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Britny Arnett

Yessir! I was listening in. Soooooooo awesome.

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Jacob Cashmore

Great pod Chris!
The one thing I want to comment on is the subject of Jealousy; I think people mistake it for Envy. Jealousy and Envy are quite common, the difference is that Jealousy inspires people to act in a positive way while Envy leads towards negativity. In my experience Jealousy has motivated me to work many times after I’ve see good art, especially good art from someone who is either younger or at the same stage as me. (I’m only 21 and seeing a younger person better than me at this stage can really grind my gears)
Envy though has often killed my motivation and instead of picking up a pencil or stylus I’ll pick up a Game controller and wish that I was better than I was while not making it happen.
So if you get Jealous use that motivation and get working, only the envious sit and dream…
that’s my opinion on the matter anyway…

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Chris Oatley

Thanks for sharing, Jacob! Yes, I think the key is to be motivated by the work of great artists, not defeated by them.

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kammi

Thanks for mentioning all these great things about perspective and proportion, anatomy, composition, colour, etc. It’s funny; one of my teachers was talking about how in Entertainment, there is a tendency to just render everything (as though that’s a solution to problems). He’s a designer; he doesn’t care that much about the rendering until the structure is completed, and stresses that WHAT you communicate (in terms of the design) is more important than just making a shiny ‘polished turd’ render that tells you nothing about a design.
There is SO much focus on technique (particularly for digital painting) that I really was just turned off of all of it, and I’ve been doing a lot more traditional stuff lately and working with my hands (clay and other organic and inorganic materials). In these groups, I find that the students are a LOT more patient than in a lot of the ‘digital rendering’ classes and respect process and revision (which is integral to good design) and a lot more thought is put in. Also, there is NO ego. No one says “yeah man, that character is so awesome dude!”; everyone understands it’s not a race but a journey, and NO fanboys (or if they are, they leave pretty quickly when they realize how ‘boring’ the class is). Also, there is a more a sense (thank in just using a programme like Photoshop) that if you mess up, it affects a lot of things; for example, if you’re sculpting a figure standing on one leg with their hands in the air (like a ballerina), and the weight and balanced isn’t worked out, it won’t stand up or will keep falling over (in one direction; front to back or side to side).
The older painters we study today understood this SO well that even in their drawings and paintings you can SEE balance, line of action, etc.
I was in a class just yesterday where a guy was literally putting together a bicycle from scratch (my interests are half art/half science; I think a lot of artists are this way, actually, and don’t understand the ‘we don’t do math or care about science’ mentality of a lot of artists, when the Renaissance artists were OBSESSED with art, science, and how it affected and was observed in the world around them), and he listened as his teacher was telling him that if the back plate was not horizontal and level, the bike would forever be skewed to one side/ biased while he was riding. If that guy ever had to design a bike in Photoshop, I’m SURE he would be that much better for understanding that kind of stuff.
Thanks so much for this great post…much appreciated!

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Chris Oatley

Thanks, kammi!

Yes. This is exactly why, in The Magic Box, I have placed SO much emphasis on art history, sketches, studies and traditional painting.

Digital painting is digital PAINTING! :)

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Mandy Milliron

Finally got to finish this podcast when the internet cut me off during the livestream! Though, glad to hear it as a lot of the information on fundamentals and such is important as I found out. Just taking a refresher course on composition has gone a long way for my work and I planning to save up to take more classes from SVS along with get into Art Camp and Magic Box later on.

Though, I am like you, Chris. I am trying to keep the ideas under control, though I haven’t found my stone that helps keep me grounded yet. I just found out putting those ideas of the shelf to stew really helped as I looked back at an old project idea and realize the issues I was having trying to get it going was because I was over thinking it and it now made sense with looking at it. So, I switched out the comic I am working on with my old novel idea to let the comic idea stew and settle since I am writing away at the novel with no problems now. I am even now gotten a routine down for working on personal projects, both in writing and art… Which, sadly, everyone but my twin sister thinks I am not working since at the moment I have no income(hence why I am focusing on personal projects due to bad part-time job market to help support my career and living till I can make it with just art and writing) and I have plenty of free time to be volunteered without getting my consent. That’s the main issue I been fighting with the last few weeks and still figuring out, especially since I will have to move my work desktop into my parent’s home due to issues at my aunt’s and uncle’s where I sleep and work at most of time due to the extra room there. Mobile home trailers make lousy studios when it’s not your own home.

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Alberto Gonzalez

Yaiks, now I will listen the podcast as I couldn’t finish it :P
I like what you say and how you say it and write it.
Cheers Chris!!!

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Bill

Can’t wait to listen to this one. Fundamentals is all I’m working on right. I’m still pretty new to “art”, only about 10 months in I feel like I’m an anamoly because I don’t have a drawing tablet and I’m not drawing manga… (Not that there’s anything wrong with that…). But I go around dA and ConceptArt.org and it seems like most folk, especially beginners expect to be a pro without putting in the work on basics. I may be extreme in how I’m going about my education on foundation and the basics but it’s working nicely IMHO and I really enjoy the process of it. To not just copy, but start to understand why. And it is all done with paper and pencils.
I’m still new :)
(If it’s allowed, my dA account. Nothing fancy at all, just bones…)
http://billydoubleu.deviantart.com

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Mandy Milliron

Good to hear, Bill, that your working hard to your goals. Though, you could have put your DA account as your website. Any website url works in the rely information. Just wanted to let you know for future reference.

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Bill

Hey thanks! I really don’t know how some of these blog post work with the responses :)

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Abrian Curington

Great finale to this series! The basics are so incredibly important. I almost always work traditionally but I still have to draw all the time. I never used to draw enough. Even now, when I’m creating projects I often skip the warm up because I don’t have a lot of time (much like exercise, the warm up takes up all the time to exercise) but I can always see the difference in my work when don’t take the time to do so.

Then, when I’m in practice, liking my drawing/inking, I add the color (watercolor) and find a New level of frustration! So I bound a watercolor sketchbook and started practicing that as well. Which comes to your point on simplicity. Watercolor is all about simplicity except that it’s frustratingly hard to master! There’s always the dazzle and allure in the idea that super gorgeously rendered art will make you popular, but the point is to tell a story, not just have dazzling eye candy (though who doesn’t love that from time to time). Thanks for the reminder to go simple.

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Mandy Milliron

Watercolor is really hard to master! I am still mastering it as well, but the frustration is worth it! You can even do sketches with just the watercolors as I done some nature study’s through that means. It’s a great way to learn how to control the watercolors to make both a hard and soft edge without relying on an drawing which makes it easier when you do work with a drawing. Which I am actually about to work on some watercolor either today or tomorrow as I am switching back to using more traditional media now that I finally figured out how to use my camera to take pictures of my traditional work for my digital portfolio and such(not using my Iphone). Though, definitely fell in love with Manga Studio 5 and planning to work in both media from now on.

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Rebecca Weis

Thank you so much for making this podcast Chris! I really like hearing professional level advice from you and the guys you had with you in this podcast. It’s always fun to hear how each of you approach art subjects and how you solve your problems with your art pieces. I also like seeing what links you provide under the podcast, it’s fun for me, as I’m somewhere in the beginning/intermediate category, to discover new things that could be helpful to my artistic growth. Oh, and while I was perusing Tumblr one day a person I followed recommend Matt Kohr’s site for his helpful tutorials so I recognized his name in the list of people you would talk with.
I’ve been going to it as often as I can and watching his tuts and doing his suggested exercises because I need to improve my fundamentals. I’m so glad that Matt has made this site and filled it with valuable videos and advice!
I’ve also investigated Noah Bradley’s ‘Art Camp’ and am glad he’s offering online classes like you on learning the fundamentals of art. :)

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Luke Sells

Great Podcast! I love it when you and Noah get together and now with Matt and Darren joining in, it’s just awesome. The Fundamentals are key, but is it possible for someone to focus too much on studies and practice that they have a hard time moving on to their own personal works? Just curious.

Had a really fun time watching you paint during the podcast. One of my favorite brushes right now is the “Brush Ninja” and I enjoyed watching it in action. HIYA!

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Manny

I to wondered about this.
About a year ago I said screw it and did a fan project to see if I could do it. It didn’t come out as good as I wanted to but I did impress myself in some parts.
I think sometimes if you have studied for a bit and feel the need to create something you should just do it. What it did for me was showed me more of my flaws but also where I have improved. I think sometimes just throwing yourself into something can inspire you further to practice.

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Luke

Hi Manny,

I agree. Its really the only way to know in what areas you need to improve. Thanks for the reply! : ]

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Abrian Curington

I used to be a researcher. I would study technique, composition, etc. but would never actually put things into practice thinking that I’m not at the level I want to be in order to start. I wasn’t really practicing either. Just absorbing information. Recently I’ve thrown that to the wind and just started doing things and drawing as often as I can. I’m much better off for it even if the project doesn’t start perfectly!

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Luke

Hi Abrian,

That is exaclty were I think I am at right now. Just absorbing as much information as I can until I feel ready. Been slowly moving out of this faze and just started drawing and painting for the sake of drawing and painting. Thanks for replying! : ]

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Luke Sells

Just finished the artcast. I heard the part about going outside and having your own experiences and bringing that to your artwork, which is so true. Answers my question. : ]

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Tegan Clancy

Haha so many home truths in this artcast. I think the first 6 months of this year I have focused just on fundamentals and the growth has been super exciting. An easy one to do is just watch the classic black and white films to learn about story and composition but most important, very clever value mastery. Fun podcast guys!

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Emily Hann

Great talk, guys. I’m definitely checking out Noah’s youtube channel!

I’ve got to say though, sacrificing sleep can be a really bad idea. Coming from someone who has had chronic insomnia, it can greatly affect your mood and mental state. Not to mention the quality of work you will produce. Of course, if you have a baby in your family, it’s unavoidable. But if you are given the chance to catch up on sleep or your personal project, go for the sleep! You can always hold a baby with one arm and draw with the other ;)

And congrats to Chris for deciding to adopt! I’ve always wanted to adopt and am still planning for it in a few years, but I know it can be a long and difficult process. Best wishes :)

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Autumn

I really extra super enjoyed this one, especially the last thirty seconds. The focus on fundamentals is such a good point. It helps creation be more intentional instead of relying on that magic piece that just worked but we don’t know why. I also love the point that we never outgrow fundamentals. Sometimes I feel like I can spend a lifetime just studying values. Which I need to practice right now…:-) thanks for sharing this

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