Lexxy’s Frequently Asked Art Questions!

Last Updated: 3/31/14

Since I get the same questions on a pretty regular basis during my streams and such, I thought I might catalog the most common ones in a single post for people to reference! While my askbox is open to art-related questions, please read this first to avoid asking something I’ve already answered! If you’re seeing this as a reblog, you might need to check the source post for updated information.

It’s a pretty beefy wall of text, so click through the cut to read on!

What tablet do you use?

I currently use a Cintiq 22HD, but used regular tablets (Intuos 4, Graphire 3) for about 10 years before that.

What art programs do you use?

I work almost exclusively in Paint Tool SAI. It’s a lightweight, inexpensive PC program that has some of the basic functionality of programs like Photoshop (layers, blending options, color/value adjustment) with the painterly brush algorithms of programs like Painter.

You can download the client and purchase an official user license here! It costs ¥5400, which comes out to around $52 USD.

When I need to do heavy lifting or fine tuning, or just more advanced options, I bring my work into Photoshop. I use Illustrator for the occasional graphic design or vector pieces.

What brush settings do you use? Do you have any custom brushes? How did you get that all-over paper texture?

See this post for all my SAI brush settings and a brief texture overlay tutorial!

Would you consider making a tutorial for your painting technique?

Making a comprehensive tutorial is pretty time consuming and I’m already super swamped, so I can’t put one together right now. BUT, if you attend one of my livestreams, or watch an old video on my channel, you can see how I work in real time! I recommend this one.

Do you work in media other than digital?

I have experience in a variety of traditional media (charcoal, conte, watercolors, acrylics, oils, plaster, wax, clay, metals, markers), but the only one I use with any regularity is pencil and paper for sketching purposes. I think picking them up every now and again would really benefit my work, but they aren’t nearly as practical for freelance work, and I am not nearly as skilled with them as I am with a tablet by virtue of practice.

How do you get jobs/clients/followers?

There’s no simple answer to this, unfortunately. Creative professionals and entrepreneurs have written countless books and given countless seminars on the subject. One thing everyone can do, however, is be prolific with their work. Choose the public platforms you most enjoy using (such as deviantArt, tumblr, twitter, google+, flickr) and update them frequently and regularly.

I wouldn’t necessarily post every single thing you produce, but what you do post doesn’t have to be perfect! Reserve the cream of the crop for your portfolio, which should only show the very best of your work, but sketches, speed paintings, and personal work of all kinds can be used to show your followers and potential clients your progress and current capabilities. It also reminds them that you exist, and keeps you at the forefront of their thoughts for potential work and recommendations.

People forget very easily. It’s not purposeful, nor meant to be a slight against you, but in this age of information overload, it’s easy to lose track of things. Even things they enjoy! So, the more consistently you post, the more of a following you’ll be able to grow and maintain, which means more exposure and more opportunities!

This, by itself, does not guarantee success, of course, but it’s a very good place to start.

Do you have a deviantArt/twitter/flickr/facebook/pinterest/etc?

My twitter and deviantArt accounts are both lexxercise, same as my art blog, though I don’t update my DA anymore and probably haven’t even been on that site since like… 2012.

I don’t really use any other social media, but I do have a personal/reblog side blog as well as a dedicated twitter and tumblr for The Cloud Factory.

Do you recommend any books or tutorials for study?

Where art is concerned, book-oriented study has never suited me well, though many of my peers would recommend Andrew Loomis for anatomy and James Gurney for color and lighting studies. I rarely use tutorials either, but there is one massive tutorial-style reference by Niklas Jansson that is a fantastic collection of basic art tips and advice for artists of any level. I still refer to it to this day.

Any other tips for aspiring artists?

Aside from practicing as often as possible, I always recommend working with references and drawing from life when you can, as well as really scrutinizing the work of artists you admire. Straight up studies of existing work or photographs help exercise your artist’s eye, so to speak; to draw things as you see them, not as you think you see them, forcing you to more carefully consider positioning, negative space, the way shadows and highlights work on real life examples (at least where photographic references are concerned), volume, realistic color usage, and so on. Drawing from life is a more hardcore iteration of this, but also more difficult to accomplish since there aren’t exactly studios offering figure drawing sessions on every corner. It also tends to be more boring, especially if it’s still life/every day objects, even though it’s really good exercise.

Working with references is more along the lines of applying observational knowledge to a piece that doesn’t actually copy the source material directly, such as draped fabric when working on a long flowing cape, or action poses when trying to render a realistically foreshortened limb. It not only serves to improve a part of your drawing that you are less proficient at rendering, but enables you to render similar things in the future with less (or no) outside help.

Studying existing work can give you clues as to how to apply the knowledge gleaned from studies to your own pieces, as well as techniques you personally admire and wish to emulate, ultimately assimilating seamlessly into a style that is uniquely yours. I take inspiration both from my peers and my predecessors, as recently as Donata Giancola and Steve Prescott, or as far back as Caravaggio.

Lastly, don’t feel like you have to deny yourself drawing the things you want to draw! That’s a one way ticket to being miserable and hating what you do. It’s good, if not best, to do both. Dick around, make silly doodles, try to incorporate what you’ve learned in your studies in your own personal style. I was still drawing hella bad anime when I started taking art classes in college, which subsequently resulted in significantly less bad anime. At the very least, it’s a really great way to track improvement.

Where did you go to school? What did you study?

I got my BA at Indiana University in Bloomington, Indiana, where I double majored in Japanese Language and Culture and Studio Art. My art degree is a pretty well-rounded traditional one, consisting largely of fundamental coursework in a variety of physical mediums and lots of life studies.

I am almost 100% self-taught when it comes to digital work, however, having only taken about two semesters’ worth of computer-based graphic design.

I also briefly attended SCAD in an attempt to pursue a masters degree in illustration, but their program didn’t offer what I’d hoped in terms of guidance, and as my freelance business took off, hindered my development more than it helped.

Would you recommend those schools?

I would absolutely recommend IU for a variety of fine arts degrees. They are nationally (if not globally) renowned for their printmaking and metalsmithing departments, off the top of my head, as well as nationally ranked as a fine arts school in general. Even though their lack of digital options is somewhat frustrating, you’d be hard pressed to find better instruction in the fundamentals. I’m sure there are other really excellent schools as well, but I don’t have any first-hand experience with them so I can’t really say anything!

As for SCAD, I feel like it’s a really great industry-oriented school, but it would best benefit artists who are starting at square one professionally. Their networking opportunities are probably pretty tough to beat. It’s also significantly more expensive than a state school like IU, though, so there’s that.

More to come!