Thursday, November 20, 2014

Kelley Hensing @ Last Rites Gallery

Kelley Hensing    Revenge of the Wild  oil on panel

 This Saturday will see the opening at Last Rites Gallery of a wonderful new body of work from painter Kelley Hensing, The Animal Within.  Kelley's work opens a dialog between humanity and the natural world and raises the questions, are we natures caretaker or its destroyer?  Are we one with the world or living a life disconnected?  There is a wonderful and powerful play of imagery in these works which leaves the questions unanswered.  Truth is in the eye of the beholder and the part we play is indeed left to our individual intent and actions.

Kelley's imagery blends together dynamic figuration with renderings of the natural world.  Her careful consideration of imagery selected to resonate with the custom, found frames for each oil painting adds to the mystic and beauty of the objects as art, and speaks to her high degree of craftsmanship and detail.  Care exhibited in her craft is mirrored in the passion in the content of her work.

Kelley shares her thoughts below:
I consider myself a lover of nature. To explore a forest, to watch wild animals in their environments, and to admire their uniqueness, reflects our origins as humans and inspires in me a sense of divine mystery. At the same time, I see how we dominate these beautiful things and put them to personal use. We’ve altered animals to serve us, we mow down entire landscapes to enable more humans to thrive.  In the process we often distort and cripple nature in our wake.  Because I’m not the one personally doing these things I somehow feel exonerated, but this is the big red curtain that feels more comfortable left in place.   I enjoy meat almost every day without connecting with where it came from or how it got to my table.  I allow someone else to birth hoards of animals and to do the slaughter for me. Yet I recoil at the thought of killing something, and donate money to save pets that have no homes.  For myself and many of us this is an unintended hypocrisy, and in defense of being human we have a right to thrive.  Yet now that we’ve become experts in human survival, I feel it’s vital for the long-term existence of ourselves and the plants and animals around us that we begin rekindling a true reverence for the natural world.  The best way I know how to communicate this is through my artwork. 
I recall a moment a few years ago where a pigeon was fanned out in death against some pebbles.  The combination of beauty and decay was distinct, fascinating.  I took it’s picture.  Death must have been invisible to me before, because now these dead and dying birds began showing up on my radar.  I started documenting them.  I found one under an overpass that someone had swaddled in paper towels. Another was half alive and half buried in leaves in a gutter.  A good number of the deceased were indirectly donated by Mitsou the cat.  It occurred to me, while these birds were experiencing their final moments of life, most of us living were walking right by, unaware that a solitary ending was taking place.  This began suggesting all sorts of tangents about death to me, both in a personal way and in the view of the human experience as a whole.  Will someone be around to care when it’s my time?  I wonder if it will be violent or peaceful?  Does anything happen after that?  Birds are a seemingly universal symbol for the human spirit, so as I amassed my somewhat morbid collection, the artist in me began searching for ways to turn this into art.  The appropriate place turned up when I found a way of merging the bird portraits with a related concept I’d been waiting to create of a divine death tree. The result is “The Tree Where the Birds Go To Die”.
The Animal Within
November 22- December 27th, 2014
Opening reception with the Artist, Saturday November 22, 7-11pm
Last Rites Gallery
325 W. 38th Street
between 8th & 9th Avenue
New York City

The Tree Where the Birds Go To Die   Kelley Hensing  oil on panel
Kelley Hensing    Paradox    oil on panel
Kelley Hensing      The Venus Twins       graphite drawing

Kelley Hensing    Parcae- Three Fates   oil on panel

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Grave Sifter

By Jesper Ejsing

Here is a magic card illustration I did a while back. I got to design some kind of evil forest monster rooting up tombstones with undead crawling up from the ground.

In the thumb stage I established most of what made it to final. I chose a very low horizontal line to make us look from below up on the monster making him seem more gigantic and impressive. I have a soft spot for monsters without eyes. i think it makes them more primal to be equipped only with the bare necessities for eating: mouth and teeth. Eyes are too personal.

I ink the whole thing up on paper and add black acrylics to establish the values. From thumb to sketch I flattened out the perspective even more. I removed the zombie to the right since I wanted the focus to be on the 2 ones underneath him. I put a stone and a tree to the left in the foreground to make it appear that we are looking from behind something. It puts the viewpoint more into the scene.

I wanted the mood of this image to be very grey and without colors. As if the scene was lit only by moonlight, but I needed a strong accent color to show some magic element. Adding the pinkish tone to the mouth helps draw attention to the facial area. I think that little contrast color in a green/greyish palette helps wonder isn pulling the overall image away from being monochromatic. By having ONE off color you read the image as deeper and more colorful even though it is mostly build up by very simple color choices. Also the fact that all values was chosen beforehand really makes the coloring only a matter of creating texture.

In the final painting stage I scrapped the pine trees and replaced them with strange willow-like trunks. Also I replaced the leaves and branches on his back with the same kind of branch like shapes.
I am pretty happy with how few stages there are between the first thumb and the final image. I didn't have any stage between the thumb and the drawing on the paper I painted on. By transferring only a thumb instead of a more rendered sketch I keep everything fresh and alive and lets the dynamic from the thumb translate all the way to final...that is, when everything goes well.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014


Pareidolia is a psychological phenomenon in which people find significant meaning in random stimuli.  Such as seeing human faces in random shapes, like clouds.

Elido Turco is an Italian photographer who uses our natural propensity for finding faces, to create surreal, fantastic creates out of organic elements.

Using just a camera and a mirror, he creates arrangements that are full life and narrative.

You can see more of these 'forest faces', along with Elido's other work, on his Flickr page.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Some Basics About Publishing Part 4

by Arnie Fenner

How do you find a publisher, particularly if you're playing rōnin and representing yourself without an agent?


If you're already working in the field in some way, painting book covers or gaming cards, you already have some sort of relationship with an art director or editor: it never hurts to tell them what you're thinking of and ask for suggestions. Provided you've been a pro and gotten along well, most are willing to provide tips and perhaps make introductions.

But let's say you don't already have a connection in the industry. First, note the publishers/imprints for books along similar lines to what you're planning to do by searching online or looking at catalogs or visiting bookstores. Peruse both the art and genre sections (or children's book departments if that's your focus) to find out who is doing what. Amazon is a given, but Bud Plant and Stuart Ng are both great starting places; your local Barnes & Noble or independent bookseller are wonderful resources.

Once you have a rough list in hand you can begin to research specifics: submission guidelines, preferences (will they take submissions via email or strictly as hard copies?), and contact information. Everybody has a website, but books like Writer's Market—and Artist's Market and Children's Writer's & Illustrator's Market, too—can save you a lot of time and be quite useful (though given changes that can take place between the compilation of material and publication they're never 100% accurate).

The list of publishers who either specialize in or have lines devoted to art books is long and should probably be the first you pitch your proposal to, but there are also publishers who sort of "dabble" and produce an art book occasionally when it seems to fit in with their programs. Boris Vallejo's first book was released under the del Rey imprint and Rowena Morrill's came out from Pocket and neither publisher were (or are) particularly known for their art monographs; comics giant Dark Horse is responsible for wonderful books by Charles Vess and Eric Joyner so you can't really cross any publisher of your search list without doing your homework. No one can know everything, no one can know everyone, but networking with fellow artists—purposefully going to conventions and exhibitions where publishers, editors, and art directors are in attendance—will provide contacts, suggestions, and insights that you'll never get sitting at home cruising the internet by yourself. Remember, publishing is personal and a little face time at a show can open some doors that might otherwise seem closed.

Fair Use. What can you put in your book once you've got it sold? What can't you? I'm going to take a deep breath and try to keep this as brief and clear as I can in the most general of ways: please keep that in mind.

Essentially, the Fair Use Doctrine grants limited use of material copyrighted by others without getting the permission of the rights holder. Sometimes the owners grouse, sometimes they have lawyers rattle sabers and send Cease & Desist demands to try to scare the users, and sometimes, yes, they sue in the hopes of attaining a settlement to their satisfaction without actually going to trial. Because believe me, corporations or estates or individuals never want to go before a judge and/or jury in a Fair Use case. Why? Litigation is horribly expensive no matter which side of the fence you're on, the outcome is never predictable—and, historically speaking, the legitimate Fair Use defense wins cases more often than it doesn't. Lawsuits are public records and if you lose…everyone knows it. Routinely Fair Use is used for works of criticism, parody, news reporting, education, research, historical documentation, archiving, and scholarship. Title 17 of the United States Code of Copyright, Section 107, outlines the "four factors of analysis" that the courts use to determine the difference between Fair Use and infringement. What are the four factors? Click and read.

Above left: DC Comics was not happy when EC parodied Superman (brilliantly written by Harvey Kurtzman and drawn by Wally Wood) in Mad and threatened litigation. Publisher Bill Gaines talked to his attorney who advised him to thumb his nose at DC, which he did. No further action was taken, other than Kurtzman poking DC when Batman got the same treatment several issues later: the strip featured notes and signs in various panels saying, "This is a PARODY! You know what a parody is don't ya?" Ironically, many years later Mad became a part of DC, which has happily reprinted the classic comic many times. 

Fair Use also applies to "transformativeness," which happens when something that might otherwise be considered a derivative (and thus protected) work spinning off from a copyrighted property, actually transcends the original in some way or provides new insight about (or way to view) the original that would not be available without the transformative work and ultimately benefits the public as a result.

Damn. That all sounds complicated, doesn't it? Well, that's because it is. As with all aspects of the law, everything is ruled by specific statutes and legal precedent and the interpretations of same. What might seem like absolutes are only such until challenged—which is why there are no black and white absolutes when it comes to the law, but rather constantly evolving interpretations and reinterpretations as new additions are made and new precedents set.

Okay, let's look at this several different ways. You've been painting book covers and want to do a  collection of them. Unless there's been some weird language in your purchase order or contract, you can do whatever you want, not only with a book, but with prints, calendars, T-shirts, or whatever. It does not matter whether you've been illustrating Harry Potter or Game of Thrones or anything else that has a high profile and possibly multiple licensing programs, if you didn't reassign your copyright the art, is yours to do with as you will—and that includes putting them into a collection of your art. Within, naturally, certain parameters.

You can't design or market your book in such a way that it causes confusion among consumers. It's easy to muddy the waters and inadvertently imply authorization or license from a legitimate rights holder, either corporation or author, where none exists—and that's a huge no-no.

Say you've painted 50 Stephen King covers as a freelancer; you can certainly take them all and put them in a book, but you can't market it in such a way as to make it seem like a Stephen King book. You can't emblazon *STEPHEN KING!!!* big on the cover and you can't imply in some way that King is somehow intimately involved unless you enter into a license with him. (If someone wants to do a book about King, including any illustrations based on his fiction, that falls in the realm of "scholarly" or "educational" purpose and is permitted under the Fair Use doctrine, including the use of King's name in the title—"The World of Stephen King"—but obviously not as the by-line. Again, it's about King, not by him and that has to be made crystal clear to the average Joe looking at the book.)

Above left: Disney's Tigger. Above right: Dan LuVisi's Fine Art (and legal) revisioning.

Someone had asked earlier about Dan LuVisi's series of revisions of iconic cartoon (and Sesame Street) characters that formed the basis of a gallery show and which were widely distributed on the web: how is that allowed? Easy: the works were transformative—reinterpreting (editorializing in a sense) the characters in an entirely different way from their original incarnation or intent—and as such, protected as Fair Use. He did not merely copy characters, he changed them significantly allowing for for a different context and evaluation, a new conversation.

Above left: Donato's book added dimension to Tolkien's fiction while also chronicling Dan's art and serving as a reference for scholars and researchers of his career.

Similarly, Donato's Middle-Earth: Visions of a Modern Myth is transformative (and thus protected by Fair Use) because he was revisioning J.R.R. Tolkien's words as pictures, providing his own personal commentary and analysis and discussing the illustration work he had done for various publishers. Tolkien and his publishers never created a "Lord of the Rings" character art style guide for licensing (thus locking in a specific look that could be copyrighted) to cause concerns of infringement. Virtually all of the character descriptions—from Gandalf's pointy hat to the features of the Orcs—are generic and Public Domain by this point and Tolkien's name does not appear on the front cover or in Middle-Earth's marketing (so there is no confusion of authorship) nor does his text appear in the book. Donato's book bring's something new, unique, and ultimately valuable for readers to the table and, as such, is permitted.

As mentioned above, if someone—author, estate, or corporation—wanted to sue over a similar project, there's nothing to stop them (other than common sense). Including a credit to copyright owners is not an invincible protection against litigation. This is America: we sue all the time, regardless of grounds. Some estate owners of works that have lapsed into the Public Domain have tried to maintain control over the properties (and demanded fees for permissions from users) by trademarking unique names in the works willy-nilly and there are still cases winding their ways through the courts determining whether copyright status trumps trademarks: we'll see what happens (the Betty Boop case is one of the most interesting to watch). For the most part it's an attempt to game the legal system by intimidating plaintiffs with less money fearful of fighting a costly legal battle, but recently the Supreme Court let stand a Court of Appeals ruling that the bulk of the Sherlock Holmes characters and stories published prior to 1920 were in the Public Domain. In a repudiation to the Arthur Conan Doyle estate, Appeals Court Judge Richard Posner stated, "The Doyle estate's business strategy is plain: charge a modest license fee for which there is no legal basis, in the hope that the 'rational' writer or publisher asked for the fee will pay it rather than incur a greater cost, in legal expense, in challenging the legality of the demand."

You can be sure that the "owners" of other Public Domain characters had a stiff drink when the news came out.

One of the more famous cases in which an author won a lawsuit against a publisher of a transformative/Fair Use book was J.K. Rowling's/Warner Bros.' 2008 suit against RDR Books for the Harry Potter Lexicon. Ms Rowling prevailed not because such a book was not allowed under Fair Use, but because the author had used too much of Rowling's copyrighted text in it. In his ruling for the author Judge Robert Patterson rejected many of lawsuit's rights assertions and was careful to say, "While the Lexicon, in it's current state, is not Fair Use of the Harry Potter works, reference works that share the Lexicon's purpose of aiding readers of literature generally should be encouraged rather than stifled." RDR subsequently revised the book, removing Rowling's text, and republished it in 2009 without challenge.

But what if you have signed away your copyright? Say with art for game cards or comics or advertising?

Well, you can still use the art (at least some of it) in your book…with limitations.

As mentioned earlier, a collection of an artist's work is generally seen as historical, educational, and as scholarly reference. If part of your career includes concept art for, say, Avatar or drawing covers for The X-Men you are allowed to include some examples in a retrospective book about your career with the proper copyright credit. Precisely how many pieces you can use without needing permission or tipping over to infringement is a little murky: percentages are sometimes cited, but they're largely meaningless and nothing is carved in stone. Basically, "some" (perhaps 10–15% or so of the art in a book owned by another single rights holder) is generally viewed as "okay," whereas "a lot" will probably illicit an angry legal response. What you definitely can not do is publish a book of only your Avatar or X-Men art without the permission of the copyright holder. Nor can you use any work that is copyrighted by another for your book's covers or in the advertising for same: such usage confuses consumers as to the actual ownership of the property as well as infringes on rights sold to other licensors (it's competing with them by using their own property) and is not allowed. Fair Use flies out the window when such use undermines the rights of the legitimate copyright owner.

Above: Jon Foster's collection r/evolution included work from all aspects of his career—books, game cards, comics, and film—and, as a retrospective reference book and because all the rights holders were credited, the use was all perfectly legal.

When in doubt, it never hurts to talk to your clients, tell them what you're planning, discuss any concerns, and get formal permission of use in advance. Remember, publishing is personal and most are willing to work with the artists. Yes, sure, you'll encounter the occasional buttmunch; there are some clients who behave like the albatrosses in Finding Nemo chanting "Mine! Mine! Mine!" as a matter of course even though they don't have any legitimate claim. Better you find out who the potential troublemakers are in advance rather than be blindsided by a letter from some legal department down the road—and you can always secure the services of counsel to negotiate use on your behalf if your own attempts have stalled. But for the most part, clients tend to be cooperative and helpful, particularly if you've maintained a good relationship.

Likewise, you can not whip up a bunch of paintings featuring Marvel superheroes doing typically Marvel superheroes stuff and publish them in a book, regardless of if you've ever worked for Marvel or not. That's blatant infringement; there's no parody, commentary, transformative, or historical context, it's merely trying to cash in on something you don't own. As I said with my earlier post about copyright, an artist can draw anything they want any time they want, but there are limitations as to what they can legally publish or somehow distribute. The artist has to create something new, create an entirely different context and understanding, something (as I said) transformative, not merely capitalize upon the work of or exploit the property owned by others.

Painting Batman fighting the Joker is not transformative; painting Batman marrying the Joker could be (provided DC didn't already do it themselves).

Yes, you can go to conventions and see any number of artists selling sketchbooks filled with new drawings of various companies' characters without their permission, but that doesn't mean it's legal. Those artists are gambling that they're flying under the copyright owner's radar and can get away with it—and for the most part they are and do. But anytime Disney or Warner Bros. or any other rights owner wants to crack down, they can. And you do not want to be standing at Ground Zero if they drop the bomb.

That's the bare bones of Fair Use. Naturally there are plenty of grey areas and if you have any questions or worries regarding a project, definitely seek advice from an attorney well-versed in copyright and intellectual property law.


Saturday, November 15, 2014

Odd Nerdrum Opening Tonight in LA!

by Eric Fortune

"Crossing the Border" 81 x 101" oil on canvas

It's been almost ten years since there's been an Odd Nerdrum exhibition in the LA area.  If you're in the neighborhood I would highly recommend taking advantage of this rare opportunity to see some Odd Nerdrum Originals.  The opening is at Copro Gallery.   If you're like me and not in the area you can check out the work online here.

Artist of the Month: JMW Turner

-By William O’Connor

Bio pics about painters are notoriously disappointing, (The Girl With the Pearl Earring 2003, Klimt 2006, Goya’s Ghosts 2006 et al.)  There are of course a few exceptions, (Sunday in the Park with George 1984, New York Stories: Life Lessons 1989, et al.)  The reason I think for this loss in translation is the fact that the act of painting is rather boring.  Those who understand painting know that it can comprise long tedious hours of monotonous craft sitting in a chair.  This usually does not lend itself to compelling cinema and even the best films merely try to translate the beauty of the paintings into cinematography.  The opposite holds true for music, where the act of the craft is inherently theatrical and makes for excellent films, (Amadeus 1984, Walk the Line 2005, Coal Miner’s Daughter 1980, Impromtu 1991, et al.)

So I am cautiously optimistic that the new film Mr. Turner (due out in limited release this December) starring Timothy Spall will do credit to its eponymous title, the legendary artist JMW Turner (1775-1851).

Turner is regarded in the art world to be one of the greatest masters of painting.  Studying at the Royal Academy as well as in Paris Turner experienced great success with his work throughout his career.  His later work with its abstract expressionistic application became an inspiration for many of the ground breaking Modern artists of the late 19th century.  Like his paintings the man himself was regarded as an eccentric iconoclast.  His paintings often depicting the violence and kinetic energy of the new industrial revolution that was growing around him, illustrating the impressionistic movement of nature in the very forceful and animated brush strokes he used.

Today the works of Turner are some of the most valued paintings in the world.  The Tate Gallery in London boasts the largest collection, but other museums hold his works in their collections. The opportunity to see these magnificent paintings is one that should not be missed. 

For an excellent documentary of Turner watch the Power of Art episode:

And a clip from Mr. Turner that makes me think of Set-up day at Illuxcon:

Friday, November 14, 2014

Ruling and Lettering Pens

-By Howard Lyon

I love old art supplies.  I love new supplies too, but sometimes old is more interesting.

When I was a kid, my dad gave me a set of ruling pens and technical pens that belonged to my grandfather.  I come from family of architects and engineers on my dad's side and some of the tools of their trade were these neat old pens.  My grandfather helped to engineer some of the roads that are still used between Arizona and Utah and he used these pens.

WRICO lettering technical pens

You can buy some really nice ruling pens today, but they take a little time to break in.  The paper will wear off the little burrs and make them butter smooth, but if you can get an older set that has been used already, I recommend it.  Search on ebay and you can find some great old sets.

Ruling pens work by capillary action, storing ink between two metal tines and releasing it as the paper breaks the surface tension of the ink.  You can adjust the screw to increase/decrease the distance between the tines and change the width of the line it draws.  They are great for technical drawings and cartography and are also used in calligraphy.  If you have wondered how some old drawings and maps had thick accurate straight lines, they probably used a ruling pen.  Of course they are still used today (James Gurney used one when making some of the drawings in his Dinotopia book), but computers have displaced much of their use.

There is an analog quality to their lines that I find very warm, but still precise.  There are many kinds of ruling pens too.  Here are some of the pens in the set I inherited from my grandfather.

1. Ruling pen compass - Great for drawing circles of varying widths.

2. Ruling pen with a curved tip - Because of the angle of the tip on this pen you can draw in any direction.  It is a great pen for lettering.  Really versatile pen.  I like this one a lot.  The little well just before the tip is where the ink pools before being drawn out the tip.  It doesn't have a lot of variance in the width of the line it draws, but the screw provides a little adjustment.

3. Lettering pen with a fine tip - These pens were the predecessors to the Rapidograph Technical pens.  These older pens are so much better.  They are really durable and easy to use.  You fill the well through the opening behind the tip, using a dropper or a brush and then you work the plunger at the back of the pen to get the ink flowing.  They give a great consistent clean line.

4. Lettering pen with a flared tip - Same as the above pen, but with a larger tip.  This pen gives a thicker line, but not as clean unless you keep it straight up and down and go slow.

5. Swedish ruling pen - Similar to a straight ruling pen, but it holds more ink, and is a little more versatile.  You can tilt them and they give some cool calligraphic effects.

6. Ruling pen - This is the most common kind of ruling pen.  Great lines, easy to use.

7. Drop compass - This neat little compass isn't a ruling pen, but I thought I would include it.  You have probably seen them, but if you haven't it is really great for drawing tiny circles.  If you have tried to draw a circle less than a centimeter with a normal compass you know how tricky it can be.  This compass has a plunger that drops down and rotates the lead around the needle, making smaller circles with ease.

Some quick lines. 1-3 are done with a normal ruling pen. 4-5 are the technical lettering pens and 6 was done with the Swedish ruling pen.  You can easily adjust the line width.  The circles were done with the ruling pen compass.

While you are waiting for Star Wars: The Force Awakens, you can watch this very exciting video showing how some of the pens function:


If you are interested in doing some ink work and haven't played around with traditional tools, be sure to pick up some ruling pens and technical pens as well as a crow quill, a good rich ink (I like Speedball Super Black India Ink) and get your fingers black!

Bonus: the other day while browsing around the net I stumbled across this site which catalogs old art materials: The Museum of Forgotten Art Supplies.  Many of the tools are still in use, but there are some fun items there.  Definitely check out the 'Novelties' section.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

The 7 Deadly (Art) Sins: GREED

-By Lauren Panepinto

I'm back this week with sin #4 in our series on The Seven Deadly Sins, as they apply to Art and Artists. This week I'm going to talk about Greed, in a very specific application that I see a lot, especially with students and artists that are young in their development.

Often this sin is interchangeably called "Gluttony" but Gluttony and Greed are not exactly the same thing...Gluttony is more about overindulgence in things, whereas Greed is about the acquisition of things. I think the example I'm going to use here is a bit of both, so we'll title this post "Greed", because I think that's a bit closer, and "Gluttony" makes me think of that scene in Seven when the fat guy explodes and that's just disgusting...

I always found David Seidman's "Gluttony" really disturbing

I spend at lot of time in environments where inexperienced artists have the opportunity to interact with professional and master artists: Conventions, classes like smArt School, seminars, Illustration Master Class, etc. I overhear a lot of conversations going on, and over and over again I hear the "younger" artists asking "What brushes do you use?" and it kind of makes me laugh. To me, as an Art Director, it's so painfully obvious that the master's skill has little to do with their tools. Sure, it affects the art if you use the wrong tool, but on the flip side there is no magic brush that is going to paint your picture for you. There's a level of improvement in your work that better tools will give you, to a degree, and then it really tends to plateau off and only your skill remains. There's no Photoshop brush pack that will make you bang out concept art like Daniel Dociu. There is no special canvas that will suddenly give your painting the texture of a Greg Manchess.

Yet I watch as these artists are hounded for their "secrets" — and if they do not give up the name of their favorite sable-hair watercolor brush, then they are "refusing to share", or "don't want competition". As if all it would take is the leak of a Photoshop texture and anyone could make the same art that they do immediately. I was just talking to Victo Ngai about this at a recent talk she gave at the Society of Illustrators, after she got asked multiple times by the audience what exactly her methods were. As she started to break down the steps you could hear the crowd get a bit was too much work, it certainly wasn't the simple answer the questioner had hoped to get.

I know the younger artists asking don't think of it this way, but hounding an artist for their tricks implies that you think what they do is so simple that it can be bought or downloaded, and that's it. That's more than mildly insulting, folks. Not the way to talk to your art idols.

Bosch, as usual, being super-creepy. Detail of "Greed"

This applies with both traditional and digital tools, but I think the attitude is even more prevalent in the digital world. Many artists make very good money off selling their Photoshop brushes and textures, and for the record, there's nothing wrong with that, but I see so many artists much more obsessed with tracking down and acquiring and constantly striving to upgrade these brushes. And forget brushes and plugins, the same mania extends to Wacom pads, new Mac Books, rare pens, the perfect paint, medium, never ends, because no tool is going to make you a better artist on its own, it has to be your time spent practicing.

I went through a period of this shade of Greed in my early career after I graduated from SVA. I specifically had a book problem. I thought if I bought all the design annuals and collections of good design work, and all the Dover Picture Library books, and had all the reference material I could possibly need, then it would make me a better designer. Of course it's important to have reference, and inspiration, and tools, but after a little while all it did was make me a slower artist. I was so insecure about my abilities that I spent more time looking for the perfect reference or inspiration than I did on my creation of the design. I had the hardest time ever actually starting a design. I spent way too much time on the pre-game, then rushed the design itself.

I know it's comforting to think that there's a magic key, a shortcut, a safety net, and if you buy that better brush then you won't have to face what's lacking in your technique...but, as an Art Director, let me tell you, you're not fooling anyone. Put your time into your technique, and it will pay you back more than any fancy tool.

And you'll save a ton of money too.