Brandy Heinrich: Art & Illustration

want to light a fire/but I can't get a spark

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"Where the magic happens"

"Where the magic happens"

Wow. It's been over half a year since I posted an update here. Well. Let's fix that, then. It's been an eventful few months. Since that last post in October, I've participated in my first public exhibit (and sold my first painting to a non-family member!), took part in a public juried show at a local gallery, had a few pieces on display in some spaces, and tried my hand at an outdoor market. I've received some commission requests and sold a few items here and there - there are pieces sporting my initials from Connecticut to Oregon and from Canada to Florida. But I've kind of hit a lull right now in my motivation to make art to sell. Part of it is upcoming travel that will make projects a little difficult to tackle, so I've decided to focus on drawing for fun and working more on some fundamentals of composition. Expect lots of photos of terrible hand drawings and messy watercolor studies, and with the themed months of "Mermay" and "Junicorn" maybe I'll be self-indulgent and do mermaid and unicorn sketches.

Plus, in the meantime, I have too many little illustrations and mixed-media pieces that I didn't sell at the market that are taking up space, so I'm going to go through and offer a lot of things for sale. The other thing I've decided to look at is creating some collage and different mixed-media pieces. I have a collection of bits and pieces (what people call "ephemera"), as well as a painting that I'm planning on incorporating a 3-dimensional element in. And there are the commissions I haven't finished that I should also be working on. So it's not like I don't have ideas. I always have plenty of those. Motivation and energy and follow-through are where I bottom out.

A possible topic for my next post may be social media: where to find me, what to expect, how it works...and doesn't. In the meantime, catch me over on Facebook, and taking pictures of food on Instagram.


Miscellania

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outside the door, the weather is clear and unfailing

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Fall finally made an appearance here in Big Swampy. Surely it won't last, but it's been really lovely for a few days. Great for morning walks and sitting outside with a book in the afternoon. 

I've been promising to discuss the subject of art materials, and so I think I'll take a few minutes to give an introduction on that topic that I may expand on later. There are a ton of resources out there on this subject, so I encourage you to do some research for yourself. Perspectives are varied and often conflicting. Personally, I don't really get too serious about the difference between "student grade" and "artist grade" supplies. Buy what you can afford, and as you can afford higher quality products, work your way up, finding which ones you actually prefer in the process of learning and creating. As a general rule, artist grade is better quality - such as richer, more opaque pigments in paints, better constructed brushes that won't shed bristles or fray too quickly, and sturdier ground materials like watercolor paper and gallery-wrapped canvas. Better quality generally translates to higher price points. 

An example of "student grade" and "artist grade" acrylic paint compared side by side to demonstrate better opacity in artist-level supplies 

An example of "student grade" and "artist grade" acrylic paint compared side by side to demonstrate better opacity in artist-level supplies 

Because artist grade supplies are usually much more expensive, I tend to mix my various supplies, so that I'm using the less expensive materials for certain elements, and saving the costlier supplies for when I really need to use them. I may do a watercolor wash using the free sample I got from the art store on a good quality paper, and use the artist level paints for the main subject matter. And when I find things on sale, I try to stock up. I also experiment a lot, seeing what works and what fails. It's okay to make mistakes. Sometimes mistakes are successes that haven't been fully realized yet. If something isn't working, step away and do something else. Come back to that project later with a fresh perspective. It's when I push myself to finish something that I'm the least satisfied with the result. 

I recently replaced the stylized alligator I had painted on this mini canvas with a fun little mushroom, and I'm very happy I went back and reworked that painting  that I didn't like instead of throwing the canvas in the garbage! (I throw away A LOT of failed attempts.)

I recently replaced the stylized alligator I had painted on this mini canvas with a fun little mushroom, and I'm very happy I went back and reworked that painting  that I didn't like instead of throwing the canvas in the garbage! (I throw away A LOT of failed attempts.)

I don't have many favorite brands or a go-to drawing pencil. Since I didn't go to art school, I never learned a lot of the techniques or rules that many professional artists swear by. In a way, I think that is somewhat liberating, since I don't have to use the "correct" pencil for sketching if I want to do something different. Personally, I'm more comfortable drawing than painting. A pencil is an orderly thing - solid and straightforward. A brush has a mind of it's own sometimes. (There was a great post on the Muddy Colors blog that touched on that recently, so now I know I'm not alone in thinking paintbrushes are tricksy and false.) I've pushed myself to get more involved in practicing beyond drawing as a way to develop, artistically, because it's easy to get into a comfort zone that regresses into a rut. Once that happens, predictability becomes an issue. I've seen artists who use the same techniques over and over, and focus only on the same subject matter, to the point that I can almost anticipate the elements that will show up in a piece before I see it. So, for me, the answer is to constantly push my own self-imposed boundaries. Sometimes I really surprise myself. 

My preferred media (the materials used to make the art I create) are graphite pencil, charcoal pencil, watercolor and acrylic paint, and ink. For the support (the surface material), I use a variety of different papers or a pre-stretched, wrapped, and primed canvas, or even wood panels. The surface will dictate whether I'm working in dry media (pencils, charcoal, certain pastels) or wet (paint and loose inks), and vice versa. Your support materials need to be able to stand up to what you are using to draw or paint. Watercolor pain will completely destroy standard drawing paper, for example. For ink I prefer markers and brush pens, but I'll use loose ink as well. I'll very often combine some or even all of these elements together. I'll also use a variety of thinning or thickening media, top coats, and other materials to add texture and other elements, and from time to time I've even been known to add actual glitter to a painting. I love the shiny stuff. People have frequently asked me why I don't use oil paint. The answer is that I am incredibly impatient, and the drying time necessary for oils is pretty much impossible for me to handle. Then there is the fact that oil paint has to be thinned with a solvent, which can be pretty caustic. Since I don't have a designated space in which to paint, I don't want to risk spilling something like turpentine all over my kitchen table. Maybe someday if I get anything resembling studio space, I might try expanding to oil paints, but for now I'll continue to practice with acrylics. 

So, what's the best place to buy your supplies, from artist level all the way up to pro? Good question. And the answer is...anywhere you find them. I'm not trying to be flip, here. There really are endless options for supplies. You can use online retailers like Amazon, Opus, or Jerry's Artarama. If you have a local art and craft store, they can be great for beginners to find inexpensive materials. Of course, larger national retailers such as Blick are a lot of fun to shop, and if you have any local independent professional art supply stores, definitely check those out as well. Most manufacturers like Golden Paints have websites where supplies can be purchased directly. Another option that is budget-friendly is artist swaps and sidewalk sales. Sometimes artists are looking to get rid of excess supplies that are taking up space, and will apply considerable discounts just to get rid of stuff. Honestly, in collage work you don't even have to *buy* supplies - you use whatever you have sitting around, from scrap paper and ribbon to spray paint and buttons to playing cards to old greeting cards. 

But really the point is that it isn't so much about what you're using as what you yourself are creating. Art is subjective, as we all know. And the definition of "best supplies" is just as subjective. Use what you can afford to start out with. Practice. Play. Experiment. Make things! 


Miscellania

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Just one more chapter, our book won't close

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If you're following these posts on the regular - or if you know me in life - you'll know I've been feeling some kind of blue here lately. It can be hard to deal with not making the inroads in your endeavors that you work really hard for. It can be easy to let failures and frustrations weigh you down to the point of slowing any momentum to a creep that eventually, if allowed, will result in a dead stop. After some recent opportunities didn't present themselves the way I had really hyped myself into hoping for, I got caught up in a doubt-spiral. I think I've managed to mostly pull myself out of the whirling vortex of suck at this point, although I can still feel it's pull. I shook off as much of the disappointment as I could and have attempted to move forward by making myself work. That's really the only way to do it. And with October on the way, there will be an opportunity to throw myself into the art challenges that have become really popular across all of the sharing platforms. Among some of the biggest are Inktober, started by jake Parker in 2009, which presents daily themes that get shared all over the place, especially on Instagram, and Month of Fear, which has been going since 2013 and features artists working on themed subjects all month. There is also Drawlloween, which I just discovered this year, and seems less cohesive than the other two - I've seen multiple versions of the theme calendar for that one. I probably will pick and choose themes from that list if I participate (using the version posted by pop-surrealist artist Mab Graves on Instagram, if you are on there and want to check it out.) Of course, October is a very busy month for me, with social plans, a wedding, a niece's birthday, and a week-long mini-vacation packed in there on top of *everything else* (day job and everyday life!), so I probably won't be as productive as I think I'll be. But I'll definitely give it my best effort. Next up: how to choose supplies and what happens when you make a spectacular mistake. 


Miscellania

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my small heart, made of steel

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While I've been staying a little quiet on this blog due to a slightly hectic schedule, I've been working to put myself out there a bit more. This is a risky proposition for even very self-assured people, which makes it that much more intimidating for sensitive introverts. In the last month I applied to four opportunities. The first was for an upcoming multi-artist show at a local venue that is a gallery within a tattoo parlor. The show had a Heroes and Villains theme and was looking for 40 artists to exhibit one piece each. Ultimately, it was determined by the gallery that my work didn't quite fit the theme and I wasn't selected as a participant. However, I did come away from that experience with two concepts that I will work on as personal projects, and the possibility of being considered for a future show in the spring. Then I applied to two open calls to exhibit art at local restaurants, to which I received no response. After that, I contacted a retail shop downtown that also exhibits artwork, and was directed to wait for one of their open calls later in the year and resubmit for consideration. I'm definitely starting to see a pattern of "it's who you know" emerging, and I came to the local scene late and have not thrown myself into network in a way that would lead to fostering strong connections with other local artists. That is definitely a weak point I recognize in myself that is an area of necessary work. Meanwhile, I've been working on small pieces in the little bit of free time life allows right now. I had some family members offer to purchase two of those pieces, and because they're family I discounted the prices. I also attempted to offer some paintings and illustrations for sale - also with discounts - but although there appeared to be some interest, there were no sales generated. People seem to prefer the smaller items with lower price-points, so I may stick with those for the time being. They are technically easier to finish in a shorter time frame (great for my short attention spa...squirrel!) and a LOT easier to store. In the meantime, I received a commission request from a friend for a couple of small watercolor paintings, and I'm putting together a pitch for a column on a lifestyle website, so I'm working on those as ways forward. Progress is slow, and rejection is hard. It takes a lot out of you. Which means I'll retreat inward to regroup, and then move on once I've processed what I'm feeling and how I think I should proceed. 

Ain’t no time for regret.
— Marina Diamandis
wildeart.jpg

Miscellania

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someone's gotta be the lighthouse

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Yesterday I sent out a newsletter with details on the drawing giveaway I have planned for subscribers. If that information missed you, send me a note and I'll get you caught up. Immense thanks are due to everyone who has already responded. If you're wondering what that's all about, definitely get signed up for the newsletter; right now all of the previous notes are public, so the details of the giveaway are there.

All I ask of you is one thing: please don’t be cynical. I hate cynicism — it’s my least favorite quality and it doesn’t lead anywhere. Nobody in life gets exactly what they thought they were going to get. But if you work really hard, and you’re kind, amazing things will happen.
— Conan O'Brien

Lately I've been keeping notes on potential topics to discuss in this space. In the interest of brevity I'll narrow it down to one topic per post. Today I think I'll talk through what happens to be on my mind these days as I navigate certain social media communities. And that topics is: how to do creative work with humility and receive criticism with grace, and not become a raging cynic. 

Here's the thing. Cynicism is easy. Not being a bitter, unpleasant person who cultivates negativity is infinitely harder. I have found the online art community overwhelmingly a positive one, full of people who are willing to share anything with each other. It has appeared to me to be mostly a welcoming, inclusive group of people who treat art as an open marketplace to exchange ideas and support each other. When one artist succeeds, all artists succeed is sort of the unwritten code. We're stronger for our dedication to being supportive of each other. (However, I'll interject a caveat here to explain I'm actually speaking about the illustration industry, and more specifically, the fantasy illustration subgenre, which is where a lot of my interactions with the community take place.) I've been very reluctant to approach any of the galleries in town, since my work really isn't what would be considered "fine art" level. I mean, knowing your market is the first step, and I am pretty sure that isn't the market for me. Of course, you don't know until you try. Maybe once I take that first step I'll find it's not quite what I thought. 

And that being said, I will say that I'm aware of a local artist who is very prolific - and very, VERY vocal when they post on one of the Facebook group pages set up for local artists to share work or upcoming events. They seem to relish reminding everyone about the fact that they've been rejected by every gallery they've ever approached but are still successful regardless. I know these posts are meant somewhat tongue-in-cheek. At least, I hope so? This artist has obviously found their audience and a market, so that's something. But the tone...it's cynicism all the way down. And it is almost every single post. It seems exhausting to keep up that level of resentment. I think what I'm trying to say here is: Be a lighthouse, help bring people safely past the rocks, instead of acting as the soul-sucking abyss that drags everyone into the darkness. 

I get it - criticism is tough to take. With it comes a sense of rejection. That's true for anything in life, be it your art, your hair, your clothes, what music you listen to...no one wants to hear that someone else thinks that thing you love so much is worthless garbage. And our art, in whatever form it takes, is a big part of ourselves. It takes a lot to be vulnerable enough to be open to receiving criticism, even the really constructive, well-intentioned kind. Or the "this isn't 'high art' enough for our clientele" kind. But there's a difference between "this is not for me" and "OMG that sucks and you are stupid for liking it." Something not being a fit with a given market isn't necessarily a flat-out rejection of your value as an artist or as a person. I see a lot of the latter, the "that thing sucks and let me tell you why" interaction online and pretty frequently in life, and it bums me out.

Everybody has the right to love things. Even if other people find those things silly. Maybe we should endeavor to be more vocal in our love for things as opposed to our open and immediate impulse to heap derision and scorn on the harmless, trivial things that don't appeal to us? Case in point: pop-culture conventions. I have an acquaintance who thinks the various cons are for stereotypical basement-dwelling, no-girlfriend-having dweebs and will never accept that otherwise "normal" and high functioning people attend cons. Flip that coin, and you have a stereotype of typical American pro football game attendees as beer-swilling, tailgating blue collar broskis, and that's seen as "normal" and "acceptable" social behavior. I argue that dressing up in your sports gear is a form of cosplay, and that pick-up football games in the park are the athletic equivalent to LARPing. Two iterations of social interaction to reinforce group dynamic and cohesion over a shared interest. (And you have the thesis for my Masters dissertation, right there...) 

So the question here is: would *YOU* want to be a part of a community that is welcoming and encouraging, whether you are a famous name in your industry or just starting out, a community that promotes optimism and collaboration, or one that feels remote, as if it's some kind of exclusive "cool kids" club, that leads people down the path to cynicism? 

I'm pretty sure I know what I'd choose. And I can only hope that my efforts at fostering a positive experience here and out in the wider world - both online and off - are successful, but that's definitely one of my goals.

**B**


Miscellania

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I often take post titles from songs, so I started citing the title and artist, but I think with this new blog I'll include the video when there's one to link to. Today's post takes it's title from the lyrics of the song Little Wanderer by Death Cab for Cutie.