News and Hearsay
"Covering an image with ornament is like turning it to gold, or setting it to music; it glorifies it, revealing the inner nature of the subject on its visible surface. The result is enchanting yet mysterious, for it is a revelation of something originally invisible, like a scent, a mood, or an ideology. Ornament is a metaphor, an essential element of poetry."
Allison Stanley's web-page (www.allisonstanleyart.com) opens with this description of her unique style. In many ways, the quote is very similar to her art; beautiful, poetic, mysterious. I first met Allison in the artist alley of Anime Expo 2014 and I was immediately drawn to her table. She was exhibiting with her equally talented sister, Electra Stanley, and there was nothing else at the convention quite like their work. I just had to know more.
From a young age, Allison had always loved art and wanted to make a profession of it. She dropped out of high school at 15 to get a head start on her artistic career. Her initial forays into the creative profession included some writing, specifically for games. She soon found that she preferred the independence and creative freedom that came with making and promoting her own original illustrations. She was also drawn to classic art and literature, most notably of the medieval period. She studied illuminated manuscripts and even uses some of the same tools as one would have used in those times. The results are unique works that look like they could have been exhumed from the catacombs of an ancient church.
“I explored different mediums, and it was always a struggle. . Ink nibs were instant bliss! (They) challenge you to try to make finer and finer lines. I want to have something fascinating on every inch of an art piece.”
The classical aesthetic of her pieces is further enhanced with the use of mediums such as calf-skin vellum, oak gall inks, and gold/palladium leaf.
In today’s environment, it may surprise some to find an artist with such a classic style at an anime convention. I must admit I was initially caught off guard myself. Allison was quick to point out that this is a fallacy, and anime fans have more diverse tastes than for which they are often credited.
“I feel reasonably at home at anime conventions--because my art connects with people's deep childhood dreams of celestial, goofy anime beauty. My art style is very retro-manga, which is exactly what some people are looking for in artist alley.
A closer look at her works will reveal inspiration from the likes of Yokohama Shopping Log, Kyoko Ariyoshi’s ‘Swan’ and the Miyazaki works. For Allison, bringing her work to anime conventions was a very natural move. She does what she loves, and sincerely wants to share it with the world. I see her as a model for young artists on the fence about getting that first artist alley table or starting a DeviantArt page or an Etsy. I asked her if she had any advice for those needing that slight boost of encouragement:
“My advice to a young artist just entering the art world would be: Make art! The number one job of an artist is to make artwork. Don't get caught up sacrificing valuable creation time on social media, answering emails or whatever life throws at you. It can seem like the lowest priority item on your to-do-list, but it's important!.... Don't stress too much about finding your style. Look at a lot of beautiful things and visually process them, really look at them. Whatever you look at will be absorbed and come out in your art.”
Allison enjoys a quiet life with her husband in Texas. When she is not on the road to her next con, she loves reading, aquatic-gardening, and playing with her cats. It was a pleasure and honor to have this conversation with Allison. Be sure to look for her at your next anime convention or Renaissance faire. I encourage you to visit her site at www.allisonstanleyart.com to learn more.
Since I have recently decided to get back into the sketchbook, I found that it helps to find a favorite artist or artists. Basically they are these wells of inspiration from which I drink from time to time to replenish my creative juices (dang that was a baller metaphor!). One of them is very conveniently related to me, that being my brother whom you all know as P-Shinobi. The others I have discovered through my daily troll sessions of Deviant Art and Instagram. On today's Spotlight interview I had the pleasure of talking to one of my earliest and still one of my favorite such inspiration wells.
Peter Mohrbacher is an independent artist best known for creating the Angelarium series. From the start I had a feeling our talk would be quite revealing. I met him at Anime Central last year in his home state of Illinois where I got a canvas and 2 prints from his booth. Suffice it to say I was a fan long before that meeting, and was thrilled when he made the time for my interview. When I asked him his age he responded thus, “32? 33? I forgot. I think I'm 33. No wait, it's 32.” I'm going with 32. He worked several years in the gaming industry in very low profile and some unsuccessful titles. When asked what caused him to leave that world he answered flatly, “I have a hard time having bosses.” Peter places a lot of value in the worth an artist places on their work, and being managed by someone else tends to distort that self evaluation.
“I want to value my work highly and when I work for someone else, that isn't always the way they feel. It's more comfortable for me to take my work straight to an audience rather than filter it through the layers of management present in office work.”
I feel that this is a thought most artists will appreciate. We at Boomslank are constantly walking the line between managing our artist and giving him full creative freedom.
It was one thing to want something different, but Peter needed an extra bit of inspiration to go in the direction he chose. He found that inspiration in the form of another independent artist.
“It was when I saw my friend Sam Flegal (http://www.samflegal.com) make as much money off his personal painting doing a Kickstarter as I got paid to make a Magic card. I realized that an artist could find success on a scale that was achievable for me. When I got fired from my last job, I didn't hesitate skipping the search for a new one. I just packed up and started working for myself instead.”
The success that followed was instantaneous. Peter had built an online following spanning a decade by featuring his work on as many outlets as he could find, and when he finally went independent his fans were ready. It is a model worth considering for any artist.
The Angelarium (http://www.angelarium.net) is by far Peter’s most well known work. It is a collection of original paintings of Angels. Peter starts with the name, which can be found in several sources. Then he paints his interpretation of that name. He enjoys the artistic challenge of giving a body to seemingly intangible notions like “Mystery” or “The Written Word”.
“The idea of personifying abstract concepts like ‘dust’ and ‘memory’ was immediately interesting to me.”
There are currently over 40 Divine Beings with more to come. Those of you that are already familiar with Angelarium also know of the poetry and storytelling that accompanies each piece. Peter was doing all the writing himself at first, but has since enlisted the help of Eli Minaya to handle the bulk of Angelarium’s written content. When asked about the possibility of a complete story to accompany the paintings, Peter leans towards leaving some things to the imagination.
“I'm a big fan of the storytelling in something like Dark Souls. Rather than setting up a grand epic, I prefer to see glimpses of a story that is better imagined than told outright.”
He does however encourage fanfics, so go nuts!
In closing Peter had some wisdom to share on the worth of an artist, and how this power is sometimes misunderstood or even unnoticed by the artists themselves.
“Artists need to be the first people to declare their work has value. It's a running joke that people think artists should work for free. That's why it's so important that we chose to be our own advocates. We have a monopoly on our own output and we should exercise that power when the circumstance arises.”
Certainly words to live by; artists first and foremost have to be their own biggest fans.
I absolutely enjoyed my talk with Peter Mohrbacher who's favorite anime include Evangelion, FLCL, and Samurai Champloo. Do check out the complete Angelarium collection at http://www.angelarium.net where you can pick up prints and even an art book (already pre-ordered mine!). You can also follow him on Instagram at @bugmeyer. We wish Peter and all independent artists the best, and cannot overstate how much their work is needed and appreciated.
If you troll around Deviant Art as much as I do, and have over the last half a year or so, you probably recognize this piece.
It was a daily deviation all those times ago, and being a DBZ fan, I was impressed by this playful take on Goku’s interactions with the mighty dragon. Fast forward to Animazement 2014, and what should I see on an artist alley table? You guessed it, Good Morning Shenron! What are the chances that the artist responsible for that, and as it turns out, so many other beautiful pieces would be in my backyard? On this edition of the Artist Spotlight, it is my pleasure to introduce you to Zach Smithson, artist extraordinaire and all round cool dude.
Zach is a North Carolina, USA native with a degree in Illustration from East Carolina University. Till now I have always assumed that a formal education setting was not helpful in developing artists (a narrow minded view in retrospect), but Zach has very fond memories of his education in the university, and set me straight.
“It is all about the environment you learn in. If the environment promotes expanding your views towards art, and you have professors that tell you what you are doing wrong, and you have peers you can work with, then it can be great. I know I definitely would not have improved as much without my college experience.”
According to Zach, one should not write off a formal educational setting as harmful to developing as an artist. A good program can be invaluable. I guess I should start giving art schools more credit.
Art has been in Zach’s blood for as long as he can remember. From an early age, he seemed to take any opportunity to practice. From posing and drawing his action figures, to doodling on napkins at restaurants, and copying the images off Pokemon cards, his mind has always been set on a future as an illustrator. In every one of his works, you can see evidence of this dedication. When asked from where he draws inspiration, Zach points to the importance of studying other artists while trying to maintain originality.
“I can see some amazing painter ……. and it makes me want to be as good or better than they are. Of course with a lot of painters that won't happen, but it is a drive to keep pushing and getting better, and to come up with better ideas and concepts. I always want to improve. And inspiration can come from anywhere really. Most of the time its just an idea that pops into my head from something completely random, and then I just work from there.”
One cannot help but also admire his humility in pointing out how difficult it is to emulate another artist. The best you can hope for is to improve on yourself. That said, just like with anything else, you have to be serious.
“Well it takes dedication. If you like it as a hobby, then it needs to stay as a hobby. To do it professionally, you really have to have a drive for it. But part of it is mental, I am not as good as I want to be. I look at stuff I did a week ago and I'm already not happy with it. You just have to keep going, keep pushing to improve. Find new artists, find new styles and influences. You can always get better and know more.”
I’ll say that is some sage advice for anyone considering art as a career path.
Zach is of course and anime fan of the Toonami generation. A huge Dragonball fan. Other favorites include Outlaw Star, Attack on Titan, and Cowboy Bebop. Animazement 2014 was his first experience as an artist in Artist Alley table, but he thoroughly enjoyed it, and hopes to be back next year. I personally look forward to see his table.
We invite you to keep track of Zach either on Behance (https://www.behance.net/zachsmithson) or on his Deviant Art page (http://zachsmithson.deviantart.com/). It was a pleasure talking with this young talented artist, and wish him and all the other artists out there the best and all the encouragement in the world.
A lot of people have asked my brother to put up video tutorials on his process. Believe me , we actually think that's a good idea. We will have to get to it sometime. Would give us an excuse to have a proper Youtube channel. In the meantime I would point out that nothing improves skill like good old practice.
So before I start, let me tell a story about my younger brother and artist P-shinobi. When we were much younger, we would always draw cars, dogs and birds of prey. Yeah I know... remarkably specific subjects. Back then , we really enjoyed drawing. Whenever we get back from school, we would draw our school sorrows away with our pencils and paper :D . Being the oldest , my skill at the time was far superior within the scope of a 10 year old's drawing ability. And my younger brother was always amazed at my prowess.
Over time, my interest in drawing was replaced by a love for building things. I enjoyed putting things together and seeing them work. A new passion in my life I can delve into in another blog entry. However my younger brother's love for drawing persisted. Over time he took a keen interest to the anime style of art. For over 10+ years my younger brother honed his craft purely for the love of it. He would get on art community sites to share his art with other fellow artists. Noticing his impeccable skills, I decided we could turn his passion into something lucrative. After a couple of ideas, we came up with Boomslank.
Since running our little establishment, we've noticed a lot of our fans have posted artwork on our page. One day, I took a look at our fan generated album and marveled at the number of artwork that has been posted on the page. Then my younger brother came up with a brilliant idea. The idea was to allow our fans share their artwork on our site and have their friends check them out. What I liked a lot about the idea , is that it embodies the very essence of what Boomslank is all about... which is "Love what you do and do what you love".
So in the spirit of our mantra, we will be rolling out a social experiment on our site which will allow anime loving artists to post their artwork on our site and share it with their friends. The 6 artists whose works garner the most appreciation will win awesome prizes from us. So please stay tuned.
Hey Guys, I have received some requests about maybe doing some kind of tutorial. So I decided to use my new drawing to show the general process in my drawings. I basically draw in three “steps”.
Step 1, this is where I have the general idea and start to put it down on paper. For me this is the hardest step because I am not entirely sure of the direction I am going with the drawing. I use light lines and pretty much scribble away until I start to see the drawing take shape.
In Step 2, I have a better idea of what I want, so I use a dark thin mechanical pencil (.5) to darken the lines I want, and carefully erase the rest.
In Step 3 I scan the pencil artwork and using SAI or Photoshop I make a line art and add color. That's a very simple description of my drawing process, many artists have different styles, there is no one true process. The most important thing is to practice, develop your own signature style and enjoy the process! ^_^
Being the cornball that I am, I have decided to add a flyer for each design we create to my bedroom wall. At the moment , we have seven designs, so seven flyers. The plan is to fill up the wall with nothing but flyers of each t-shirt design we come up with. Here is a preview. Will update the picture as major milestones are reached.