I like to make pictures. That’s my main focus as an artist but what does it mean? I contemplate that a lot. What does it mean to make a drawing, painting, or even a photograph? It’s one of those questions that really doesn’t have an answer but I try to dig through the reasons I like to do something and I also like to dig through the reasons that I like a picture I make when it comes out well.

I used to spend more time studying why a piece of art didn’t come out well but I don’t do much of that anymore. I think that’s an exercise that’s better for young artists. Once you reach a certain skill level and have confidence that you can make a good picture then you’re better off analyzing and applying those skills. As an artist gets better fewer pictures are failures and it’s better to move on from failures quickly. After all by that time you should have the confidence to know the next one will be better.

I’ve also had to learn the difference between a bad picture I made and one that I just don’t like very much. The difference is that a bad picture is a struggle and when it’s done, or more likely abandoned, I can see its problems. That’s all I can see. So can most other people. A picture I just don’t like is one that doesn’t move me. What I made wasn’t what I wanted to make but it’s still done well. I have to accept that even though I don’t like it other people might like it. That’s a weird thing. I put in the failure pile but someone else tells me it’s amazing. In my younger days I’d tell them they were wrong but I’ve learned over the years not to say that anymore. Then genuinely like it and see something in it that I miss and there is no reason for me to spoil that. It’s egotistical of me to try to spoil their enjoyment.

I like to make original images that no one has ever seen before. That’s a tall task and, if I may complain for a moment, a bit of a thankless one. Most people don’t have a fondness for original images. We live in a society where big companies work hard and spend a lot of money trying to get people’s attention and entertainment dollars. And for the most part they are very good at it. As a consequence most people have characters and images they’ve loved for years. People love Mickey Mouse even though he hasn’t been anything but a corporate image for years and years. Put one of my images next to Mickey Mouse and way more people (maybe all of them) will be interested in the mouse. That’s the way it goes.

Being a comic book fan I occasionally draw other people’s characters but not that often. I’ve drawn a few comic book covers of Spider-Man, Batman, the Avengers, and others but not many. I’ve also draw an bunch of Marvel and DC superhero art cards but way more of my own art cards. I draw the superheroes to try and get a little bit of attention but it doesn’t usually work. It’s tough drawing a picture of Batman because you’re competing with a lot of good Batman drawings that artist have been doing for decades. But it does have its advantages.

I consider making a Batman drawing to be like celebrity photography. Taking a picture of a celebrity means that more people will look at it and like it than if the photo was of any old person. We all have favorite pictures of out favorite celebrities but is the picture really any good? A picture of a person who interests us is almost automatically more interesting to us than a picture of an unknown subject. How do we know if we really like the picture or the subject of the picture? It’s tough to know for sure.

I made two pictures in recent days. Or at least I made finished ink drawings of them. I made the pencil drawings a while ago and they’ve been sitting around waiting for me to make finished drawings of them. I finally decided to this week. I’ve been in the doldrums of creativity recently and that’s just what these pencil drawing I keep around are for. For some reason the finished ink part of the drawing comes easier to me when I’m not in a good creative mood. I can get behind the “Task” part of working with different ink techniques and get things done.

Finishing a drawing takes patience. I was lucky I had some of that on the day I finished the 15×10 inch piece “Communal Cup.” I say that because it took all day to do and until I pulled it together in the end it wasn’t thrilling me. That’s where experience and confidence come into play. I wasn’t happy all day with the piece. I have no explanation why except that I was in the doldrums in general. But I just kept picking away at it.

It’s a picture of five people standing around posing for a picture. They all have weird outfits on and one of them appears to be a giant. I rally like the way it came out. It speaks to me of five individuals gathered together to make a whole. The original pencil drawing didn’t have a lot of distinction between the different people. That all came in the inks. I wasn’t even sure how I wanted to make them distinct. I worked at it. First I made them all the same.

I did all the basic inking with a technical pen. Sometimes thats the easier way for me to work when I’m not feeling it. A pen and a French curve. I line up the curve along the pencil line and then drawn the pen across it. It doesn’t take a lot of creative energy. It’s a task that needs to be done. I worked like this for a lot of the day on and off as I tried to get something done. It wasn’t easy. Well, it was easy to do but it wasn’t easy to get myself to do it. Sometimes that’s the toughest part.

After I had all the technical pen lines done I pulled out my brush and had at it. I thickened lines and added textures and patterns. This took a while. I added a texture here then some more there and took a break. I repeated that pattern for a few hours. I added details in the hair and to the background. I even pulled out my Hunt 107 pen to make some thin single weight lines. I still wasn’t really into it but I kept going.

A strange thing happened at the end of the day. It all came together and I really liked it. I like the image. I liked the originality of it. All the people in in seemed to be different and feeling different things but they hang together as a group. It makes me feel good. It’s amazing that can happen with a piece that I wasn’t feeling good about making as I made it. I’m really glad I got it done.

The next day I inked a 9×12 inch piece called “Tip of the Game.” I didn’t like the way that one came out. It doesn’t make me feel anything. It’s just a miss for me. I have no interest in analyzing why. I’ll just move on the the next one.