Monday, July 15, 2013

Q and A with Concept Artist Brandon Coates

If you go back to my first daily concept, I talked about seeing Brandon's blog and being inspired to start my own daily commitment. After learning so much from doing the daily concepts, I wondered what Brandon's experience was like with doing his daily paintings and what he had learned along the way. Brandon was nice enough to answer all my questions and 
let me share them with you, so without further ado:

 First off, thank you for doing this Q and A. Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?

Of course! I feel so honored that you asked me to do this! I’m currently going into my fourth year (time flies!) at San Jose State University studying Animation and Illustration. My dream would be to create concept art in the video game industry, someday working at Valve would be my dream job, but anything that would let me paint and create art would be incredible. I’ve grown up with an incredibly supportive family with my dad, mom, and brother who have all played a huge role in my life. I feel truly blessed to have such a wonderful foundation at home and I wouldn’t be who I am without them.

 When did you start doing Daily Paintings? Are you still doing them to this day?

I started my first Daily Painting on April 11, 2011 (I have them all dated), and I am indeed still doing them! I’m on number 634 (give or take), and I’ve missed some chunks of time in there but I’m still truckin!

What first inspired you to start doing daily paintings?

 During one semester about two years ago the brilliant artist Goro Fujita came to San Jose State (you can check out some of his stuff hereHe spoke, gave some demos, and introduced us to his experience with daily paintings. When he was a student he said he knew very little about digital painting, but he wanted to get into it, so he just started. He made a digital painting every day. He showed us his improvement at various stages and it was so inspiring! I used that summer to build the habit of doing a painting every day, like brushing my teeth (but way more fun!), and I've been going ever since.

What's the reaction when people learn you’re doing a new painting a day? Has anyone doubted or encouraged you?

Overall, any reaction is very encouraging. My friends who aren’t artists in particular seem impressed, but I’ve been told a lot of encouraging things about how it seems like I’ve improved. I think when people hear or know about it they seem to want to do something similar themselves. I don’t think I’ve really experienced any negative reactions or doubt towards me, but if I have it’s been overwhelmed by how fun doing dailies is (and by how much I just want to get better!)

How do you manage your time with daily paintings? Do you give yourself a strict time limit for each painting? Have you ever missed a day?

Almost all of my dailies are done in under an hour, most of them closer to 30 minutes. In most of them I try to have a very specific goal or focus in mind. Their purpose is not to create a finished piece, but rather to study! That’s what I use them for anyway, trying to focus specifically on studying color, or design, speed, economy, new techniques, creating a sense of depth or space, or anything I feel like I want to work on. 

Also, I have absolutely missed days, but what I’ve found is that it is important to not let missing a day get you down. I only really miss days during high stress times or when I just can’t get to a computer, but even if you miss paintings for a long period I’ve found that it’s incredibly important to not get discouraged. If you think, “aw man, I missed a week of paintings, I’m so far behind” and you allow that to stop you from continuing, that ain’t no good! I used to (and sometimes still do) try to “catch up” if I missed a day or two, but if that ever feels overwhelming or like it would take too much time when I’m busy, I just start from where I left off. I don’t worry about any days I missed and instead just try to make the daily I’m working on meaningful and get back into a rhythm.

What do you feel are the biggest benefits to doing a new piece daily? Are there times when you have wanted to quit? What kept you going?

I think I touched on the answers a little bit in the last question, but I think some huge benefits of dailies are the volume, variety, and freedom they provide. Especially as a student, I know I need to turn out a large volume of “failures” before I can get anywhere near “the good stuff” (“the good stuff” most likely being a goal of skill that will be infinitely on the horizon). In a book of notes by a painter named Charles W. Hawthorne he said that if a student has an hour to paint outside, often it would be better to do three twenty minute studies than one hour study. I think this is because those of us on the earlier side of learning have so much we need to experiment with and observe and learn; we have a lot to gain from lots of trial and error. So, there are times when I feel frustrated that I don’t measure up to a quality that I want (haha, which is fairly constant, though I most often don’t get upset by it), but I try to remind myself that creating something that looks “bad” isn’t failure. Rather, not taking the opportunity to learn from mistakes or allowing yourself to stop working because of a “bad” piece is failure. There is so much to learn from bad pieces so long as you analyze them and try to see what you can improve on next time. Creating a bad piece without understanding why it’s bad is just experience, but experience with understanding allows for effective growth. Also, you’ll gain way more if you don’t fear failure but instead embrace it and move forward! Haha, it also helps to remember that painting and drawing is something that you love to do, so if you need to take a little break from working or studying to do something fun or silly, then do it! That helps me keep going consistently too.

What are the most important artistic lessons you have learned since starting the daily paintings?

Haha, again I was getting ahead of myself in the last question! I feel like the most important thing that I’ve learned since I’ve started doing dailies is to not fear failure, to not be afraid to make mistakes or bad pieces, but instead use them as an opportunity to learn. Also, I’ve found that it has become incredibly important for me to create stuff that I want to create because I want to create it! Not for any assignment or something else, but just because I want to learn and create.

You create very convincing paintings from your imagination. What are your favorite digital painting techniques/ design processes you have discovered to be able to do this?

I’ve found that controlled chaos is something that I like a lot. I think other artists call it a bunch of other stuff; another term I like to use for it is Rorschach scribbles. Through many various techniques, creating a lot of random patterns (you could collage from images, make a brush the scatters, just scribble with line, or any number of ways to put random stuff on the page) and then looking for what you see in those patterns. Pretty much everyone will see something different, and it is fun pushing yourself to try to find something unique and different. Looking for something that you can carve out of the chaos and create something readable and new.

Also, the fundamentals really really help make things convincing. Understanding form, perspective, value, color, anatomy, lighting, edges and the core stuff like that is so important (and stuff that I’m constantly trying to improve at and study!)

What are your favorite paintings you have done? Why do you like them the most?

 Haha, there’s not a lot that really stand up to my scrutiny for very long, but I quite liked the piece with the girl in a space suit thing

and the blue nymph with the glowing horn things

 I learned a ton from both of these pieces, and I feel like I made some leaps in understanding with them (I also ended up spending more time than my standard dailies on them)

 Any references/tutorials/brush sets you recommend to help other artists with their digital painting? 

Yeah yeah! Here’s a list! – awesome resource especially for beginning digital painters, but some really incredible information for anyone. It’s also really well set up and the videos are short, clean, and clear.

FZD School on Youtube – Bloody brilliant tutorials by Feng Zhu. He covers stuff that you would seriously pay thousands of dollars to learn in classes, they’re incredible and generous videos.

Scott Robertson on Youtube – Brilliant tutorials that cover a lot of design, perspective, and fundamentals (incredible artist!) He also talks about controlled chaos and discovering designs.

Sinix on Youtube – A pretty awesome artists with fun tutorials and stuff! He seems like a pretty cool dude too.

 Those are the main resources that come to mind, but there are so many incredible artists out there! Following them is a good idea! Also, don’t forget to study the masters (Michelangelo, Caravaggio, a lot of renaissance guys!) study the people that everyone has studied! There’s a small group of “masters” that pretty much all good artists we know of have studied, stemmed from, or were influenced by in some way. Study those core artists!

Any advice for other artists thinking about starting a daily commitment like you have done?

Stay positive, have fun, and don’t give up! It can be tough doing something every day, but stick with it, make it a habit, and like I said earlier, don’t get discouraged if you trip up now and again. Just get back on track when you can and don’t let a bump that happened in the past hold you back. Never fear failure!!! Also, if you’re worried about starting, if you’re worried you’re not good enough or not ready, don’t be. We all want to be better or are lacking something, so just start today! The best way to start getting better is to start now.

Thanks again for answering my questions. Do you have any closing words/thoughts? Any current projects you would like people to check out?

Of course! Again, thank you so much for asking them and wanting to hear my answers! To close I’d say more than anything have fun! Life should be fun and you should enjoy what you’re doing! If someone else learned how to paint or draw or dance by doing this-n-this or such-n-such, but you’re having a hard time learning the same way, find your own way! Do whatever it takes to get better and study and love doing it all the while! There is certainly no one path to success, so enjoy the process of looking for yours!

Haha, and I don’t really have any projects going on, but you can see some of my work on my blog:

I’m planning on posting new stuff up soon, but right now it’s mostly work from a while ago. I’m also considering doing commissions possibly soon! So here’s some links to other internety things: 

Most of the stuff is redundant or out of date, but I’m going to try to update soon!!!

Thanks again Aaron!