• Underpainting
One of my best teachers set me against underpainting. The philosophy being that you should take the most direct route to finishing an image. If you know what color something is going to be, try to put down the note as quickly and accurately as possible and adjust from there. 0fcourse this was taught in regard to painting from life by an impressionist. Nonetheless I've been applying it to my imaginative illustration. I've finally realized this philosophy doesn't work in those cases because I can't truly know the color things will be. As I worked on the miniature portraits, I found it highly advantageous to paint a base that works against bias. Also an underpainting for digital painting really helps my images have texture. I've been doing a lot of environment concepts for a company that are meant to be speedpainting'ish and underpainting has really saved them from being texture less and boring digital work.
  • Working an image
I've been a believer in working up a whole image simultaneously up until now. I believe it really worsened the situation of the past two years while I was taking on too much work (and low paying work at that). The method makes it too easy to say "good enough" when everything gets to a point where it's reading well and you begin to lose money with the more time you spend on it. The result is an underwhelming image where the entire picture receives the same amount of attention. I believe it would have been better for my career if I'd super rendered a couple of small areas and rushed the rest of the image. This is assuming I still had a heavy work load. I think the images would have had better focal points, been more impressive and also seemed more artistic. Perhaps if work paid more, it would be a more successful tactic for me to work everything up at once.

  • Bulk pricing is bullshit
So I'm dead set on never obliging any clients again who request "bulk" pricing. I've made the mistake of thinking that clients know the benefits of a seller to sell something in bulk in other industries and that's why the buyer gets a discount. The only thing clients seem to understand is it's a term for them possibly paying less. If you place a large order and have received bulk pricing, I'm expecting to receive all of the briefs immediately and I'm expecting to get prompt responses regarding sketches. This way I can work on nothing but your company's work for a solid block of a couple of weeks and I don't have to worry about hunting down other clients for work for a while. See how the bulk idea could save me from spending time doing non-art related business? Clients don't seem to get it and I keep finding myself hassling clients for responses,briefs and payments! You've placed a large art order where the price is known at the outset and months later you don't have the reduced fee ready to be paid immediately on time! So you diddle daddle around with getting the last briefs or responses to me because the penny bank is empty and you think it would be better to delay by being unresponsive and slow so that you can pay on time. You're an idiot. If you've placed a large art order and I've cleared my plate for you and you've left me flapping in the breeze not knowing whether you're going to send me a dozen responses/briefs the next day or have disappeared or are going to continue to be a train wreck. From now on you commission each piece individually and get the special asshole mark up.

  • The industry
I was included in a mass e-mail about doing some work for a large company and while the e-mail did include dimensions and prices it did not include whether the work was color/b&w and when the deadline was. I responded immediately asking when the deadline was so I could tell how many I could do. I received a response extremely quickly that all of the art order had been filled.WTF? Other artists had to have just stated they'd do the work without regard to whether it was rush,color, or payment upon publication. Makes me throw my hands up in the air. There have also been some forum posts by artists who think they have no right to ask for better terms in their contracts. It makes me just want to burn everything I've built, career-wise, to the ground.
In a fit of hopelessness after having the baby, I nearly decided to do just that. I chickened out and instead I just switched usernames on DA, abandoned updating my website and have switched to a DA portfolio site. Immediately got a DD and some great work through it so it turned out for the better. Felt like I'd be an ass to delete all of my messages and couldn't decide how to choose what people to thank so I began posting thanks to everyone who faved or devwatched me. It's quickly become some sort of obsessive compulsive problem. Finally under a thousand messages. Apparently thanking someone a week later for a fave they've forgotten cause them to visit your page and fave and devwatch a lot more. Good trick to remember for the future. I feel a bit like Sisyphus though.

  • Composition
James Gurney has posted some interested stuff on his blog that kind of confirms some of my thoughts on composition. Post 2 and Post 3.

  • Reference
I've really gotten into getting better and better reference lately. Inspired by Gurney, I've sculpted a dragonborn head for re-doing one of the miniature oil portraits and I've also sculpted a portrait of my Elorgo character from the graphic novel I'm working on. Thought it would give him some consistency. I've been using this super articulated spider-man toy for some reference and I've finally decided to upgrade that by ordering some figures from this site. I never even knew about this whole subculture of doll collectors. Slighting thinking about this super articulated doll where you can even supinate and pronate the hand. Proportions are kind of ugly though and there's that stupid hand. I tried to use a fish tank and a piece of cloth to simulate a cloak blowing in the wind like Gurney said he did in his blog but it really didn't seem to work for me. Anyways, I'm also thinking about picking up a 3D program to start learning that. Steve Argyle's booth was right next to me at GenCon and it made me wish I had some 3D in my toolbox.

  • Going Forward
Big part of improving has to do with learning to teach yourself. Not sure how beneficial it really is to post on forums and have people hold your hand. People that may not lead you where you want to go. I've decided that competition really pushed my improvement in college so I've come up with a plan. Each new piece is battling the previous piece to decide which is better. To improve, I simply need my new pieces to have a winning record this year.

  • Design
I tend to design an image and forget about designing the parts. I think my Taishu illo has been wildly more popular than most everything else I've done because I designed the parts and then the image. Coal golem tends to be the next most popular so that follows the trend. Designing the parts first seems to create an image with potential for being called "cool".Cool seems to trump composition or art.

When you cannot make up your mind which of two evenly balanced courses of action you should take-choose the bolder.-William Joseph Slim or Ezra Pound (the internet flops between the two)

Anyways, despite current plans I've fallen back into doing NDA work. Not the sort of stuff that's going to make prints but it actually does fill a hole in my portfolio (there I go with my fxcking excuses again). Doing environments does really help you to understand the importance of focal points and how to create them so I can't say I'm not learning. Working on environments reminds me of how much I do not know. I've done all sorts of prep for a full sized oil painting so hopefully I'll have that on here in a couple of weeks.