The worst backup plan ever.

As a kid, I always considered being an artist to be my backup plan. It was the less glamorous option compared to my other dreams. Which included careers as an American Indian (I wasn't aware that it was a nationality, I thought it was a job description), equestrian, photographer, spy, or something to do with budgies (a trainer perhaps?).
Art was my easy A, and it was my childhood party trick.. It was a source of security and identity for me, but the idea of "going pro" always seemed absurd. Art was long hours of being bored and frustrated, and really, that didn't sound much different than whatever it was adults did anyways. I wanted to be different, and do something exciting. 
I held this belief until I was about 21, when I looked around and realized that I wasn't cut out for many things. I don't like dealing with people, I hate school, and I seem to be incapable of cooperating with "the system." All of this left me at a severe disadvantage in the workplace, or really any place that wasn't my house. And as life would have it, I ended up backed into a corner that I had to paint my way out of. It sounds weird, but it's how it went.

At the time I was in an outdoors school, where we lived in tipis and learned primitive skills all day (yes, I can start a fire with sticks and I have caught and eaten squirrels). It was great, until I had a serious clash with the owner of the program, and was almost thrown out (see the aforementioned list of my shortcomings for the reasons why). But throwing me out was harder than it sounds, because I had nowhere to go. I had spent my savings on the program, and I was out of options.
So Tim, the program owner, sat down with me and asked, "I've tried working with you, and you seem useless. So what can you?"
I really didn't know what to say. I had failed at everything asked of me around the camp, and I wasn't physically strong enough to do anything useful. So I just told him that I can paint. As fate would have it, Tim and his wife Jean (who I have since become very good friends with) are both art collectors. So they cut a deal with me: stay here for the rest of the summer and paint, and leave us with a painting. 

So that's what I did. And for the first time in years, I felt like myself again. I was functional, and I was doing what I was good at. Before that incident, I hadn't painted in 3 years. I carried my art supplies with me in the back of my trunk wherever I went, just in case I got the urge again, but for the most part, my desire to paint had died (another story for another time).

But now, 3 years after the incident in the woods with Tim, I realize that I am actually living my backup plan. As a kid, I thought that if all else failed, I'd just be an artist. And now as an adult, it's funny to see that all else failed, and so I became an artist. I guess you never know what will put you on your path, but I'm happy to be on this one. And it's easier to stay humble when you're starting from a place of, "well, if this is what I'm doing, I guess that means I really bungled everything else." 

playing with Japanese woodblock inspiration

I remember the first time I saw a Japanese woodblock print in person. I was 12 years old, and it's the first time I remember really loving a work of art. Pictures had always been interesting to me, but that was the first time I remember being completely enamored with something. 
From that point on, I soaked in Japanese art and it's been making appearances in my style ever since. 

I had an idea awhile ago for a series of "animal warriors", which was going to be a series of paintings depicting animals as warriors from throughout history. I love military history, and I just thought it would be a fun project. But I dismissed it as too silly, and forgot about it until the other day when I realized that I've been doodling my way through a small collection of fury fighters for the last couple months. 

Here's a Japanese inspired fellow I put together today. 

Thought I'd share some of the process here:

Step one, I found this online this morning, and loved it. I tried to find out who did it and when, but no luck. I loved the gesture and the costume though, and thought it might be fun to try and translate it into my own image.

After a few doodles on tracing paper to get used to the shapes, I did this sketch in Photoshop:

As you can see, I stuck to values. I played around with patterns a bit, and designed two different acorn patterns for his shirt and his pants. I love the scalloped pattern on the original, so I stuck with that part. I kept having to remind myself that this is just an exercise and to not get too into it. 
Something I really admire about Japanese art is their control of values. They're insane. I'd like to study them a bit more and hopefully learn something from it. 

After getting it a point that I was happy with, I printed it out, and light boxed it onto a sheet of watercolor paper and set to work. 

Here's what it ended up as:

As you can see, the patterns in the clothes didn't really work out like I had hoped; the painting was just too small to get that intricate. I showed it to a friend/critic and first thing he noticed is that I forgot to include the end of the wakizashi (second smaller sword) poking out from behind his arm.
Drat. Oh well. For me, that's the most frustrating part about doodles. I can spend hours on it, but since I won't be breaking it down over a few days, small details slip past me really easily. 

Overall, I'm pretty happy with it. I wish that I had pushed some of the lines further and added a little more flourish to his gesture. His expression isn't quite what I had in mind either, but it was a fun little project. Down the road I may do a bigger one, using this as a guide. 

Anyways. Here's a snippet of what I've been up to lately.