Gooey Sentinel Updated

Here's the final version of my 'Gooey Sentinel' (I'm terrible at names) that I made available for printing over at Society 6 and on my site. 

Here are some mock-ups for what it looks like printed in a few different ways. 

Here's the final progression .gif I made for the various stages of this project. I'd say it was successful for me technique-wise, but the reception from everywhere online has been lukewarm to say the least. I've been posting the stuff I'm making everywhere that I'm a part of and just can't seem to connect with any more than a couple people at a time.

I don't even know if anyone is even reading this right now. It doesn't matter either way. I'm just going to keep doing it - for myself more than anyone. I know if I keep making stuff and putting it up to share, and talking to other artists something will happen eventually- it's the time in between that's always the hardest with things. 

I just quit my job

I just turned in my resignation letter to my boss giving them notice that in 4 weeks I'll be gone. I've been here a year and a half and it's just time to move on. My wonderful girlfriend just got her dream job on Chincoteague Island, Virginia and if that's where she is, then that's where I want to be. Things always work out in the end, or at least they have lately. Things have been so insanely uncertain lately that I'm barely sleeping, can't focus on making things, and just shuffle around doing nothing when I'm home.All kinds of questions I couldn't possibly answer racing through my mind all night long- things I have absolutely no control over. 

This move couldn't come at a better time- proven even more when I told them I was quitting they were relieved to finally tell me my position wasn't being renewed. The permanent position (meaning tuition remission, benefits, days off, salary etc) I'd been waiting for, working my butt off for just disappeared. Had I not been quitting who knows when they would have told me? I would've had to be a contractor for another year before it was even available, and this was after I was 'guaranteed' I would be going permanent. It's not the fault of my managers, or any one person in particular, really. It just goes to show how much worrying changes things - exactly none. 

So with the burden of that removed, I'll be finishing the last 4 weeks of work here and preparing to move on to the next thing. That next thing is working part-time on the island (bike distance!) and doing everything I can to make myself an independent artist. I'll be drawing, painting, writing, designing, and posting right here to my hearts content - doing honest work to make ends meet until I can support myself with what I make. Is is a sure bet- absolutely not, but neither is waking up everyday. 

I'm finding myself to be very lucky to be in this position, and to have one way or another, made the right call. I can't wait to see what's ahead, even with no way of knowing what that might be. Like Tom Petty said: "under my feet baby, grass is growing, it's time to move on, time to get going"

In the coming months I want to do more.  I want to share more of my process. I want to connect with other artists and learn about their processes. I want to be out in nature more. I want to bike to work. 

You might think this is all really stupid, and it very well may be. It may blow up in my face. But I can't allow myself to be afraid to fail. The door has opened, and I'm going through it. 

 

 

Here are some sketches from what I've been working on lately. I haven't had much time or focus for finished work, but I've had this concept of this young priestess in my head for some time that I wanted out. She's an adventurer, explorer, and does nature magic. It's a silly idea, but might turn into something eventually. 

I asked for a critique on the Internet and it broke me

I haven't properly posted here in a month. If you ask any type of person whose job it is to do things on the internet, this is not good. You're supposed to post something once a week at minimum. But what if I don't have anything good? What if I'm just trying things out and none of it really sticks? What if I'm having a little bit of a crisis (relatively speaking, in levels of crises). 

 

I did something stupid. I did something really stupid. I went to Reddit.com, mainly known for 2 important things -anonymity and cat gifs- and asked for criticism.

There is a nice part of the site with sub-reddits about Android phones, Graphic Design, Illustration and Art Critique. The last one is where I went seeking a very misguided sort of criticism that sent me into an creative tailspin. I honestly really like creative communities on the site, and have gotten a ton of good feedback and camaraderie there. A month ago though, I went on and posted a link to my website and asked for "absolute and honest critique of everything I'm doing right now". Stupid. Stupid barely contains how idiotic of a thing this is to do. Without formal critiques, without professors and classmates to shoot down bad ideas, and without my artist friends, I felt absolutely alone. I knew I needed critique, and didn't care where it came from. I have pretty thick skin, generally, I mean I work in public service and deal with terrible people all the time. Vonnegut once said on writing: 

Write to please just one person. If you open a window and make love to the world, so to speak, your story will get pneumonia.

The same applies to art, and boy have I been sick. I wanted to please everyone, and have praise heaped upon me with the guise of seeking 'honest critique'. I deserved it, I admit, but I learned some valuable lessons about my process and myself. 

When you read things like "First things first: you are probably not a designer." Your heart sinks a little bit. Ok, a lot. I went to school for that, I worked really hard at that. There are other things and a lot of them true, but I won't post them here. It wasn't just one thing though, that sent my anxiety into warp-speed, but it was the little foxes, a death by a thousand cuts that wore on me. My confidence was entirely sapped away and every time I sat down to make- I had those words racing through my head. 

The one that jumped at me the most though, and helpful to boot, was a critique of the amount of content I was putting up on the web. My approach since late last year was to blast as much as possible into my little ecosystem and try to get better. That's it. Make lots of stuff, put it on the internet, and get better at those things. The problem is that some of it is more appropriate in some places more than others. My Juxtamotion Facebook was only pointing to these blog posts, and my site is full of half finished sketches and ideas, but very light on finished products. For me a lot of it was making up for ground I felt I'd lost over the last couple of years of not really doing what I wanted, so I over-compensated. Every drawing went online, every idea was better than no idea in my mind. I think this was a mis-step, but one I want to learn from. 

So, in that, I want to illustrate (heh) how I'm going to go about posting my stuff for the time-being and draw out a bit of a road-map of where you can find my stuff. 

Sketches, Ideas, Works in Progress, personal stuff: Juxtamotion Facebook, @mattsmith_makes on Instagram and Twitter

This stuff is off the cuff, not always finished, and not always relating to artistic endeavors. Here you may find the following: photos of beerz, photos of cats, photos of sketches, ideas etc. Less formal-more fun. I like posting here a lot. 

Finished Works, more serious ideas, written things: Here obviously, on my blog. My behance profile and dribbble.com (maybe) 

Middling Ideas: the aptly titled "junkdrawer" here on the site. These ideas are in a sort of purgatory, with not enough to flesh out a finished piece, but more than just a sketch. This is good for showing process, I think, also that I'm working working working. I will be pruning it extremely harshly in the coming week and may turn it into a tumblr style blog thing with just pictures. We'll see. 

A little bit of housekeeping here: I redesigned my site, let me know if it sucks! I bought a big ole graphics tablet and have been making more digital work. Here's some of that:

 

Thanks for listening to me whine and stuff! Things are looking up! 

-Matt

Forest Altar

Hello everybody, I just finished up this painting this week and thought I'd put up some images and talk a little bit about my thought process through some of it. 

Forest Altar - 2014

9x12"

Ink and Watercolor

So if you've been keeping up with my work for the past few months -thanks if you have, by the way- then you might notice a very striking similarity to the late, great illustrator Jean Giraud aka Moebius. This is not by accident, I mean he's a figurehead in comics and illustration with good reason. It's not only his style though, that I'm attracted to, I love his line making and atmosphere but the narrative he's able to convey. The stories in his works are mystical, detailed worlds that I am always dying to know more about. That's really what I want to strive towards. The idea of 'world-building' has always been extremely appealing to me and has been something I've always done. 

 

In this image I wanted the sense of discovery to come across, that the traveler- who is at this point anonymous- has come upon massive statue in the middle of what I hoped would be a very dense jungle. This composition is actually very similar to a recent Killian Eng piece, but art being what it is, I took what I liked and added what I wanted to be there. I have an immense respect for his work and what he's doing and he's another that was massively influenced by Moebius, but has put his own spin on that type of work. I'd very much like to do what he's doing right now. 

There are some close ups here so you get get a little better idea of what's going on. I actually scanned it in at 1200dpi on the amazing Epson 10000xl we have in the office which I think offers a really good reproduction on a screen as you're likely to get. I boosted the levels in Photoshop slightly, but really there wasn't any need for post-production on this one. I ended up being really happy with how things came out for the most part. I've been doing a lot of 'campsite' pieces lately, where my explorer is very obviously out in the world, well exploring. I haven't figured out what role the Crystals will play in my little fiction but, their mystery is part of the appeal for me. The idea of this mystical, powerful force existing in a futuristic science fiction world is extremely interesting to me. I'm not sure if that's the case for anyone else, but I feel successful in this one.  

Above are some process shots of the making of this thing. I recently converted my inking/painting surface to a Fabriano Hot Press Watercolor block, which was a real turning point for me. The problems I had with buckling, smearing etc were gone and I could really focus on what I wanted to make instead of working around the technical limitations of the media. The lines are vector-crisp and the paint is brilliant and clear. The only problem I've faced is how quickly it dries for flat washes (you can really see that in the sky) but I'm getting better I think. 


Feel free to share my stuff on your chosen social platform, but please do me a favor and link back to this site or use my name.