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. 

New works (in progress) for December

Hello all! 
I've been busting my butt making new stuff so I thought I'd put some stuff up here and talk about how things have been going kind of wrong. 

Red Fox in Snow - 2013

9x12"

Ink and Watercolor

detail (sorry for the watermark :/)

There are some problems going on with this guy, and it's definitely not the last stab I plan on taking at the red fox. I like using really diluted ink as a wash for snow ( I love red foxes in snow) and I think his washes are ok for his coat. The face is pretty rough and he has somehow grown two rear left feet. Weird. I'm not being self deprecating for no reason here though, I think it's a really good way avoid repeating stupid mistakes. Practice. 

Popular culture aside, I really enjoy everything about foxes-the mythology, their mannerisms, and obviously the way they look. When I lived in West Virginia all of the foxes must have been exponentially more cunning than the ones in Maryland because I have seen at least 6 in the two years I've lived here. That's been really interesting to me lately though-seeing animals in parking lots and driveways that previously I'd only ever seen from a distance. I've seen a 10 point buck in my metro lot 3 times just hanging out. He doesn't have a thing in the world to worry about compared to his WV cousin. 

Crystal Discovery - 2013

4x6"

Ink and watercolor

I've been thinking about the intersection of logic in crystals and fungi lately. More on that later. This is a really quick little thing I did all in one day. To be honest it was mostly practice, so it's pretty rough around the edges as well, but over all I like the idea and composition.

Odd Deposit - 2013

9x12"

Ink and failure

I worked on this guy for maybe 10 hours altogether and I bet the very first thing you notice is that weird and lumpy circle above the mountains. Life is full of lessons and the one I learned that day is this: if you're going to a bunch of time on something, do the most complicated part first. How many times have I drawn a perfect circle in ink? No times. Zero amount of times. Why then would I wait until I was done with this entire piece to try and freehand that sun? The good part about the situation is that it scanned in really cleanly and I think I can color it digitally and take that sun out. It's a real shame though, I wanted to paint it. 

Dark Djinn - 2013

9x12"

Ink, coffee, failure

ugh the bleed, THE BLEED

The last one here is similar to the one before it in that I messed things up right at the end, though I didn't spend nearly as much time working on it. 2 big things happened on this one I spilled coffee on it, and used the wrong type of pen. The coffee thing isn't a huge deal, I just scanned it in and can paint it digitally, but apparently the pen I was using had a different type of ink that did not agree with the paper. The unfortunate thing about it is you can't see the bleeding until it's too late. The only parts affected were really small details but it still bothered me. Ah well, live and learn. That's kind of what this whole post is about I guess: learning. Someone wise told me once that experience is only gained by failure and that you must not be afraid to fail. I've been gaining experience by leaps and bounds the last month or two and a lot of that experience has stemmed from doing something either entirely avoidable or just careless.  All of these are works in progress or works that need to go in a different direction-though that isn't necessarily a bad thing. Sometimes changing course can be exactly what you need. 

 

Additionally, I'm still gaining loads of experience in keeping up this site and if something goes wrong or looks weird or is broken I might not know about it. So if something weird happens when you're here, shoot me a quick email and I will extremely grateful.