Visiting Artist – Donato Giancola

Just a little over a month ago we had another amazing artist come to BYU and teach us.  His name was Donato Giancola.  You can go look at some of his art and stuff over at his website.  He loved to talk and told us that if we wanted to we could call him and he could talk our ears off for hours.  He prefers the phone to email since it takes two hands to type.  Talking on the phone only requires one hand, so he can keep painting away while he talks.  Donato was very friendly, happy, generous, and a pleasure to be around.  He was overflowing with good stories and great tips, and I’m going to share some of that with you now.
He gave a figure drawing demo in the morning where he drew a couple full-body gestures, a couple feet, and a couple hands.  Apparently we got to watch him draw more than his students ever do while in class with him.  He spent a lot more time talking than drawing. He went off on tangents everywhere, so my snippets of notes might not seem very connected.  I write down what strikes me most.

  • You’re making a controlled mess.  Work through it.
  • Feel free to emphasize and exaggerate on your drawings, like on the knuckles of the hands.
  • There is NO perfect, ideal image out there.  A perfect image is a finished image.  You need to make a choice and go forward.
  • If you exude enthusiasm, people will want to work with you.  People don’t like working with people who are negative.  (So don’t spend time apologizing for your work.  Bad idea.  Be confident.)  If your work is okay and you’re a wonderful person who’s willing to work, you can probably get a job.
  • Be more objective.  What makes you happy?  What makes a hero?  Analyze things.
  • Art is therapy.
  • You absorb things from the world around you.  Go experience it.
  • In order to get some jobs you need to be available by phone.
  • He tells amateurs and experienced professionals apart by the amount of finished detail work there is on the hands and feet.  Put detail in them and don’t avoid them!
  • In the publishing industry, if you only sell them the first-time publishing rights you can do whatever you want with the image afterwards.
  • Think about what’s in it for you.  Think self-preservation and plan for the future.
  • Don’t just please your teachers.  Pour your passion into it and knock their socks off!  Blow everyone else out of the water!  Decimate them!  (almost direct quote, only a couple words off.)
  • Don’t think about what you’re drawing, just flow.
  • When he has a hard time focusing and getting motivated, he walks to an art museum.
  • Suck in what’s around you.

Later in the day he gave a lecture about how he worked and got into the illustration business.  It was a great story.  He went through a lot of hardships and had to struggle for a while, and also lost a lot of vision in one eye when he got shot by a paintball at close range just after graduating.  He never let any of it stop him and just worked harder whenever something came around.  Here are my notes from that lecture.

  • He learned how to draw by copying.  He was strongly influenced by Star Wars, then by comics. Specifically George Perez, Ian Miller, Frank Miller, Busy Busy Town, X-Men, and Ironman.
  • Have a sponge attitude!
  • Produce a lot of work!  Work hard!
  • Spend money on the nice stuff.  Get the good brushes.  Precision detail.
  • He was energetic and delivered on time.
  • He goes to bed in a timely manner as best he can.  ( I like that idea!)
  • Make the time you spend count.
  • The successful path is the path you TAKE, not the path you hesitantly start down.
  • Coolness is good, but it can’t trump content.
  • Try to get people to CLAP for your art.  Go beyond what you need to.
  • He still goes to life drawing classes.
  • He has a large reference file.  He’s taken a lot of pictures over his lifetime.
  • He treats drawing from a picture the same as he does drawing from life.
  • Being prolific is an important part of being an artist.  You learn from mistakes.
Then another point I learned from him through one of his demo DVDs is that it doesn’t matter if the brush is a watercolor brush for oil painting as long as it’s sable.
Overall I was very impressed and a little inspired by Donato.  He made me want to produce more work so that I could get better.  I have yet to start, but I mean to this winter break!  So yeah.  Go check him out!

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