Art Direction for Comics & Stuff – Notes from FanX 2015

I went to a panel about good art direction for comics/screenplays/etc.  It turned out to mostly be a panel about being art-directed by an art director, but I did manage to pull out some tidbits of advice for figuring out art direction on your own.

First off, you’re trying to tell a story through pictures. What’s it about? Make sure the art focuses on that.

Be creative. Figuring out the art style is the first step after the story is written.  It is affected by final format, meaning TV vs. Movie screen, paper size, or unlimited internet canvas.

Research. Pull from nature. Pull from other cultures. Find things you can reference and flirt with in your style.

Don’t forget all the props!  There will be a ton of them.

That was about it.  I hope that was helpful in some way.

Things I Need to Remember to Teach My Children – General

Okay, so the other day it dawned on me that I should make a list of things I don’t want to forget to teach my children someday when I have them.  I had a handy list my mom passed out during a Relief Society lesson she taught that covered a bunch of the general stuff.  I figured I post it here so I don’t have to worry about losing the paper.

I’ll be adding posts with these tags to this blog periodically whenever something specific pops up I need to remember to teach my kids.  My husband is very good at pointing them out to me with the random things he does… like he didn’t know how to use a toaster, or how to set a bake time on an oven and super baked the lasagna.  Those are kind of important to know so you don’t set the house on fire.


Okay.  The general stuff.


  • Bible Stories
  • Book of Mormon Stories
  • Church History
  • Faith
  • Prayer
  • Baptism
  • Holy Ghost
  • Sacrament
  • Covenants
  • Temple
  • Reverence
  • Honor
  • Honesty
  • Integrity
  • Morality
  • Modesty
  • Kindness
  • Love
  • Service
  • Testimony
  • Missionary Work
  • Word of Wisdom
  • Tithing
  • Sabbath Observance
  • Patriarchal Blessings
  • The Priesthood
  • Truth
  • Family/Genealogy
  • Repentance


  • Manners
  • Cooking
  • Music
  • Physical Fitness
  • Respect
  • Self-discipline
  • Dealing with Disappointment
  • Dealing with Boredom
  • Dealing with Differences
  • Sacrifice
  • Language
  • Communication
  • Grooming
  • Healthy Eating
  • Art
  • Academics
  • Home Maintenance
  • Personal Finance
  • Laundry
  • Sewing
  • Shopping
  • Budgetting
  • Car Maintenance
  • Travel
  • Other Cultures
  • Government
  • Fun/Entertainment
  • Truth
  • Mental Health
  • Self Reliance

I think I’ve discovered a secret

To how to keep my lips from drying out so fast.

Since I became a Mary Kay consultant I’ve poked at the makeup they sent me to wear.  Most of it went straight to my inventory, but I was fascinated that they sent me clear lip liner.  What’s the point of clear stuff?  Apparently lip liner isn’t just for adding color, but to prevent your lipstick and stuff from bleeding out of your lips and looking badly-applied.  I don’t really need it for that, but I discovered that when I wear it, I need to reapply the lip balm less often!  I have to do it even less often when I put lip gloss on top of that.  So what’s the secret?  Use lip liner and then seal the lip balm in.

What to Do with Creative Block (writing, art, etc.)

So, have you ever found yourself lacking or stuck on your stories, art, or anything else creative?  That dreaded creative block or faithless muse seems stop a lot of people from moving forward and can be super frustrating.  I know I struggle with it at times.  When it hits it sometimes seems like it will never go away.  However, creative block is a challenge to vanquish, not to surrender to.

Here are some suggestions on ways to fight creative block:

  • Take a little break from your story/art.  Just a little one.  Maybe a day or two at most.  Go for some walks, listen to good music, experience something new.

  • Learn about something you don’t know much about.
  • Do some writing/art exercises.  Find a prompt and write something with your characters that doesn’t have to do with your story, or make up some new characters and have fun with that.  Or, for art, follow some tutorials and practice different techniques.  Some good books for that are: The Writer’s Block and The Creative Block.  (These work great for both writing and art)  There are loads of books and websites with prompts, ideas and exercises to try.  I also own The 3 A.M. Epiphany, but have yet to crack it open and see what it offers.  It looks really cool, though.  I’ll have to try it and let you know how it goes.
  • Write on a different part of your story.  Do some different art.
  • When writing, ask yourself what you think would be fun to see happen with your characters, then write that.  When arting, ask yourself what would be fun, ridiculous, or risky to try, then do it.
  • Talk to friends about your story/art.  They might ask good questions to get you thinking, or talking might spark ideas.
  • Go take care of things that have been piling up.  Clean the house.  Organize.  Write letters.  Catch up on the non-creative stuff you keep meaning to do.  Getting something done should help you feel better since you were productive, and it will also ease your mind and free it up so it can start having fun again.
  • Just slog through it.  I know this option stinks, but sometimes it’s the only way.
Ultimately, though, once you do those things the most important part is to GET BACK TO WORK.  You have to push through creative block.  Write some crappy junk.  Make a mess on that “canvas,” whatever it may be.  You can edit and fix it later.  You can even start over.  Just don’t let it stop you.  SHOW your muse who’s BOSS!
After all, good creative products are 10% inspiration and 90% hard work.  You are awesome, and you can do it.

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!

Visiting Artist – Nathan Fowkes

So earlier on in the semester, the week of September 26 to be more exact, Nathan Fowkes came out to BYU as a visiting artist and attended several classes to give demos and gave a couple lectures.  He was really cool to have.  Not only is he really good at what he does, but he hardly repeated himself, so that every lecture or demo you attended you got more and new information.  I got to go to a couple of them and I want to share with you what I learned!
The first lecture I got to go to was one mostly about color theory.  He talked a lot about the basics are very important, and those basics boil down to believability and harmony.

  • Color is a product of our brain, our brain interpreting light in a way that is useful to us.  It interprets opposing/complementary colors even though color is really just a progression.
  • The color wheel sets up colors with oppositions even though it really doesn’t exist.
  • The human eye can distinguish 2.4 million colors.
  • Color can be broken down into the measurable: hue, saturation, and value; and the emotional impact: temperature.
  • Sometimes you can just rely on Value and Temperature.
  • Color is always in context.  It needs relationships.  Your brain craves meaning.  Art/color needs meaningful relationships.
  • Harmony:  Variety vs. Unity vs. Unity with Variety.
    • The most interesting compositions have lots of unity with some variety.
  • Pigment can’t do as much as light can.
  • Look for simple value groupings.  Look for relationships.
  • Don’t separate color & light, they are related.
  • Work general to specific.
  • If you can get the temperature you want with the value you want, you can get close to the color you want.
  • Make conscientious color choices.
    • Cheat it to make it read to the viewer.  Make it compelling.
  • It takes mileage and practice.
  • Paint from the world around you, especially outside.  That’s the best way to learn color.
  • Take breaks for 5-20 minutes at a time from your work to refresh yourself.
  • He always needs a simple idea of how it might work, then he does some comps, then he does some more comps, then maybe even some more comps before doing the final work.

  • He uses a Listerine bottle as his water bottle in his traveling painting kit that he takes with him everywhere.

That were the essential basics of his color theory lecture.  There were many, many slides that went along with it that helped demonstrate what he was teaching.  I can’t really explain those without them, so the best way to learn about how colors relate to other colors would be to go look at a color theory book.  I might get one and go through and write a post or two in the future to try to explain things better.  I still have a LOT to learn about that myself!

The other big lecture he gave that I was able to go to focused on artist and audience, basically the relationship between the visual artist and their audience.
He talked a little bit about how he saw Ray Bradbury at Comic Con one year and the awe and respect that that man received there.  Fowkes told us that an artist trying to reach in and touch the gut of feeling in people like Ray Bradbury did needs to have some ideas on how to do so.  Visual artists have a responsibility to create mood, storytelling, environments, and space that draws the audience in.  A few key things are:

  • Audience engages with character and character expression.
  • The audience has to understand the environment in a glance.  Sometimes they only get two seconds to look at it (like in movies).
  • Exaggerate.
  • Important elements are SHAPE, LINE, and SPACE.
  • SHAPE:
    • circles are lovable and comfortable
    • squares are solid and stable
    • triangles are dangerous
    • organic is interesting
  • LINE:
    • horizontal is peaceful
    • vertical is strong
    • diagonal is for action/is dynamic
    • should reflect the emotion
  • You should do color studies–thousands of them!
  • Practice!  Prepare!
So yeah.  Lots of good basics.  He had lots of really cool visuals from movies and things he’s worked on along with other images.  I should practice more.
That basically sums up what I got out to Nathan Fowke’s visit to BYU this semester!  If anything is unclear or you want to know more about something, just ask and I’ll do my best to clear things up or give a more thorough answer.  🙂

My Trip to LA – Days 5

Friday March 9
Friday was a spectacular day!  First we went to the Laguna College of Art and Design to see what the Masters program there is like.  It’s a nice, small school with plenty of space for the students to work in.  While I don’t think grad school is for me, it would be a nice place to go for anyone else.
After that we headed down to Laguna beach for lunch!  It’s only about ten-fifteen minutes away from the art school, so you could eat at the beach every day if you wanted to.  I took a couple pictures while at the beach.

Yup, I even took a picture of me.  When I was in high school I took a ton of that kind of picture of me, since my camera has a rotating display that can point in any angle it makes it easy!  I can see myself while I take the picture.  It’s such a cool camera!  Silly grin is silly.  Bad picture is bad.

BUT!  After lunch came the AMAZING part!  We went to Carbine Game Studios which is owned by NCSoft.  Carbine is working on a game called WildStar and it is SO COOL!  It’s beautiful, creative, and I want to play it so badly!  You have no idea how amazing and wonderful it is! Go check it out!  The in-game stuff looks just like the concept art, and it’s so beautiful!  I really don’t have the words to describe it.

While at Carbine we got to wander around and see how everything works and is developed, which is more than we really got to do at any other studio.  It was really neat to get to talk to the workers as they worked and watch them play around as they work.  Working at a place like that would be so cool.  They gave us a lot of advice, all of it really good and beneficial.  I took more notes there than I did any place else.  They told us about how a lot of them got their jobs because  friend of theirs got hired and then recommended them, and then they would bring along their other friend.

After wandering around they took us into a cool “secret” room and showed us the trailer for the game.  Then they talked to us about portfolio stuff and how to get a job.  First off, networking!  It’s super important!  Start at the bottom and work your way up.  Don’t go emailing the people at the top first, they’re way to busy to pay attention to you and already get a lot of attention themselves.  Start out with the lower level.  Comment on their work, compliment it, work towards being friends.  They will love the attention and be very willing to help you out.  Short emails are better.  Once you establish a good relationship with someone and they like your work they can help you get a job.  Jobs at studios are often filled before they’re listed online because people in the studio suggest people they know.  Make networking part of your job.

For portfolio and job application stuff they were very particular about how your cover letter should have the name of the place you’re applying to in the letter.  If you have the wrong business in there they won’t look at your stuff at all.  You would think that that is common sense, but apparently it happens a lot.  You should tailor your resume and cover letter to the place you’re applying to.  Research the company, and put in some time to make some work that is tailored to that place.  This shows that you are smart.  Highlight what you do in your free time that’s related to art.  Also, make sure your links work.  In the cover letter you should sound excited about the job, whether or not you actually are.  You can also be creative in your cover letter. You also need an online portfolio somewhere.

For your online portfolio you need to make it as clear and easy to use as possible.  They will know in ten seconds whether or not they want to hire you by looking at it.  So, the fewer clicks the better.  They need to see your drive in the portfolio, it should say a lot about you.  Only put your 5-10 best pieces in the portfolio.  You can have more to see elsewhere.  Be honest and show them that you can see the flaws in your work when they ask to see more, tell them that your portfolio is your best work and that the rest isn’t quite as good.  They like it when you can tell what’s wrong in a piece.  They are looking for people who are creative!  If you are applying for a concept design type of position, then you should show a variety of art styles.  Concept design is all about ideas.  Illustration is more about finished quality work.  Act like where you are applying to is your #1 place.

They also gave some advice on how to be better artists.  They told us to never do work in a vacuum.  You need to put yourself in a creative environment!  Go and talk to people you don’t usually talk to.  Ask questions!  Learn how to do things!  You should be harsh on yourself and honestly seek out real world feedback.  The key to success is to know what sucks.  Fix it.  Learn to see the flaws in your own work.  Always strive to do better.  Also, if you’re working in a video game studio environment like that then you shouldn’t get to attached to your work because it will often get changed and is seldom one single person’s work.

Afterwards they gave us posters signed by the entire crew!  So awesome!

So, Carbine was way cool to visit.  I loved it and it was super helpful!  We took a little bit longer there than originally planned, and then there was rush hour traffic on the way back to Pasadena.  We stopped at the Norton Simon museum for about an hour.  Since it was a special art night the entry was free and it was packed with people.  I sat out for part of it, I had developed a headache.  Then we returned to the hotel one last time to sleep.

My Trip to LA – Day 4

Sorry for taking so long to continue!  School caught up with me.
Thursday March 8
On Thursday we went to the beach!  Well, first we went to see Ken Bishop, who is a freelance artist who does a lot of work for EA games from his studio at home.  He strongly encouraged developing our “classical skills” in art.  Companies are willing to teach you the technical aspects of their software, but you need to have a foundation to start with.  He told us that we need to stay “plugged in” to what’s going on.  Stay up to date, learn new software programs, observe life- it will keep you fresh.  Also, networking.  It’s important.  Being in the right place at the right time is about being everywhere all the time.  There are a lot of people buying art at any given time, so find something you love and go after it.
After that we stopped to eat lunch near the beach.  Then we went to Sony Pictures Studio and were given a presentation there by Justin Thompson and Pete Oswald.  They talked to us mostly about character and environment design for movies.  They told us that sometimes a character’s design problems can become what’s funny about them.  Don’t try to design out all the problems, take advantage of them!  You shouldn’t worry about the 3D aspect at first.  Draw a beautiful drawing, then figure out how to make it 3D.  Environments require a different skill set than characters and is hard work to learn.  You shouldn’t pigeon-hole yourself right at the start, be flexible.  You’re really only as good as your last drawing.  It’s very rare to get a beautiful piece without a lot of hard work.  Draw everything!  You never know what you’ll need to draw someday for your job.  Be willing to draw anything and in any style.  Also, you should never settle on your first idea.
They also gave some advice on portfolios.  If you’re looking at concept design they said that you should have a finished version along with the steps leading up to it in your portfolio.  It’s good to show a range of style, subject matter, and lighting set ups.  For concept it’s good to have about 40% rough work, and 60% finished work.  A 30 page maximum is recommended.  Also, when in doubt, leave it out.
Then we went to the Santa Monica Pier for dinner and the art walk.  I took a picture of the sunset there!
A large part of the group went and ate at Bubba Gump’s, but that place was expensive so I ate with my husband and a couple friends at the Pier Burger place.  The food there wasn’t bad.  Then we wandered down to the beach and let the waves wash over our feet.  I got my pants wet because I didn’t think to roll them up until after the fact.  The ocean was nice.  Then we wandered up to the mall area.  That place was pretty cool.  Some of us ended up at Barnes & Noble and looked at art books and comic books.  There are so many books that I want to buy!  I can’t right now though.  I must save my pennies.  After that we finally went back to the hotel and slept.

My Trip to LA – Day 3

Wednesday March 7
Wednesday was a fantastic day!  It was probably my favorite day of the whole trip, it certainly is the day I took the most pictures.  That was the day we went to Dreamworks!  It would be a fantastic place to work.  They have a nice campus with plenty of sunshine, and free lunch and breakfast for the employees!  They let us take pictures outside the buildings, so here are a few.
Fountain at DreamWorks
Water Feature at Dreamworks
More water!

DreamWorks has a lot of water features.


Like, a lot of water features.


Even the outdoor eating area has a pretty water feature!


Complete with ducks!


And pretty fish!

While we were at Dreamworks we saw Anthony Holden, a BYU alumni and storyboard artist.  He talked about how he came to work at Dreamworks and the process he went through to decide his career path.  He compared his work to the story of the Brother of Jared in the Book of Mormon (Ether 3:1-6) where he brings 16 stones to the Lord because the Lord gave him the task of deciding how the boats he built should be lit.  The Brother of Jared came up with the idea of the stones because they couldn’t have fire, so he came to the Lord with the stones and asked him to touch the stones and make them give light.  The Lord did so and The Brother of Jared then proceeded to have a very spiritual and enlightening experience.  Anthony said that the Brother of Jared was like, “Lord, I have these 16 stones.  I know it’s not the greatest idea, but it’s the best I can come up with, please make it work?”  And that he’s all like, “Lord, here are my cartoons.  I know their not very good, but they’re all I can do, so would You please make them shine so I can support my family?”  I thought it was a good comparison.  It’s a good humble view a good artist should have.
Then Dreamworks fed us lunch!  It was tasty good food.  After lunch we went to The Huntington Library and wandered around the gardens and museums there.  I didn’t go in any of the museums, but I wandered around the gardens and tried to take some good reference pictures to draw from later.
Shortly after I took this picture my camera got dropped.  It still works fine, but the outside casing is all crunched up on one corner and the top piece is a bit out of alignment.
After the Huntington Gardens we went to visit Cliff Nielsen in his home in downtown LA.  The guy lives in a warehouse!  It was so amazing!
I tried to take pictures inside, but it was too dark since it was so late in the day.  He has an amazing set up!  His house is built into the front of it and then he has a huge space to use for his photography.  It was mind blowing.  He gave some really good advice as well.  He spoke out strongly for using your own reference, you can’t steal stuff from other people and it’s just better to make or get your own anyway.  Also, he said that you need to think of yourself first as a storyteller.  Doing that will make you a much better illustrator.

And there was a Goodyear blimp flying around.  I hadn’t seen one in a while, so I documented it.  I think the picture was well timed.

After Cliff we were supposed to go to visit the Whitemoon Dreams game studio, but the car I was in got very lost.  We wandered around Chinatown for a bit before accidentally finding the highway and decided we were half-way back to the hotel already, so we might as well just go the rest of the way.  From what I heard Whitemoon Dreams was nice and a good experience, but of all the things on the trip to miss, it was the one to miss.  I’m glad that was the case, because I really enjoyed catching up on the internet that day before going to bed before everyone else got back.