Stealing for Art

Every artist asked the question,

“Where do you get your ideas?”

The honest artist answers,

“I steal them.”

– Austin Kleon, Steal Like An Artist: 10 Things Nobody Told You About Being Creative

As a beginner artist who have no formal training 1 and instead would count on watching YouTube art tutorials and reading countless how-to books, whenever I feel down or have lost motivation to the point where giving up is probably the best way for me to feel better about myself, I always turn to this book by Austin Kleon, Steal Like An Artist: 10 Things Nobody Told You About Being Creative. It’s available now on Amazon for both paperback and Kindle format, as well as other online bookstores. 2

With everything else, we all have to start somewhere. Unless if you’re a visual genius and can draw everything perfectly the way you picture it from your head, we all have references as our sources to create something that we can personally consider as ours. In addition, I’ve also learned from others who are in this field for years that specific formal training isn’t required to become an artist of any kind. You can get your own training and practice from anywhere and in different ways. I’ve always believed in that method and I’ve always followed it. I do the same way when I learn how to code, 3 and in this case, I start the same way with art.

Why am I writing about this subject?

For all artists out there, regardless of level, have you ever had a situation where someone would come up to you and bully you, 4 not because of your art, but how you created your art? It’s happened to me.

For digital art using Photoshop or some other graphics/illustration software, I would take a photograph as a reference, and since I’m going by art tutorial videos and I’m on the beginner level, tracing was part of the process. In many graphics/illustration software, there are Filters. What are filters for? They’re there as tools to give certain effects on your entire artwork or parts of your artwork. You all know what tools mean, right? They’re there for a purpose than just styling photographs for whatever goal you’re trying to reach. They’re also there for you use them when you can’t capture the right effect you’re trying to make manually. I’ve searched around countless digital art video tutorials and even (e)Books about digital art and they all make their art in different ways, in which using filters and tracing are part of their process. And these are not amateur artists either.

And yet, even if my purpose of sharing my fan art on social media 5 to fellow fans to show my appreciation for my favorite groups and idols, there are some who seem to be offended (?) by the way I created it. One of them even had the audacity to tell me to “learn anatomy” to create my own charaters 6. Yeah, I would need funding to attend a local art school to learn anatomy, and art institutions here in California are expensive as hell. 7

Their reasons why they decided to “call me out” and making me look like I’m faking all my artwork because “using filters and tracing” only makes other artists “waste their time” working hard while I don’t. Like does this person actually tried out digital art himself? With digital art and digital painting, you don’t just “trace” and then use some filter to make it look like it’s “painting” and leave it at that. Like with traditional art, it takes a long time to finish them as well. Do I look like I sit all day at home just doing “tracing and filtering” from reference photos? Because if I do that, I would’ve done 10+ digital art pieces in one day instead of the usual 1-3 pieces per day? Talk about hypocrisy here. 8

It’s not to show off or to make people “wow” at them because anyone else can create the same. And yet these people even tried to “expose” me as some kind of a fraud for just for using filters and tracing over a reference photo. They should send their complaints to all of the other artists who are using the same method as I do, the artists who shared their tutorial videos and wrote books about them, if they’re so adamant in making me look like a fraud in front of everyone, in which, unless I was selling these for profit, has nothing to do with the fandom itself.

There were a number of fan artists from the same fandom who did send me DMs, showing me some support and kind words knowing what I just went through, giving me encouragement to keep going regardless of what others say, and take my time with it. Even though if that’s the case, I no longer share my fan art in public anymore because I don’t need all that BS from those people. I do post them in my Deviantart and Pixiv accounts, and those who do want to see my fan art would just go there and see them. I have both accounts synced to my personal Twitter, but that’s it.

Courses at Class 101

Aside from continuing on with my coding/data science journey, I also started taking various digital art courses. Class 101 is awesome. There are plenty of other courses that anyone can enroll also. There are also popular online creative learning platforms such as Skillshare, Brit + Co, and there are relatively new online creative learning platforms that originated from non-English-speaking countries such as Domestika9 and the one I mentioned and currently enrolled in, Class 101.10

Sure, it’s still through its transitioning port from its original Korean to both English and Japanese, but the courses they offer (mostly art of many kinds and lifestyle courses too) have been nothing but serious high quality. Sure, they’re expensive, but they do have periodical sales 11 and that they also have an installment payment plan also if you can’t afford to pay the entire price all at once. I started off as one of their beta testers when I got an email from them after seeing my web dev portfolio site and that my hobbies and interests include digital art and that I am fluent in English and proficient (more or less) in Japanese. As part of their thanks, they shipped me a new iPad (7th generation) and a 1st generation Apple Pencil. Since then, I enrolled in some of their courses, mostly anime/manga style to whimsical digital art courses using Procreate, Clip Studio Paint, and Adobe CC.

What made me a lot more motivated for these courses is that most of the instructors 12 have background in somewhat related fields such as graphic designing and illustration but really have no formal training in traditional art schools. Their character art creative process also did not include learning anatomy, as none of them took any anatomy courses. These instructors proved that learning art can come from anywhere and not just the traditional “strict and formal” that you’d have to attend an art school or a private atelier 13 just for someone to even call you an artist. Another BS.

I still plan on making fan art for my fandoms, but in different styles now. I still am going to continue doing digital portraits like before, but I want to focus more on doing different non-realistic styles. In addition, I also plan on creating my own digital art with my own characters and my own settings and maybe use them to sell some crafted goods like shopping bags, 14 water bottles, t-shirts, stationery, etc.

Art/Sketch Journaling

I started a sketch journal early last year. I intended to start making my own bullet journal and I was even following a few YouTube tutorials on how to create a bullet journal, but just the decorating part alone made this failed attempt of a bullet journal transform into a sketch journal. I was into it for about a month, but when my father passed away last April, I lost motivation into continuing.

Lately, thanks to one of my instructors from the Class 101 courses, I picked up my dot notebook again and started going back to sketch journaling again. I still kept the same style as always, with using the stencil on certain parts and hand-sketching some doodles with some commentary.

Here’s my recent sketch journal entry. Simple and straightforward.

I plan to post more of my favorite sketch journal pages and post them on my Instagram. I also thought about creating another separate Instagram account just for the sketch journal and some of my work-in-progress artwork one day, but not at this moment. We’ll see what happens.

“You start out as a phony and become real.”

– Glenn O’Brien

The ironic thing about this quote is that while I felt hurt that I let my imposter syndrome take over and me thinking that I’m a complete fake with my own art just because I went in a different approach to create art, the quote said here is very relatable.

Now that I thought about it, am I going to the right direction in becoming a “real” artist? I start off as a phony and then become real?

This is something I need to think about…

“The point is: All the world’s a stage. Creative work is a kind of theater. The stage is your studio, your desk, or your workstation. The costume is your outfit– your painting pants, your business suit, or that funny hat that helps you think. The props are your materials, your tools, and your medium. The script is just plain old time. An hour here, or an hour there– just time measured out for things to happen.

Fake it ’til you make it.

– Austin Kleon, Steal like an Artist: 10 Things Nobody Told You About Being Creative

Little Notes

  1. I majored and earned my BFA degree in Visual Communications, but specializing in web graphic design and development, not strictly graphic design or illustration. I took courses, but not completely focused on them, so that doesn’t count as “formal training.”
  2. As a sidenote, I also recommend the rest of Austin Kleon’s follow-up books, Show Your Work! and Keep Going: 10 Ways to Stay Creative in Good Times and Bad. Also, I started searching for other similar books for all artists and creators suffering in imposter syndrome, such as myself.
  3. And after joining a couple of non-profit organizations for women and non-binary folk who currently work professionally in tech, they all started the same way too. Most of them don’t have a computer science degree, and that says something as well.
  4. They call it “criticizing,” but not when they judge you and your aim without even knowing the entire story.
  5. real-life example in one of my fandoms
  6. even though that wasn’t my intent in the first place – I do want to learn my own character art, but I’m also sure that “learning anatomy” isn’t a requirement. It may help, but it’s not for everyone. I’m part of that “not for everyone” group.
  7. unless they offer to pay me to attend them… and it’s California. Everything in California is expensive.
  8. and yet this person never shared his own artwork…
  9. Domestika began primarily as an online creative learning community platform for Spanish-speaking countries, but also transitioned to an English language platform by adding English subtitles to their current courses.
  10. Class 101 is a Korean online creative learning community and it’s recently going to transition to an English and Japanese portal by also adding English and Japanese subtitles to their current and upcoming Korean language courses.
  11. Kind of like Udemy
  12. All industry experts, all Korean naturally…
  13. My hometown isn’t known for its superior (?) technology center, but it’s also a center for the arts and other creatives. We have a number of art schools, art universities, and smaller ateliers, but this is California. They’re all expensive.
  14. maybe not shopping bags, I’ll wait till the pandemic lockdown has been lifted