Supernatural’s Gil McKinney and Osric Chau – On Writing Books, Releasing New Music and New Seasons of Television!

 

It’s been a while since I had a chance to sit down and chat with Gil McKinney and Osric Chau, two of my favorite guest stars on Supernatural (as Henry Winchester and Kevin Tran) so I was happy to catch up with them at the Supernatural convention in Chicago this summer.

It’s been a busy year for Gil – he has a new baby, wrote a chapter in Family Don’t End With Blood, and just released his first EP (How Was I To Know), produced by fellow SPN Family member and talented singer, Jason Manns. After a wildly successful kickstarter, the EP was released this summer to rave reviews. Family Don’t End With Blood, was released this summer as well, and many fans have said that Gil’s chapter has inspired them.

It’s been a busy year for Osric as well, who also wrote an inspiring and personal chapter in Family Don’t End With Blood. And of course because he’s a regular on the smash hit Dirk Gently, on BBC America. As we sat down to chat in Chicago, filming was just beginning on Season 2, which starts airing next month, and Dirk Gently was about to conquer Comic Con in the gigantic Hall H!

Gil and Osric did a panel together at this convention, something they haven’t done in a while. I was there for their first joint panel, several years ago, when they haltingly started to get to know each other after being thrown together somewhat randomly, and I watched as they developed a genuine fondness and a lot of chemistry. It was a joy to see them onstage together again.

A fan asked about the book they both wrote chapters in.

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Behind the Scenes of Supernatural with Robbie Thompson

One of the absolute highlights of this year’s Comic Con for me was sitting down to chat with Robbie Thompson, gifted comic writer and screenwriter who wrote some of my very favorite episodes of my very favorite show. That would be Supernatural, in case you didn’t know. Which is pretty much impossible unless you’ve just stumbled over this blog for the first time.

I attended Robbie’s panel on Intersectional Feminism in Comics, which was awesome and entirely inspiring, so we were all in a good mood afterwards. We decided to try to find a room where there weren’t a million people around, and took a bunch of friends with us – Laurena, Candice, Anne and Kamila – who were down with listening in to our epic interview. They will henceforth be referred to as the Peanut Gallery (‘PG’). For the most part, they were PG. The most part. Just sayin.

After several false starts traversing the ginormous convention center, including being barred from using the press room for our interview, we found an empty room with lots of empty round tables. Robbie, ever the intrepid one, shrugged and said, ‘how about this one?’

Occasionally a Comic Con staffer would come in, take a look at our oh-so-professional interview in progress, and quietly back out. Score!

I start the interview by tossing my handwritten notes about what I’m dying to ask and my little vintage audio recorder on the table.

R: (points to Lois Lane like tape recorder) Look at this, so professional..

L: Hey, it’s ancient, it’s done a million Supernatural interviews.

R: Uh oh, look at this, guys…(points to what appears to be a big stack of questions, a la Inside the Actor’s Studio)  There’s going to be some Bernard Pivot in there. There may be some things I say off the record…

L: Of course, you know I’m good with that. (but honestly? There weren’t many!)

R: Okay let’s do this!

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Shining A Spotlight on Misha Collins

I was going to post my Vancon report this morning, but there’s something I want to talk about first. That something is Misha Collins. Partly because the events of the past week are so upsetting, which makes me long for a leader whose moral conviction and willingness to stand up for what he believes in can actually make change in this world that needs it so badly. Partly because I just finished my third Gishwhes, and watched Misha’s genuine and emotional reaction to the change we were all able to make together — I can’t think of ‘leader’ without thinking of Misha. Partly because Misha got some criticism for something he posted online, which I read as supportive but some read as the opposite – which can happen on the internet, no matter how good your intentions. Partly because I got some criticism too – which happens every time I try to share what’s happening at a con in live tweets, because LIVE tweets – but this time it struck me as so ironic, because I was sitting there thinking so much about Misha and the accusation was of ‘erasing’ him. (I had virtually no data service all day Saturday, so there were very few tweets that went through of those panels, including Misha’s, so that was probably part of the problem). But erasing?

That would be such a tragedy, it made me sick to my stomach. So I tried to think of something that could prevent it. All I have is my voice, but Misha has taught me my voice is important to use. So here goes.

The world would be a much less hopeful place without Misha Collins in it, and right now that is extremely important to me. I’m hanging onto hope wherever I can find it, and I’m unspeakably glad that one of the many wonderful things that SPN has brought me is my acquaintance with Misha Collins. He was the first of the cast to figure out how he could use his position and popularity for good, and he wasted no time doing so. Jared and Jensen have both given Misha credit for inspiring their own determination to make change through their charity campaigns. Together, the three of them – and just about all of their castmates – have done incredible work toward the kind of change we desperately need. The thing about Misha is, he’s not afraid to put himself out there, even when he’s standing out there initially alone. I admire that about him more than I can say, because that scares the hell out of me. Misha sees something that’s hurtful, and he immediately speaks up. And he doesn’t stop there – somehow he never got the discouraging message that most of us get, the ‘you’re one person, you can’t make a difference’ message that we let stop us far too often. Misha sees a problem and jumps in with both feet, uncaring of whether some people will disapprove. He doesn’t see impossible, no matter how unlikely the change that needs to happen – he sees possible. That kind of strength and courage is unusual, perhaps especially in the world of ‘celebrity’.

The other reason I admire Misha so much is because of his refusal to accept the constraints of ‘normal’. Whether it’s what you wear, what you want to do, who you want to be, or where you want to go, conforming with what someone else insists is ‘normal’ can take away your right to be yourself. And that leaves us feeling bad about who we really are. That’s right in line with all my research on fandom, which also changes the norms, and removes barriers to being genuine and real, celebrating who we really are and what we really love. It frees us to be passionate, which is the healthiest thing a human can be. From the very start of his role on Supernatural and joining the SPN Family, Misha refused to bow to all those rules about who a ‘celebrity’ should be and what he should say and what he shouldn’t. He wore a dress when he felt like it, he refused to stay inside the assigned room at his convention meet and greets and instead strolled with the gathered fans to local coffee shops or malls or into the woods to make a campfire…. He challenged what it meant to be a ‘celebrity’ and pushed back against the constraints of ‘normal’. And that made all the difference – eventually resulting in Random Acts and Gishwhes itself.

Misha and Vicki

I knew Misha was different the very first time I met him. We were writing ‘Fangasm Supernatural Fangirls’ and asked for an interview with ‘the new guy’. He had just joined the show, but his character had already made an impression. I remember being struck by how good looking he was as he got out of the set van to meet with us, looking like he’d stepped out of the 70’s in faded flared jeans and with the bluest eyes. Television doesn’t really do any of them justice when you see them in real life, does it? By the time we had finished chatting for way too long (Misha got involved in the conversation and missed his next scheduled interview – oops), I knew he was a very unique person. And I was already impressed. Much like Eric Kripke had done, Misha constantly turned the tables on us to ask us questions during the interview – he wanted to understand everything about the fandom. What did fans love about this show, how did they feel about his character, what did fandom itself give to people and was it a good thing? [Yes, absolutely]. He winked and made a joke about Dean and Cas before we could even ask him the shipping question, catching me off guard and making me spit out my drink with laughter.

He talked about joining Supernatural and becoming a ‘celebrity’ just like that.

Misha: That was an interesting process for me to negotiate. Jared and Jensen have had a lot more time in the limelight leading up to Supernatural exploding into a fan phenomenon, so they got to see it gradually unfold, whereas I stepped into it when it was already kind of a big thing, and it happened all of a sudden. Sort of like being hit by a bus!

He was thoughtful about what that meant, and how that could help him do some good. We gave him the last word in ‘Fangasm’, because what he had to say was so inspiring.

One of our first chats – baby Misha!

We stayed in touch after that, so when we decided to write another book on Supernatural, he was the first person I asked to write a chapter. I knew how much he had to say, how smart and insightful he was, and also that whatever he wrote would be both unexpected and inspiring. We sat down to talk about the chapter several times, over tea or Starbucks or at a con, and little by little I got to know him better.

Starbucks chat with a scruffy Misha
Discussing his chapter

I watched him figure out what fandom was, and figure out what his place in all this was, and then figure out how he could do something important with it. I’m honored to have been along for the ride a little bit as those ideas took place and came to fruition. His chapter in ‘Fan Phenomena Supernatural’ traces that evolution as well, as Random Acts was created and Misha began the incredible journey he’s been on ever since he set foot on the Supernatural set.

It was Osric Chau who convinced me to do Gishwhes the first time. He kept telling me how much it had changed him, what the experience had given him, what it had pushed him to do and how that had moved him forward in his own life. Osric, who I admire greatly for his willingness to step outside the box and cosplay everything from Ariel to Captain America, in turn admired Misha for his willingness to step outside the box too. Claudine Hummel, who wrote a chapter for Family Don’t End With Blood, says the same thing about Misha and the powerful impact he has had on her life. Her chapter is titled “Spreading Kindness Like Confetti,” which I think is pretty much the perfect title for a chapter all about Misha.

Misha instinctively realized, I think, that people needed explicit permission to be “not normal”. Not just encouragement, but permission – and sometimes not just permission, but a directive. Misha isn’t a psychologist, but he has a keen grasp of what makes people tick, and uses it to motivate all of us to change both ourselves and each other. I wore a hat made of kale to a very fancy country club with my friend Vickie, nervous and hesitant and feeling terribly self conscious – and experienced firsthand the liberating power of ignoring all the ‘should’ voices in my head and just being in the moment. Gishwhes also reminded me of the importance of doing for others, and the positive impact that has on all of us. I thought back on those early conversations with Misha and was in awe of the fact that he had actually done it – he was making change on a global scale, one random act of kindness at a time.

After that, I wanted to help. I’ve consulted for Random Acts and for Misha several times, and am currently about to start doing some consulting for a new project Random Acts is working on – one that is critically important in this age of cyberbullying and anonymous hate-fueled posts. Despite the fact that he’s been incredibly busy doing all those things I so admire him for, Misha also contributed a personal message to my new book, Family Don’t End With Blood – a message of love and appreciation for what the SPN Family is all about. He sets a damn good example, so I’m donating some of the proceeds of that book to Random Acts and Attitudes in Reverse. And even more striking? My awesome publisher is too. They have been just as inspired by Misha’s example.

On days like this, when it seems like the world has gone mad and I’m worried for my children and their future, I like to remind myself that there are people out there like Misha Collins. People who aren’t afraid to try to make the world better – or more accurately, are determined to push through their fears and make the change anyway. I keep telling Misha he needs to be in politics, but in a way, he already is. His voice has made a difference already, and he’s inspired many of us to do the same.

Here’s a little bit of spotlight on you, Misha, though you shine pretty bright already. Keep up the good work.

Stay tuned for more cast and crew members ‘In The Spotlight’ – we’ve got a pretty special group of people in this SPNFamily.

–Lynn

The Magicians’ Sera Gamble on What She Learned from Supernatural and What’s Next!

Once you’re part of the SPNFamily, you’re always part of the SPNFamily – so my recent trip to Comic Con included lots of catching up with some of the people who have shaped the show in important ways. Sera Gamble started as a writer on Supernatural, working closely with Eric Kripke, and later took over as showrunner when Eric left after Season 5. I first met Sera when I was writing Fandom At The Crossroads and Fangasm Supernatural Fangirls – in fact, she was one of the very first people to grant us an interview, and her insights were instrumental in encouraging us to keep writing. There’s an amusing scene in Fangasm (okay, there are LOTS of amusing scenes in Fangasm, whatever…) – anyway, there’s an amusing scene in Fangasm where Kathy and I arrive at the WB booth at Comic Con to interview Eric Kripke and find that he’s brought Sera with him.

Eric: Oh! These are the two who sent me the porn!

Sera: (cocks eyebrow)

It’s a long story, but let’s just say that was an interesting interview.

Sera is now writer and showrunner on The Magicians, which just began filming its third season on SyFy. For those who aren’t familiar, The Magicians is based on the books of the same name by Lev Grossman, and airs on SyFy in the US. The magical Brakebills University in the series is a mash up of “Hogwarts and Harry Potter for adults” and Narnia with a little Supernatural mixed in, darker and more adult oriented than the first two and more consistently magical than the last. The main characters include Quentin, who discovers that the books he has always loved are in fact not fantasy or fiction after all; Julia, his childhood friend who isn’t allowed into the magical world and whose life is marked by significant trauma; Alice, who is overcome by too much magic in Season 2 with dire consequences; Eliot, the reluctant king and Margo, the queen trying to find her way and her identity. The cast also includes Penny, the traveler, a villainous character known as The Beast, and the Dean of Brakebills, played by Rick Worthy (known to Supernatural fans as the Alpha Vamp).

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Art in the SPNFamily: Part Two: Focus on Artists

This is the second in a series of articles in which I am shining the spotlight on some of the talented artists within the SPNFamily. Friendly reminder that, for the purpose of these articles, I am spotlighting some of my favs. And you might agree, my favs might be your favs. But it’s also very possible that your fav might not be spotlighted in this series… and that’s ok. I mean no disrespect to your fav, I mean no disrespect to you, the Artist. Shine a spotlight on your favs by letting them know how much you appreciate what they do!

As I explained in the first article in this series, “art” has a multitude of definitions. If you asked 100 people to give a definition of art, you would probably get 100 different answers. In this article, I am spotlighting artists who use a variety of mediums and materials, each creating their own unique style.

This article was truly a learning experience for me. I don’t know anything about drawing. Trust me, fam, you do not want me to do artwork for you. You’ll get a stick figure sketch worse than anything Sam Winchester could ever draw. Seriously. But the artists featured here, well, how do I even begin to talk about their talent? Are there even words to describe their works? I am so glad I had enough sense to ask the right questions, because they told me about materials and mediums and styles and used words and terminology that I did not know even existed in language. To be honest, I’m a bit scared to write this article, fearing I won’t do justice to these amazing artists.

So without further ado, gather around and join with me in drooling over their work and celebrating the talents of S. Dahl, Christine Griffin, Kaiya Plagenhoef, Angie Siketa, and Scout Villegas!

Art by S. Dahl
Art by Christine Griffin
Art by Kaiya Plagenhoef
Art by Angie Siketa
Art by Scout Villegas

The first featured artist is S. Dahl. Formerly an elementary school teacher, she is now teaching art to middle school students – I hope these students and their parents appreciate the gift of having Mrs. Dahl as their teacher! She is primarily self taught. She uses oil, acrylic and watercolor paints, and has recently begun experimenting with colored pencils. However, she works primarily with graphite pencils, which is perhaps her signature look.

Mrs. Dahl explained her process of creating art. She typically starts by studying a photo, studying the details of the subject. She went on to explain, “When I draw a picture, I always start drawing the right eye, for some reason, then the left. If I can tell who the person is from just the eyes I have drawn, then I proceed. The eyes are the most important part of the picture, they are the focal point. So, if I can’t see the person in just the eyes, I keep tweaking until I can. I easily spend 10 hours drawing a picture.”

I asked each artist who or what inspires them, and to offer a piece of advice for aspiring artists. I thought Mrs. Dahl’s answers were interesting in terms of perspective; how we see things with our own eyes versus how others see us. Her advice to aspiring artists: “You have to be strong, learn to take criticism, learn to change when it is needed, see your mistakes for what they are, and be your own cheering section. Push yourself to step outside your comfort zone and try new techniques and materials; I am constantly experimenting with other mediums. I experiment with other mediums for not only a break, but also to see if I can find something that will finally help me feel a sense of personal success in art. I get frustrated with being mediocre and want to create something that I can feel really proud of.”

She said that she is inspired by Michaelango, Rapheal, and John Singer Sergeant because of “their ability to take a paint brush and create art of subjects that look as if they could walk right off the canvas.”

I asked her if there was a specific piece that she would love to create. First she said that she would like, for once, for her parents to look at her art and say, wow, that is really good. Then she said she would love for TPTB behind Supernatural to see her art and say “hey, we want to use your drawings of the cast for our show”.

Seriously, Mrs. Dahl, nothing mediocre here! Every time you post a new piece on Twitter, I am just awed! I really think your subjects could just walk off the page! #AmIRight

Christine Griffin is the next featured artist. Cris is a lifelong artist. She has a bachelor’s degree in art and a master’s degree in painting. Her primary job is as a Domestic Engineer (A+ terminology!) however she does take commission work and she also designs book covers, such as the cover of Family Don’t End With Blood. She uses a variety of materials, including graphite, oils, acrylics, watercolors, carbon and conte pencils, and Photoshop. She prefers the genres of urban fantasy, horror, traditional fantasy and scifi.

She went on to explain a bit about her process, which typically starts with a tiny doodle to hash out what goes where. Then she looks for photoreferences and takes this new information to create a more detailed drawing, working out anatomy issues and whatever additional bits need further exploring. Then she begins painting. When she paints in Photoshop, she paints the same way she would traditionally, with the added bonus that she can play with the colors ad nauseum. As anyone who paints digitally knows, you can have a nearly infinite amount of layers in your file. Cris explained that she used to paint this way, with a ton of layers, but the past few years she’s been trying to limit the number of layers as much as possible because it just feels more comfortable and traditional to her. She said it’s not unusual for her to take 30-40 hours to finish one of her more detailed pieces.

Cris said she experiments constantly, in part because she gets dissatisfied easily. She would like to focus on one ‘look’ more consistently, because consistency is what gets you jobs. It’s what gets you arting better. She also said which technique she uses for a given piece depends entirely upon what she wants for the MOOD of the piece. She said, “If you can get your viewer to feel, then you have truly rocked it. They will forgive you many sins if you hit them in their heartplace.”

Cris is inspired by Petite_Madame (http://petite-madame.tumblr.com/), saying “Her generosity and prolificness astounds me time and again. She tackles long-term projects with awe-inspiring tenacity.” Cris is also inspired by artists who are creating their own universes, both in art and word, such as Brom (http://www.bromart.com/) and Sam Hogg (http://www.artofsamhogg.com/).

Cris had a fabulous piece of advice for aspiring artists. She said, “Beginning is always the toughest part. I’m worried I won’t be able to get the image in my head out onto the ‘page’ (or screen). I’m worried I’ve forgotten how to hold a damned pen or use words. But listen, you will ABSOLUTELY fail if you never try. So at least TRY.” Good advice, indeed. Her other tips included:

• Don’t take short-cuts. Learn your basics, like anatomy and light and perspective.
• Photo reference is not a SIN, but do use it prudently. Don’t let it become a substitute for knowledge.
• If the photo isn’t yours or stock, you’d better get permission to use it.
• Don’t be afraid to ask for concrit. Get used to people having opinions about your work.
• Don’t be so hard on yourself. There is a spot for us all, for all of our gifts and skills.
• Let people help you. F*ck the doubting voice in the back of your head and embrace the one that brings you the joy.

Cris would love to be able to celebrate the completion of something big, such as her own book, a gallery show, or something she can share with her friends and mentors and idols. Um, yeah, I am 100% there for this! She would also like to create original canon about Supernatural. She has a small handful of characters creeping to life. Interestingly, her favorite piece that she has created thus far is called The Flock, an image that had festered in her mind for ages. She said it’s not often that a piece surfaces exactly the way you wanted it to, but this one did. And let me just say, to anyone and everyone reading this article, can this become canon? Please?

Kaiya Plagenhoef is my next featured artist. She is currently in high school, and no, that is not a typo. Suffice it to say that, yes, she is taking art classes in school, but hello – she is very much self taught at this point in her young life! She does want to make art her primary source of income one day. Currently she does commissions for people based upon photos, typically of children. She said that she enjoys creating pieces for people that they would love, that would make them smile. I think she’s definitely well on her way to that goal.

Kaiya’s preferred genre is portrait realism, and she uses graphite and charcoal pencils. While she typically sticks to black and white portraiture, her classes allow her to experiment with different styles, techniques and mediums. Oftentimes, what starts as a requirement, turns into something she thoroughly enjoys as it allows her to expand and fine-tune her abilities.

I asked her if she has developed a signature look. She explained what her art teacher told her, “In art there are light people and black people. Those who stay on the lighter end of their pencil, not shading too heavily, are light people. Those who love the darkness, who reach for charcoal and strive to create heavy shadows in pieces are black people. You, you’re both. You’re a paradox.” What a beautiful thing, to be so gifted, so talented… and to have that both recognized and acknowledged by your mentors. #Paradox

Kaiya’s process also starts with a photo. When she comes across a photo that she loves, her immediate thought is “how do I draw this”? In doing portraits, she focuses hard on the little details in the subject’s face: the way their eyebrows curl, a hidden scar, the freckles around their nose. Because of her attention to these details, her pieces can take anywhere from 6 hours to 70 hours to finish. “It’s a grueling process, usually accompanied by me doubting how well I’m actually doing, resulting in many do-overs or re-sketching certain physical traits”, she said. Ultimately, her goal with every piece is to create something that evokes an emotional response with the viewer.

Kaiya is inspired by many artists, but there’s one who always, unknowingly, pushed her to do better. Fellow fandom artist Angie Siketa is a huge inspiration to Kaiya because she has a unique look to her pieces, with incredible detail and a beautiful balance to her shading. Through studying Angie’s works, Kaiya found ways to improve her own pieces.

So many fellow artists experience feelings of self doubt and anxiety, and Kaiya often feels it too. She said that she can see “every flaw, every mistake… it jumps out at me like a giant, flashing red sign, which just adds to my anxiety with my art.” She pushes through these feelings by turning that negative energy around and using it to fuel her desire to become better. Her tips for aspiring artists:

• Do not compare yourself to other artists.
• Art is a learning and growing process that can be slow at times, but the more you work at it, the better you get.
• Keep working, to keep creating art whether you hate what you’re doing or not.
• Allow yourself to feel, really feel, that sense of reward and accomplishment when you make something you truly love.

Kaiya’s favorite piece is a portrait based on a photo by Kelsi Sickmann of Rob Benedict, titled Fare Thee Well. She completed the piece in three days during her after school hours, finishing at “4:30am covered in charcoal and utterly exhausted.” Kaiya went on to say that if there is one piece that she would love to do, it would be to paint a mural on the side of a building one day. I know I’d love to photograph it – the whole process of her creating this mural, and of course, the finished project.

Angie Siketa is the next featured artist. She has been drawing since she was two years old and is mostly self taught; art was one of her least favorite subjects in school because the class was heavily theory based, with an emphasis on writing and research rather than actual drawing. She also tried a Digital Media course, but it was ultimately cancelled due to lack of interest, teaching staff, and funding. At that point, Angie decided to just move forward on her own.

She uses Palomino Blackwing pencils most of the time, however, she has experimented a bit with color using Faber Castell Polychromes. For her digital art, she sketches the piece in pencil first, then scans it and finishes it in Photoshop. She enjoys drawing portraits and chibis of actors/characters from TV shows (Supernatural was a big foundation), movies (Tim Burton!) and bands (My Chemical Romance, The Used, Green Day) as well as anime/cartoons (Dragon Ball Z, Pokemon). She also draws family members, people, and pets on commission. Although she does have a ‘day job,’ she has been freelancing and doing commission pieces since 2013, and she hopes to grow her art base into her primary source of income someday.

Angie has developed a signature look in her portraits, something she describes as “very high contrast with a unique blending/texturing of the skin.” With her chibi work, she says it took a few years to develop a style that was hers, but now she feels it is recognizable.

Angie’s process also begins with a reference picture. Next, she grids her paper and then she starts with the eyes. Depending on the size of the project, it can take anywhere from three hours to a few days. When drawing her chibis, she searches for photos to use for referencing details and outfit ideas. She sketches them in pencil, starting with the head and then determining their pose. Next, she adds all the features. Then she takes a photo of her piece, imports it to her laptop/Photoshop where she then traces over her pencil work and adds color. One chibi can take 1-2 hours or so to finish, from sketch to the final product.

Angie also had some advice for aspiring artists – lots of practice. She said she draws almost every day, and encourages artists to draw no matter what. She also echoed the advice of others, saying not to compare yourself to others, but instead compare your current work to your past work and keep goin’. She said looking through her past work also helps her combat the feelings of self doubt because she is able to see how far she’s come and how much she has improved. One of the things she said really struck a chord with me. She said “art is a never-ending lesson, and with every piece, you are learning and improving.” That’s definitely something I need to remember as I continue to work on my photography.

Angie is inspired by many artists, praising and applauding artists such as Mel (@melissanti), Adele (@uhdele), Katie (@artbyktgamboa) and Euclase (@eliciadonze). On Euclase, Angie said, “her digital portrait work is both soft and vibrant, and so very stunning – always has me in awe. One time she (Euclase) messaged me on tumblr and told me my work was amazing and I was giddy about it for days.” It is a beautiful thing when Artists Support Artists.

Angie doesn’t have a favorite piece, but she does enjoy scrolling through art on blogs/instagrams/whathaveyou for hours. She said it becomes something she “can really feel in her heart, and it’s such a feel-good ache and I just want to ooze my love all over the art.” She doesn’t really have a piece that she would love to create. Instead, her dream piece is a bit more extensive than just one piece: she would love to see her name in the credits of an animated movie.

The final artist featured in this article is Scout Villegas. She has been interested in art for most of her life and is mostly self-taught, with some minor education throughout high school. She considers herself a cartoonist and digital artist, but she also loves working in fantasy and portrait work. She started working in the digital medium about ten years ago, now using primarily Photoshop CS5 with her own custom brushes. She does occasionally do more traditional art, using Pigma Micron pens in a Moleskine sketchbook. Recently Scout has been experimenting with other mediums, in part to give her eyes a break from the digital work. She does have a signature look, something that she continues to work with and build upon to strengthen that signature style.

Although art started as a hobby for her, now it is her primary job. She does everything by herself (management), and she would like to work in close collaboration with others in the future. She also mentioned an interest in getting into an art department. She hopes to go further in the industry, possibly within animation or comics. Traveling and doing cons have been super beneficial to helping these things come closer to tangibility.

Scout’s process begins with a very, very vague blob of an idea. She said it’s like seeing a vaguely-shaped chunk of marble, something that can be carved into a bust. A piece can take anywhere from 15 minutes to 12 hours. She has learned that the implication of detail often creates a visual illusion to the viewer, allowing them to see more than is actually depicted. She said, “The emotional impact of those works can be heavier, so I’ve been teaching myself to take less time on painting and more time composing.”

Scout said that she is honestly so inspired by everyone that just puts their best foot forth in the arts now. “No one has to necessarily wear the professional title of “artist” for me to admire them. Anyone that creates inspires me to do more, especially when the general mood of the world is “tense” and “chaotic.”

Perhaps it is that tense, chaotic mood that leads so many artists down the path of self doubt and anxiety, including Scout. She said that she always experiences self doubt and anxiety when working on a new piece. Although she has moved past the feelings of completely giving up on her art, she did explain how she works through the anxiety. She said, “It’s become a natural habit to continue creating for me. It’s strange, but I’ve trained myself to make drawing a very strong muscle memory. Even if I’m overwhelmed with a project that’s over my head, the way I calm myself down is by focusing on one that I’m more confident in. Which, in turn, helps me improve so I can go back to what I was originally scared to work on and eventually finish it.”

Scout shared her tips and advice for aspiring artists. I really appreciated her frankness as she explained why we, as artists, should stop comparing ourselves to other artists. She said, “To get good at anything, you almost always have to completely suck at it first. This is a huge barricade to get over, but once you start looking at artists as mentors and friends rather than Untouchable Art Gods, things get a bit easier.” Amen.

She had other tips too, such as try not to take too big of leaps. If you don’t think you’re ready for something new, work up to it. She said, “It’s like drawing a face. Sometimes you have to work on it in sections. Draw a thousand noses first. Then a thousand eyes. Then lips. Eyebrows, etc. Afterwords, you’ll be able to put together what you couldn’t before.” She also advised that persistence and experimentation are powerful tools every artist needs to use.

Scout does not necessarily have a favorite piece, but she does have a favorite project. The God’n’Gabe books that she has done have been huge feats for her, so each one she finishes in the series is something she considers a huge accomplishment. She recently finished The Swaingels, which is her favorite series of works as of right now. Her dream project is to animate a music video for Louden Swain. Um, yes please, can this be a Thing?

Lastly, we all discussed posting art on social media. They all agreed on several key points:

To Post, or Not to Post, That is the Question:
I think Scout summed it up best when she said “There’s a time and place for everything, and art is art.” She explained that there is likely a platform out there for literally anything and everything, so find the platform that is best suited for your work. They all agreed they would be hesitant to share art that is perhaps unflattering or embarrassing to any given celebrity, and they would not tag said celebrity in the posted material.

Some Do’s and Don’ts:

• Don’t try to claim or distribute or sell an artist’s work as your own. Not Cool.
• Don’t show the celebrities an artist’s work without the express permission of the Artist. As Cris said, not all art is suitable for widespread display.
• Do consider carefully tags. Perhaps avoid using anything rude or crude, or offensive/profane language. Obviously, these kinds of things are subjective and vary from person to person.
• Do credit your inspiration, such as “inspired by (photographer’s name)” or by a song (title and singer/song writer). Angie oftentimes includes a link to the music video that inspired her work. As Kaiya said, “I think by crediting what inspired you as the Artist, it could open up a better understanding of your work to those who view it.” On the other hand, sometimes the line blurs a bit when it comes to the finished piece; it may have been inspired by something, but the final product may have ended down a different path.

ONE MORE TIME, FOR ALL Y’ALL IN THE BACK:
For the love of all that is Holy, Don’t crop out or remove watermarks. And tag the artist when reposting. I think Cris said it best as she explained: “If someone wants to hire me, then that client needs to be able to find me; that’s partly why watermarks are so important as it helps potential clients identify my work.” So on that note, why not help spread these names out there for potential clients? #SpreadLove

Art by S. Dahl
Art by Christine Griffin
Art by Kaiya Plagenhoef
Art by Angie Siketa
Art by Scout Villegas

To learn more about these fantastic artists, or to buy their works, please visit the following links:

S. Dahl:
On Twitter
S. Dahl’s Art Gallery

Christine Griffin:
On Twitter
Cris’ Website
On Society6
On LiveJournal
On tumblr

Kaiya Plagenhoef:
On Twitter

Angie Siketa:
On Twitter
On Red Bubble
On Instagram
On Facebook
On tumblr
On YouTube

Scout Villegas:
On Twitter
On Red Bubble
On Society6
On tumblr

I hope you enjoyed this article as much I enjoyed writing it! Part Three in this series coming soon!
-Kim Prior.
@MamaPrior