18 - Third Year Anniversary

General / 30 September 2021

Hi, I'm Khang, from Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. This September 30, 2021, marks exactly three years of my self-directed artistic journey! I want to take this opportunity to share some major lessons I've learned so far.

1) Life is full of surprises

I first discovered Jake Parker via just a random Twitter post, but strangely enough, his interesting inking art style had awakened my inner child. Thus, my artistic journey began even though I got a bachelor's degree in Civil Engineering.

I still feel thankful to his drawing instructions at this very initial stage of my new journey. I would have given up drawing entirely without his easy and clear instruction. I was very fragile at this beginning stage as I had not drawn any fan arts or even thought about a career in art at all.

I'm glad I chose him and his How to Draw Everything course on September 20, 2018. The inverted Skull Chaser drawing successfully tricked my mind to make my first sketchbook drawing. After two months, I could draw the dinosaur holding a sword and a shield from his How to Ink 2.0 course in the same sketchbook. This was such a special memory that after this cheap first sketchbook broke apart due to its weak binding glue, I turned it into a spiral-bound one. I even customed made its cover with an imaginative self-motivated message: "Khang, keep drawing because I'm here!".

My first sketchbook a special customed cover to honor its service.

After learning the How to Draw Everything course, his Skull Chaser character has become an iconic symbol throughout my artistic journey. I even attached a Skull Chaser sticker to my Cintiq drawing board so that I can always remember how I started my art career.

I got this cute sticker as a Kickstarter for Drawings 5 Artbook of Jake Parker in 2020.

2) Everything was so confused at first

In February 2019, I started to mess around with watercolor for the first time with Gonzalo Carcamo. However, I could not comprehend the concept of muted colors back then. So, I decided to stop at monochromatic studies only.

This is me holding my first watercolor artwork using only two brushes and Burnt Sienna student-grade pigments.

Later in August 2019, I could somewhat combine inking and watercolor in a Drawing Cartoon Animals course taught by Tim Hodge. I was not aware of color temperature, saturation, and value at all. Everything looked so flat due to that lack of understanding. Furthermore, I didn't know that I should have used more pigments to get to the saturation level I wanted with student grade watercolors. Regardless, it was fun to finally have colors in my sketchbook!

I did this ink and watercolor washes in a Hahnemuhle watercolor sketchbook in 2019.
It was super nervous though as I didn't want to waste such a nice sketchbook.

3) Digital Painting works for me

My 13-inch Cintiq and digital painting software have removed any limitations I have with traditional painting materials. I can paint freely without worrying about wasting my precious Arches watercolor papers and Daniel Smith watercolor pigments. Better yet, I can even learn to do oil painting the digital way without using any harmful substances to thin out my paints and clean my brushes. Nevertheless, I still love the feeling of holding different physical brushes though.

My master copy of the Helga Pictures of Andrew Wyeth using digital watercolors in Rebelle 4.

Thank to digital painting, I've realized that I can learn much faster by painting than drawing. Painting positive and negative shapes work for me nicely. I've used digital oils and watercolors to learn from traditional artists like Mark Westermoe and Joseph Todorovitch. It works magically, and I can paint the above lady on my own. It's my master copy of a watercolor artwork from the Helga Pictures of Andrew Wyeth.

4) Fine Art Fundamentals are powerful

Portraits, human figures and still life were frightening subjects for me, but not after classes I'm taking at New Masters Academy (NMA). I only discovered NMA in November 2020 but my painting and drawing skills have improved clearly. I've realized that boring fundamentals that learners like me who often want to ignore at first sight are super helpful and crucial for artistic development in later stages. It's possible to learn these hard-to-swallow stuff, it's just that I have not learned much about them yet. Getting out of my comfort zone steadily with proper artistic instructions feels so rewarding!

I'm still impressed at the look-and-feel of this digital oil painting artwork done in Rebelle 4 in this early September 2021.

5) Keep exploring

First two years were such an exploration for me. From pencils, inks, brushes, papers, sketchbooks to navigating around the mess of Photoshop (I can clearly see that the whole app interface is not artist-oriented when it was created), As my drawing and painting fundamentals have been getting better, I can bravely explore other choices from the beginning of this year (2021). I can follow instructions from traditional painters while using digital oils and watercolors in new software like Adobe Fresco and Rebelle 4. I've also tried Lasso Fill in Clip Studio Paint to create a whole painting this way. It's so satisfying for me, it's freedom I would say because I can finally learn new things my own way. Hurray!

Master copy of a portrait of Joseph Pulitzer by John Singer Sargent.
Painted in Adobe Fresco using Live Oils.

Still Life Painting in Rebelle 4 using Oils.

I can block in major shapes in Clip Studio Paint using Lasso Fill ...

... and then finish the Lasso Fill painting above in Photoshop.

Thanks for reading till here guys! It has been a journey full of self-doubts, frustrations at first, but as soon as I could control my hands to do what I think in my head and got some key fundamentals down, it has gradually become so satisfying and magical. Conquering a blank digital canvas to create a decent or an artistic looking artwork is such a thrill whenever I start a new painting session.

Have fun learning and enjoy every small win along your great journey ahead!