The Journey

This is a bit of an expanded excerpt from a recent magazine interview:

My whole art life in a nutshell:

I grew up in a creative house, filled with crafts and fixing cars and interior design and building ponds and all kinds of cool shit. I was a lucky kid and was supported in everything I ever tried. Or quit. I had a near full ride to study criminology and I asked if, after taking a figure drawing class, it was okay if I became an animator... and they said of course. Imagine! I was going to become a federal agent (yes, I wanted to be Scully) but I was going to drop all of it to become the classic starving artist.

It was fate, maybe, that one of the best art schools in the world was an hour away. I was waitlisted at Ringling College of Art and Design for their Computer Animation program and to my surprise I actually got in. So then I worked my ass off. I was scared shitless for four years. I had a lot to prove: to myself, to my parents, to anyone who thought I was being a silly dreamer.

But Ringling encouraged my drive. And that hard work ended up getting me a job at Dreamworks where I worked on Megamind, the Madagascar movies and How to Train Your Dragon 2 and others. I was incredibly lucky to be able to call Dreamworks home for 7 years.  And that whole time I was drawing at night, creating, needing more.

We decided after a while to move back home east to be near family. We somehow ended back in Florida where Magic Leap had just gotten funding from Google and was looking for my exact position. Right place, right time, always open to opportunity. So now I can add real time game making to my checked off bucket list items, as well as designing the future or something. By day, I create shaders, textures, concepts and models. And yet, I still needed to go home and paint.

I've never understood to have any reason to draw or paint other than I feel like I have to. I grew up surrounded by artists, was never discouraged from creating, and it easily takes over my life. I love art- I love absorbing it, learning about it and from it, appreciating it and being inspired by it. I am lucky enough to do it for a living. But even working in it full time seems it’s not enough. I do need people to... see... what I see. And I don't even know what I'm looking at most of the time. I like fantastical but familiar worlds. I use every painting as a reason to learn - for example: these crystals are pretty cool! I want to get better at understanding refraction and reflection and translucence- what kind beautiful image could accent a study of this and turn it into a surreal portrait? It honestly sounds kind of funny and practical when I really think what drives me to create art. I don't think I'll ever stop being a student.

A word of advice:

Your art will only get better at the pace in which you pursue it. I was lucky enough to be able to go to school and invest the time in leveling myself up more quickly, maybe - but if you've got the passion you'll do it no matter what. That’s why I'm still learning - you need to go at the world at 110%. If you don't you'll only disappoint yourself. Give it your all and it's gonna happen. Online and free courses, subscriptions, weekend classes, full on college, the information is there. It’s up to you how often you want to absorb it and put it back out into the world.


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Illuxcon 2018!

Things are furiously happening in the studio right now as I prepare for my first Showcase at Illuxcon later this month. I’m more nervous and excited for this than any of my shows so far. I will be amongst my heroes in painting. There’s lots of AMAZING art I’m going to get to see and probably want to buy. And then there’s me, trying to look confident while feeling some seriously strong impostor syndrome. I’m working on 4 paintings at once right now and hoping for maybe one more, trying to figure out just HOW to travel to Pennsylvania without destroying my paintings, my to do list keeps getting larger for some reason, and I’m going to (attempt to) kick ass at Inktober on top of all of it. The waves of panic are controlled by being just so damn busy.

That said, everything posted on instagram this month will be available for sale during the showcase. That is… if I manage to pull this off. I’m goal oriented and organized AF this year though so I’m feeling more pretty damn good than pretty damn screwed. Cross your fingers.

To learn more about Illuxcon, go check em out and admire some awesome art! If you’re going, tell me! Who wants to go to the Frank Frazetta museum?!

Some Thoughts on Improvement

I spend A LOT of time working on myself. I learn by repeating. By regurgitating what I've learned in my own words- as quickly as possible when it really feels true- so it sticks. These are just some of those things: 

The only thing you have control over is your response to an event.

There are no mistakes. There is only opportunity.

Everything that life has thrown at me has given me a decision - I can wallow, complain and resist, or I can see that opportunity and learn something. Every time I have been faced with a major life event, I try to shorten the impulse to resist.  

Everything is temporary. Relationships, jobs, health. What is good one day is bad the next, but it never stays that way. When I struggle the most, this is the mantra I repeat to myself. Live in the moment and enjoy what you have - be grateful and present. But when things get hard remember that they used to be good, and it could all change tomorrow.

You can look for challenges without being competitive. Better yourself in whatever way works for you. Don’t judge yourself against others, only against yourself. We are our own worst critics, so try to use it to your advantage.

I’ve struggled with quitting smoking over the years. I stop for a long time - and then a stressful event comes up and I go pick up a pack - because its the easy crutch.

Practice Self Improvement - and I don’t mean learning new software. Take a good look at the way you interact with others, your work ethic, your health both mental and physical. We get very comfy in our faults. I decided to grow up a bit and realized the little ways I was letting things go.

For example, I leave all the lights on all the time. When I’m home alone they make me feel safe, I like the warmth of the lights, lots of reasons. But I realized it would be worth it if I fixed some of these little bad habits. One month later, my husband texted me to say that in becoming an adult, we had the lowest electric bill in our entirety of living in this house. Now not only do I have a physical reminder of an actual worth to fixing my bad habit, I created an incentive as well. Go me.

Active meditation - My type A personality means I'm working on something, in my head, all the time. I can meditate quietly, but I did always prefer mindfulness meditation. Call it overanalyzing, but learning to understand these bad habits, negative thought loops, low confidence and work on them real time is WORK. I am hoping I'm finally starting to feel the benefits of this. So consider this a short cut. This is the boot in your ass. Stop reading and get back to work. 

 

How to Make Mistakes

I'm not great at art. I'm ok, and it's taken me a long time to get where I am so I am well aware of how far I've come. But I'm also at the point where I can see exactly what I lack and where, and that can be a frustrating thing. Some people will give up here, and say they'll never be good enough and throw in the towel. But it's so key here to focus and work harder than ever. 

So I'm in what I think is a Level Up phase. I have learned techniques that do not work for me. Or even hinder me. And some techniques I'm learning to use in a new way.  And some stuff I'm just finally remembering I'm supposed to fucking do in the first place. Which brings us to: 

Step 1. SLOW DOWN

I am so fucking eager sometimes to just get an image out that I'm sure is going to be so amazing. I'm inspired, I can feel it, something good is happening. So I just start throwing paint at things. And then I make a million mistakes. No perspective, I didn't think about the composition, that pose is so bland, HOW did I come up with this terrible color palette? And before you know it, I've thrown it away and felt worse than if I made nothing at all.  

I now actively remind myself to not get carried away. Good things come in time. 

Step 2. FIND YOUR TECHNIQUE

Photoshop can hinder me, because I'll never stop the doodle phase and it's hard for me to get started. But that doesn't make it not worthwhile. Now, I start in pencil, making thumbnails and messing around and willing to commit to making all my mistakes here because I know it's not the final. 

But wait! I didn't start here. I AM USING PHOTOGRAPHIC REFERENCE AND YOU SHOULD TOO. 

I submit for your enjoyment me messing around in the garage: 

Doing simple stuff like this jumps you forward immediately. Especially when it's your own. Not google image search, not a rabbit hole of "inspiration". Just make a fucking pose and get someone in your house (or a delay shutter) to take the damn picture. 

I have read Gurney's Color and Light and Imaginary Realism what seems like a thousand times. But those books have such a density of information I think it's impossible to absorb in one thousand sittings. And you can remember techniques, but to remember them when you're so inspired you just need to get paint on canvas? Harder. But it's even worse when you're making those mistakes directly on the canvas, wasting time, energy, and paint figuring out why that hand looks so terrible.  

So unless I'm thumbnailing and I'm just thinking about shapes, I'm taking pictures. I'm replicating lighting, or cloth folds or perspective as much as possible. There is no amount of preparing you can do that won't help you make something even more awesome than you were hoping.  

EVERY SINGLE TIME you paint from life, or reference, you are both leveling up skill, adding images to your mental library, and making a painting that's going to be more engaging, more professional, and more likely to get noticed. And you'll be happier too, instead of abandoning your Could-Have-Been-Something-Masterpiece because you're tired of sucking at art. 

3. YOU OWN THE SOFTWARE, IT DOESN'T OWN YOU 

So. Back to the image. I scan it. I bring it into photoshop. And I start using liquefy. Multiply some darker values. Play with scale, composition, flow. Flip it every which way. Identify awful mistakes and fix them. Sometimes I take new pictures. Sometimes I bring the photograph in and play with some color and composition in there. The point here is experimentation. I use photoshop to make my mistakes. There can be nothing wrong with anything I make in here because: it's all throw away. I am not committed to anything until I start laying brush strokes.  

Step 4. WALK AWAY 

You think you know everything about art. You have stared at the screen for hours and your eyes are burning. You're pretty sure it's good enough. You want to just get to painting. You just noticed you lost two instagram followers because you haven't posted in three days. You feel like if you don't get it done right now it won't ever happen. IT'S OK. This isn't a race, even though the world feels like it sometimes. 

5. DON'T HATE YOURSELF FOR BEING AN IDIOT

I have been filming everything I do. The setup for recording can be tedious and sometimes you just want to get to work. But most recently I've been working on a painting I was really hoping to get the timelapse up for on youtube or even gumroad. But I just transferred all the files to make room on my card and guess what - the autofocus has been on the ENTIRE TIME, which means you can see me in 1080p glory and my painting is just a blur. I wanted to cry. But - you can't. People make mistakes. You can wallow, or you can pick yourself up and move on and remember and learn from that mistake. Don't do it again. 

 

Still kind of want to cry though. 

 

Things will get hard

I’m at a point where I desperately (such a negative word!) want to succeed. I have a lot to say. I want to show people that what I have to say has value, that i have a reason for being. 

I am working on finding a voice this year, while also diving deep into what is and isn’t working about my art. Why do I enjoy making it? Why should anyone look at it, or enjoy it, or need it in their lives? I posted on a popular new art group on Facebook today- partially to network, to build a following, to gain something. I got 22 likes. I know my art isn’t exactly terrible. But I encounter the same wall every time. It’s not hitting. Somewhere, in the ether, people do not connect to what my art has to say. I search for beauty in my work, as most do. But am I saying anything valueable? This doesn’t have to be significant- it isn’t a treatise on the suffering of the world or making a political artistic statement. In the end, I just want to make something cool to look at. Is that enough? Obviously not, I think... 

I am not shallow. I am someone who looks for meaning in too many things. I shoulder the world, take blame for too much of it, and suffer in the creation of making. But this isn’t speaking to anyone. Am I trapped in my own insecurity? Or is it a simple stumble in marketing? How much time do I spend on beating myself up about it before getting back to work? What am I taking from this that will move me forward rather than keep me bound? 

This is what I endure, and I’m sure most artists do every day. We are never going to be sure if we are good enough, if we are clever enough, insightful enough. I have to know that it is the ones that endure that make something memorable. It’s possible. And I’ll show you. If I can, anyone can. An uphill struggle is a worthy effort. If you think you suck, well, you might. But if we give up today then there was never a point. See it through. Even if that means for your whole life. Because this is the only thing you’ve ever wanted.  

It's Convention Season!

This year is going to be full of changes. And one of those is that I'll be expanding my Con presence this year and looking to have fun with my Artist Alley buddies! First up is Megacon in Orlando, so come find me and snag a print! I will also be announcing new products you'll be able to get before anyone else if you come, so keep in touch! 

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Find me!

If you're looking for the most up to date art and works in progress, you should come on over to www.instagram.com/cara_khan and see what I'm up to! I'll be posting videos behind the scenes and original works for sale every week.