Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Having Fun

-By Dan dos Santos

One of the downsides of turning your passion into a vocation, is that it is very easy to get in the rut of not doing your craft unless someone is paying you to do so. After spending all day painting pictures for someone else, the last thing I often feel like doing is spending my time off painting even more.

That's not good for your creativity, or your career. It's important to remain passionate about you do.

I've recently taken to attending a local Drink & Draw every week at one of my favorite coffee shops. I typically only stay for about 2 or 3 hours, but in that time, I get to drawing things I wouldn't normally draw, in mediums I wouldn't normally work in, without reference, and with absolutely no worries about whether or not it comes out well.

When working professionally, there is a standard of quality that your client comes to expect of you. Sadly, experimentation does not lend itself well to a consistent workflow. The result is, I rarely take real chances in my professional work.

At the Drink & Draw, I use markers, colored pencils, charcoal, white out, and even crayons at times... all without worrying if it's going to be 'good' or not when I'm done. It doesn't matter... not even a little!

That has been really liberating for me, lately.

I now find myself MAKING time each week so I can paint for myself. I've even been bringing some new found techniques and excitement back into my professional work, rekindling my enthusiasm when I need it most.

Here are a few miniature X-Men paintings I've done lately. I challenged myself to do one an evening for three evenings straight.

For this piece, I started with a pencil sketch on a piece of 8x8 inch board which had been primed in grey acrylic.

I sealed the pencil with a few washes of acrylics, and then did the majority of the modeling using a few colored pencils. The colored pencils provide a such a great groundwork, that even slight coat of oils results in a fairly finished look in a surprisingly short amount of time.

I'm planning to set aside a few more evenings to do several more of these. My hope to do portraits of all my favorite Mutants.


  1. These are amazing! Good you found your enthusiasm again : )

  2. Great stuff!! What kind of colored pencils do you use? I bought some artist grade colored pencils but they are waxy and hard to paint over, or does the acrylic washes cover it good enough to paint over. Just curious, love your art.

    1. Mine are prismacolor premier. They go well over acrylic, provided you don't paint think and rubbery. If so, a light coat of workable fixative gives t enough tooth for another layer.

  3. Amazing! Drawing or painting without the pressure of it "being good" is really important (even tho it's often very hard for me to shut off that little voice in my head and just have fun). LOVE the X-Men portraits! Keep 'em coming and good job getting in some fun painting time for yourself!

  4. That Joker is a great design and the Byrne+Claremont X-Men was pretty much my first comic so you are hitting some of my faves with your D+D pieces.

    Over the years I have gotten to know a few professional illustrators and the thing I found most interesting is the lack of self-indulgent work. Their sketchbooks are packed with cool prelims, layouts and design ideas but nothing that just looks like it was made on a whim.

    Drawing is not what pays my rent, so my sketchbooks are full of crap from what I have been watching or playing. Seeing art somewhat divorced from an artists personal passions or interests was somewhat confusing and even worrying. I am sure that some artists draw a lot of enjoyment from the problem solving that comes with fulfilling a clients needs, while also trying to put their own fingerprint in the work but I have always wondered about this topic, thanks for shedding some light on it from your perspective.

    1. I obviously enjoy solving a client's problems. It's just a massive imbalance between professional and personal work. I averaged 2 personal pieces per decade not too long ago.

      It's so easy to let a job take over your life in any profession. But I think many of us fall into this trap when the 'work' is something we love doing.

  5. Its great to see these DnD pieces out in the wider world, Dan! I too find the freedom of DnD refreshing and fun. Glad to see the fun is spilling into the real world for you. Those mini panels look spectacular!