Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Flattery Will Get You Everywhere.

-By Dan dos Santos

An actual conversation between my 4 year old son and my Wife this afternoon:

Uno: Mommy, today I am 16 years old.
Wife: Oh good, you can go get a job then.
Uno: OK, I am going to work now.
Wife: What's your job?
Uno: I work on the computer and paint.
Wife: What do you paint?
Uno: Wolves and girls with tattoos.

I don't know whether to be super proud, or a little embarrassed that even my 4 year old has typecast me!
Of course, his observation is completely justified. Right now, on my easel is a painting of a girl with a wolf (the sequel to Patricia Brigg's Alpha & Omega series). What was I painting 3 years ago, you ask?

It made me think about how much children learn through imitation. I know I spent most of my youth copying the drawings of my favorite comic book artists. I copied them repeatedly. It was through imitation that I learned to draw. When attempting to draw an original piece of art, I would often encounter a problem, and I would think to myself "Well, I remember seeing Jim Lee draw an arm like this once. And if I mix that with a hand that I saw Todd McFarlane draw, I can make my character look like this!"

Unbeknownst to me at the time, what I was doing was building up a visual vocabulary. I think most young artists do this with their influences, and often criticize themselves for not being original enough. But I disagree. I feel that the language with which you speak isn't important, rather it's what you choose to say with that language. So take bits and pieces from your favorite artists, and store them away. After enough time, you'll learn to take that acquired vocabulary and write your own poetry with it.

A few months ago I came across a piece of art that a fan had drawn, attempting to imitate one of my paintings. This lead to me to run a few searches on deviantART.  I was surprised to see quite a few copies of my work! This makes me incredibly happy. To think that I am now contributing bits and pieces to some future artist's visual vocabulary is really humbling. Someday, they may be drawing hand a certain way simply because that's the way I did it, little realizing that a little bit of Todd McFarlane is in that hand too.

'Bone Crossed' by Bluefire.

'Warbreaker' by TheMoonlite:

'Moon Called' by Bronzfoxx89:

'Mother of Lies' by Marok-art

'Shaktra' by JuliusWereRabbit:

'Spirits That Walk in Shadow' by K-herr:

'Blood Bound' by NinjaBunnyOverlord:


  1. next generation of awesome artists are on the way :)

  2. OOoh I did a study of two of your paintings, actually :D They ARE awesome - and that cover to "My life as a white trash zombie" has cast a spell on me. Its been my wallpaper for a while.

  3. That´s is the important thing, be inspired by great artist, grow as an artist and inspire others artist. You did it man, You did it. Congratulations!!!

  4. yeah, thats a very interesting thought that never realized before. Copying is sucha great way to learn. But seeing it from your perspective, being the one ppl copy and learn from, that must be an awesome feeling. Maybe that should go on my "goals I have in life" list too :)

  5. Learning thru imitation its probably the best way to learn ever.

  6. Sooo funny, but I too drew like mad after McFarlane and Lee!!! Loved their styles. I did learn a lot about dynamic anatomy and now I'm going back and doing life drawing again.

    Funny you mention about inspiration and visual vocabulary. I study your paintings heavily along with the Master Class crew and I currently have a bunch of yours on my sketchbook. I fashioned myself a beautiful new cover with small pieces of Donato's work, Greg, Boris, Julie, David P.... and yours!

    It's my favourite book and I get to show anyone I meet my favorite inspirational artworks/artists in my life. Check it out on my blog here : Jaime's Sketch Blog

    I hope you don't mind I did this. I carry it around with me everywhere and when it's not in use it's being shown off! :D

    Great post, Dan...your little one is truly precious.


  7. @ Jaime
    I am honored to be amongst so many great artists.
    I used to do the same thing. My sketchbook was plastered with Sorayama, Whelan and Giger.

    You know, Dave P. also attends the IMC every year.
    You really should make it a point to go!

  8. @Sulamoon:
    I'm flattered, especially considering your work.
    You recent Crit-Submit piece was really stellar!
    Definitely at a professional level, imo.

  9. Thanks for the post, Dan. It made me smile to learn that you did what I also did; copying comic book artists. I learned anatomy at the tender age of 10 from tracing John Romita and Neil Adams comic books. I'm lucky that I imprinted their stellar anatomy early as it made learning actual anatomy so much easier later on. And today I tend to have a more flowing, natural hand when drawing anatomy because of those early tracings.

    And I must admit that your lighting effects, saturated colors and smooth brushtrokes have been incorporated into my own toolbox a bit. Hope you don't mind!

    Thanks again for your post and this wonderful blog.


  10. I love that Patricia Briggs series and recognized the cover immediately - it's so striking! Nice to stumble upon the artist. :)

  11. Thanks, Dan - and yes... it's definitely on my list of things to do in the immediate future.

    Question Dan: have you found a cost-effective way to practice techniques or working through a texture with oils ( like an oil painting sketch book ) apart from using lots of illustration board? I could buy canvas pads but it's just not the same with those dimples in the surface. Gessoed paper perhaps?



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