2022 State of the Studio

As 2022 comes to a close, I wanted to take a moment to reflect on my art journey this year. Over the course of the year I took some online classes, made a lot of new art, and have honed in on a creative methodology and a more efficient working process. I’m also working on my mailing list, made some new contacts and have a few new projects in the pipeline. I’m hoping to continue this trend in 2023 and take this illustration thing to new heights. Follow along as I recap what I did this year. I’ll have some helpful links at the bottom for those interested.

New Pen Display!

At the end of 2021, I was able to obtain a Wacom Cintiq 24HD pen display from an old art school buddy of mine. He works in the video game industry and had one collecting dust that he needed to find a new home for. I was happy to offer it care and shelter!

Maaaajor Upgrade!!

Upon hooking this puppy up, I was immediately blown away by how much easier it is to draw with. I had been using a Wacom Intuos for many years. While it works okay for painting, it can be a bit of a struggle to draw with because of the hand/eye disconnect. I never realized how much of a difference there was until I experienced it. So with the Cintiq installed and tested, I made some preliminary paintings, got used to the controls, and tried to streamline it into my workflow.

My first painting with the Wacom Cintiq 24HD.

Ergonomics and Efficiency…

At the same time, I purchased an ergonomic chair and really tried to fix some bad posture issues I was having that have been causing pain. I found a used Steelcase Amia chair at a local office supply store which has helped greatly. I also spend more time sketching thumbnails at my drafting table instead of on the computer. I’d highly recommend investing in an ergonomic chair to avoid getting crunched up and having issues later on. They are pricey, so it’s better if you can find a used one. This one is 10 years old, but looks basically new. Other chairs which are even better (and recommended by my Physical Therapist) are the Steelcase Leap and Herman Miller Aeron. I’ve seen them on craigslist for as low as $200.

This chair cost $900 new. Score for $130!

Along with that, I decided to NOT sit for 4+ hours at a time scratching away on an image. Instead, I force myself to take a break every 30-45 minutes. It really has helped me focus and cut out a lot of wasted time. I sit down, set a timer and pick up my stylus. Then I pick an area to work on and don’t stop until the timer goes off. I don’t check my phone, I don’t get on social media or do anything else. At the end of 30 minutes I get up, stretch and walk away for 5-10 minutes. Rinse and repeat. I also break for lunch at the same time every day, and take a short walk around the block afterward, or ride my skateboard on the local greenway for 30 minutes.

I find that I’m getting more work done in a shorter period of time. As anyone with kids can tell you, it’s imperative to be more efficient. When the kiddos get home from school, I have to walk away from my work for several hours, so the more I get done beforehand, (or occasionally after bedtime) the better. Add to that the inevitable downtime that can come as a result of kids getting sick, extracurricular activities, etc. and you have to be focused and relentless.

Continuing Ed…

Okay, so… Cintiq, check. Ergonomic chair, check. Efficiency update, check. Now what? Although I’m just a cranky old Gen-Xer, I still enjoy learning and taking online art classes. It began when I did a 13 week mentorship with illustrator Gregory Manchess at smArt School, I have taken one online class or another about every year since. There are many affordable options out there and there’s no reason not to continually try and learn something new.

I started off the year by doing a small children’s book character design workshop through www.makeartthatsells.com. This was just a fun assignment, given every week by art agent Lilla Rogers and a crew of professionals, I found myself creating things I would never do otherwise and feel like it really stretched me a bit. These folks are super enthusiastic and supportive.

Also, about the middle of the year I signed up at www.svslearn.com. This is an amazing site run by pro illustrators Will Terry, Jake Parker and Lee White. The amount of information on this site is incredible. Just about everything relating to illustration is covered. Plus, they have an active forum, and hold art competitions every month.

Lastly, I signed up at www.domestika.com to take a class on editorial illustration by Nicholas Blechman, art director for The New Yorker. I haven’t delved into this class quite yet, but hope to have time over the holidays to start on it. Classes here are super cheap, but still brimming with great information.

Portfolio and Style Updates…

As the 2022 school year began and the kids went back to class, I ramped up my schedule as well. I also started adding a new illustration every week or so in the same style to revamp my portfolio. My Achilles heel is having too many different looking pieces which I’ve been told aren’t as marketable as they could be. So for 2023, my goal is to narrow things down.

One way I’ve tried to do this is to limit the amount of Photoshop brushes I’m using. I now only use a pen brush, a watercolor brush, and some custom texture brushes I made with acrylic paint on watercolor paper. I also will occasionally paint textured backgrounds in acrylic and scan them in. Before, I would reach for any number of special brushes to render certain things. But the problem with that is, one; it’s hard to remember what brushes you’ve used and two; images end up looking too “automatic” and digital. Meaning you lose some of that hand rendered feel. By limiting my brushes and incorporating some analog painting, I’m hoping to clarify my style and vision.

I’m currently working on two portfolios with the goal of increasing my editorial clients and also breaking into the children’s art market. I’m also researching and adding names and addresses to my Art Director list, which seems to be the hardest thing of all to do, lol.

Here’s to 2023…

Wow, you’re still here? Awesome! You are passionate, incredibly dedicated and ever curious. Just like me. Thanks for reading my ramblings, and I sincerely hope you have yourself a great New Year. Any A.D.’s out there? C.D.’s? Show of hands, don’t be shy! Drop me a line sometime. No really! I could use some more work, kid’s clothes don’t last forever you know. Thanks again, and take care!


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