Fluffy!

Article / 23 January 2021

Hi! In this blog post I will talk a little bit about a new image I made. If you want to know more about how I did that,  do read along! I will talk about the thought process, my methods and do a little bit of shameless plugging as well. 

Now let's get started !

I decided that I wanted to paint a cuddly bird reading under a tree. I had 'some' idea what that would look like. In order to make the idea a little more substantial, I would start by looking for real world images that inspire me. 

The importance of using reference images is critical to develop an idea.  I encourage everyone  to spend a good amount of time on this part, as it will help you get a clear idea what you actually want to paint. 

While browsing through Google's vast collection of peaceful nature photography, I found a bunch of images that really did it for me. Sometimes you find exactly what you're looking for. But other times you have to follow a trail of breadcrumbs, so to speak. Knowing the exact names or descriptions of objects and situations will save you a lot of time.


You can experiment with the search engine by opening new images into new tabs, or right-clicking an image and select 'search the web for this image'.  Also,  by  opening  images that might not necessarily be what you need, you will definitely come across stuff that sparks an alternative idea or lead you in a new search direction. This eventually will lead you to a treasure trove of cool reference images or waste a bit of time. 


You have to be a bit strict on yourself and try to focus on the initial idea. Google, especially Pinterest, can lead you through a maze of cool images that will distract you.

I tend to search for very specific keywords and phrases. 'Dappled light' was one of the successful search queries, and led to me a variety of new search terms. It's good practice to organize your idea into key words that you could search for. 

Also be sure to organize your search results into specific folders such as 'style', 'lighting' , 'colours' , 'mood', and so on. This narrows down your search and makes sure you stick to the essence of your idea.

I made three different versions based on a specific set of references images  for each idea. 

I wanted to paint in a Ghibli / Lofi art style, so I looked up more reference for this.  I divided my scene into clear foreground, midground and background sections, gave them a flat colour and then went about painting the various parts. 

My inspiration came from the works of Sylvain Sarrailh https://www.artstation.com/tohad and Mathias Zamęcki https://www.artstation.com/mathiaszamecki. I just love the colourful, painterly images they create. Be sure to check these guys out! They have some really great work, and show you how they do it as well.

I was really fond of the grass brush tutorial that Mathias made, which can be found at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oTwL8zZA8kw You can see how I used the brush in the foreground of my finished image.  Another super useful find was the cutout / shapes pack by Sylvain. These are hand painted bush PNG files that you can drag into your painting. They come as coloured versions, black silhouettes and as custom shapes. Obviously I had to experiment with them.  I think they really brought my image to life! Check out the pack for yourself at https://www.artstation.com/a/2365569

Another amazing brush pack inspired by Ghibli can be found here : https://www.artstation.com/a/2936660  It's got a whopping 128 brushes for Photoshop and Procreate. It comes with videos and some example paintings!

After the first few hours, I had set up the basics for the image and took a break. I came back and immediately saw that the colours were not exactly popping. It's good to get a fresh perspective on your work. I spent more time  tweaking values, moving layers around, playing with adjustments layers, adding  Shape Blur or Gaussian blur filters and detailing. 

Looking back, I  definitely feel that using the store assets really speed up the process. It wouldn't make sense to put these all over the place, but instead place them at interesting points to bring the scene to life! I definitely want to use them a bit more in different sketches later on.

I also learned that taking your image, messing with layer adjustments and filters can really push the style further. I quite like how the lighting in the background has turned out on the trees. I experimented a lot with selections, masking and layer effects, which is something I'm fairly new to. 

I hope you enjoyed this little blog post.  If you want to stay up to date to more art, be sure to follow me on https://www.instagram.com/michielvdheuvel/ or https://www.facebook.com/vdheuvelmichiel/


Behind the scenes : Bedchamber concept art. Freebie included!

Tutorial / 05 November 2020

Hello!

As a warm up to writing more articles and blog posts, I wanted to start with a dissection and tutorial of a older piece from my portfolio. You can find it on the Artstation Marketplace or my website - Did I mention it's totally FREE !  It includes the PSD, reference files and a written document that goes over the process. So be sure to check that out!

2020 is about to end in just under two months, and with that in mind I want to go back to writing.   I have decided to write more articles about my development as an artist, experiences. The aim is to re-ignite the fire of my blog. I would love to share with you what I learned in this year. Particularly I want to share some of my thoughts on interesting topics and methods in the industry as a landscape painter / concept artist.

Be sure to check out my blog every now and then. The second article will, hopefully, land before the end of this year!

If you want to see more regular updates of my work, be sure to follow me on Instagram , Facebook or Linkedin 

If you have any questions you can always shoot me an e-mail at michielvdheuvel@hotmail.com


Art test sketches

General / 23 February 2018


These are some sketches I made for a unannounced animated tv show. Maybe I can show the finished results later this month, maybe not. Either way I had a lot of fun doing these sketches. 

Draw what you know

General / 22 February 2018

Last year I did a daily drawing for two weeks, which is something I had not before. ( But seriously need to pick up on again )  I live in the Netherlands, a country with a rich history in water management. I never really felt all that passionate about that sort of thing, until I saw a documentary about how we have learned to live with the water.  That struck a chord, and it instantly reminded me how much I loved going to the beach with my family when I was a kid. I had this thing for drawing lighthouses when I was younger. That was the main inspiration to start this daily routine. I really learned from this little journey and admit that it opened several doors to potential new projects, both personally and professionally.

This is what my paintings look like in my head

General / 17 February 2018

Last month I was experimenting with some nifty animation app called Werble. Below are some experiments.. Currently I'm working on a different method which I will reveal at a later time. I've been researching a lot about creating atmospheric effects in After Effects and Photoshop, stitching gifs together and trying to composite them into Photoshop.






Magic...!

General / 11 January 2018
This is what my paintings look like in my head...! 


Check the video below for a quick test I made with one of the paintings from my personal project. No Werble app used here - just Photoshop's latest features. I'm so giddy with excitement, just because I'm learning a ton of new stuff and seeing my normally dead paintings come to life with magic!







Note to self : It has been a decade

General / 31 December 2017

If you're reading this it means I have decided to bite the bullet and write a new blog post in my new website. ( Find my old one here )  It's been over a year since my last entry on my original blog, where I left off on a note saying that essentially  my ambitions to be a professional independent freelance artist in the digital entertainment industry were not going very well. I had made many mistakes, did not gave it everything I had, and was very much in conflict with myself. I had to take measures otherwise I would never grow and develop as a person.

That year I started working in a restaurant as a kitchen aid to pay the bills. I have been there ever since and learned a thing or two about myself and life. 2017 has flown by incredibly fast and a lot has happened in that time. So much in fact that I've been shying away from writing a proper follow-up post just because of it. A lot of things were lost to and there were also many things that I left behind. With relief, but with a pained heart.

I hope that what I'm writing will offer a little insight to my experiences and my beliefs in life. I have mixed feelings about putting certain things out on front street, but I feel that these posts act as  the cartilage of my sketches and paintings. For now I think it's better to keep it to the point : 

I am still working a day job and I'm fine with that for now. Yes there are moments where I despise it, but more importantly, I started appreciating my free time a hell lot more. I found out that I still have plenty of ambition and drive to become better as an artist. I have learned many things in 2017. It's hard to think of them on the top of my head but here are some of the more hardline advice I wrote down recently :


1) Don't chase the money - chase your whimsical ideas, experiments and do what you like to be doing regardless of payment.

2) Don't compete - Just 'do you' and show it to the right people

3) Put knowledge into practice - figure out what can help you speed up your process with accurate results when you're on the clock

4) Track your progress - develop a rhythm or pattern in your progress so that you may improve upon it

4) Keep an open mind -  try new techniques and different software to challenge yourself

5) Determine your worth - ask yourself if *your* work done for the month is a fair result against your minimum monthly financial needs and want



I'd like to go out saying that 2016 and 2017 made a real impact on me. I grew as a person and developped my ambitions, my passions. I feel very confident that I'm headed for a positive new year and I want to thank everyone in earnest for their patience and help.

Lastly, do enjoy some of my sketches and studies from this year!







Passion versus Opportunity : Making the Right Choice

General / 10 June 2016
If you think that your passion equals your vocation,let me tell you right now; it rarely does.

For the last couple of years I have been trying to become a succesful self-supporting freelance artist. I graduated in 2013. Three years later I end up working full-time with a new job as a kitchen-aid in a restaurant where the hours are long and my weekends as I know them no longer exist.

Before that, I worked several years as a partime mail-man by day and bartender by night. Although both jobs had their merits, the meagre salaries did not provide enough income to support myself and I  was struggling to find work as an artist. I was reliant on my parents for financial support.

Every now and then there was an opportunity to do some artwork for a client. They were usually the same: I had to provide a test image without compensation or any guarantee of partnership. That's a strange way of doing business. You wouldn't do that with your local bakery now would you?  
Asside from a few exceptions I declined most jobs that I replied to in the first place. I knew I would just feel miserable working on them knowing the pay would be less compared to the same amount of work I put in serving drinks at the bar until 5:30 in the morning. 

My work just wasn't good enough for those well-paid freelance gigs that I thought I would be doing. I am no Noah Bradley even though I really wanted to be. No matter how passionate I felt about this, I just was not skilled enough. 

My freelance career has had some ups and downs, where one project paid well but most did not. And in the end I dind't really believe that they were going to help me 'break through'. My motivation for them was minimal and that reflected in the results. I wasn't happy about myself, my career as an artist or my work for a very long time.

Something had to change. So I decided to stop, which at first shaked my beliefs of being an artist. But I was reminded by Steven Pressfield's writing. I might be paraphrasing but in this book 'The War of Art', it says;  'Stopping implies the chance to start over again. Quitting means turning your back and never going back again.'  I would stop, regroup and find something more worthwhile.

As a young  kid I always wanted to work in a restaurant and prepare food. I loved Jamie Oliver's cooking shows and I eagerly wrote down his recipes in a notebook while I watched him do it. I had a good appetite for different kinds of food, and I loved the idea of being the one that prepared tasty dishes as easily as Jamie seemed to do. I told myself that one day, I would build and own a beach-side restaurant like the ones I used to dine with my parents during the summer holidays.

But as the years went by, so did my passion change. And I realised that painting pretty pictures seemed a lot more fun instead. I was going to follow my newfound passion and after my graduation in 2013 I wanted to develop my career as a freelance artist. Living the life of sitting in your pj's and working from home on any project, whenever it pleased me! That seemed like the best thing ever.

Right in the period where I started my trial month as kitchen-aid, I was asked by my ex-classmate Jan van Lamoen to work on his graduation project. I was thrilled to be asked because I knew he was the most competent game-designer of my class and he was very professional. He trusted me to provide the environments and characters for his graduation project. I felt humbled. ( Mostly because I thought I couldn't draw a proper face let alone design face expressions )

For two whole months I worked on his project, all the while juggling my job as mailman, bartender and newly found job at the restaurant. It was hell. In the end, the project was delayed quite severely, but it was done. And I received a contract for 6 months at the restaurant. I could quit my other two part-time jobs! I have already stopped working as a bartender ( finally! ) and yesterday I received a call that June 14th would hail my last day as a mailman.

The last two months I have learned more about myself than in the last six years. 

Doing what you're passionate about is not necessarily where your vocation lies. You can be passionate about one thing, but you might not be skilled enough. And that's the hard truth about me and my artwork. Because I look at my work and I see what other people are doing. They áre keeping a regular sketchbook, they áre working on their fundamentals, they áre attending life-drawing sessions, and so on. 

I have a lot of things to work on if I want to be a succesful artist ( and I still do! ) but it's okay to settle for less.  Mike Rowe puts it like this:  "Don't follow your passion. Pursue opportunity"  
And the truth is I feel okay about my current life. Yeah I'm not working my dream job from home, and my new job has long hours that include weekends,  but that doesn't mean I should be unhappy. 

I'm working a steady job that I wanted when I was a kid, and I actually enjoy that type of work too. I think I could be good at it. I have job security and a monthly income. And I still have time left during the week for  painting and drawing. I'm pretty sure I can still get better at that too! 

My project with Jan has proven to me that I can do more than I thought I could. ( Will post artwork soon when released! ) While I was shifting gears between each of those jobs, I rediscovered my passion for painting and drawing and I learned that I liked doing things I normally did not do, like painting characters.

I have a loving girlfriend who supports me. My family and friends support me and encourage me. I couldn't have done it without them.





It ain't over till the fat lady sings !

General / 22 December 2015
In this blog post I´ll be sharing some  recent sketches that I made. You can see them below this post. In the meantime some thoughts on my online presence : I'm still thinking about what  I want to do with the layout of my website and it will probaly be undergoing many minor changes in the future. I have asked advice  from fellow artist friends on the publishing of portfolio's and personal work. I want to include my most beloved pieces of personal work. So from now on, the Gallery will serve as a living page where I'll store my favored sketches and other pieces. The home page will serve as as landing / portfolio page, which is obviously due for a major overhaul. Expect many changes there the new year!

Lately I haven't been studying much, but instead I have been focussing on just making personal work and putting my knowledge into practice. I have some ideas for upcoming pieces and I'm still thinking about a potential project that involves Dutch landscapes. At the moment there are many individual dots that I need to connect. I believe that 2016 will force me to shift into a higher gear. I expect next year will be difficult, but for all the right reasons. I think I'm heading for a rough time but I believe I will emerge stronger once it's behind me.

I wasn't planning on writing a big blog post to summarize the end of 2015, but looks like that's where it's heading! I'll sign off for now and come back later to touch on some subjects from this year.

-Michiel

Spitpaintings and Sketchdump

General / 22 December 2015


Lately I haven't been studying much, but instead I have been focussing on just making personal work and putting my knowledge into practice. I have some ideas for upcoming pieces and I'm still thinking about a potential project that involves Dutch landscapes. At the moment there are many individual dots that I need to connect. I believe that 2016 will force me to shift into a higher gear. I expect next year will be difficult, but for all the right reasons. I think I'm heading for a rough time but I believe I will emerge stronger once it's behind me.

I wasn't planning on writing a big blog post to summarize the end of 2015, but looks like that's where it's heading! I'll sign off for now and come back later to touch on some subjects from this year.


-Michiel