General / 02 January 2023

Today marks the 1-year anniversary of my career as a fulltime freelance artist! I don't really know what to say about it. It has been an eye opener for sure. For the last 10+ years I have been working day/night jobs while I worked on my craft. Ever building towards that goal. If you've read a bit more of my blogs, you might recall it was not without emberassing mistakes or painful regrets.  

In late December 2021, I was very fortunate to find multiple projects landing at my feet, while I was still working at the restaurant. Three very exciting projects, but only one that would truly be the best fit and the most promising. It was right during the last lockdown in my country. Business at the restaurant job was slow. The year was almost at and end, and here shows up an amazing opportunity. Somehow it felt like destiny calling. 

I called my dad and asked him what I should do. 'Buckle down and ride it out' he said. We bought a christmas tree together, and had a long overdue talk during that car ride. Man to man, not just father and son. He wanted me to know that, if I was really serious about my goals, it was time to look in the mirror and ask myself what I really wanted. Saying you want to become a fulltime artist is one thing, but doing it is another. I knew I had a shot of making it work, but I had to commit. 

So I followed his advice. I set up a schedule, and worked my ass off that month. However I learned a thing or two about crunch time. When the dust settled, December had flew by and suddenly it was 2022 - with two promising job offers. I weighed my options and made a very clear decision. And the rest is history! Bringing the good news to my family at the dinner table was the best feeling ever. I have proven I could do it!

Now, I work as a concept artist for their project; 'Wild Life'! Check out the cinematic trailer and their Patreon here The game is 18+ but don't let that scare you off. We're building some cool stuff!  Speaking of which, I added a sneak preview of some concept art I made. There are a lot more pieces coming soon. 

Sadly, my dad passed away in the summer of 2022. It hasn't been the same without him. Except that I'm now more close with my family than ever. I'm glad he got to see many beautiful things during his short retirement. Moreover I'm proud and happy he saw me grow out of my shell and find a home and a career. He never will have to worry about me again. Thanks dad, for all your love and care. 

I am uncertain where 2023 will take me. For now, I want to focus on learning from my current job. So far It's been a really exiting. Meanwhile, I'm also rebuilding my website. There's a bunch of new artwork coming soon! So stick around :) For all those that read my blogs,thank you for taking an interest in my little life. 

Blender Sketch Dump 5-11-2021

General / 05 November 2021

Every time I saw someone post a new tutorial or addon, I would get hyped and started experimenting in Blender. Eventually I got better at setting up scenes, and I picked up some handy new techniques ( QuickShape, QuickCurves, QuickTexture for example ) I also learned a bit about displacement techniques, by studying Florent Lebrun's tutorials. 

I had played with 3DCoat in the past, but they recently released a new version. It's definitely worth a try. I learned a bit more about sculpting, and even did some PBR painting. The voxel sculpting workflow is great when you switch back and forth between Blender and 3DCoat. And it works with the previous mentioned Quick addons quite well too.

I've taken an interest in texture painting, so I'm trying both Quixel Mixer and Substance Painter. Although Substance Painter seems way complicated to me. More on that later.

Here are some of the sketches and experiments I made over the year. Enjoy!

PleinAirpril !

General / 06 April 2021

Posting some #Pleinairpril ( old and new ! ) 

I jumped on the NFT train!

General / 05 March 2021
Today I 'minted' my first digital artwork on the Ethereum blockchain as 'non-fungible token'  ( NFT )  Maybe some day I can say 'I was there, at the start of a new digital age'  when the internet of things started manifesting itself on a massive commercial level. 

I'm not sure what happens next. Very likely, nothing at all. But I do hope that this is a small step that brings me closer to my goal ; becoming a fully independent artist. If I even sell just one NFT, I'll consider it as a success. 

I minted the artwork 'Heron' on Rarible. Find me there! My username is michielvdheuvel

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.


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.