There are few things more utterly debilitating than a serious case of anxiety. Even now, I quite honestly have no idea what to write for this article and the idea of doing so ties a massive knot in my gut. By the time these words reach your eyes, dear Paper Demon members, I doubt I'll even remember the original text that occupied their space after nervously writing and rewriting this opening paragraph half a dozen times.
Now, I wouldn't normally admit something like that; my writing process is just that, a process, and those who read this article don't need to know how uncertain I was starting it, or how many words I've deleted out of some sense of shame, nagging perfectionism, and crippling doubt and fear at doing a poor job communicating my ideas. They just need to see the—relatively polished—end result.
But the thing is, those nagging fears, those doubts, and perhaps most of all, that pervasive sense of dread and apparent certainty that whatever I create will be terrible; it's not limited to my writing these articles. It rears its head and blocks my path every time I try to motivate myself to draw, to post my art on the site, to comment on someone's art, and even when I want to chat with you all in the Discord.
And I know I'm not alone in that. Anxiety seems to be a common roadblock for a lot of Paper Demon members. So today we're talking about that. Specifically, I'd like to examine how anxiety can prevent a person from making art and participating in our art-sharing community here, and how to counter one's anxiety and be awesome in spite of it.
It May Stick Around...But it Does Get Better
Alright, let's get the bad news out of the way first. Generally speaking, anxiety is like a bad smell; it's unwanted but often likes to stick around. Mind, I'm not a medical professional of any sort, so please don't interpret anything said here as medical advice, and remember everyone is unique, as is everyone's specific situation. All that said, anxiety tends to be a long-lasting, if often unwanted companion to many.
It's important to remember this, because it's a struggle one may have to keep wrestling with indefinitely, which can be incredibly tiring to say the least. But I think it's a struggle we can learn to win, not just sometimes, but consistently, with practice.
Which leads us right into the good news: it can and will get better, bit by bit, if you make a conscious effort to fight it. Fighting your own anxiety is a skill, and like any other skill, it can be learned and practiced gradually, so the more you practice it the better you get, until eventually, you can look your anxiety in the eye and calmly tell it to get out of your way, then just walk right past.
How Anxiety Stops Us from Contributing
Paper Demon has the distinct advantage of offering a platform where social anxieties can be somewhat curbed by the fact that it's an online community that allows you to engage and share with others while staying comfortable in your own home. Of course, this hardly means anxiety can't still be an enormous roadblock to overcome even in virtual communities. Whether you're posting your art, commenting on someone else's, or if you've written a message in the PD discord and still haven't hit “enter” yet because you're nervous, there are a million and one ways anxiety can make it difficult to participate.
Picture this: you just finished a piece of art you're really proud of, and you're excited to show it to others and see what they think. You open up the form to submit art on PD, upload your image, and start filling out all the details. You move on, write your tags, choose your galleries, and...that's it, all ready to post! You hover your mouse cursor over the “submit” button.
Suddenly, you can't move. You're caught between your desire to share your work and an intense urge to close the window and forget all about it. You start worrying people are going to hate your work, or nobody will comment and you'll feel silly for posting it. Or perhaps everyone will hate it so much that the entire PD community will form a mob, complete with torches and pitchforks, figure out where you live, and surround your home while loudly informing you that each and every one of your deepest fears and insecurities has come true. That's a perfectly rational fear that could plausibly come to pass, right?
Obviously the notion of something that elaborate and specific happening because of a single piece of art (which is probably better than you think) is ridiculous, and in general, worries about being hated or disliked aren't very rational either, and the vast majority of the time they're not very likely to come to pass, but these concerns feel incredibly real and debilitating when in the midst of an anxious moment like the one described above, and as such, they need to be recognized, addressed, and confronted.
Don't Pause, Don't Wait, Just Hit the Button
When it comes to facing your anxieties and pushing past them, speed can be your best friend. The basic rule at play here is that anxiety tends to intensify when you let it fester. If you act immediately, you can get the thing done before the anxiety has half a chance to stop you. In the scenario above? Hit the submit button the instant you even consider doing it. In a nutshell, acting on impulse—while not always the best idea in every situation—can sometimes be used to “hack” your way around your own anxiety.
Alternately, you can counter your anxiety with positive self-talk. Self-talk basically refers to your internal mental chatter; basically the things you think absent-mindedly, your unconscious beliefs and biases combined with conscious thought. Self talk can be both positive and negative, and anxiety often causes a lot of negative self-talk to circulate in your brain. When you think things like “they're all going to hate me if I do x,” that's negative self-thought. If you can catch yourself thinking these things, you can make a conscious choice to counter it with positive self-talk.
For instance, “everyone will hate me if I post this art” becomes “maybe people will like this piece. I'll be happier if I just post it.” Likewise, thoughts like “I want to chat with members in the discord but worry I won't fit in” becomes, “I should go say hi in the discord, I bet I'll get along just fine with everyone and maybe make some friends!”
You're Not Alone
And finally...just remember that if you struggle with engaging due to anxiety, you're hardly alone. There are quite a few of us here (if we didn't think there were plenty of anxious people on PD, I wouldn't be writing this article!), and I'm not the only one you could get tips, tricks, and support from when it comes to confronting your anxiety.
Furthermore, you’re protected by the rules too. Paper Demon’s code of conduct expressly forbids bullying and harassment. It most likely won’t ever happen to you, and if it ever did, the staff would take your side and your would-be bully would be dealt with swiftly and decisively, so you can focus less on worrying and more on participating.
So in other words, you're in good company, so try not to worry too much. We understand, and we're here to listen if you need it. Stay awesome, Paper Demon!
The Relationship Between Body Image and Nudes in Art
The nude has a long and storied history in the world of art. A variety of sculptures and paintings from ancient Greece certainly make that patently obvious. Nudity in art can be very empowering, striking, and beautiful, but it can also have negative impacts on the self-esteem and body image of viewers when focused too much on a fabricated and limiting ideal of beauty. Today we're going to take a look at this complex interplay between nudes and body image.
The Nude: A Brief History
Before we look at this relationship, let's review the history. That said, I would like to apologize in advance for focusing on western art history, which is admittedly limiting and unfair to the art of countless other cultures around the world, but the length of this article sadly prohibits a more in-depth look.
Probably the very earliest examples of the nude in art are figurines of nude females (or at least femme-bodied) discovered from pre-historic eras. These are often referred to collectively as “Venus Figurines,” and they tended to focus on evoking ideals of fertility, with wide hips and large breasts.
And then of course there's Ancient Greece. Greece's climate lent itself well to either light clothing or no clothing at all, so nudity was viewed as natural and not at all shameful. Ancient Greek nude art tended to focus on capturing the idealized human form, so such paintings and sculptures did not have a very wide variety of body types represented.
During the Medieval era, Christian sensibilities dominated much of Europe, so nudity was considered immodest. When nudity did occur in art, it was often used to connote shame and sinfulness. Of course, this was changed again in the Renaissance, in which the rediscovery of classical culture and values brought the nude back into prominence.
Since then, the nude had also appeared in the Baroque era, and leading all the way up to the modern age. Baroque nudes are notable in that they tend to seem more realistic and varied in body types represented.
Nudity and Empowerment
Nudity can be incredibly empowering when the focus is put on capturing authentic human beauty in a variety of shapes, sizes, and colors. This can be especially true in today's modern era, where, depending on your nationality, nudity or even partial nudity (toplessness for those with breasts) in public spaces could not only be considered shameful and inappropriate, but possibly punishable by law.
To choose to reveal one's body and allow oneself to be vulnerable as the subject of such art, especially in spite of such limiting and repressive cultural norms, can become a defiant and affirming act, especially (but not exclusively) for marginalized groups like women and those perceived as women, LBTQ+ folk, people of color, and anyone at all who might not perfectly fit the limiting and nigh-unattainable standards of beauty that plague the media today.
For femme-bodied folk, anything that marks a departure from tall, often unhealthily underweight supermodel “beauty” is generally a welcome and affirming thing. In other words, art featuring real, everyday models we can relate to, of all shapes, sizes, and colors, portrayed in a respectful way, so that everybody can see themselves positively portrayed in art.
Only Pretty Bodies, Please
Of course, this is sadly not always artists' first thought when it comes to depicting the nude in art. This varies widely as every artist is an individual, of course, but by and large, both in the distant past and today, artists want to portray models that fit the cultural ideal of beauty in their time period and region. This was certainly true in ancient Greece, as highlighted above, and in fact, it is believed that until the Renaissance occurred, live female models were not typically used for art of female nudes, instead using boys with breasts added. The Renaissance artist Raphael is credited with starting the practice of consistently using live female models for art featuring female nudes.
The tendency toward idealization and perfection of the human form in nudes creates an atmosphere where those with non-idealized bodies (read: the vast majority of the human population) can be made to feel inadequate after consistent exposure to this trend. While the desire to create appealing and beautiful art is entirely understandable, I posit that artists as a whole need to broaden the scope of what they consider beautiful and desirable, else risk contributing to a rather oppressive and limiting set of attitudes that has plagued the art world on and off since antiquity.
The Nude and Intersectionality
And on that note, it would be remiss to fail to touch on intersectionality while examining how the artistic nude can affect attitudes toward body image and self-worth, because different groups of people have been affected differently by this.
First off, a disclaimer: I myself am a white female, so I cannot speak personally to the first of these issues I want to look at as it's not my place to do so. I can, however, amplify the voices of people of color and try my best to present their perspective according to their own accounts, which is what I am trying to do here. I am also entirely happy to be corrected if I fail to do so adequately.
That said, the general sentiment that seems to be prominent in my research on the matter is that when it comes to depictions of the female nude, white women have been affected very differently than black women by these portrayals. White women tend to be portrayed as innocent, pure, and soft, while black women, when they do appear at all (which is less common), are portrayed as more wild, overtly sexual, and bestial. This may also be true to a lesser extent with male nudes, but from what I have gleaned it seems to be particularly common and problematic with female nudes. Charmaine Nelson, a black woman and professor of art history at McGill University, comments on this upsetting trend, saying that these attitudes lead to a “doubly fetishized black female body,” and puts black women in the position of “other” when they are depicted in nude art.
There is also the general issue of discrepancies in gender in nude art, both in terms of the subjects portrayed and the artists portraying them. Female artists, or females who might have become artists if they could, historically did not have access to the tools and resources that men did. Even in the Renaissance, women were not allowed access to nude models, liming their options in practicing art. And as for their portrayal as subjects, in much of history, female nudes were depicted as idle or passive, while male nudes embodied action and strength, and were celebrated as admirable warriors and martyrs while female nudes were condemned to essentially be eye candy and little more.
And then of course there's the issue that artists tend to want to portray thin, conventionally attractive people, to the exclusion of all else. Subjects who are overweight, have physical deformities, or are otherwise “imperfect” are of less interest unless someone wants to make intentionally garish artwork to make a statement.
As a transgender individual, I also want to touch on the fact that I'd really like to see more trans folk represented in nude art, in a positive and affirming way. I see almost none of this. I've seen plenty of erotic and pornographic art involving pre-op or non-op trans women, but it's typically just to satisfy a fetish for certain cisgender men. Mind, there's nothing wrong with fetishes or creating erotic and/or pornographic art to satisfy them. But I'd like to see positive portrayals of trans folk in artistic nudes more often too, and that just doesn't seem to be something most artists think of.
The Naked Truth
In short, the nude has been, is, and will likely continue to be an inextricable part of the art world. Further, depending on how the nude figure is used in art, it can be as empowering as it can be problematic and even oppressive.
So to all my fellow artists, keep in mind how your depictions of nude subjects could potentially affect larger attitudes that permeate our culture when it comes to body image, self-esteem, and inclusivity. Your work does have an impact, whether it's on a small handful of people who enjoy your art or on a larger scale, the art you make has great power to impact people positively or negatively. I beg you not to take that lightly.
Endeavor to show models of all shapes, sizes, genders, and colors in as uplifting and affirming a way as you can muster, or else—if you're feeling a bit more cynical—use other means, such as satire, to challenge problematic body ideals.
So basically, do what we Paper Demon folk do best: be awesome, make awesome art, and help other people feel awesome in the process.
Topic: Art and Community
Making Good Art Is About More Than Just Practice and Skill
In times of difficulty and hardship, it’s natural to lean on those close to us to provide support and aid to us. Humans being inherently social creatures—even those of us who are more introverted by nature still need some kind of social interaction for our own sanity, albeit more low-key and relaxed than extroverted folk—we tend to seek out a sense of community and belonging of one form or another in our lives. This can take many shapes, but whatever it looks like, the important thing is that you have people around you to support and encourage you
And since a healthy sense of community of one form or another can be so valuable, you can bet it has an impact on our development as artists too, and that’s what I’d like to talk about today.
Encouragement and Praise
Something a lot of budding artists need and even thrive on is praise. Especially when you’re just starting out, but even when you've been making art for awhile, you need to be told you’re doing well, and reminded that other people recognize that you’re doing a good job, and perhaps more importantly, that you’re improving. This helps motivate you to keep on making art.
Equally important is encouragement. Artist’s block and lack of confidence are two incredibly common barriers that most—I’d even say I suspect all—artists go through at one point or another, usually several times throughout their lifetime. Encouragement is quintessential to helping a struggling artist push through a slump. Sometimes we just need to be told that we can do it; that we have what it takes, and gently nudged in the right direction.
And where do both encouragement and healthy praise abound? In supportive communities, of course. We can get both of these things in any healthy communities we’re a part of, whether they’re composed of fellow artists or not, but it’s especially heartening when other artists—especially those we perceive as more skilled or more experienced than ourselves—tell us we’re doing well, and encourage us to keep improving.
Tips, Tricks, and Constructive Criticism
Of course, it’s all well and good to be encouraged to improve, and the drive and motivation garnered by such encouragement is essential, but then comes the question: how does one improve? Naturally, incremental improvement happens though practice; the more you draw, the better you get. But there’s more to it than just that.
A helpful artists’ community will be full of members who will be happy to share with you their own tips on how to improve; who will show you strategies and methods to make your art better. Additionally, a good art community will also provide you ample constructive criticism when you need and ask for it.
Constructive criticism can be one of the more bitter pills to swallow when it comes to our development as artists, but it’s just as essential as encouragement, praise, and sharing of methods. I myself am not proud to admit that I have yet to ever check the “request constructive criticism” box when I submit a piece of art on paperdemon, for I’m afraid to see the art I’ve put so much time, effort, and love into be torn apart by those more experienced than myself. It takes real courage to ask for constructive criticism, and real humility to accept it gracefully.
Shoulders to Lean On
I mentioned dry spells, artist’s block, and lack of motivation earlier. These aren’t the only barriers one might encounter when making art, and encouragement and praise sometimes aren’t the only thing you might need to overcome them.
Equally important is emotional support and space to vent. Sometimes you just need a shoulder to lean on, or even to cry on, and to be surrounded by people who won’t judge you for perceived weakness or vulnerability.
Feeling allowed to be vulnerable in front of someone requires real trust, which can and often is built through interaction in shared communities. If you can achieve that level of trust with another person, it’s incredibly freeing and comfortable.
Sometimes, in times of distress, grief, sadness, trauma, etc, etc, we just need to feel heard, believed, and cared about as people. Artists are no different than anyone else in this regard, and a good community can help us to form these kinds of bonds.
But Where to Find a Solid Community?
Of course, I’ve talked a lot now about the myriad benefits of a community, but not about where you can actually find one and become a part of it.
Well, first off I’ll start by stating the obvious: you can find a wonderful, supportive community for artists right here at PaperDemon! Once upon a time, the only way to have the kind of sense of community I’ve been describing was by actually being geographically close to a group of people you could meet with regularly, which is why many artists from times past would move to a large city, if they didn’t already live in one. Of course, the internet’s changed all that, and now you can connect with fellow artists from all over the world as long as you have a computer an an internet connection, and you can find all kinds of internet-based artistic communities both big and small, including but definitely not limited to paperdemon.com.
There are plenty of big and small artistic communities out there on the internet, all with different foci, sizes, and general “feel” to them. PaperDemon prioritizes self improvement and helping to motivate one another to be awesome over simply providing a mere avenue to share art. We’re also still pretty small, and very friendly, which makes the community more approachable. Finally, we allow a much greater range of freedom of expression than other sites might. We’re more relaxed about artistic nudity, and in general have a open-minded and affirming attitude towards a wide variety of types of art.
Furthermore, you can also look around your local area to see if anyone’s meeting up to talk about art. If you're in school, try looking for an art club. If you have a community center that offers free classes, take an art class and meet other artists that way. All else failing, you could always start your own community!
What We’ve Learned
- Communities are essential to our growth and happiness as people
- Artists need communities just as much as anyone else, to hone our particular craft
- We need encouragement and praise to help motivate us to be awesome
- We need tips, methods, and constructive criticism to facilitate improvement
- We need to feel allowed to be emotionally vulnerable occasionally
- All of these things should be present in a healthy artistic community, and you can find them all right here!
So if you haven’t already, why not join our community? If you’re already a member, consider sharing with us what you value about the PaperDemon community, and how we can improve. What do you want and need from a community that we don’t already provide? Let us know! We’re always looking to improve.
And finally, engage with your community. Post your art, give encouraging comments to others, and in general, just be awesome to one another!
An interview with Artist and Illustrator Christine Rhee
Illustrations by Christine Rhee.
Recently, I had the distinct pleasure of interviewing Christine Rhee, a talented artist and illustrator who was really a joy to talk to. Christine has had a bumpy road on her journey to becoming the artist she is today, but she’s persevered and learned to trust herself in the face of obstacles ranging from uncertainty about her life’s path, to disapproving family members, to simple lack of motivation, and has come out a stronger person for it.
Jorie McKibbin (aka Indigo Dusk): Tell us a little about yourself as a person.
Christine Rhee: Hi! I’m an artist and illustrator living in San Francisco. I have two house/studio bunnies. They love to hide in the nooks and crannies as I draw or work on the computer. I try to keep them from “helping” with my artwork too much!
Jorie: What was it about art that attracted your attention? What made you want to make art in the first place?
Christine: Looking back I think I was always interested in art. But growing up in an immigrant family, it went unnoticed. I’d draw on my own and even borrowed books from the library about drawing animals and such. I’d had sporadic public school art classes here and there, mostly craft projects. Most of those avenues dried up around middle school.
Years later, I took my first formal drawing class as an elective in the middle of my pre-med and bio undergrad degree in Molecular Cell Biology. I’d just never felt so complete and connected before! I was in trouble! While I was drawing I felt like I was finally using all of me — my heart and soul vs just my intellect and discipline. As I drew, I found energy to draw more. It was truly an altering experience. After tasting that it was hard to go back.
I’ve wandered back and forth, going for a second bachelor’s in Animation & Illustration, and back to bio, and now back to pursuing fine art and illustration. Ultimately, this feeling of wholeness and complete-ness guides me and I’ve had to learn to recognize when I’m following my more “practical” concerns vs what I truly want to do in life. Life is too short to live a lesser life than one where I can feel fully engaged.
J: What's your earliest significant memory involving art? This can be art you made, or someone else's art that resonated with you somehow.
C: I was obsessed with Chris Van Allsburg’s The Mysteries of Harris Burdick in second grade. My teacher had challenged me to write stories to go with the mysterious lines in the book with their accompanying evocative images. I wrote several of these little short stories for the class. Eventually she gave me the book! It’s still on my shelf today. Much later, my mom happened to take me to a visiting Van Gogh exhibit at the LACMA. I just remember trying to take in all the energy, the colors, and quotes from his letters to his brother Theo. His work just felt so alive. You could feel the objects, even the air flowing around them.
J: In broad strokes, can you tell us about your journey to becoming a professional artist, and what key decisions helped you get there?
C: I finished my degree in Animation/Illustration in 2009 but I didn’t feel like an artist until years later. I felt like someone who had studied to be an artist but wasn’t sure what I actually wanted to do.
I had to commit to being an artist. I had to give myself permission to be an artist. I always felt like I had to “achieve” something greater — accomplishments, financial success, respect — probably as a result of my upbringing and a desire to honor my parents and my loved ones. It took me a really long time to sort through all my different values and desires to realize that if I really committed to it, I could achieve it all with art — to help and connect with others, to encourage others, to inspire and enrich their lives, to help them get along on their paths to being the best version of them.
The financial part I’m still working on… but nothing beats feeling so connected to myself, to other people, to that universal feeling of being a human being than art does for me.
Once I decided I wanted to do art, it was easier. I needed additional instruction to achieve the kind of art I wanted to create. I wanted a community and mentors that would help me have a positive relationship with art-making and guide me through the business aspects. i found much of that through Smarter Art School classes, Illustration Master Class and IlluxCon.
J: Many artists struggle to stay motivated and practice regularly. Have you struggled with this common problem? If so, how have you pushed past it?
C: I struggle with this EVERY DAY. From talking with mentors and other artists who’ve been at this for decades, THEY still struggle with it. I think it’s just part of being an artist. I think the key is to have many avenues leading to creating more art. I’ll share a few I’ve been relying on lately.
Personally, I find it easiest to keep moving when I’m working on project to project, especially when I know what to tackle next. I keep a folder of thumbnails I like but haven’t had a chance to work on. For the ones that still resonate, they often become the next project. I have enough of a system of working on images now (thumbnail, reference gathering, line drawing, refine drawing, values, render, color study, and color) that once I have an idea I’m excited about, I can often get back into working. In fact, I get impatient and cranky when I don’t get to work on it!
I like having a mentor or group of artists to be accountable to and share regularly with. Nothing like a deadline to keep you motivated! I’ve found a community of artists to be really helpful. We exchange ideas for how to get unstuck, give each other permission to try new things, support each other when trying something scary, and reassure each other that being stuck is part of the process sometimes and that we will work through it. It feels great to share your work for feedback or just to share what you’re working on.
Oftentimes, losing motivation is a sign of something being “off.” It could be that I’m not happy anymore with the composition of the piece I’m working on. I might have drifted from the emotional moment in the piece. It could be that I’m not relaxing or getting out of the studio enough and putting too much pressure on myself.
And finally, having a creative routine or triggers for creating really helps. For some people it’s music, audiobooks, or podcasts. For me it’s usually a visually evocative, emotional or psychological TV show in the background. It’s almost like a soundtrack and I end up watching it a few times, so even if I miss some details here and there, I really get to dig in on the emotions, metaphor, and imagery.
J: What other struggles have you faced as an artist, and how have you overcome them?
C: I was pretty fortunate in that my boyfriend, now husband, has always been supportive of my art pursuits. Though I wandered around a lot in terms of my art journey, those years allowed us to build financial stability so that I could focus on building my art career.
However, my family was almost violently opposed to my being an artist. Looking back, they didn’t really understand that art would be a way for me to realize all my potentials vs pursuing something more understandable like medical school. They even had a family meeting with all my extended relatives to discuss whether I should do art or not (the consensus was no, by the way). Even as of 2017 they were still suggesting that they would pay for my med school tuition if I ever chose to go back. Ultimately, I had to mature, commit, and learn to pursue my own goals. I had to realize they wanted me to be happy and successful as any loving family does. When I finally started making art that was meaningful to me and shared my art with them, they became increasingly supportive.
Though I learned a lot from my art program, they were extremely non-supportive of illustration or gallery art as a career path. Beyond not having the support or coursework to pursue that desire, I just didn’t have the skill level to create a finished image. I also didn’t know how to pursue those careers. Both of those required more instruction, which I found with Smarter Art School and IMC.
J: What role do you think formal education plays in an artist’s development? Do you think it’s necessary to become a great artist?
C: I was starting at almost no instruction in art prior to school so I’m all for it!
Everyone has their own way of learning. I personally really benefit from a structured approach to learning. Since I had academic rigor from pursuing my science degree, it was natural for me to find formal instruction to get the basics again. My BFA was the fastest way to learn a lot of technical and foundational skills in a disciplined way. Even though that particular program didn’t align with my longer term goals perfectly, I still learned so much about drawing, composition, color, picture-making, gesture, etc that I was able to carry over into my later studies.
It’s more a matter of discipline and time. During art school, I was studying art for 40-80 hours a week between class time and assignments. There’s just so much skill to learn to be proficient at art! Self-study is great for those who are that disciplined. If you have the desire and discipline as a novice artist to really do dedicated study, that’s great! There are so many tutorials and workshops available now! For myself, I need structure to get me to where I want to go as quickly and efficiently as possible. Otherwise, it’s too easy for life and its many challenges and demands to get in the way of pursuing my art.
I think the big caution with formal instruction is whether you have the freedom to be yourself. If you find mentors and programs that will nurture you to develop your own voice and find what motivates you as an artist on top of fundamental skills… hold on to them for the gold that they are!
J: Do you have any advice for artists to whom formal art education isn’t available? How can such artists learn and grow through self-study and peer support to overcome this obstacle?
C: For those for whom it isn’t an option…there are some great books, tutorials, and workshops out there! Muddycolors.com is a great source on a wide range of topics from masters in the Sci-Fi/Fantasy field. They also have a Patreon with once a month video demos from amazing artists! OneFantasticWeek.com is a weekly videocast that brings in guest speakers such as artists, art directors, etc and they talk about the business of being an independent artist. They also have an active Facebook group, for community building. There are other great organizations like Schoolism and ConceptArt.org that offer great tutorials and community for artists with more digital art and concept art skills.
J: Do you have any advice for budding artists in general?
C: It sounds pretty prosaic, but also extremely important… Trust that you’re an artist because you want to create things. Keep drawing or painting or whatever is your medium. The skills will come as long as you’re continuously building towards growing. There is a wealth of great tutorials, books, and mentors out there. Whatever stage you are in, focus on your next steps to get you towards your big dream. The biggest challenge is trying to hone into what that dream is! Read interviews, look at the art that inspires you and see if the life and art that those people are describing is the kind that you want. You can always work your way towards something, but no one can guarantee that that outcome will make you happy other than yourself.
J: What role did mentorship play in your journey to become a successful artist?
C: My work just wouldn’t be where it is right now without mentorships. I had my fundamentals from my BFA, but I just didn’t know how to use reference in a sensitive way or how to take images to a polished finish. Prior to my mentorship, I just didn’t have anything other than the most rudimentary figures in my work. I also didn’t have a community in the fields I was interested in and didn’t really know anything on the business side of the careers I wanted to pursue. The mentorships allowed me to build up those skills, narrow down what my next steps were, and encourage me to apply to things when I needed to.
J: How about peer support? Do you have any artist buddies you bounce ideas back and forth with? If so, how does that help keep you inspired and motivated
C: Peer support is really important too! Right now, I still tend to rely on my mentorships more for feedback vs my peers, but with the peers I’ve gained through these mentorships I know I can get real quality feedback. Also it’s a huge source of information and encouragement. We trade notes on what shows are worth applying for and attending, congratulate each other on our victories and console each other with setbacks.
There are a lot of ups and downs and psych outs with the process of creating art. It’s just not possible to continue to create and fight the good fight without other people alongside you.
J: While browsing your work, I notice that both water and plant-life seem to be repeating elements in many of your pieces. Is there a reason for that?
C: I think it’s just a natural gravitation. I’m comforted and inspired by nature and how we as humans fit into the universe and our life journey. I find the ocean extremely meditative and grounding. Living and interacting with my pets also grounds me into the present day and my body. Many of the stories and imagery that resonate with me have nature involved in some way because nature inspires and soothes me. I want to remind people that there is a larger world than their feelings and their thoughts.
J: I noticed you have a degree in molecular cell biology and immunology. I can’t help but be curious; how’d you go from studying the sciences to a career as a professional artist?
C: With a lot of denial and opposition internally and externally? Hahaha. I was definitely fully-committed to being a doctor before I found real art instruction! Once I discovered what life was like with art in it, my fate was sealed. I kicked and screamed and tried “safer” paths even within art like graphic design, art direction or trying to prepare my portfolio for animation or game studios. I had this perception that there had to be a single source of income with my work and that only gives you certain options. It ultimately didn’t work out for me. I think my interests and sensibilities are better aligned for freelance and personal projects vs a team based collaborative project and going into an office every day of the week.
On another level, switching from medicine to art wasn’t that big a leap. I wanted to help people as a doctor. But in volunteering at hospitals and studying the materials, I came to the realization that maybe medicine wasn’t the best way for ME to help others. It felt valuable and I was definitely making a difference, but I came home exhausted and drained. In contrast, art gave me more energy! I’d always responded to images, books and stories. Finding a great book cover in a bookstore, seeing art that moves me in a museum…those experiences feed me and helped me find meaning in my life. I wanted to provide that kind of connection and fuel for others. I still wanted to help others, but when I was making art, I was rejuvenated by the process and method I wanted to connect to others, in a way that science and medicine did not do for me.
J: Tell us about these super cute bunnies mentioned on your site!
C: I’ve been adopting bunnies from different rescue organizations since 2003. At our max, we had six! (that wasn’t exactly intentional) We have two boys right now and they’re kind of a handful, so we’ll probably hold off on adding more for a while. They like to find all the nooks and crannies in my studio and they keep me on my toes! Sometimes they try to “help” with my paper and boards. It’s super peaceful when they sit near me and nap or want the occasional pet session. They are especially adorable when they’re eating or begging for treats.
J: What motivated you to submit to the society of illustrators?
C: Now that I have a consistent body of work, I have a list of a few annuals and competitions that I plan on applying to every year. I see them as a way to share my work with the community and people who hire for jobs. For me, whether I get in or not is secondary. Because there is a jury involved, you never really know whether you’ll get a piece in or not. It could have made it or not by a single vote. I’ve also heard of people getting hired or contacted from a jury member because they saw the work in the annual, even though the work didn’t make the cut for inclusion. It’s also a nice way to interact with my existing community to encourage one another to submit and celebrating with them when they get in.
Some other competitions on my list are Communication Arts, Society of Illustrators, Infected by Art and Spectrum. I add to this list as I discover ones I’ve missed from my community and mentors.
J: Several of the pieces featured on your website are in a category labeled “Korean Myths.” Can you tell us a little about one of your favorite myths and how it inspires you?
C: My Korean Myths series was inspired by my desire to share Korean culture. Many stories get categorized as Japanese or Chinese but Koreans have their own versions too! Others are uniquely Korean. I wanted to share them since they were the stories I read growing up, in addition to the Western folklore and myths.
Many of the Korean Myths I’m inspired by have to do with transformation or growth in some way. For example, the piece with the woman and the bear is from a foundation myth of Korea. When the son of the sky god comes down to earth to make his own way in the world, he meets a tiger and a bear who desire to become human. He gives them a task — go into a cave, eat nothing but garlic and green onions for 100 days, at the end of which he will transform them. The tiger gives up in the middle and runs away, but the bear perseveres and fills the 100 days. The son of the sky god rewards the bear by transforming the bear into a human. And she becomes a beautiful woman (as a reflection of her character). He is so impressed by her perseverance and beauty that they marry. Together they are the father and mother of Korea.
I adore these stories of perseverance, chasing after your dream, transformation and bravery. They embolden me and I want to embolden others with them.
J: Where can our community find and get get in touch with you?
And thank you, Christine, for sharing your valuable time and perspective with us. I know that having the privilege to interview someone not only very talented, but humble and kind such as yourself has been an inspiring experience for me, and I hope the same can be said for anyone else reading this now.
You can checkout more of Christine's artwork on her website christinerhee.com
Now, readers, if you’ve made it this far, I hope you can come away from Christine’s wonderful example feeling ready to pursue whatever path in your lives leads you to the most happiness and completeness, or—if you haven’t found it yet—to have the courage to keep searching until you do.
So what are you waiting for? Get out there and be the best version of yourself you can be!
Hiya Firiel! No need to apologize for the slowness, and apologies if I caused offense, I didn't meant to, was just making an observation. ^^ I really like it here so far; the smaller community feel is nice. I also look forward to seeing you around and perusing your art.
Hiya. I found myself in a similar situation, having been sharing my art here for a bit but only recently checking out the forums. Sadly they seem a bit slow...
Hope you're enjoying paperdemon. I quite like it here myself. ^^
I knowwww, I need to take my own advice. I did write an article on the subject, I suppose maybe I should try to practice what I preach. >.>
And thanks! I'm glad to be here. I really like this little place you have set up here. I used to share my art on Deviant Art, but haven't been for awhile. Not sure what it is exactly, but something made me loose interest. Paperdemon is better IMO.
Too bad the forums here seem a little...dead. o.o
Topic: Finding Your Muse
Don't Wait for it, Go Out and Grab It!
In Greek Mythology, the Muses were thought to be the source of knowledge and inspiration for the arts. Today we use the term more loosely, as anyone or anything that helps us find inspiration for our creative pursuits. Today, I'd like to help you find your own Muse.
See, a lot of artists think that if they wait around, inspiration will come to them. While sudden inspiration can happen, it's not something to be relied upon, as it's sporadic at best. And the thing is, there are actually a number of ways you can actively search for and find your Muse, instead of just waiting around for it.
Just Go for It
First thing's first: don't sit around waiting. I wrote another article about the importance of daily practice, and that's something worth reiterating here. You won't always feel inspired every time you practice or create something, but make art anyway. Push through the block.
“One reason I don't suffer Writer's Block is that I don't wait on the muse, I summon it at need.” -Piers Anthony
If you have no idea what to draw, just practice poses or something, but do something art related. Inspiration isn't magic; it comes from your subconscious turning over ideas and information and eventually bringing them to your attention. Give your subconscious the fuel it needs to keep doing it's thing by making sure you don't stagnate.
Fill Your Life with Creativity
One sure-fire way to make inspiration come easier and more often is to intentionally fill your life with creative things. Music is a great one, because you can listen to it throughout most of the day. Services like Pandora are especially valuable here because you can discover new artists to inspire you without having to lift a finger beyond actually creating your station and giving the thumbs up or down on various tracks.
Also, make friends with creative people, or if you already have creative friends, pay more attention to their projects. Ask what they've been up to lately. Inquire about their creative process and share yours. This sort of back and forth is great for fostering creativity and idea-generation for all parties involved. Relatedly, Susie Sahim, aka BogusRed, PaperDemon’s own creator and maintainer, wrote an article on how pancakes helped her be more productive as an artist, which talks about how meeting up with your creative friends can help all of you help each other be more productive.
“I am my own muse, the subject I know best.” -Frida Kahlo
Additionally, you can try things like visiting art museums, galleries, concerts, etc, etc, etc. Basically, don't just make art; observe others who make art—of all shapes and sizes. You might be surprised what ideas and flashes of inspiration strike you as a result. And not to mention, being surrounded by creativity is just fun!
Turn to Another Medium
It's not uncommon for artists to dabble in more than one type of artistic medium. Using myself as an example, I occasionally toy around with writing, and I also play an instrument (badly). I'm nowhere near as practiced in either of these endeavors as I am with visual art, because visual art is my chosen medium (granted, I don't think I'm very good at that either, but see my first article on artists being our own worst enemies). But that's not important. The fact that I dabble at all is helpful when it comes to helping to inspire my art.
The reason this can help is that if you get a block in one medium, you can go to another one for awhile. Sometimes if I'm suffering from a bad case of artist's block, I'll pick up my ocarina (and yes, I first heard of them from Legend of Zelda, but no, they were not made up by that game and are in fact a real instrument) and play some songs, or add a couple notes to one of the songs I'm writing.
Often, this will help dissolve the art block or even give me some new inspiration purely from the joy of what I'm doing. Blocks in one medium don't always translate to others, so switching around like this can be to your benefit when it comes to keeping the creative juices flowing all the time.
Exercise your Imagination
“The true sign of intelligence is not knowledge but imagination.” -Albert Einstein
These days, our lives are filled with entertainment that does the imagining for us, leaving the average person's imagination sadly underdeveloped. TV is a fantastic example of this; when you watch a movie or TV series, the writers, actors, special effects team, and so on have already done all of the imagination legwork for you, and all you have to do is sit back and watch.
Video games are a bit better as they're interactive, and therefore can involve a degree of creativity—sometimes a lot of creativity. That said, depending on the game, it's often a similar case to TV: the imagining has been done for you by the game's writers and developers and so on.
Mind you, there's nothing wrong with watching TV or playing video games. Hell, my partner and I spend almost every evening binging one TV series or another, and I spend at least half of my leisure time playing video games. And in fact, in moderation, they can be good for fostering imagination, because you can pull ideas from or become inspired by feelings evoked by games and TV.
The trick is to avoid doing nothing at all but pre-imagined amusement like TV. Supplement your gaming or netflix binging habit with a good book every now and then. Books are great because they require you to imagine; you get the basic outline of what's going on and being said, but your imagination fills in the blanks.
Music is also great because you can close your eyes and pay attention to the feelings that the song evokes in you, and perhaps even imagine your own music video in your own mind for the song you're listening to.
Finally, how you engage with media like TV and video games is important. If you just sit back and watch TV without thinking much at all, you're doing your own imagination a disservice. However, if you think about the things that are going on, make predictions about what's going to happen next, and speculate about miscellaneous things in the universe or even come up with your own imagined scenarios for the characters in the show, you're giving your “imagination muscle” a pretty decent workout.
The point is, when it comes right down with it, how you engage with media is even more important than what media you engage with.
Look Around You
Inspiration is all around us, if only we know where to look. Most of the time, people go from place to place without really noticing their surroundings. We get so used to our given routines or routes that we never stop to appreciate what's around us.
Next time you're driving to work, walking to school, browsing the store, or anything else in your daily routine, take a moment. Stop moving. Listen. Watch. Appreciate all the little things going on. Things like a bird's nest in a branch of that tree you've passed a million times and never noticed. Or a little side street you never realized existed. The lively chatter of children playing. The melodic song of birds and wind rustling in trees.
“Nature's my muse and it's been my passion.” -Frans Lanting
Being more aware of your environment and present in the moment can help nurture your creativity a great deal, and not to mention it's just relaxing.
“And muse on Nature with a poet's eye.” -Thomas Campbell
Finally, consider making a sojourn to the wilderness every now and then. I don't care whether or not you're the “outdoorsy type,” or if hikes and nature walks “aren't your thing.” Do it anyway. Find a national park, national forest, or even just a grassy field without another human being in sight, and go for a walk. You'd be amazed how calming and even inspiring the natural world can be without too many humans around to mess it up.
Prompts, Prompts, Prompts...
When it comes right down to it, sometimes no matter how well you follow the guidelines above, you still can't think of anything. When this is the case, look for your muse in prompts and other tools specifically designed to help jumpstart your creativity.
I've already covered this particular topic in another article, so go check that one out for specific ideas, under the “But What to Do" heading.
What We've Learned
- You're not going to find your muse by just sitting around
- Surrounding yourself with creative people and things can give you the creative fuel to stay inspired.
- If you get stuck with an art block that you can't seem to shake, try another creative endeavor for a while, then switch back.
- Limit your exposure to pre-imagined media like television, and/or change how you engage with it.
- Read a book now and again. Books give you a story and framework and ask your imagination to fill in the gaps.
- When you watch TV, keep your mind active; speculate on the characters and situations in what you're watching.
- Pay more attention to your surroundings; you'd be surprised what tidbits of inspiration await you around every corner if you know where to look.
- Prompts can act as a jump-starter for your imagination, helping you get the creative process started.
Alright, your muse is out there somewhere. Time to start looking!
So, one of my next articles is going to be a compilation of videos and video makers of a "how-to-draw" nature(it was originally just going to be YouTube, but Bogus Red suggested to include Vimeo too, so keep that in mind when you make suggestions). Thing is, I have fairly specific tastes and only know of a couple how-to-draw youtubers that I follow, so I wanted to poll the community for your favorite.
If you know of anyone who makes videos helping to teach people how to draw, please let me know their name/screen name, a few details about them and why I should include them in my compilation, and a link to where I can find their work.
Thanks in advance for your helpful suggestions!
Hi all. I go by Indigo Dusk here. I've been contracting with Bogus Red for a bit now writing articles for the site, and I've posted some of my (crappy) art here too, and yet I never thought to check out the forums until now. So hi and stuff.
I'm a late 20-something queer autistic visual artist and freelance writer. I have an obsession with elves (as in the tall, pointy-eared fantasy race), water and hydromancy/water magic, puppies, video games, sour candy, my wonderful girlfriend, and being really really gay.
Honestly I'm really boring and not very good at art, but I try. Also I use they/them pronouns, if you please.