600 Watercolors in 6 Weeks

March 17, 2018

Imagine me as a young artist living in the rural town of Denair California, population 2600 and wanting to be an artist. There were no art jobs to be found, and I didn’t have the knowledge of even art jobs available in the town next door. I didn’t know about the mass of graphics needed in advertising or put any thought to illustrators of books. Those seemed to be done by other people in far away lands. I knew about comic strips, because I read them in the daily newspaper (the only part of the paper I read). I applied to be a grill cook at the McDonald’s in Turlock and there were 120 applicants for the one opening I didn’t get. Those were tough times to be an artist.

Fast forward to the internet age. This world-connecting tool allowed any artist to post anything to anyone in any location. It’s the most powerful communication tool ever. I think back to the days when I would submit my comics to national newspaper syndicates and I’d camp at the mailbox to collect rejection letters. There were gate keepers at every art job in the world that the internet circumvented. When Kickstarter was invented, it not only opened up the communication between artist and audience, it opened up commerce. It is the ultimate free-market by asking donors to contribute to art projects and if the donors don’t show up you get no dough. I like that. It’s honest.

I put together a Kickstarter to paint 100 small 2.5″ x 3.5″ watercolor paintings of my most popular characters for a minimum raise of $3,000. I figured it would be a small campaign I could knock out between graphic novel projects. But the project blew up and I raised over $29,000 to make 600 paintings with an additional 300 sketches… and I had just under two months to do them.
DougKick
This is a mass-media artist’s dream come true. It’s a level of independence I couldn’t dream of in my youth as a struggling artist. What’s better, is that artists in rural areas could pull this off, that kid in a small farm town can now find an audience and get paid to make what he or she loves. Kickstarter raises through volunteers what the National Endowment of the Arts could only dream of. It’s one of the most powerful, creator-friendly inventions in modernity.

One of the things this Kickstarter opened up was my own teaching channel, a way to give back to beginning artists who might just need to see someone do it before they give it a try. Here is one for drawing:
This is a pencil demo.

I just keep thinking, if I could have seen Jim Davis draw a Garfield comic, I might have learned a few tricks. Given I made 600 watercolor paintings, I passed on a technique of “wet on wet” I used on nearly every art work for the campaign. It’s a simple trick that gives fast, dramatic results. The float and movement of watercolor is very different from my pixel art I did for video games and I like that. Take a look at this:
Watercolor Tutorial

The biggest challenge with painting 600 works of art is to keep them from looking like copies of each other, but the donor is expecting my painting to look pretty much like the ideal piece I promised I would get. Watercolor is a difficult medium to control, in fact, using its chaotic movement of color should be part of the strength of the piece. To pull off that mass amount of paintings I had to do in a day, I would lay out ten blank pieces of paper at a time, pencil ten faces, ink ten faces, erase the pencils on ten faces, watercolor the back grounds on ten faces, etc. After those ten pieces were finished, I’d lay out another ten blank pieces of paper and repeat the process until I was able to do about 20 paintings a day. Not a bad pace for an old man.

For more art tutorials click here for my Vimeo channel.

I also do live demonstrations on my Facebook page.

Live demonstrations here.

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