Street Fighter - Loving what you do and the importance of fanart

General / 17 June 2019

I recently finished up presentation renders for Street Fighter and pushed them out there on several places.  I've written about it here a few times by now.  I've posted WIPs, made preview posts on my portfolio and posted a whole bunch about it during and after the fact... I should probably shut up about it already, but this is hopefully some of the last of it at last.  Part of me wants to throw the whole thing away and part of me is very proud and wants to keep talking about it to anyone who'll listen.  It's been long enough to where I see many of the flaws and things I could still fix, but these things had to be sent to the factory at some point and Capcom gave their approval.  I have a probably unhealthy amount of respect and admiration for Capcom and their OG Street Fighter designers.  In fact, one of the highlights from last year was getting one of my tweets about the project noticed by Akiman and retweeted.  

“If you’re trying to figure out what others love, but you don’t love it, it’s very hard to make that great. So when you work on something, if you fall in love with it, that’s a good sign. Don’t worry about if others do. If you do, others will.” That's apparently something Elon Musk said recently or at some point.  Street Fighter is one of those properties that pulled me into doing art.  Back in the 90s I had a couple of games magazines in English, back when I didn't really understand English.  The crazy colorful adds, the interviews full of sketches, the promotional art for SF2 Turbo, and then the reveal of the new fighters for Super Street Fighter 2 with Cammy, Fei Long, T. Hawk, and Dee Jay.  I was never as good at fighting games as I'd like to be, but I've always loved and enjoyed the art that comes out of them, from concept, to pixels, to final in-game or cinematic models.

Many people here in Artstation are big time professionals that get to work on movies, AAA games, and more, in many cases they're living their dream.  For some it's a job and in some cases it even becomes boring or a chore.  Some people get pretty jaded or even cynical about it.  It's a rough industry or industries... and lots of things about conditions like crunch and compensation needs massive improvement.  However, this is still quite something for me at least, to be doing this and enjoying it.  Back in the day I was some 12 year old kid in Mexico copying drawings by Akiman and trying to come up with new drawings that matched his style.  In fact I copied this drawing down here with color pencils a couple times:

I wish I had a scan of that drawing, it's probably somewhere in my parents' house and it probably looks way off in relation to the original, but it was what I could do back then and I was proud. Those crappy doodles were part of my road to get to where I am and I'm actually pretty happy with where I am and where I'm heading.  Things are lookin' up in my little corner of the world.

On Fanart and other Myths

"Don't do fanart!" or "Do less fanart."  Somewhere down the line I've heard it from art teachers, other artists, students, colleagues, and not even sure who else, but many people make fun of or look down on fanart.  I never understood it and I still don't, because I grew up loving comics, video games, movies, and from the moment I figured out these things were made by people, I tried to figure out who these people were and how they got there.  I grew up reading Wizard Magazine, an American magazine about comics, the IPs, and the people that wrote and drew them.  I learned to read English with comics and Wizard mag.  I learned names like Joe Madureira, J. Scott Campbell, Jim Lee, Todd McFarlane, and of couse Stan, The Man, Lee...  way before even your average bear knew his name and his MCU cameos.  From interviews with people like Joe Mad I learned the names or at least code names for the Japanese designers like Akiman, Bengus, Ikeno.  I was always curious about these people and tried to learn more.  I became half decent at this whole thing by admiring and studying the work of people who got there before me.  I still admire and collect the work of  these artists.  Their work keeps me inspired and motivated.  The properties they created or worked on through the years spoke to me so much that I had to respond, and fanart was the outlet.  In comics it's sort of a given and pretty normal that your portfolio will be full of fanart, but I guess because concept art is a big part of games and movies, more originality is of course needed, but for character and environment 3D artists, the gig is usually matching a given style and making something that fits into an existing IP.

I've been what you might call a professional for more than a decade and I never stopped doing fanart, and many of the jobs I've landed in the past seven years as a freelancer, have been a side effect of doing fanart.  I'm a fan of tons of mediums, creative industries, IPs, and individual artists, so even if I wanted to I would not be able to stop.  The funny thing about the past couple years is that I've been doing very little personal art or fanart because the projects I'm doing for work are stuff I'd be doing as fanart.  I'm overbooked with work that I enjoy and I finish my day exhausted but satisfied... and at times I go to bed anxious to wake up and get back to it and start the next piece.  There's lots of road ahead, God willing, but I'm really enjoying the ride now.

It's not all roses of course.  I've been close to burnout also.  I should probably look up more official definitions, but the two ways that I understand burnout is when creatives just exhaust themselves by overworking and losing all the joy in the work, or by becoming kind of depressed and creatively blocked.  In my case I had more of the overworking myself kind, but I managed, by taking trips and holidays to see family and get away from the routine.  As for the other burnout where you get depressed or bored and apathetic, blocked, etc... I mostly have the opposite problem, I wish I had more time and energy for all the stuff I want to do, but when friends going through it have asked me about advice, I always recommend going back to origin.  What I mean by that is to just take some time off enjoying the things that got you into this troublesome path in the first place.  Read that comic that you loved back in the day, re-watch that anime, go play that video game, etc. 

At some point I do plan to do more of my own projects.  I have done work for that on and off for decades and I eventually want to turn to that fully, but for now, the projects I'm getting are pretty exiting, hard to turn down, and I still got time to dig more into my own stuff.

The other subject I'd like to touch on is reference... who did this?  who was it that started telling artists that drawing without reference and from your head only or mostly was the way to go???  How is this still a thing?  This Street Fighter project required so much reference and research, I learned so much about my inadequacies with anatomy and how much I still need to learn.  I've been pursuing improvement, like most artists out there, in this area, and it's a long quest.  I thought I had a handle on this thing, way more than I actually did, and I still have plenty to do.  I grabbed again all my old books, gathered up even more ref folders, pinboards, and bought scans from Anatomy 360.  Even then I still goofed a bunch of stuff that I only caught it by the time these figures had been approved.  I'll keep improving then.  At the end of last year I bit the bullet and went for one of Scott Eaton's courses.  So the anatomy quest shall continue.

This project was a big deal for me and the people that backed it in Kickstarter seem to love the work.  Both Jasco and Angry Joe were super happy with my results and more projects have come from this.  I can't wait to reveal some of the next projects and see what else comes after, but in the mean time I'm thankful for that 12 year old little nerd version of me that didn't stop drawing Ryu, Chun Li, Cammy and the others... even when people couldn't understand it or downright mocked it...  those people can suck it!

I live in Graz, Austria these days.  I freelance from here for clients half the world away and that's pretty comfortable.  My parents back home in Mexico are English teachers in a public school... the stories they tell me about the children there, it's rough.  It's rough out there in many countries and in many parts of even the nicest countries.  Selling people too much stories of "follow your bliss" and "do what you love" can be dangerous because not everyone is in a position to do that, and many people misunderstand that and think that it will be easy.  It usually isn't, everyone makes the sacrifices that they can or that they're willing to make.  I made my offerings and I'm still paying some dues, some have paid off better than others, but I'm doing my thing and it's going well enough for me.  I'll keep doing what I can so that it keeps getting better.

So I guess my point is just, do your thing.  Do it well, and love it, love it long time, hahah.  Do it as good as you can do it, and finish it by the deadline or at least close to it, and then do the next one better.  If you can't love it and you don't live in a really tough situation where the risk might be too much, then go do another thing, love that one.  Don't let yourself become that jaded cynic who takes the jelly out of everyone's donuts.  Bide your time and take the risks when you're able, just don't be reckless.  Make the mistakes and learn from them and keep going.  Make that fanart, or don't, but make that call yourself, don't just follow advice from people that are too afraid or narrow minded, and for fuck's sake, do use that reference, and learn that damb anatomy... don't try to be the next Kim Jung Gi when you can't even be the next Rob Liefeld.  That's all I got on this for now.  I leave you with the SF turntables and if you wish to see the individual posts of the figures, you'll find those in my portfolio.  Happy Z-brushing and stuff!