Author Archives: Aaron Pierce

Dreams that Drive You.

      You can’t dream too big. You can’t.

You. Can’t.

Never let anyone tell you that your dreams are too big or unattainable. They might be the most pie in the sky out there dreams in the world, but that’s the point of dreams! But what if you don’t succeed? Shoot for the moon, even if you miss you’ll land among the stars. Even if you don’t hit that pinnacle, that perfect ideal in your mind, you will still find yourself in an equally amazing place just by trying to get there. Sometimes failing to attain your ultimate dream isn’t failure at all.

But what do you do with you dream once you have it? Let’s talk about my dream jobs: I want to be a conceptual design artist for Blizzard Entertainment, and do freelance Illustration for DC comics in my spare time.


Blizzard Offices


DC’s New California Location

That’s an insane amount of work, right? It sure is! Maybe even more than I could actually handle, but it does give me a specific set of skills (many of which are overlapping) to focus in on: Illustration and Digital Painting.

These are pie in the sky, oh my god amazing jobs that I may never get. But what I can do is start focusing on the skills that it would take for me to get there. I can start working on my illustration skills, my inking, my sequential art because whether I work for DC or not, I love doing comic book illustration. So maybe I wind up working for Boom! or Dynamite… who cares? I’ll be happy, and I’ll have the skills developed for it.

I can start working on my digital painting and conceptual design work. Maybe I work for an indie game company locally. Either way, I’m doing what I love.

And maybe, just maybe, I get noticed by Blizzard and start working for DC. But I will never – NEVER – get that dream if I’m not working for it. I can’t stress enough how important this is, whether your focus is art or any other field. Never stop dreaming, never stop wanting your dreams. Even if you find yourself somewhere that you’re happy, keep trying for that dream!

Motivate yourself to keep learning, keep growing, keep getting better. Keep sending in applications or portfolios. Keep that dream alive, it’s what will help you grow and flourish, even if it never comes to fruition.

And that’s the important part: Don’t let the dream get you down. Find happiness where you are, find contentment. Let them motivate you and inspire you, but never let them discourage you. That’s not what dreams or for.

Shoot for the moon, even if you miss you’ll land among the stars. 

Shoot for the moon, guys :)

Who’s Anatomy For Me?

One of the most common things that I end up talking to people about is anatomy. Just about every portfolio I’ve ever looked through, or every friend who’s asked me how to get better gets almost the same talk that boils down to, “You need to learn human anatomy.”

Drawing from life, of course, is the best way to do this, but without an understand of WHY that muscle bulges like that, or why the bones seem to bend about there, you’re left with only a partial understand and it will be glaringly obvious once you start drawing outside of what you can find reference for.

An understanding of how the muscles work and the tendons stretch will be what allows your drawings of the human form to blossom. The question then because: “Where do I start to learn from?” I know of three men that are generally the topics of conversation when anatomy is mentioned: George Bridgman, Andrew Loomis, and Burne Hogarth. Which one is the best is generally highly debated, but I’ve looked over them all at least partially so I can give you a run down of how they teach. I won’t make a recommendation here, as that is something that you’ll have to make for yourself based on what speaks to you. I can tell you, Burne Hogarth is my hero :)

Andrew Loomis:
Loomis is old school. His books are largely no longer in print, but you can still find them reasonably around Amazon. The key anatomy book that he put out is “Figure Drawing for All It’s Worth” and he focuses on simplified build ups, talking more about building blocks and refining than delving into the muscles, ligaments, and bones beneath the skin. This is highly effective, and he does a wonderful job of conveying the human form. A lot of people still find a good deal of understanding in Loomis.


An excerpt from “Figure Drawing for All It’s Worth” demonstrating his building block approach.


George Bridgman
George Bridgman is the next big one. He’s been recommended by industry greats like Jim Lee, so you know he’s got some clout. Bridgman’s cornerstone anatomy book was “Constructive Anatomy”. Like Loomis, Bridgman focuses on building forms to create bodies, but he does tend to give more focus and attention to the underlying musculature than Loomis did. He does a great job of illustrating how to build a body from the ground up, and gives a good passing understanding of the muscles and tendons involved in movement.


An excerpt from “Constructive Anatomy” demonstrating Bridgman’s form based process.


Burne Hogarth:
Burne Hogarth is the godfather of modern anatomy. Just about any artist you ask – especially in the comics book arena – has at least heard of the man I’d wager. He’s been the inspiration behind folks like Joe Kubert, so he’s definitely got clout as well. I’m willing to bet that you’ve probably seen some of his extreme poses and high detail musculature he’s so well known for. He focuses on forms and planes of the surface, but also delves much deeper into the musculature and ligaments than the other two, which has worked well for me with my “how does it work” attitude.


One of the more down to earth poses from “Dynamic Anatomy” illustrating Hogarth’s emphasis of muscle structure.

I hope that this has been enlightening for you, and helpful. All three of the books I’ve mentioned here are linked below on Amazon. Definitely worth a read! If you’ve still got questions, post them in the comments! Later guys!


The Art Pyramid

Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you: THE ART PYRAMID!


Huzzah for fancy graphics, eh? Made it myself. Yessir, it’s like I’m an artist or something! So what is this marvel of modern graphic design? It’s a key that I think is lost on most artists coming along these days. This pyramid gets flipped on its head.

Artists, especially those in the comic art or conceptual design fields, are generally inspired by the vivid, deeply detailed and stylized creators that they know and love. They see the soot of dirt, the glare neon, or the smooth lines of ink that professionals do and immediately go to try and emulate that style, rather than stopping to understand why their heroes are capable of executing that style.

While it is tempting to go right for the stylized, recognizable art and start drawing the deep, sooty cityscapes of your favorite Superhero, it’s not the right place to start. Focus on the basics: Anatomy, Perspective, and Image Composition. Without a firm understanding of these principles, you’ll never develop a style that is anything beyond flash and flare. You won’t create the solid characters that Greg Capullo or JR Jr. do. You pages won’t flow like water (be the sequential or individual works of art). There will always be a level of “wrong” to your drawings. Your art will be flashy and pretty, but people won’t be drawn in like they could be because there’s a level of unbelievability to your creations. Get those foundations down before you move on. It’s a lot of hard work, grunt work, learning anatomy, vanishing points, the rule of thirds and all the other good stuff, but it’s work it in the end when you see your “unfinished” art starting to have impact.

That’s when you can work on finesse. Once you have your foundation built, and you have something strong to stand on, then you start making it stand out. You develop your sense of lighting and line weight, you start learning to add atmosphere to your art. You start making scenes turn into worlds and you can draw people into those worlds because the accuracy is there. They’re not snagged by broken perspective or wrong anatomy on the way in, you’re not breaking their suspended belief. This is the where you start to shine.

Finally, once the first two levels are solid, you start making those worlds you’re crafting your own. You’re making it your vision, and you’re doing it on a solid foundation so that it can stand on its own with no problem.

And guys, this applies to both realism and cartoon style art as well! Remember, in many ways cartooning is harder than realism. You have to know what to leave out and what to put in to convey your message in as few lines as possible. One line too many or too few and you’re dead in the water!

I hope this makes sense! I’d love to hear what you think in the comments below!

Talk to you soon, guys!

Time Is Ticking Away

“I don’t have time.”

I bet… you do. Don’t believe me? Are you on Facebook? Twitter? New Grounds? Is Team Fortress 2 loading up in the background? What about television? Binge watching Game of Thrones again? Hours, my friend. Hours of your day are passing you buy.

One of the biggest excuses that I hear from artists – one that until recently I was horribly guilty of myself – is ‘I don’t have time’. The truer statement is “I’m not using the time I have wisely.”

Recently, I sat down on my train ride home and figured out my free time (thinking, certainly, I wouldn’t have any spare time to art). Twice a day, I had 45 minutes to and from work on the train to update my social media sites or work on thumbnails and roughs for prints and comic pages. I get home around 6:30 on a normal day. Help with some chores, hang out with the fam, eat dinner, and take a shower. Now it’s 8:30. Aaaaahhh… well, that’s convenient because that’s when the kids are supposed to turn off the video games and TV and start getting ready for bed. Well looky there, I’m done with my chores and I’ve got two or three hours that I can work on my art before bed.

That’s 10 to 15 hours a week… and that’s just Monday through Friday. Add the weekend to that: Sleep in (I get up at 5am on the weekdays for my day job, so sleeping in is 8 or 9) get the dogs fed and out. Do my chores. Maybe run out for breakfast with my lady. Now it’s 1pm, maybe 2pm. There’s 8 hours of time there, at least! Now, maybe you’ve got activities on the weekend. That’s fine, cut that out of the free time, and you’ve still got hours of left over time to devote to your art. Add Sunday into that and you’re looking at more hours still.

I’d wager, based on my hectic schedule and the amount of time that I really have, that the average person has between 20 and 30 hours of time that they could set aside a week, and it’s getting squandered on Facebook, Netflix, or the Xbox. Think about that. Think about how much advancement you could see in that time! Make the effort, not the excuse! You’ll see yourself grow, and you’ll find yourself WANTING to art, because you’ll want to see what you’ll get better at today.

Art is something you never stop learning, you never stop improving. It’s infinitely gratifying in just about every way, but you have to commit and have that drive and dedication. You can do it! I believe in ya! :D

Talk soon, guys!

The Talent Trap

I hate talent. I hate it. With a passion. I hate the very concept and idea. It’s insulting, it’s demeaning, and it’s discouraging. And so many people fall into the “talent trap”.

So why the rage? Let’s talk about “Talent”.


Why am I so enraged and angry about this talent thing? Because it’s non-existent. There’s drive, there’s passion, there’s skill, and there’s practice. But there is no such thing as “talent”. People refer to it as though it’s some sort of ancient mystical force that magically gives it’s wielder the ability to draw like a champ, or design graphics like there’s no tomorrow.

The bottom line is, these artists that you say are so talented and that you’re not as talented as have nothing magical over you. They have drive, passion, skill, and practice. Now, I could spend this entire blog post complaining about talent and why I hate it, but let’s break this down into something more useful.


No height is unobtainable for your artistic endeavors. You want to paint as well as Michaelangelo? Get those paints out! You want to draw like Greg Capullo (I know I do), then get those pencils out. Find where you’re lacking.

Is it the drive you’re lacking? Focus on your time management so you can fuel your passion, make time to learn and delve into magazines like ImagineFX or comic books, or art books. Make yourself draw, make yourself practice, sketch, paint. Find things that inspire you, find things that make you WANT to pick up your tool of choice and draw or paint or whatever else and make time to do it. Be driven to make it a part of your every day life.

Skill holding you back? Skill and practice go hand in hand. You must practice to gain skill, so if you practice, you’ll gain skill and as you gain skill you’ll be practicing. Two birds with one stone! Art constantly! sketch people in the train station, paint a photo realistic canvas of your cable box at home (complete with dust bunnies), do whatever you can to practice your craft and improve. Read books, go through tutorials. In this world of information overload, there’s no reason to grow stagnant.

Passion… ah, that’s the tricky one. See… passion is something you’ve either got, or you don’t. Passion is something that stirs up deep in your gut and makes you want to art ad nauseum. You can stir up a passion, you can become passionate about something at any point in your life, and your passions may shift as time goes on, but if you don’t have a burning passion for art, you’ll fall short. Passion alone doesn’t give you any type of magical skills either, though. It’s just what inspires you to do better and learn your craft. Look at art that moves you, watch movies, play video games, do anything that can make you passionate to go draw and learn. If you see art that makes you go “I want to DO that!” then find more of it, fill your mind with it, and with that goal in mind, set forth to gather the skill, the drive, and the practice you need to make it so!

Don’t fall into the talent trap, if your passion is here you can do it. You just have to make it happen! You make your own talent, it doesn’t make you.

Until next time guys!



Phew! I’ve finally got all my portfolio content up, and my commissions page is done. That’s a big chunk out of what I wanted to do. Next step is to finish up some prints so I can get my store page finished! Gotta get more headway on Sancte before I can sit down on that. But it’s coming! Thanks for being patient with me, guys! I’m trying to get everything good and shiny for ya!

Talk to you soon!

What the heck, Aarpie!

I know, I know! Where’s the content! It’s coming guys, I promise. I’m trying to make sure that what I’m putting up here reflects where I’m actually at as an illustrator, rather than where I was at artistically, and that’s taking a bit to get out. Stay tuned, though! There’s should bee some good stuff rolling up shortly! Stay tuned!


Books: Will Eisner’s Comics and Sequential Art

One of the things that I want to do with this blog is to spread the word about books, websites, tools, and other resources that have helped me to improve as an artist. I’ve had to stumble across these items over the years, but I want to put them in one place so that the next kid who starts the long hard crawl up the ladder has an easier time of it.

To that end, I start with one of my favorite books: Will Eisner’s Comics and Sequential Art.


Many beginning illustrators approach sequential art with the mindset that it’s just drawing cool pictures in boxes, never understanding the importance of layout and the flow of the page. This book by Will Eisner is probably one of the best resources talking about how to make your Sequential Art flow.  While Will Eisner’s style of art might be a little outdated by today’s standards, his grasp of sequential storytelling is beyond compare. I don’t know of anyone active today who has the same level of understand. This book will take you through page layout, timing, and every other element of sequential design you could ask for.

This is not a how to draw book. You won’t find pages and pages about anatomy or foreshortening. This is a technique book, it’s a professional’s book. It’s also a really enjoyable read as it’s littered with stories by Eisner himself. This is a book that I still pull out and read on a regular basis, just to keep the ideas and concepts fresh in my mind, even if it’s just a second here or a second there.

Don’t just read this book: Study it. Study it like it’s final exam time all over again. Learn it, know it. You’ll find yourself using the techniques without even thinking about them because once they’re in your head they just make sense. I have read other books and write-ups by artists who are amazingly talented and they helped, but nothing brought the art of sequential story telling into clearer focus than this.

Check it out! You won’t regret it!


Personality Complex

One of my favorite things about going to conventions is getting to talk to fellow artists and people in the industry. I love going to an artist’s table and have them perk up and talk to me, tell me about their projects and techniques, and what they’re excited about. That’s pretty much the best thing ever, and it’s something that makes me a lot more inclined to buy art from them, and come back to see them at subsequent conventions. The thing is, I’m not the only one.

I can’t stress enough how important is to engage the people who show an interest in your art. So often I go and see amazing hart at someone’s booth and they’re so buried in their art that they can barely interact with me. Now, believe me, sometimes I know it’s hard to get con commission done fast and still talk to your customers, and also that some of us are artistic types because we’re not the super gregarious, outgoing types. It’s something that we’ve got to manage in some way or another.

One of the things that I’ve had to adjust is what I offer at cons. I used to offer full color one characters done at cons. Can’t do that anymore! It takes several hours to pencil, ink, and color a drawing that I could squeeze four or maybe five pencils sketches. It’s also a lot easier to step away from a pencil drawing and talk to people and get back to it after I’ve talked to whoever is looking. If someone wants full color or extensive commissions get your money, get their contact info and get it to them the week after the con. That way, you can stay free to engage, and still take the larger projects.

It’s a lot more difficult to overcome shyness, though. I’m shy as hell, but I’ve worked for a really long time to get past that and I’m often confused for someone who isn’t an anti-social crank. HAH! Jokes on them! Trying to engage with someone who you’ve never met before is daunting, especially if they’re complimenting you on your art (damn them!). The tendency to get crazy embarrassed and give a shy smile and a “Thank you” and go back to the picture you’re trying desperately to hide in is overwhelming sometimes. I know, I still do it sometimes too. That’s where I rely on my friends and booth buddies to hop in with the save, “He’s gotta get that commission out in the next thirty minutes. If you like his stuff, grab a print…” etc. There’s a very good reason why you’ve got two passes and two chairs at your table. Everyone needs help.

Remember, you passion is contagious. If you engage your customers and really engage them, they’ll want to take your stuff home, they’ll take a card, and they’ll remember you. Sometimes, you don’t have to be the one they buy from at the con, you have to be the one they remember later. Try and be memorable!

I know you guys are gonna do awesome! Can’t wait to see you on the con circuit next year.



The Art of Indie Art – Part 3

This is the last of the Art of Indie Art series, and admittedly this one is the most focused toward comic book creators. That being said, many of the points that I make in this one will apply to indie artists in general as well, so read on!

Big Dog Processes, Small Dog Budget

I think one of the most commonplace things that I see when I’m wondering through artist alleys at cons are comics and art that hasn’t been proofed or reviewed in some way. I’ve picked up comics that have not been proof-read (“There over their!”, “What’s wrong with yu?”), art that hasn’t been looked over by another set of eyes, print jobs that are grainy (300 dpi or better for printing, guys!) or have lines through it like you were running out of ink, and bad ink/color jobs that really just needed a second eye on it (missing the “X” for a black fill, coloring in eyes with flesh tone, etc). These seem like nit-picky little things, but they’re yet another gap between us and the big boys.

Stop and think about the process that the big boys go through – and bear in mind that this is a scaled down, simplified version. For a comic, the script is written, sent to editors to clean up and make any changes, then it goes to pencils, those pencils are generally reviewed (even if only at the thumbnail level) before being sent to the inkers. Once it’s inked, the lines are reviewed again and cleaned up if necessary, then sent to the colorist who colors and corrects as needed based on their own feed back. The letterist does their work, the comic is proofed and any final corrections are made, then it’s sent to print. Finally, once the comic is printed, it’s spot checked there again to ensure that the print out looks good. Same deal with any pinups or posters that go out, sans the script bit. Meanwhile, a lot of Indies are tossing out everything without anyone giving it a second look.

Well, sure. Indies don’t have staffs. We don’t have proof readers and artistic directors and editors to insure that we do things right. So we can’t do it. We’re just crap out of luck and have to settle for not being as good. Right?


You have friends. You have family. You have coworkers. It never hurts to ask, let me tell you. I’ve gotten some of the best feedback on scripts and art in the past from people who aren’t even remotely connected to the industry. Have a couple people read your scripts, grammar, spelling, anything. Have people look over your art and tell you if they see anything funky. But run through the same process, check each step and have someone with a fresh set of eyes check it too.

Now there’s an important step in there: YOU check each step. Write a script. Draw/Ink/Color a picture. Take a day off and then go back. Look it over with fresher eyes, and fix anything that is wrong. Then hand it to the person who’s helping you to do the same. Give them the best product you can, and then let them find the last nitpicks you missed. Too many people seem to forget to check their own work and hand off garbage to friends and family which makes it a chore to read through instead of reading something that’s already polished with some rough edges. Always remember: Present you best. Only you should see the coal, smash it real good so it’s already a diamond.

Another important thing to do is to surround yourself with trusted friends within the industry. I don’t know what I’d do without gents like Stephen Wittmaak or James Whynot, as well as folks like Derec Donovan or Mike DeBalfo. They’re people that I trust to give me valid feed back, and to point out not only issues on a particular pic but also point out when they send trends in my art that I need to beef up on. I know that I can count on them to help, and you’ve got friends like that, too. You’re probably already showing some of their stuff. Get them involved, get their feed back. It’s better than gold. Just remember to return the favor whenever you can.

This is where gold is made, guys. It may seem mundane. It may seem like a waste of time. But it will help you to maintain consistency, it will help you to deliver higher quality stuff, and it will help you become a better artist or writer. This is where the quality lies, guys!

In closing this series out, remember to be ambassadors. Remember to put your best foot forward in your presentation, your quality, your personality. Do your best to be a shining example of what an indie creator is. The onus is on all of us to do better than we have. To be more than what we’ve been. We’ve got the Oomph to do it. So let’s do it!

Thanks for listening, guys! Talk to you soon!