You can’t just fix a bad design with good color

If it don’t work in Black and White, it ain’t gonna work in color. 

A good painting will also look good in Black and White. That is to say, if you can’t work out your value patterns in black and white, you won’t be able to just fix it with color. Have you ever heard of a grisaille, (that was a tough one to sound out, let alone spell) It’s a black and white under painting. I think the word gray, or grey, as I like to spell it, comes from the same root.

What is a Grisaille and how do you pronounce that?

Grisaille (/ɡrɨˈz/ or /ɡrɨˈzl/French: gris [ɡʁizaj] ‘grey’) (Giz-eye is how I pronounce it) is a term for painting executed entirely in monochrome or near-monochrome, usually in shades of grey. ~Wikipedia 

Work out your lights and darks before you add color

So, where was I? Ho yeah, it is often wise, especially for beginners, to work out you lights and darks before you move to color. I like to give it the squint test. Squint at your work and see if it reads well. Do the wrong things disappear? Do the right things stand out?
The under painting can be in a sepia or other tone too, for a nice effect, it doesn’t have to be BLACK and White.

Light and Shadow

Where is your light source? Is it in the picture? If so, you shouldn’t have anything in the painting that is brighter than the light source.

Are the shadows, cast, core etc, in the right places? I am thinking that the cast shadow in this piece is not dark enough.

Do you have reflected light in the right places?

Just add Color, or Colour as my UK friends like to spell it.

If you are painting digitally, like in Photoshop or on the iPad, you will enjoy the ability to undo. If you are using water colors then you can just glaze transperant colors over you black and white under-painting. AKA Grisaille.

If you are using oil paints, you may want to try a water color, acrylic, or gwash, (i better look that up) Gouache. The oil paint goes right over the aqueous paints without disturbing them and it works really well. You should see how Robert Barrett uses gouache, for under-paintings to create a beautiful effect. He calls it a “Rub-out” technique.



Working with Color

Personal ART Projects for Personal Progress

All Artists Should be Working on Their Own Personal ART Projects

a personal art piece by artist, Will Terry.







You’ve got to be working on personal projects.

By this I mean, something that you want to do for you, a non commissioned piece. You don’t have to have someone tell you what to do in order to create a nice piece for your portfolio.

When I was in School I would do some things just for me, or for fun or just for my portfolio. Other students would often ask me what assignment “that was for” and I would tell them that it wasn’t for an assignment. They couldn’t believe I would work if I didn’t have to. But I was working for me.

Some of my best pieces, were little things that I did as personal projects. These personal art pieces were also a big help in me finding me, or finding my style, or niche.


Keep it Simple, Stupid

By this I mean no disrespect, I am going with the KISS ACRONYM.

The most important thing about these personal pieces, I would say is to make them small, and therefor doable. That is to say, FINISH them. If you think you are going to create this gigantic masterpiece for you portfolio, you might be right, but more often than not, you are less likely to finish a BIG MASTERPIECE than a sweet little doable personal art project, especially at first. So remember KISS, not the rock band, the acronym. Keep It Simple, Stupid.


Start with Small Art Projects

I suggest you start with something small. Make one finished piece that will go into you portfolio, or not if it doesn’t turn out. Maybe your goal could be, not to stop until you get that little thing finished. Here comes another sports analogy. If you were going to run a marathon you wouldn’t just start a marathon. You need to work up to it.

One of the dangers is to want to bite off more than you will chew. Notice I didn’t say more that you can chew, but more than you will chew. I know that you can do what ever you put your mind to, so I’m saying, that you are more likely to put your mind to something that is simple, and therefor finish it, especially at first.


Tell that Negative voice to shut up!

The danger of choosing a personal art piece that is too grandiose is that you are less likely to finish it, and if you fail to actually do it, you are training yourself that A, YOU don’t always finish what you start, and B, it is OK to fail. Like if you decide to do a complete comic book or picture book and put it out there on Kickstarter, you may fail or run out of time or just get sick of it. Then you have that stupid little voice in your head that is there for all of us, you know, that voice that says “you won’t finish this” then if you DON’T finish, it will say, “see? I told you soo”. So beet the negative little voice,  choose small, doable, personal little projects, and complete them. Tell that little voice to SHUT UP!


Graduate to bigger projects, if you want.

I am finally getting to the point where I am finishing a story app. It is a big endeavor, but I have done dozens of smaller personal projects in the past and several big projects too. Even though I have done a lot before, this one is still a little tough, I gotta be honest. I still have that negative voice, and I have to keep telling myself that It will get done. I have to remember to enjoy the journey and the process along the way.


Choose something the YOU want to do.


Choose a personal piece that you want to do. If you are creating something that you want to do, it will be more fun and more likely to turn out. I have a friend who loves animals, so she paints animals. If you have a hard time with people, stay away from people or work on parts that you can conquer, like a back or torso, then build up to the harder stuff, work on something that you can do. Cats maybe, or a plate with fish on it. Who knows what you will like. Take something boring and make it exciting. They don’t all have to be gems.


 Take Some Risk

I’m not saying to invest a lot of money here, But I do want you do invest a little time and energy, and challenge yourself. Not too much at first, we need to have some successes to build confidence and self esteem.

Remember in an earlier blog I mentioned that a child likes to draw and paint and create artwork because it is fun and fulfilling. Not because she thinks it will make her a lot of money. Don’t kid yourself that you are going to sell all of your personal pieces and make bank. That isn’t the motivation here. Ironically, that is the work that will get you closer to making money as an artist, Or making more money as an artist. And who knows, you may monetize your personal pieces. The more you have, the more likely you will be to sell a few. Who knows. Some artists create a little personal piece of artwork every day and then sell them on their website. And that’s all they do. Win Win Win. Artist improves and hones his skill, artist makes money and end buyer gets a valuable piece of artwork.

Most of the projects I have done, I would say, well that negative little voice in my head that just won’t mind his own business and shut his big yap, would say, they mostly all failed. But did they? Well I didn’t capitalize on all of them, but they all helped me develop my style, my portfolio, my talent and my art stamina. So NO, they did not fail. They all succeeded in one way or another, even if just to keep me in the zone and to help hone my skill.

Just Do It!

Get on it and do a personal piece and then do another. To steel a quote from NIKE, “Just Do It”  and before that, Spencer W. Kimball, who used to say “Do it!” You just gotta do it.

My seventh grade, wood shop teacher, Mr. Swayze would always say, “Git-R-Done!”

“Git-R-Started might have been a better tag line because that seems to be the hard part every day when you looking at that blank canvas or work in progress. So Git-R-Started and Git-R-Done!”

Don’t Worry About Perfection

It’s a personal project so you don’t have to worry if it isn’t perfect or if doesn’t turn out. Everyone has at least 1000 bad paintings in them so feel free to get a few of them out of your system. You don’t have to hand it in to an art director, so you need not stress. Learn from it, try new things, this is where you can totally be you. If it sucks, don’t show it to anyone. Don’t throw it away either, at least not yet. You may want to use it as an example someday when you are teaching.





Don’t Let “THEM” Define YOUR Success!

Don’t Let Them Define Your Success!

A Self Defeating way of thinking. 

Too often I hear up and coming illustrators, animators, and comic book artists say, “Hopefully I can make it someday and get freelance work.” This is a self defeating way of thinking…if you never get hired does that mean you didn’t make it? Is there a such thing as all or nothing as an artist? Is this easy for me to say because I make a living with my art?

Keep Creating even if you aren’t “working”.

I don’t think so because I remember those very discouraging times when I wasn’t getting work. But more importantly I would be creating art even if I wasn’t getting hired to complete freelance assignments. I don’t create for my clients – I create for myself. My publishers get to publish my work. I own it and stand behind it and even though I work closely with them they don’t own it – I do. I take responsibility for the quality of my work and place a higher standard for myself than my clients demand – therefore – it’s mine.

Do Commissions Equal Success?

The problem with thinking that assignments equal success is that you let forces outside of your control define your value. It’s a dangerous game to play because at what point to you throw in the towel and say, “well, time to quit – nobody hired me.” Success can be defined in many ways and I understand the need to generate income with your craft. I think it’s important to remember that some artists start earning a decent income within a year after school. Some might take 1-5 years. Some much longer.

What if you don’t find work right away?

I once had a student who stated, “I need to start earning money with illustration right after graduation.” I didn’t know quite how to answer that and I failed to give a good answer at the time. What I would say today is this: “So, what if you don’t? does that mean the past four years was a waste of time? What if you could see the future and you are able to generate more money than you could imagine but it takes you 10 years to get to that point – is that worth it? Do you have the commitment to make it through the 10 years of below expected income levels? What if your experience was like my friend who struggled for 4-5 years after school and then was asked to illustrate: “A Series of Unfortunate Events”? Would that be worth it?

The tendency is to want the rewards with little sacrifice. If you really truly want it you will have to dedicate your life to it – this is good news for most because you’re in control of it! You have many years ahead of you of hard work! Embrace it. Fall in love with it. Cherish the time you have with your craft.

What does “success” mean to you?

If being successful means being chosen to work for someone else – you might be disappointed if your work is easily good enough but you aren’t being seen by the right clients.

If being successful means earning enough money to pay your bills – you might be judging your potential before your work is marketable.

If being successful means winning awards – you might be creating art that is unappreciated by the trend police.

If being successful means selling a certain quantity – you might be disappointed if the right audience never sees your product.

The previous is inspired by Seth Godin who says we’re now living in a time where you can’t afford to wait for someone to pick you – rather you must pick yourself.

Nobody hired me to make ebooks but I picked myself and published them.

Nobody hired me to make video tutorials and online classes but I picked myself and created them.

Nobody hired me to run my youtube channel but I picked myself and publish videos every month.

Nobody hired me to write this blog but I picked myself and now I have a place to share my ideas.

If you set attainable goals you can be successful every day, month, and year. It starts with a commitment to excellence and improvement. It ends when you die. I can promise you that I will be creating art until that day. I don’t work -I create. I live and breathe knowing that I have much more to give. I am successful because what I create makes me happy. Do you want to be an artist? Then be an artist and be successful by your definition, not THEIR’s.


Online Children’s Illustration Class – Update

Jake and I are so pleased that our FULL class has SOLD OUT – but we still have the LITE class available for $150. We are humbled to realize that artists all over the world trust us to share what we’ve learned about creating illustrations for stories like children’s books and comics. What is possible today wasn’t possible only a few years ago and it is my belief that we will find learning online more and more common in the coming years. I believe that is why FolioAcademy is doing so well. To think that we can broadcast from our little town in Utah USA to anywhere in the world is mind blowing and proves that if you work hard and dream BIG you can do it! The little map above shows how spread out our current enrollment is to date – but it’s still growing!


How long will I be able to purchase the LITE version of the class? We will keep the video only version of this class available until July 10th 2013- the last day of the LIVE class. If you want to watch all of these classes – get the details by clicking here.

What format will the LITE class be in? The LITE version of the class will be in an MP4 or WMV file or both.

If I buy the LITE class how long can I view it? If you purchase the LITE class you will be given a download link to have the complete video files on your computer for as long as you like.

Will I get any feedback with the LITE version? No – we produced two price points to account for the time we will spend with FULL version participants – the LITE class will deliver the recorded version of the FULL class without the critiques, class questions, draw-overs, and skype call.

What materials will I need for either the LITE or FULL class? The assignments we will give will all require drawing instruments like copy paper and pencils (or tablet with drawing program). Adding color to your assignment is optional. You could use Acrylic, Oil, Pastel, Watercolor, Gouche, Ink, or Digital. I advise my students to avoid colored pencil unless it’s mixed with an aqueous media like Watercolor because it takes a tremendous amount of time to build up color while controlling texture. Most illustrators avoid it as a stand alone medium for this reason.

If you have any other questions pertaining to the class I welcome them and will add them to this list if they are pertinent to participants.


Watch the art lesson video below for iPad tips with Procreate

In the video below, artist Will Terry, shows you how he’s using the Procreate app to make drawings for his children’s books, iPad apps, personal and professional freelance work.
He loves the Procreate app! It allows him to make high resolution drawings that he can email to his desktop and paint in Photoshop. No more running out of paper. No more pens, not having a pen, running out of lead, no more pencils, no more books, no teachers dirty looks.
Will can take his work anywhere and he can go through the entire drawing refinement process without the use of a scanner or tracing paper.
“It has made me much more productive, I can do finish work anywhere”
Will has been known to work at the doctor’s office (not as a doctor), in meetings, waiting in the car (well he is married), on airplanes, at conferences and more. He just has to remember to take enough work with him when he leaves his studio.
Enjoy the video…
To learn more about illustrating or how to paint in Photoshop, or how to illustrate children’s books, or many other great art techniques, visit

Illustration Shortcut: Acrylic on Inkjet

“I cut my painting time in half by starting in Photoshop”

Will Terry of Folioacademy used a shortcut to create this illustration for a greeting card for PK Press. He Painted, or blocked in the base in Photoshop, printed it on watercolor paper, then finished it with his famous acrylic, dry-brush technique. He is always looking for ways to maximize his efforts. Deadlines are ever present for the professional illustrator, and when you can figure out a way to speed things up, you’re onto something.

What used to take forever can be done in less than half the time.

It took so much longer with the old dry brush technique, laying in the background and basic shapes, can be done in less than half the time using the right tools. Embrace technology, it’s not going away.

pic of finished piece: Blwfish

“I was able to cut my painting time in half by blocking in the foundation in Photoshop.” ~Will Terry

Photoshoped in some spray paint and printed on Watercolor paper.

He used to start his paintings on paper, transfer it to paper, and paint the whole thing with his paint and brushes.
Awhile ago he took a leap of faith and tried something new. This became the phase where he would start in Photoshop and finish with acrylics. “I scan my sketch and paint flat color on it in Photoshop, Then print it on watercolor paper, add texture gel and paint acrylics on top.” He now paints most everything digitally from start to finish but this was a crucial step in that direction, you may want to try it.

Why Does My Artwork SUCK? Why Most Adults Draw Like Children

“I would do more art but my art sucks.”

I hope that doesn’t ring familiar to any of our readers or followers here, but I have heard this and similar complaints quite a bit over the years.

Anyone can be an artist. Especially you!

Anyone can learn how to draw and how to paint. “Even me?” Of course you. It doesn’t matter if your not gifted, with tons of natural drawing ability, most of us aren’t. (And we HATE those who are. Well we don’t hate them, some of them are my best friends, but we are often jealous.) Like anything else, it takes study and practice. It helps to enjoy it however and the sad thing is, it is hard to enjoy it when you suck at it, so then it’s hard to practice, and then it’s hard to improve. It can be a vicious cycle of procrastination.

Do you ever wonder why most adults draw like children?

It’s because they stopped drawing while they were children. It’s not because you need to be gifted, or blessed with some amazing ability to draw and paint. It is simply because most adults stopped drawing while they were still children. If you stopped drawing at the age of six, you are probably still able to draw like a six year old. So if you want to draw better, draw more. If you want to paint better, paint more.

Why does my art suck?

Why does my artwork look like a child drew it? No wonder I stopped drawing when I was six years old, I was drawing like a six year old.

A lot of children play piano better than I do. Do you think that since I’ve never studied or practiced piano, that that would have something to do with it? Of course it would. Why do I play piano like a five year old?  I believe that with the right instruction and practice, I could learn it, and if I wanted it, and enjoyed it, I would do it.

Children have an advantage when learning art.

They don’t care if their art looks like a child did it. So they don’t get frustrated as fast when it doesn’t turn out. Their moms and dads are more likely to post their work on the fridge and compliment their little heads off too. You won’t get that from family and friends and critics at your age. But we adults can take criticisms and we can also learn.

So get started, don’t worry where you are, but look where you’ll be.

It is a new year and a great time to resolve. Get a sketch book and a few pencils and start now. When you draw something and it sucks, and if your like me, a lot of it will, especially if you are as critical of your own work as most of us artists are. Take your sketch book with you and draw. When you are wondering what to draw, don’t worry about making some master piece, just draw. Copy the dishes, the cel phone, the tires while you are in the waiting room at the tire shop. Draw the magazine rack while your in the Dr’s waiting room.

Warning! Don’t draw the people there, they will want to see your work and then wonder why a full grown artist, with a sketch book and every thing, is drawing like a twelve year old. Doodle, work on your line quality, draw a few circles with a template if you want, then decide on where the light is coming from and model (shade) them into spheres. Copy other artists drawings. Have fun with it and keep learning.

sketch of spheres and a light source.

Draw some circles then model them. Render them later when you don’t know what to draw.

And oh yeah, don’t scribble out the “bad ones” in a fit of rage just because you don’t love ’em or they don’t turn out perfectly. They are just sketches, they’re not your children, so they don’t have to be perfect. Don’t tear out the pages that you hate, yet. Every year or so, go through and take out the ones you do like and compile them into you real sketch book. That’s the sketchbook you’ll let people browse through and wonder why YOU are gifted with such a wonderful,  natural ability.

NEW TUTORIAL! Learn how to use Photoshop

I just finished a new video tutorial so you can Learn how to use Photoshop – a basic video series on how to get started in Photoshop.

We have been receiving requests over the past year to offer a video that would help the person who has never used Photoshop get started.

This tutorial is a focused on helping the student learn how to use Photoshop for painting in my Digital Painting in Photoshop tutorials Parts 1 & 2.

Instead of being a general beginner course I leave out all the photo editing specific tools and methods. You will learn how to use photoshop basic tools, settings, windows, and the controls that I use to make a painting in Photoshop.  I do share my Wacom tablet settings and opinions as well.  If you’re familiar with Photoshop you won’t need this video but will probably be fine jumping into parts 1 & 2 of Digital Painting in Photoshop.If you know anyone who has wanted to move from traditional mediums like acrylic, watercolor, colored pencil, etc – this video might be just the thing to get them started.

how to use Photoshop for beginners

Check out a sample here.

If any of you have already purchased my Digital Painting in Photoshop parts 1 or 2 and would like this beginner course please just leave a comment below – make sure you leave your email address associated with your account so I can look you up – and I’ll GIFT you this new tutorial for free! So you may want to purchase one or both of these Photoshop part 1 & Part 2 first, then get this FREE!One more thing – I do not paint in this new video but I do explain how to get around in photoshop in the most basic ways – and how to use many of the tools. Check it out at Folio Academy.