First Ever Art Showcase with RAW Artists Reflect

So I finally did it! My very first art showcase ever! I was invited to join Raw Artists Reflect Art Showcase in Sacramento, CA on 03/07/2019. I had to sell 20 tickets to the event in order to participate. I don’t pay a fee for my booth nor do I have to pay a percentage commission for any sales I make. After the 20 tickets, I get to pocket $10.00 for each ticket sold. I was able to sell 36 tickets in total.

I have been doing art since 2004 so it’s been 15 years of me doing art on and off. Everyone who knows me knows that I’ve never shown an interest in doing an art showcase. It wasn’t due to a lack of desire nor not wanting to, rather a fear of rejection and dismissal. As an artist, your work is only as good as your audience will see fit. I have always said art is so personal to me. Just the thought of rejection is so devastating I would crumble into pieces.

We had to include an artist mission statement with our display and here is what I wrote:

My name is Meks Inthavong and I'm from Modesto, CA.

My journey with art didn’t start as a child like most artists. In fact, I didn’t start until I was 22 years old back in 2004. I have had no formal training nor schooling. I am a very detail-oriented person; therefore, my artwork is also very detailed. So it was quite fitting that I would be drawn to specialize in realism using charcoal.

After 15 years of hiding, this is my very first time displaying my artwork in the flesh that is not on a virtual platform. Art is so personal to me. It allows an audience to rummage through my deep thoughts and raw feelings. Exposing the purest form of myself leaves me vulnerable-- definitely not a preference of mine. This is a true testament of my bravery in hopes that I can reach others through my art.

I have not taken a commission since 2010. For this RAW event only, I have opened 5 slots for a charcoal drawing commission of any subject of your choice. I've only given my drawings as gifts in the last 9 years and it's the highest, sincerest gesture you can ever receive from me. 5 RAW event attendees will have an opportunity to own one of my original drawings. Please come find me in my cacti dress if you are interested.

I'm also selling postcards with 5 of my own illustrations (includes a stamp), sticker sheets of all 5 illustrations, and my original designed, handmade carousel box. Each purchase comes with a free gift.

Please enjoy the free candy and grab a promo sticker for my website: desdainart.com

When I was first scouted to join, I sat on it for a couple of days not knowing what to do. I reached out to my nearest and dearest inner circle to get their advice. They all told me this was such a great opportunity and I should really seize it. It’s that fear that made me question and want to protect myself. I was losing sleep and my appetite over it. I had told myself that I will start putting my art out there this year starting with my website. That alone was a huge step. Within weeks I’m invited to do an art show? Now this would be a giant leap! It just happened so fast that I didn’t know if I was ready. After a lot of debating with my own thoughts and listening to my friends and family, I realized that I would regret it forever if I didn’t try. Besides, when have I ever let fear conquer me? So I put on a brave face and accepted their invitation.

The first person I spoke with via email was Mariah, the Curation Specialist that scouted me. She was really sweet and spoke highly of my self portrait. The second person I spoke with via phone was Sid, a Booking Specialist to book me on the event. He also gave me a lot of praises and was browsing through my Instagram to get an idea of my work. He said he was really impressed by my work and said I had a lot of talent. Finally, the last person I spoke with via email and phone was Daniel, the Art Experience Director. He was really great! He said he browsed through my profile and looked at my work, he thought my drawings were actually photos and then realized they were charcoal drawings. When I answered the phone he said that I was doing mind-blowing, high level artwork. He encouraged me to try to have some original pieces to sell at the show, but the only pieces I’m taking will be from my portfolio. I would never sell anything from my portfolio because those are meant for my son as a small legacy to pass onto him after I’m long gone— that way he will always have pieces of my soul with him.

After my phone call, I sobbed and ugly cried by myself for a good hour. It was the validation I had always craved. It’s true, I have a small following that includes my friends and family. Yes, they will always love and support me. So sometimes I question that— are their compliments and praises just love and support? Not how they actually feel about my artwork? Am I not as skilled and talented as I’d like to believe I am? I don’t want to be delusional especially with art. It’s just too important to me.

Having to hear the praises from strangers, especially strangers that see art day in and day out including an art director, telling me that my artwork was mind-blowing— I was so overjoyed with happiness that it hurt. Like a stake to my chest kind of hurt.

I had 6 weeks to prepare. I had things printed like a banner, business cards, postcards, stickers, origami paper, anything to promote my new website. I even created a brand new, special favor that I’ve designed 5 years ago, but never had the right opportunity to make it. So I spent the next 6 weeks trying to fit everything in time for the show. I also wanted to try to sell things and my friend, Keira who is also an artist, said depending on the type of crowd is how well my sales would go.

Fast forward to the day of the art show, artists had different call times to report to the venue. Of course, I was in the group that had to come the earliest at 2:00 PM and the show didn’t start until 7:00 PM. I was being obsessive and rearranging my display over and over again until after 5:00 hahaha… everyone was done with their display within 15-30 minutes yet here I am… being Meks per ushe. If Chance, my husband, hadn’t reminded me it was getting late and we needed to eat before 6:00, I think I would have spent the whole time until 7:00 just obsessing.

I did display my original drawings. A lot of people thought they were prints, but they were the real deal. This was the first time ever where people can actually see the drawings without any type of barrier. Usually people that do get to see my drawings, they’re in a sleeve inside my portfolio. I was seriously baring it all— my drawings, my heart, my innards, my soul.

One young lady asked if these were prints of the drawings and I told her no, they were the original drawings. And her eyes widened and rhetorically asked that none of these were digitally enhanced and then printed? I said these were the raw original drawings. Those are all my pencil strokes and brushes. She asked to touch them and I said be my guest! A few other people would try to look at the drawing from the side edge on to see if the surface was flat like a print or if it was raised as the original drawing. I saw a couple of people touching it and then recoiling back not expecting to feel texture. All of my drawings are safe to touch since I spray them down with fixative and fixative has a texture to it. So if you’re expecting to touch a smooth surface, it will throw you off haha…

I didn’t make many sales at all. That’s okay. What I really wanted was the public feedback on my artwork and to promote my new website. I want to know where I stand and if there is even a market for my type of art. I had to refill my business cards and many, many people took my promo stickers for my website.

The response I received was astounding and almost overwhelming. I had so many praises and compliments. So many people impressed with my artwork. People would walk by and do at least a double take even if they didn’t bother to stop. I had a fear that people would think they were photographs especially from a distance or a quick glance so I had my Kindle Fire setup playing loops of videos of me drawing. Many people stopped to watch the videos in somewhat of a trance which is exactly what I wanted. I want you to feel like you’re seeing it through my eyes.

The attendees were amazing! They all wanted to talk to me and let me know that I do beautiful work. There were even times where my display was so crowded that I couldn’t even get to my station. I had to stand back near the bar so that people can take turns looking at my artwork. I even heard at one point they were asking one another if they were the artist haha… I was way back by the bar just observing. I can see people standing across the walkway or by the bar pointing and talking about my drawings even if they didn’t approach my display nor me. Chance and many of my friends said the same thing when they would observe people’s reactions. The many that did approach my display were really mesmerized just absorbing all the details and intricacy that goes into my drawings. So many have told me I should do private shows with a gallery of my drawings.

An older couple came over telling me they were there to support their granddaughter. The lady watched my video for a few minutes and then read my artist mission statement. She teared up a bit and told me, “You do beautiful work, you have a beautiful heart, and you are beautiful. Don’t stay hiding. Don’t let this life pass you by.” She made me tear up too and her words really stuck with me.

I gave away some stickers and some art prints to those that actually stopped and talked with me a bit. Some asked what the illustrations would mean and what tools I use. They asked about commissions and if I would do tattoos and logos. A lot of questions showing that they were really interested and engaged with my work. It was exactly what I really wanted as an artist.

I really enjoyed the responses I received from the Ace of Spades staff. Some would walk by doing their thing and stop like whoa! One of them was like wow! You took a photo of Morgan Freeman and Albert Einstein? Uh… hahaha! I would talk with them a bit and give them free prints. They would then bring back like 3-4 other staff members to come check out my work and get a free print haha… it was really cool. The photographer for the event had setup his backdrop to take photos of all artists’ head shots right next to my display. He was wildly impressed and talked with me quite a bit. I gave him a free print and he was just so happy. He kept coming back in between photos to talk to me just about art and stuff since his wife also did art.

I believe the best responses were from other artists displaying that night at the event. I had so many other artists come to my display just fangirling my artwork. The cool thing about other artists is that they know what it takes to produce art and the intricate details to do hyper realism. It’s not for everyone and may not be a style you’re into, but you can still appreciate the difficulty and process it takes to produce hyper realistic drawings and especially with charcoal. Most of them kept saying how do you keep your space clean? I really don’t, I make a hell of a mess but I just make sure to clean up often so I don’t get charcoal everywhere. They all said that charcoal is such a difficult medium to work with— it’s messy, it’s too soft, the texture, it just requires a lot of patience. They are all correct. I felt the same way too when I first started using charcoal. I just tolerated the issues I had and kept practicing. Now I can’t see myself using any other media but charcoal. Charcoal is the one for me.

I love talking to other artists because they get it. My conversations with artists are way different than a conversation with anyone else. We don’t always just talk about techniques and tools or even marketing. The conversations are always about the thought process and the intimate level you have to dig deep inside in order to produce a piece.

I had left my display possibly to use the restroom or something and I walked back to find 2 musicians performing that night and a photographer just standing there staring at my display. I walk up and they asked if I was the artist. They were all blown away. The photographer said she was actually down on the ground floor and looked up to see my display thinking they were photographs. Then she saw the Edward Scissorhands portrait and was like no way, those are not photographs. The 3 of them rounded up to walk over to check out my work. One musician was like how is your thought process? Like how do you come up with these pieces like what inspires you? He said that he can hear music in his head so he would try to create it with his instruments so in essence, charcoal would be like my instrument? He nailed it! I told him all the drawings that are not portraits are my own illustrations from a car collision of snapshots, ideas, memories, thoughts, feelings— the illustration is what I’ve pieced together from collecting the debris from the chaotic scene. He was like wow! I gave them free prints and we talked a bit more about art and music. Even after the show when we were walking to our car to go home with our arms full of things we brought, I heard a couple behind us say, “Do you see those people in front of us? Her charcoal paintings are the best I’ve ever seen. Seriously, you should have won an award.” Like they even recognized us from behind! Just so many talents appreciating my talent, is beyond belief.

Many other artists also had in depth conversations with me about inspiration, different media types, technical parts of using tools and space, just a wide range of bouncing ideas off one another. It was really cool and very humbling. You can’t truly appreciate everything that goes into an art piece unless you’ve created art pieces. Everyone only gets to see the physical outcome. You don’t get to see the thoughts, feelings, obsession, addiction, both entangling and disentangling, the adding of a new physical form that becomes the art piece, but it’s the losing of one self in order to produce it. What’s created is being taken away from somewhere inside someone. Only another artist can truly understand that.

And that is why art is so personal to me.

I’ve taken away from this experience everything I had hoped for and craved. I’m so happy I did the art show and have met so many wonderful people, but the best highlights of my night were seeing the outpouring love and support from my friends and family. I was so happy to see all of you that came and the ones that were there in spirit! I feel so loved and so, so happy! I can just see how proud you all were. The pride I can see in your eyes was just unbearably heart warming. Everyone gave me hugs and told me how much they were proud of me. Even at the end of my night, we loaded the Honda and really, really sat down for the first time all night. I turned to Chance holding back tears and said, “Thank you for doing this with me.” Chance turned to me and said, “I’m really proud of you.” It made me tear up. You guys will never know how much that meant to me, how much all of you mean to me.

I couldn’t be more grateful and I want to thank everyone, especially my friends and family, that have encouraged and pushed me to be the best version of myself. The best version of myself is not the person you see before you, the best version of me is broken into small pieces I’ve left inside every art piece I’ve created.

The Things that Haunt You are Not What You Did, But What You Didn't Do

“The things that haunt you are not what you did, but what you didn’t do.” These lyrics resonate in me from the song, “The Fire” by Senses Fail. It’s always better to regret what you did, than what you didn’t do. My biggest regret to date is not ever going to a University I was accepted to and then not finishing my degree. I had so many goals and aspirations, then life happened. Regrets always resurface when I’m at my weakest during the darkest of nights. I lie awake beating myself up. The what if’s, the how come’s, the taunting words in my own voice telling myself what a huge failure and disappointment I am. These are common struggles among artists, I’ve noticed. We are so critical of ourselves and so unforgiving at times.

So a great opportunity has landed in my lap. I was scouted by RAW Artists organization to display my artwork at their Sacramento, CA showcase on March 7th. They saw my self portrait and were impressed. I’m not going to lie, it was really flattering. That taunting voice kicks in and it scared me to death. My art is so personal. Just creating this website was a huge leap for me. Now an art show? There’s no way I’m ready!

I sat on it for a couple of days and then I started reaching out to those closest to me to get their advice and opinions. Almost all but 1 person was happy for me and encouraged me to do it. This would be a great opportunity to promote my new site, my new brand, my new direction, just promote my art. So I reached out to RAW Artists to get more info and to make sure it was legit. They responded early the next morning with more details. I reach out to my inner circle again and they all agreed that it was a great opportunity. So I’m taking a second leap and have accepted their offer. Long story short, I was contacted by their booking agent, created my profile rawartists.org/desdainart and I’m officially doing my very first art showcase! My only commitment is to sell 20 tickets to the event by 7 days prior to the showcase date.

I’m still scared half to death. People say that art comes from the soul. No, not for me. Art is my soul. My soul is at stake. Just the thought of rejection and dismissal is so devastating. It would be so damaging that I don’t think I’d be able to do art again. These are true fears.

I can’t let fear win. I’m reminded by everyone around me that I’m not one to let fear ever stop me. I’m stronger and braver than I give myself credit. That may be true, but art is a whole new space-time in a realm that belongs only to me. It is secured surrounded by walls, behind locked doors, suited in armor. Just as it is secured, it’s also very fragile. It can come crumbling down with a single blow.

I was contacted by a director from RAW Artists and he browsed through my profile and artwork prior to calling me. He told me my artwork was mind blowing and my hyper realism is so spot on. He was wildly impressed and told me he has seen so many art pieces throughout the years and my artwork was at a really high level. It was the biggest compliment I could have ever received. It took every ounce in me not to cry on the phone with him that it made for awkward pauses and me rushing him off the phone haha… I kept it together as best as I can.

Once we hung up, I was on my bed ugly crying for an hour because I was so overwhelmed with pride and joy. I was so painfully happy that it felt like a stake shoved into my heart. A complete stranger that runs art showcases said my artwork was “mind blowing!” It was a pivoting moment for me as an artist. Do I stay safe and guarded continuing what I’m doing? Or do I punch fear in the face and take off running at the speed of light? I choose the latter. I will always choose the latter. Hiding is not my style by a long mile.

I am doing my very first art showcase!!!! This is my first time ever displaying my artwork in public in the flesh. No one outside of my circle has seen my artwork physically. March 7th is a defining moment for me as an artist. I get to see how well my artwork will be received and also if there is even a market for my work. I plan on selling postcards and sticker sheets to start out small.

I’m also creating a brand newly designed favor, an idea I’ve been obsessing over for the last 5 years. This is the perfect event to create them for. It’s going to be nothing I’ve done before. It will manually rotate, have lights, and of course, the compartment to hold the treats just like my other favors. I’m so excited to announce it once I create a prototype. First 20 people to purchase tickets under my name as their supporting artist will receive a free favor. I will make an extra 15 to try to sell at the show. The favor will cost almost as much as the ticket itself so this is a very, very special design.

If you happen to be in the Sacramento, CA area on March 7th, come check out my artwork in person! Who knows when the next opportunity will be. I can promise you that my drawings look soooo much better in person. Digital platforms lose the extra dimension I like to render in my drawings.

The tickets are $22.50 and you can buy them under my profile: rawartists.org/desdainart and click on Buy Tickets button under my profile photo. It is on March 7th at Ace of Spades in downtown Sacramento at 7:00 PM. There are a ton of amazing local artists in the lineup so there’s something for everyone! Come join us in celebrating art! We make the world that much more beautiful.

rawartists.org/desdainart

Charcoal Q&A's

I am the snobbiest of all charcoal snobs. If there were to be a Charcoal Snob Club, I’d be the CEO-Owner-President-Queen-Hail-Mother-of-all-the-Living-and-Dead-Snobby-McSnobber of the Charcoal Snob Club. Here are some questions I’ve been asked in the past about charcoal.

Q: Charcoal vs Graphite

A: There are 3 main differences between charcoal and graphite: 1. Charcoal is much softer than graphite; therefore, it’s messier and minute details are harder to render. 2. Charcoal is much darker. Your blacks are really black. 3. Charcoal has a matte finish. Unlike graphite’s unsavory silver sheen, charcoal will stay matted.

Q: What grades do charcoal offer?

A: A typical set of charcoal pencils come in 3 grades: hard, medium and soft and sometimes include a white charcoal pencil. Unlike graphite-- having a wide range of grades from 9H to 9B-- even the hardest charcoal is much softer than graphite 9B. I don’t really see the difference in how dark the grades are, but I notice a difference on how often I sharpen my pencils.

Q: Why would charcoal be better for me when I’m already happy with graphite?

A: I’m not subtle about what a gigantic charcoal-snob I really am. If you are textured-driven and detailed-oriented like me, then charcoal is for you. I’m not a huge fan of smooth drawings. I like texture and I like dimensions. I don’t want to see eyes looking straight at me-- I want those eyes piercing me. There’s nothing graphite can offer that charcoal could not do better.

Q: How do you build up layers with charcoal?

A: I know traditionally it is taught to work from the lightest shade to the darkest shade, but I actually like to work with mid-tones first. So I like my first layer to be mid-tones and then I adjust the shadows and highlights accordingly layer after layer. If you go to my WIPs folder, you will see that my WIPs are changing from layer to layer-- shadows get darker and darker meanwhile highlights get lighter and lighter. You keep adding layers to your satisfaction. Some parts require maybe 2 layers while others can require up to 6-7 layers.

Q: How different is charcoal to graphite? By this I mean, do you build up skin texture in one big layer? Graphite is about 5 or 6 but since charcoal is one grade, how does this work?

A: You always want to use minimal charcoal per layer. Most of my layers are applied using other tools. I hardly use pencil directly onto paper. I like using brushes or even q-tips (cotton swabs or ear buds, whatever) depending on how much and how big of a space I’m covering. I shave the lead of my charcoal using a tea strainer and then apply the powdered charcoal with a brush or q-tip. So the darker you need it the more layers you will build up.

Q: Are there any tools that are essential that differ to graphite, tortillons etc?

A: No, there are no special or different tools from graphite. I always have tortillons, brushes (round tip, flat tip, and angled-flat tip), q-tips (cotton swabs or ear buds) and tea strainer. I rub the lead of my pencil back and forth on the net of the tea strainer and now I have powdered charcoal. You may also find photos of some tools I use fav.me/d2rj9wp in my gallery. You may also use other tools for different textures. I like to suggest using certain tools for certain textures. Like use your brush for soft-feathery skin or use a q-tip for uneven dots that are perfect for pores. You can use felt, chamois, even printing paper has its own texture. Anything you can experiment with, go for it!

Q: Explain how you apply powdered charcoal using a brush or q-tip please.

A: I just take the tip of the brush or q-tip and dip it into the powder and carefully dotting the surface of your paper in a stippling motion. If you prefer to feather out with the brush to give it a nice gradient effect, dip the tip of your brush into the powder and shake it a bit to get rid of any loose powder, then go to your paper and slightly angle your brush and stroke your brush to the desired direction while slowly lifting your brush up from the paper. I found it easier to stipple first and feather afterwards. Check out my hair tutorial fav.me/d54rlpr with pictures.

Q: What's the best way to get tiny details? Or is this something that needs to be sacrificed because of the medium?

A: The only compromising you will have to make with charcoal is the mess. You will get charcoal debris everywhere. I would sneeze out black snots for days sometimes (gross, I know). Tiny details are not a problem. I’d like to fashion myself as a realism artist so details are important. You can see in my portraits that I do not leave out details. Regardless of how soft charcoal is I’m still able to render pores and thin, stray hairs. I’ll have a really sharpened pencil to lightly draw thin lines (lead barely touching the paper) or I actually use the tip of my tortillon-- you can refer to my hair tutorial fav.me/d54rlpr in my gallery . Or I draw with dots using the sharp tip of my pencil and take the tip of my tortillon to connect the dots – examples in my teeth tutorial fav.me/d3irutt in my gallery. And no, my drawings are not big. I keep my paper at 9” x 12” which is slightly bigger than A4. I like to keep a border around the drawing itself too so it’s actually smaller than 9” x 12”.

Q: Have you found a better technique to apply the charcoal - circulism or hatching?

A: You know what, I apply my charcoal mostly by dotting in a stippling motion. So if I’m using a q-tip, I would take the tip and dip it into the powdered charcoal and start dotting the tip onto my paper (perfect for skin texture with pores). I then take a clean brush and softly feather it out. I don’t think it really matters how you apply it if you’re using the pencil directly onto paper because anything you apply will have to be blended. I blend everything except for thin lines like for hair or eyelashes since those will need to stay sharp and thin.

Q: Can charcoal be erased? Does negative space work with charcoal or is some planning needed before starting a drawing to prevent the need to erase?

A: Charcoal can be lifted to a certain degree. I mean if you take the pencil and roughly darken the crap out of the paper, then most likely you won’t be able to lift it off. But if you use less abrasive techniques as I have mentioned in previous answers (applying with brushes/q-tips by dotting or lightly feathering) you can definitely lift it. I like to use frisket film and my kneaded eraser a lot. That’s how I have loose highlighted strands of hair and small highlighted pores in my drawings—by lifting the charcoal with frisket film. Just like you have to add layers to build up the shading, you also have to lift up by layers as well. So if you applied 3 layers of charcoal using your brush, then most likely you will have to use your frisket film 2-3 times on that one spot to lift off the charcoal completely. Now if you want parts of your drawings to be pure white, like the highlight dot of the eye, I recommend you mark off that spot and do not apply any layers of charcoal if at all possible. Keep that area clean. Take your kneaded eraser and/or frisket film to lift off any debris as you draw around it. They do have white charcoal pencils, which I despise to no end. I have no idea how to use it and it actually has a tint to it. It’s not pure white at all and it looks tacky, in my opinion. If you find it to be useful, then by all means use it. I’ve heard white pastel pencils do wonders. I personally like to keep my pure whites untouched.

Q: What's the best paper to use with charcoal? Does it stick to Bristol board or is a slightly textured fibrous paper better?

A: First of all, I hate Bristol board. It’s far too smooth and holds nothing in any of the media I use (seriously, how the hell do you use such a paper except for garbage). I heard using textured paper is best with charcoal. The more tooth the more layers the paper can hold. I find that textured paper overpowers my ability to render my own textures. So I like using rather smooth papers, but I don’t get as much layers as I’d like sometimes. I use Arches Watercolor paper in hot press 140 lbs. It’s smooth, but not slick smooth like Bristol board. Plus you can turn the paper over to the back where there’s a little more tooth if I need to apply more layers than expected. It’s not impossible to use smooth paper, but I would recommend some kind of tooth on the surface to start off with.

Q: How do you do your sketch to prevent the charcoal sliding over shiny graphite?

A: Graphite will leak through charcoal. I only use graphite to do my line art and that’s it. I use a 2H mechanical pencil for my line art. I lightly put down my shapes and lines and as I start to work in an area I start lifting up the graphite as much as possible using my kneaded eraser until it’s nearly invisible. Actually the charcoal pencils I use, General’s Primo Euro, will cover graphite for the most part. It layers really well over graphite and completely covers it. For my own sanity I lift off the graphite, just in case it decides to leak to the surface one day to slap me across the face. To watch a video tutorial on how I do my line art: youtu.be/wiEXW77CrgE

Q: How do you keep your drawings and area clean?

A: It's basically impossible to keep anything clean when using charcoal. I have a duster brush for my table to brush off debris. For my drawing surface I just use my kneaded eraser to lift off debris as I draw along. If I'm adding a black background with my pencil directly, there will be mountains of residue and debris-- I layer the background, then blend with a brush/q-tip and then I gently take it to my garbage can and tip the paper to the side to let the debris and residue slide off of my paper. Tip it down using the side closest to the edge to avoid having debris sliding across your whole drawing-- unless it's necessary. I like to gently tap, tap the paper to get any loose, stubborn dust out. If there are leftover debris or dust on parts where they don't belong, then take your kneaded eraser and start carefully dotting the area to lift them up. I also make a habit of taping down my paper to another piece of paper so that the back of my drawing paper stays white and clean. I buy loads of cheap gift wrap paper because they come in huge sizes rolled up and just cut them down to my liking. I lay my drawing paper on top of it and start taping off the edge of my paper using artist tape (I like to have a white border around my drawing anyway so the taping serves 2 purposes). I spray down my drawing using matte finished WORKABLE fixitive (I apply at least 3 thin layers-- you can test if you have enough layers by gently pressing your finger on the darkest part of your drawing to see if any charcoal is lifted on your finger) and once that is dried and ready then I peel off the tape and take off the gift wrap paper. You should have a white border and the back of the paper should be white as well.

Q: Why realism?

A: You know, I ask myself that question sometimes. I didn’t start out with realism at all. I was more into darker things then. I was also still young at the time. I think my work matured as I matured. In any case, I think realism is highly underrated. What I fear most is that traditional art as we know it is a dying breed. I haven’t seen many that mastered realism (especially tattoo artists) because it’s that damn difficult. Realism is very precise making it the most objective 2 dimensional medium. Most art media are subjective to the audience. Yes, you may call it “photocopy” or whatever, but there are not many artists that can do realism. I’ve also seen drawings that have surpassed photos because photos require their environment to be just right to take an amazing photo (plus additional editing). With drawing, you get to choose how to render anything your heart desires through skill and talent from hand to paper. Before you criticize, think about being constructive and summoning good advice.

Q: Any tips for realism?

A: Proportion is the fundamental key to realism. Whether the likeness is there or not, the proportions have to be correct. I think the second most important aspect is shading. Great tonal value will bring life to your drawing. I’ve seen many good pieces that could have been great pieces if they hadn’t compromised their shading. The whites are too white, the darks are too dark, the whites are not white enough, and/or the darks are not dark enough. When there is not enough tonal value, then it becomes too flat. When tonal value is too extreme, then it will not look crisp. You have to be able to balance light vs shadow. I especially enjoy the subtle shadows and highlights bouncing around faces. Remember, where there's a highlight-- there's a shadow and vice versa. Finally, do not be afraid of angles. Angles will make your drawings far more interesting. Whether it’s the way a face is angled or how a finger and its knuckles are curved in certain angles. If you can master angles, you can definitely achieve a high level of skill in realism.

Q: How do you do your line art?

A: There are a couple of ways to do your line art. I see people using the grid system quite often. I actually hated the grids when I first started drawing. It takes up way too much time and effort. I actually use the Reilly Method. Everything is a shape. I look at a face and I see a mixture of shapes overlapping and intertwining. Every shadow and every highlight is a shape. If you can familiarize yourself with the Reilly Method, then your line art will be more accurate, time-efficient and far more effective with hand-eye coordination. Sure it may look comical and discouraging at first (refer to any of my first WIPs in my WIPs folder), but I found it to be the best way to start a drawing.

Q: Any video tutorials?

A: I do have a Youtube channel: youtube.com/desdainart where I record my drawing sessions so you can see exactly how I do my drawings. None of the videos are edited and they are in real time. They are very lengthy and can be snoozers. Just sit through a few minutes of it and you'll the gist of my technique. Though I did start making speed videos for some of my drawings. The process to speed up the videos is tedious and takes a few hours for me to do. I just don't have time for such things in my busy-chaotic life. Though I've noticed the speed videos are my most popular videos.

Q: More questions???

A: Ask away! I promise I'll try to answer them in a timely manner. Try.

Charcoal, My One and Only

Charcoal is my medium of choice. I’m actually kind of snobby about it haha… I have tried several media over the years. I started with graphite and then tried colored pencils, pastel pencils, carbon pencils, just anything in a form of a pencil. I have not seriously tried painting (other than Paint Night with my friends for funsies), using brushes is a whole new level. Though I do use brushes for blending my charcoal, but I think it’s different with painting.

I tried charcoal early on when I was just a beginner, but I hated the messy charcoal dust and debris plus the squeaky noise it would make rubbing against the paper (shivers). So I kept using graphite and colored pencils for a couple of years. I hated the unsavory, silver sheen graphite would leave because it made it difficult to scan and take photos of the drawing. The darker the graphite grade, the more sheen it got. Annoying AF. Then the wax colored pencils would leave wax bloom on the surface of my drawings. If the drawing is not sprayed down, over time the wax will continue to surface to the top to leave a wax film on top of your drawing. Again, annoying AF. I tried using oil colored pencils, but I seem to like the wax pencils better. I don’t know what possessed me to try charcoal pencils again. Charcoal doesn’t have the sheen, the blacks are really black so the charcoal itself is very soft compared to graphite. The softness is what makes it really messy and the squeaky noise.

Somehow I toughed through its temperament and found myself falling in love with it. My drawings became exponentially better transitioning from graphite to charcoal. I felt I was starting to plateau with graphite and didn’t think I would get any better until I reintroduced charcoal. I learned to deal with the mess and ignore the squeaks because the end result is so much better than anything I’ve ever tried. I learned how to blend, learned how to make sharp lines, keep highlights white and light, and create textures. These skills took me years to learn, but so worth it. I like to keep my drawings soft, but very detailed and textured at the same time. I like my highlights really white and my shadows really black, but with so much greys in between to add dimensions and layers. Graphite gives me the ability to do all of the above, but charcoal will do all of the above on a much higher scale.

For those who use graphite, I strongly encourage you to give charcoal a try. Yes, it is a difficult medium to work with at first because you’re used to the graphite, but trust me— once you’ve learned its temperament, you’ll be so damn grateful. I love it so much that I’ve abandoned all other media and have no desire to try anything else. Charcoal is the one.

And if you find that charcoal wasn’t for you, hey, at least you tried something different and it’s another notch to your art experience.

P.S. My favorite charcoal brand is General’s Primo Euro Blend.

Defining an Artist

To be identified as an artist, I think seeking beauty is a start. Just having that passion and that eye for beauty even in the oddest of places. I didn’t start out as an artist, at least I didn’t think I did. I started in my 20’s. I’ve always been a math and science geek— more of an objective and logical person. Somehow art wormed its way into my life. For me, art is coupled with skill and expression. You have the skills, or learn to develop the skills, to be able to express your innermost intimate thoughts and heaviest of feelings.

That is why when it comes to someone’s art and their craft, it’s quite a sensitive matter. I’ve said it before that the creativity comes from deep within, usually from a place of hurt and pain. The irony of it is that it translates into something beautiful as an end result. Though to get to that finish line, struggles and agony had to come to play. I feel very exposed when I have my work just out there. I spent many years just keeping my work closed in a portfolio. In fact, I still keep my work in portfolios and boxed up. Only those who are within my proximity have seen my portfolios.

One of the ladies I work with told me that she feels artists are ethereal. I felt so flattered and humbled at the same time. Art has been the only thing that has made me feel whole whilst shredding me into ribbons internally simultaneously. It takes so much from inside of me to create a piece, but it’s such a gratifying release. It’s like, it hurts so good. It’s very addictive, this feeling.

I will always encourage and support art and artists. Art just has a very special and unique place within me. I would wish for everyone to find something they are passionate about to have a very special and unique place within them. Find something that sparks fireworks, quiets the voices, dims the inner demons, just seek beauty even in the oddest of places. For me, it’s truly an honor to be an artist.

What is a Desdain?

I have been working under the guise of Disdain & Despair for nearly 10 years. I went with the 2 most vulnerable words to describe the worst parts of me during my darkest hours. I feel that art exposes the most vulnerable part of a person. The artistic expression comes from deep within. I do feel very exposed when I upload or show someone a drawing. It’s like I’m letting you pick through my brain and allowing you to find my faults and flaws. That’s just the depression and anxiety speaking. I’ve always been vocal about my depression and anxiety as part of my coping. I definitely do not want them, but I’ve accepted them as part of me.

Fast forward 10 years later, I feel I’m in a different place in my life and I’ve grown as an artist and as a person. Now that I’m taking a new direction in my life, I feel I need to refresh things as an artist. I wanted to start with a new name. Something short and something that is still recognizable as me. I thought I should do a version of my original name somehow. I thought of Dis&Des, D&D, and so on. Then I thought about combining the 2 words. Dispair still sounded a lot like despair but spelled wrong. Desdain sounded much better and almost sounded like an old word that was used back in the middle ages or something.

I have always loved made up words as a name because I thought it was clever. I never thought I’d be creative enough to come up with one myself. When I was a teenager, I grew up in Stockton, CA. Stockton is a terrible place to grow up in. It’s always up there in ranking at least top 5 as most violent cities in America. Not just in California, in America. My brother and his friends would get into trouble as boys do. Vandalism was a default. One of his friends tagged under the name Kano, or did he spell it K-No? I always thought that was a cool tag name that he made up.

So that is a little background on how Desdain became a part of me. Now for a new logo. I needed something sharp, edgy, but sensual. I’ve drafted about 8 different designs until I created “the one.” When I used to do polymer clay sculptures, I would take photos of the process. They always came out really creepy so I kept one of the doll faces as my little character. I’ve named her Desi. She will stay as my little mascot character. New name. New logo. New mascot. New brand. New direction.