What I learned from Dan Santat’s Workshop
Things take time for me to sink in so it makes sense that after a month of attending Dan Santat’s workshop here in Phoenix I finally can sort out what I’ve learned from it. So here is my recap of what I got out of the experience.
Warning: Results may vary depending on locations and illustrators.
1 Know Who You Admire In Order to Understand What You Need To Do As An Artist
Dan asked us to find a piece that we love. So as diligent as I am, I immediately created a Dropbox folder and dragged and dropped pieces that I felt were gorgeous for one reason or another. It didn’t take long until I realized I had over 30 jpeg files. So I had to narrow it down over and over again. Until I was left with 1 piece. The process confirmed my love for Rebecca Dautremer‘s work. In the process I clearly outlined what I love about her work and I know what I need to achieve on my work: her use of light, her portray of different cultures, and her incredible compositions. Now I have a clear direction.
2 Learn From The “Masters”
Part of the assignment was to copy the 1 piece that you loved. So I did my copy. What did I learn? My eyes see colors a lot brighter than they need to be. Rebecca’s work has all these colors yet when I was copying her piece I had to force myself to mute my palette – a lot. I also learned how to use gouache by looking at her illustration. So next time that you love a piece even if you are too busy, I dare you to copy it. You have no idea all that you can learn.
My “copy” and the original below. The piece is from the book Cyrano from Edelvives.
3 Adopt From Everyone
Dan also gave us an acrylic demonstration. He painted a big, round, yellow moon for us. Before starting, he showed us how to make the Dan Santat Acrylic Palette. This part of the workshop I processed and adopted the very next Monday – I had to stop by the Art Store to pick up a couple of things. I can tell you, my new palette is fabulous. Thanks, Dan! So go out and look at other artists at work, you’ll always get something that you can incorporate in your work.
4 Face Your Fears
I’m going to be honest here: it was extremely difficult to get my copy started. I didn’t start until the Thursday before the workshop. I was simply scared of not being able to make a copy that looked like the original. It was a fear to look like a bad artist in front of other people that I really admire. The fear paralized me and if you think about it, there is no need to prove yourself against anyone but yourself. Once I accepted that, I was able to paint my assignment “copy” piece. So go ahead, face your fears. If you get a bad piece, so what? Next one will be better. Practice makes perfect.
5 Come To Terms With Yourself
I knew for a while that I didn’t want to do any more colored pencil. The pain is excruciating and there was a point were I found a need to move onto my mixed media work. I was craving brushes and paints. So when I had a portfolio review with Dan, I asked his opinion on the two portfolios: colored pencils and mixed media. His answer was: “you have to come to terms with yourself and decide.” He couldn’t be any more right. Nobody can tell you what to do or how to get there. You must do the search within you and decide for yourself. So follow your instincts. They are ALWAYS right.
Dan Santat is a great children’s illustrator. If you haven’t seen his work, you can find more about him, his books and upcoming workshops here.