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About Varied / Professional Official Beta Tester Andrea A. BiancoMale/Italy Recent Activity
Deviant for 5 Years
23 Month Premium Membership
Statistics 49 Deviations 1,325 Comments 16,508 Pageviews



Andrea A. Bianco
Artist | Professional | Varied
фантазёр, illustrator, concept artist, photographer, kick-ass guitarist and more

Current Age: 33 , Current Residence: Italy

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(...and follow me there if you like my cell phone snapshots!)
If you're into art then it's very probable you joined at least one online community; places like CGHub, CGSociety, DeviantArt, GFXArtist, etc are very popular and they gather the best artists around plus a huge number of wannabe artists. These communities are requiring you to register, they usually won't let you delete your account ever (using some arbitrary excuses and without saying this before you join them...) but on the other hand c'mon, they let you show your art to the world and receive precious feedback,  get in contact with companies that are waiting for you to give you a job, and they also have hundreds of master artists that are there only for the sake of helping you learn and improve so that you can steal their job as soon as possible. That was all quite ironic, as you can guess.

So: what if taking part in art communities was just a waste of time? Take a look at this shameful table :

It shows some data concerning my online presence in art communities. I did pick up the three ones where I am more active. Note: CGSociety has no "profile views": they show a "portfolio views" that is actually a sum of the views for both artworks & the portfolio land-page, so it's quite a mess to compare with the rest.

I used to spend lots of time for those communities: I watch a lot of art, chose artworks as favorites, write down comments to threads and artworks, spread the word about the community, link to my profiles there very often and so on. I did join them for two reasons: one is that I want to learn, the other one is that I wanted exposure for my artworks, as a way for getting more job commissions and grow my portfolio. Since years passed, I decided to take a look at what I got.

I learned nothing from my stay in those communities. It's simple and true. What I learned (and I still have so much to learn) came from personal research and countless hours spent sketching, changing things, redoing them from scratch, studying the masters of the past and of the present and so on. I never got a single critique that could help me improve, in any art community. I remember ages ago I also joined because I was just starting this adventure and I needed advices from the ones that knew more than me, but I got practically no feedback over the years, my sketchbook thread was ignored even if I was actually trying my best to comment other's sketchbooks and show that I cared, and so I decided to stop taking part.

The numbers in the table are speaking for themselves. If we look especially at CGHub and CGSociety we can say almost no one is watching my art or leaving feedback. I'm not complaining since this is easily understandable: such communities are stuffed with artists that are leagues above me, and they create art that gathers more attention. They worked hard for becoming that good and it's normal people likes what they do and leaves plenty of three words appreciation comments. And that's the real deal: if you are very good, and you are therefore very likely already working in the industry, then you do get lots of comments, but they are useless ones (they can pump your ego but what else?). If you are a learning artist and you need feedback for improving, you get nothing.

All the communities are having special activities, like weekly contests, long term ones, and so on. You join them, there's a topic, you sketch and paint and post wips in the forums. The artists that are good already will win, but you probably don't take part for winning, you do it for learning. There's indeed the casual useful critique in there, but not everyone has time to join all the weekly contests, build friendships with the other forum users and so on. The fact is that being very active in such contests is probably the only way for building contacts, getting exposure and occasionally learn something. The rest of the community (galleries, profiles) is useless for the average user, it's just for filling the ego of more skilled users. So in the end, if you don't have time for joining contests and activities you should probably not even join art communities.

How many jobs did I score thanks to communities? Three in a total of three years. Most of my commissions came from real life contacts, people that talked of me to someone, people finding my site and blog with search engines, etc. I know "real life" sounds weird, but you got what I mean.

Yes, and so? Is there a way for learning, getting exposure and landing some job as a concept artist and illustrator? Yes, I think there is one.

Learning requires a lot of study and personal research; it requires passion and efforts, especially if you are not a student living in his/her parents basement but you have a day job, a family, you need to pay the bills, etc. And that was and is my case. Hoping that joining an art community will mean having good artists helping you grow is an utopia. If they are good enough for teaching and guiding young artists it means they already do it for money (with DVDs etc) or they occasionally write a tutorial that you could watch even without joining an art community. Art training became a huge part of this industry and it's naive to think that an established artist will give you for free in a forum/community what he/she can turn into a school, course, dvd, personal web traffic, etc. There are some rare exceptions of course, but very rare indeed. In the end everyone has to pay the bills.

Getting exposure is easy too: become good. You won't need to be in any community, it'll be enough to have a site or a blog. I discovered many amazing artists by using only search engines and during discussions with contacts. You should also try to write in specialized printed magazines, in tutorials websites that are offering learning material, and so on. Improve yourself and keep trying to get feedback from magazines and so on. And if you are good and you have a good exposure you will also get a job somewhere. Someone could argue: why not trying to get good and in meantime keeping publishing in art communities then? Simple: because in art communities you will be ignored till you are very good, and in meantime you are providing them with free contents and living the frustration of having your artworks and forum posts being ignored, while on the other hand walking a personal path of growth and trying to get in contact with companies is a much more streamlined and, in my opinion, logic way for improving.

I don't say you should quit all of the communities though, since they can offer the occasional professional or just human good contact, if you are lucky: pick up the one that gives you the most in terms of quality and quantity of feedback. Not the one that is more popular or trendy. Communities fame comes and go. GFXArtist was all the rage years ago, now CGHub is, etc. What is important is the people inside of communities. For my personal experience it seems DeviantArt is the best: yes it's generic, there is cheap porn in it, it's full of teenage drama and so on, but it also features a huge amount of feedback and interaction, it displays tons of very high quality artworks, it has plenty of great free tutorials and resources, its group system provides great interaction and few smug level, and so on. And it lets you deactivate your account, at least. It's not so trendy anymore, maybe because people feels going to a trendy community is better at separating them from the rest, but this is all elitist bullshit. Again: a community is made of people and the quality of interaction is the main parameter you should take into account. If CGHub or CGSociety or are working better for you, stay there then! It's all about logic: what for to spend time and efforts staying in a place that gives you nothing? Only because everyone is doing it? C'mon :)

What I'm saying here is that the fact that art communities are the way to go if you wanna get exposure, feedback, learn something and get a job is a myth. It works for a small percentage of people and most of them don't need it since they are already into the industry. What happens there is that hundreds of thousands of users are providing free contents to the companies owning the community websites, those companies are earning with ads and subscriptions, and most of the users are getting nothing in return; this happens not 'cos these companies are evil, but because the whole system and concept of online art community is old and not working anymore, now that there are armies of digital artists striving to become better and score a job. I even believe that the creators and mantainers of these communities are nice folks that are putting a lot of passion into what they do; look at CGHub for instance, it does look beautifully done, but no results can come for the average user that is not devolving most of his/her time at creating a support network of contacts in there. And I think that time would be better spent studying and learning instead.

The net is already offering many ways for building a network of contacts, getting feedback and improving our skills. I mean real contacts, not the average ones you get in art communities, where everything is often reduced to an "add me" system that brings us back to MySpace golden days. A real contact is someone that answers your emails when he/she has time, that talks to you on Skype, etc. It's better to have few contacts like that than hundreds of silent thumbnails in your profile, isn't it?

* So this is what I'm doing: leave all communities except maybe one (DeviantArt I suppose, based on quality and quantity of received feedback), put all of my efforts into filling my website with good art, use my blog, emails, Twitter and Skype for the contacts network. By the way, leaving art communities is almost as difficult as leaving a religious sect, there are no options for doing it, you need to keep contacting the admins with emails and beg for it, with the usual end result of being ignored and just accepting the fact that your profile will stay there forever, and so you'll at least try to delete its contents. When they do answer you they usually say that you can't delete your account because it would "break the system", whatever that means. They just want to keep the number of members high and eventually have you leaving your contents in there, so that their platform will stay attractive for advertisers.

I'm sure spending the time studying instead of contributing to these websites will bring me more, much more than those wasted years spent following the dream of an art community full of lovely folks wanting to help each other. There's no such thing. There's only thousands of mouths trying to feed on the same soup, and you got it on your own, this ain't gonna work.

*.. and that's what I did indeed.

NOTE 1: I wrote this post more than 1 year ago, I moved it here on deviantART 'cos Posterous is shutting down and I decided to move some of my blog posts here on dA.

NOTE 2: the original post had many interesting comments by various cool people. You can read them at my blog till when Posterous will shut it down:
PatOv comes from Pattern Overlay and is the awkward name I chose for a GIMP technique I came up with some time ago. Well it can't be worst than SAPALO anyway (sample and paint at low opacity) :)

It basically means using GIMP Clone Tool and patterns for painting details and textures over an existing image. The "overlay" in the name means that we will use a layer blending mode for adding those details, and since Overlay is the one I use the most, I also used it for the name of the technique.

This is how I usually work, from the creation of the pattern to its usage.

1. Texture Hunting
Looking for textures is a very interesting activity; nowadays there are some cell phones with cameras being good enough for shooting great macro photos, and since we always bring our cell phone with us we can always capture an interesting texture. Here is an interesting texture I discovered a while ago:

2. Creating the pattern
This image has many parts that could become a great pattern, and I'll very likely create more than one pattern from it. For this little tutorial I choose a part of the image and I crop it in a square format, saving the image with a new name. Note: your pattern doesn't need to be square, this is just a personal preference.

The next step is using Colors > Desaturate for getting rid of colors (because we want to use our pattern for adding details, not for altering the colors of our painting) and Filters > Map > Make Seamless for making the pattern tileable and avoid having ugly cuts where the pattern copy finishes and a new one starts. This is what we got so far :

Choosing the size for the pattern is important, since while we can change the scale of the Clone Tool brush we have no control on the scale of the pattern itself. I usually create various sizes for the the same pattern (something like 512px, 256px, 128px) and I choose the one I prefer depending on the resolution I'm working with etc.

The final step is to save the pattern in the pattern folder, which in Windows 7 (for instance) is something like C:\Users\YOUR-USER-NAME\.gimp-2.6\patterns. Now you can hit Refresh Patterns in the patterns tab and start using your new pattern.

3. Using the pattern
Here you can see a short video of the patterns in use :

I prefer to apply them using a fuzzy round brush, but you can use whatever brush you like. You can also use selections for applying the brush only in the zone you want, and so on. In the video you can see that I often change size of the pattern, mixing their textures to create new details, and I also change the blending mode to manage the values : the big drawback of this technique is that it will alter the values of you painting, so you need to choose the blending mode carefully and generally pay attention to what you are doing :) I usually choose Overlay for a basic usage, Multiply for bringing down the value, Screen or Hard Light for raising it -- but it's all depending on the image I'm working on.

4. Conclusion
That's it, I hope you found my technique interesting and that you'll use it for creating amazing art to share with us all! I often listen to people asking how can you make Gimp behave like Painter, Painter behave like Photoshop or Photoshop behave like ArtRage : I think sometimes it's much better to try to develop unique techniques for each software and use it at its best :)

Link to the 3 patterns I created in this tutorial (ZIP file, 202KB) :…

NOTE: I wrote this little "tutorial" many years ago, I moved it here on deviantART 'cos Posterous is shutting down and I decided to move some of my blog posts here on dA.
So, what's the point in posting a "painting", pretending it's your own creation while it's just a paintover? I keep fiding artists here on deviantArt that are basically doing this:

- finding a cool photo (usually a random girl from the net or an actress)
- using smudge and others tools on it, to fake a painterly look
- posting it with no word about the fact that it is based on a photo

They usually get tens, even hundreds of comments and favorites. People that is not aware of paintovers or that is not having critical sense stands speechless in front of what they perceive as an amazing showcase of skills. And so on.

Painting over an image is not a bad thing per se; it's actually a common task when you have to work with a render as a base, for instance.  It's a bad thing if you do it as a way to make people believe you are an amazingly skilled painter, though; this happens when you are not saying that you painted over a photo, and you are therefore letting people believe you are actually capable of photorealistic painting.

"Artists" doing paintovers and hiding the fact are usually frustrated people in need of fame or at least general appreciation, but they don't want to spend time learning and so they go for a shortcut. Painting and drawing realistic faces is not impossible and it's something that can be learned with efforts, passion and time. But the lamer has no wish of spending time on all that, since he/she is only interested on what comes with it: comments, fame, feeling important, etc. Things that he/she probably doesn't have in real life where cheating is not possible, but that can be achieved in the net.

Lamers doing paintovers are doing bad to themselves and somewhat to the other artists too, since they are choosing not to improve and they are also making the mass believe that painting a realistic human is actually a trivial task. Which is not. And on this topic, I'd like to make you notice that the subject of lame paintovers is almost always the human figure. Dramatic portraits, complex poses, everything is wonderfully easy for the lamer doing a paintover: they just need a good reference and a smudge tool, then hurry up! get fast to deviantART or some other place, to have people with no art education shouting at you that you are too good to be true. And indeed you are not true. You are a fake. To paint and draw the human figure and face and achieve realistic results requires years of studies. It's also interesting to notice that such "artists" are often showcasing an amusing range of quality in their galleries, going from the photoreal portrait to the terribly wrong anatomy of some images made with no tricks. That is: a painting showing a complete understanding of lighting, values, hue shifts, anatomy and so on, side by side with something that lacks even the basics.

Spotting a paintover is actually quite easy most of the times: being the lamer "artist" often lazy and stupid, he/she will probably pick a photo from the net and "paint" on it with few to no changes. So you just have to use a reverse image search engine like TinEye to find the source, and then go cover that "artist" with shame if you like. Try asking them if they can paint that same portrait in a different angle, or if they can change the lighting on that body pose, etc. Then sit and read the pathetic excuses they will find. Really, I suggest you all to use the TinEye technique on every portrait that looks suspicios! And think carefully before believing a portrait is a genuine work of art and not a paintover. Once you train your eye it becomes quite easy to spot most of them.

I did spot many paintovers in the past and it's amazing the range of the answers you get from these "artists". Some answers I got here on dA: a guy did deny it even if his "painting" and the orginal photo are almost a 100% match when overlayed in an image editor. Another one answered something like "hey c'mon I know, it's all a joke". A guy removed all the images from his gallery saying that he was accused of not being honest by someone: I never accused anyone, I just kindly said to him that in my opinion such a behavior is not correct and that a single line of text could fix it all. If you prefer erasing everything from your gallery than admitting reality.. well then you are probably not being honest, and that has nothing to do with me accusing anyone. By the way, no one ever added to the image description the fact that it was "based" on a photo, as I suggested. Of course they won't: they need people to go and comment and make them feel good. Now, if this is not pathetic, then I don't know what it is.

A special paragraph for a guy I found in last days, and that's quite a comic treasure! He blocked me on his account and gallery and did hide my own comment to his paintover! I mean, I just kindly said to him that since the painting was using a photo reference it was maybe a good idea to say it and link to the photo (guess what, a portrait of a beautiful actress); I wasn't rude, I wasn't sarcastic, I was just trying to suggest something that I though was correct. His photo is even having the same goddamn EXIF of the photo he painted over! C'mon! :D But no way, it's much easier to block, hide and keep collecting faves to boost your ego. I won't say his username and I won't post the side-by-side comparisong I prepared, because I think that could hurt his feelings and it's not my intent. I just hope can read this post and understand what I mean, unblocking me and answering to my comment on his page.

So guys, in the end I say: don't do paintovers! They'll teach you nothing, all the glory you get from them is coming from people that can't actually tell a paintover from an original artwork, and so you can guess how useful such a comment or fave can be. Spend your time studying and creating instead! :) Drawing is beautiful, painting is beautiful, it's such a great adventure to learn and improve! Do countless doodles, study the artists that inspire you, even copying their art, why not! But you gotta say that you are copying, and post a link to the original, and don't ever paint OVER an existing photo or illustration trying to reproduce it or turn it into some improbable artwork, claiming it's your own creation. You don't need that, you are better than that.

Happy painting and drawing people :)

This journal is partially based on a post on my blog: link to the original blog post



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LKivihall Featured By Owner May 28, 2014   Digital Artist
Thank you for another +fav :) (Smile) !
andreabianco Featured By Owner May 28, 2014  Professional General Artist
You're welcome :)
roladragon Featured By Owner Dec 30, 2013
I love your works :D
so fantastic :)
andreabianco Featured By Owner Dec 30, 2013  Professional General Artist
Thanks! :)
fabulous23 Featured By Owner Nov 24, 2013
damn,i have no words to describe how impressed i am,watching your gallery. You are very talanted and you have amazing works. i have to say HUGE thanks for adding me to your watchlist,it means a lot :) ^^
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