zaterdag 14 november 2015

Reference, your best friend!

Hey there everyone!

In my previous blog post i have talked about how important it is to use references, and in this blog post i will dig deeper into that subject.

When doing realistic art you want to be referred to the ''real world''. You have to translate what you see from reality as believable as possible. There is no direct guideline for this, since everyone has their own goals in realist art (ie, painterly, photoreal etc), but there is a fundamental knowledge that everyone must know, and without observing anything that is related to your interests/goals that is not possible.That means looking a lot to reality is a must, and knowing how to implement your reference is even greater.

When you practice these ''fundamentals'' you mostly come to understanding that you want to make your own stuff, and you make sure it looks cool. How do you do that?

Again, reference usage. Compose your image from various little things, that even might seem uninteresting at first sight. There are alot of interesting fiction, clothing, artifacts, animals, shapes etc to be see found everywhere, not seen at first glance. Collect a few (thousand) of those, and now you can gladly say you have got a Visual Library.

I will show you an example of how  i used my visual library for my artwork ''Zumokuta, Dying Lotus''

Here are a few reference images i used (i do not own any of these. If your image is uncredited please let me know and i will add your name)

I used this image from Game of Thrones as an inspiration for the necklace of the samurai

 This one i used as a reference for the Eagle (I have almost never drawn one before so this came in really handy)

Samurai armor for the corpses littering the ground

Japanese Oni mask used as reference for Zumokuta's. Gave my own twist to the mask by filling the eye holes with makeshift Engineer goggles. Small details like this can create a unique personality.

Image by Fenghua Zhong. Used as inspiration for overall atmosphere of the image

As you can see, i managed to use the essence of the reference images above to implement and morph them into a piece that is entirely unique to me. I was not afraid of letting the real world as well as other artists inspire me and make my work easier and more efficient as an artist, and another great part, is when i am using reference like this, i am naturally studying at the same time, Win-Win! However, don't do this instead of focused studying please, haha.

Also, when using references, you should know how to properly implement them in your artwork. This can only be done by failing a lot and grinding the fundamentals. I will show you an example of where i used reference like this starting out the wrong way.

Here are two images i attempted to combine directly to create a character with a frog-perspective. Left is an old toy of mine, right is a promotional photo from the series Spartacus.

This is what i managed to come up with at that point. (let's not mind all the mistakes for now) The most prominent mistake is that i used the two reference images above without proper fundamental knowledge, thus i didn't see that these images both had a complete different perspective. When translated to a real horse, the toy POV of the toy is MUCH lower than the Spartacus' As if you would have viewed the horse from a ditch. The Spartacus image has a Frog Perspective. Combining the two means disaster, as you can clearly see in the image above. This results in the rider looking unstable; like he is falling from his horse, towards the camera.

After some great advice from the lovely community i tilted the camera on the horse to make it fit more with the reference from Spartacus. This is the result. The image feels more natural and flowing:

So this was this weeks talk about using Reference and the Visual Library. I hope you enjoyed it and/or learned something from it. Please join the conversation below, let me know what you think and share your personal experience with the subject.

I am Joel Chaim Holtzman, you can find my work at . Until next time!



maandag 26 oktober 2015

Art Theft; To do, or not to do?

Hey there!

As explained in the  introduction I have done art all my life up to this point and witnessed various people doing it as well. Naturally, I witnessed my own art grow and of those around me, but I wondered: ‘’Why can’t our work look like the pro’s or even just a little bit?’’  
The question stuck into my head and I didn’t pay much attention to it until I decided to take my art career more seriously. After graduating from High school I decided I wanted to go to Art school, to become a professional Illustrator. Since I did not have a (varied) portfolio, and almost no knowledge of the art world, I decided to take classes at an art atelier. 
The teacher was incredibly helpful, and what he noticed me doing when attempting to paint realistically, he simply said ‘’You are drawing out of your head, it is visible you have not looked at reference from the real world’’. 
At this point I realized, that most amateur and starting artists, including me at that time who aim to make ‘’good’’ art have the preconceived thought, that when we use reference in any way we are stealing,  we are a fraud and that we don’t have a professional attitude. Let me tell you that this is NOT the case.
While the comments of my art teacher at that time opened my eyes, they also created questions I am still hoping to solve. I did my best at solving some, even though I don’t have a great knowledge in law and copyright i hope most information I share with you will be correct as possible.

What does ‘’stealing art’’ really mean? 

‘’Stealing’’ art takes on many forms. Some are bad, and you would be surprised some aren’t! 

The most common known way of stealing art is when you take unique elements from one or more creative content and copying it in a direct or very obvious way, just like in this example what happened to Brom (See picture below). Doing this while making money out of it can get you in legal trouble. There is a certain guideline, which says you copy elements from art 100+ years (?) back without creating a fuss or being embarrassed about it, since it is outdated anyways.

Getting inspired by art

A lot of people have the misconceived idea that getting inspired by existing art or reality is stealing, and they try to come up with ideas all by themselves. The result was not what they had in mind initially and the artwork looks pretty bad. I will get in detail about reference using on the next post, but what i can tell you right now, is that artist from all centuries have used their previous colleagues as inspiration to learn from. They studied their predecessors, copied their work in the process, and eventually aimed to create a new, unique voice. 

 (Artist unknown. If this image is yours please let me know and i will credit you)

Get inspired, but watch out!

Learning from other artist is always good, however, one should find the balance between being influenced by a piece of art and copy-pasting a unique element without modifying it enough to make it uniquely yours. If you do this, it mostly looks unique enough for you to not get sued or anything, but would you want to be an artist that is just like that one great artist but just worse? Here is an example from 4 years ago. I took the upper image and used it as a reference for my own painting. It is unique enough, but for those who know the upper image it most probably will remind them INSTANTLY of the original piece. For study purposes this is a good thing to do like i did when i started out working harder, but do not, i repeat, do not do this with portfolio pieces, in this case you WILL be seen as a fraud most likely and it can be a stain to your reputation if you do this frequently, even though your intentions are not bad.

Top: Orrian Undead, Artist Unknown (I think it is Kekai Kotaki)
Bottom: Piece i made a few years back

For this purpose I recommend using reference images from the real world above using reference from current art directly, that way you have a greater chance of reinventing the wheel without becoming a copycat. Don't get me wrong, keep getting inspired by art that you like, just try to not use it as the backbone of your image.

Interpretations/Fan Art  

First i would like to address i am not an expert in this subject matter, and i have noticed it is very hard to find a precise guideline for the possibilities regarding Fan Art. Interpretation/Fan Art is when you copy a piece of an existing (creative) visual element directly in your painting but in a conceptual way. The ‘’theft’’ has become a part of your painting and thus you still managed to create a unique piece. When you do this you still have to mention the original source you interpreted the art piece from. When selling it you need to ask permission first obviously and most likely pay a fee per sold piece. Interpreting artwork from novels/text is different, because the visuals is entirely unique to your creation, and not on someone else' visual elements, thus you own the entire image.

                                                        Degenesis fanart by Dave Rapoza

Photos and Textures

A lot of digital artists, including me use photo textures these days in their artwork. When doing this, you have to ‘’destroy’’ the image enough so that it is not recognizable as the original photo (which can be copyrighted). When you are using a photo as the base of your image (see below), the likelyhood of getting in trouble is greater, since the general composition of the original photo will mostly remain visible through your process. For this purpose I recommend shooting your own photos to use in your artwork.

                                                           Artwork by Jonas de Ro

So that were my two cent about the greatly discussed topic of ''Art Theft''. I hope you enjoyed it and got something out of it. Please join the discussion below, let me know what you think about the subject matter. Next week i will continue talking about art with Reference Usage .

I am Joel Chaim Holtzman, you can find my work at


maandag 19 oktober 2015


Hello there, Reader!

I am Joel Chaim Holtzman, a professional illustrator and concept artist. Art has been my passion all my life, and after quitting an unsuccessful time at art school, i have been worked hard to launch my career as an artist. Even though i am not that long in the industry, i have worked for various clients, and i am more than passionate about my job. I do not wish to do anything else than art in my life. Furthermore i work as an art teacher at a primary school and i am present at Dutch conventions regularly. In the future i am planning to head to international conventions as well. My dream is to launch my IP in 5-10 years which i started writing in the last few months.

You can find my art at

You may have stumbled upon this part of the internet either through a recommendation, through a share or just through coincidence. You may be an artist, or just an enthousiast. Either way i am happy you have found my blog because it means a lot to me to share any thoughts i have as an artist, regardless if you like what i write or not.

In this blog i will be discussing various subjects, my art, my sources of inspiration, the development of my IP, certain views on prominent elements in the art business; In general, just being in the Wake of Art.

So, this might actually be a beginning of what i hope would be an interesting story i can share with you, since thoughts are meant to be shared. In purpose of educating, warning and strengthening each other; You name it. I hope i will grab your interest, and make sure to start a conversation if anything you read has sparked something in your head.

Good day to you!