A Conversation with Aaron Rutten
Here is what Aaron has to tell you about being a Digital Artist, How he started as a Digital Artists and How he makes money. You can also read his advice when it comes to choosing the best drawing screen. You can check out XOOT’s list of the best drawing tablets.
What can you us about your yourself as a digital artist?
I’m an artist that helps other artists learn about digital art and learn some new skills along the way. I do that through my YouTube channel. I also offer some resources on Patreon and sell courses on Gumroad. Digital art for me has evolved kind of from something that I did for myself to something that I now teach other people. I’m still enjoy it myself but I’ve just found that teaching people how to make art is more fulfilling for me than just doing it for myself
I read that your father was an artist. Did that have an affect your own development as an artist?
When I was growing up I would hear stories and see pictures about storefront windows that my dad painted. He’d draw me artwork for holiday cards like The Chipmunks or whatever. Even to this day he’ll draw little notes and labels on things. Aside from a natural urge to emulate your parents, I don’t really have a good reason why I gravitated toward art, I just kind of did. At an early age I wanted to be an artist so maybe something was passed down genetically, I don’t know.
You are self-taught Right?
Correct. However, I did take some art in school. A little in high school and then Commercial Art for a short time in college before I dropped out because I realized I didn’t want to do Commercial Art. Most of what I’ve learned about digital art and a lot of what I’ve learned about the fundamentals of art I’ve learned on my own
Is digital art your professional career or do you have other things going on at the same time?
That’s a hard question to answer, people ask me what I do and I say I’m an artist. Then they want to get into the details and there’s a lot that goes into the explanation. I was doing work-for-hire like graphic design and illustration and things like that. Now I’m focused more on creating courses and videos for YouTube, as well as the content that I create for Patreon, which is things like brushes and exclusive resources that digital artist can use. That all together is how I make my income but it’s not really like one thing that I specifically do.
You review a lot of hardware, from very small tablets to the largest ones. What are the physical differences in drawing depending on a smaller tablet Vs. larger tablet?
It’s really important to draw with large gestures. Drawing with your elbow as the axis of motion and keeping your wrist and your fingers locked, allows you to draw straight lines and smooth curves free hand. That’s really important. You can’t do that on a small tablet. You’re really limited to moving your wrist and your fingers as your axis of motion. There might be instances where that’s okay: image retouching or coloring or navigating and things like that.
But, if you really want to draw or paint and be comfortable doing it fluidly and accurately, use a large surface. That doesn’t mean that you have to have a 27-inch screen. The smallest tablets are the ones I don’t recommend. The medium-sized, roughly the size of a piece of paper, I find those being acceptable. You definitely want something bigger, if you can make that happen. I don’t want anybody to not to get into the into digital art because it’s not accessible for them. It is expensive, as you get into bigger and bigger tablets, they get more and more pricey. For somebody who’s looking to have the best experience you definitely want a bigger screen. Not necessary the screen, but a bigger drawing area, whether it’s a display tablet or a regular tablet.
In terms of comparing a large regular drawing tablet without a screen to a display tablet. The main difference is that the display is easier to draw on because there isn’t a disconnect between where you’re looking where you are drawing. I think that’s a huge advantage.
I made a lot of art on regular tablet that didn’t have a display and so I know it can be done. It just feels so much more intuitive and natural when you’re actually drawing on a screen. Display Tablets typically have the advantage of being pretty large anyways. That’s really the cream of the crop when it comes to making art on a computer.
Do you have any feelings on where digital art might be going? Trends in terms of Hardware or Software.
Hardware, I don’t think has much room for growth, aside from some futuristic tools like brushes with pressure-sensitive bristles or palette knives. Beyond an 8K screen are we going to have 16K, 32K? I mean what’s the limit on screen resolution and screen size? I doubt they’re going to make a 50-inch Cintiq. What else can you really do? You draw on it, you’ve got pressure sensitivity, you’ve got screen resolution. I don’t know there’s much else that you can do.
Software is getting pretty sophisticated. I’d say its way better than it was years ago when I first got into it. I think software has the potential to keep getting even more realistic as far as how it emulates media. Computing hardware is what’s holding everything back because the software wants to stimulate flowing media, but if you don’t have a really fast computer and a super-good graphics card then you’re just going to get a lot of lag. Performance is going to be really sluggish and you won’t want to use those advanced features. I think computing power is really the bottleneck at this point.
As an extra “special interest question”. Do you have any recommendation on where people can sell their digital arts?
Places to sell digital art… There are a lot of places:
- I started out selling stock imagery, so there’s Shutterstock or Adobe Stock… Selling stock imagery is pretty easy to get into. Just about anyone can do it. You don’t make a lot of money but it’s something you can do with art that’s already on your hard drive.
- You can also sell prints of your work but again it’s not very profitable, but it’s a way to get your work out there.
- Some people also sell commissions. That takes more of internet presence and networking to be successful.
- You can also do it through websites that allow you to sell artwork as digital products.
What I’m doing is a little bit more abstract. I’m not selling art; I’m not making a painting and then someone’s buying that painting; I’m not commissioning it for somebody. But… I’m still selling my art and still making money off of it. It might be good to think about selling art that way. If you want to sell your art maybe sell the process of creating art or maybe sell the inspiration. Not even directly sell the inspiration but make a video and get ad revenue, or take advantage of other forms of monetization like Patreon.
There’s lots of different ways to make money off of your art and I see a lot of people doing that. Most of the time, the successful people, are doing it are in the more abstract ways rather than just selling prints or doing commissions. You have to sell a lot of prints to make any money off of them. If you’re going to do commissions, you’ve got to make art all the time. You have to deal with people telling you “I like that” or “I don’t like that”. There’s a lot of stress involved. If you’re just showing people how to make art you can make whatever you want. No one’s going to tell you how to do it, (for the most part). You can have more fun that way.
Note: The second part of Aaron’s Interview will be up next week, visit our blog for more content.