Ep.182: About the power of fundamentals with Lucas Graciano

By Iva Mikles •  Updated: Sep 27, 2018 •  Interviews

Hey, guys! In this episode, I am chatting with Lucas Graciano, an award-winning freelance artist teaching at Watts Atelier in California. He focuses on fantasy illustration doing book covers, card art, and other promotional works.

Get in touch with Lucas

Key Takeaway

“Be cool! A lot of times, you are working with people. You have to have good working relationships. There are so many artists out there who are so good, but are a nightmare to work with!”

Resources mentioned

💡 Please note: We are supported by our readers. When you purchase through links on our site, we may earn a commission at no extra cost to you. Thank you! For more info, please read our disclosure.

Special thanks to Lois for joining me today. See you next time!

All artworks by Lucas Graciano, used with permission

Episode Transcript

Announcer  

Creative, artistic, happy! That’s you. There are endless possibilities for living a creative life. So let’s inspire each other. Art Side of Life interviews with Iva.

Iva Mikles  

Hello everyone, Iva here and welcome back to the next episode of Art Side of Life where I chat with inspiring artists and create their is art related videos. Before we introduce our guests and go to the interview, let’s thank our sponsors. If you are a digital artist, you will love our stupid app which turns your iPad Pro into a virus graphics tablet for your Mac. So you can use all the programs like Photoshop right on your iPad, go to artsideoflife.com/astropad and use promo code artside to get 10% discount. If you’re looking for a top quality print shop and online store to sell your art prints then you should definitely check out imprint imprint has been helping artists print and sell gallery quality prints of their work all over the world for over a decade. Go to artsideoflife.com/imprint and use promo code artside to get 10% discount. And now let’s go back to the interview. My guest today is look as good as Deanna Lucas is a multi award winning freelance artist teaching at Worlds atelier in California. He focuses on fantasy illustration doing book covers card art and other promotional works for clients such as Blizzard, Dark Horse publishing upper deck and Wizards of the Coast. And now please welcome Lucas and let’s go to the interview. So welcome everyone to the next episode of Art Side of Life. And I’m super happy to have Lucas here. Hi.

Lucas Graciano  

Hello, thanks for having me.

Iva Mikles  

Thank you for being here. And let’s just jump into your background. And maybe you can tell us when did you realize like, Okay, I want to be an artist or I want to be involved in like the artistic career.

Lucas Graciano  

So I started my career. First, I was doing caricatures at a local theme park. And that kind of I had always enjoyed art growing up through high school. And then I had found a job doing the caricatures at a local theme park at Legoland and yeah, so we live really close to it here, about a five minute drive. But we so through there, I found a school, an art school that was local and I was able to get training and build my skills up to enough where I could start working in a very low level visual development job for Sony so I was doing working on video games doing working for their cinematic department so we were doing a lot of in between video game scenes. So I was doing things like storyboarding character designs, environment designs. And, you know, I, I was okay, I didn’t really enjoy it as much. But it was a good chance for me to make some income and continue my training. So through that time, I kept working on my skills and eventually moved into illustration where I’m doing now as I’m doing the same thing now and it’s all freelance illustration for various game companies. Magic the Gathering, a lot of a lot of my work is with them now. I’ve done work on all sorts of different IPs Star Wars, Lord of the Rings, I’ve worked in comics. But yeah, I’ve just kind of grown up being inspired by comics and movies and illustrators like Frank Frazetta and Boris Vallejo. And yeah, it’s it’s it’s kind of cool to get get the chance to do that kind of work now and it

Iva Mikles  

will help you the most to develop your skills you know, when you are looking at the these other artists then like, Okay, I want to move on to like better techniques or improve your artwork. Did you take it like step by step like anatomy backgrounds, or did you have like all in one.

Lucas Graciano  

So the school I train I trained at and I teach at now as well. It’s called the Watson pilea. And we are fundamental base school. So we do other various types of curriculums. But we’re known for our core curriculum like figure drawing, figure painting, the very traditional style of teaching art. So it gave me a good base that I could kind of springboard from and direct it towards something that I wanted to do, which was fantasy illustration, you know, and I just really focused a lot on that fundamental information and skill building. And then we had other classes perspective, composition, anatomy, all the other skills you’ll need to be successful in this career. And, yeah, I just I kept training and I fell in love with it, and I just, I kept doing it. And then over time you get good enough and someone’s gonna hire you.

Iva Mikles  

Did you have to put like, the 10,000 hours? Or was there like a breaking point or like the point of your carry? Like, okay, like, my heart beats much better?

Lucas Graciano  

You know, you I think you go through phases, there’s times where it’s like, you know, that’s a nice piece. And then you, you bomb one, you know, and it’s just like, it’s a back and forth thing. And, you know, I try to stay as consistent as possible. But there’s so many things that factor in that, can, it’s really tough to be as consistent as you need to be in this industry sometimes. But, yeah,

Iva Mikles  

and do you have like, the most memorable piece or a project you’ve ever worked on? Maybe because of a story or a time of your life?

Lucas Graciano  

That’s a good question. I have a few that I really like that I’ve done that I think kind of represent how I would like to paint consistently all the time. There was one project in particular, that was a lot of fun. I think he gave just the right amount of freedom, and or just the right amount of direction in the project. And then you let me kind of just go with it. And I felt so much more free. And I was able to put a lot of me into it. And this was a project where the guy wanted to, he wanted to have an illustration, as long as it had a woman, a dog and a dragon. I can paint whatever I wanted. So I was like, No, that’s kind of cool. That’s fun. And that turned out to be my shoe. I do not remember the name of the piece. That’s bad. But it’s a big dragon. There’s these women crawling up the snowbank and there’s there’s one dragon that’s Oh, it’s a companion dragon. And another big dragon that’s coming in. So a friendly dragon and a monster dragon. And they’re kind of he’s guarding it. And the other one is kind of coming in for a fight. Oh, so one of my more successful pieces and a very memorable one that I enjoyed working on.

Iva Mikles  

Did you have some like cartoons or movies or books which influenced you as a like child or teenager? You know, which kind of made you fall in love with fantasy?

Lucas Graciano  

Oh, sure. Yeah, I was. I’m an 80s child. So I grew up watching movies like Conan the Barbarian, Dragon Slayer, a lot of that kind of dark, gritty fantasy. And that’s what I’ve always been attracted to. Is that, like Frank Frazetta is one of my biggest influences and a big inspiration. And yeah, he’s his works amazing. Most of the illustrators in my in my world are he’s number one in their list of top influence, I think. But yeah, movie movies are big books, Lord of the Rings, obviously is a huge I love that series. I read the Game of Thrones series a couple times. You know, those kinds of fantasy novels and comics and things I grew up reading the Dark Horse Comics, like predator and aliens, and I grew up watching those 80s movies, you know, probably way too young. But it was, it was fun. And like, definitely shaped me.

Iva Mikles  

And when you mentioned the president that was worried. Have you also studied like the value compositions and like poses and all of that, and maybe other artists? Absolutely.

Lucas Graciano  

Yeah, that’s a good question. And that’s something I picked up from our schools. We’re big on master studies. So and there’s different ways that you can steal your masters like I run a class. It’s called composition studies from the masters. And we do guasha little gouache paintings in our sketchbooks of just color notes, shape organizations, just try to understand how the basic compositions work for these masters, sometimes color harmonies, value breakups, things like that. So they’re little quick sketches that are maybe 45 minutes to hour and a half or so. And they’re really valuable, and then you do longer ones, too. So I find that master studies are really valuable. I’ve got a presenter, one here that I’ve been working on. We talked a little bit about the compounds, but the master studies in larger oil painting studies. So you can see it’s very much more involved. So something like this is going to take, you know, 40 hours plus

Iva Mikles  

so yeah, because it’s really great to study like especially as you mentioned presenters weren’t because he’s like, awesome with simplifying the value compositions into just three value groups and these kinds of things, for example, so yeah, really cool. And so as you mentioned, the classes will do your studying. I mean, studying teaching is the the value composition. You also teach color and light or how did you get to actually teaching there?

Lucas Graciano  

So our school is a very intimate area if there’s, it’s, it has a few 100 students, but they you know, it’s maxed out to about 15 students per teacher and And it’s a very small environment and all the instructors are homegrown. So we’ve all gone through the curriculum, we’ve all been part of the school, Jeff’s a good friend, all these structures are really tight, and it’s a close family group. So there’s a lot of, you know, we all kind of come up the same way, we all have the same principles, where we think, and we all teach a range of classes. So I’ll do everything from the composition class to figure drawing, to portrait painting to perspective, any number of different classes, depending on where the curriculum is rolling. Usually Jeff kind of runs what he wants to run that term. And then he just kind of places us where he thinks we would do best.

Iva Mikles  

And he’s these your like, full time job, or do you combine like with the freelance work? Or what is your maybe main source of income? Or how do you put your eggs in different baskets?

Lucas Graciano  

Yeah, so my main income is freelance illustration, I do a lot of work for gaming still, I, I’ve been working with magic the last eight years or so. And I’ve been on just about every set. And it still goes pretty strong are usually doing about, on average, maybe a piece a month for them, maybe a little bit more. Oh, really? Yeah, it’s a good good gig. Magic fits my style a little bit, you know, the their style is very much kind of how I like to paint as far as what’s out there in the in the freelance illustration world. I teach one day a week, or in maybe two classes. So not a whole lot. It’s definitely part time I enjoy teaching, mainly because I like to be a part of the school still, I’ve been there for 16 years. And it’s, it’s just such a fun, good environment, to chance for me to have that social time. And to give back a little bit more what I’ve gotten out of the school and, you know, see the kids coming up. And it’s a good, good thing to be a part of,

Iva Mikles  

Oh, that’s really nice. And how has been for you, as you mentioned, the first maybe job with the magic and these kinds of things. So how was it for you, you know, to do these networking and finding the projects to work on?

Lucas Graciano  

Okay, so I started out, just like most people, you build a portfolio, I show it around, I get rejected, and then make adjustments and continue to grow. And then I will pitch it to those same directors, because oftentimes, you you’re meeting with the same people over and over again, a lot of the same art directors, and they started to kind of get to know you a little bit and they recognize the work and that, you know, you kind of build a little bit of rapport with them. And over time, you know, it takes one director to give you that chance. So it’s, you know, what I’m going to try out to do, and hopefully do a really good job and your turn, you’re working on time, and you’re easy to work with. And then they call you back. And, you know, that’s that’s kind of how I started out.

Iva Mikles  

Do you have usually a timeframe for each artwork? Or like, is it always the same or it’s different?

Lucas Graciano  

It can vary based on how complicated a piece is to work up. But I still have to stick within the deadlines of my clients. So, you know, for magic, it’s like a six week turnaround. So you take however many illustrations you can do within six weeks, and that includes sketches, references, all that stuff. So I’m comfortable doing to within that timeframe. Some people take more, a lot of the digital guys will take more, it’s usually a little bit faster painting digitally. For me, I enjoy the process of doing oils. And oils have become a big part of my income as well, because the collector base for fantasy art, especially for magic, it’s magic art is traditional Magic Art is rarer now, because a lot more people are doing digital work. So the demand for is higher, which means my cost of my originals goes up. So there’s a handful of us that are doing traditional magic work. And that has actually overcome my commission when I make on commissions from the client alone. So painting traditional has really helped my my business a lot.

Iva Mikles  

Before we continue, let’s thank our sponsors again. If you’re a digital artist, you will love Astro pad as your pet is an app that turns your iPad Pro into professional viral is graphics tablet for your Mac. I use it to work with Photoshop and Illustrator to create highly rendered artworks for my clients directly on my iPad. I was super excited to discover Astrophys because the painting apps available on iPad don’t have all the functionality like Photoshop with Astro pad, I can use all my favorite and custom made Photoshop brushes, which is super cool. And because you’re part of Art Side of Life community you will get an exclusive 10% discount on a stupid studio licenses. To get started, go to artsideoflife.com/astropad and enter the promo code or art side. If you’re looking for a top quality print shop and online store to sell your art prints, then you should definitely check out in print in print has been helping artists print and sell gallery quality prints of their work all over the world for over a decade, created by artists for artists in print ensures that you as an artists get your artworks printed in a highest quality and you earn the highest percentage compared to the others in the industry. The online gallery@imprint.com is curated by the members, resulting in a beautiful and unique collection of work. So for their favorite artists, discover new ones, and start selling through your own gallery today. What is more as an Art Side of Life, you will get a special 10% discount with the promo code artside. So don’t wait visit artsideoflife.com/imprint and use promo code archetype. And now let’s go back to the interview. And do you have some tips maybe for someone who wants to do also traditional about maybe the contract and these kind of things what to look for? Or add or maybe what to avoid? You know, like maybe Oh, don’t do this because then you don’t get paid? Well or, you know, then you will be timewise like really restricted or something when we what do you have the experience?

Lucas Graciano  

Yeah, I think for everyone, it’s a little bit different with how they paint because I know some artists who put in a lot more hours than I will, my style of art is a little bit looser. So I can usually get them done a little bit faster, relatively fast. So I would say just know your limits know where, where how long, it’s going to take you to do a painting, how much detail you can get into a painting within a certain timeframe. Yeah, I don’t it’s that’s kind of what I would recommend more than anything, it’s just kind of know where your limits are what you can and can’t do with a medium. If you can get better results doing digital work, do it. You know, in the end, the client doesn’t care if it’s traditional or digital, they want a good image. And for me, I produce better work in oils, and I do digitally. And it’s more so just that I haven’t done as much put as much time into painting digitally as I have traditional. So yeah, I’d say there’s advantages and disadvantages to painting traditional. But for me, it’s really worked out. And there’s a handful of us that are doing really well with it. So I’m gonna keep doing it.

Iva Mikles  

That’s really great. Yeah, and because maybe some people don’t know what it’s magic, right? Maybe you can just mention that. Like it’s playing cards, right? And people also like collect them and these kinds of things, right? Or do you want to mention something more about this big project?

Lucas Graciano  

With Magic? Yeah. So Magic, magic is a bit a bit of a different beast, it’s the fan base on magic is bigger than most games out there. So that’s a big benefit. If it wasn’t for the IP. I don’t think the work would go for as much as it is. A lot of the stuff I’m painting isn’t stuff that I would necessarily I mean, some of it is some there’s certain things that I’m painting that very much fit what I would normally paint on my own. But there’s certain things where it’s like, for example, I had one painting I did a while back, and I was painting it I’m like, you know, no one’s even gonna care about this painting. There’s nothing big about it. And then, you know, eight months down the road, the card is released and images released. And I get a dozen emails about that painting. I’m like, wait a minute, what’s going on? So I call a few people that I know that are involved in the game a little bit more like oh, yeah, the the card that That painting is on is very valuable. So they’re not necessarily attracted to the art as much as they are the nostalgia that comes with the car, you know how playable that card how popular that card is in the game. So it’s a bit of a catch. You know, some, some illustrations I do are nice paintings that go on bad cards that will sell for a lot. But then I have a lot of nice paintings that go on bad cards that just don’t you know, they don’t do anything. They don’t move. People are just like, No, it’s not uncommon. It’s not a popular card. And they’re, they’re looking at it from a collector point of the game rather than the art, unfortunately. But it’s, it’s bitter. Yeah, it’s bittersweet. So it’s nice to have people that will pay that much money for an original of something that I don’t particularly care for as much. But it’s kind of sad to see it when it’s a nice painting and it’s not selling it’s like well, what’s what’s what’s the deal? So?

Iva Mikles  

Yeah, definitely. And so you can, as you mentioned, you can sell the original artwork then in your own store, and then that’s one of the sources of the income.

Lucas Graciano  

Correct? Yeah, in fact, it’s probably a it’s probably about 50 60% of my income throughout the year, which has been good. It’s hard to make it as an illustrator, freelance illustrator on the Commission’s alone. You have to bank on doing shows Maybe signings, selling prints and, you know, other accessories. For me selling the original, it’s like, it’s almost like doing another taking on another illustration card or another two illustration cards, because I could sell that original, and put all I have into that one piece, make it solid. And then, you know, I don’t have as many cards out there. But at least I have that that income. And I’m not worried so much about that as I am about doing a quality piece and having my name be on something that I’m proud of.

Iva Mikles  

Yeah, that’s, that’s really great, because then the money from the art can help you to create more art. So you are not limited. So that’s really great. And do you have like events you really like to go to, you know, like, some fantasy or something like that.

Lucas Graciano  

So I’m not a huge show person, I don’t like doing a lot of events like that. The ones I mainly do now sign up for are there, they’re specialized to magic. They’re called Magic grand priests. And they’re done all over the world. And they’ll fly artists out and put them up and just have them as kind of attractions for the fans. So more fans will come and get their card sign. So I’ve been lucky enough to do hit magic at a point where, you know, I get to travel all around the world on magic Stein. And it’s been great. It’s been a really cool, special thing. It’s very specialized. There’s usually only a few artists that one of these shows sometimes up to 20, or 30. But they’re very specialized for these events. I was doing another show for a while called a lux con. And that’s one that’s based on traditional fantasy artists, especially. So it’s all artists who are painting in oils or some kind of traditional media. And they it was set up in various different spots, but usually some kind of gallery and everyone goes and displays their traditional work and collectors were big on going to that wasn’t a big kind of how do you say it like a public show like public people wouldn’t just come in, you know, it’s not like a comic con or anything like that. It’s more intimate and specialized. So I was doing that for a while. And that really helped get my career going with the getting collectors noticed, noticing my work. But after a while, I think the collectors that usually do those kinds of shows, they they buy a piece from you. And they come back next year, and they already have one of your pieces. So you kind of fall down the totem pole a little bit. So I find doing that show isn’t quite as valuable for me anymore. It’s my favorite show to do because it is so much fun. All my friends are there and it’s a it’s a we call it the vacation con. But it’s hard to justify it because you don’t you know it’s hit or miss whether you really come away making money at that show. So, yeah, I don’t do a whole lot of shows. But the ones I do are usually the magic ones.

Iva Mikles  

Oh, yes. actually sounds really cool. Like, oh, I do only magic.

Lucas Graciano  

Scary because you don’t want to put all your eggs in one basket. Right? Yeah, that’s kind of hard to stomach. So I have a teaching thing on the side. And I do other side projects, but I enjoy working magic magic has so many perks that I can I try to give them most of the priority in my schedule. And then

Iva Mikles  

how do you organize yourself or you know, do the planning because you work from home and then you have different projects? So how does your planning look like?

Lucas Graciano  

It’s crazy. You know, I My daughter has recently been she’s a kindergartener. So she’s been in school now that’s helped a lot. But for the last five years, it was a lot because I’m a stay at home career dad, you know, and my wife is gone like nine to five so it was kind of rough there for about five years. And I would just usually work nights and weekends.

Iva Mikles  

So I’m like working night

Lucas Graciano  

nights and weekends. Yeah, but it’s since gotten easier this year especially so I haven’t got a good solid chunk of time in the morning. And then I’ll usually do a little bit work at night as well. But you know, I’m fairly good about getting my work done on time and and sitting down and getting the work done. I need to get done.

Iva Mikles  

So for you it’s more like fluid like when you sit down and you work for a few hours or something like that or you set the time for yourself like from four to seven I do this or something like

Lucas Graciano  

that. Yeah, I tried to do that. It doesn’t always work out when you got a six year old it’s no, I’ve got the Do Not Disturb sign but it doesn’t work.

Iva Mikles  

Do you guys also draw sometimes together?

Lucas Graciano  

Yeah, yeah, I’ve got her I got her a little painting kit so we’ll go and paint and stuff like that. So I want to I want to get her into it a little bit. She’s very creative and loves to paint so you know, I want to spark that that little you know, get fanning the flames a little bit there but you Um, yeah, we’ll see.

Iva Mikles  

Do you use oils also when you the pain together or is that your go to medium for everything?

Lucas Graciano  

No, I’ll use goulash as well. I heard using watercolor. She’s got a little watercolor kit, I think it’s fairly easy for a kid for now. If she really shows more interested in I’ll definitely introduce her to more mediums. But if we’re out painting together, it’s usually on painting and gloss and she’s painting and watercolor. And do

Iva Mikles  

you have like a favorite brand or one brush or like type of paints you cannot live without.

Lucas Graciano  

I’m pretty versatile, but there’s some that I like more than others. For Mike wash paints it’s almost always a Windsor Newton wash. And then I use the little tiny Robert Simmons brushes. They’re like the the white sable brushes, usually the small round ones. And then some of those carry over into oils as well. I use a lot of those Robert Simmons for the detail stuff. But I recently found one that I really like to call Princeton, I think it is a kind of sewer. And it’s a pure synthetic connoisseur connoisseur. Sorry, I like these. These are nice. But I don’t know, I was using a brand for a long time called Royal Lane nickel, but they had recently, I think they’re gonna stop making them because it was made of mongoose hair. And so they’re not going to make those anymore. And I’m fine with that. So I’m just gonna find something new to work with.

Iva Mikles  

Yeah, always try out different things. And like, oh, actually, I like this. Yeah,

Lucas Graciano  

that’s the thing is you kind of get tunnel vision a little bit sometimes. And I find that branching out and just experimenting a little bit within reason. On a job, I might not experiment too much, you know, because it’s, it can be it can drop you back in your deadline quite a bit. If things aren’t working out. It

Iva Mikles  

doesn’t work. Yeah.

Lucas Graciano  

Yeah. All right.

Iva Mikles  

Do you sometimes sketch your stuff before digitally before you go to full on painting traditional or you don’t do that? Or you do like different sketches with pencil, or how is your art process? Basically,

Lucas Graciano  

my pre pre production process is kind of like, Y’all do a lot of digital work preliminary, mainly, I started doing that because I was traveling a lot. And I needed to get work done on the road. So I could bring my laptop and just work on that. When I can sketch in my sketchbook and it’s, it’s practical, for me, I like to sketch is as traditional as possible. But digital is very nice for preliminary stuff, it’s very easy to cut and paste and send off to the directors while I’m on the road. So I like digital for that sense. But as far as finishing stuff, I try to stay away from digital finishes.

Iva Mikles  

And do you create more different thumbnails before you start a full on painting? And like different compositions and stuff?

Lucas Graciano  

Sure, sure. Yeah, I do most of my, my preliminary work I’ll do anywhere from three to six sketches for one idea. Late lately, what I’ve been doing is because digital is so versatile, I can start with a name and start with a thing and save the image and then start continue with that when we get to shrink the character. Or maybe I move the character here or there. It’s it’s kind of like, you know, beating into submission until it really works for me. So sometimes it works. Sometimes it doesn’t. Sometimes I have to start from scratch and develop a whole new idea. But it is it’s nice to have that that ability, if things are working, use those elements if they’re not take them out and move things around until they are

Iva Mikles  

Yeah, do you have like reference images or like collection of reference images? Or we go for to location to take pictures? Maybe not for dragons, but for other stuff?

Lucas Graciano  

Sure, yeah. I love I use a lot of reference, I think that’s important for the kind of look I want to have in my paintings. I’m just not as my memory is not as good, I can’t memorize those things and paint them it gets better, the more you paint that specific thing like dragons, I’ve done a lot of dragons. And I referenced a lot of creatures like you know, Snapdragon turtles or alligators or bats, you know, the wings. So various different animals that you tried to push together to make something fantastical, believable. So after a while you paint a lot. So if you can kind of wing certain things and make it work. And I maybe do that all too much. Sometimes. I feel like I don’t need reference for that. I’ll just paint it. I know what it was like. And then I’m struggling through it and I go, okay, maybe I should reference it and I go back find the reference. And you know, it’s probably best just to find the reference at the beginning. Yeah.

Iva Mikles  

And do you sometimes go to the zoo as well still to practice or I guess you did more when you’re studying?

Lucas Graciano  

Yeah, probably more when I was studying. I would love to get down there more. It’s just no time to really do to take a day to go do something like that. I think it’s better well spent on Google, Google’s got so many different images and more versatile with what I can find. I go to the zoo is just to have fun and sketch, you know, and just have, you know, animal drawing time.

Iva Mikles  

So how do you schedule maybe your social or networking time, you know, when you work from home, and you work all the time as well. So how do you play that?

Lucas Graciano  

It’s not much, you know, most of my social time is done through teaching. So I go down to the school, and hanging out, you know, I’m able to teach and in between the course and lunchtime or whatever, you know, that’s my social time with other artists. You know, I’ve got a six year old and a family here. So in a career, that’s full time, so it’s, it’s not as good as it should be.

Iva Mikles  

But at least you can go Emily to the zoo. Right. So then there is a social time there.

Lucas Graciano  

That’s true. Yeah, we do have this the family time for sure. Yeah, I think I’m kind of typical, like most typical artists that kind of, basically with themselves a lot and are very antisocial. A lot of times, not everyone, but I’m kind of stereotypical that way.

Iva Mikles  

Yeah, I’m kind of the opposite. That was like, Okay, how do I like working with people? If I’m freelancing, you know?

Lucas Graciano  

Yeah, right. starting a blog like this that you’re doing? I’m sure it’s, it’s an outlet for you. And it’s good.

Iva Mikles  

Yeah, definitely. So we can inspire people. And we can also have a conversation. So let’s

Lucas Graciano  

do one. Excellent.

Iva Mikles  

And then when we talked about the references and inspiration, do you have some also some fun weird thing which inspires you?

Lucas Graciano  

Weird thing that inspires me? Um, I don’t know. I’m not, I guess, lots of weird things, weird creatures and stuff. I’m not I’m not really sure how to answer that one. But yeah, lots of weird creatures and nature. I think I’m mainly inspired by the typical stuff, you know, movies, books, video games. Other artists, obviously, you know, I behind me, I’ve got a couple of artists on the wall that are work that I really admire and use as inspiration. But yeah, that’s about it.

Iva Mikles  

Can you recommend that maybe some one book or more if you want, then maybe why?

Lucas Graciano  

Book. read lots of books. I don’t know if I usually if I recommend a book, it’s it’s that War of Art by Steven Pressfield. That’s a good one. It’s a quick read. It’s about the resistance in our lives that keeps us from being creative. It just, it kind of puts a name on procrastination, it gives like little things in people’s lives that keep them from producing work and procrastinating. That looks a little it’s inspiration. It’s kind of a kick in the butt book. And it’s a quick read really cheap. But that’s what I always like to read. I go back to that one about once every couple years, I’ll go and read it. I read a lot of fantasy books. I like a lot of that stuff that kind of gets my brain and this, you know, other worldly thinking, you know, I love a lot of Brian Sandersons work, he does a lot of high fantasy books. Like he did the Mistborn trilogy that was really good. He finished off the Wheel of Time series, which is a popular series. He’s one of my favorite writers, any book he writes is, if not good, great. So I like him a lot.

Iva Mikles  

Oh, really great. And when you mentioned also the procrastination and these kinds of things, which kind of can stop us sometimes from creating? What was maybe your the most difficult time of your art career? And what did you learn during this time?

Lucas Graciano  

That’s a good question. You know, I think it’s just sometimes you you can rest on your laurels, I found that I found myself resting on my laurels a bit where I felt too comfortable, you know, and I got a little bit lazy about certain things. And I didn’t realize it until later on when I wasn’t getting the high quality work I was normally getting. And I was like, Well, what’s going on here? And I had to step back and reevaluate what I was doing and kind of figure out what’s what is it that is keeping me from getting that the jobs I really want to get and it just to me it came up as is laziness, you know, like things like I was saying what the references Yeah, I don’t need to reference that I’ll just do this. But I find oftentimes, if I put that extra work in the beginning, you get a much better end product. So for me it was maybe resting on my laurels too much and having to reevaluate,

Iva Mikles  

yeah. And on the other node like maybe you will, what are you most excited about now? What are maybe the projects you are looking forward to now or maybe something which is coming up soon?

Lucas Graciano  

Yeah, I don’t have a whole lot coming out, it’s hard for me to look too much into the future because I’m so darn busy. I need to make that time I have, I have a plan, but it’s very broad strokes right now. I want to develop my own IP at some point. But it’s, it’s I’ve got a sketchbook deck dedicated for it, but it’s only a few pages in and it’s been like that for last few years. So I don’t have a whole lot of time, you know, I’m usually too busy with the commission work and with teaching and family. So I’m sure there will be a time in my life where I’ll be able to focus on that and make that a priority. But for now, I like kinda like the way things are going, I’m just gonna write this as long as I can. And, and then hopefully along the side when I can’t, when I get the time. Make plans for after this.

Iva Mikles  

Yeah, definitely. Because also planning the future and maybe something which is, like exciting for you in the, I don’t know, five to 10 years, maybe what would be your like dream scenario, if you cannot fail and just, you know, like, do whatever you want,

Lucas Graciano  

I would probably do develop my own IP, you know, develop my own world and create a, you know, something in the vein of like Game of Thrones or the Witcher series. You know, I love that gritty fantasy. And if I can develop my own new idea for that, I think that’d be ideal. That’s kind of what I’m working on. But like I said, it’s still very in its infancy. So I don’t, I can’t really talk anything about that.

Iva Mikles  

So and how would you start, you’re developing the whole world? Do you start from a character? Or do you go for environment and the place? Or do you start with something else? What is your thinking process?

Lucas Graciano  

You know, I don’t really know, I’m kind of like, I have inspirations. So I sketch them out, and I develop ideas, I write them down. And then I’ll guess I’ve got this like journal in my sketchbook journal that I’ll go back through and read. But right now, it’s, I think it’s mainly just so new. I’m just trying to, I had one instructor who told me what he’ll do is he’ll find his beginning and end, you know, and then fit everything else in between, you know, and then because it’s a lot easier to know where the story is gonna go, or where a character is gonna go to. And then it’s, it’s easier to figure out in between, you know, how does the, what happens between then and there? So if I can get those broad strokes in, I think that’ll help. And then maybe developing a little bit of the, would you call it the properties of the world? Like, what are its rules? You know, and how, how do the characters work within those rules? And but, yeah, it’s

Iva Mikles  

Yeah, can you can you give us maybe some example? Like, what would you recommend? Or maybe what to avoid when you’re creating the world?

Lucas Graciano  

Oh, shoot. I’m not, I’m no expert in this part. So I don’t I don’t know how my advice is gonna go. But I would just say try not to do I mean, cliches is there because it works. But try to stay away from it if you can, because it’s been, you know, a lot of it’s been done, you know, we’ve got the, the elf and the dwarf and the Ranger and, you know, you got to try to develop something new, there’s been so many takes on that it’s just done. So I think it’s just finding a new way to show off that story. And I think that’s what Game of Thrones does. So Well, is it? It takes that genre, but it twists it a bit. You know, it makes its own rules in its world and its own. You know, it’s sure it’s a fantasy about good versus evil. But there’s a lot of gray things going on in the middle. That are what’s interesting about it. I think the big, ultimate evil versus good. Is is a very much a back it’s almost like part of the environment itself. It’s not really a big part of individual stories. Maybe it’s all working up to that point now. But I feel not to be too cliche, I think, I don’t know. But cliche works. I don’t know, maybe it’s just taking the cliche things and put your own twist on it.

Iva Mikles  

So how do you make your maybe dragons special? You know, because if also some people have a certain image of a dragon, and maybe it’s based on one animal so do you combine some random animals maybe which people wouldn’t expect in a dragon or

Lucas Graciano  

possibly see, for me, I don’t find myself as a very strong conceptual designer, I don’t think I’m very good with the concept like creating unique things I feel I can put an image together really well. And I can render well enough but when it comes to being very creative, and I think that’s also part of why my IP is so slow, is because I’m not highly creative. I have skill, but I think the creative part holds me back a little bit. So For me, I worry more about what’s going to make this a compelling image rather than a compelling Dragon, per se. If that makes sense.

Iva Mikles  

I do I have the conversation and yes,

Lucas Graciano  

yeah, my space and make that work.

Iva Mikles  

Oh, really cool. So do you have like, something you do daily, which contributes to your, you know, like progress in art and successful like art career?

Lucas Graciano  

I’m sorry, I didn’t understand the first part of the question

Iva Mikles  

like, daily ritual, maybe meditation, or as you mentioned, that you put stuff in your notebook or these kinds of things.

Lucas Graciano  

I wish I wish I was like that, but I’m just usually, you know, okay, I need to get this sketch done today. Let’s go and sit down and get the sketch done. So in between, you know, getting my daughter ready for school and, and picking her up, I sit in the office or sit in my studio and just get whatever it needs to be done. Whether it’s an oil painting or a sketch. I should be more disciplined about that, for sure. But I’m just right now, it’s just, my brain can only take so much.

Iva Mikles  

Maybe in the future projects, as you said, maybe we’ll call or collaborate with someone on the on the creativity or something like that.

Lucas Graciano  

That could very much be a way I go. Yeah.

Iva Mikles  

So yeah, if you think about, like, really far, far future and what we like to be remembered for? Is there something you would like to share as a key takeaway?

Lucas Graciano  

Yeah, I don’t. I don’t know. I can’t, I can’t think of anything in particular. And I’m hopefully just that I did good work. You know, I was around and it’ll be inspirational. And remember, way down the line. I hope I’m not remembered for the bad stuff that I do. You know, people are looking back going, oh, yeah, he was hit and miss. I’d rather be like, oh, yeah, he did good work. Yeah. I don’t know I that’s a hard one to answer. But,

Iva Mikles  

and maybe last advice or kind of key takeaway, what the starting artists or someone who is just breaking into industry, maybe something from your experience.

Lucas Graciano  

The one advice I usually will give is to find good training, find a good school that’s going to train you find in good fundamentals, look at the student work. And if the student work is good, then you know, the school is going to be good. If you can find a school, that’s good with the foundation, the fundamental stuff, I think that’s always strong, I came from that background, so I can vouch for it, it works. And, you know, be cool, because a lot of times you’re working with people, you have to have a good working relationship. There’s so many artists out there who are so good, but they’re not getting work because they are a nightmare to work with. So you could have less skill, but be very easy to work with. And a very, you know, you get your work done on time to very professional, and still get more work than the person who might be better than you. But is a nightmare to work with. So be cool. Get training and socialize get out there and network, you got to talk to other artists and talk to the directors and get feedback. Take the feedback. Genuinely, you know, try to assuming as constructive criticism. And don’t try to defend your work. So many times when I look over a student’s work there. They constantly are defending their work. It’s like, you want me to look at your work and give you feedback. So you’re gonna get better. Listen, take him out, even if it’s something that maybe you’ve heard before. Just humor me and you were the person that’s definitely in your work. And, you know, try to take into heart what, what, what they’re saying about your work. It’s only going to hopefully make it better.

Iva Mikles  

Yeah, definitely. Because we always need to learn the whole life. Yeah. Yeah, so definitely. And thank you so much again for being here. It

Lucas Graciano  

was so nice. You’re welcome. Thanks for having me. Oh,

Iva Mikles  

thank you. And thanks, everyone who is watching or listening and see you in the next episode. Hey, guys, thank you so much for listening. I really appreciate you being here. You can find all the resources mentioned in this episode at artsideoflife.com. Just type a guest name in the search bar. There is also a couple of free artists resources ready for you on the website as well. So go check it out. If you enjoyed this episode, please subscribe and leave a review on iTunes or Stitcher so I can region inspire more artists like you. If you want to watch the interviews head over to artsideoflife.com/youtube. Continue to inspire each other and I will talk to you guys in the next episode. Bye.

Announcer  

Thanks for listening to the Art Side of Life podcast at www.artsideoflife.com

Support Art Side of Life by supporting our sponsors:

Hi, I am Iva (rhymes with “viva”). I am an artist, illustrator, founder of Art Side of Life®, and Top Teacher on Skillshare. Since 2009 I've worked as an illustrator, character designer, art director, and branding specialist focusing on illustration, storytelling, concepts, and animation. I believe that we are all creative in infinite numbers of ways, so I've made it my mission to teach you everything I know and help either wake up or develop your creative genius. Learn more about me.

Recommended: