Aaron Rutten

Being an artist was my purpose in life and nothing was going to stand in the way of that

Aaron Rutten's artwork

What inspired you to become an artist?

Like many children, I wanted to be like my parents. My father is an accomplished artist and his work inspired me to take up drawing as a young child. I owe it to my parents who nurtured my interest in art and facilitated my creativity.

Can you tell us about some of the projects you’re working on right now?

Are you sure you want to open that can of worms? I'm currently creating 5 videos per week for my YouTube channel, producing digital art training courses every month or two, creating content for the folks who support my work at www.patreon.com/aaronrutten, filming outdoor paintings, hosting semi-weekly live streams, and working on various graphic design projects.

What has been your favorite project to be a part of? Why?

I'm nearing completion of a 150-page publication I'm illustrating on behalf of the University of British Columbia and the Canadian Government. The purpose of this publication is to help identify and treat Bangladeshi children who have been born with clubfoot, a debilitating condition that leads to a life of disability. In a country where many children go untreated, the goal of this publication is to greatly improve the outcomes for children and families who are at a socio-economic disadvantage. Believe it or not, I've been working on this project for nearly four years and I have created hundreds, if not thousands, of drawings for it.

In addition to contributing illustrations, I'm also designing the layout, creating supplemental charts and visual aids, as well as providing consultation for the project. It's by far the longest and most labor-intensive project I have ever worked on.

I'll be the first to admit that it's been a difficult project, but even if this publication only helps one child, it's worth the effort. In reality, the impact of this publication will span decades and have an affect on people in an area of the world that is inaccessible to me through YouTube or the Internet. In addition to its release in Bangladesh, this publication will also be translated into many other languages and distributed worldwide to facilitate the treatment of clubfoot in countries across the globe. With all of the conflict, pain and suffering in this world, my involvement with this publication feels like something positive I can contribute as an artist to help make life better for everyone, especially those who are at a disadvantage. I feel fortunate to be a part of something so meaningful.

Aaron Rutten's artwork

What does a typical day look like for you?

It varies quite a bit, but here's a snapshot of a typical work day. In the morning, I check my email, reply to comments and perform other social media-related tasks. Even though it's often disconcerting to see what is happening around the world, I take a short break to watch Independent news because I feel it's beneficial to be aware of what's going on outside of my own little bubble. I might also watch a couple of YouTube videos to stay current with what's going on in the YouTube community. In the afternoon, I tackle current projects or try to eliminate tasks from my to-do list. After that, a lunch break and then back to work. Since evenings are bit quieter, I'll occasionally record a video or make an illustration after dinner.

How does Painter help you in the development and creation of your artwork?

When an artist can work comfortably, they can devote nearly all of their focus toward perfecting their art and expressing their vision in the most effective way possible. That's why it's important to find the tools that work best for you. To accomplish that, you have to experiment with various software and media until you find something that best suits your needs.

For me, that medium is digital and that software is Corel Painter. I could, and have, gone into vast detail about what sets Painter apart from other art software, but when it comes down to it, Painter provides the tools I expect and results I want. Blenders that blend paint, thick paint that breaks on the canvas and custom brushes that can do nearly anything. And I want it all in an interface that doesn't inhibit my creativity by being overly simplified or unnecessarily complicated. Painter has everything I want and more—and it just keeps getting better, which is why it's my go-to software for digital painting.

What’s your favorite Painter tool/feature? Why?

Thick Paint is a game-changer. The way it builds up, scrapes away and breaks on the canvas make it feel like you are really painting with colored goop rather than pushing around pixels. Thick Paint is expressive, organic-looking and versatile. It really adds a lot of value to my digital painting repertoire. I don't know how I ever painted without it.

Do you work full time as an artist? Were there any challenges involved with this?

Yes. I'm quite fortunate that I'm able to make a living as a full-time artist. And, yes, it was quite challenging to go from having a day job to working for myself. I'll spare you the details, but in my 20's life threw out some challenges and I nearly gave up on my lifelong dream of being a full-time artist. I spent a few years working a “real job”, but I couldn't ignore where my heart was. I became convinced that being an artist was my purpose in life and nothing was going to stand in the way of that. So I took on part-time illustration and graphic design work that eventually allowed me to transition out of having a day job.

Was it easy? No. Being a starving artist is not all fun and games. It didn't happen overnight, but eventually, the hard work paid off and now I can afford to make art all day, eat and pay my bills. If I can do it, anyone can. It just takes perseverance.

Aaron Rutten's artwork

What advice would you give to up-and-coming artists?

First, with success and fame come new and unforeseen challenges. Be prepared for big changes and be ready to adapt.

My second piece of advice is to avoid overconfidence. We live at a time where technology is evolving at a rapid pace, so you have to keep refining your talent if you want to stay competitive in the long-term. Practice constantly, learn new skills, be open to embracing new technology. But do not get comfortable.

And lastly, diversify your income a bit because it's foolish for someone who is self-employed to rely solely on a single source of revenue. You wouldn't believe how many different ways you can generate passive income from your creative skills without a lot of effort.

What hardware helps you get the job done? What system and peripherals? The specific type of Mac/PC and Wacom tablet, etc.

In my home office, I use a Wacom Cintiq 27QHD Touch tablet connected to a custom-built Windows 10 system that is powered by an Intel i7 6800k processor and NVidia GTX 1080 video card. I'd also like to give a shout-out to my trusty Logitech Marble Mouse, which is the only mouse I like. If Logitech ever quit manufacturing these, I'd probably have to hoard them.

Do you use Painter and any other software together, and, if so, what do you like about that process?

I'm of the philosophy that one should use the right tool for the job. Painter is a wonderful painting application and it works well for that purpose. However, there can be steps in my creative process that I'm just more comfortable executing in an application like Photoshop for example. Because I'm able to save my work as a cross-compatible PSD file format, I can easily work between Painter and other applications utilizing the strengths of each application to optimize my workflow. Typically, I'll get my painting nearly complete in Painter and then bring it into Photoshop to add some effects or adjust the color. Then, I'll return to Painter to add the finishing touches.

To learn more about Aaron visit: http://www.aaronrutten.com/.