1. Usage of art:

1.1. Licensing & commercial use
For global commercial licensing please contact my agent – Lisa Fondo at povart@optimum.net. If you’re interested in licensing something for a smaller project (books, cd covers and similar) or commissions contact me personally.
1.2. Personal online use & tubes
1. You can use my artwork for free – unaltered and with proper credits placed, of course. You may not, however, use it to share as your creations (this means tubes, repaints etc.) or to promote controversial views,

2. ©vinegaria.com or ©Gracjana Zielinska and / or the link to www.vinegaria.com is required on anything of mine that’s used. Clickable link would be nice, but is not necessary,

3. If you wish to use my art for tubes or in signature tags, my official PSP tubes are available at CDO (Creative Design Outlet),

4. In regards to #1, there is no need to inform me about using my art if you’re following the rules, but it’s always welcome if you wish to send me the information,

5. Please save images to your own server, no direct linking to my website.

1.3. Other personal use
Feel free to use my art for your non-profit hobbies: things like your own tattoos, private desktop wallpapers, decoupage, bookmarks and all kinds of decorative fun, as long as you’re not making money out of it (remember that even selling a few decoupage earrings you made is commercial use and you don’t have my permission to sell your works with my art). It’s always a great feeling when I see someone liked my art enough to tattoo it or decorate something with it as a single gift to special someone – I appreciate it a lot. Send me a picture if you can, I’d love to see your creations! :)

2. Commissions, free pictures, art trades & requests:

2.1. Commissions
Please contact me with the details of your project. I’m okay with erotic pictures and nudity but no porn, so don’t ask about that.
2.2. Requests, art trades etc.
I usually don’t do any of those, I just don’t have enough time. But I made some exceptions in the past. If you have a great idea and can convince me I should do it, feel free to contact me.
2.3. Free art for your project
I used to get involved in many great sounding, will-pay-later-when-funded projects. Wasted lots of time. I can get involved in a free project when there is a guarantee it will be finished. It’s always fun to have something cool for my portfolio. But honestly – every time the project was free, it turned out all people backed out at some point. Except me, looking like an idiot, as I have strong work ethics when I agree to do something, even if it’s a free project. I just don’t have enough time to get involved in those anymore. But as usual – if you’re sure you can convince me yours is worth it, try dropping me an e-mail. Just be prepared I’ll probably say no. Especially if you’re a bunch of young programmers trying to do their first rpg game.
2.4. Why tubes aren't free?
I used to allow my art being used in people’s creations for free for many years, as long as it was properly credited. Here are the reasons why I finally agreed to join tubes company:

1. I used to find my art badly altered, with no credits altogether because ‘free to use’ apparently means ‘nobody cares’.

2. My art was treated as free stock art, shared in packages where some of the pieces were already “improved” and some weren’t even mine because ‘free to use’ meant ‘why bother checking’.

3. I have no time to keep contacting people doing that, asking them to remove the pieces or add proper credits. And when I did – people kept ignoring me anyway.

I went pay-to-use just because it ended those problems. It really did. I really don’t mind people using my art for free for their strictly personal projects, credited and unaltered. I even allow some people to use it for their commercial projects for free, when they are just starting out and it can help them a lot (like when they want to use some of my personal works for a book cover or illustrations inside it). You can see it in my TOU, and it’s not going to change. I made sure it’s written in my contract, the tube company have the rights to sell my art for tubes only, they can’t forbid using it for other personal projects.

3. Art techniques, tips & advice:

3.1. Media I use
Traditional: Mechanical pencils – I start almost every work with those, even when I scan it and paint on it later. I don’t care about brand, I just use cheapest ones found. I also love ink, colored pencils and markes, I used to work a lot in acrylics, dry pastels and oils, but don’t recently have time and space for that. Brands: for colored pencils Faber Castell Polychromos are fantastic, also – Bruynzeel Aquarel, markers: Letraset ProMarkers.

Digital: For painting I use mostly Adobe Photoshop, sometimes Corel Painter, PaintTool Sai and CLIP Studio (the last three mostly for sketches or getting sharp, fine lines). I also use Adobe Illustrator, InDesign and rarely SketchUp for my other digital work (which is not only painting, but also design). I also use Procreate app (iPad Pro with Apple Pencil).

3.2. Tablets
I use Wacom tablets only. I tried other brands before, but honestly Wacom is just above anything else. Currently I use mainly Intuos Pro, A6 size (the smallest one), but I also have Intuos 3 A5 (medium), which was my main device for many years. Many people prefer a bigger workspace, but I found out I’m not even using whole A5 board, so A6 is more handy for me and it also suits my workflow (and workspace) better. I worked at A3 size once and it was a nightmare.

As for tablet advice: get a Wacom. Even the cheapest one (and those come at really low, affordable prices) will still be a great tool. I worked on Graphire 3, considered cheap, and Intuos (series 3 & 4), considered professional, and honestly the difference wasn’t that big. It certainly won’t affect your art quality. As for tablet’s size: it depends on everyone’s personal preferences, but I’d say – if you doodle in A5 sketchbooks you’ll be fine even with A6 size. If you’re painting traditionally only on big formats – then you can give A4 or even A3 a try, although to be honest, I think A5 will be enough for you too. They really are very sensitive to even the smallest pen movement.

3.3. Tutorials
There is a tutorials section here, where I share some tips, work in progress shots etc. You can also find my tutorials in magazines, including Corel Painter’s Official Magazine, 2D Artist Magazine and .PSD Magazine. As for tutorials other than mine – I often browse DeviantArt’s tutorials category and ImagineFX’s walkthroughs to see what’s new. Can’t say I learned much from most, but it surely helps just watching how other people paint. As for video tutorials – those don’t work for me, I just never have the patience to watch them, but I know it’s many people’s favourite medium to learn from. I prefer pictures and books.
3.4. Digital painting & brushes
There are no “official rules” when it comes to digital painting, but I can say what works for me and what doesn’t. In Photoshop I paint almost everything with standard Hard Round Brush (smoothed), Stipple Brush (under Natural Brushes, for details, it simulates brush strokes well) and also Chalk Brush (blocking colours with texture, found as Soft Oil Pastel under Dry Media Brushes). I check Shape Dynamics and Other Dynamics in Brush’s settings, so it works better with a tablet. Sometimes I also use textured brushes, which I usually make myself, for fun, forgetting to save most of them for later. I like experimenting, but I have one set of brushes that I use in general and it’s small – just those basic ones mentioned and few textured ones I like, no more than 10. Still, I tend to use only those standard ones, shipped with Photoshop. I also paint mostly at almost max. opacity and flow, picking colours with Alt button from everywhere around.

In Corel Painter I like to experiment, but in general my favourites are Scratchboard Tool / Fine Point (Pens), Palette Knives, Oils, Tinting, Captured Bristle (Acrylics) and Grainy Water (Blenders). I paint on a Wacom Tablet, just using the brushes like I’d use traditional ones. Or so I think :)

As for what I never do. In Photoshop I never use any fancy, standard brushes (like the famous leaves brush) – they give too “computery” results, but that’s just my opinion. I also never use Smudge and Blur Tools for general blending, as well as Dodge & Burn for colouring. For the same reason. It just screams “Photoshop” from far away, and it’s not a compliment. Although I use all those tools for little details – softening edges of hair, highlighting a piece of jewelery, that kind of stuff. As for why Dodge & Burn tools are bad for shading colours – they only make them darker or lighter. Let’s say you draw a red ball on a blue table, highlighted by a lamp. You’d need to add some dark blue for shadows, purple, probably some warm beige for lights and maybe even very bright green for extra highlights, and dark brown to shade the shape of the ball itself. All colours interact with each other. Even if you colour cartoon drawings – it still matters. When shading with Dodge & Burn the only colours you’re “using” are white and black. The worst ones to shade anything with, as they do not work like that in real world.

3.5. How to improve & start an art career
Here comes this boring part where I tell you that practice matters most. But really, it does. And you asked. As obvious as it has to be, here is a summary of few things I listed some time ago, that I think are necessary. Or that were necessary to me at least. Not for people who want to just keep drawing fanarts.

1. Sketch a lot, things based on real life. And paint whatever comes to your mind. Carry a sketchbook everywhere.

2. Try different media and varied things. If you’ll paint only manga girls in pencils, this is the only thing you’ll ever be good with. With more variety you’ll develop your own style and method of painting sooner, you’ll just have more experience and confidence in what you really like.

3. Collect inspirations & learn from them. Save interesting art and tutorials on your disk to browse it later, print some, buy artbooks. Money is no excuse (oh, how I hate this one!). Awesome resources are online and free, and if you really care about art you can save up for an artbook if you manage to save up for a cinema or coffee once in a while.

4. Learn to appreciate critique and to see what you draw. That takes some time. At first I thought I’m as good as the best ones out there, until I started to really see what I’m doing wrong. After that I quickly made a progress. You have to learn to see your mistakes and be your own harsh critic, otherwise you won’t improve. And yes, that means ‘practice’, again. It also means you’re never going to be fully satisfied with your work, but that actually is a good thing.

5. Don’t cheat, be original. It really is pointless to draw on other people’s work (art, photos) or to draw fanarts only. That means you’re not using your own imagination at all and, believe me, people will see it. That especially means overpainting or getting ‘inspired’ a bit too much.

6. Make a varied portfolio. Have some artworks on major art portals. Even if you want to specialize in one thing, it’s always good to show you’re capable of much more. And you are.

7. Be nice, be polite, but be assertive. Don’t pity yourself, don’t be a drama queen. Nobody appreciates that. Respect yourself, promote your best pieces and just work on your flaws.

8. Be prepared to work hard. I can honestly say that people who made it big are not the most talented ones, but those who worked hardest to improve. Just check oldest works of your favourite artists to see what I mean. There are always those few gifted in an unbelievable way, but they are not the majority of succesful artists.

9. Remember to take a brake once in a while. It’s easy to burn out quickly if you paint non stop. Let your mind focus on something else for a moment.

3.6. Can you give me some advice about my art?
Sure, I like helping people. Just be prepared that there are few strings attached.

1. It can take me a while to get back to you, but I eventually will. I’m usually pretty busy (who isn’t?).

2. I won’t answer rude e-mails from people demanding magical tricks (“I know you use some tricks, don’t tell me to practice, just tell me which filter does it“) and also people “wRit1ng liek Th15” (argh!). True stories.

3. If you want my advice and critique then be prepared to hear some negative comments about your work. I’m not your Mom or Aunt to tell you your work is the best out there, as most probably it still isn’t. I try to be honest and always tell people, when they want to know, what’s wrong and what looks good. Believe me I’m more harsh towards myself than other people anyway.

3.7. References, textures & patterns
References. Unless you’re an amazingly gifted creature from an outer space, you will need some references at one point. I never met a person who memorized whole human anatomy at every angle, so everyone uses some sort of a reference. The trick is to use it just as a reference, not mindlessly copy the whole thing. Google what you need and treat it as a guideline, use stock accounts on DeviantArt to study some poses, but try not to use those in your work directly. I always look up angles I’m not sure about (hands, body in perspective), but end up doing something of my own anyway. Unless I just stick to studying my own hands in mirror, which is always the quickest solution.

Patterns & textures: I try to use my own resources. Everywhere I go I take photos (even crappy, mobile ones) of interesting textures and patterns and later adjust or re-paint them. Quite often I just paint them from scratch (especially laces and small foliage). My goal is to have a self-sufficient database one day, but I know it’s impossible, I’m always looking for new things and it’s fun. I try to avoid using other people’s resources, but in case I don’t have anything suitable, I usually go to CG Textures. I share some of my own here, on my website.

4. Background, art education & influences:

4.1. Art education & art schools
I will always say that art education (and by that I mean art universities) is a fun option, but not necessary. The only really useful art course, that I can think of, is perspective / architecture, because that actually teaches you something that is hard to master on your own and trains both your hand and eye when it comes to proportions and scale. Everything else you can just learn yourself. If anyone tries to teach you about “feeling emotions”, “expressing yourself in paint”, “looking deep under the surface” and such – run away. Or, hell, maybe you need it, but I’d run away, as it’s just a waste of time.

I like to call myself a self-taught amateur, but this is not entirely true anymore. Thanks to that I can babble about it from two different angles! :) I actually got my first Master’s Degree in History of Art. Hence my a bit cynical attitude when it comes to talking about art, I guess. After studying it for a while I thought art is actually fun and, because I doodled all my life, I decided to give it a more serious approach. Back in 2003 I started to work really hard on my skills. After a year I got my first commercial commission and started doing more of those. Then, with a bunch of art friends, we decided to actually get a Master’s Degree in art, even though we already worked in the industry (mostly advertising, though). And so we did, I got my second M.A. – this time in Art – in 2010, already working full-time as an artist since 2008. Although I actually studied Graphic Design specialization at the Fine Arts Academy, so they didn’t teach me about drawing (except obligatory classes where we just drew models and still lifes with no real feedback or learning), it was more about layouts, design and logotypes. Still useful, though. Problem with local art universities here is that they don’t teach any foundations, and honestly it’s the foundations we should be focusing on, the rest comes with practice. If your school has a great foundation course – I’d consider that.

I have to admit I went there more for fun, than really expecting to learn a lot. Was I mistaken? Well, no. After graduating I’m as clueless about drawing, perspective and colours as I was before, and my skills are only those self-taught, even though I graduated with honours (meaning: I didn’t have to try too hard, even though at first I thought I won’t even pass entrance exams). Was it worth it? Yes. The experience of having to work with others on the same topic and comparing your interpretations, meeting experienced professors – that’s priceless, if you can afford it (public universities here are free, but hard to get into, but I know they’re pricey in many countries). As for things I’d like to improve in, like colours and perspective, I just ordered some books on the topic and work on it, as usual, on my own. In January 2016 I took my own advice and started a perspective class at CGMA with Mr. Robert St. Pierre. Learnt much more there in just few weeks than I ever did, thanks to the class environment and the teacher. So I’d say – art school: not really, art courses – go for it. The benefit of those is you can focus on your flaws and choose the exact topic you want to master. Also – you’re not there for grades, so (in my experience) people work harder, as the only benefit for you is actually what you’ll manage to learn.

On a side note I still think everyone should get some kind of a proper education before deciding to focus on art only (yes, I mean it). But I also believe people should have brains and not spend their days talking about how “current cliche art movement is deep and only real artists can understand it”. If I had to say which of my studies were more useful – Fine Arts or History of Art – I’d definitely choose the latter. It gave me lots of knowledge, inspiration and required to think more, which is always useful. As I said – at my art studies I didn’t learn anything that wouldn’t be possible to learn on my own.

4.2. How did I learn to draw?
Mostly be being stubborn. And practice (you saw that coming, right?). I know some people always expect more. I guess to them there always has to be some kind of a magic trick involved (I get the same feeling about people who are great at physics and chemistry). I wish I knew it, as I’m not really happy with where I am yet, when it comes to my art ;) But anyway, as cliché as it is, I doodled all my life. I’m pretty much sure every other artist would say the same (if not the majority of humanity). I always created my own worlds, characters, events and even when not treating drawing seriously, it still helped me to breathe some life into my ideas. Once in a while, usually when bored, I did try to draw something from real life and it turned out very good to everyone’s surprise (me included). But I sucked at drawing X-Men, and that was my biggest ambition at one point (okay, I was 10). As mentioned before, I started to seriously work on my skills around 2003. I always liked drawing, that was my major activity, I just never considered it before as a serious option and I sticked to doodling mostly my own characters. Except studying Caravaggio’s art a lot, when I had a crush on him at high school. Yes, him, not just his art. Yes, I know he died in 1610. Didn’t matter. I felt we’re somehow involved (long gone, but I still love his art, it’s hard not to). Okay. That was offtopic. Anyway. I wasted few years trying to draw only manga, so I can say from my own experience how much it slows down any progress. When I came back to more realistic approach I made a bigger progress in one year than I did in last few. I still say it was one of my biggest mistakes that I focused on that for so long. I can draw manga much better right now (not that I want to), after getting some proper skills in drawing in general.

When it comes to learning how to draw – I never really learned. It’s not that there haven’t been teachers around ready to give advice, I just never listened, as they didn’t paint themselves (at my schools ‘art teacher’ was usually a job taken by every teacher that just had a gap hole in his lessons plan, and their advice was like “make it look more happy”). At my art university I was already ok with general proportions and technique (traditional, they didn’t give a damn about digital painting, considered it “cheating”), so my teachers tried to convince me to paint in the style they preferred (like ‘more painterly’ or ‘just use 3 colours, don’t mix them’ or ‘try to stylize rather than draw real portraits’ or ‘focus on realism, don’t stylize anything’ etc.) – so I never treated that seriously, as they didn’t try to improve anything, but shape my works in their own, varied images, often contradictory to each other.

4.3. Influences and favourite artists
Being a historian of art I like and respect more artists than it would be proper to mention here :) I’m mostly interested in so called ‘Golden Age of Illustration’ (XIXth and early XXth Century book art), Art Nouveau, Art Deco and many movements of XIXth Century (except Impressionism, I hate it), they were a big part of my diploma (which was about evolution of illustration). I love Symbolism & Arts and Crafts movements most, but I also adore many works by academic and Realism masters. Still there are some influences that were stronger for me than other. As a kid I grew up mostly on Jan Marcin Szancer’s storybook illustrations for children. He was a Polish artist, worth checking out if you never heard of him. Alphonse Mucha’s reproduction was the first picture I ever got (when I was 5) and my first crush on a single artist’s style. Second one was Caravaggio and also Picasso’s Rose and Blue Periods.

Right now my most favourite artists are Symbolists, Surrealists and XIX/XXth Century illustrators, especially: George Barbier, Aubrey Beardsley, René Magritte, Odilon Redon, Gustave Moreau, Fernand Khnopff, Virginia F. Sterret, Józef Mehoffer, Alphonse Mucha, Edward Okuń, Stanisław Wyspiański, Paul Delvaux, Edmund Dulac and Arthur Rackham. I could just go on and on with the list, but let’s stop here. I mentioned quite a few Polish artists on purpose, I feel they deserve much more worldwide attention than they have, so do check them if you never heard of them.

As for contemporary artists – I adore and get inspired by many. The best way to know what influences me is checking my DA favourites. This is my constant source of inspiration.

4.4. So, what inspires you?
I hate this question. And it’s the most common I get. As you can imagine – everything. Except for Impressionism, rap music and rugby, perhaps. So in general everything that doesn’t bore me to death. See the question above for specific artists that I adore, but that of course doesn’t mean I get inspired by their art only.

5. Various questions I get:

5.1. Other activities and plans
I always have so many ideas of what I want to do – 24 hours is never enough. I hate being bored and doing nothing. Except my art plans (including my own artbooks and graphic novels) I have various game ideas and I even plan to finally finish and record my songs one day. I don’t consider myself very good at this, but I have some music education, play piano and guitar (quite crap at the latter), write my own music since I was 16, so I always wanted to focus on that a bit more. I also need to find more time for sculpting & miniatures (dolls and interiors) and hand crafts, like jewellery and decorative works. Those things relax me. I also like to experiment with food.
5.2. Can't you draw something else than what is in your portfolio?
Sure I can. My commercial works include different styles, themes, lots of graphic design and posters. Feel free to commission me. As for my portfolio – I won’t switch to drawing sunny pictures of horses and fairies with wings, if that’s your thing. It’s not mine. Yes, I had quite a few requests like that, for real.
5.3. Hey, your picture looks totally like (insert random person here)?
I actually don’t get too many of those, but when I do, it irks me a lot. It’s always absurd, usually people assume my characters just have to be portraits of actors, singers, their friends or even themselves. Even though I never saw them and the resemblance of the celebrity is only in this that they both have, I don’t know, hair on their heads. I love inventing new faces, I never saw a reason to base the appearance of my characters on real people. Not to mention there aren’t too many celebrities that I adore, I just find most of them boring. If I do paint somebody’s portrait I always state it clearly.
5.4. Your english mistakes?
English is not my native language and I’m aware I’m not great at it. I learnt it mostly while living for a short while in London, UK. And it wasn’t always perfect, as people I hanged out with were from various parts of the world. I’m a grammar nazi when it comes to Polish grammar and spelling, and it irritates me a lot if somebody’s doing it in English too. I can’t avoid some mistakes, but at least I always try to make sure what I write is understandable, and use spellchecker often to make sure I didn’t leave any stupid typos in the text. I can’t understand why some people can’t take some time to check what they write before they click “post” button, especially native English speaking teenagers. I tend to ignore comments written like that, seeing no point in deciphering it anyway. If I try to sound understandable and usually manage, even though it’s not my first language, so should you.
5.5. Are you goth (or any other subculture)?
I’m too old for that. No, really, this stuff is for teenagers, if your way of being “unique” means trying to fit into a group following yet another stereotype. It always makes me smile when I see goth / emo teenagers saying how they want to “express their originality”, while in fact they put themselves in yet another uniform. That said, I do like and collect real corsets and I happen to go to some goth parties just to dress up once in a while and have fun dancing. Less often than I used to, but sometimes it’s still fun. In everyday life I prefer more colours and patterns in my clothes and things more comfortable than platform pvc shoes. But I’m a rocker at heart, so don’t expect me dressed in pink & beige, listening to some soft ballads. Not my kind of thing.
5.6. Why 'vinegar' and 'vinegaria'?
When I lived in London for a while, I wanted to start my own rock band. And, yes, I was a teenager back then. I was looking for a name for it and had no ideas better than ‘Sugarfree’ which is usually a name already taken by some band in almost every country. Sitting at a pub in Greenwich one day, and doodling as usual, I was looking for random names, and there was a bottle of vinegar there, on my table. And it somehow stayed. Back then (1999?) Internet was a pretty new thing and this nickname was usually free on most websites and so I started using it for myself. I also love the taste of balsamic vinegar, but it had nothing to do with it, I just thought it sounds cool. I don’t think so anymore, but I never had anything smarter to go with. Vinegaria – because I was looking for a domain name for my website (‘vinegar’ was obviously taken), and I merged ‘vinegar’ and ‘varia’. Perhaps not the best name, but at least quite short and usually not taken online.
5.7. Favourite books, music, films?
I could name billions. But in general – I read too much, often not sleeping enough because of it. Academic books and silly fantasy novels as well, anything that I find interesting and my interests are varied. I’m not too fond of watching films in general, I prefer to talk to people rather than waste time sitting straight for almost 2 hours. But I enjoy it once in a while, if there’s something interesting in cinemas. I think my favourite movie of all time would be 1972′s Cabaret. Also - Velvet GoldmineSLC Punk! and a few other classics. And, as you can imagine, most of Tim Burton’s movies. I just love things that try to create their own worlds. That’s also relevant to music in my case – I look for deep sounds, low tunes, pronounced bass but mostly intense mood. I like lots of different genres (from Bach’s harpsichord concerts, rockabilly, hard rock, folk to electroclash), but they always seem intense and colourful to me in some way.
5.8. Are you a gamer or a fellow nerd?
YES. I’m a huge Star Trek Voyager fan. And I’m also pretty nerdy when it comes to a few other things. I’m a picky gamer, although I’ve been playing games since my Dad got ZX Spectrum in the Ancient Ages called the 80′s. Some of my favourites are: Vampire: The Masquerade – Bloodlines, Fallout 2, Fallout New Vegas, Harebrained’s Shadowrun series, Kyrandia: Hand of Fate, Loom, Trine, The Blackwell series, various building strategies.. and many other :)

6. Your other questions:

If there’s anything else you’d like to know please send me an e-mail. I won’t reply to the questions already answered above, though.