Drawing Challenges. It's what the cool artists do nowadays. And I don’t want to be behind the times… so I’d better jump on the bandwagon, right?
In all seriousness though, for awhile now I’ve wanted to complete a challenge of my own, but I wasn’t quite sure what I wanted to work on and what I would be interested in enough to stick with. The month themes, like March of Robots, MerMay, Junicorn/June Bug etc. are cool, or ongoing ones like Color Collective or Animal Alphabets are fun. But...I’m not all that into Robots, Mermaids, Unicorns, or Bugs… or any of the others I’ve seen. And “draw everyday” is a nice goal as far as it goes, but more vague than I wanted.
Another thing that I’ve been thinking about lately is my upcoming Drawing Fundamentals class, which will be offered through the Schenectady Community College’s continuing education program. Obviously I know the material, but, well… I haven’t really done it much recently. Draw from reference, that is. I’ve focused a LOT more on drawing from imagination lately (another class I’d like to teach… anyone interested?) so my observational drawing skills, while still there, are...a bit rusty, to be honest.
Last night, I wasn’t sure what to draw. I did a quick doodle of me and my kids, but felt like something was missing. So I pulled up a photo of each of them to draw from.
It felt SO GOOD. It was what I didn’t know I had been missing.
I’ve decided I want to get back to the source. Drawing from imagination is great, but it only works well when you have a foundation of drawing from observation. So that will be my personal drawing, for myself… and anyone else who wants to join in!
I’m calling it the Draw What You See challenge, or #drawwhatyouseechallenge… maybe #dwysc if I get lazy typing with my thumbs. (Ok, so it’s not clever or catchy like the monthly themes I mentioned above. I’m over it.)
How does it work?
Well, first off, you can participate if you want! In fact, please do! I’ll definitely enjoy having company for this challenge (though I am committed to completing it alone if nobody is interested.) Drawing is a skill that comes with practice, practice, practice, and this is a great way to do it! To make it “official”, I’ll say that in order to count it for this challenge you must:
I will be doing 50 drawings before the end of September 2018.
That means I’ll want to do around three a week--I think this is a do-able goal with two kids, while still pushing me a bit, and even maybe-possibly-hopefully leaving time to work on my from-imagination illustrations as well. Though ultimately, I think that this will help me do those better as well, even if I don’t have time for them during the time I complete this challenge.
But what will I be drawing?
Well, this is where you can help.
I fully expect that MOST of these drawings will be of my kids, because they are completely darling and, really, why waste that? And there are a few cool things around my house/yard I’d love to get a closer look at, and I might be able to convince my husband to sit still for awhile…
But, as they say, variety is the spice of life. I’d love to have a few other photos to choose from.
If you want me to consider drawing your photo, post it to Instagram or Facebook and tag me in the caption. Use the hashtag #drawthissarahluann to be double-sure you’ve got my attention and make it clear that you are posting it for this challenge. Then, I’ll see it and maybe draw it.
I did say maybe.
Since this is a personal challenge and not a commission, I’m not going to guarantee that I’ll draw every photo I’m tagged in. If the photo doesn’t work for me some reason (or if I get way more submitted than I’m anticipating), I’m just going to pass.
I’ll be more likely to choose your photo if:
-Its a candid shot
-it features a person (or pet--I'm less interested in landscapes/still lifes)
-it is in indirect natural light
-it just has that “something cool” in it that’s hard to put into words.
Also, don’t tag me in photos you didn’t take--specifically, not photos of you taken by a pro photographer. They took the photos and own the copyrights to them, while you own the photos you take.
If I choose your photo--thanks! You are awesome! Your support means a lot. You aren’t obligated to do anything. If you like my drawn version, you can share it on social media if you want, but that isn't required. If you do just make sure to credit and tag me as the artist. IF you would like to purchase the drawing, we can talk about it. But no money, or drawing, is owed to anyone either way.
How does that sound? Anyone joining me? Do you have any cool photos for me to draw?
Lets do this.
After my last post showing some of my old (somewhat embarassing) work, I now want to show a new piece I've been working on. After filling up my last sketchbook with a bunch of experimental stuff (see my Instagram feed) I had a bunch of thoughts on how to change/improve my process. I decided to try it with one of the fun, simple sketches I did in the sketchbook first. Here is what happened:
I started with my original sketch, but drew over it to improve a few things--I wanted my character to be younger, I fixed some of the anatomy, and I wanted the stack of books bigger and to have a more interesting overall shape with a bit more movement. Then, I went into my normal cut-out technique... almost. This time instead of focusing on the linework and colors, I instead started with a silhouette and then whittled away at that to get some defining lines and a couple colors. Basically, I'm using the same process as before, but with more of an emphasis on value and silhouette rather than line and color. Its probably a distinction only I really see, but it feels like a much more natural and intuitive way for me to work and I'm excited to do some new work in this style.
Next up... remember the Alice in Wonderland piece in the last post? Well, I'm going to do an updated version. I've always loved seeing an artist coming back to a subject/image they did years previously and then re-interpreting it with their current style and skill level. Its my turn!
Recently, I've been trying to get my office organized, and at the same time, my computer files. I have a lot of old work saved on this computer! I thought it would be fun (mostly for me, but maybe for someone else too?) to look back at some work I did in school--see whats good about it, and the many things bad about it. Because, lets face it, I have a lot of bad drawings in my past. But I'll be honest: I'm gonna hide the really REALLY bad ones, and post the almost goodish ones here. Because I do have some pride.
Since these are scattered in various places on my computer, these are in no particular order, chronological or otherwise. I'm just loading these in and typing up my thoughts about them as I come across each one.
A Sensational Team
I thought I'd lost this file! Well, I have no idea where the original PSD file is, this is just a JPEG, but still--here it is!
This is a fanart piece for the book Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein. If you like good books, and strong female friendships, and also crying, go read it.
This was created in the summer of 2012, just after spending 18 months on a mission, so I was trying to get back into my digital art groove. I still didn't have my own computer or tablet at that point, so this was done on my roommates lap top. I took photos of myself using the photobooth app, used Photoshop to assemble them, and then used the little finger pad mouse thingy to paint over my assembled photo. So yeah, the characters look really similar--they're both me. Some parts of it work really well, and lets be honest, some are really really clunky/poorly drawn. But it was a great project that got me back into digital art. And it captured the book moment and characters well enough that the author not only liked the image, but she has it hanging in her office. So yeah, though its far from perfect there are things to be proud of here.
"Ten gold cups, for my sake?"
This is a poorly photographed oil painting, but you can see it well enough. And this second bit of found old art is.... another fanart piece. What can I say, I like good books.
If you haven't read The King of Attolia by Megan Whalen Turner you are SERIOUSLY missing out. But before reading it you should read The Thief and The Queen of Attolia, which are also excellent. And then after KoA there's A Conspiracy of Kings and Thick as Thieves. So basically there is a lot of awesomeness in your future. You're welcome.
Coming back to this, I'm surprised that I actually painted BLOOD. Though this is one of my favorite scenes in the entire series, so it makes sense that I would choose it, it also happens to be a scene that includes... blood. Eurgh.
I remember that this was for one of my Beginning Oil Painting class assignments, but I don't remember exactly what the assignment was. I remember that I did one of the other assignments based on Sherlock Holmes (I actually still have THAT painting... maybe I have a photo of that somewhere too!) at the end of the class the teacher commented that I always found a way to make the assignments exciting for ME. Fanart is fun, OK?
This was for my Narrative Illustration class. We all had to read Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and illustrate it in our own style. I very deliberately based my compositions on the golden section, which was a fun exercise, and generally did give me a pleasing layout. In college, where I was of course an adult (well, mostly ;-) and was surrounded by adults, I didn't have many kids to look at and draw, which definitely shows here. I really want to do an updated version of Alice falling down the rabbit hole in my current style, and make her actually look like a little girl. I love it when I see artists revisit an old image and re-do it in their current style.
Ooh, I remember this one. This was an entirely self-initiated image. I found this photo of a baby deer all curled up, and loved the simple shape of it and wanted to try simplifying it even more. Recently at work I had done a series of images using this texture and really liked the result, so wanted to experiment with it more. Speaking of...
Geog 250 Splash Package
This is one of the early projects I did at Independent Study. you can see I did a sort of collage using textured images, and it turned out pretty cool. At the time they wanted the banners to "bleed" off the top and lefthand sides, and then have them "fade" to the right and bottom without having a hard line or corner on that side, thus the unusual design of these landscapes.But even before I did this one, there was...
Japan 53 Splash Package
My very first assignment at Independent Study! So this would have been done around... 2009 or 2010 ish? I think? Anyway, I looked at dozens of woodblock prints when I did this assignment. I kind of cringe looking at it now, but it was a fun start.
After finishing this assignment, I had a couple more relating to it.
For some reason, some of the Japanese characters were "outlined" in these and therefore are still on the images, while others were not and therefore disappeared, since I don't have the Japanese font on my computer. Hmm. Anyway, these images were for the lesson about Japanese food. Maybe you can tell I was feeling a bit more confident in Illustrator at this point.
Ok, I'm having a lot of fun, but this will be my last one for now.
My three little pigs illustrations. Oh dear. Of course I basically just drew the same pig three times, but put different clothes on him to be different characters. The idea here was that each of the artists at independent study were asked to illustrate a different story (Cinderella, Thumbelina, Noah's Ark...) and that each different language course could use the same illustrations--the story could be translated into each language, and the pictures would help the students with context clues and such. I don't know if that actually happened or not, but it was fun to actually illustrate a story for once. Badly, but yanno... baby steps.
Anyway. There is still TONS of old art hanging out in various files on my computer, but I'll stop posting them for now. It's been really fun for me to go back through this stuff.
What do you think? Are you surprised that these images were created by the same person as the ones in my current portfolio, or do you see some commonalities with my current work? I'd love to hear your thoughts!
You guys, I made a thing! A short comic, that is. And the campaign to fund it on Kickstarter opens TODAY!
Take a look:
SERVED comic on Kickstarter
I've been wanting to do more with comics for awhile now and this is the first time I'm really doing something "official" with it.
Comics and me took awhile to come together. Growing up, I read and read and read novels, then drew fanart of the characters. I, like many, mistook the MEDIUM of comics for a GENRE--comics were stories about superheroes, with lots of punching and fighting and science experiments gone wrong. I had no particular interest in that type of story. (Still don't.) And Manga? Well, without getting too much into it, in middle school the group of kids who were into Manga were really mean to me, so I became unwilling to try Manga just by association.
I always wanted to work in SOMETHING to do with stories, words, and pictures. I wanted to be an "artist" for the longest time, until in eigth grade when I read School Story by Andrew Clemens and realized, not only that those names on covers were actual PEOPLE, but that I could be one of them. Up to that point I was so focused on reading the books I hadn't stopped to really consider how they came to be.
So, for awhile I wanted to be a writer... until I found that I had a hard time expressing just what I wanted with words. Reading went fine, but words were so much harder than pictures. So, I decided I wanted to be.... wait for it... a LITERARY AGENT.
Yeah, I eventually realized that that was the wrong dream too. I loved reading, but I always came back to pictures. So when it came time to pick majors, I skipped English and went straight for the visual arts.
On my application to BYU Visual Arts department, I was asked to rank my interest in the different areas. I put Drawing and Painting first on my list. I wasnt sure what to put second... but illustration sounded cool. Besides, I might only be accepted to one and then my decision would be made.
Well, I was accepted to both. So now I had to choose one... to start, I looked at the list of required classes. Drawing and Painting included several I wanted to take, many I was less excited about, and some that sounded straight-up boring. Illustration, on the other hand, required only classes that sounded AWESOME. I went to talk to the department heads to learn more, and Brother Barrett was incredibly kind and knowledgable.
So, Illustration it is.
Wait a minute. Youre telling me illustration is making pictures that go with stories? This is what I've wanted to do my whole life! Why fidn't you say thats what it was called?!?
I mean, I knew that, but I never really internalized it until then.
So, illustration. There were a lot of kindred spirits in that major with me. One day in the studio we were chatting about books we liked, and the topic of comics came up. Oh, I don't really read comics, I said. I'm just not that into super hero stories.
Well, I was set straight pretty quickly, and was lent a comic to read then and there--Understanding Comics by Scott McCloud. I was fascinated.
And SO BEHIND.
Here was this story telling medium that felt SO PERFECT for ME and I was just barely being introduced to it! My classmates had been reading and making these things for ages, and I barely knew what was possible!
Fortunately they gave me some good recommendations. I was hooked! This was my thing!
And then I left on my mission and lost some steam... but not all of it. I made several short fun little comics about funny things that happened to me and sent them home. They weren't great, (actually, they were pretty bad, I'll be honest) but they were lots of fun to make.
I wasn't sure where to go from there after coming home, though. I made a couple little comics for myself, but still felt really intimidated by the medium and kind of steered clear for awhile.
But when I was invited to create a short comic for the Served anthology, I was excited to say yes. I've read most of the stories in it and am really excited to be part of such a fun project--and humbled, because some really awesome and experienced comics creators have contributed. My little story feels shabby next to their polished work, but I'm proud to have done it. I think its a really fun collection and am excited for people to read it.
Take a look.
Please forgive any typos... this post was created one-handed while nursing a baby. Because I'm awesome like that.
The problem with trying to do “art” (or write, or sell crafts, or anything related) as a business is there is a kind of inherent selfishness to it. You want to create something YOU like. You want to make money doing something YOU enjoy. You want to enjoy what you do and have people give you money for that! How self-centered. Who do you think you are, anyway?
But the business advice you hear over and over is “Find out what people want, then make it for them.” A good business all about them--the customer/consumer. You love painting polar bears in blizzards? Thats great, but what if everyone wants nice green landscapes? Do you paint what you want and stay poor, or do you paint what people want and hate your work, but make money? Thats an oversimplification, but that's the “starving artist’s dilemma”. (I just coined that phrase. I can do that if I want to. Right?)(This is also the core of the rivalry between Fine Artists and Illustrators, but we’re not opening that can of worms right now. Well, not directly at least.)
So, there is this paradox--on the one hand “staying true” to your art/story/style/vision/whatever, on the other hand, creating something that people actually want and will give money for.
There are more layers to this Paradox, though.
They say that when you start creating what you think people want, it loses that “spark”, and then nobody wants to buy it. When you love what you do, people can tell, and thats what they pay money for.
When what you love making also happens to be something people want.
So, whats a creator to do? Keep creating your own stuff according to your own desires and vision, even if it might not be what people want? Or try to find out what people want, and then create it, with the risk that it will lose its appeal due to your “heart “ not being in the work?
As usual, I think the answer is somewhere in-between. Neither extreme is going to find much success, I believe. I know of no easy formula for finding that medium though.
(Seriously though. I want to know.)
Finally.... I got my three rainstorm sketches finished! Huzzah!
The real trick here was trying to make the character consistent in each. It isn't perfect, but I think I did it. The expression is different in each one, but I think the main facial proportions are consistent.
This character features in a dummy book I'm working on, but these illustrations probably won't make it into the final story. These were just an exploration of the character and style for the book.
Its funny how, when I was sketching this character, I tried many different looks--straight hair, curly hair, long hair, short hair, dark skin, medium skin, light skin. But there was a look I kept coming back to that just felt right. Somehow, she ended up looking a lot like my little girl--plus a few years. She just needs to be blonde :-). I guess it makes sense that she's the one I'd draw, since I look at her every day.
And its funny that after these sketches were already done, we had a few rainy days here. We put on her rubber boots and went out with her, and she had just as much fun splashing in the puddles and looking around at the wet world as I drew her doing here. Its so great to experience new things through a kid's eyes.
Here is how the final piece (the middle one) progressed to finish. I always think it's interesting to see how an illustration looked at the beginning.
Life with two kids is crazy, I'm not gonna lie. But somehow I've felt a new burst of creativity in the last few weeks. Some timing, eh? But hey, I go with it. So amidst the craziness of dealing with a toddler and a newborn, I've made time for some much needed "me-time"... in the form of creating illustrations, of course.
I love the SVS Learn monthly contests but haven't participated in awhile. However, I couldn't resist February's prompt--"Octopus". I wasn't the only one--there were more entries last month than any other! So I was especially honored to have my piece place third.
I brainstormed (while nursing) until I found an idea simple iconic enough that I knew I could execute it on the first try, with a very simple composition and minimal detail. I love creating a nice detailed illustration (as my portfolio shows) but with what is currently going on in my life right now I knew that simple was the only way I could make this happen. We have an awesome claw-foot tub in our home that I've been wishing to take advantage of for awhile, combine that with the prompt, and you get...
Ironically, the time I could have used to take a bath instead went toward making this illustration. No regrets, I'm really pleased with how it came out.
Well, I finally got around to finalizing one of my other sketches of this character.
Keeping a character and style consistent is harder than it might seem! Especially since there were months between when I did these. I am catching tiny things to tweak even as I post this... so there will probably be updated versions of these in the future, when I get the last one done and I can edit all three side-by side. I hope to get the third image done soon... ish. Because life with a newborn makes getting things done... slow. And unpredictable. But very very satisfying.
Happy New Year!
Time flies, doesn’t it? So much happened this year!
But for me, illustrating a lot wasn’t one of them.
Going back and making a count, I only completed seven illustrations this year. Thats IT.
And that includes this one. Time for tea!
I wasn't quite as diligent at saving progress of the image as usual--though I did take a few quick snapshots and put them on Instagram as I worked. I really like having a nice progress slide show at the end, though, so next time I'll have to remember better.
I’m mostly pleased with how it came out. I’m glad I took the time to push through and get one more illustration done. I call myself an illustrator after all. For that to be true, I gotta, well… illustrate.
So, WHY didn’t I get much illustrating done this year? After all, a year is a long time. It’s 12 whole months… 52 weeks...365 days… plenty of time to draw, right?
Plenty of time, yes. But that means it's hard to hold it all in your head at once.
For example, this time last year we didn’t know we’d be moving in a few months--it was still a big “maybe-but-probably-not”. And, while I’m being honest, I’ll just add that we also weren’t planning on adding to our family quite yet. Toddler, house hunting, moving, pregnancy… that has been my year, and the toddler was the only one of those I saw coming.
So many things I THOUGHT I was going to get done this year… kind of got pushed aside. For example, this is the SECOND time I said, “I’m going to do a real postcard campaign, like a real illustrator, for real! See, I’m sending out a real postcard!” ...only to find out that I was pregnant a couple weeks after sending out the first card. Again. Which of course led to a lot of stopping and thinking and deciding (again)… this is not the right time for this after all. (It might have been nice to figure that out before sending out the card, but, well… life, amirite?)
So I’m approaching goals a bit differently this year.
I still believe setting goals is a good thing. However, based on my experience, as well as a lot reading and research I’ve been doing lately, I believe that setting goals for an entire year is just too much. Next December is just too far away right now for me to set a super specific goal--too much is going to happen between now and then. Of course there are always exceptions to this, but in general, yearly goals slip away from me (and most people) too easily.
So from now on, my specific goals will be done monthly and quarterly.
So, this quarter, Jan-Feb-March, my goal is this: have a baby and figure out being a mom of two, at least a little bit. I also want to get more MG/YA appropriate images in my portfolio, and nursing is GREAT reading time, so I will be reading some fun MG/YA while I’m stuck (happily) under an eating/sleeping/pooping baby.
(Speaking of--if you have recommendations for great MG/YA novels that have been published in the last few years, let me know in the comments! I have a bunch of great recommendations from friends on Facebook but more can’t be a bad thing.)
Looks like not much illustrating will be done this quarter… but I am OK with that. We’ll see where we're at next quarter.
Thats it. I have some very basic, general goals in mind for later quarters of the year, but we’ll deal with those as we get closer--they will probably change anyway.
Here I come, 2018.
I am still alive. And very pregnant. Which kind of makes things in general… difficult. To say the least. Along with the third trimester has come some understandable tiredness which has led to me napping every day while my toddler does. Which means that my prime time for Getting Stuff Done is now mostly going toward Getting Sleep Daily.
Which means I haven’t been updating my blog (or Instagram, Twitter, Facebook…. Etc.) much lately. But hey, baby takes precedence. And also me. I’m important too. And lets be honest, those naps are primarily for me (though they do give baby a chance to practice his gymnastics as well. So it’s a win win.)
So this may be the weirdest timing EVER, but…
I’ve decided to start a mailing list.... TA DA!!
Considering the opening paragraphs of this post, it kind of goes without saying that this will be an occasional email, just letting you know when I have a new project or blog post or illustration. I don’t anticipate landing in your inbox any more than a couple times a month.
Ok, you’re saying, that sounds fine, but why NOW? You are very pregnant and not working on anything much right now to send us emails ABOUT, right?
Coming up early next year (not long after this baby will probably be making his arrival) a comic anthology I created a piece for will be launching on Kickstarter. “SERVED” is a collection of short memoir comics by Returned LDS Missionaries about their missions, with a NON-spiritual angle—its just a bunch of us sharing a little piece of our experience, in a way that is hopefully accessible to both LDS and Non-LDS readers. My piece, for example, actually has very little to do with anything churchy or doctrinal, and instead focuses on the experience of making mistakes when learning a new language.
I think it’s a fun project and will be a fun book to read and own, and I’d love to have an easy way to let people know when it launches, how the campaign goes, etc. if they’re interested. A way like, say… an email list.
I also DO have some personal projects I’ve been slowly working on that I’d love to share thoughts and tidbits on as well. I have a dummy book I have been chipping away at for a few months that I’d like to turn my attention back to (when I’m not napping or chasing a toddler). People who follow my blog or Instagram have already seen the sketches for the main character, and its time to work on my other main character and work out more story details and such. I’d love to share about that process as well--obviously I can’t share the whole thing online, but people have responded positively to what I’ve shared so far, so again an email list is an easy way to let people know about that.
Also, a few weeks ago I had something of an epiphany. For years now, I’ve dreamed of teaching drawing and painting classes locally—GOOD ones, not the Paint-what-the-teacher-paints type of classes you see all over. I want to teach a class that imparts REAL drawing skills and leads to actual ORIGINAL artwork by the students. But I always made excuses to myself—I have nowhere to teach, I’m busy, and besides, nobody wants to listen to an unpublished no-name like me, blah blah blah.
And then it hit me. Who says I need to be published to be eligible to teach a class? I know great info, I have experience—I have a freaking DEGREE in this, for crying out loud! What is that degree for if not to proclaim me as Legit. So, I’m going to do it. Since our house is tiny, the plan is to teach the class through our local Continuing Education program—just like the classes I took as a teen that got me jump-started in oil painting. Despite them being a more paint-by-number sort of approach… oh dear. (My mom still has the horrible paintings I produced in that class. For some strange reason. I guess because she’s a mom.)
My hope is to equip my students to produce something more personal and original than I was able to do. I’ll be reading and writing and organizing in order to make this class happen in time for next fall semester. Mr. Perkins will be left with a toddler and a crawler one night a week so I can go do this. He’s pretty cool like that.
So, these are the sort of things that you’d be hearing about once or twice a month if you were to sign up for this list. If it sounds interesting, cool, stick your email in the form. If not, that’s cool too—I know how crowded everyone’s inboxes get, if mine is anything to judge by. Either way, thanks for reading. :-)
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