...a character who has been living in my head for a few years now. I finally have his story put together in a dummy book, and after I complete a couple more example illustrations, I'll be entering it in this contest.
I have one small problem, though. I'm having a hard time thinking of a title.
What would you call a story about a boy with very long feet? Any ideas? :-)
Sometimes, my baby sleeps. And sometimes she doesn't sleep on me. And sometimes when she's sleeping not on me, I get to do stuff. Like make pictures.
My dummy is still in progress! But I was feeling really bogged down in the sketch-tightening phase (my personal least favorite in the whole illustration process.) So, I decided I needed to do a quick piece start to finish to remind myself what it is like to actually do the final stage--which I really enjoy!
So, I put together a quick piece for the SCBWI postcard contest. I just threw together the first image I thought of, without trying to be super original with the concept or composition--I just scribbled a sketch and moved forward on it. It was really refreshing, actually. I felt more free, less attached to what happened, and since I didn't care quite as much I felt more able to experiment with things without being stressed about the experiments going bad. So it was a great piece because I enjoyed making it, whether or not its actually any good otherwise ;-).
I didn't save periodically during the process on this one like I usually do, because I was just moving through it and trying things, as I said. Here's how it turned out:
Hello! I am still alive. And still very pregnant. Just about as pregnant as you can get, actually. Sometime in the next month, this little person is going to emerge and life will never be the same! In the meantime, we are trying to get everything ready AND get enough sleep. That whole thing about sleeping now because you won't when the baby comes? You all forgot or never experienced a huge stomach that kicks you and randomly contracts (sometimes quite painfully) and crowds your bladder. The short of sleep thing has already started, my friends. But this being baby #1, there is nothing to keep me from taking naps, so there is that. I make sure to get one most days now, and it is keeping me sane.
So, I've been doing Yoga and Naps and Breathing Exercises and Reading About Birth and Breast Feeding and Organizing Everything.... I have significantly cut back on my art for the last month or so, though. As in, I've barely even gotten my sketchbook out. I look at all the art from the people I follow on social media, and I certainly still THINK about it, but.... haven't really done any.
Now and then I start to feel a bit guilty about this. Does this mean that I don't REALLY want to be an illustrator? That I am stopping as soon as the going gets rough?
Maybe, but I don't think so.
For the last year and a half, I have really focused a LOT on my art and portfolio. Kind of the culmination of that were the two SCBWI conferences I went to this year--the National Conference in NYC this February, then the Greenleaves Regional Conference up at Lake George in April. Oh, and getting shortlisted for the Bologna Illustrators Showcase--so unexpected, and so encouraging! I am so glad I entered that contest went to both conferences, I have been really inspired and received great feedback. Mostly really positive feedback, too. Basically most of what I heard could be summarized thusly: "Your portfolio looks really great. You have a distinct look and obvious drawing skill. There are a couple things you have to work on, but once you fill those gaps in your portfolio you can compete with the pros."
So intimidating and encouraging at the same time. "You're almost there, just keep working just as crazy-hard as you have been for the last year!"
But, I can't. I don't make this as a lame excuse, but really and truly--I am pregnant and exhausted, and excited and a little bit scared, and really do have other more important things going on right now. That is just how the timing has worked out. I worked really hard for over a year, and its time for a break.
With this going on, I have been thinking a lot about this quote I came across on tumblr awhile back:
I read that and I think--yes. That is where I am right now. I need a time of dormancy for my art. My creative tree needs a winter, to just sit under the snow and not worry about growing or making leaves and fruit for awhile. (Ok, weird image, moving on.) I really do feel that when I come back to my art in a few months, while I expect to be a bit rusty in many ways, that it will ultimately be the better for it, and I will be able to fill those gaps in my portfolio better than I would if I just kept trying to push myself through them now.
This isn't artist's block. Its just a time of dormancy.
So awhile back I did a master copy of a piece by Norman Rockwell. Because, well, Norman Rockwell. Also, master copies are good practice. So after doing that one, of course I had to do one by Rockwell's hero, J. C. Leyendecker.
Thats right. Rockwell was a young artist with dreams and heroes once too! And one of his big inspirations was Leyendecker, who was doing Post covers long before Rockwell was. His have a different design sense than Rockwell's certainly, but his humorous scenes I think inspired Rockwell, who took that concept and perfected it.
I started this master copy in mid November. Yes, November. Then life happened and it got set aside for awhile, then picked up again, then set aside... so three months later I'm posting it, not because I think its perfect, but because I'm kind of sick of it.
I wasn't as strict with myself with this one as I was with the Rockwell copy I did. I did have a few layers (maybe 5 in the end, I think) and I took advantage of some of Photoshop's awesome tools such as Liquefy and Transform to try and get my drawing just right. It still isn't just right, but I don't think I did half bad.
One thing I really learned from this is that I need to learn more about how to create and manipulate Photoshop brushes. This was really made clear to me because to me, Leyendecker is ALL ABOUT the brushwork. The man was a master. So I look at his piece with all it's beautiful brush strokes and I try to imitate them in Photoshop and get frustrated because I'm not even close. I know Photoshop can't imitate brush strokes perfectly, but I know it can do a whole lot better than I'm currently getting it to do. Next thing to focus on, I guess.
As always, I saved periodically as I worked. Wow, my drawing was WAY off in the beginning! Photoshop makes it much easier to get it right--well, closer to right. Anyway, I think I learned what I needed to learn here and I'm excited to move on from this project.
So one of my goals last year was to put together a portfolio I wouldn't be shy to show to people and actually advertise. I completed that goal, and I've continued to make new portfolio pieces this year as well (though pregnancy has slowed that down somewhat.)
I like what I have in my portfolio. But the entire thing is done completely in Illustrator, and while I love the textures and happy accidents I've been able to incorporate into such a digital-looking program, I feel like I'm really leaning on what is familiar. That isn't a bad thing, but I really want to get another set of quality images created--using Photoshop rather than Illustrator. That is the goal for this year. (And maybe next year, seeing as how the other goal for this year is to birth a baby and, you know, keep it alive and not go crazy.)
Awhile back the extremely popular digital artist Loish ran a kickstarter campaign which I supported. One of the rewards I received for backing was a video tutorial showing her process of painting a character in Photoshop. I watched it and felt that I really got a lot out of it. I especially liked the way her color scheme is kind of found organically through the process of painting, by using different color tools at various points in the process.
So I decided to do a quick character painting in Photoshop to try out some of her methods. Digital painting is still something I'm really insecure in, but I believe that some of Loish's tricks and methods are definitely going to find their way into my digital painting process. I especially love how she uses an unusual color for her drawing lines and uses that to choose colors she adds later. Her colorful outlines make me think of a Wayne Thiebaud painting, whose work I also love.
This only represents a few hours of work and I certainly don't feel like it is portfolio quality yet. However I feel like it was a great learning piece and it was a great opportunity to try out Loish's technique. I'm so glad I supported her kickstarter campaign!
Since I was in unfamiliar Photoshop territory, I went for a familiar character. I have no idea how many times I've drawn Attolia, but she has kind of become a default for me. I imagine this as being from a specific scene in The Queen of Attolia by Megan Whalen Turner. If you can guess which one you get a gold star ;-)
Pregnancy is weird. One of the best and worst parts of it is when the baby kicks. Best because, well, it confirms that your baby is alive, first of all, and also it feels kinda cool. Worst because, well, ouch. It doesn't always hurt. But sometimes baby chooses just the right place, or sometimes chooses one place to kick over and over and over and over. Seriously, baby? You have a whole uterus! Find somewhere else to bruise!
I've mostly seen sort of nice-sounding descriptions of what a moving baby feels like inside you. "Flutters" or "popcorn" or "tickles" or "bubbles" or "a fish swimming inside you." Ok, I see that. But really, it feels like my intestines are spasming, or even having a seizure when she decides to go REALLY crazy for a bit. Or, hows this for a description... imagine that there is a tiny human inside of you that is moving and jerking around. THATS what it feels like.
As I said, usually it feels really cool. But I can probably be forgiven for daydreaming about other ways a baby could arrive at those times when she chooses to kick the same spot over and over and over.
Is anyone else entertained by seeing the progression of a piece, or is it just me? Anyway, I like it, so I'll put it here for me if not for anyone else.
I made this piece months ago, but I just realized that I never posted it on my blog. Oops!
I created a piece for the SVS Third Thursday competition, responding to the prompt, "None of the animals could believe their eyes. The aircraft worked! For the first time Ostrich was actually flying!"
I got a bit of feedback on my original idea here:
And then created my piece. This is what I turned in for the competition:
And, while it didn't win a free class, it DID win a critique (what I was really after anyway ;-). You can watch the critique here, starting at about 51:44:
And this is the edited version I made based on the critique I received. I chose which corrections I felt were most interesting while also do-able in a reasonable amount of time. Obviously, when not working with an Art Director its up to me to decide how to best make corrections, as well as how much time I want to put in before calling it done. I agree with the suggestion that adjusting the gestures of ALL the animals would be helpful, but would require soooo much re-drawing and ultimately would just be putting more into this piece than I personally feel would be helpful. That would have been a correction best made in the sketching stage I think. I do feel that the piece is much improved now.
Once in awhile you gotta just do a project that is totally for you. Not a job, a "portfolio" project, just something YOU want.
Which I did. :-)
I had this iron-on sitting with my cricut supplies for over a year. I ordered it to make an awesome personalized t-shirt for my dad, but I had a bunch left over. I had no ideas for what I wanted to do with it, though, so it just sat.
But seriously, with two bookworm parents I don't see how this could be anything but entirely accurate.
In case anyone cares, I thought I'd give a few details about the process of making this image. If you don't care, well... go away.
First, sketches. I've been doodling babies for awhile (its kind of on my mind) and I've been wanting to make this shirt for awhile. I finally started experimenting with different positions and trying to find what worked best.
You can see that I chose the one on the bottom right. The bottom left one was cute too, but I wanted something that looked a bit more fetal, if that makes sense.
So I scanned it into the computer and traced it in Photoshop and cleaned it up.
I then took it into Illustrator and cleaned it up even more. Lots of cleaning.
I saved my image as an SVG so I could take it into Cricut Design Space and cut it out.
This is the video I watched to make sure I did it all right: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DnQXs2Z163c
You'll notice if you look closely at the final project that I kind of messed up a bit on the "weeding" step. Specifically, I didn't get the little dimples in the baby knuckles and the lines in the ears or on the foot weeded out, so they're filled in on the final product. OOPS. I'll have to pay closer attention next time. And I really liked those cute baby knuckle dimples. My bad.
I ironed it on and--voila! Awesomest maternity shirt you ever did see.
When Rich gets home maybe I'll remember to get him to take an actual, like, good photo of me in this shirt, at an angle where you can actually see my belly (I swear I have one!). For now you get a badly lit awkward mirror shot because THAT IS WHAT I CAN DO RIGHT NOW. You're welcome.
(And no, of course we haven't taken the protective cardboard stuff off of the corners of our mirror. Why would we do that? And why would you ever take down Christmas lights anyway?)
So after posting really regularly for awhile (well, regularly for me, anyway) this blog got pretty quiet all of a sudden. Thanksgiving, Christmas, and TWO weddings in the family (my sister and sister-in-law) equal a LOT of craziness to get through. On top of that were a couple of work projects with tight deadlines, and, oh yeah… being pregnant. I can’t put my finger on how, but I swear being pregnant takes time out of your day.
But with all that going on, I did manage to get one illustration done! Come what may, we have to keep making art, right?
This is an idea that has been in the back of my head for awhile. It's more about the concept than the story. I, for one, think it would be completely awesome to have a gigantic tortoise as my main method of getting from one place to another. I feel like so many fantasy modes of transportation, from dragons to rockets, are about being the fastest and sleekest. But think about it--if you had a gigantic friendly tortoise to ride, you could take your time, read a book as you go, and just glance up at each page turn to steer or see if your stop is coming up soonish. It would be awesome.
So, this post is late. Not just a day late-two whole days late. How could I do such a thing? Well, on Monday I was very, very sick. I don’t think I even touched my computer that day--that sick. I didn’t do much of anything that day, actually. Then Tuesday was a recovery and catch-up day. So that brings us to Wednesday.
But I AM here, and I’m getting this post up. Better late than never, right?
And this is going to have to be another 2-week-er. Because that is how my life is going around now.
Envelope drawings were fun this last week. I did mine in ball point pen, which is really a comfort sketching medium for me--yes, I’m more comfortable sketching in pen than in pencil. My highschool teacher had us always sketch in pen and I got used to it. The nice thing about ball point pen is that you can push soft for a light line, and push hard for a dark line. In some of these my “envelope” lines are more visible than others, but you’ll just have to trust me on this one--I drew an envelope for these.
This week I want to start transitioning into skills that will help you (and me!) draw from imagination. Most of the exercises we’ve done so far really depend on having your subject right in front of you. But I’m an illustrator, and I can’t always find a real live three dimensional example of what I am drawing. I have to use my knowledge built up from drawing from life (As we’ve been doing for the last few weeks, right?) to imagine how something might look.
So this week I’ve decided to try an exercise I’ve actually never done before, but seen recommended elsewhere. I’m hoping that it will be as helpful as I’ve heard it is. If not, well, I’ll keep looking for something to teach these principles.
Everything we see can be simplified into combinations of certain basic 3-dimensional forms. Legs can be simplified to cylinders, an apple is basically a sphere, a book is a box shape, etc. Understanding these basic types of forms and how they occupy space can help us to simplify the things we imagine into manageable forms we can understand and draw. So this week, we’re going to get to know those forms.
Find or make each of these, all in one color: a cone, a cylinder, a sphere, a box or cube, and a pyramid. I will make some paper patterns (except I can’t really do a sphere), but you may have things around the house that will work--just wrap a can of soup in paper and you have a white cylinder. A white ping pong ball needs no alteration, there is your sphere. They don’t even need to be white, but I would prefer that they are all one solid color, so that the form differences are the important thing, rather than color or value or pattern.
Each day, draw three or more of your forms at different angles and arrangements. Pay attention to what happens to each face when they are above your eye level versus below, How they look when stacked on top of each other, in different lighting situations, etc. Be creative. Since we are mostly worried about the forms, don’t get too caught up in the shading--you can make an indication of where the shadows are, but don’t spend forever on this. Like previous weeks, we’re looking at spending about 20 minutes on these, but not more.
If it takes you less than 20 minutes to make your sketch and you’ve double checked it, go ahead and sketch something else--but as you do, look for these basic forms in the things you sketch.
Exercise: Form Drawings
Goal/Focus: Understanding basic forms and how they occupy space
Materials: Sketchbook, pen or pencil
Assignment: Each day, do a drawing of three or more of the basic forms in different arrangments. Arrange them in front of each other, stacked, lined up, or whatever way you can think of. Try different viewing levels--look down on them from above, or place them at eye level, or above your eye level. Spend about 20 minutes on each drawing.
If you have extra time or want to do more sketching, look for these forms in everyday object. Draw the object as these basic forms before breaking it down further into specific details--draw a book first as a box/ rectangular prism, draw a vase first as a cylinder, etc.
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