I've always loved to see how my favorite artists have developed their skill and style over time. The hashtags #drawthisagain or #drawthisagainmeme have lots of fun examples of artists who revisit the same subject matter as they did in the past and show the two versions side by side. I never did it before... but that is about to change!
When the idea of this image first came to me, it stuck in my head and wouldn't leave. This happens every once in awhile. Usually, drawing it out gets it out and thats it. I tried just putting it in my sketchbook, but that wasn't enough. I was in college at the time. and was luckily in a class where we had a lot of freedom in choosing what we would paint for our assignments... which was just the excuse I needed.
Honestly... I wasn't thrilled with it came out (and, of course, am even less so now). Despite trying multiple thumbnails, getting detailed reference with my roommate posing in costume (Thanks, Annilynski) and doing everything I knew how to do, it just turned out OK. But, I was just a student. Giving it a good try was all I could do, and I did learn a lot from it.
Fast forward a couple years. I had graduated and worked in-house at Cricut for a few months before moving across the country with my husband. I was working from home, experimenting with my process and style and expanding my portfolio. What to draw? This idea jumped to mind--I wasn't satisfied with my last attempt, why not give it another go in an entirely new style?
So I did.
I liked it much better. I felt that the more graphic style was really working for me, and it had a bit more movement than the previous version.
Fast forward to now, a few years later again. I have been experimenting and developing my style more and found myself wanting to try this image yet again. Now with kids of my own, I found it easier to make Rapunzel look younger as I had always wanted. Its not as graphic as my second, not as modeled/realistic as my first. And I still don't love it, but it is an interesting addition to this series. I think I may have to continue to return to this subject matter over the years to see how my art changes.
What do you think? Which is your favorite and why?
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.
Theres someone I'd like you to meet--or should I say, someones.
These are the friendly monsters! (If you follow my instagram, you've already met them :-) They star in my latest picture book dummy. This is one of those ideas that hit at 4am (I was up thanks to a hungry baby) and just WOULDN'T LEAVE ME ALONE until I put it on paper. I jotted down a few lines and then was finally able to get a bit of sleep.
The first draft came out pretty easily. I let it sit, did some edits, and then I sent it off to a few different friends (and the 12x12 community) to get feedback. I love having different places to get feedback from, because I feel that when I just get it from one critique group they hear the first person's comments and then everyone just ends up agreeing with that person--not always, but fairly frequently. I like having different places to get feedback so people are thinking up their comments independently--I feel they're more helpful that way.
I don't know where I first heard this thought on critique, but its something I generally live by: If one person tells you something, its an opinion and you can ignore it if you choose. If two or more tell you independently that it is a problem (not just critique group partners chiming in, people critiquing who don't have any access to the comments of the other) then it is something you need to take a look at.
In the case of this story, having multiple critiques... didn't backfire, per se, but it did give me directly contradicting advice. From one friend, "There is too much X! I think you should take out X completely." From another "The X is nice, but I think you need even MORE X."
Oh, the joys of navigating critiques. I've at least got plenty to think about with this story, and I'll do my best to be true to what I loved about that idea at 4am.
As far as the art goes, I'm trying a slightly different style here, and LOVING it. Seriously, why didn't I try working this way before! I'm still using my cutaway linocut vector process, but really minimizing the linework. Instead of starting with the lines and then filling in the shapes and colors, I'm starting with the big shapes and adding lines only where necessary to define the form. I'm using the shadow layer to create texture instead of the line layer as I usually do. I really like how it came out. I think I'll definitely still do linework-based illustrations, but I want to do more of this approach as well.
As usual, progress images of how this one came together. What do you think?
I completed a new piece! This one was inspired by one of my favorite artists, James C. Christensen, who recently passed away. He often created images with elaborate ships, mixed scale, and clever sayings, often in Latin. So it was something of an exercise--not exactly a master copy, and not with the goal of being entirely in his style. I wanted something in my style, but inspired by his. I think I succeeded in that at least.
I have progress images (I always think those are fun to see, maybe nobody else does though) but that will have to wait until my internet is working better--its patchy right now for some reason.
I said I'd do it, and I did. Earlier today, I submitted the dummy of my story FINN'S FEET to the Little, Brown Emerging Artist Award. Thanks to all who commented on my last entry to help me find a title. Now my little story is going off into the world...
It was a big project, and the housework definitely got neglected as the deadline got closer, but it's done. It feels so good!
I only saved progress images of one of the illustrations, though. I was just trying to get them done as quickly as I could, so saving out periodically as I usually do just didn't happen.
This is a good start for my goals this year of pushing forward with my writing and illustrating this year, and actually submitting my work as well. Before doing this project I thought I mostly wanted to illustrate other people's stories, but putting this together helped me to realize that I actually really like creating my own stories too. I will definitely be doing more!
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 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 ;-)
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.
OK, so I have to say--that last exercise has been my favorite so far. I just think scribbling is so FUN. And I have always thought better in shapes rather than in lines. And, while I was having all that fun scribbling, I was also seriously thinking about what I was drawing, and understanding it a little bit better. So basically, modelled drawings are the best.
Also, a heads up--this October I am planning to do the full Inktober challenge. I may decide that it is going well and that I will have time to post, but as of now the plan is to only do TWO of these drawing exercises in October, or every other week. I feel that that way I can still keep my momentum with these exercises without overloading myself. So, this week's exercise will cover two weeks.
Each week when it comes time to write up a new exercise, I go to my master plan and re-order the exercises I have outlined. I don’t think that's a bad thing. As I have actually sat down to do each exercise, I understand its benefits better, and also how it relates to the others.
So far, we have done Pre-Instruction Drawings, Negative Space Drawings, Blind Contour Drawings, and Modeled Drawings. I feel that the natural next step from there (though I didn’t see it before) is Gesture Drawings.
I’m really bad at gesture drawing.
At least, I have always felt that way. (So of COURSE it would fall on the two-week-long space…)
However, I think that may partially be due to the fact that in school I was gesture drawing next to people who learned from the amazing Ryan Woodward (though I never got to be in one of his classes--I was in illustration, not animation, which are DIFFERENT). He draws amazing gestures really quickly that also actually look like people. *sigh* But (again) coming back to Nicolaides’ book The Natural Way to Draw (this is our last exercise from that book, by the way) I saw that I could loosen up and just draw a gesture and not worry about whether it looked good or not. Because the important thing about gesture drawing is capturing the movement, not the form. And (unless your name is Ryan Woodward) they are for study, not for show.
And I will say this--as jealous as I am of Ryan Woodwards amazing skill in drawing accurate gesture drawings, he doesn’t sacrifice an understanding of movement for accuracy. Behold:
I love the way that Nicolaides described the process of gesture drawing:
I can’t get a quick, even somewhat accurate drawing in less than a minute--but I can draw a loose set of lines and scribbles that represent the movement of the figure. So can you ;-)
The tricky thing about gesture drawing is that we’re adding another dimension--which we have been doing with each exercise. Negative space drawings are pretty two dimensional, even when drawing from life. With blind contour drawings we start to think about three dimensions, but with Modeled drawings we really push that idea further and are really focusing on how a form occupies space. Gesture drawings focus on movement. Movement has to happen over time. So, in our flat unmoving drawing, we are trying to get across the idea of this four-dimensional event.
The other tricky thing about gesture drawing is that we all (including me) get caught up in the idea that drawings ought to look like someTHING. We can argue about whether a gesture is a “thing”, (it is certainly a noun, but isn’t a person or place--so is it a thing, or an idea?) but while it is done by something solid, the gesture itself is not. But even though it isn’t solid, and arguably isn’t a “thing”, you can still draw it. (One of these days I’m going to do my whole spiel on how abstract and representational art are more closely related than most people think. But not today.)
Exercise: Gesture Drawings
Goal/Focus: seeing movement, making quick decisions, sketching on-the-go
Materials: Sketchbook and pen or pencil
Assignment: Every day, spend at least 20 minutes doing gesture drawings. These should be quick, no longer than 2 minutes apiece. Draw impressions of the movement of people or animals or things. Focus on ACTION, not edges or details. Think through the action as you draw it--what came before, what will come next? It may help to think of an attitude or feeling--tired, happy, angry, scared, etc. Choose curved or straight lines depending on the action.
AT LEAST once (but hopefully more), go to a park, playground, sports game, dance class, pool, zoo, or mall, (anywhere people or animals are moving in fast, dynamic poses) to draw from life. Other days you can use photos, figure drawing websites (just search gesture drawing or figure drawing. Here is one I have used, but there are others.)
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