Monday, December 22, 2008

Illustration Process

Today I finished another quick illustration for an online contest. This particular contest was a challenge for three main reasons. 1) I only had three partial days to design, create final sketch and then fully render final version. 2) I intended to use my new one month trial adobe illustrator and my new wacomb tablet to create the final vector art. I’ve never made a vector based illustration before, and I had only used adobe illustrator a couple of times to lay in some text on images, and I’ve only drawn with the wacomb tablet twice before. 3) The contest rules only allow for six colors including black and white and tints and tones of colors. I have never worked under color restrictions before and definitely not while working with a new medium. I gave myself this challenge because I need to learn the computer programs and I figure I may as well have a chance to win some income while practicing these new skills. You can see the finished version to the right. Please read on to see my process and thoughts as I designed and created this unique illustration. Then please go to to vote on my design.
In brief. the contest is put on by a company called “Green Eyed Monster” and they are promoting a healthy environment. My task was to design a bag that would display this message visually and appeal to the common person.
Any good illustration has to start with lots of planning and sketching of ideas. Unfortunately I didn’t have time to let my thoughts simmer day after day until I had developed a brilliant stew. Instead I ended up relying heavily on my previous illustrations to fill in the gaps. As seen below, I started with very basic concept sketch for a green eyed monster. I actually was thinking about skipping the contest all together because I found out about it too late. While watching a commercial I thought of the idea to have a green monster with one eye and there would be a globe with the continents where his eyeball should be.

This then developed into sketch two, a quick sketch of the monster sitting on the earth picking at the garbage and eating it. Sort of like cats scratch at fleas.
Sketch three builds off an idea I used in a poster design for a masspirg earth day event. The idea here is that the monster is floating next to the earth and he is using a vacuum to suck up the garbage from the earth. At this point I decided to look up the phrase “green Eyed Monster” to see what sort of things might inspire my drawing. I use this technique when I start to run into walls with the sketches and need more reference. To my surprise I found this guy who was almost an exact replica of the monster I just designed. Yikes, back to the drawing board as they say.
I like to keep my old paintings hanging in my studio to keep me motivated and remind me what finished products look like. I looked up and noticed how my honey pot ant painting resembled the vacuum bag on the monsters back. This gave me the idea to create a monster that would mimic honey pot ants, only this monster would gobble up and store garbage in his abdomen instead of honey. The last few sketches show the development of that character. You will also notice I had another ant painting depicting a specid wasp and this inspired the idea to add wings to the creature.
Once the character was more or less designed I went ahead and worked out which continent layout felt best and moved the stream of garbage around a bit. I now have an elephant nose sucking the garbage up. This of course comes from another sketch I have hanging in my studio.
Now that I had the monster and his environment figured out I needed to figure out how to use Adobe illustrator to create vector art. I actually know the basic concept behind vector art because I took a digital illustration class three years ago. Unfortunately I ended up taking the digital illustration for animators class rather than the one for illustrators. So we spent the whole semester working with other programs and one day talking about illustrator. I basically spent a couple of hours trying to figure this out and realized I was trying to do the impossible in a short period of time. I ended up settling for an inked outline done in Adobe illustrator which I then brought into Photoshop where I did the color. Below you can see the difference between a magnified version of a vector (illustrator) drawing versus my original pencil drawing and pen drawing and the raster (Photoshop) image.Generally I will also do tons of color samples to determine the mood and overall feel of a piece. However I had pretty good idea of what I wanted for this image due to the theme and localized colors of objects. I wanted a green earth with black garbage, blue water, and a green monster. The yinyang pattern just sort of emerged from the sketches so I went with it. I also considered having an apple stem and leaves sticking out of the top of the earth but felt it was a bit much.
And now the final again.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

More Digital Art

I had the opportunity to put some final touches on another digital sketch today so I figured I would post it. This is now my second digital sketch with my new (and first) wacomb tablet. I spent about two hours on this which is a lot less time than it would probably take with oil paint. Of course I wouldn't consider this finished either. I chose this image of an elderly gentlemen to further my knowledge on the differences between youth and aged people. I found this guy to be a good match for my meager skills with digital art since the sketchy and sharp edges of the medium in its raw state actually add to his aged look. For children I would have to blend the colors and edges far more.

Drawing Children

I don't know exactly when it happened but at some point in my days as an art student I decided I wanted to illustrate children's books. As strange as it may seem, it took me much longer to realize this would include drawing and painting children. Not only should these children look healthy, non scary, happy, loving, normal etc. but they should depict an age, an ethnicity, and flow rather than be stiff. Publishers often want to see illustrations of children in action. I had no idea how hard it would be to achieve this outcome when I first started but I enjoyed the challenge. I first realized how hard children are to depict in my Senior year portfolio class. I brought in a painting of some children playing in the snow and a few people pointed out that the children looked stiff and even a bit retarded. I've often heard it said that an artist is there own worst critic. As an artist I tend to criticize my art so drastically that I don’t want people to see it until I’m happy with it. There have been times I worked on an image for hours and think it looks fine while someone else will come in and immediately spot problem areas. This happens when I look at individual parts of an illustration but don’t take the time to step back and look at the work as a whole. One good technique to help see problem areas is to either turn the drawing upside down or look at it in a mirror.
Over the past couple of months I have tackled what I feel is the most crucial element of any children’s illustrators portfolio, the children. I worked a bit on drawing children and plan to continue this process until I feel confident drawing children in any pose, and ethnicity, any age, gender, perspective etc. without reference. I will be happy to receive any advice or techniques that people have discovered in there own art making process. Some samples on the right.
These are all under one hour sketches and they are freehand drawings from photos. Click on the image to enlarge.

Just a few quick things I’ve learned to keep in mind. The younger the child, the rounder the face. Children have bigger eyes, ears and mouth in comparison to size of face than adults. Children have bigger foreheads. Children’s heads are bigger in proportion to their bodies than adults, often having four to five heads height while adults are seven to eight heads tall. Their eyebrows and hair tends to be very light and thin, particularly on young children. The line under children’s eyes tends to be less pronounced. Teenagers tend to have longer faces with more chiseled features, not so round. Younger children have short necks.