Monday, August 4, 2014

Blog Tour - My Illustration Process

Hey there, this post is part of a blog tour, each week a new artist writes about their process and then invites 2 more to participate next week (go to the bottom of the post for their links).

A big thanks to my tweep Amanda Erb for inviting me. Her post is here.

What am I currently working on?

Mostly taking care of our new baby girl...

   ...but other than that a lot of my work these days has been on some picture book dummies and building my portfolio. I recently reached a crossroads a while back that has led me to work on broaden my range.

On top of that, I still do a lot of educational work, and work on apps that seems to be always ongoing.

How does my work differ from others of its genre?

Wow, what a toughie...

My style up to now was really defined by my process. Crisp edges, strong sense of shape, very limited use of line, and bold bright colours.

Now that I'm developing a greater range of approaches, I'm finding that it all comes down to the underlying drawing. I strive for a strong sense of character and emotion. Anything on top of that is gravy.

Why do I illustrate what I do?

I've always been mostly interested in drawing people. Animals are okay, and scenery is the worst! Since my kids were born, a lot of what I do is just to entertain them. If you're ever stuck for inspiration, hang around a kid. They're ridiculous.

How does my illustration process work?

The sole process that I've used for the past several years was to sketch digitally in photoshop, refine my sketch n a new layer, build my foundation in illustrator, and then add texture and shading in photoshop again.
Foundation is built up in Illustrator
While I'm not abandoning this technique, I am working to develop additional processes to achieve more of a hand drawn feel.

I still always sketch exclusively digitally. I need the flexibility it provides. These sketches usually take 2 to 3 refinements which I build up to in different layers.

Here are some recent examples where I build my base in photoshop. Sometimes I block in all the colour, and sometimes I block in using grey tones and add a colour layer on top (a technique I learned reading David Opies blog).
Foundation built up of colour
Foundation built up of tones with colour layer added on top

On top I add in more shadows, highlights, and details. But the crux is that you REALLY need a good drawing to start with. Otherwise the rest is just polishing the proverbial turd.

Good photoshop brushes don't hurt either though. Here's the ones that I like:

David Opie Dry
David Opie Wet
Chris Oatley Essentials
Kyle T. Webster Megapack

To be honest, I myself only use about 6 or 7 brushes in total, otherwise my head starts to spin from the possibilities.

Up next is:

David Opie was born and raised in the beautiful rolling hills of Virginia's Shenandoah Valley. After he "grew up," he headed to Providence, RI, so that he could earn his BFA in illustration from the Rhode Island School of Design. He went on to earn his master's degree from the MFA "Illustration As Visual Essay" program at the School of Visual Arts in Manhattan.
David illustrated Dozer's Run, a picture book published by Sleeping Bear Press (May 2014 release).
His illustrations have appeared in such publications as Family PC, Highlights High Five, Keyboard Magazine, The Little Lutheran, LA Times, Providence Journal, Providence Phoenix, Publishers Weekly, Rhode Island Monthly, Spider Magazine, Sports Illustrated for Kids, TimeOut Chicago and Weekly Reader.
He has worked for many educational publishers, including Celebration Press, Heinemann, Houghton Mifflin, Macmillan, McGraw-Hill, National Geographic School Publishing, Scholastic, and SoundPrints (for the Smithsonian). David illustrated a series of trade chapter books for Ladybird Books UK, and JD Publishing produced a children's picture book that he illustrated.
He has taught at the Illinois Institute of Art-Chicago and was a full-time instructor in the illustration department of the American Academy of Art in downtown Chicago.

Friday, March 21, 2014

Top Take Aways from SCBWI New York, Pt. 2: The Style Dilemma

In my last post I wrote that the key point I came away with from the New York SCBWI conference was that character and emotional connection are of paramount importance when illustrating and writing for children. These points came up time and again during the illustration intensive, especially during the panel critique.

Conspicuous in it's absence (at least to me) was the topic of style. Which is something I was looking for some input on. So I had to go looking for the input myself. But I'll get back to this later. First I need to give you some background so my style dilemma will become clear.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Top Take Aways from SCBWI New York, Pt. 1

I just got back from the SCBWI New York conference and I wanted to share some of the insights I came home with. If you want a rundown on all the details of all the sessions it's probably best if you head over to the official conference blog. They did a great job tracking it all. I'll just be sharing my own insights.

Day 1: Illustrators Intensive - World Building

This was easily my favourite day of the conference despite being terribly sleep deprived. Anxiousness and taxi horns had conspired to keep me up most of the preceding night, and then my daughter woke up at 5:30am. So I went into the intensive pretty tired. Luckily I had lots of coffee and even more anxiousness to get me through the day.

I loved the intensive because it had so much meat to it. The morning was all about the fundamentals of composition and character. The main points that I got were,
  • Use your tools to focus the viewer where they need to focus. Tomie dePaola uses architecture and doorways to frame the main subject, Paul Zelinsky recommends highlighting the focus through value.Whatever you use, make sure the viewer knows where the focus is!
  • Character is key. Reference for costume and facial types is everywhere, that's the easy part. Both dePaola and Brett Helquist go through many, many rounds before they settle on a character design. It takes a lot of trial and error. Helquist relies on the face for character, and dePaola says. That costume is key. The main point is that they have to feel alive, as if there is a mind within them. Contrasting your characters is also important. Skinny-fat, big-small, etc. A good exercise mentioned is to create 2 very different characters and then build a family around them so that they all share certain characteristics, but are also all unique.
The afternoon was even better. There was a panel crit, and then a round table crit. In the panel they selected 30 pieces to review and mine was one of them!!! How amazing is that? I felt very fortunate. First I'll share the recurring themes that came up, then I'll share the specific notes I got on my piece below.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

#140characters140days - Half Way!

140 Days!?!?!

I'm so foolish. My goal of drawing 140 different characters in 140 days is a way bigger task than I planned, and I'm constantly falling behind. But will I give up? NO!

...well... probably not.

Friday, October 18, 2013

#140characters140days Weeks 1 & 2

Weeks 1 and 2 of my mission to create 140 character designs in 140 days has gone okay, though I'm already falling behind due to a big deadline coming up.

I want to blog more about my discoveries during this process but that will have to wait until next month when I have more time. In the meantime here's what I've done so far,

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

My First Picture Book Dummy Part 6 - Finals

Part 1 - Concept And Inspiration
Part 2 - Writing
Part 3 - Thumbnails
Part 4 - Character Design 
Part 5 - Roughs 
Part 6 - Finals

I've lapsed in my writing of this series for a few weeks because I was on holiday and was trying to work as little as possible, but I suppose that's it's own blog post.

I mentioned in a previous post in this series that I still have a few roughs to finish before my book dummy will be complete. This hasn't stopped me from moving ahead to finish some of the final spreads. I was getting stuck on the last roughs and it was frustrating so I followed a piece of advice I got long ago that I often turn to. The advice is this, "Do what you know first, the rest will work itself out after". This is usually applied within one drawing, but can also be used in a bigger project.

In the case of my book dummy it's my hope that seeing a few finished pieces will help inspire me to push through those last problematic roughs, and help to inform them as well.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Textures My Kid Made

My two year old daughter loves crafting, and when she's crafting she loves to cover the paper corner to corner. I can always tell at daycare which craft/painting/drawing is hers because there isn't a speck of space left. Unless you count the tears in the paper from paint overload.

So when she made these 3 crafts with my wife I saw them and thought that they would make potentially neat photoshop textures. Don't ask me how they were made, my wife is the master of the strange painterly concoctions.

Please download them, there's JPG's below or click here to download the TIFF's, and let me know the results!