the trials of digital illustration

In the last post I talked a bit about learning to draw faces. Which is obviously important if you want to illustrate a children’s book. But, even once you’ve achieved the magical state of sketching the same character twice, that’s not quite enough. You’ve still got to turn the sketches into pictures. Which, for me, meant returning to Gimp and my wacom tablet whom I had temporarily abandoned for the sake of learning to pencil sketch. First, I outlined my sketch and coloured it in:

windowworkingI was really happy with this until I flipped it horizontally and realised something was off kilter. I became more frustrated when I came back to it because it just didn’t look… good? I didn’t like the style. But I didn’t know how to do any other style. I remembered that I like lineless art and decided to give that a go, along with fixing up her posture so she looks less smushed.

linelessOkay so her posture seems better but that only serves to highlight all the things I didn’t like about this picture. The edges are jagged and uneven where they should be smooth. The shading on her face seems unnatural. I went hunting for inspiration. I found it with Kali Ciesemier. And it became clear to me that one of the things causing me trouble was an inability to use pen pressure to control the size of my brush. I spent ages and ages trying to work out why GIMP wasn’t working with my tablet until I stumbled across:

One reason this can happen is if you plug in your tablet AFTER opening GIMP.

For real. That was my problem. Once it was fixed I set about messing with settings to create a drawing line I was happy with. In the non-smooth brushes I made my angle random, to create a more natural line, in the smooth brushes it was all about the pressure curve. And, taking inspiration from Kali Ciesemier’s blog, I started with a greyscale:

greysIt was obvious to me that this was a vast improvement. Finally, I felt this was approaching a style that seemed deliberate and complete, rather than messy and awkward. Although I liked it in greyscale, I did want to add some colour.

colourThe primary difficulty I had in this part (and it’s still a thing I don’t know how to fix) was that I’d used rough edged brushes. So then, when I select a section of the drawing to colour, it doesn’t select the edges and I get weird little patches of colour like at the bottom of her chin and along the collar line. I guess you could just colour the edges you want to get the inbetween colour first: so I could have started with the neck, rather than shirt and then gone shirt rather than chin? I don’t know. Anyway, I was just going to leave it like this but when I came back to it the next day, I wondered if, with all the other things I’ve been learning recently, I could learn to do some texture too. So I messed with my brushes again, setting the flow rate way down low, and had a go. I like it:

colour2

I added the glass marks and the border around the window because I thought it looked a little too empty. There are a few stray marks that could/will be cleaned up, but overall I’m really happy with this. I think it’s come a long way from the first attempt at colouring just a few days ago.

Now, onto the remaining seven pages 🙂

drawing faces

I took a little break from digital art to focus on drawing with pencil and paper. Mostly what happened was this:

  • I tried to create a character to carry across several drawings in different poses and expressions
  • I discovered I couldn’t draw the same face twice.

history

So I set myself the task of just drawing faces. Every night (okay, most nights) I picked a person and drew them from several angles and/or with different expressions. Here are some things I learnt:

  • Warming up is essential: my last picture was almost always the best.
  • Sketch lines for eyes and nose and mouth help.
  • Drawing quickly and with harsh lines can be better than drawing slowly and constantly erasing anything slightly wrong.

For example:
21stjun 21stjun2

The other day I returned to my illustration project and was please to discover I can draw the same (invented) face twice in a row now. Approximately.

P7200113 windowbetter

Stay tuned for my adventures in turning the right hand sketch into a digitally coloured illustration…

bits and bobs

I read, somewhere, that you should keep blog posts to one topic. Focus on one thing for each post. But in trying to do that, I didn’t post anything at all. So let me just tell you about my life lately.

Firstly, I’m moving back to Adelaide. Well, almost certainly. I mean I don’t have a job there and neither does my husband. But at least now we’ve started looking. If I’m honest I’ll be really surprised if we end up going somewhere else. (If we do go somewhere else we’re only going to go as far as Melbourne so there’s that.)

It’s weird living like this. I hated it, when I knew I was going to be moving to Perth, but had to finish honours first. And I hate it now. I hate that my life feels like it’s in the future and that the now is just something to get through. I sometimes think that this feeling is the only thing that was difficult about year 12. We know that this stage of life is almost over, so we want to start dealing with the new problems now. 

In happier news, I had a birthday and went to the zoo and got some really cool presents that have encouraged me to keep working on my art. So I’ve mostly laid aside digital art for the time being and focused on learning to draw. I really love it. I can see my improvement and I’m also learning to draw more quickly. Plus, it’s just fun. Here are some of my favourites. (Is it weird to have favourites of your own work? I don’t care.)ImageImageImage

On the topic of Achieving This Year’s Goals:

 

 – Hot Key books announced their Young Writers Prize for this year so I’m about to get stuck into editing my NaNo novel for real this time.

 

 – My garden is growing nicely. I don’t know what I’m gonna do when we leave though. Have a picture of a delicious carrot.

ImageImage

(Reference photos for Taylor Swift and Doc Martin.)

i’ve been drawing more than writing.

I am sitting at my desk with a cup of peppermint tea to my left and the rain drizzling outside. It feels like summer is over and we have returned to Perth’s other season: the AutumNotReallyWinterSpring that’s made up of a smattering of rainy days spaced out by plenty of sunshine days with cool mornings and warm afternoons. I don’t mind it. The rain is comforting.

finalsmall

I’ve been drawing more than writing in the last few weeks. After a furious foray into making art for Neil Gaiman’s Calendar of Tales (including the picture above), I had been wondering what to use as inspiration next when my Mum suggested a bunch of projects she could use while tutoring primary school kids.

First up I decided to take on the task of creating a (very) different piece of art for each of numbers 1-12. I’m not halfway yet but I’m having a lot of fun. My main aim, in art at the moment, is to learn as many styles as possible. This project is definitely helping by forcing me to look away from the techniques I used in the Calendar of Tales and find new ones.

withclouds                     waitingonideaslayers                       starting2

I’m feeling a little hampered by only using GIMP and Inkscape though. Does anyone have any suggestions of their favourite (preferably free) digital art programs?

art

I’ve never thought of myself as a person who could create worthwhile visual art. Sure, I would have admitted that, given some training, I could probably produce something that wasn’t disastrous. But I didn’t really believe it and it’s not like it bothered me so I never took any steps to become a better artist, or become a visual artist at all (beyond photography).

But I think we all know that I’m a fan of Neil Gaiman and this week he inspired me to create art. He’s doing a thing with Blackberry, a calender thing, and here is how it’s working.

A few weeks ago he took to twitter to get inspiration by asking questions. He then chose an answer for each month and used that as a basis/starting point/inspiration for a short story. Now, the world at large is being asked to participate again, this time in the form of contributing an art piece inspired by one of his short stories.

For example, the question for October was: “What mythical creature would you most want to meet in October? (& why?)”  and the answer he chose to inspire his story was: “A djinn. Not to make a wish. But for the very best advice on how to be happy w/ what you already have.” (@elainelowe). You can read all the stories here.

And I made this,

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Her face is based loosely on Rihanna and I sketched from a bunch of different pictures (thank you google images). The lamp was basically out of my head and, if I’m honest, I don’t like it as much as the woman’s face.

But I made it, it’s mine. And it turns out that art is fun, totally unlike the stressful panic I remember from art classes at school. Then I thought, people are always colouring pencil sketches in using their computers, maybe I could do that. So I did. This was a little more stressful (mostly just the step of transferring the sketch to a black-transparent layer) and I think I still like the pencil sketch better but it was also SO MUCH FUN. Who knew?

octcoloured

 

Art submissions for the calender are open til March 4th and, even if you’re not interested in that, I highly recommend checking out the stories.