Sunday, 27 February 2011

Sketch of Kevan as a Kid

More practice on the Cintiq using the Real 2B Pencil brush in Painter. Lots more "flip vertical" "flip horizontal" to try to get proportions and angles right. It's funny how correcting one thing can then make another thing not work anymore.

I really have to work more on controlling the angle of the stylus. All the Real media brushes in Painter 11 are sensitive not only to pressure of your stylus, but also the slant of the stylus ie the angle to the surface of the cintiq. This means you can use a pencil as a point, as a wide block like a big piece of graphite or charcoal held flat to the surface, and anywhere in between.

It is quite a challenge to not angle your "point" when drawing different places on the canvas, and thus getting a wide shaded line where you didn't want it. And also a challenge being consistent with the angle and the pressure of the stylus when putting down value tones that are quite light. I'm not there yet, but that is the point of the practice.

And funny how when I upload it online, I feel it is the chin that is wrong, for the second night in a row.

I really should have been doing this sort of observation practice all the time for the past twenty years. I swear I have hardly ever done it since I left university (June 1985... eee!) Very good for brushing up the eye/mind ability to see, as well as the hand/eye coordination to be able to put down on paper what you see and want to draw.

More to come...

Saturday, 26 February 2011

Sketch of Suz

Well, I have decided after looking at "sketches" (ie drawings better than I usually do for "final" work) done by Jason Seiler to "warm up" or "practice", to get back into the habit of practicing myself. Esp useful to get my digital hand into shape on Painter with the Cintiq.

I "stole" a profile picture of my friend Suz (photo credits?) from Facebook, and did this sketch with a Real 2B Pencil brush in Painter tonight. It was fun as it was the first time I have tried flipping both a sketch and the reference photo horizontally to do corrections. It is also one of the first times I have tried selecting and then modifying (moving, scale) elements of my sketch to do corrections. For instance I made one of the eyes smaller and moved it without redrawing, moved her whole face up and over since I had drawn it too long and wide compared to the position of the hat.

It was really fun to see how fast I could eyeball a change by dragging an element to a better spot rather than erasing and redrawing. That is often one thing that hindered me "fixing" errors I could see in a sketch: the prospect of "losing" the work I had already done. Ie if a shape of eye or face silhouette were well-captured by badly placed, I'd avoid erasing and redrawing, and just finish up the sketch knowing that proportions were wrong. Using the lasso select tool and then moving individual parts of the portrait really freed me up to correct errors.

Another thing I need to work on that I have started playing with is the opacity of the brush medium. I was finding the 2B pencil to shade in much too dark with very little pressure when trying to shade Suz's face. I helped that by changing the opacity from 100% to 40% and then finally to 25% and was much happier with my ability to manipulate the digital pencil.

I can see that one thing I should do is save the sketch next to the reference image, and then look in Photoshop Browse at the thumbnails when they are wee and tiny. Amazing how fast one can see incorrect angles or proportions then. Of course I just realized now when I had saved the native Painter .riff file as a .psd file, closed Painter and opened Photoshop to resize the image for uploading to blogs etc. Next time I'll look at them with that sort of distance while sketching.

Well, there you go for tonight. I really should do this very regularly: it is so long since I really draw from reference and get in some practice vs drawing from my imagination, and going direct to work for clients.

Tuesday, 15 February 2011

Self-portraits and Artistic Self-Improvement

Well, after I did the pencil self-portrait in Painter last night I was both thrilled that I can still sort of draw from life (really, most of my work lately had been less and less realistic, more and more gestural and line-work with wash that has little or no 3D pretensions)... and just stunned yet again by how grade-school my artistic skill actually is. It really is depressing, and I have a hard time just pushing myself to keep working and keep putting myself out there.

Then today, on Jason Seiler's FB page, someone shared this wonderful link to a post by Marc Dalessio about the his self-portraits over the years, his increasing technical skills both in rendering and composition, and his development compared to his self-perceptions.
That's a self-portrait Feb 25, 1984 by myself.

Check it out, it is fascinating, and also there is a great graph at the bottom of the entry, comparing the evolution of his ability to see, his technical skill, and his perception of his technical skill. He really has managed to capture the flux of these elements over the years in a simple line graph.

So, for me, forward and onward. So glad I signed up for the class, which starts in a short two weeks. I am both excited and daunted. I worry that it will teach me things not applicable to how I currently work (mostly in watercolor with little actual modeling of subjects, whereas the teacher, Ryan Wood, works mostly in an opaquer painterly manner, quite modeled), AND that I have totally insufficient artistic development to get the most out of it. In any manner, I am sure to learn a lot, be pushed (which I really need) and to improve in ways I cannot yet guess.

Self-Portrait in Digital Pencil

Hmmm, I was going to do a quick pencil sketch in Painter 11 to use as a basis to try out some digital watercolor following this online tutorial by Joan A. Hamilton. But I got carried away. Using the Real 2B Pencil brush in Painter is fun, as it is so responsive to tilt and pressure of the stylus... so what started as a bit of indicative shading ended up with me doing a value drawing. I will perhaps turn it into a line-drawing to do a watercolor trial from but perhaps not. I'll hopefully be wearing different clothes tomorrow, with different lighting (it is dark outside now, 5:30 am, and the light is from a desk lamp beside my cintiq).

So, I'll just share this impromptu portrait for now. Totally unplanned

Monday, 14 February 2011

"Fiddling with Water Soluble Pencils"

mittens copyright 2011 Paula Pertile

My illustration colleague, Paula Pertile has been trying out new methods of working with water soluble colored pencils. She regularly uses nonsoluble colored pencils for her illustrations, but wants to get rid of the white paper that shows as specks through her coloring. Here in her blog she shows us her trials and compares different methods of using the pencils. Check it out!

Happy Valentine's Day!

Saturday, 12 February 2011

First edu work "inked" in Painter

Well, I have done two books now that were "inked" in Painter 11, and then printed out on watercolor paper, and then greytone washes applied: Jason et la Tortue des Bois and The Mystery of the Missing Luck. The first I also did a color cover in this manner, but the color was sploshed haphazardly over the black ink lines. The second was done in a more traditional style, with the "coloring" closely following the shapes in a "3D" manner. The first was done with a Croquil Pen brush variant and the second with a Real 2B Pencil brush variant. Both brushes are custom sizes I made to mimic my traditional professional work, by opening up a previously completed work and then trying to find a similar Painter 11 brush, by trial and error, and then saving it as a custom variant.

Now I had 9 illos in full colour to do for a grade 8 textbook, in my traditional style. I normally have VERY light pencil lines transfered by tracing onto my watercolor paper and then add the line work at the very end in a rather loose manner in 4B graphite lead. I decided to do the pencil lines in Painter as I had for the Missing Luck book, print them out and then color in on top. I wasn't sure how this would go: if my paints (Rotring Artistcolor acrylic inks) would be transparent enough to go over the printed pencil lines so it didn't show that the lines were beneath the color, and if it would simply look good.

But the new trad sketch on tracing paper/ digital final lines on a layer/ print on watercolor paper/ colour in with brush and ink on watercolor paper/ scan in final work to send to client method really cuts out days of tracing and transfering, so I thought I'd give it a go.

So here is how it went: First, the sketch I sent to the client: which was done in .5mm 2H pencil lead on tracing vellum and scanned in.

When it was approved, I imported it into Painter and saved as a Riff file, added a layer ("Painter Lines") to draw on and a layer ("white") to block out the underlying sketch so I could check my line work and also drop all the layers and save as my final line work:

I found that the line work is perhaps not as loose as when I am drawing over a finished colored drawing, probably because I knew that these lines would define my color shapes, rather than just compliment them. I also found that when I lighten up on the stylus, the pencil line in Painter goes lighter but not necessarily narrower... in a regular sharpened pencil lead, you can make a line that starts and ends with sort of a point tapering off, and pressing down it goes thicker. In Painter I found it goes lighter with less pressure, and if you hold the stylus up it goes narrower, but not to a point, more to a blunt ending the size of your brush. I wonder if this can be changed? In the "minimum size" setting of the brush perhaps? But I'm still pretty happy with the line work.

I printed it out and colored it. Somehow I think it looks "neater" and "crisper" than my traditional work. Perhaps as I am coloring in very clear lines instead of light traced lines? Here is the raw scan (you can see the paper color and texture):
I scanned it into Photoshop as a psd, and in Photoshop is where I do all the adjusting.

Finally I got to fix things like the fact that I reached across my wet drawing to type in something in my computer (I push my cintiq back on my desk and had my keyboard in front of it, and my drawing closest to me) and dragged my sleeve across the teacher's hair (used to be a big prob to do something like this in trad. work that wasn't submitted digitally). I knocked out the white background by selecting with the magic wand tool and subtracting things it grabbed I didn't want. I thought it might keep the colors closest to the original to do this instead of adding a "levels" adjustment layer, making the paper color "pure white". But perhaps it makes the colors "duller"? And I just dropped out the white highlight in the eyes, and nothing else that is "white" in the actual drawing, like the white shirts and pants. I used to always adjust the levels to drop out the background, but some clients said the colors were too light (ie reds came out pink, faces came out too "pink" and not "peach" enough).

I'm pretty happy with the results. I haven't heard back from the client yet.

Here's an image I did traditionally from the Grade 6 book of the same textbook series:

And you can compare the two in this close-up comparison. Here you can see the pencil looks very similar in color and density, though I think there is more variety in the line in the non-digital version (right side), and you can see how lines can end in a "point" instead of fading into a blunt ending like on the left Painter version:

Do you think that the right hand image is "brighter" since I adjusted the levels on the scan to knock out the background paper color instead of just deleting it around the painting as in the left hand side? hmmm. Anyone have any tips for making your whites "white" when working on watercolor paper and scanning it in?

Well, I think it was overall a complete success.
To cap it off, here is another image from the same Grade 8 project:

Hmmm, looking at that as a thumbnail on the page, I do think that keeping the scanned color is maybe a mistake, that it looks a bit "old" and "dull" compared to the brighter "brightness boosted" older Grade 6 artwork... "nostalgic" isn't a descriptive I think Grade 8 textbook publishers are going for. I'll see what the client thinks. Easy to remedy "levels".

Well, there you go. First educational project done with help of the Cintiq and Painter 11. yay! Delivered a week before deadline. Even better.

Five minutes later: here are the two illos from this project with a levels layer added to make the paper read as "white"... to compare and see if they look better...

Leave a comment and tell me what you think...
thanks so much!

Tuesday, 8 February 2011

NYTimes: E-books Rise in Children's and Young Adult Categories

Well, it looks like we may be over the "new media" hump for children's and new adult books in the e-reader category: It seems like a lot of kids got e-readers, whether the Nook, the Kindle, or the Sony e-reader for holiday gifts. As a result, HarperCollins for example, saw the percentage of YA e-book sales go from 6% of books sold to 25% in the four-week period after the holidays.

And parents are reporting that kids are turning away from TV to read their new ebooks as entertainment, esp on all these snow days the US has been having.

Of course, because the classics, which are no longer in copyright, are often offered free, many kids are reading things like Little Women, which doesn't affect current new book sales much.

But kids are also appreciating that they can get the newest in their favorite series by downloading them immediately. Apparently Harry Potter was very popular in hardcover as kids wanted the new episodes as soon as they were launched. And now with their e-readers they can be the first on the block to read the latest.

Hopefully publishers will discover how to make e-books and apps (it is all very tentative and confusing at the moment, with a lot of hesitation and experimentation, with fears of going in the wrong directions) work as a business, and hopefully some of this new technology will reflect jobs and financial rewards back on us creators who create new content for new books...

Right now it is kind of the wild west out there... to be continued!!

Thursday, 3 February 2011

Happy Chinese New Year of the Rabbit!

Well, another quick promo piece done in Painter 11. I did the linework with the Croquil pen, a custom size to duplicate what I do with my traditional dip pen. And then I did the colors on a Liquid Ink layer below the line layer: Smooth Thick Bristle 12 variant that I changed the size and angle on. I am not sure if this is a good way to color for email and web, as the "Liquid Ink" is supposed to look like it is somewhat impasto. I think this may come out as strange pixellation when it is saved at a lower dpi and reduced in size to email out to clients and friends.

The chinese characters were a challenge. I never did find a brush that I liked, which would have been something replicating a soft round pointed brush with a thin quite liquid ink. It seemed either I got brushes without variable lines, or too much bristle (ie sumo), or that I was incapable of changing the angle, or that were too "thick" ie gouache, oils. I hate to say that after all that trying and deleting, trying and deleting, I cannot for the life of me remember which brush I ended up going with. Drat!

Well, hopefully it is fun and dynamic.

Wednesday, 2 February 2011

Do kids still want books?

A very interesting article at today: What Do Children's Book Consumers Want?.

It is a reassuring look at the state of entertainment in kids' lives today:

""Children's books are not going anywhere. They're going to be a very secure category in the marketplace," said former Association of Booksellers for Children executive director Kristen McLean during a presentation at the ABA's Winter Institute with Kelly Gallagher, v-p of publishers services at Bowker/PubTrack. That, coupled with the fact that bookstores continue to play a key role as a driver of sales, were among the highlights of a joint consumer study with Bowker and ABC (now a part of the ABA), which was also presented at Digital Book World last week.

Sponsored by Random House, Macmillan, Penguin, Scholastic, and Little, Brown, the survey, which is available from Bowker, examines consumer attitudes toward purchasing children's books in three categories: adults buying for children ages 0–6, adults buying for children ages 7–12, and teen consumers ages 13–17."

Under the question "How important are the following media for children 0-6?" Parents gave 7.8 out of 10 (max importance) to Books, 6.5/10 for Childrens's dvds, followed by Television, Educational Websites (5.5), Board Games, Chidren's Magazines, and then we finally get to the digital media (other than the highly ranked educational websites: I myself prefer my son visit them than watch tv): Video Game Systems: 4.3, Handheld Games 4.2, Online Games 4.2.

Turns out small kids are online a lot: over half the kids 0-6 went online 57% of thee time, only one percent point less than they read a book for school or for fun. Interestingly only 9% read an e-book.

Middle age kids are online a bit less: one third of the kids 7-12 go on line a moderate amount, 43% at least a little bit and 12% are frequent Internet users. I would venture that the small kids growing up with the internet will be a generation who have grown up saturated in internet and will consider it as much a part of daily life as my generation did with tv (disclosure: I was 0-6 yrs old in the 60's! My parents was the last generation before mine to not watch tv at home all the time).

Teens spend a lot of time online, but still 39% of them read print books for fun. And despite being online a lot (esp texting and Facebook etc), over 80% don't read e-books and only 5% saying they do frequently.

Does this mean that printed books are here to stay, or that simply e-books are so new that parents haven't gotten around to buying them for kids, or that kids aren't accustomed to reading e-books but will switch over, just as iPods took over from discmans and walkmans? We'll see.

But in general... it looks like books are still winners from both the smaller kids (whose parents shop for them) and the teens (who choose for themselves) when it comes to enjoyable free time. Excellent news for my industry.

Hopefully schools and municipalities will sit up and take notice and stop trying to phase out libraries for computers and digital media (turns out that kids get the majority of books they read at school and public libraries). As libraries account for a great portion of publishers' sales, this is good news. Library copies are also better bound (hardcover, library bindings) so the cover price is higher and the creators get a higher per book royalty.

And good news for bookstores (most people buy books in real stores rather than online: I hadn't realized that would rank so low as a purchasing destination for consumers).

Forward and onward with Children's Books!

Tuesday, 1 February 2011

New Blog!

So, here I am trying to pull together a new illustration blog, since I don't have enough on my hands. But lately I've been doing a lot of trial sketches with my new Cintiq with both Painter 11 and Photoshop, and I'd like to have a place other than facebook to keep these things together. Also at the end of February I will be taking a class with Ryan Wood at and I'd like to blog about that too.

In the next couple of weeks I'll try to flesh this out with a proper template, images, pages, links etc. For now, just a new year's wish (We still are only a month into 2011 and the Year of the Rabbit starts in three days!)

You're all welcome to check back here now and then, and hang out!