Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Personal work: Princess Ka'iulani

Crown Princess Ka'iulani was the last heir to the throne of the Hawaiian monarchy. She was intelligent, beautiful and a talented artist.

When Princess Ka'iulani was 17 years old, she was studying abroad in England when she received a telegram:

"'Queen Deposed', 'Monarchy Abrogated', 'Break News to Princess'".

In that single tweet, her country, her future, everything was gone. She traveled to the US on a mission to gather public support for Hawaii, hoping to reverse the hostile takeover of her country.
Today, I, a poor weak girl with not one of my people with me and all these ‘Hawaiian’ statesmen against me, have strength to stand up for the rights of my people. Even now I can hear their wail in my heart and it gives me strength and courage and I am strong.
Despite her efforts, Hawaii became a US State in 1898. Ka'iulani died less than a year later, at the age of 23. I admire her not only because she was a princess, but because she was brave. She was fighting for a cause as a teenager and a non-white woman in a foreign country, where powerful politicians and businessmen were actively working against her. She must have loved her country very much.

I wanted to draw Ka'iulani standing in the ocean waves, which could represent the vast and powerful forces that she was struggling against. Also, ocean, Hawaii, England...I dunno. At first I considered adding some tropical fish or birds, but I didn't just want this to turn into another "pretty girl surrounded by pretty nature" drawing. She was a strong and determined person, so I had the idea of her holding the Hawaiian flag.

I used a stock photo from Deviantart to help get the arms right.

This came out looking much more...heroic than I originally had in mind, but I guess that's what happens when you draw someone holding a flag like that.

While drawing I listened to the "Hawaiian music" radio station on Pandora. It was very pleasant.

For this piece I tried out Kyle Webster's gouache brush set. While you may not be able to notice any  difference at full view, when you go close up you can see sooooo much texture:

The brushes were a lot of fun to use, and I like the painterly detail they've added to the closeups. Combined with my favorite canvas textures on top, the piece looks very convincingly traditional. People often tell me that my paintings look like acrylic or gouache; now I can mess with their heads even more!

The power!


Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Book cover: The Azalea Bones

Here is another book in Annie's Publishing's cozy mystery series "Mysteries Unraveled." (For an explanation of "cozy mystery," see my post on the first book in the series. Quick summary: cozy mystery book covers are generally bright and colorful scenes with a small element that suggests a crime has been committed.)

In this book, a photo shoot for various crochet pieces is being held on the property of a rich, retired judge. A dead bush is dug up in order to pretty up the yard and OMG SKELETON ARM!

The art order for this was very detailed:
The cover should have colorful azaleas to the left and right of the spot where the dead one has been dug up. The background, centered on the open spot, should be a wrought iron garden bench looking away from the scene with a crocheted afghan hung over the back of the bench. I want a skeletal forearm and hand visible in the disturbed ground where the dead azalea has been dug up. A spade or a shovel should be on the ground as if the gardener drops it when he discovers the skeleton. A nice Victorian looking house would be a good contrast for the background. Maybe not dead center, but on one side or the other with a veranda-style wrap-around porch showing.
In other words, they wanted:

  • two azalea bushes
  • dead azalea bush that has been dug up
  • iron garden bench
  • crochet afghan hanging on the bench
  • skeleton hand in the dirt
  • shovel on the ground
  • Victorian house with wrap-around porch

Yeah, it's a lot, but I like the challenge. Trying to get all of these elements to fit together in an attractive way is a puzzle to be solved. In this case, the foreground, midground and background in this scene was pretty much already laid out for me, so I focused on giving the client different options - three different benches, different houses, different shovels, etc.

The client liked the foreground of #2 and the background of #3. They asked me to paint the house white, so that it wouldn't interfere with the title text too much.

The client pointed out that I had forgotten to add a dead azalea bush that has been dug up.

Easily remedied! Yay digital!

The publisher didn't send me a picture of the fully designed cover, but I found this tiny image on their website:

I received a hardcover copy of one of the books in the series in the mail yesterday, and it looks and feels really high quality. If you're interested in ordering a copy, visit Annie's Publishing. (I do not receive any royalties from sales of the book.)

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Practical Links for Illustrators

  • Your Style is What Sells (Or What Gets Attention) by Katie Kath Boyd - this is perhaps one of the simplest and most practical posts on finding your personal style that I've found so far. Especially good for people who feel like they have a lot of styles and don't want to be pinned down to just one.
  • Breaking the Low Mood Cycle by Elodie Under Glass - not illustration specific, but an excellent guide to breaking out of any kind of rut or slump.
  • What I've Learned in 7 Years by Zelda Devon - "These keys do exist. How you get them is up to you. You get them by getting a Mentor, going to the IMC, having a support group of people tell you when your work can be better, copying masters or people that you love, life drawing at every free moment, until it starts making sense. Most people give up. Don't give up."
  • On Breaking Into the Games Industry by Molly Maloney - A thorough, no-nonsense guide to becoming an employable, professional artist. Even if getting into video games is not your goal, this post is filled with valuable advice.
  • 13 Exercises for Clearing the Confusion Surrounding What you Want out of your Illustration Career by Andy J. Miller - "...your career is often steered by the personal work you choose to do."
And finally, I leave you with this encouraging comic. I don't know the name of the artist, whose website is in Russian, but you can find him at schakty.com .

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Figure Sketches

Last night I drew some 1-minute figure sketches by using the Sketchdaily Gesture Generator. They seem to have a good collection of costumed figure photos. Another figure drawing generator I use is Pixelovely, although their photos start repeating themselves after not too long.

I like sketching in ballpoint pen. I think it goes back to my childhood when I would doodle on church bulletins during sermons. Later on I started bringing my own sketching materials to church, but at first I knew I could always rely on Mom to have a good ballpoint pen in her purse somewhere.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Book Cover: Designs to Die For

I am excited to show this to you guys because this is the first book cover I ever worked on for a publisher! Last year my agent asked me if I would be interested in working on a series of "cozy mystery novels."

Yeah, I didn't know what that was either. According to Wikipedia, cozy mysteries "are a subgenre of crime fiction in which sex and violence are downplayed...and the crime and detection take place in a small, socially intimate community. The amateur detective is usually a gregarious, well-liked individual who is able to get the community members to talk freely about each other. Cozy mystery series frequently have a prominent thematic element introduced by the detective's job or hobby."

In this series, "Mysteries Unraveled," the main character is a crochet designer in addition to being an amateur detective.

Cover illustrations for cozy mysteries generally don't feature characters or people - mostly scenes of small towns or still lifes. They are also generally realistic, bright and colorful, with a small "sinister element" that suggests mystery or trouble. The client asked for these things to be included in the cover:
  • A dressmaker’s form, with a crocheted jacket on it
  • A work table
  • A basket of colorful balls of yarn
  • A big window with sheer, sunlit curtains
  • Four crochet hooks, in pairs, of two different lengths
  • A second crocheted item, perhaps the beginning of a scarf, with two of the crochet hooks “engaged” 
  • Sketchpad
Here are the roughs I sent to the client:

The client liked the arrangement of rough #3 but the jacket of #2. So I combined the two and added some rough color:

The client gave it the thumbs-up, but asked me to stab a stiletto knife into the sketchpad, since the scene was missing a sinister element.

Here's the final version:

Here's the completed cover, designed by Brad Snow: 

I've designed several more covers for this series, which I will post later. If you're interested in ordering the Mysteries Unraveled books, you can find them at Annie's Fiction. (I do not receive any royalties from sales of the books.)

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

This is my life

So this is me, working, in my office.

That's my art studio in the corner - my standing desk, a glass of water, and a wall of illustrated postcards I've collected from friends and people at conferences. During the day I might take quick snapshots of myself in various poses, holding props or makeshift costumes, using my dresser as a camera tripod. I took this particular photo because I needed a reference for a foreshortened arm holding a sword.

Yep, this is me working, in my office. My life is kind of amazing.

Monday, August 4, 2014

New Etsy shop!

I opened up a new Etsy shop to sell prints and originals! My art book is available, as well as sets of postcards and some original pencil drawings.

Look at all this cool stuff!

So cool!

So cool you guys!

Special offer for blog readers: When you make a purchase, leave the note "I read your stupid blog" in the order form, and I'll throw in a free postcard!

If you would like a print that's not listed in my Etsy shop, check out my INPRNT store.