Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Helpful Links for Illustrators

Monday, September 29, 2014

My Style Evolution

I thought that you guys might like to see some of my old drawings, like old stuff from art school and REALLY old stuff from childhood.


My favorite things to draw were fairies, ballerinas, princesses, brides, dolphins, angels and swans. I enjoyed the vintage illustration in classic fairy tale books, so I tried to make my heroines slender and elegant. I wrote my own books with illustrations on each page - including my own "choose your own adventure" books, because I didn't feel like the library had enough of those.


My Mom gave me a book about drawing pencil portraits, and from then on that was all I did.  I mostly drew Lord of the Rings fanart and portraits of my friends. I improved a lot in drawing realism and faces, but my work lost all its imagination and narrative. I also got into anime during this time, but I believe all my early attempts at drawing anime have been destroyed, thankfully.

After college, before art school (2010)

Because I majored in Japanese, I didn't do much drawing during college and my work hadn't really evolved since high school. I stayed in my pencil portrait comfort zone. While I could draw realistically, I had no idea how to develop a scene from my imagination, relying entirely on photographs. When I applied to the Academy of Art University, they asked me to submit a portfolio. Here are some of the things I submitted.

Beginning art school (2011)

Here I began to attempt digital painting, working in color, and drawing simple backgrounds. I still used photo references but also tried to introduce some imaginary elements. Oil painting classes taught me a lot about light and color.

Middle of art school (2012)

As I took classes about perspective and environment, I was able to start drawing complete scenes. My illustrations and color schemes became more complex, and I began to be able to express some imagination.

Last year of art school (2013) to present

In my last year of art school I really felt like I hit my stride. I developed my own method of digital painting that worked for me and produced consistent results. Interestingly, my specialty is now illustrations that tell stories, and I almost never draw characters floating in space - the opposite of what I used to do. I would like to improve at drawing buildings and city scenes.

In childhood I focused on telling stories, in adolescence I focused on drawing people realistically, and as an adult I've found a way to combine those two interests.

Friday, September 26, 2014

Quote of the Day

"I avoid burn-out by refusing to be too hard on myself. I always take weekends off and I refuse to act on self-destructive thinking patterns like 'I'm not doing enough, I should be better by now, I am not as good as other artists.' The stress that these thoughts can cause is poisonous."

- Lois Van Baarle in Design Inspiration

Monday, September 22, 2014

Personal Work: The Lost Princess

As Princess Rosamond grew up, everybody about her did his best to convince her that she was Somebody; and the girl herself was so easily persuaded of it that she quite forgot that anybody had ever told her so, and took it for a fundamental, innate, primary, first-born, self-evident, necessary, and incontrovertible idea and principle that SHE WAS SOMEBODY.
Recently I was commissioned to draw some super, super girly book covers. I can't post them online yet, but trust me: there were sparkles, there were magic rainbows, there were tiny glowing fairies, and it was fun. Since then I've wanted to draw something girly, but I wasn't sure what to draw.

Something brought back the memory of a favorite childhood book: "The Lost Princess" by George MacDonald. Published in 1875, it seems to have been mostly forgotten by the modern world. In the book, Princess Rosamond is a horribly spoiled brat. She is kidnapped by a wise old woman, who tries to do the princess a favor by teaching her humility, gentleness, and empathy. She uses magical tests and trials, and an intelligent sheepdog named Prince, but it's not easy to reach someone's heart.

The story is actually a profound spiritual allegory about the nature of sin and repentance. I regret that my illustration fails to reflect this whole aspect of the book - I was just really excited to draw a pouting, sullen princess.

My thumbnail was pretty bare. I designed this as a wraparound book cover, just to make things harder on myself, I don't know.

As you can see from this process gif, I sort of made this up as I went along.

I tried to make the princess's dress pretty over-the-top, to emphasize her pampered lifestyle, to contrast her with the solid grey of the old woman, and to make her look out-of-place in the natural surroundings. The ruffled collar might be my favorite part of this drawing.

I used Kyler Webster's gouache brushes on this piece. Sometimes they're difficult to use on tight details, but I like the brushy texture they add.

This is how I imagine the front cover would look:

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Book Covers Before and After Text

It's time for another installment of Book Covers Before and After Text!

The cool thing about book covers is that they're made to work together with text, but they also stand on their own. I find it really interesting to see what book cover illustrations look like both with and without text. Here are some great examples from some insanely talented illustrators and designers.

Illustration by Lane Brown

 Illustration by Kevin Keele

 Illustration by Jason Chan

Illustration by Tristan Elwell

Illustration by P├ętur Atli Antonsson

 Illustration by Sam Weber

Monday, September 15, 2014

Pencil portrait: That Newlywed Glow

Most of the artwork I feature on this blog are digital paintings. However, for the last 6 years I have also run an Etsy shop called drawworm, where I offer custom pencil portraits. This pencil portrait was a commission from that shop.

These ridiculously good-looking lovebirds got married a few weeks ago, and their friend ordered this portrait as a wedding gift.

This was the photo the customer sent me. It is really a joy to work from a lovely photograph of lovely people - I loved drawing that gorgeous long, curly hair! As you can see, I cropped the image to focus more on the couple's faces. I used an 11x14" sized paper.

Using powdered graphite, I added a toned background behind them, to contrast with their very light hair. Then I used the eraser to pull out spots of light, kind of a bokeh effect, just to add a bit of magic.

The customer said, "Its so beautiful in person! We were showing it off to everyone before we wrapped it!" Apparently the couple in the portrait, after they got back from their honeymoon and opened their presents, loved it too! Just another day's work for the drawworm!

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Highlights: Thunder and the Storm

I have two illustrations in the September issue of Highlights magazine!

This story is about a boy named Bailey whose family adopts a hyperactive German shepherd named Thunder. Bailey is intimidated by the large dog. One day a thunderstorm is raging outside, and Thunder is barking inside the garage. At first Bailey is irritated and yells at the dog - until he realizes Thunder is just scared and needs a little kindness.

The art director specifically asked for one of the drawings to look like a cutaway of a house, so we could see the living room and the garage at the same time.

I used contrasting warm and cool color schemes to emphasize the loneliness of the garage. I also gave the characters contrasting color schemes in order to make them stand out - Bailey is cool in a warm room, and Thunder is warm in a cool room.

Just to amuse myself, I put Thomas Kinkaid-esque landscape on the living room wall.

The second illustration description said, "Bailey is cautiously opening the door that leads from the house to the garage. Inside we can see Thunder, who is cowering from the storm but seems to be noticing Bailey."

It was surprisingly hard to find reference photos of German shepherds looking frightened. Maybe they're just so big and fierce that they rarely feel scared about anything.

Here's what the illustrations look like in print: