Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Tick Tock You Don't Stop

Before I go on I would like to acknowledge that I used lyrics from a cheesy early 90's song as inspiration for the title. I'm deeply sorry for the ear worm that now plagues you.

This is Clockwork Sparrow. Beautiful and deadly. 

In my last post on Kimmy Watson I showed how to build up different elements of an image using different programs. I am keeping up with the One Hit Kill theme but showing a little less of the step by step process. It's not because I put less time into the illustration...that most certainly was not the case. It's just that some pieces are more complex than others. This particular piece was what I like to call a "discover as you go" piece.


A lot of the small parts are derivatives of other small parts. In Kimmy all the badges, for example, were their own imagery. 

You'll notice in the process gif below that the piece went through many small changes. The original sketch of the bird changed position and posture. As I started to flesh out the bird I realized that she (definitely a she) looked disjointed. Smoother wings allowed for a more natural look.

I also played around with the color scheme a bit. Not too much but enough to change the mood from a bright fun day to a more overcast day. When I sent the client my progress shot he mentioned that he preferred a more "London sky over a Phoenix sky". This gave me a keen sense of the mood he was going for.

I allowed myself to play around with softer vs harder edged backgrounds, shifts in color, changes in saturation as well as adding and subtracting little glowy bits. I needed to keep a strong silhouette so clear separation of temperature and value was key. Warm bird cool background. It's easy for me to get caught up in the details so shrinking the image down really small and adding a saturation layer with 0 saturation allowed me to see the overall impact of the image. 







No matter what changes you make during the process always remember that the sketch and final achieve the same goal. As a teacher I often combat the practice of completely changing an idea without communication. If you get a sketch approved that's the image you need to complete. Don't change the approved image because you came up with something better. Bad idea. Make sure you stick to the plan. People don't like big surprises. 

Unless it's cake. Cake is a great surprise.


Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Kimmy Watson Process - Illustrator, Photoshop and Painter, oh my.

Recently I was called upon to create six images for a card game called "One Hit Kill" created by John August. There are some super fun cards and I had the pleasure of creating a handful of them. This particular card I'm featuring was one of my favorites to work on. Basically it's a badass scout ready to take on the world and kick some butt. Images of a sweet girl in uniform yielding a baseball bat, hunting knife and a black and blue eye immediately entered my head. 

Stop. Reign it in. This has to have a softer approach than that plus it needs to remain kid friendly. So let's think magical or smart and sassy tough girl. Let's give the client a choice.

FYI: I was netflixing Buffy the Vampire Slayer while working on this piece. Super girl power infused inspiration right there.


Original Graphite Sketches. She needed to be a sassy scout with attitude. I thought pink brass knuckles would be a fun addition. I also thought that a magical cookie box could hold a lot of power. After all they don't ever last very long in the cupboard...constantly calling out my name. Pretty powerful cookies if you ask my bathroom scale.

Value Comps done in Photoshop. Here I decided to add a bit more to the cookie box  by showing magical flying thin mints. The brass knuckles were chosen by the client and I was off and running. It was time to get started on the base. Below I have excerpts of the illustration. At the end of the post there is a gif that shows a step by step process from sketch to finish.


Adventure Scout Badges in Adobe Illustrator. Although they play a small part in the whole illustration  I'm a sucker for detail and it's important to keep them clear and obvious. This is where vector art helps me not to fall into the "I want to get super detailed on these little things that no one will see once it's reproduced into a tiny card". Illustrator becomes a great time management tool.

I then copy and paste them into Photoshop. I added stitching and textures in Corel Painter and then again in Photoshop. Because I originally had the icons figured out in Illustrator I could concentrate on just the detailing in the raster file. Because I worked this way I easily cut my time in half if not more. 


I wanted a round cookie motif in the background so I designed the initial base in Illustrator using the  polar grid and basic shape tools. Oh, and the almighty pen tool. Don't hate the pen tool. Love it.



After the copy and paste into Photoshop I then added additional lighting detail in Corel Painter. And then additional texture in Photoshop. It turns out that I really like the way the cookies look. I may decide to create a pattern of them somewhere down the line and upload them to my Spoonflower store. Cookie fabric. Yeah. That could work.
Sidenote: The texture is a scanned rice paper I bought in the wee days of college. I love the way it interacts with the paint.



The cookie pin lapel was originally created as a vector and then rendered in Painter to add volume. But hold up! I had to change the trefoil cookie for trademark reasons. Nobody needs to get a cease and desist letter from a bunch of angry girl scouts. That could be frightning. Instead the client and I decided on an AS logo indicating "Adventure Scout".

Some more badges. I knew most of these would be covered by her arm and pink brass knuckles but I still needed them drawn out. 


This is the final before the cookie correction. Below is a step by step process of the piece which includes the final cookie correction. It's about 10 seconds so it shouldn't bore you too fast.






Up Next...Clockwork Sparrow.

Thanks for visiting!


Tuesday, August 26, 2014

A Beast Named Jury

Should you enter competitions?  If so which ones?  It's a tough decision when your trying to watch your spending.  Trite but true...you have to spend money to make money.  Entering competitions are rarely free and can add up to a hefty sum so it's important to pick and choose your competition.

Napoleon Boneaparte
One of my Five "Animals From History" pieces accepted into 3x3's Picture Book Competition

This summer I was extremely fortunate to get an email from Charles Hivey saying that five of my pieces got into 3x3's Picture Book Competition.  This was the same gaggle I entered into the Spectrum Call for Entries and the Society of Illustrators NY Annual show however I did not get accepted into either of the latter.


Elvis Petme

I don't take it personally if my work doesn't get chosen.  Every competition is juried.  All juries are different.  The work might not be chosen with one jury yet another may choose several pieces.  It's the nature of the beast named jury.


Migrowl De Cervantes

Research who uses the outcome of the competition.  Make an educated decision if it's worth taking the risk to enter.  If there is a handful of companies you have had your eye on that depend on the  outcome, whether it be a show, site or publication, then it's worth taking that risk.


Jizo Bodhissatva

If you get into a competition then chart your activity to see what it is doing for you.  If your obtaining new contacts, seeing spikes in your webstats, noticing more active email and social media requests then it's worth entering again.  The same goes for promotions, shows and conventions.


S. Leopard & Snowzelda Fitzgerald

If your unsure what competitions to choose then try several different ones.  See if you get any bites.  This method can be extremely enlightening if your unsure of what path to take in the industry.

You never know until you try and remember....an acceptance is so much sweeter when you have a pile of rejections in your wake.



Friday, May 16, 2014

SFAL: Why Do You Bother? You Don't Paint Like Them.


Recently I exhibited at Spectrum Fantastic Art Live in Kansas City MO.  If you are unfamiliar with SFAL I'll give you an extremely brief overview.

It is a convention that features the best of fantasy illustration.

There are some major industry hitters that exhibit, attend and lecture.  Many illustrators attend to connect with new art directors.  Many arrive planning to sell originals and/or reproductions to the hordes of fantasy / sci fi fans.  Some just go for the camaraderie among the many professionals in the industry.  All of these are definitive goals that are good for business as well as inspiration.

When it comes to the art most work shows a certain level of high action, figurative genius, fantastical elemental worlds and narrations of swashbuckling significance.

And then there's me.

Although I may have a microscopic bit of some of these things in my portfolio it's most definietly NOT what I'm aiming for at the moment.  So why do I bother attending a convention the focuses on something that, well, isn't me?


"Nobody puts kitty in a corner"


I really like to attempt to be organized so here is a list as to why I did it...

1.  It's located in middle Amercia and the organizers of SFAL have been marketing to the locals.  I paint animals in people's clothes.  Glorified pet portraits, I guess.  Yeah....simple.  Not rocket science.  People like it.  Not only did my sales significantly rise from my first SFAL two years ago but I continue to get sales via my online stores.  Total Score.

2.  My work is different from the majority, therefore it stands out.  Don't get me wrong...a lot of ADs, fans and illustrators who attend this convention are looking for grandiose images of figures, action and heavy narrative.  I'm not going to grab their attention.  But I am going to grab their friend's / child's / partner's attention.  Those small conversations I have with "the other people" go a long way in a short time.  During the first SFAL it led to my biggest backer in my kickstarter campaign hence the whole Animals From History book.  I'm a square peg and I like it.

3.  Although it's a fantasy and sci/fi convention the location is Hallmark territory.  It's like my perfect storm.  Many people that I spoke with have an interest in both fantasy and licensing.  These conversations led to other ideas on how to market my work.  The collected research alone was worth it.

4.  SFAL is accepting of many different mediums and styles.  The focus is on the strength of the image.  It's all encompassing, which is very good for my goals, and that breeds positivity among people in the industry.

The traditional vs digital snobbery scale at SFAL is at a low which is why the inspiration and camaraderie meters are so much higher.

5.  And let's not forget the obvious.  BBQ.  No.  I'm not kidding.  Dom and I rarely go on vacation so to be able to walk around a new city, sample the local fair and interact with the people is a great way to escape my own head.  This down time allows my mind to run wild and take in things around me.  Anything from the cuisine to the architecture.  In turn it sparks my creative juices and gets my mind working on the next image or story.  Kansas City is a beautiful city with a whole lot to experience.  It's a win/win.

SFAL has a direct focus that doesn't scream my name but at the same time the convention embraces those who think differently.  I'm happy to take that bull's horns and run.

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Spectrum Live III

Next Friday begins the creative inspiration fest that is Spectrum Live III. If you can make it to Kansas City MO you'll find a plethora of over 200 wonderful artists and their wares...not to mention world famous BBQ and mechanical bulls.  I mean seriously. You can't go wrong.  Here's the link to the convention.  It's only May 9-11!


"Distelfink Girl" 8"x8" oil and gold leaf on cradeled masonite

My booth number is 602 / 703 so stop on by and say hello!  In addition to numerous 11x14 prints priced lower than my normal $25 etsy prices, low cost drawings, studies and mini paintings I will also be selling six framed oil paintings, three of which are from my "Animals From History" book.  

Cleo is 11x14 oil and leafing on masonite

I realize that I haven't posted in a good long while so the Animals From History journey might be new to you.  I'll build a little anticipation and save that story for a later post.  All I'm saying right now is I'm working with a literary agent and I'm thinking podcasts for the fall.  Chew on that for awhile!


The Fitzgeralds are 16x20 with a big silver leafed frame (not shown).  
Oils, acrylics, leafing and collage.

Oh, but that's not all!!


 Napoleon Boneaparte gracing the cover of my 
Animals From History teaser booklet

I'll also have this little number featuring 10 of my animals along with brief teaser stories. These are only $5.00 and I have a limited supply so be sure to get them while they are hot!  I will not be reprinting or selling them anywhere else so it's a Spectrum only thing.


A little Blue Suade Paws perhaps....



Or a saucy little feline queen?  

Ok. So you have read this far which is only one reason as to why you are fabulous.  Because you have dragged yourself through my rambling I'm going to offer you a deal. If you want to buy a print  from me at Spectrum I'll give you $5.00 off but it comes with a catch. When your ready to cash out with me say the phrase "Napoleon Boneaparte is a sassy mongrel."  If you want to switch out the last word to spice up the moment, knock yourself out. 

M.L. Jobs looking annoyed....and super shiny.  11x14 oils.


But remember.....his name is pronounced BONE-a-part.  

See you in Kansas City!!

Monday, June 17, 2013

Threadless T-shirt Contest

CAUTION:  Shameless self-promotion ahead......

My cat shirt is rated number 4 out of 190 designs on Threadless.com.  The contest ends this Friday (the 21st) and I need as many votes as I can get to rise to the number one spot.  If you have a second to vote for me (press #5) I would appreciate it!  I think the girl would look sweet on a tank and onesie.  Plus, there is a cash prize and many other spoils that is helpful as well ;)  Click here to vote.




A onesie....yeah....that's right




Thanks for your support and keep an eye out for my "Animals" update coming soon.




Friday, May 24, 2013

Diversity in Gardening - Process

I'm currently painting a lot for my "Animals" book but I wanted to take a moment and post my process on another piece.  In April I spoke to two illustration groups at Marywood U and Pennsylvania College of A&D.  I got a lot of great feedback regarding the process portion of my lecture so I wanted to take the opportunity to share it with you.



This was created for the summer cover of GreenPrints magazine.  The only perimeters were the dimensions of the cover and it had to be about summer gardening.



Above are the rough sketches.  I usually don't add color but considering that GP is a black and white magazine with ONE color image I feel it's worthy to take the extra time.

I wanted to get the warm summer feeling across and felt the first one showed more about gardening than the others.  Pat, the AD, agreed and he decided to go with the nesting dolls.  On another note, he posted these comps online for reader feedback and the butterfly was first choice.  What does that mean?  It means that I may want to revisit the idea again but with more emphasis on the gardening aspect and not the end product of a garden.  (Many ideas are already churning in this head)




I used nesting dolls because I felt they keep on giving, similar to a summer garden in the height of abundance.  In addition I wanted to add numerous people of all kinds.  This was a way to incorporate the human diversity as well as the garden diversity.  Pat also read it as a connectivity among gardeners which works perfectly with the message he likes to get across to his readership.




I started with scanning the sketch and dropping it into Adobe Illustrator.  I created vector flat shapes in order to figure out basic color and placement.  I then transferred it into Corel Painter where I started to add the features of the main character.




I then had a lot of fun painting flowers and textures.  I sometimes extract a flower like the dahlias and poppies so I can use them in product design on Society6 or sell them as pendants on Etsy.  I'm all about using the illustration to it's full potential and creating several avenues of income from one image.




At the end I added rays but was unsure if I really needed them.  I added directionals in some prior pieces and liked what they did but didn't want all my pieces to depend on that element.  So I sent both off to Pat and let him choose.  He couldn't decide so he posted them on Facebook so he could get some feedback from his readers.  It was almost a tie but he chose to go without the rays.  Some of the comments mentioned that the rays added the additional summer element of sun while other comments pointed out that the focus became more on the spade and not the gardeners as a whole.




Neither is right or wrong.....just depends on what you want the focus to be on.  Considering that Pat wanted to showcase connectivity and diversity it was best to choose the version without rays.

Below is a time lapse of the process showing my files from 00-12.  Thanks for reading and enjoy!



Visit my new shop on Society6!

Thursday, April 25, 2013

The Loss of My Muse


Roscoe P. Coltrane  2000-2013

As a freelancer you take comfort in those who understand you.  You live a life of hermitage hunkered over your work all hours, morning, noon and night, sometimes not interacting with people for days on end.  Those who support your lifestyle and goals become immensely valuable.  If your lucky you have someone to share that with on the home front.  A companion to walk through the lonely stretches of time in a one person studio.  Dominick and I are fortunate to have each other and we were blessed to have another to be with us during these past 13 years.





Roscoe, Dominick and I at the Annual Boardwaddle Ocean City, NJ





Roscoe perfected the art of infiltrating photo shoots





"Helping" me pack artwork in the studio


For 13 years Roscoe, our basset hound, was our companion and fur child.  He lived a long spoiled life and was my sole inspiration and muse for many illustrations.  If it wasn't for him I never would have attempted to create a book based on animals.  He gave me so much pure inspiration and sparked a part of my imagination that I wouldn't have found on my own.



Playing dress up with Grandma





Our "Laptime" during morning coffee


This past month has been challenging with his newly diagnosed diabetes.  It was alot of trial with medications, scheduling and timing.  Leading up to the diagnosis was care giving to an unknown illness which took a toll on both his and our sleep.  Last Saturday morning he showed great signs of improvement with the new dosage and was back to his old self again.  For the first time in a long while he mustered enough energy to bark at the mailman so we knew we were on the right track with our administrations.




New Year's day in his new cardigan





His on going battle with our pesky laptop


We didn't expect to be traveling to the ER 6 hours later.  It was brutally fast.  I had done research on the breed and knew that "bloat" was a killer for bassets and was aware that it worked with extreme speed.  He was going into shock while Dom was driving and I knew this was going to be the end.  However, nothing can prepare you for the moment that every pet owner dreads.




Showing his saucy demeanor and spunky personality





His bone that he use to "accidentally" drop down the stairs as we tried to watch movies.


In the end I ran my finger up and down his age whitened snout as he always liked.  He use to close his eyes, head on my lap, and I would lull him to sleep this way until the sound of his snores forced us to turn up the TV.  This time the halting of breath replaced the snores.  Instead of lulling him to sleep I was lulling him into the unknown, letting him know that we were there and always would be there with him.




Roscoe and I napping





Visiting the farm he loved so much


Only time will be able to turn the feeling of monstrosity and guilt for making "that call" into fond memories of lap time and paw shaking.  It will be awhile until I can walk down the stairs and not expect him to be there on his bed.  It will be many months until we will open the front door and not habitually crane our necks to see over the sofa to find his sleepy eyes greeting us.




"Snooping" on the sofa with Dominick





Trolling through the Sunflowers and Blueberry bushes at Marshall's Farm Market


At the farm he would run down a hill into this green grassy mini valley and tear around like a little maniac.  It is a comfort to know that he now rests on the crest of that hill overlooking Dom's parent's house and that valley he loved so much.  His grave holds a yellow lily, irises and forget-me-nots along with a wooden cross kindly made by the Marshall's worker.  We surronded him with stones and placed a cairn on top of his grave.




His last paw print given to us by UPenn Vet Hospital on the night he passed away





Final resting place at the farm


Rest in peace my little man.  You will always be with us....behind our studio chairs, on the couch during morning coffee and waiting in the kitchen while we cook.  You will never leave us and the inspiration and unconditional love you gave us will remain lit forever.  We will miss you greatly.




Obi Wan Coltrain



For more pictures of our boy visit Dom's gallery and blog.



Our Buddy