All my work is brilliant .... all the while it stays in my head!
It's when I start to put it down on paper that the problems arise. I admire those illustrators that seem to see a perfectly formed idea in their head and then simply make it real. My process is slightly more evolutionary with tweaks and subtle changes happening around the basic concept.
Some ideas stay as initial pencil sketches for a while (dependent on deadlines) and I can work/rework these adding a little more detail at a time.
Sometimes having sketched out the composition a couple of times to make sure I'm happy with the layout I'll ink out a final version. Colour and tone aren't important at this stage that can wait awhile.
Once I've scanned the artwork I can start getting to grips with the final version. It's at this stage that I start working in my favourite application, Sketchbook Pro. I don't want to get bogged down with the minutia of the detail at this stage but still work within a pixel dimension around 2,500 x 2,500 and a dpi of 300.
Before starting any project I always find it helps to do at least a fifteen minute 'warm up' sketch. A bottle of wildflowers sat on my desk did the trick this time.
Back to the project at hand. No need to zoom into the detail yet as my first layer is just roughing out basic colours and tone. Using a wacom tablet and stylus (digital drawing tablet) combined with the drawing and painting tools of Sketchbook means that this process continues to feel like traditional artwork. The only significant difference for me is that I'm drawing on a tablet on my desk and watching the results on my monitor. The hand to eye co-ordination issue takes a while but once you get the hang of it then it becomes almost second nature. Initially working on a Quantel Paintbox back in the late 90's on breakfast TV provided a great and steep learning curve.
Sketchbook makes it easy to create a specific palette for a project to which you can add as you go. I usually set my scanned sketch to around 40% opacity and as a 'Multiply' layer. That way you can see all the other layers above this guide sketch as you work. I use a single pencil tool set to hardness/size HB/1.5 to sketch out a cleaner line art layer. The drawing tablet means that I can use the pencil in the same way I can a real pencil varying the pressure drawing from faint to hard lines. Once I'm happy with this I can discard my guide layer and start adding the layers of colour. I tend to then just use a single paintbrush set to around 25% opacity changing the size of my brush using keyboard shortcuts. So working either in traditional or digital medium for me it's all about that initial sketch.
Two recent "Dragon" related illustrations. One being a Dragonfly the other a Sleeping Dragon. I'm glad only one of them really exists. Sort of .....
I recently visited the gloriously Gothic church of St. Mary Redcliffe. The walk to the church was one of those 'out in the sunshine, glad to be alive' walks. A good place to stop, sketch the scene and try and capture some of the sunshine.
Firstly I sketched out the design over a plain blue acrylic wash on canvas. I wanted to draw a real line of vision up through the centre of the picture to the church itself. I didn't want to paint a photo realistic version of the scene but rather a quick representation of the warmth. Perspective was important to lead the eye but I didn't want it to be ' straight line' perfect. So I sketched in the basic shapes before starting to block out the colour.
Every year we try and get to the Dorset coast. Burton Bradstock has been a particular favourite for a couple of years. The walks from the village to the beach are stunning and the Hive Beach Cafe does a great breakfast. This was on the coastal path before we dropped down onto the beach. This is one of those 'Are we there yet?' moments.
Below are a few of the stages this oil on board piece went through. I first sketched the rough onto the board adding the tone in acrylic I finished the detail in oils.
Any form of paid work is obviously a pleasure, especially if you're getting paid to do one of the things you love doing.
But I do enjoy painting to no ones brief but my own. Digital paintings fine a blank canvas and a palette of oils always seems a bit more 'basic'. These are a few snaps to show how this particular piece evolved.
At this stage I've sketched the layout, put down an acrylic wash and started to block out the basic shapes.
I'm probably up to four hours worth of work at this stage, not rushing but still blocking in. The colors aren't final and the details missing but at least I'm getting a feel for the basics. It's all a bit stark at this stage but once I've blocked all of the elements then I'll go back over to refine. The paint is being applied very thinly at this stage so it can take another layer or two.
Amanda, can you tell what it is yet? x
Two hours work later. Still blocking in the basics whilst adding a bit of detail so that I can see what's working and what's not. I've worked up some of the detail on the wall and chair but will try and leave it alone for a day or two now and come back to it with slightly fresher eyes.
It's was far too neat for the effect I was after so I've started to add in the detail of the clothing as well as the floor. It'll need probably another few hours once this layer of oils has dried out a little. It's my own fault for having three or four pieces going at once. I want to work on them all but end up losing a bit of momentum.
An hour later and I'm happy with the outcome.
The good news is I've got in a new illustration commission. The bad news (challenge!) is I've a day to turn this one around and the style examples I've been given are a slight deviation from my normal approach.
This is a page of quick ideas I've sketched out. The next step is to get the image from inside my head onto the page as quickly as I can. I'll post the next step as soon as it's done.
OK, after a couple of variations this is the pencil outline that I'm most happiest with. There's still a lot of refinement to go but now time to crack on and start adding the detail
Taking longer than I had hoped so time for tea then another evenings work.
Quite pleased with the outcome having changed the layout slightly. The point of this peice is the girl is initially the focus of attention. On closer look the story is more about the balloons. The cat knows somethings going on. Job done.
OK, it's not brilliant but just found this little gem clearing out some old work. This is the very first rough animation test I sent to a client using Anime Studio Pro. The project was for a series of films teaching kids about recycling. It seemed the best idea was to turn their garden compost bin into a little kingdom. The occupants needed the kids help in feeding everyone. This is a little earwig test that formed part of the presentation together with part of the initial storyboard
Following on from the last blog. Here' a very quick speed painting outline to show a little of the process taking this piece from pencil sketch through to finished artwork using Sketchbook pro
I was looking forward to catching up with a couple of mates, grabbing a beer and heading off to watch rugby on Sunday. Wrong! Waterlogged pitch. I took advantage of the free afternoon remembering summer weeks on the Dorset coast. I'd had the idea for this piece for some time but it always seemed to look better in my head than I thought it might on paper. Still, I persevered and started sketching it out. I liked the initial rough but by the time I started colouring it up I thought I'd wasted the last hour. Oh well, with nothing to lose, I carried on.
I think I meet this 'wall' quite a lot when I'm painting. I see it in my head but get to a point where I don't feel confident enough to finish it. I've come to the conclusion this is always an evolving process. The reality being that the image in my head is the starting point and the concept evolves and hardly ever to the exact initial idea.
However, on this occasion the final design is pretty much exactly as I imagined it. Maybe it's time to go back to some of those half finished sketches.
This is a sneaky snippet for a new client. I'll have to wait until I get the go ahead to show more but working with a new client is always a slightly nervous process. Not this time though. They're a great specialist agency based here in Bristol, have a superb profile and best of all..... are really nice people to work with.
In addition, this was an opportunity to do things the old fashioned way without any technology. Just paper and pencils.
Here in Bristol we've a wide range of centers for visual arts. One of those I've been involved with in the past is the Royal West of England Academy (RWA).
Between 24 Nov 2013 - 26 Jan 2014 they'll be holding their 161st Annual Open Exhibition. I submitted this piece and although didn't make final selection was over the moon to have made it through pre-selection. This is a very personal work in oil of my son contemplating what to draw next (thankfully one of his favourite past times. This is such a high profile exhibition and the standards are so high that's enough for me (until next year).
Details of the RWA can be found here and they can be found on twitter at @RWABristol