Monday, April 7, 2014

Where do ideas come from?

I think we all get asked where our ideas come from as if there's a store you can go to and pick them out. Sadly, this is not the case. Ideas are everywhere. They're in every interaction, random thought, daily task, dog walk, the Olympics (here), and even the news.

Tracy and I went to a conference last Saturday (we'll give you the scoop in a future post). In the frenzied preparation to get my portfolio up to speed and create a new postcard, I was mining for ideas. Remember that not really true or maybe it is true story about knitting sweaters for penguins? Even Snopes isn't sure about that one. Well that gave me a great idea! I imagined a little girl knitting sweaters for penguins. Now to write a story to go along with it (which needs to include chickens).


First sketch on Instagram

Revised sketch

Finished piece.
I used this image as my postcard which is now en route to various publishers.

If you're an editor, art director, art buyer or anyone else at a publishing house and would like to receive one, let me know!

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Simply Messing About with New Paints, Pencils & Brushes!


I recently finished a new picture book project and I promised I would reward myself with a bunch of new art supplies. The perfect opportunity arose when my local art store had a HUGE 25% of EVERYTHING sale. I was waiting for just such an opportunity, being that I've been wanting to invest in some traditional media once again. A little background: when I was pregnant with my oldest (who is now 7 years old), I got rid of all of my paints.  I had visions of my toddler getting into my paints and eating the Cadmium Red. So--out they went. Ooh...bad move. Blame it on Nesting Syndrome!

My all-time favorite paints to use are M. Graham Walnut Oil paints. They are rich, buttery and don't need toxic mediums to paint with: a bottle of walnut oil will suffice. They are on the pricey side, so I sat and waited for the perfect time to purchase a set. Can't wait to dig into them!

Also on my wish list was a set of Acryla Gouache. In art school, I was not really a big fan of gouache, but lately I'd been seeing samples of this particular brand floating around the interwebs and I really love the look. These will be perfect for experimenting.




After digitally painting for such a long time, I was itching to put brush to papers/board/canvas. Experimenting with different media and colors will really push my art a bit outside of my box which will help me grow and create more exciting pieces down the road.

What medium are you itching to experiment with?

Toodles!

~christina

Friday, March 14, 2014

What Music Makes YOU Happy?

This is a bit of a different post for our blog, but I think anyone can argue that for most of us, music aids creativity! A few days ago, I polled Twitter to find out what songs simply make people...happy. When you're happy, you're confident, and your creativity just flows. 

I thought it would be really fun to compile everyone's song suggestions into a playlist. It turned out so awesome, I just had to share! 



There's something for everyone, enjoy!!
A special thanks to these rockin' awesome tweeters for participating:


And, as always, you can follow us on Twitter at:

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Experimenting with Gouache, a not quite tutorial

I've recently started using gouache. I'm still calling it experimental even though I've used it for client work. No matter what I do, I always end up using a variety of media. It's usually some combination of paint, acrylic inks, Caran d'ache Supracolor pencils, and Photoshop or Manga Studio, with a side of collage of some sort. In other words, I use whatever works to get the job done.

In this first photo I first printed out a colorized sketch onto my Fabriano hot press watercolor paper (reddish sketch). Then I painted in the shadows with a mix of blue gouache and purple acrylic ink.

Underpainting of acrylic ink mixed with gouache.

Here I've laid in the basic colors in gouache on the figures. There's not much detail, yet.

Basic colors laid in.

Now I'm starting to define details and add more modeling to the figures with color pencil. I use Caran d'ache Supracolor pencils.

Adding details with color pencil.

I decided the yellow background wasn't working so I took this old watercolor and salt painting into Photoshop to colorize and lighten it.

Watercolor with salt painting.

Colorizing the background.


I added a vignette border to the background for the final piece. At Renee's suggestion, I also painted some glare on the ice in Photoshop.
The final piece.


I hope you find this helpful. I'm still learning to use the gouache, but I'm loving it so far.

This piece came from my sketching while watching the Olympics. If you're following me on Instagram, you'll recognize them.

Friday, February 21, 2014

My Transition from Photoshop to Manga Studio 5

Hello everyone! It's been quite a while since I posted here! For the past few months I've been knee-deep in illustrating a new picture book set to come out in the Fall.

I've had my head down illustrating pretty much every spare moment I had since September, but I've finally emerged from my art coma and want to tell you all about my experience with Manga Studio 5!

I transitioned over from Photoshop to Manga Studio with this latest project, so I got four months of serious on-the-job training with the program. I went from ZERO knowledge of the program to it becoming second nature.

I have to admit that I had tinkered around with the program for a while last summer, but gave up because I just wasn't feeling comfortable with it. Then right before I started this last project, I fiddled with Manga Studio some more. At the same time, Photoshop started becoming finicky and began feeling super clunky. I went back to Manga Studio (with some nudging from fellow SMA illustrator Tracy Bishop) and gave it another try because I was just getting too frustrated with Photoshop feeling like it was laggy and slow.

When this last picture book project came along in September, I bit the bullet and decided to go for it--to try and complete a painting in Manga Studio. The cover was due first and I figured I could attempt the cover in Manga Studio and switch back over to Photoshop if things didn't pan out.

Well, let's just say I fell in love with Manga Studio and never looked back.

Here are a few of the main reasons Manga Studio is the clear winner for me:

  • The brush engine is a million times better than Photoshop's. There are way more options to finesse your brushes in terms of pressure and color blending, etc. Manga Studio also allows for creating brushes using multiple images at once which is something I have always wished that Photoshop could do.
  • The perspective guide/ruler is AMAZING. It came in handy SO MUCH. Manga Studio allows for your pencil/brush lines to snap to the perspective ruler which takes a lot of fuss out of drawing cityscapes (or anything in perspective, really).
  • The ability to create models of people in different poses and angles really helped for my latest project. I painted scenes where there were many, MANY people in them and my husband would only model for me for so long, so I had to build poses in Manga Studio (which is supremely easy to do).
  • You can set the fill bucket to close gaps in your line drawing, making laying on the first layer of color so much quicker than attempting that in Photoshop. 

Just one window of the MANY different brush options Manga Studio 5 has.

The poseable 3D models are an amazing feature. It isn't a memory hog and never slowed my computer down at all.

In all, I worked 100% in Manga Studio with this latest book project and just figured it out as I went. I have to say that my fellow Simply Messing About blogger, Tracy Bishop really, really helped me out if I found myself stuck. She's been using Manga Studio for a while and had the answer to pretty much all my questions! ;) Check out her wonderful Manga Studio tour video!

In case you're wondering, I never had to take any of my images back to Photoshop for any retouching or post-painting work. I suppose everyone paints differently, so there is a chance you might need to go back and forth for certain things, but I didn't have to. I pretty much found a solution to anything I needed to do in Manga Studio. However, if you do need to switch back and forth, Manga Studio makes it easy to export or even save your file as a Photoshop file!

If you have the opportunity to try out Manga Studio, I highly, highly recommend it. It's like Manga Studio's creators took everything illustrators and painters love from Photoshop, made them a million times better and then added more awesome stuff on top! All without having to deal with the bogged down feeling that Photoshop can bring. I must also mention that Manga Studio is a mere fraction of the cost of Photoshop. Yay!

In the weeks to come, I will be doing tutorials based on some of my favorite things about Manga Studio....keep an eye out for them! Until then, do yourself a favor and at least download a trial version of Manga Studio 5 if you can!

'Til next time!

~christina



Monday, February 10, 2014

Keep drawing, then draw some more


A few years ago, I was fresh off maternity leave…10 years of it. I thought I'd pick up my illustration career where I left off. Well, while I was 'away', the world changed. Internet? Whoa. Now I was competing against illustrators from all over the world! Quite a few with animation backgrounds who could draw like nobody's business. It was clear I'd have to step up my game. I needed to get much, much better at drawing. Gulp! Luckily, I met local illustrator, Tracy Bishop whose drawing talent is amazing. She also has a great critical eye. She got me drawing from life. She critiqued the heck out of my work (still does), and gradually, I got better. I am by no means done. I hope to always improve my skills. But I'm starting to breath easier. I beginning to really feel the flow when I draw. I don't cringe when I look at my current work. It's been a very discouraging process, but also pretty exciting.

Older drawing on the left, newer on the right. Getting there, but not quite where I want to be yet.

It's no surprise that I love drawing animals, but drawing people was not fun for me. I've made a lot of progress on this front as you can see here. There's just much more life in my animals as you can see below.



Drawing well has many benefits like getting hired for jobs, being able to handle whatever scene you'll need to create, and of course, you can't bring a story to life if you're limited in what you can draw.

What I want you to take away from this is that you must draw well, really well, to get work in the children's book world. You can't cut corners. You can't trace photos, you can't overly depend on reference. Draw everyday, even if it's bad drawings, it all helps. Carry a sketchbook everywhere. (I need to do more of this myself.) Think of the training that goes into qualifying for the Olympics or playing college or pro sports. Heck, even if you're just working on staying in shape, you have to work those muscles on a regular basis.

If you go to SCBWI events (and you should be), pay for a portfolio critique. Nothing beats hearing from someone who actually hires illustrators and can tell you what you need to work on. Our local Illustrator's Day has an illustration professor who give critiques, too. He's crazy amazing at seeing the weaknesses in your work and what to do to fix it. It's painful, but much kinder than in art school. Hearing nothing but flowers and light about your work gets you nowhere. You need the truth, because that's the only way you're going to get better and someday get hired. If you want nothing but compliments, show it to your mother.

Here are some great resources for improving your drawing skills, but remember, nothing replaces the practice and observation of real life.

There's so much drawing goodness on Erika Eguia's Pinterst boards! I've started a Character Design board here.

Great drawing books:
Drawn to Life Volume I & II
Character Mentor, Tom Bancroft
Creating Characters with Personality, Tom Bancroft
Vilpu Drawing Manuals, Glenn Vilppu
How to Draw, Scott Robertson

Online classes & tutorials:
School of Visual Storytelling's How to draw everything with Jake Parker
Figure & Gesture Drawing
Sparkbook, Cedric Hohnstadt
Illustrator Alicia Padron is now offering classes.

Good luck and happy drawing!

Friday, January 31, 2014

Simply Messing About with Mediums

Over here in my head, there is always a debate over traditional vs. digital. Which is more appealing? Which is more fun to make? Which can get me more work? I switch back and forth all the time because my tastes change. My skills, however, differ in both methods. Sometimes I need them to influence each other.

Recently, I was approached to do a color sample in my sketch style and it turned my world around. It makes me ecstatic that this style may eventually be ready for publishing, but I still have a little ways to go. I wanted to show you a little bit of what my process looks like as I try to figure this out.

This sketch is what started me thinking about all of this again.

I've been drawing like crazy in sketchbooks for a little over a year now, and most often my drawings turn out looking like the one above. Recently, I started incorporating Prismacolor colored pencil and Copic marker into my usual pencil and ink brush doodles. My eyes needed to see more color and finish in the sketches I had grown to love making.

But that Alligator and Armadillo tea party got me excited, so I took it to Photoshop to color it as fast as possible. Why? Because my skills in Photoshop currently surmount my Paper skills...it's a crutch.

I liked this color, but it didn't have the same energy, so I left it as is...

In this particular case I was happy with the colors I chose, but it still wasn't working for me. I went back to the drawing board...quite literally.

That's better, but still not quite right.

But, I was missing the vibrancy and saturation. I know that it's possible to attain this with watercolor, but I haven't figured out how to get there yet. Then, I remembered the gouache set I got for Christmas and started to play again with yet, another new medium.

I started with a gouache warm up.

And this is where I landed.

My goal for what I post on the Simply Messing About blog was always to document my journey back into traditional painting...that's it. But with this particular project, I hit on an important fact, that it's ok to jump back and forth always letting digital influence traditional and vice versa. And sometimes, they work really well – together.

I added a background color to this gouache painting...digitally.

Until next time!
~Renee