Off Book by PBS

After being all gung-ho on starting homework on Monday, I think I overdid it a little and messed up some muscles in my neck. I don’t remember inking being so hard… body, y u hate me? ;_;

So as I sit here smelling of bear balm with a heat pack on my poor neck, I thought I’d take a minute to share something really cool I stumbled upon through twitter- wait, maybe it was reddit… or was it tumblr? I think I have a slight social media overload going on here. Anyway, PBS’s Off Book is a series of videos about art and design related goodies. The only two I’ve seen so far are embedded below, but there are a handful of others I’ve yet to watch (since I have to get homework done at some point).

After watching this, my love for illustration was renewed! As I’ve progressed through school so far, I’ve been trying to soak up as much information as possible on fine art and illustration careers. The line between them is not as blurred as I thought, it goes much deeper than originality versus commercialism. I haven’t really made up my mind on which one I’d like to pursue over the other, and this video made it a bit harder. I was initially leaning towards fine art because I wanted absolute freedom of expression. However, listening to artists talk in this video about how being unique is so valued as an illustrator these days, and seeing some of the amazing works presented, it looks like I’d have more freedom with illustration than I believed.

I’ve found myself giving fan artists a bit of a hard time lately (in my head mostly). It seems too easy to take someone else’s character idea and put a face to it in exchange for fanboy’s/fangirl’s money. This video has softened me a bit to it, though I still prefer original work. The sense of humor and community in fanart is hard to match and certainly something I participate (ie: lurk) in with my favorite shows. As a bonus, there’s a short interview with Sam Spratt, a digital artist I’ve fawned a bit over.

Alright, I’m almost through my second coffee of the day and need to get back (no pun intended) at it. I’m hoping that I’ll be able to finish up homework by Friday, since I’ll be visiting home over the weekend to touch base with family. With any luck and lots of frequent breaks, my neck will be back to normal by then. Cheers!

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Jumping Into Digital Art

A few days ago (on a Wednesday night, surprisingly) my new Wacom Create tablet showed up! Once it was installed I had to give it a test run:

Wacom Doodle

Wacom Doodle

This tablet has pressure sensitivity, but unlike the Cintiq I had access to earlier this year, it doesn’t detect tilt-motion from my wrist. To be honest, so far I don’t miss that aspect of the tablet, and really love how lightweight and mobile it is. I don’t even mind the fact that it’s not wireless. It feels very similar to what a sketchbook is like, and instead of hunching down over it, I’m looking up at a screen.

I’ve been trying to gather resources to build a nice “digital workspace” for myself. This includes going through the art magazines I’ve purchased over the last few years and copying the resource CDs that came with them, to scour them for content. Many magazines, ImagineFX in particular, have downloadable tutorials and brushes in each magazine. Every so often they’ll have some really beautiful art inside and I’ll pick one up. Now, I have a chance to take advantage of the Photoshop brushes and tutorials they offer.

While going through one of the tutorials, I learned that some artists use 3D software to simulate models to use as reference. What a brilliant idea! My next thought was, what software should I use to do this? 3D software can get pretty expensive and can be very complicated to learn. After some research, I came across the Daz 3D Studio software. To my surprise, it is freely and legally available right now! This will be hugely useful when trying to come up with realistic lighting and anatomy references! I was skeptical at first since it seems too good to be true, and was afraid it would end up being trial software, but found an article explaining why the devs decided to make it free. They have customization packages that you can buy to add-on to the software, but on its own it’s more than enough to give me anatomy reference. They have landscape modelling software I’m going to look at as well.

This brings me to the next part of the workspace: software. There are so many programs out there for digital artists, so which one is the best? The answer to this greatly depends on what kind of art you like to do, and who your audience is. While I was researching different software online, including Corel Painter and Easy Paint Tool SAI, I found this Fur Affinity forum thread. A user by the name of Arshes Nei compares sketching and painting in 6 different pieces of software, results shown below. It’s highly educational and totally worth checking out!

Apple Still Lifes by Arshes Nei

Apple Still Lifes by Arshes Nei

Paint Tool SAI has become very popular as of late because it’s a lightweight piece of software (in comparison to Photoshop and GIMP which can be resource hogs, and slow down your computer) and is relatively easy to find. I’m going to play around with that a bit, keeping in mind that when I eventually get a Macbook (way down the road when I stop being a poor art student), I’ll have to switch to something else since there’s no Mac version.

Armed with references and painting software, I should be ready to go! I was drawing in my sketchbook when the tablet first arrived, so I may start off by translating the sketch to the laptop…

I’ll end this post with my Foundation Computer final project. We used Adobe Illustrator frequently in that class and I fell in love with vector drawing. Our final project for the class was to do an animation, any way that we wanted. I used Illustrator to draw the frames and put them together in iMovie. I recommend watching it in the highest resolution available on Youtube’s website. Enjoy!

Manga Speed-Paints & a Peak at my Sketchbook

I opened Youtube to watch a video earlier in the week and saw that it had suggested a few speed-paint videos. I love watching artists go through a piece, and I’ve been looking for some inspiration to start a manga-like illustration, so I went for it and subscribed to these three artists. Even though they’re using digital methods, a lot of the color work translates pretty well to traditional media. Some of the drawings are even “sketched” beforehand and inked afterwards.

I was really interested in the way she shades fabric, especially the skirt and sleeves. I also really love the character’s eyes. Like an artist who flips a sketchbook around to draw something at a better angle, the canvas here is zoomed in, out, and flipped quite a bit.

This one goes from sketch to finished product. The artist here uses Paint Tool SAI to their full advantage, transforming and realigning shapes that manually you’d have to erase and re-draw.

Here the artist starts by inking a sketch and then blocking in some basic colors. There’s a really cool bit at around 7:35 where she creates her own brush of snowflakes. Rather than painstakingly draw snowflakes on the dress one at a time (and warping them around the fabric), she draws a few and then sort of “stamps” them on, editing them to fit the dresses curves as she goes. Really cool! Can’t do that in the traditional world though… Again, her eyes are really beautiful.

After looking to other artists and manga for ideas I started to do some sketches of my own, and it was evident that I needed some anatomy practice. I’ve been drawing a lot of animals over the past little while (foo dogs, owls, etc) and haven’t done much in terms of the human figure since those figure-drawing studios I did in the winter. Drawing faces and the figure feels a bit foreign, so I went over to Posemaniacs, loaded up some tunes and sat down for some sketching. I’d like to fill a few pages of sketches every night until I get comfortable with the idea of drawing poses again (and hopefully get better at it as well).

First sketch in the new place!

First sketch in the new place!

Page of hands.

Page of hands.

Gestures 1

Gestures 1

Gestures 2

Gestures 2

Gestures 3

Gestures 3

Experimenting with figures, shapes, more hands

Experimenting with figures, shapes, more hands

That’s not everything from the past few days, either. The sketchbook is filling up quickly! Drawing gestures is great and a good backup plan in case I don’t feel like working on anything original. It’s very relaxing to turn on some music and fill up some pages.

Hopefully the paint is mostly dry on my models painting, so I’ll be back into that pretty soon as well.

Traditional Art Supply Wish List

For the past few weeks I’ve been very careful with my money so that I’ll have some cash to spend during our upcoming roadtrip. I’ve heard good things about the art stores in New York, and have been making a wish list in my mind of things I’d like to get my hands on. With any luck I’ll even be able to try out a few things. Ever since the Naoko Takeuchi post, I’ve been itching to do some awesome manga-inspired works with some cool traditional media, like brushes, pens, airbrushes, toner, etc. Here are some of the things on my latest wish list:

Neo Sable Watercolor Paint Brush (good precision watercolor brushes)

Niji Waterbrush (a brush that holds water instead of ink)

COPIC airbrush system (allows for smooth color over a large area)

DELETER screentones (used to shade manga pages, can also be used for patterns and backgrounds)

DELETER paper (paper for markers and inks)

Canson drawing paper (more paper for markers and inks, used by Naoko Takeuchi)

Poster color

Colored inks

I figure since I haven’t done any courses yet this year, it’d be nice to try something new. Thanks to youtube, I can search for tutorials on anything I’m not sure how to use!

This video shows an illustration done using a french french curve and lightbox, colored with a combination of inks, watercolors and an airbrush. I really admire the way the background was detailed here and the method of coloring the girl’s shirt; it looks like the entire shape of the shirt was first dampened with water, and then the red sort of “bleeds” into the shape once applied in the middle. Really cool.

Below, we see Francis Vallejo inking a piece three different ways: with a nib, a brush, and a combination of the two with grey washes. The tool chosen to ink with will make a huge impact on the final drawing.

Working with manga screentone is painstaking and could be done much quicker digitally, but there’s something about cutting and pasting and doing things by hand that makes it a much more personal experience, for me. Here’s an example of how you’d use screentone to shade an image (this one’s a bit long, roughly 10 minutes). More example’s of his screen-toned art can be found here.