Title: My Zombie Husband
Medium: Graphite & Colored Pencil
Size: 8.5″ x 14″
Notes: This was originally a character design with a focus on rendering realistic folds from a collection of reference photos. In cases like this, I applied my understanding of fabric and folds in this to make an unnatural body with broken limbs look realistic – this character was based on four distinct poses to give the impression that the zombie had suffered several broken bones. I also took the opportunity to tell a story with this design. I then scanned the pencil drawing and digitally painted it, which adds additional elements such as the time of day and mood of the scene.
If you look for the clues, you can learn more about this particular zombie. Even though his ring finger is half-bitten off, he still wears his wedding ring. He’s missing a shoe, perhaps he was turned when he was getting ready for work one morning. Most people wonder what the role of the raven is. Is it and its flock assisting the zombies by circling above human prey? Did the flesh in its beak come from the Zombie Husband’s cheek, implying that the zombies will eventually be consumed by the ravens? One viewer wondered if the ravens were created by the remains of the US government to combat the zombie threat. But is the red glint in the raven’s eye suggesting that it too is a zombie, or is it merely a reflection of the gore around it?
This character was based on my husband (who was a fantastic sport modling those awkward poses and giving me great zombie faces). If there’s any special meaning in that, I suppose it’s that I don’t want him to ever die…and I do mean ever. : P
Title: Suit Study in Pencil
Medium: Graphite Pencil
Size: 8.5″ x 14″
Notes: A study of compression and stretch folds – specifically action folds, half-lock folds, and zig-zag folds for my class on clothed figure drawing. Studying folds like these helps me to understand how different kinds of fabric interact with the body. I used a reference photo from Cobweb-stock.
Title: Draping Dress Study in Pencil
Medium: Graphite Pencil
Size: 8.5″ x 14″
Notes: A study of compression and stretch folds – specifically action folds, pipe folds, and drop folds for my class on clothed figure drawing. Studying folds like these helps me to understand how different kinds of fabric interact with the body and puts me in the driver’s seat when making my own designs. I used a reference photo from elisafox-stock.
I’m pleased to present my Layout Design for Animation Portfolio.
This class focused on designing layouts (backgrounds) for animation and learning about the role of a layout designer within an art department. After the script for a movie, game, or animated TV show is interpreted and translated into a visual sequence by storyboard artists, the layout designers solve the problems inherent to developing story-telling elements, composition, leaving space for characters and props to move in, developing the background prior to painting, and infusing the style of the story into the illustrations. A layout artist must be able to research everything from period and culturally-appropriate architecture, furniture, fabrics, patterns, and other elements that will help tell the story.
The layouts below are all in 1.85 aspect ratio (standard widescreen format for the US) ranging from 8 Field to 12 Field. Some are contour line drawings, some are in wonky or warped styles, and others are value studies or on-location drawings. I used colored pencil, graphite pencil, and markers to create these pieces.
Below, is my process developing a layout designs for an oil portrait painter’s studio set in modern day in the spring. I began with a series of thumbnails drawn with a Tombow ink marker on tracing paper and worked through problems of composition and focal point on the easel and model’s chair as well as developed the story-telling elements – such as the makeup area. The makeup area indicates that this the busy artist who prepares for her interviews and presentations in her studio.
The final version is cleaned up with a graphite pencil. Notice the thicker contour lines around the main focal point and foreground elements. I was careful to develop the relationship between the easel and model’s chair with a directional line – the model and artist can see each other.
In the version below, I used color pencil to create a wonky version of one of the earlier thumbnails. Wonky style was developed in the 60’s and was used in TV shows like Nickelodeon’s Rocko’s Modern Life. It makes use of a crooked architecture through a lack of parallel lines. This approach gives the layout a fun and playful style..
Last in this series is my value study of the oil painter’s studio. Adding value places the layout in a specific time of day and much attention is paid to where the light is coming from. I used lighter tones and clear shadows to suggest a late afternoon setting and kept the foreground elements dark so that they wouldn’t challenge the focal points for attention.
Below are my first and second live location drawings. These were opportunities to work with markers and capture story-telling elements and values in a limited amount of time. It was fun to work on location directly from life and rearrange objects to create better compositions right then and there. For example, I moved the tree in the Japanese restaurant drawing and drew the shadow as a directional line towards the restaurant, drawing attention back to it.
A formal french restaurant set in the turn of the 19th-to-20th century in Christmas time drawn with graphite pencil. The elements that suggest the era are the flame-lit chandelier, wall sconces, and gramophone. This was a great opportunity to combine both wonky and warped style together. An illustration in warped style is like looking through a fisheye lens. The lines converge at different points along the horizon line in convex and concave curves. The interesting thing about the warped style is that it stretches out architecture making it look longer and wider. So by combining the two styles here, it’s like looking at a wonky style through a fisheye lens.
Two of my earlier marker value studies of a cable car flower shop set in a San Francisco alleyway near Valintine’s Day. I didn’t change the organic shapes much, but the architecture and background props were wonkified to be playful and keep the charming elements of the cable car. I used light values in the first study to place the layout in day and darker values in the second layout to indicate night. In the nighttime value study I left the windows and light shining on the ground white to draw the eye back to the cable car store.
Now that I’ve completed my first semester, it’s my great pleasure to share my class portfolios!
Below, I’ve uploaded my portfolio of Character Design for Animation art. This class focused on designing line art (starting with sketches and finishing them as cleaned-up illustrations) all designed for use in animation. For animation, this requires simplifying the human figure (and animals) into the fewest lines required to capture the character. The more lines a character has, the more difficult and time-consuming it is to animate. Styles range from simplified realism to the more “pushed” comic styles. In this class we began by studying the design shorthand various master artists use in the industry, and in the end designed our own characters.
I plan to set time aside this summer to digitally color more of these, but for now, you’ll find an example of what I can do with colored pencil in the Aprhodite series.
Below is my series of Athena illustrations, also in Bruce Timm’s style. One of his famous projects was the Batman TV animated series and the Justice League. His Wonder Woman design inspired me to draw Athena – he struck the perfect balance between feminine and masculine qualities that make Wonder Woman a powerful woman to be reckoned with. Notice the subtle but effective differences between Aphrodite and Athena that makes one voluptuous and the other an Amazon warrior.
Below is my age study in Colin Jack’s style. He’s famous for more than his children’s books – he created a way to use angles and straight lines to describe children, who are traditionally drawn with curves. I used his style to draw the same character across his lifespan from toddler, to child, adult, and elderly man.
Below, a series of Siamese cats drawn in styles varying from feature film (lower left) to simplified realism (upper left) to cartoon (middle) and finally anthropomorphic. As the cat slid from less realistic to more stylized, I kept the elements that are essential to describing a siamese cat and the rest became more and more human. I was influenced by Disney and Warner Brothers when designing these characters.
A character designer must be able to illustrate a character using a variety of facial expressions. Below is a study of emotions and expressions in Bruce Timm’s style.
Full-figure characters in Colin Jack’s style. I had seen the 2010 Alice in Wonderland in which Alice returns to Wonderland as a young woman and thought this would be a great opportunity to exercise Colin Jack’s style.
The exercise was to design a character from a story that had never been animated or featured in a film before and create two 5-point turnarounds, one sans clothes and one costumed. It’s helpful to draw the character first nekid to develop the figure before “wrapping him” in clothing. But notice how the addition of clothing helps define the shape and form of the character (particularly his legs)? I decided to draw Bast from the Name of the Wind book by Patrick Rothfuss and was inspired by Sean “Cheeks” Galloway and his creative use of shapes. The gestures and movement he captures in his illustrations would be perfect for Bast.
And finally sketches a life model (posing for 2-5 minutes at a time) who I turned him into characters on the spot. Somehow it’s the shortest poses that have the most dynamic feel, maybe it’s the feeling of urgency!
This article sums up the the best advice I’ve heard given to illustration and concept art students:
And here I’ll expand on it:
- Carry a sketchbook and one or more sharpened pencils with you at all times. Many artists prefer Moleskin or a tone-paper sketchbook and two Prismacolor pencil pencils (one white and one dark toned). Tone paper lets you use the paper itself as a midtone, which means that you’re building up both shadows and highlights with your colored pencils instead of just shadows (as with graphite) or using the lift-off technique (the lift-off technique involves covering white paper with a medium tone of graphite or charcoal and then erasing it where you want the light tones and highlights to be). It’s much more cost-effective to use tone paper than to use white paper, and you’re less likely to smudge everything if you avoid using graphite pencils. Prismacolor color pencils have wax in their core which prevents smudging, and designers often use the Color Erase type in the industry because they’re so erasable.
- Artists should never be idle and never take the day off. Waiting for someone? Sketch. Standing in line? Sketch. Riding the bus? Sketch. There are people and objects and environments all around you. This will teach you to draw quickly. You can get creative and turn people into characters and simplify enviornments for animation too.
- If for some reason you are without a sketchbook, then this is what you do: draw without drawing. Don’t just look, see! Then memorize what you see. Note of the shapes and forms and values, then close your eyes and imagine it. Open your eyes and compare that mental image to what you see. Then draw it when you get home. This is how you build your reference vocabulary so that you can late rearrange these elements when drawing from your imagination.
- Set deadlines and goals. My instructor, Michael Buffington, challenged himself to draw 1,000 heads last year. The project took him three months, and in that time his skill improved dramatically even though he was already at a professional level. If you’re weak with drawing hands, then set a goal of drawing 500 hands. If you’ve got realistic heads down, switch to character heads and draw 500 of those.
- Remember to have fun. It’s easy to feel overwhelmed or bored by assignments, but find a way to make them fun. That’s why we’re in the game, after-all, this is part of being creative. An art director shouldn’t be able to tell which projects you enjoyed and which you didn’t by looking at your portfolio. Don’t trash talk yourself either. You are selling yourself and your work, so be mindful of the impression you give. Just be passionate about what you do and show that you have fun creating.
- You’ll probably find that your artistic vision and knowledge improve more quickly than your skill level does. This can make you feel disappointed in your work. But if you keep practicing, your skill will catch up and you’ll start to like your drawings more. It’ll be hit-and-miss in the beginning, but everyone goes through that. With pencil-mileage comes consistently good work.
Finally, I’ll leave off with a helpful quote:
“Nobody tells this to people who are beginners, I wish someone told me. All of us who do creative work, we get into it because we have good taste. But there is this gap. For the first couple years you make stuff, it’s just not that good. It’s trying to be good, it has potential, but it’s not. But your taste, the thing that got you into the game, is still killer. And your taste is why your work disappoints you. A lot of people never get past this phase, they quit. Most people I know who do interesting, creative work went through years of this. We know our work doesn’t have this special thing that we want it to have. We all go through this. And if you are just starting out or you are still in this phase, you gotta know its normal and the most important thing you can do is do a lot of work. Put yourself on a deadline so that every week you will finish one story. It is only by going through a volume of work that you will close that gap, and your work will be as good as your ambitions. And I took longer to figure out how to do this than anyone I’ve ever met. It’s gonna take awhile. It’s normal to take awhile. You’ve just gotta fight your way through.”
— Ira Glass
Title: Glowing Underground Keep in Digital Watercolor & Chalk
Medium: Digital watercolor & pencil in Corel Painter 11 & Intuos3 4x5Wacom Tablet
Size: 6.1″ x 8″
Notes: I was inspired by Minas Morgul from The Lord of the Rings trilogy and Notre Dam and created an image that could be used in a childrens’ book. I prefer to sketch directly in Painter rather than scan in one created on paper as it involves fewer steps and the result is cleaner. I used the Sketching Pencil variant in dark grey on Fine Hard Grain paper. Then I switched to a Pavement texture and colored it with the New Simple Water variant of the Digital Watercolors brush. I created the grainy texture of the stone with Variable Chalk. The carved figures lining the door are thematic. Women on the right and men on the left, and from inside to outside they are soldiers, scholars, and merchants young to elderly. Created as an educational project.
…continued from Howitzer Dragon Cannon Tutorial: Part 1.
Step 9: Make a new layer called Charcoal above the Sketch layer but below all of the painted layers. Select the Charcoal brush and a charcoal pencil variant and fill in the outlines to add definition. Feel free to leave some areas on the outside without charcoal.
Add a new layer called Dragon Details above Dragon Overpaint and below Cannon Underpaint. Select the FX brush and the glow variant and a very light yellow, almost white. Adjust the opacity to your liking but keep it pretty light, don’t overdo it. Now, like you would with an airbrush, add some shine to that dragon! Remember, it’s not supposed to look like a living dragon, it’s metal painted to look like a dragon, so it should be shiny. Notice I’ve added the shine to areas that would be hit with direct light along the curves, like where the fringe folds back and along the body and tail of the dragon. It’s starting to make the skin look iridescent.
Step 10: To make those spokes really shine, start with making a Cannon Detail layer. Load your selection of the spokes in the Sketch layer and go back to Cannon Detail. Now use the FX brush and glow variant and widen the size of the brush. Make broad zig-zag stokes across the spokes, and voila! Repeat as necessary on different areas of metal to show they aren’t all on exactly the same plane.
To create very light outlines around the edges of the spokes, use the Pen tool and draw along those edges. Then select a thin brush with 100% opacity and a light yellow. Click Align to Path in the upper left of the toolbar and draw with your paint brush along the path you drew with the pen.
To create round-headed nails, make just one with three gold colors ranging from dark to medium to light with a small opaque brush. Start with the middle color and then add a dark and light side to it (light side on the left, where the light would hit it). Now use the Oval Selection tool and copy and paste it repeatedly along the wood supporting the cannon and where each spoke meets the wheel.
Step 11: Repeat the selection process for the sections of the barrel of the cannon that will now be painted with fire. Do not select the separations between the segments of the barrel. Create a new layer called Flames and begin painting there. Remember that fire goes from blue to red to yellow in order of intensity, so start with blue at the base of the dragon’s mouth where it would be hottest. Don’t worry about being all that realistic, it’s supposed to look like paint. Go wild with it!
If you decide that you’ve chosen colors that were just too bright and overpowering for the whole piece, like I did, then there is something you can do to fix that. Go to Effects:Tonal Control:Brightness/Contrast and adjust them. Lowering the brightness and contrast should help the fire painting blend with the rest of the dragon.
Now, keep those selections open, we’re going to add dimension to the flames. Select the soft airbrush variant of the Airbrush bush and the darkest grey you’ve used. Select size 40 and 10% opacity. Lightly brush the bottom and top of the barrel and the inside of the dragon’s mouth, more so on the very bottom edge. Then, switch to one of your lightest white-yellows and make no more than two strokes over the middle of the barrel to give it the flames a shine. Now it should look like this:
Step 12: This step is optional. You can sign your painting by making a new layer called Signature. Then draw or type your name and position it where you like. If you want, you can rotate your signature by going to Edit: Transform: Rotate; or Edit: Free Transform, hold down on Command and rotate by the corner of the selection.
If you would like the see the final piece, you can visit it in my portfolio here! And if you liked this tutorial, please comment and share it!
Title: Pasta Preparation Still Life in Charcoal
Medium: Charcoal, charcoal pencil, & willow vine charcoal.
Size: 18″ x 24″
Notes: This is a study of a still life arrangement of pasta in preparation with glossy tomato, pasta, cardboard, a shiny metallic knife, soft textured garlic, and textured wooden cutting board. This composition combined several textures and values into one cohesive piece.
Notice that the perspective lines lead the eye into the landscape captured on the pasta box, lending depth to the piece. The picture suggests the origin of the wheat which was sowed to produce the pasta.
The project began with sketching the still life from various angles with willow vine charcoal and then selecting the one I wanted to illustrate in more detail with stick and pencil charcoal of varying softness.
I chose sketch 3 to detail. To do so, I superimposed a grid over the sketch in order to maintain the same proportions in the final work. First I transfered that grid onto the drawing paper (you can still see hints of the grid in the draft below, they were covered by charcoal or erased out as the image evolved). Then I outlined the composition based on Sketch 3 and my view of the live still life arrangement. Following this, I shaded the darker regions and gave it some preliminary values. Below on the left is the sketch with the grid superimposed. On the right is a rough work with minimal detail.
Below is the final rendering in detail. I’m particularly happy with the shine and reflection of the tomatoes on the cutting knife, the depth of the pasta, and the texture of the wood grain:
Title: Cardboard Box in Charcoal
Medium: Charcoal, charcoal pencil, & willow vine charcoal.
Size: 18″ x 24″
Notes: A study of a cardboard box. Among paper, cardboard has a unique quality of being both rigid, fragile, and it has a particular corrugated texture. I aimed to capture these aspects, plus a piece of shiny tape, in this piece.
Title: Earthquake Wine Bottle in Charcoal
Medium: Charcoal, charcoal pencil, & willow vine charcoal.
Size: 18″ x 24″
Notes: A study of an earthquake label wine bottle. This exercise was to study a dark glass wine bottle. The continuity in the rip-styled label was the most challenging aspect of this piece.