Switzers landscape sketch comp with Karl Gnass

Even though I haven't taken any classes at the American Animation Institute for about a year, I still love taking Karl's workshops, particularly his landscape sketch comps. A day of hiking and drawing in the mountains I love. What could be better? He holds these twice a year, in April and September and I've been trying to make as many of them as possible. I think this is my 3rd or 4th trip, and I keep trying to push my skills a bit more with each trip. 

I made good progress this time with my dark colors and shadows, although as the afternoon progressed, i got messier and messier. 

Kraft Illustrated Recipe Contest

I've been swamped the last few days! I entered the TDAC/Kraft Illustrated Recipe Contest! I am super happy with how my illustration turned out. Check out my entry on their website here.

I'm really trying to push the limits on integrating my illustration work with my lettering work. I think I made great strides with this piece, but it was a lot of trial and error. To give you an idea of all the work behind the finished piece, here's a shot of some of the sketches, lettering trials, and the seperate portions of illustration. I'm very proud of the fact that I tried to minimize my colored pencil work to the three figures. 

I'm a published illustrator!

I have had one of my drawings/paintings printed on a book cover! This makes me a published illustrator! woohoo! 

This image was created last year at a landscape sketch workshop with Karl Gnass. (He has another landscape workshop coming up again in April). It was a detail study of a very twisty tree with interesing bark patterns and branches. 

When my coworkers saw the image, she thought it would work well for one of the cover projects she had and it got selected as the final cover. It just came back from the printer recently and it was great to see something of mine in print that I didn't get printed myself. 

For more information about the book: SAGE Publications.

Creating my Travel Topanga map

It was an interesting journey to get to the finished product for the map. Things did not always go as expected, but I adapted and I think that the end project was better because of it.

Step 1: Idea

When I read about the map contest through the regular email updates from Nate and Salli of They Draw and Cook/They Draw and Travel, I thought that this sounded like fun. Plus, while I've submitted recipes to their sites, I still had not done a map. I started with a couple of lists that I thought I would like to work on: cool locations for artists to visit, driving the back roads of LA and Ventura counties, some of my favorite places on Topanga Blvd.

The hubby and I thought that I would have the easiest time and the most fun with the Topanga one, since that is a road we know well and travel frequently. Plus, so many of the locations I liked had a ton of personality all their own.

Step 2: Initial concept and research

What I had in mind was a COMPLETELY different look then the end product. I initially wanted to do watercolor renderings of each of the locations and then combine them in some way with an inked aerial map that I had hand drawn using existing knowledge of the boulevard and looking at (not tracing) Google Maps to confirm cross streets and provide a smidgen of accuracy to the look of the main street and freeway locations.

Later that same day, I went out and painted my first location:

A couple of days later, I painted a second location:

I soon realized that I didn't have enough daylight after work and commuting to get all the paintings done on site. I tried photographing the locations on the weekend so I could paint at home, but that didn't pan out either. I needed an alternate plan.

Step 3: Plan B

My fallback plan was based on a birthday invite I worked on a few weeks earlier, where I hand created all the typography, then colored it digitally.

I pulled out a clean piece of Bristol board and cut it size for the map dimensions needed for a project. Then I used a red pencil to rough out a title and lay in a map at the bottom of the page. Over the course of the next week the map grew as I doodled out typographic signs for the locations I had marked on the map.

Some of the signs pull from elements of the existing logos and signage, others pull in elements of the buildings, and a few just pull in the overall feel I got from the place and are more loosely interpreted.

Step 4: Inking

I started inking in order of heirarchy, starting with the title and map. All the inking was done in a single color, with a Faber Castell Pitt artist pen in Dark Sepia. I used the S (superfine) thickness, except in areas where there are very thickly laid colors, such as the title.

Step 5: Digital

I scanned the inked drawing in two parts, merged them in Photoshop, then brought the entire map into Illustrator. I used three different live traces of the drawing, so I could pick and choose the best option for each element, particularly the very small lettering for the street names. After tweaking a few spacing, sizing, and kerning issues, I colored each element (title, map, shop name) in illustrator using a pre-existing color palette I had, but brought them all into the master Photoshop file separately in order to ensure that I could edit things on the fly if I changed things later (which I did.)

Behind all the illustrated elements, I added individual layers for the solid background color, the strokes of white, and all the secondary colors that appear in the piece, such as the purple frosting on the donut for Blinkie's. Shamefully, all of these were laid in with a very archaic device: the mouse! Yes, a mouse. And yes, the master file has LOTS of layers.

But I'm not done yet...

Step 6: Secret Photoshop MAGIC (...or how I got the cool colors in the title)

I decided to pull the whole piece together with an element of texture, which I always like. I originally was going to use a royalty free stock image to create the texture, but then I didn't want to have to worry about licensing issues since I was submitting this to a contest. So an hour before the entry is due I'm frantically scrambling to find a particular photograph, taken from the hills of Topanga, on a particular day, sometime in the last 5 or so years. Needless to say, no luck.

Then a friend saved the day when she saw one of my paper scraps where i test my watercolors when painting a project. After scanning, I duplicated, rotated, flipped, and cloned until that scrap filled the entire piece.

I applied this texture and a photo of the woods from one of our local hikes to the Photoshop file, tweaking layer styles (overlay, screen, lighten) and opacity for both of the texture elements until I was happy with the result. The darker and lighter brush strokes on the page gave the solid colors in the title added life and character that wasn't present in the original texture I had planned to use.



Illustration Friday: Gesture

He timidly made a gesture of affection toward her.

So during my photo research at work this week I found such an awesome photo:


That trunk, with its curl, was begging to be a caricature of some sort. Out come the pens and markers and voila! Blushing elephant. I love the pink/red marker that I used on his cheeks, but it's scary to use sometimes because it is such a strong color. I did use a gray pencil to draw in the elephant originally, but tried to keep the artwork loose and scribbley.

Illustration Friday: Remedy

"Choose your remedy wisely."

There actually is a story behind this one: At dinner, while trying to figure out what to draw for illustration friday, we had some almonds on the table for our salad and the package read "all natural!" Well, the hubby wanted someone to make a product that markets how UN-natural it is. So I did. For more amusement, it was suggested that the side of the label read "mild side effects include death..."

It may be darker then my usual doodles, but I guess I had a bit of quirky humor going on today. Now that I think about it, "humor" would have been a good term to add to the bottles, especially when I was running out of label ideas. It was a lot of fun to lay in the shades of gray with the markers, and I got to put my toe into the steampunk craze that is quite fun.

Illustration Friday: Midsummer Night

It started with a continuous outline of their silhouettes, some heads added Tom Gauld-style, then the wings...and a perfect opportunity for me to draw some patterns, since I've been seeing interesting patterns everywhere recently. A little bit of crosshatching for texture, a lot of blocking in solids and a touch of typography. It was very interesting to see how the natural variations with the line work of the silhouettes created a range of unique characters, including a few matrons, a few innocents, one that may be pregnant, and Titania, who happens to be the tallest of them all.

Bird of a different feather

This doodle was inspired in part by the baby birds nesting in our balcony light fixture. I went to clean out the 2 nests that were there. The first one was empty, but when I pulled out the second, there were 3 little babies inside. I didn't have the heart to throw them out, so I carefully put the nest back and hoped for the best. The parents did come back and as far as I can tell, the babies are doing well. They sure chirp a lot when it's feeding time!

Elephant Greetings

In the same vein as the Illustration Friday post, I did a second ink doodle. It's a lot of fun and i just keep telling myself if it wasn't what I originally intended exactly, that's fine. It still looks cool and more relaxed than some of my other stuff. It's fun too!

Plus, I doodled while I watched Microcosmos, a cool French documentary about bugs, and on a wide screen TV they are BIG!!! And since the are not crawling on me, they are coooooool!

Illustration Friday: Launch, sweep....and gulp?


I've been replaying Somorest 2 and thinking of replaying Machinarium. Somorest gets a little bit odd in their artwork sometimes, but I'm in love with the world of Machinarium. It's all scribbly and imperfect, and that just adds to the charm. I felt like drawing something with aliens, although this drawing is more about their world. I could always add a UFO in space if i wanted too...

And because I didn't post it when it was the correct week, here's the IF sketch I did for Sweep...with a hungry fishy hanging out at the bottom of the page. I'll need to do something with him at some point. He's kinda cool

Character design class sketches 1

I'm working on stuff right now, but wanted to post some of the better sketches I did this past semester in my first Character Design class. It's almost harder than life drawing, because you have to analyze the pose and then interpret it and add personality and a story. Many of the drawings were frustrating, but after weeding out all the bad ones, i still was left with a pretty decent pile of sketches. I'll be posting them intermittently over the next couple of weeks.