Saturday, July 31, 2010

Illustration Friday - Artificial

This week 'Illustration Friday,' presented its participants with the word "Artificial." So many things in our world today are artificial.  We have artificial flavors, artificial flowers, artificial sweeteners, artificial grass, artificial fibers, and if you've ever been to Disneyland, you've even seen a whole menagerie of artificial animals and even artificial people. As I thought about all of these things, the first thing that popped into my head was an artificial rabbit, specifically a statue of a rabbit made from concrete.  Maybe I've had rabbits on the brain lately.  I see them almost every day in my yard and when we were in Wisconsin a few weeks ago, we were able to get up close to an unafraid little bunny (I used some of the photos I shot of him as reference for the bunny in my piece).  At the same time as I was mulling over ideas in my head, I came across a wonderful illustration from a Polish children's book. I'm sorry I don't know who the artist is, but you can see the image below. It shows a rabbit, sitting against a orangish sky amongst a group of flowers.  I love the simplicity of the composition and the graphic stylization of the rabbit and flowers.

I spent a long time working on the background, trying to get the flowers right. I was striving for something graphically elegant and simple like this Polish illustration, but my penchant for realism kept pushing me to add more shading, detail, etc. So, I ended up straying quite a ways from my inspiration.

Below you can see where I've begun working on the background.  You can also see my original sketch which I had on a separate layer.  As I went along, I decided to make the foreground darker, not only to make it a bit more dramatic, but to add some contrast to the evening sky. After I finished the image, I also decided to crop it into a more vertical format.

Here is the little bunny that we saw in Wisconsin.  We had stopped at a scenic overlook for a distant view of the "House on the Rock," and as we walked from the car to the viewpoint, we saw this tiny little guy having his evening meal. He didn't seem at all afraid of us. I was able to get within just a few feet of him for lots of picture-taking.

UPDATE: Since I posted this yesterday, I went back into my image and made a few changes.  I felt the 'real' rabbit was too light and seemed to be floating against the background so I darkened him a bit, and added a little more detail in his fur.  I also added some additional plants and grass details.  You can see the updated version on the right.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Illustration Friday - Breakfast (Finished Version)

For those of you who have been nice enough to follow the progress of this illustration, that I created as part of the July 16th Illustration Friday challenge, it is finally finished. The word to illustrate was 'breakfast,' and I chose to create a family of orangutans having their morning meal in their brightly colored kitchen. My inspiration came from some of the classic Little Golden Book illustrators, people like Feodor Rojankovsky, Mary Blair, J.P. Miller and Aurelius Battaglia.  I chose my color scheme based on what I felt would be complimentary colors to the orangish-browns of the orangutan's fur. I tried to stick to a limited palette, but I did use different shades and values of the colors I chose. For those who may have missed the original posting, I'm also including my original sketch. The main difference between the sketch and the finished piece is that I decided not to try and do a true perspective on the floor. Instead I changed it to a straight-on view of a checkerboard pattern. I felt that would be more in tune with the stylized look of the illustrations in a Little Golden Book.

Thanks to all of you who have taken the time to come back and see the finished result.  Comments are always appreciated.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Illustration Friday - Double

Since I've been sick all of this past week, I still haven't finished the 'Illustration Friday' challenge from July 16th ("Breakfast"), so for this week's challenge, which is the word "Double," I decided to go with something simpler. Simpler in subject matter, simpler in style. Because it's been so hot here (not to mention the fact that I had a low fever all week), I've been thinking of ways to cool off. When we were in Madison, WI a few weeks back we stopped in at the University of Wisconsin's student union (more than once) to have some of the delicious ice cream served up by their ice cream stand, The Daily Scoop. They were very generous with their servings, and though I always asked for a single scoop, they always gave me a double scoop. So, with ice cream on my mind, I decided to do an image of two friends, who while out walking their dogs, decided to pop into the ice cream parlor and get a double scooped cone.

In the first sketch I made, I had the two girls standing side by side and looking straight ahead. But then I decided upon the Ice Cream Parlor scene and decided it might be better if I showed them sitting across from one another. This way I could put a little perspective on the scene and show what was going on outside the shop window.

Here is my second sketch where you can see how I changed their positioning. After adding this sketch as a separate layer in my Painter document, I then sketched in the rest of their bodies and the background.

At first I thought I would outline the drawing using one of Painter's sketchy pen brushes, but for some reason I didn't like the quality of the line and I thought I was starting to lose some of the vitality of the original pencil sketch. In this image, you can see how I've started to ink in the figure on the left. In the end I decided to add a new layer with a cleaned up pencil sketch and in addition, I allowed the layer containing the original sketch to partially show through.

In case you're wondering how I did the backwards lettering on the window - I set the type up in Adobe Illustrator and put it along a curved line.  I then exported that file as a tiff file and opened it up in Photoshop.  In Photoshop I flipped it and gave it some perspective. I then saved it again as a tiff file and placed it on a separate layer in my Painter document. From there, on a new layer, it was easy to trace over it with Painter digital watercolor brush.

Here is the original text created in Illustrator and saved as a tiff file.

Here it is after I flipped it and gave it some perspective in Photoshop. I then used this as a separate layer in my Painter image to guide me in painting the lettering on the window.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Illustration Friday - Breakfast (Work in Progress Part 2)

Yesterday, I posted what I had done so far on this week's 'Illustration Friday' word, which is "Breakfast." I still have a lot more to do but here's what I've accomplished since the last post. I spent most of my time working on their faces and putting some shading into their clothes and various props. As you can see, I still haven't tackled the rest of the cabinets and the cookie jar, plates, bowl, etc sitting on top of the cabinets. I also have to paint in the food items on the table.  It wouldn't be much of a breakfast if I left the food out.  I hope to have this finished by Saturday.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Illustration Friday - Breakfast (Work in Progress)

I've been a little under the weather this week and haven't felt like sitting at my computer for very long, so I'm posting this week's Illustration Friday challenge ('Breakfast') as a work in progress. If you're interested in seeing the final piece, bookmark my blog and check back in a few days, hopefully it will be completed by your next visit.

The version you see here is shown displayed with both the color palette that I'm using, and the layer with my sketch on it, turned on.

For many families, breakfast time is a rather rushed time of day. Thinking about that, led me to think about creating a somewhat chaotic scene, but since I had also recently been studying some of the Little Golden Book art of J.P. Miller, Feodor Rojankovsy and Mary Blair, I also got excited about doing the scene in the style of a vintage Little Golden Book. I toyed with the idea of mixing children and various animals, but then, after looking at some pictures of Orangutans on the internet, I decided to create a scene of an Orangutan family breakfast. Orangutans have great facial expressions and their babies are some of the cutest babies in the entire animal kingdom, so they were a perfect choice.

Before starting, I made two sketches in my sketchbook, one in ink and one in pencil.  There were things I liked about each sketch, so I ended up combing elements from both of them.

From these two rough sketches I created a more refined, finished sketch. You can see that as I started painting, I began making some changes.  For one, I decided against doing the floor in perspective. Perspective has never been one of my strong points and I didn't want to get hung up on trying to make it look right, so I decided to "flatten" out the floor. I felt this also gave me the leeway to take some license with the shape of the fallen over chair and the lines making up the window in the background. One of the most recent changes I made was to have the Orangutan who is half hiding under the table, reach up, trying to sneak another piece of toast.

In this last graphic, you can see what the image looks like with the sketch layer and color palette layers turned off.  This is pretty much where the image stands at the moment. With the exception of the stove and the rest of the cabinets, the colors are pretty much all blocked in, now I just have to start adding some detailing and shading. Hopefully, I'll have it finished in the next day or so.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Illustration Friday - Diary

I'm a little late with this week's 'Illustration Friday' challenge. I was on a road trip in southern Wisconsin with my partner when I received the email with this week's word, which is "Diary."  I was so busy traveling and sight-seeing that I didn't have time to do any sketching until I got home, but each night before I went to sleep, I mentally thought out my image.  I knew from the beginning that I didn't want to draw a representation of someone writing in a diary, so instead I decided to go with a scene of someone discovering a diary. As soon as I decided this, I also decided that I would use a character that I created a few months ago for an illustration that I did for my portfolio. That illustration depicted a boy in a haunted house, who discovers a strange ghostly creature is watching him from a darkened doorway. I started to think of this diary image as a sort of prequel to my haunted house image. Because of that, I wanted to make it atmospheric and have it dramatically lit. I hope I succeeded.

I started off by doing a quick sketch in my sketchbook. Sometimes, I'll scan my sketch and work directly from that, but this time, I drew a new digital sketch using Corel Painter XI. Here is the sketch from my sketchbook and below that is a screenshot where you can see my new digital sketch.

In the digital sketch, I used various conte brushes to add some shading and to start determining where some of the dark shadows will be. If you compare this sketch to the one from my sketchbook, you'll notice that I've opened up the space a bit.

In the next screen shot, I've started to block in some background colors, mostly tans, and shades of brown.

Here you can see that I have most of the colors blocked in. In this screen shot I've turned off the sketch layer and the layer with the conte shading.

In the next shot, you can see what the same image looks like with the sketch layer turned back on.

Below that, is a screen shot where the layer with the dark conte shading has been turned back on.

In the last screen shot, you can see a close-up of where I'm adding some details, in this case, some spider webs.  The drawing of the woman in the framed picture is based on an old photograph of my grandmother. She was 40 when my dad was born in 1918, so if she were still alive, she'd be 132!

Sunday, July 04, 2010

Illustration Friday - Giant

I could have gone in all sorts of directions with the current Illustration Friday challenge, which this week is 'Giant.' There are so many fairy tales and folk tales featuring giants that it would have been easy to pick a scene from "Jack and the Beanstalk,""Jack the Giant Killer,""David and Goliath," or even "Paul Bunyan," to do for this week's illustration.

But when I started to think about the word and how one's being a giant can be relative, I started to think about how an animal, like a dog, that is not that big to us (at least when compared to an elephant), would be a giant to a little mouse.  That made me think about my old dog Juniper who died a couple of years ago. When he was still alive, I was living with him in Washington state in the beautiful Skagit Valley. Across the road from my house was a series of dikes that protected us from the Skagit River, a river that constantly threatened to flood during the early winter and late spring. I use to walk Juniper (and our other two dogs) along the top of the dike, which was planted with grass that by early summer would get quite high. The high grass provided a home and shelter to all sorts of little creatures. Often, one of the dogs would catch the scent of a mouse or rabbit and dive into the long grass trying to track down a tasty morsel. They rarely caught anything, the grass provided too many hiding places and escape routes, but this week's challenge made me think about the mice that were probably cowering in fear waiting for this giant animal to go away.

I found an old photo of Juniper standing at the top of the dike that I used as a reference. Here is the sketch I made based on my old photo of him.  As you can see in the sketch, I had a lot more little mice hiding in the grass. The mice in the sketch were also a lot more cartoony. As I began painting the dog, he began to look more and more real, so when it came time to paint the mice, I decided to use a more realistic approach for them as well.

First I blocked in some color. If you look carefully, you can see the sketch showing through faintly from another layer.

After painting in the basic lights and darks, I started adding some deeper shadows. I eventually decided to lighten the grass and to darken the dog. I felt this would make him appear a bit more ominous and by lightening the bottom half of the image, it would draw more attention to the hiding mice.
Here I am adding some of the grass details at the dog's feet.

Here's a close up of one of the little mice, which is on its own layer. When I first began working on him, I turned off the darker grass layers that were beneath him, so that it would be easier to see what I was doing.

I spent more time working on the dog than on any other part of this illustration. The entire time I worked on him, I constantly checked this photograph for reference. Working on this project brought back so many memories of walking Juniper and my other dogs Lucy and Me-Me. I still miss all three of them, and those beautiful walks atop the Skagit River dikes.

Thursday, July 01, 2010

Toys from Socks and Gloves

This post is part of the "I Made It Party at Everything Etsy." Click on the link to see what other people have been making.

As part of my ongoing search to find something that will sell in my Etsy store, I recently made some toys out of socks and gloves. I've always had a fondness for stuffed animals and I got the idea for making these from the wonderful book by Miyako Kanamori called Sock and Glove. The book has some very cute and easy to follow patterns for making all sorts of animals and dolls out of socks and gloves. If you think you can't sew and that it would be impossible for you to make something this cute, this book will probably change your mind. Believe me, if I can do it, you can. For a little extra help, I did download from a google search, some instructions on doing basic hand stitching - backstitching, running stitch etc. With my downloaded stitching instructions and this book, I made all of the following little critters.

My first attempt, following instructions from this book, is this dog. Even his shirt came from a pattern in the book (the author also shows you how to make little pants, a dress and a hat). I found the buttons in my mom's old sewing kit. The socks were purchased at Target. I made the mistake of purchasing tube socks which don't have a heel so I had to improvise a bit, but I think he turned out okay. He's kind of a lanky fellow, but I think I'll keep him.  He took me about two and a half hours to make and the shirt took almost another hour. If I can figure out my sewing machine, I think I could make the next one a lot faster.

My first attempt at making an animal out of two gloves is this funny little bunny who I've named Rose. I think the hardest part of making her, was sewing her head on to her body. Hidden underneath her removable turtleneck collar (the extra cuff from the second glove) there is a bit of Frankenstein style stitching on the back of her neck. But I think she turned out pretty cute. Her nose came from a jar of red buttons that I bought at a local antique consignment store.

My second attempt at a glove animal is this little dog, who I've named Elwood (don't ask me why, he just looks like an Elwood to me). Vintage buttons make up his eyes and nose and a little extra hand stitching gave him his quirky smile.  Once again, attaching his head to his body was the most difficult part.  No matter how hard I tried to get it on straight, he ended up with his head cocked up and a little to the right. To dress him up a little, I made him a collar out of a red satin ribbon.  I put a little velcro on the back of the collar so that it could be removed easily. To decorate the collar I made a small heart out of black polymer clay. After forming the heart, I dusted it with some gold metallic powder, embossed a smaller heart in the center and then baked it to fire the clay and make it nice and durable. I think the little heart makes a nice touch, like he's wearing a license tag.

My two glove animals are for sale in my Etsy store. Since he was my first attempt, I decided to keep the Sock Dog, but I've already got plans to make some more.

By the way, this post is part of the "I Made It Party at Everything Etsy." Click on the link to see what other people have been making.