Monday, October 31, 2011

Digital Watercolors- A Figure Study from a Wendy Artin Nude

In September I discovered Wendy Artin, an American living in Italy who does these amazing sepia watercolors of figures, nudes, buildings, etc. She does full color work too, but it was the sepia work that really inspired me. She had a wonderful ability to let the figure dissolve into light. She expressed a great deal of weight with a minimum of input on the page. Her stuff is very subtle, delicate. It looks so effortless and wet on the pages.

I decided to do a study of one of her nude figures in Artrage, just to see what I could accomplish digitally. That's what you're seeing below. I want to say this took 2.5 hours or so. Although digital watercolors have never quite captured the nuance of natural media to me, I found there was a lot to learn from working digitally, even as a person studying and painting with natural media. This was because doing it digitally really forced me to look and think about what makes watercolors really watercolors. And that sort of attentiveness to wet bleeds, or dry brush work, or wet into wet work, or paper grain and how different pigments granulate and separate from each other was very instructive. It's been an exercise well worth doing.

Digital Watercolors- A Magnolia and a Pear

I painted these two in September while taking an online class through the Digital Art Academy for learning Painter 11. The magnolia took perhaps an hour or two; the pear no more than an hour. Both were done in Painter 11. Used Skip Allen's brush set "Splashing Water" which is, IMO, the only way to get reasonable watercolor results out of Painter 11.

I never really grew to enjoy painting in Painter, it's full of far too many dials and sliders and check boxes and panels and pull down menus for my tastes, but eventually I did get some reasonable results, and there's a lot to learn from Painter that applies to other art programs, so the time wasn't wasted by any means. I ran much slower than Paint Tool Sai or Artrage though, which is another reason I've sort of set it aside. Anyways, here's the paintings.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Quick Sketch at Nation's Burgers

Did this in late September, while out at Nation's having a burger. It's tough drawing people and having them not see you. You've got to get your ninja on, so they won't see you. This guy was probably 30' away, so that helped.

Did it in Sketchbook Pro 2010. Took bout 10 minutes I suppose. A fun study in well.... either boredom or an attentive focus. Funny how the two seem so similar. Plus, he had a mustache. Pretty hard to find nowadays!

The UniBrow Dude

Sketched this guy while at the SCBWI conference last week. The conference was fun. So was the sketching.

I did this in Sketchbook Pro 2010. Just using the Pencil tool. Wanna say it took 20 minutes or so of doodling, from my mind. I kept thinking, hey, this guy should be one of my funky fairies in a kid's book I'm writing.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Digital Watercolors- Eyes on the Mountain

Trying out some more wet watercolors in Artrage.  In this piece, I lay down washes of color with stencils, added some textures by importing some images, and then "found" the faces after the fact and penciled in the shadows, etc.  For the first time I really played with the layers- I imported some older doodles using watercolors and textures, then rotated/flipped them, and then altered the Layer Colors, shifting hue and contrast.  It was fun to just play with the program purely as a digital art tool-- those things had nothing to do with emulating natural media.  Are the results successful?  Maybe.  But it was a fun exercise in exploration.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

A List of Children's Books- with commentary (oh lala!!)

In anticipation of the Fall SCBWI conference (Society for Children's Book Writers and Illustrators) this weekend, I thought I'd share a list of books that I've been gathering.  These books were recommended to me as books to check out from various sources-- generally pretty current (within the last 5 years or so), that would give a good sense of the sort of stuff that's being published in today's market.  It took a while, but over the last few months, I've been picking them up from the library, 5-10 at a time, and reading them all with the girls.  It's been a lot of fun, and very instructive. As a starting off point, I thought I'd offer the list to you, with occasional notes from me and my experience with the books.

One of the interesting things I found was that there were a number of "categories" books fell into-- I'll call them Joke, Concept, Character, and Story.

The "Joke" books all had a very simple idea that was played out, and has no real story.  Sort of a one trick pony.  Some came off very well with my daughter and nieces (Don't Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus or The Biggest Thing in the Ocean for example) largely because of the funny pictures or a simple, clever, wacky idea, while others fell a bit flat for me when reading to a child (It's a Book or Duck Rabbit) because they're essentially written for the adult.

The "Concept" books often had a basic setting, mood, or idea they played with, but have no real story, and sometimes even no main character.  They're like the cousin of the joke book.  They're fueled by charm and wonder.  Chick N' Pug was clearly written with a love of pug dogs in mind (which I found unengaging, personally), whereas Itty Bitty was about a very small animal that gets very small things to live in its very small house (which I found charming).  Bat Night at the Library (one of my favorites from the list) is all about a love of books, and bats going to the library.  There's not much story though in any of them.  Almost nothing really "happens".  There's definitely no character arc or climax.  And either you dig the concept they're playing with or you don't.  Some focus on a character (Chick N' Pug) but I found uninteresting, while others focus on a setting (like Bat Night) and have no central character at all, but I loved them-- which I found really thought provoking as a writer!! A bit of an eye-opener.

These type of books are well known, of course.  Curious George.  Fancy Nancy.  Skippy Jon Jones.  Frog and Toad.  Ah, the culture of personality.  Ladybug Girl at the Beach is a clear example of this, though there wasn't enough to really pull me in, besides the art.  Beautiful Yetta however, IMO, is great-- a wonderfully charming "country chicken in the big city" idea.  LOL.  What's interesting to me about these books is that they often have no real story to them either.  Some do, most don't.  Or it's really very very simple.  Things happen in sequence, but there's no real "arc".  It's all about the character and their antics-- often the mood or setting doesn't really matter either.

What was also surprising to me is how infrequent kid's books really tell "stories" now.  They're around, but it's not that regular.  Perhaps it's the restriction to 30 pages? Or perhaps the frequent focus, IMO, on the graphic content of the work rather than the literary, compared to many children's books from 50 years ago.  Most play with a simple idea (what I'm calling Joke books), on mood or a setting (Concept books), or just run with a character doing stuff (Character books, clearly) with varying results.  Almost all the stories have a main character though, this is one of the things I noticed.  And they have a sort of commonly recognized act structure, with a climax and a coda.  My favorite from this type was easily Children Make Terrible Pets- a funny concept, that actually has a very endearing story.   

For the sake of having an opinion and sharing, I'm putting stars by those I really liked, or were big hits with the girls.  Two stars for those that were awesome, and we'll probably buy.  One for those that we liked, but might not be buying.

**Don't Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus- Mo Willems-- joke
Ladybug Girl at the Beach- David Soman -- character
**Children Make Terrible Pets- Peter Brown-- story
The Little Yellow Leaf- Carin Berger-- mood/story
Flora's Very Windy Day- Jeanne Birdsall-- story/idea
Chick N' Pug- Jennifer Sattler-- concept
**Beautiful Yetta- Daniel Pinkwater-- story, a chicken story, I'm such a sucker for chickens!
Duck! Rabbitt!- Amy Krouse Rosenthall-- joke
It's A Book- Lane Smith-- joke
*What the Ladybug Heard- Julia Donaldson-- story
*Itty Bitty- Cece Bell-- concept
**Bat Night at the Library- Brian Lies-- concept
Maybe I'll Sleep in the Bathtub Tonight- Debbie Levy-- poems
**I'm the Biggest Thing in the Ocean- Kevin Sherry-- very simple concept, though fun
Llama llama Red Pajama- Anna Dewdney
The Quiet Book- Deborah Underwood-- concept
Zen Shorts-Jon J Muth
*Calvin Can't Fly- Jennifer Berne-- story
How Rocket Learned to Read- Tad Hills-- story
A Balloon for Isabel- Deborah Underwood-- story
**In a Blue Room- Jim Averback-- bed time book
*The Book That Eats People-- concept
*Harey and Horsie-- story
Everyone knows what a dragon looks like- Jay Williams-- haven't gotten to it yet  ;P

Digital Watercolors- Blue Haze

This is digitally done.  Did it last week, I think.  Wet watercolors done without intent towards a specific image, just playing.  Then I overlayed the pencil work onto it.  After that, I went back in and applied more watercolors to pull the image of the barn out, as well as the horizon line.  All done in Artrage 3.5.  Took me about 3 hours or so.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

At the Poetry Reading

Did this sketch, on the sly, over about 15 mins at a poetry reading last week.  ;)  Sketchbook Pro 2010.  Decided to try using the airbrush tool for darker values, and the white pencil for highlights.  Poems weren't too shabby either.