Friday, December 9, 2011

A Punk-Rock Zebra... and a Lesson in Animal Prints

For last week's assignment in my Wildlife Illustration class, I studied the Burchell's Zebra.

Here my character, Zoey the Zebra:

My orthographic studies:

And a realistic color study of a Burchell's zebra:

Lesson Learned: When illustrating an animal with a patterned coat, draw the stripes (or spots or patches) on the animal like you would draw a tight-fitting patterned piece of clothing on a person or a pattern on a vase, a bowl, or any other rounded object. Be sure that the pattern follows the curves of the animal's body, so that it does not flatten out the form of the animal's body. 

Also, when designing a clothed character of an animal with a patterned coat, keep the clothing simple! Since the animal has a pattern all over its body already, solid colored clothing will help to keep things from looking too busy. For my zebra character, I played up the fact that her stripes reminded me of tattoo sleeves, and I put her in a leather vest to give her a punk-rock look that went along with her mohawk-like mane.  

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

A Rhino in a Mini Skirt... and a Lesson in Animal Character Genders

Here are some orthographic studies I did of a white rhinoceros:

A realistic color study of a white rhino:

And a character, Rita the cheerleading rhino:

Lesson Learned: When characterizing wild animals, make sure that you note the gender differences within that species. In my research, I learned that female white rhinos can weigh up to half a ton less than males, and they also have a less pronounced shoulder hump and shorter horns than their male counterparts. This information helped me to make Rita look more feminine, and I will also need to keep those gender distinguishing characteristics in mind when I go on to design the guys that play football for the Rhinos.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Pre-Christmas Caribou... and a Tip for Painting Snow

In my Wildlife Illustration class, the module on antlered ungulates provided a great opportunity for me to prepare for the holiday season by learning to draw reindeer. My research taught me that, in the wild, they are called caribou... only domesticated caribou are called reindeer.

A little character, Rosemary the Reindeer
(created in Adobe Illustrator):

 I think I will re-work Rosemary the Reindeer later on to dress her up for Christmas!

Anatomy studies of caribou:

A color study (painted in Photoshop):

Lesson Learned: Snow doesn't have to be white! When painting snow, think about all of the different colors that can be reflected in it. For my color caribou study, I added areas of orange and blue to the snow. These sunset colors reflected in the snow help to create a mood for the piece that is much more interesting than if the snow had been plain white.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

The Spectacled Bear... and Why the Obvious Solution is Sometimes a Good One

For my Wildlife Illustration class, I did a study of the Andean Bear, also known as the Spectacled Bear, because of the white rings around its eyes.

Here are the orthographic studies I did to learn the animal's anatomy:

And here is Spencer the Spectacled Bear:

Lesson Learned: Since this type of bear is known as the "Spectacled Bear," my immediate thought was to make a bear character wearing glasses. At first, I thought the idea was too obvious and non-creative, but once I started sketching I changed my mind. I think that the look of the bear with the white face and shaggy fur actually works really well for this older, more sophisticated bespectacled character that I created. Glad I went with my first instinct!

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Planning a Picture Book... and a Lesson in Making Kids Look the Right Age

I've been working on an illustrated picture book for a story called "When You're Older," written by my friend James Littlejohn. I've been sketching for months now, and here is a little sneak peek of the picture book in progress- a mini storyboard of the overall layout of the book.

I'm still trying to decide what to do for the cover. I'm thinking of maybe showing the boy standing next to his mom and dad, but all you can see of his parents is their legs... to show that he is really little. What do you guys think? Any cover ideas?

Lesson Learned: Little kids have huge foreheads! The lower you draw the eyes on the head, the younger your character will look. In my original sketches, my character looked about 9 or 10. Then, I made his body shorter and increased the size of his forehead, and voila... he turned into a 3 year old!

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

An Indian Queen... and a Lesson on Enhancing your Portfolio

Last spring in my children's book illustration class, I started working on a version of "The Princess and the Pea" set in India. For the midterm for my portfolio prep class this semester, I got an opportunity to create a new piece for my portfolio, so I chose to illustrate the other half of a spread for "The Princess and the Pea" that I had started a few semesters ago.

Here is the finished illustration:

And the complete spread (along with the other illustration I did in the spring):

Lesson Learned: Every time you have an assignment for class, think about what you can create that will make your portfolio better. I could have illustrated a brand new concept or story for this assignment, but instead I decided to use it as an opportunity to strengthen a piece that I had already completed. The illustration of the princess in the rain was a strong portfolio piece on its own, but now when I open my portfolio to this illustration, the complementary illustration on the facing page finishes the spread and makes it look more complete. Plus, I got to introduce a new character and show my ability to keep a cohesive style throughout a series of illustrations. 

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Koala, Hare, and Fox... a Lesson on Fur

Here are a few more wildlife illustrations I have done lately:


European Hare

Gray Fox

Lesson Learned: When illustrating furry animals, keep an eye out for the different colors within the fur. The animal will look more interesting if the fur has many colors in it. 

Friday, September 23, 2011

Green Tree Frog... and a Lesson on Anthropomorphism

Last week, our lesson was on Reptiles and Amphibians. I decided to study the Green Tree Frog:

Orthographic Drawings:

Wildlife Illustration:

Character Design (Lilly the Tree Frog):

Lesson Learned: Pay attention to the details when anthropomorphizing animals. When designing the ballerina tree frog, I first asked myself- what do I need to include that will define this character as a tree frog? I decided that the essential elements to make it look like a tree frog are the skin and eye colors, the structure of the head and placement of the eyes, and the toe webs and pads. Then I asked myself- what humanlike characteristics does this animal have that can help me to anthropomorphize it? I decided that the hinged elbows and knees, humanlike muscular structure of the arms and legs, and the ankle bones are all aspects that I could work from to help make this frog more human-like. 

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Martina Koala... and a Lesson on Preliminary Sketches

For my first Children's Book Illustration 2 assignment this semester, I was assigned to interview a classmate and then come up with an illustration that somehow relates to 3 bits of information that I gained from the interview. I interviewed my lovely friend Martina, and from her responses I decided to illustrate these three points:

1. If she were an animal, she would be a koala.
2. Two words that describe her are: ridiculous and dramatic.
3. If she could go back in time, she would go back to when she was 5 years old, because she loved it.

So, here is my illustration of a ridiculous/dramatic koala in kindergarten:

Lesson Learned: Even after you have chosen the final narrative and composition for your illustration, sometimes the concept development can go even further. When I was refining my original sketch for this illustration, I placed a sheet of tracing paper over the original so that I could re-draw the koala's head in a different position and make the blocks look like they are starting to tumble. As I was drawing, I accidentally shifted the tracing paper a bit to the side. With the original drawing visible underneath, this created the illusion of animation- like the koala's head was moving and the blocks were falling. This sparked the idea to create this illustration as vector art, so that later I can go back and animate it in Flash! I plan on creating simple buttons (the blocks tumbling, Martina roaring, her classmate's head turning) that will transform this into a fun, interactive illustration! 

So next time you start working on refining your sketches and other technical aspects of preliminary work, don't put your brainstorming to rest. You never know when a new idea might come up if you stay in a creative mindset throughout the entire process.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Largemouth Bass... and a Lesson on Animal Anatomy

Well, I have finally entered into my final semester at the Academy of Art University! I can hardly believe it.

For the first assignment in my Wildlife Illustration class, we had to study and draw a specific species of fish. I chose to illustrate a largemouth bass (Greg's favorite fish). I had to do 3 orthographic drawings in pencil (skeletal, muscular, and exterior), a size scale illustration, a realistic illustration in the fish's natural environment, and an illustration of a character I created based on the fish I studied.

Close-ups of the color illustrations:

Lesson Learned: Understanding the anatomy of an animal can really help when drawing it in poses that you do not have exact reference for. If you understand the way an animal's body moves, you will be able to depict it more believably from viewpoints that you do not have exact reference for.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

A Tribute to Britta... and a Lesson on Writing for the Soul

I am so glad that I decided to take Creative Writing over summer semester. I learned so much and it was by far my favorite liberal arts class that I have taken during my entire college experience. For the final project in this class, we were instructed to write a piece of creative non-fiction... a memoir. An earlier writing exercise had asked me to write about a person who has influenced my life. I decided to expand on this exercise for my final essay, and I wrote about my lovely friend Britta.

“If you start me up… if you start me up, I'll never stop!”
I sat cross-legged on the carpet in my bedroom and covered my mouth with a Trigonometry textbook, attempting to muffle my laughter as I watched my neighbor Britta belt the Rolling Stones classic into the karaoke microphone. She was so intensely focused on the lyrics flashing across the screen that she had not noticed my little sister join in as her back-up dancer or my little brother using a pair of pencils to drum along with the beat on the side of the bed.
She was a sight to see from head to toe. While the cancer was slowly and painfully invading her vital organs, Britta refused to let it take the life out of her. She was not the slightest bit embarrassed by the weight gain that her chemotherapy treatments had caused, and she saw the loss of her hair as an opportunity to buy some fabulous new headwear that she had been eyeing at the local thrift store where she volunteered. Where her hair had once been a perfect mess of silver spikes, she now donned a brightly flowered scarf tied pirate-style over her bald scalp.  She confidently displayed her bronzed, sixty-something year-old body in homemade denim cut-offs and a neon green bathing suit, which she accessorized with a bejeweled leather belt and her signature red cowboy boots.
When the lyrics became too confusing, Britta began to make up her own words, at which point I dropped my textbook, jumped up, and grabbed the other microphone. I danced alongside her as I sang along, “You make a grown man cryyyyyy! You make a grown man cryyyy!” My mom soon joined in, and the combination of her thick Peruvian accent with Britta’s strong Danish accent left my siblings and I with tears streaming down our suntanned cheeks as we laughed so hard that we couldn’t sing or dance or drum at all anymore.
The next six years skipped by as quickly as the karaoke lyrics had flashed across the screen that afternoon. My older sister returned home from college and got married, my parents divorced, my little sister started middle school, I left for college, my dad remarried, my brother entered high school, I got married, my older sister had a baby, and Britta was there through it all.
And suddenly I was wearing my best black dress and sitting at a circular table with my family, sipping lemon-flavored water out of a clear plastic cup. We listened as one-by-one a room full of people went up to the microphone and shared their fondest memories of Britta. Each of the stories was sweet, hilarious, shocking, and inspiring all at the same time- a perfect tribute to the angel who lived next door.
As my dear neighbor warmly smiled at me from the picture frame on the table, I thought back to the last day that I had spent with Britta. Just weeks before her body finally succumbed to the illness after battling it vehemently for almost a decade, I had fought back tears as I held her shrunken hand in mine. She had been too weak and too heavily medicated to speak, but as she looked intently at me with those piercing blue eyes, she used all of the energy she could muster to give me a wink and a smile. And in that moment I could hear her singing at the top of her lungs, “If you start me up… if you start me up, I'll never stop!”

Lesson Learned: Writing about past events is a great way to remember those experiences. If you really let your mind and heart return to what you were feeling at that time, the writing experience can almost transport you back to that moment, and the memory becomes so clear. While writing this essay, I could feel and hear Britta there with me. Writing this essay was an experience I will never forget.

Experiments with Watercolor... and Why Two (or More!) Mediums are Sometimes Better Than One

I have been so busy this summer working all day and doing my classes at night and on the weekends, so I have not been keeping up my blog like I usually do. It was a great semester, though, and I just got my final grades: A in both classes! Yeahoo!

Here are some of the assignments that I did in my Watercolor for Illustrators class this semester. It was a really great class. I learned so many cool watercolor and mixed-media techniques that I am really excited to continue experimenting with in the future.

Watercolor with white pastel pencil:

Watercolor with white gouache and black ink:

 Watercolor with white goauche:

Watercolor with watercolor pencil and black ink:

Watercolor with colored pencil:

Lesson Learned: Try different ways of using watercolor and combining it with different media for a variety of textures, moods, and styles. I learned in this class that watercolor is the most versatile artistic medium out there. It can be combined with almost any other medium to create different textures and effects. Applying the paint to different surfaces, with different brushes or sponges, and layering different wet or dry media on top or underneath the watercolor can result in so many interesting effects. I learned this semester to test different techniques on scraps of paper and to take risks by trying out new mixed media combinations that I had never tried before. You never know what result you might get until you give it a try!

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Perfume, a Pink Powder Puff...and a Lesson on Painting Glass

For this still life assignment, I had a hard time finding stuff around the house that was pretty enough to paint with watercolors. I wanted a still life that was high-key and colorful, and I eventually found just the right items in my makeup bag!

Lesson Learned: Clear glass reflects all colors around it! Do not paint clear class as a monochromatic object! At first glance, I thought I would just need to use a gray color in different values to paint the glass perfume bottle, but when I looked closer, I saw so many different colors in the glass. The glass picks up bits of all of the colors around it, as well as colors it creates when the light shines through it. Going into this painting, I had no idea that the clear glass would end up being the most colorful part of this painting!

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Adorable Baby Wearing a Chullo... and a Lesson on Edge Control

I started the summer semester on Monday, and I am loving my classes so far! I am taking a Creative Writing class, which is a lot of fun already (we are doing poetry)! I am also taking a Watercolor for Illustrators class. I was first introduced to watercolor in Illustration 2 by the fabulous Camille LaPointe Lyons and I completely fell in love with watercolor painting. When I heard that she had written the Watercolor for Illustrators course, I signed up immediately. I am so excited to learn more about watercolor painting from such a talented woman. My instructor, Sue Rother, is a very talented painter as well.

Here is my first painting for the semester- a little 6x7" spot illustration of my pretty niece, Emma:

A special thanks to my talented mother, Margarita Bromley, the excellent photographer who took the photo that I used as reference for this painting. Her lovely photographs have been the reference material for so many of my illustrations over the years!

Lesson Learned: Paint outside the lines! 

The first module of this course taught me to throw out the painstakingly precise application of paint that has ruled my artistic approach ever since my childhood. As a kid, I always carefully colored inside the black lines of my Barbie coloring books and painted perfectly within the designated areas of my paint-by-numbers. According to the experts, however, it is better to take a loose approach to watercolors, and it is okay to paint outside the lines! 

For this approach, paint the middle value first, then paint through adjacent shapes of the same or similar values so that the colors start to bleed together. Of course, test it on a scrap of paper first to make sure that running the colors together won't result in a muddy color. I still had to be precise in the areas of detail (I used masking fluid for the eyes, teeth, and highlights and patterns on the clothing), but it was fun to let the colors bleed together around the edges, and the soft edges helped to draw more attention to the sharp detail on the face (the focal point of my illustration). Those soft edges I was able to achieve with this technique created sort of an atmospheric blur like you can achieve in photography by using a large aperture.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

My Best Friend's Wedding... and a Lesson on Using Masking Fluid

On June 4, my cousin Jacob married my best friend Kelly. They are a perfect match and will be so happy together! I painted a watercolor portrait of them to commemorate this joyous occasion:

Lesson Learned: Frisket is your friend! 

I used masking fluid (frisket) liberally when painting this portrait. I masked everything in the foreground before I painted the sky. This helped me to keep the value of the sky even, since I could paint all of my wash strokes horizontally (right over the masked area) instead of worrying about painting around the foreground objects. When I removed all of the masking fluid, I was left with clean edges and pure white paper where the figures, temple, and trees would be. 

Then, I carefully painted masking fluid over the areas where the lightest details and the hardest edges would be. This helped me to keep the edges crisp and the lights light so that no details got fuzzy or lost as I applied thin glazes of color to keep the colors luminous and bright. Then I let the painting dry, lifted the masking fluid, and added the dark values to the details with a mostly dry brush and I did not have to worry about my edges blurring or my highlights getting lost. Masking takes time, but it is so worth it in the end!

Friday, May 20, 2011

Product Prototypes... and Why You Need to Read Your Printer Manual

Part of my final for Decorative Illustration was to create prototypes for all of the products I have designed throughout the semester. It was a lot of work cutting all of the greeting cards by hand, and it made me grateful that if I ever do this as a job, the companies will have proper printing and laser cutting equipment to deal with all that so I can stick to the designing and let a machine do the manufacturing.

T-Shirt Design:

Birthday Card Prototypes:

Baby Birth Card:



Holiday Card (just a fun extra to go along with the paper placemat and napkin coordinates):

Paper Gift Box:

Lesson Learned: Know your printer! I rarely used my inkjet printer in the past because I thought it was broken. There was horizontal banding in all of my prints, and realigning and cleaning the print heads and nozzles wasn't fixing the problem. It wasn't until I reviewed all of the printer settings that I realized my printer defaults to "speed" instead of "quality" for all prints. Once I switched it to "quality," all of my prints turned out beautifully with no gaps! 

St. Basil's Cathedral... and a Tip for Traveling Artists

For the final project for my Decorative Illustration class, I created a paper box. It is a little gift box that someone might get in a souvenir shop.

My design was inspired by a trip I took to Russia last year- I used photos I took at Red Square in Moscow for reference. For the bottom of the box, I made a collage from scanned images of tickets that I had saved from places I visited in Moscow and around the Kremlin and Red Square.

Here is the box design template:

And here is the printed box prototype:

Lesson Learned: When taking photos of your travels, don't leave out the details! I took a couple of standard tourist shots of the outside of St. Basil's Cathedral in Moscow, but I also took dozens of pictures of the details in the paintings and patterns inside. The tourist shots are great for my photo album, but those photos of the little details that caught my attention have served as a great source of inspiration for me when it comes to color and pattern design in my illustrations.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Saris, Patterns, The Princess and The Pea... and Tips for Setting Your Story in a Foreign Land

For the final project for my Children's Book Illustration class, we had to choose any story and plan a 32-page picture book illustrating the full text. I chose the classic fairytale The Princess and the Pea.

 I decided to set the story in India, since I love the look of the palaces there and the thought of illustrating an Indian princess just seemed so beautiful to me. I really love the colors of Indian textiles and jewelry and wanted to be able to work with that in my illustrations too.

Now, I have a full book dummy of rough sketches and text layout for a 32-page book, and two completed interior illustrations plus a cover illustration! This was such a fun project and an incredible class- I can't wait to take Advanced Children's Book Illustration in the fall!!

Here is the cover:

One double-page spread:

One single page illustration:

Lesson Learned: When you decide to set your story in a foreign country- RESEARCH is absolutely necessary! I pored over dozens of books at the library- books on Indian architecture, art, and fashion... I even found an entire book about saris that had diagrams about how to wear them for different occasions, which was very helpful in dressing the princess. There were some incredible books about arab patterns- I photocopied just about every page because all of the patterns were so gorgeous and inspiring when it came time to design my own patterns for the borders of my illustrations. Of course, internet searches were helpful too, but the best internet research I found wasn't from Google Images, but from YouTube. I watched clips of Bollywood movies and found some great inspiration for costumes and colors!

I spent more time researching than I spent painting- once I had it all planned out the rest was easy!