Sunday, February 24, 2013

Procreating! er um...drawing in Procreate

I created this image using Procreate on my iPad - I love this app!

I just got back from the SCBWI Southern Breeze conference in Atlanta. I was being entertained by Dianne Hess (editor at Scholastic) as she gave her speech - an inside look at her company. I have to draw to listen so I was on  my iPad using "Procreate". It's my go to program for creating all of my sketches now - I love the screen rotation feature and the larger file sizes. Oh yeah - and I'm still only using my finger. I find it fascinating that it bothers people that I won't go out and drop coin on a stylus. It bugs my students, friends, and strangers that I meet - like the guy who sat next to me on the plane. "You know you can buy all kinds of styluses for that device," he informed me...I just the way it strengthens my resolve to run sans stylus with each criticism.

A special shout out to Elizabeth Dulemba for inviting me to speak, being a great host, running an awesome conference, and being a great illustrator. I met so many cool people down there - too many to list but you know who you are! I hope to be able to get down there again sometime.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Crawl, Walk, Run, Leap!

I created the image above for my digital painting class this semester as an example of what I want my students to do for our "circle straight edge" assignment. The rules:

Create an image in Photoshop.
Perfect your drawing.
Use only the circle selection tool and the lasso for straight edges.
Painting: use the paint bucket and airbrush tools.
Concept: Visually explain why the Abominable Snowman is grumpy.

I don't think everyone is happy with this assignment. The limitations are frustrating some of them (yay!) and locking them into a style they aren't excited about.

My philosophy: Mastery in any discipline such as science or sports - arithmetic or art is gained in small steps. You have to learn algebra before calculus - physics before string theory and lay ups before alley oop dunks. By taking away options I'm allowing students to focus on the basic elements of design and visual communication. If you can't develop a solid composition and execute good rendering under these restrictions how can you hope to succeed given unlimited brushes, selection tools, textures, healing brushes, filters, adjustments, mixing and blending tools, etc?

Imagine the following experiment: You are given the best brushes and pallet knives money can buy for oil painting -fine linens, mediums, easel, pallet, etc. Your set up is perfect. Then give someone like Caravaggio a pocket knife, an old tree branch, some cheap oil paints, and a crapy canvas board. Set up a still life. Do you think you could out paint him? I know I couldn't.

It's not about the tools - it's about your understanding of mediums, surfaces, tools, design, light & shadow, edges, color, value, texture, line, space, shape, etc. What you do with the tools is personal to your understanding and vision.

Try limiting your choices...wax on - wax off.

In addition: From the mouth of Kazu - the artist who just completed the new Harry Potter covers:

Anything else about your process as you went about it that artists should know?
I tried to work on a single layer in Photoshop. I used very few effects. All of the illustrations for the most part I didn’t separate elements. I try to keep it pure as if I was working on a canvas. I forced myself into a limitation despite having all of these tools at my disposal. (from CBS)

Sunday, February 10, 2013

New Ways To Market Your Illustration

In the video below I took the time to explain the changes I've seen happen in illustration markets over the past 20 years and what I think artists should do to take advantage of emerging markets. Yes there still is plenty of freelance illustration work out there but there are more illustrators competing for it and budgets have either remained the same or gone down. The good news is that there are so many new possibilities for artists that unless you refuse to be open minded you and I can find success in many different places.

I give quite a few detailed examples in this video - it's long so put it on while you work - I hope you enjoy it!

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Can Pinterest Help Your Art Get Better?

Well obviously I must think so or this would be a really short post right?

First let me just say that I'm like a lot of you - "NOT ANOTHER SOCIAL MEDIA SITE!!!" I know I know - but trust me - Pinterest is worth it...and you can get in and out quickly!

For starters lets deal with that title - what if I told you that there is a way to see how your art stacks up against your competition? What if you could be that fly on the wall in the office of an editor, art director, agent, or fellow artist? What if you could know what people really think of your work? I'll show you a very simple way to use Pinterest to do just this.

1. Make your own Pinterest account BUT do it by logging in from Facebook or choose the setting so that every time you make a "PIN" it updates facebook - reason? - so people see your pins, visit your board, and re'pin your pins.

2. In the "search" bar at the top of the Pinterest page after you're logged in - type in something like "illustration" or "Children's illustration" or "characters" and hit enter.

3. Click on "boards"

4. Click on a piece of art that interests you - you might want to scroll a little - pick a goody! Ok - now pick five images to "re-pin" AND - pin them to your illustration board.  (I figured all this stuff out so if I can do it a snail can do it - sorry snails :( ...make sure you REALLY like the images you're re-pinning. These need to be images that you really admire and perhaps wish you'd created so be picky!  Also - if you don't pin really good stuff people will ignore your board and that will kill this whole experiment.

5. Ok - now pin one of your own images and then over the next year repeat this ratio - a handful of other artist's images to one of your own.  I suggest you pin from your website or blog so that if people click on them they come back to your portal - but that's not what this post is about but you should still do it for marketing reasons. (There's a way to download some thing-a-magiggy to your browser so you can "pin" from any site - I don't remember how I got it to work - I think I googled "how to pin with Pinterest")

6. Here's a look at my illustration board on Pinterest. If you zoom in you can see how many times each image was "re-pinned" - and here in lies the magic! You get to see how many votes or "pins" each image gets including your own. In a way people are casting their votes in an impartial way - self serving! They see something they like and they re-pin it for themselves. This is more valuable than a critique from friends in some ways because it's a rather large sample size and it's honest. The people pinning don't really know or care that you're looking at the data this way -they're just grabbing images for future consumption on their own boards.

So how can Pinterest help you improve your art? You can learn a lot by seeing what people like and don't like. If you're work isn't getting re-pinned as much as the other work you pin you have some work to do - but not in the blind - because you can see exactly what images people respond to the most. You might want to make a list of the things the popular images have in common - then compare to your work. However, this could also be a little dangerous if you follow it too closely and copy what is getting votes - you could become a follower- you still have to innovate but in order to create great art you have to consume great art!

Pinterest is in my opinion a very valuable tool for inspiration, strategy, and marketing - I'm starting to get emails and messages from customers who are finding me on Pinterest - and I hear it's the fastest growing website! so get pinning!