Tuesday, July 08, 2014

Stars & Stripes


(click the image to see it larger)


I'm really happy with how these little guys turned out. They were super fun to draw, and I loved using my Prismacolors again for a whole, entire illustration. (Thank you Bostitch Super Pro 6 pencil sharpener for making that possible!)


This guy is very proud to be first in line in the procession, and has been practicing his fife music a lot, making sure he was ready for today.




This guy lost his nice tricorn hat in a horse-and-wagon mishap just before he had to step into line here, but is trying to put on a brave face, and is very proud that he gets to be the one carrying the flag.




And this guy has been driving his family nuts, practicing the drums, but they all know its worth it when they see him marching and drumming so well with his friends.




I did this whole thing with colored pencils. And I managed to keep it pretty clean. But even so, it needed a little tweak with Photoshop at the end to look even better. So I thought I'd show you a little 'behind the scenes' look at how things magically get cleaned up before going to print. 


This is how it looked straight from the scanner. Its a little 'dirty', and the scanner made a dark edge on the left. Its also a little crooked.



Then here it is cleaned up, and straightened out.




Here's a close up showing one little piece, with the background as it was, then cleaned up.


Can you see how grey the background looks on the left, and all the little 'bits of stuff'? That's the paper texture, and little flecks of pencil that, no matter how careful you are, deposit themselves on the paper and refuse to come off. So, with the help of the eraser tool in Photoshop, I painstakingly go around each figure and erase all of that out, leaving a nice clean background.

I also use the clone tool to carefully pick out any little stray flecks of something that may land on the actual image (here, there was a tiny grain of dark color on his nose). 



When I'm working on a piece that I know is going to be printed, and make a little goof or stray mark, I find myself going "That's OK, I'll fix it with Photoshop", and keep going. But when you're doing something where the original art is IT, like a commissioned piece, you have to be really really careful, because there is no room for mistakes, and there is no fixing the final art with Photoshop! The piece has to be perfect (no pressure). 


Thursday, July 03, 2014

4th of July - Work in Progress



I meant to have this done by the 4th, but oh well. The idea only came to me a couple of days ago, so I drew it out, then started rendering, and of course 'life' happened in between there (nothing bad - just stuff). This is a self-promo piece, so it doesn't have a real deadline, so I guess its OK. I'll just be really really early for next year! heh

Anyway - you can see where I'm going with this I think. I'm going back to this style for my children's book work. I used to work like this a lot, then . . . well, I'll spare you a long boring essay about why I shifted gears and started doing more 'fine art' kind of work. The time I've spent refining my colored pencil style will definitely come in handy here, and has not been time wasted.

"Style" is a hard thing to describe. I call this my "round, shapey people" look. Everyone I draw looks very well fed, and I have a sort of architectural way of designing things. Everything fits together "just so". Its tight, and fully rendered, and there's not a hair out of place (unless its on purpose!).

The outfits these guys are wearing are kind of a mash-up of different Revolutionary War and 'fife and drum corps' uniforms. Most are some combination of red, white and blue, and some are fancier than others. I'm not doing powdered wigs, but will give them each their real hair (partly to get some more color in there).

Hope you all have a good 4th of July, if you're here in the States, and celebrate. We have hot dogs and potato salad and apple pie all ready to go. No fireworks though. They're illegal here, but of course that doesn't stop everyone else from doing them (much to my chagrin - they scare all the animals so). I feel very very thankful for the freedom to be able to draw and color pictures like this all day, for a living, and am so grateful for everyone who has fought for our collective freedoms as a nation to sit and color, and do everything else we do as free people!

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Dried Chili Pepper Pods


All done! 8 x 10 inches, all Prismacolor colored pencils, on Fabriano Artistico Hot Press paper.
Its officially Summer now, so I guess its fitting that I drew something HOT to kick off the season.

In the last post I did some work in progress shots of these. I did end up using some Prismacolor Indigo for the darkest darks. These got very burnished and slick by the end, which is OK. Sometimes I leave things kind of 'grainy', and sometimes I burnish. It just depends on what I'm drawing. These needed that waxy finish, so they needed to 'go there'.

I'm not a big chili pepper (or any kind of hot pepper) person, at all, but I do like chili pepper flakes in some dishes, and also dab a bit of the chili sauce on my food in a Chinese restaurant (avoiding the actual seeds though!). One of my favorite dishes is pasta with broccoli rabe, anchovies, olive oil, chili flakes, black pepper and parmesiano reggiano cheese. Chili pepper is good for you, they say - boosts your immune system or something.

I'll make prints for the shop in the next few days. I think these would be fun, framed up on a kitchen wall, yes?





Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Chili Peppers - WIP

I bought this package of dried chili pepper pods a while back, thinking they'd be a good drawing. I'm finally getting around to doing them! That's the nice thing about dried stuff  - its lasts a good while in the cupboard, patiently waiting, until you get around to using it.

I've gone back to Prismacolors for this. Before I bought my new electric pencil sharpener (Bostitch SuperPro 6), I had all but given up on these. They were breaking like crazy (in my old duller sharpener), and I thought I might never use them again. But now that I have the new sharpener, which only rarely eats one, they're back on my list of usable pencils. And I'd forgotten how much I love them.




I laid out three of the best chilis in the package, and am trying to work 'left to right' as best I can, to avoid smearing the parts I've already done (I'm right handed - if you're left handed, you would work the opposite direction). I don't always do this, but sometimes it works out to be the best way.



I started with a Raspberry pencil, and kind of mapped out the wrinkle patterns in each chili. Now I'm going back in to each one and rendering it out. The last chili is very very dark, almost black. I've been avoiding using actual black to get the darks dark enough, but I may have to break down and use it. So far I've stuck to Black Grape and Black Cherry to do the darkest darks. I'll wait until I have them all to the same point of finish, then do the final tweaking at the end.



I tend to stick with one brand of pencil when I start working on a piece - I'm not sure why. Maybe I'm just lazy! I could try some Polychromo Indigo I think, or something else to do the darkest darks. I'll figure it out when I get there!

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Popsicle season

Summer hasn't officially started yet, if you go by the calendar, but if you go by the weather, its definitely here! It was 107 one day last week, and if that's not a reason to break out the popsicles, I don't know what is.



This is a little promo piece for my children's book portfolio. I thought I might break out the watercolors, but at the last minute reached for my colored pencils after all. 



This was done with Caran d'ache Pablos (oil based) on Fabriano Artistico Hot Press paper. I'm still getting used to the grain of this paper. I love it - but its very different than Stonehenge, which I've been using for so long. Stonehenge has a kind of 'over all' bumpy, sandpaper-like grain - except its not at all like sandpaper. Its just an even, more 'dotted' texture. Fabriano has a more 'grid-like' back and forth, woven sort of grain. So the pencils make a different kind of mark on each of them. I work in a circular stroke (mostly), so there's been a bit of a learning curve in getting them to work the way I want them too. No complaints! Just sharing fiddly details.

Last night I found myself thinking about Christmas art. I know, right? Every year I wait until the last minute to get my act together, but not this year! I'm going to start right now, as soon as I finish typing out this blog post. Really. No, I mean it.

OK, but seriously, there's a lot on the board - some in the planning stages, and some half or more than half done. The new website is almost there, but not quite. There's a whole new line of art for a whole new 'thing' that's gestating in various stages around the studio. I've been doing a good deal of purging of old stuff that's been taking up space in file drawers for too long, and it feels really good! The tax people are never going to audit me for 2006, so good-bye old receipts; and no one must ever find the art for those old projects  - the ones you do for the money but never admit to or show the art from. Every now and then I watch an Episode of Hoarders, just to keep myself from 'going there' (don't worry, I'm nowhere even on the same planet as that, but when I get even a little bit of clutter starting on a desktop or drawer, I think, "this is how it starts . . . ").

I'm also knitting, getting stuff ready for my little etsy knitting shop for Fall and Winter. Every evening my  kitties come out on the porch with me and hang out while I knit a bit, after a day of coloring and cleaning. The rest of the day they do this. If they're not hunting. The one on the left caught a huge lizard yesterday - omg - but I was able to rescue it and put it back outside. Never a dull moment . . .


Sunday, May 25, 2014

Molasses Cookie

I saw this giant molasses cookie in the store the other day and let out a little gasp. 

When I was a kid, we'd walk over to Heintz Bakery in Country Club Center * to get treats. They had these gigantic cookies (to a kid's eyes, anyway), and it was always exciting to get to choose one from the display case, then the have the nice bakery lady in her bakery lady uniform reach over the counter to hand it to me, wrapped in its little piece of tissue. They had sugar cookies with scalloped edges, peanut butter, chocolate chip, and molasses.
 (* If you remember Country Club Center from 'back in the day', here's another little article about it.)



I just had to draw this. And I decided to make it one of my 'architectural food' pieces since I haven't done one for a while. Its a sort of odd thing to do a side and section view of, but then I thought, why not? The inside has a wonderful rich, dense section where all the molasses kind of gels together. These are sprinkled all over the top with white sugar. They are just sugar bombs, pretty much. But they smell heavenly, and are delicious.



I also scanned it as I went, so you can see how it developed.
The drawing is 8" x 10", on Fabriano Artistico paper. I used almost all Caran d'ache Pablo colored pencils on it, with one layer of Polychromos, and wee bit of white gouache for the sugar at the end.


I like to establish the pattern on something like this, then work into it with more details. 




At this stage it looked like one of those chocolate cookies with the powdered sugar on top.




Here it looks like a toll house, without the chocolate chips.




Here it looks like peanut butter.



Crumbs! There are always crumbs.



This is the layer where I added some Polychromo Bistre.



And here I dabbed some white gouache on for the sugar. All done!


  ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~


The yard is in full swing now. I noticed today that all my white flowers are in bloom. Not sure if that means anything, but thought I'd take a few (blurry) pics for posterity.


The magnolia has some new flowers, but they're all so high up, I can't get a good photo. You'll just have to take my word for it that that white bit in there is a lovely magnolia flower.



My little miniature rose struggles valiantly in this heat. It lived in a nice foggy yard in San Francisco for many years, so now I have it nestled in with some other green things to help keep it sheltered, and try to remember to mist it often.



And gardenias! They smell so wonderful. I don't think this little guy bloomed last year, so I was so happy to see flowers on it today.



Phyllo, looking three sheets to the wind, helping me examine a magnolia cone.


These things are so cool, but not so cool to step on on the lawn. Its a wonder I haven't broken an ankle stumbling over these.


I'm itching to get out my watercolors. I think some picture book art is on the horizon next . . .

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Snickers Bar


Snickers "fun size" bar
6" x 8", colored pencils on paper



Did I tell you my dream about Einstein? A while back I dreamed I called him up, and after introducing myself and telling him I was an illustrator, somehow (through the magic of dreams) we were sitting across a table from each other at a cafe or something. I started showing him my chocolate drawings, and he says to me (in that affable, smiley way, with the goofy hair) "You should do more!". 


And right after that, I had this commission! The client wanted the wrapper torn 'just so', similar to my Heath Bar drawing I did a while back. So I had the arduous task of tearing open wrappers and taking pics to email over, until I got one that was just right. (Of course 'someone' had to eat all those opened Snickers bars - good thing they were 'fun size'.)


I thought it was finished at this stage, below. I even signed it. The client loved it, but wondered very gently if maybe the wrapper could be darker?




She was right. Sometimes when you look at something for too long, you can have trouble really 'seeing it' properly. I went out shopping or something for a while, then came back and added some color to both the wrapper and the chocolate, and voila - perfect!


I used mostly Polychromos on this, except for the red on the wrapper (LOVE Prismacolor's Permanent Red), but then came back in with some Prismacolor chocolatey browns to add a little 'more' to it over all. 

This was done on Stonehenge paper, since all of my other candy drawings have been on that, and I wanted it to look the same (I've been switching over to Fabriano Artistico Hot Press for other work lately.)



I decided to make a swatch chart of all my chocolate colored colored pencils, so I'll really know what I have to work with. Sometimes chocolate is orangey, sometimes purpley, and the shadows can go almost black. The wrappers aren't always chocolate colored, but when they are, the same thing applies.


Terrible scans of how the whole chart looks ...



 And terrible close ups of them (sorry) so you can kind of see what I did.




I did Prismacolors, Pablos, Polychromos, and Luminance.
There are gaps, because at first I was going to try to match colors by name across brands, but that all fell apart pretty fast, and I ended up with a sort of disorganized mess. But it works for me.





(Every time I do swatches I have flashbacks to Illustration 2 class at the Academy of Art, where we had to make watercolor and gouache swatches of all our new paints - and they had to be perfect, an exact size, all lined up in straight rows ... actually I think we did them on watercolor paper, then cut them out and pasted them onto a sheet of illustration board with rubber cement - crazy, but they were beautiful, and I used them for years and years. But I digress ...)




This is what they look like when I just do them for me, and just want to get a splotch of color down so I can see what I have. It still surprises me sometimes when I think a color is going to be one thing, based on the casing or lead, then it looks totally different when it goes down on paper. Luminance are the ones that do that the most I think.





I have Alyona Nickelson's Colored Pencil Painting Bible, and in it she shows how she swatches her pencils. GURL, she be crazy (I mean that in a good way), but very thorough and totally impressive. She does color 'mixes', as well as un-burnished and burnished. I considered doing something like that with these, since its the mixture of colors that will make just the right chocolate color for each drawing, but then couldn't wrap my brain around how to do it without making it my life's work. 

Alyona does have a cool tip about printing your swatches out onto clear paper (like overhead projector transparencies) so you can then lay them over a partially rendered drawing, and see exactly how a new color applied will look. I think that's worth a try.

But I know myself, and figure I'll just do tests as I go along, each time I do a drawing.

For fun, I just googled "drawings of chocolate", and found this Pinterest page which has a lot of cool art (and a few of my pieces too).

I've made prints of this piece available in my etsy shop

Next up is a small architectural food piece . . .





Thursday, May 08, 2014

Skies


I finished this house portrait the other day. What a lovely house.


It got me thinking about skies. I do them all different - depending on the house or building, and I guess what mood I'm in. Sometimes a certain kind of sky just goes with a building - some are light, some strong, some have no clouds, some have lots, some are pretty blah, some more dramatic, etc.


 Take this one for example. The house was white, so I really beefed up the sky. 




But then this was was a white house too, and look what I did here.




This was an all brick building.




Palm trees!




Evidently cookies call for drama.




Moody.




Very ... controlled.





 Washy.




Muted.




There's a storm a comin'. . .





Clouds.



I could do the same thing for grass - sometimes I make it really really green, other times less so. I've never had a client complain - I guess my gut instincts are doing OK. But it has me half thinking that I should offer people options for the 'mood' or feel of their drawing. 

Sky: Happy pretty light blue. Intense blue. Lots of clouds. No clouds. Dramatic clouds. Wistful clouds.
Grass: Astro turf green. Mellow green grass. Needs a little water. We're having a drought, no one has a green lawn anymore. 
(OK that last one would be a little too on the nose for us Californians.) 


Today I'm doing a Snickers bar for a client. Will post that one next.