Patreon Sketch to Finish, Art card 3, part one

As I prepare to launch my first-ever Kickstarter, a shortlist of support items that add value and flavor to the main reward are necessary. Part of my campaign rewards are art cards, and while I will share more details later, the skinny for now is I am creating five cards.

I have posted some of the artwork from the other cards here in Patreon, and I am starting to get a feel for what value my commentary on my process can add.

This artwork for card three has been extremely challenging for a couple of reasons. I am out of practice finishing artwork for this series. Yeah, I draw every day, but finishing artwork is a different task. I have not inked anything for this project in forever, and as you will see from my posted files, it was a struggle. That is a good thing! I am retraining my drafting muscles, and while it hurts, I am finally coming around. This the process thus far on the Art Card 3! There are going to be five total in the series, and they will be part of the backer offerings for my Kickstarter the first of the year!

The goal of each card is to enhance the story in the comic-novel, and this one is no different. This scene takes place in book two; I will explain in another post, promise! There were several things as a storyteller I needed to convey — determination in the face of hopelessness, and isolation.

I have attached a PDF with the steps and notes detailing the process of completing the artwork to this point.

So, the first image is the culmination of hours of work, and I hated it. So much so that I completed another thumbnail sketch at lunch the following day and tried a different approach. One of the critical elements in the composition is the dragon hidden in the trees above the impending conflict. I wanted it to be subtle, so the viewer has to do a double-take. The vantage point of this drawing made that problematic.

So, my new thumbnail is from a higher vantage, above the trees and we are peering down on the scene. I liked the dark shapes of the wolves(let’s call them that for now) coming into the clearing.

I scanned the thumbnail I created at lunch that evening and imported it into CSP (Clip Studio Paint). Scaled it up to the size of the artboard and used it as the rough for me to digitally draw over.

I needed some visual reference for forest details to enhance my art. Using my Pinterest account, I found some lovely images with more information like leaves, and how the tree roots fan out an interact with the ground. I don’t use the reference to “copy” a scene. It is mostly to “inform” the scene I am creating. This concept is essential to note. If as a creative, you always need an exact composition to render in your style, you are limited in what you can create by the source material. However, if you use it as a reference to ground your creation, then you are only limited by your imagination.

Please read the PDF, and hopefully, you will get some inspirational tidbits from it. This piece is about 10 hours in so far; I am rusty at finishing things for this book. Part of the process was reminding myself how I did stuff and getting the feel back for drawing these characters and settings. I hope you enjoy it!

Sketch to finish, Art card 1, part one

As the writer, illustrator, concept artist, and designer (phew) of this book. There is not a task that doesn’t require my attention. That is fine, and I have no complaints! So, most of the time, everything I create in my physical sketchbooks has to have a purpose. This share will focus on a piece of artwork that possibly will have multiple lives.

But, how do you take a real sketch and use it as the basis for something digital? Well, this is the process I am employing to make a concept sketch into finished digital artwork.

There is a PDF attached that illustrates with notations every step, you might get the most from this article 

First, I scanned the drawing high resolution and grayscale. Let’s just say I have plans.

I am using the software, ClipStudio Paint (CSP) for this digital piece, so I used the import option and dropped my scan in place.

On a new blank layer, I started to rough in the rest of the character’s body. I am partly ashamed and shocked that I have not drawn this character in a long time. So, there was much going back and looking at the earlier drawings to get the details right.

Once I am happy with the rough sketch, I turn the opacity of that layer to 25% to lighten the lines. Creating a new layer and naming it “tighter” I start to layer on the character’s costume.

Note, I am a big fan of naming layers. It makes the organization of the files much easier in the long run. From experience, when you open a file you have not worked on for over 6 months you have little recollection of what is what.

Using the rough of her body, I sketch the clothing on the new layer. I am not worrying about the pose or the anatomy, just the manner of dress for the character.

Once I am content with the tighter pencils, I begin to digitally ink. As a general rule, when I ink, I use many layers. Anything complicated or that would look best if I drew through the shape, I use another art layer.

When I draw, I have to “see it.” It is anything I am trying to capture with pencil or pen. There are moments in the process where I can’t see it, and when that happens, I typically jump to another area of the piece that I can “see” and work there. I was having such a moment and jumped to a sketch for a panel idea I had, inking that. I will save it and use it later hopefully.

Part of this particular project is still a mystery. I am not sure of what style the final coloring will look like, so the stones are black for now.

My first challenge is the hands are not right. I never really resolved them in the previous drawings, thinking I would figure it out when I ink the piece. Time for source material.

I snapped a photo of my daughter’s hands in the position I needed and imported them. When CSP imports an image file, it creates a new layer for that image and takes whatever name the document had for the layer name. Fortunately, I had named the layer something besides, DCP2019223534434345243.jpg.

Once I repositioned the image of the hands, I saw my problem. The angles of my character’s forearms were not correct and creating no space for me to draw the hands accurately.

Here is where I wished I had created each arm on a separate digital ink layer. I selected the part I needed to move and rotated it to the new angle using the photo as a guide.

More to come in the next post on this subject; however, that post and the ones after till the completion of this particular artwork won’t be made public. So, if you would like to see the rest, why not subscribe?

I hope this post was a blessing and encouraged you to go for it and chase those creative dreams down!

Decorative Art Cards-1

Launching a Kickstarter campaign encompasses many parts, some of them moving. While my KS is to fund my book, the reality is I need to prepare some side dishes for the main course. I am adding bookmarks and art cards (mini-posters) that will be printed and have foil and letterpress details. More on the overall plan and how these fit into everything will come in a future post.

The attached PDF has all of the illustrative steps to this article. I am getting smarter at this and combining the support images into one PDF so that you only have to download one document. I have also added the steps listed below to the actual material. Wow, huh?

Step 1: The first thing I did was sketch out my ideas. I am working on a 1st generation Surface Studio, and for quick sketches I prefer Sketchable. It is a Windows 10 app. The cards are going to enhance the narrative of the story by revealing hidden details and undisclosed plot points. Every part of the artwork on these cards must accomplish that. I also would like them to have an illuminated text feel to them, but with my spin on it.

Step2: I exported the final roughs for the first stage of production. Create the graphic glyphs and ornate elements that adorn the borders and corners of each art card. These cards will be drawn digitally in ClipStudio Paint, but I want to save some effort and time by creating a template that I can draw over. So, I placed the exported roughs from Sketchable into Adobe Illustrator. I’m not going into the weeds on the tools and options for this or any other software I reference. Tons of video tutorials readily available online will be more thorough. I am sharing the process of how I am creating the artwork in my project. This programs strong suit is manipulative vector curves and setting type. I researched Esty for the most popular art card sizes. I had initially been thinking 6 x 9in; however, the research painted a different picture. There was probably ten times the amount of 5 x 7in cards on the site. Also, 5 x 7in picture frames, pre-cut matte boards are commonplace. I placed the rough on its layer and scaled it to the approximate size that felt right. Remember I have an illustration going in the middle space. The beautiful thing about vector artwork is that size is irrelevant. It is infinitely scalable.

Step 3: On a separate layer, I created some circles that mirrored the negative spaces of the intertwining dragon tentacles.

Step 4: I added a line segment that runs on a 45-degree angle; this will serve as my center point, my equator for the design.

Step 5: I used the pen tool to free form the base for my vector tentacles.

Step 6: Continuing the task at hand by roughing in the shapes. I can go back and add more points and adjust pretty much everything.

Step 7: After a bit of editing the points and adjusting the curves, I arrive at something that feels right. Note that I always start with a rough sketch at least. I believe that previsualization is essential, and the only way to do that is to sketch it out. But, you should feel free to deviate from your original idea as you go.

Step 8: I change the shape of the vector line to have a taper at the start and end of the line segment. Using a little known keyboard command (Shift-W) turns your select cursor into a line segment shaping tool. Using this, I apply a fat end to the line segment where it will curve into its mirror twin.

Step 9: I use the tool option in step 8 until I am content with the lines outlook.

Step 10: I use the mirror tool to duplicate the line segment along my equator line and start the task of creating the other line segments.

Step 11:  I apply the same process as 6 through 9.

Step 12: Again, I use my unique tool option to fatten one end of the segment. The end that will join it’s mirror twin.

Step13: I mirror the new segment and like the balance overall. I am not worried about the small point where the red tentacles join on my equator line. These lines are serving as templates for me to draw the final artwork over.

Step 14: Now, I start to create a more structured part of the design. These elements need to define the corners of the piece visually. So, I give them an architectural type feel. Not unlike the illustrative artwork from the Saturday Evening Post illustrations from the Twenties by J.C. Leyendecker.

Step 15: I cut the pure shapes with the scissor tool and keep the sections I want. I find that working with pure shapes, circles, ellipses, rectangles, etc., helps provide balance for the viewer’s eyes.

Step 16: Using my trusty mirror tool and center guides I set up within my document earlier on, I duplicate the elements to all four corners of the piece, deleting the tentacle parts from the top corners. Something special is going there.

Step 17: I hid the placed rough to show you the progress at this point in the project. Still much more to do, so stay tuned!!

I hope this was a blessing to you and inspired you in some way to pursue the creative dreams that are inside, waiting to come out.

Monthly Art Giveaway, July 2019

I am so thankful for my Patron! Every month I show my appreciation by randomly selecting a Patron to receive a one of a kind, original piece of artwork, hand-drawn by yours truly!

Andrew, this little beauty is on it’s way to you! Thank you for your support!

As a Patron, you can see how I am writing, illustrating, and designing my first Comic-Novel! It is a realtime diary and knowledge share from me, a thirty-year design veteran as I pursue this personal goal and stretch beyond my creative comfort zone and grow.

So, please enjoy this process post for free! It is an excellent example of the type of content I am sharing!

Digital artwork has so many advantages over analog (traditional) artwork. I could list them all, and it would echo hundreds of pro and con lists you can readily find online. So, I am not going to go there. What value I think I can add is like any tool, where can it be used to make all the artwork you create better and save you time.

For this piece, I had multiple goals,

-Create a prize-worthy piece of artwork to give to one of my Patrons

-Explore some designs for Kickstarter rewards

-Try something new

-Continue to explore the final outlook for one of my characters

So, this character is from my book that is in development. He doesn’t have a name yet. However, I already know his beginning and end. The view is another angle from a scene in my book (which you can see and read the prototype online for free). This artwork shows considerably more of him than his first appearance in the book. I used this opportunity to explore what some of his armor might be. What is interesting about his character is that he doesn’t fight with some monstrous sword or axe as the genre might demand. He engages in combat with a long knife (as pictured) and a sword-breaker on the other hand.

I drew the scene for this card in ClipStudio Paint, so I had maximum editability, and the base artwork would serve for a digital piece as part of my backer rewards. I am always trying to maximize my efforts.

The artwork is 6x9in and a 600dpi resolution file making it future proof. Mainly I will be able to do almost anything with it after.

When I had the roughs the way I liked them, I printed it on my Brother $99 B/W laser printer.

I took a piece of 12x18in Cougar, 100# cover stock and cut it down with some straight edges and an X-Acto knife to multiple 6x9in cards.

I used post-it notes to fasten the blank cardstock to the laser-printed rough. I use post-it notes for a couple of reasons, the glue doesn’t harm the sheet (unless you leave it on for an un-Godly length of time) and I fold the corners up so I have “handles” that I can use to reposition the card as I am drawing.

On my LED light tablet, I completed the final drawing using the rough as my guide. I was not happy with it for some reason, so fighting the urge to erase it all, I put it away for a day, and when I came back to it, I could see more clearly what was wrong. The door was too short. So, I freehanded the more extended door in place and proceeded to ink and color the final piece.

I inked the final piece with a 01 Prismacolor fine tip ink pen. I line mostly everything first with thin lines and then go back with a brush pen to selectively fatten up lines and add an irregular stroke to things.

For color, I used a Tombow brush marker, N89, and N79 for the gray tones, using multiple passes to build the values. I then used these “no-brand” watercolor brushes I purchased at a local Micheals.

I hope that I shared something that will help you achieve your creative goals. I know you have them, so what’s the hold-up? Get after it!