Wednesday, June 27, 2012

At The Seattle Public Library Book Sale

I scored big time!!! I have to take a moment to brag. Last Sunday I found a very out-of-print edition of Andrew Loomis’ “Creative Illustration” on sale for only $7.50 at the library book sale!!! (It was on 1/2 price day too!!) This 1947 book is a classic for professional illustrators and I am totally thrilled to have it in my library. (Plus, the only ones currently available for sale on Amazon START at $96.00 and go up to $350.00!!)

I just can’t stop grinning about it! Ha-ha! :-D

Here are some pix from the book. Can’t you just tell that it’ll be a wonderful read? Yeah!! I can't wait to start reading it. :-)

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Seattle University & the St. Ignatius Chapel

Back in my “Privateer Princess” days, I had to draw a Ciodali chapel and needed some photo reference for the location. After a web search I decided to use the ultra-modern St. Ignatius chapel at Seattle University as my model.
Privateer Princess page 71, Ciodali Chapel
St Ignatius is a beautiful place, very airy with wonderfully flowing lines. Last weekend Matt and I decided to go there and take a look in person. (A few years late, but it's never too late I say!) We found the chapel to be quite lovely and architecturally stunning.

Seattle University's St. Ignatius Chapel
While wandering around the Seattle University campus we were also enchanted by the beautiful landscaping. (Apparently Ciscoe Morris, of “Gardening with Ciscoe,” designed the gardens.) As we strolled around I took a lot a photos so that I could do some sketching from the pictures later on.

"Seattle University Garden"
Mixed media in a Stillman & Birn Delta sketchbook
Here’s the sketch I did today. I am slowly realizing that I quite enjoy showing the wildness of growth in gardens. How the plants vie for your attention as their growth spreads out, almost stacking on top of one another visually. It’s orderly chaos and I love it!

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Why comics?

For many years I have been a realistic artist, specializing in animal portraits and scientific subjects. For those of you who regularly follow my blog and Facebook pages, you might not even know that fact based on all the cartoon artwork that I have done recently.

So, why the big change?

For me, the answer goes back to my childhood. It’s a not-so-secret fact that I have always been a storyteller. Whether it’s writing or illustrating them, storytelling is very near and dear to my heart.

Right now, I am preparing to move into a new phase of my life where I plunge ahead into the world of storytelling head-first. When you dive into the deep end of a pool for the first time, you put all your swimming skills together in a new way. You get ready and just leap. That’s what I feel like I am preparing to do right now in my life. It’s important to me. It’s just plain important.

Creating characters that can adequately play their roles in a story is of tremendous value in storytelling, especially if you plan on doing an illustrated book. Thus my recent interest in studying masterful cartoonists.

Tasuki sketches

In that on-going exploration, here is my most recent page of character studies, also from “Fushigi Yugi,” by Yu Watase. This character is named “Tasuki.” (Pronounced “Taski” with the “a” sounding like the “o” in “Oscar.”) He was much easier for me to draw than the hero, Tamahome. Tasuki’s a secondary character and he’s a hot-head. Apparently, I “get” this guy pretty well. He was quite fun to draw. ;-)

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Equestrienne Portrait of Mistress Cynthia de La Matchstick

Equestrienne Portrait of Mistress Cynthia de La Matchstick
When I sat down to draw yesterday I was contemplating my next Horse Life comic. When I put down my pens, I found that I’d drawn a rather wonderful cartoon version of a Diego Velazquez equestrian portrait. What a magical surprise! Proving once again that Art comes from the higher powers manifesting through the heart and hands of the artist. Had I had plans to draw this, I’m sure I would have botched it up. :-P

I’m thinking of selling prints of this one in my long, lost Etsy shop in case it strikes anyone’s fancy.

Ciao for today!

Monday, June 18, 2012

Rodney’s Saga Blog Illustrations - Massage

I am delighted to report that another of the illustrations I did for my friend Katherine Walcott’s blog, "Rodney’s Saga," went live today. You can see the post entitled, “Massage Masterclass,” here:

This illustration was particularly fun for me as it shows an equine massage in progress. This is a scene very near and dear to my heart. After all, I have been engaged in the practice of equine massage for nearly half my life now. It’s something I know REALLY well. To draw it I simply had to close my eyes and feel the scene already engraved upon my heart.

Thanks to Katherine for her inspiring post today!

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Story Fragments

I created this character tonight while sketching. I don’t know too much about him except that his name is Finn and he’s talking to a girl named Eva. He has purple hair, blue eyes, and seems both intense and sincere.

I feel like he’s auditioning for me. Like he wants to become someone important later on.

I don’t know whether he will. He may just end up as one of those drawings that stays in my sketchbook and never appears again. Or, he might become a character in a new story.

One never knows…

But for tonight he gets the spotlight.

Besides, I like what he’s saying to Eva.

Friday, June 15, 2012

And after a brief pause we’re back to the Lekanis Lid

I’m back to some Archaeological Illustration today. Here is an update on the progress of my Lekanis lid.

Lekanis Lid, part 4
(Derwent Drawing pencils on Illustration board)
At this point it’s beginning to look pretty good. I’ve corrected some of my earlier drawing errors on the rim and have sketched in some shadow shapes to add later. At this stage, the pencils are doing what I’d hoped they’d do, giving me a flat, matte look which is a perfect match to the dull, ceramic surface of the original object. I can already tell that I’ll be adding a few touches of shiny Prismacolor near the end, as there are some bits of shiny, yellow paint on the original lid that can’t really be rendered adequately with these dull pencils.

As I look over at the piece on my easel, I’m rather pleased by it. It’s already got a good three-dimensional effect, even though and it’s only about 2/3 of the way completed. Although it has been some time since I did a piece of this type, it seems that I haven't forgotten how to do it. That makes me happy as Archaeological Illustration is one of my favorite subjects for illustration.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Going Chibi

"Chibi" Tamahome (the character I was drawing yesterday) and Miaka from "Fushigi Yugi"
When talking about manga comics, one must gain an understanding of the super-deformed or “chibi” character. This is not as bad as it sounds. As cartoon characters are typically pretty plastic anyway, in humorous situations (in manga) they can be extra-exaggerated for additional humorous effect. The other reason to deform a character is to make them more cute. One does this by reducing their basic proportions to that of a child.

When drawing a realistic figure you typically draw the character in a 1:7 or 1:8 head: body ratio. In manga this proportion is played with all the time. In my experience, a typical young, teenage, girl heroine is drawn in a 1:5 proportional ratio while her male counterpart in usually 1:6. These proportions seem pretty normal to us. To super-deform a character is to make them into a 1:2.5 or 1:3 head to body ratio. They are not drawn as infants however, but instead, completely dressed as normal, but with simplified versions of clothes, accessories, weapons, etc. Their gestures are also drawn broader with teary eyes becoming running rivers of water or with their anger setting off bolts of lightning from their eyes.

While I am still having some trouble drawing the eyes of a soulful hero, I find chibi extremely easy to draw. I have always had a knack for it. Perhaps it’s because I can channel cute really easily. Last night, I was complaining to my husband, Matt, that I loved drawing handsome manga heroes and troublesome Shetland ponies and how in the world could those two things ever even exist in the same version of reality? He seemed non-plussed and certain that I could make it all work, somehow. Bless him! At least he has confidence in me. But then again, perhaps he’s right…Hmmm. I'll need to keep thinking on it.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Manga Day

“Manga” is the name used for comics in Japan and they are quite fascinating to study. Manga art is highly symbolic and there exists a standard lexicon of common expressions, character marks, and gestures (of the face and body). This conceptual lexicon is a wonderful thing because if you learn it you can create cartoon images that will be as understood in the west as in the east (dialog aside). There are many books in print whose titles begin, “How to Draw Manga…” and many of them are quite instructive. But studying popular Mangaka (manga artists) can also be quite helpful. Although there is much standard (and substandard) manga (art and story) out there, there are also excellent manga artists with very recognizable styles.

One of my favorite manga storytellers is Yuu Watase. She has drawn and written many series going back nearly 20 years. Quite a few of her popular series have been made into anime (abbreviated from “animation”) cartoons, live-action TV shows, and plays.

Although I am familiar with other Mangaka whose artistic styles are more consistent and perhaps stylish, I would argue that Ms. Watase is quite masterful with the subtleties of the form. I decided to test my theory by doing some studies of two of her characters, a hero named Tamahome and his reincarnated self, Taka.

Tamahome sketches with notes
I didn’t do all that well with it. It seems easy enough to reproduce her characters’ extreme emotions like rage, fear, etc. But, as I suspected, she is doing something really subtle to get the thoughtful, peaceful, loving, and other quiet emotional glances. These latter expressions are critical in a romantic hero and she really does have them down.

Mostly sketches of Taka with one Tamahome on the top right
One piece of this is her characters’ eyes, which are not standard in any way. They change in each drawing! *sigh* But there more to it. The eyebrows are very graceful and have a relatively short range of expression (unless the character is doing something excitable.) Eye size is tricky too, too large and he’s too young, too small and he’s not to be completely trusted. I still have yet to figure out how to make these characters look thoughtful. It’s not a lack of expression, it’s definitely something she’s doing in her drawings.

I did discover one thing that seemed to work for me however. If I thought about the personality of the character as I was drawing him, I could modify what I thought I saw in my copy to make the character look more like “him.” Isn’t that strange? I certainly thought so! But it did work.

Fushigi Yugi manga cover (there's Tamahome on the left.)
Ironically, Ms. Watase didn’t think she was very good at drawing this particular character either. “…If you think I’m obsessed with Tamahome, you’re wrong…I’m not very good at drawing either of them [Tamahome or Hotohori].” (From an interview in the “Fushigi Yugi” manga Chapter 80: The Lost Heart.) She herself was most impressed by how Studio Pierrot drew him for the anime version. Go figure…

So that’s it for me today. I’m all drawn out… *lol* Time to put down for the day my pen and brush and go make a nice cup of tea.

If you are interested in more about the expressions used in manga click here to see a previous post about it.

Friday, June 8, 2012

Horse Life 17 and the Triple Crown

Crushing news came this morning that I’ll Have Another, the chestnut colt who ran to victory in both the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness Stakes was retired today after a tendon injury in his left front leg. I'll Have Another was truly a distance horse and the longer Belmont Stakes was made for him. Scuttlebutt on the track was that this colt had a really good shot at winning the Triple Crown. If he’d been able to do it he would have been the first horse in 34 years to win it! (The last Triple Crown winner was Affirmed in 1978.) It’s a huge shame really. I think the American people could really use something like this right now. Something to get excited about.

For myself, I was so inspired by the thought of a new Triple Crown winner that this week’s “Horse Life” is dedicated to it.

I’d like to say, “I hope you enjoy the comic,” but just like my little heroine Cynthia, I can’t help but being pretty sad over the whole thing. :-(

Monday, June 4, 2012

Lekanis Lid Part 3 – Awkward Stage

Lekanis Lid - part 3
Here is my most recent day’s work on the Lekanis lid. I’m fairly happy with the color as it’s been laid down, but the Derwent Drawing pencils bring up the same nagging doubt for me this time as they did the last time I used them for a fine art piece. (See below)

"Best Friends" - Derwent Drawing pencils on Stonehenge paper
The doubt is that the color is pretty dull compared to Prismacolor. I know, I know! I was just saying yesterday that I chose these pencils specifically for their matte color. And I did. However, it’s interesting to note that, twice now, at about this same stage in a piece, I have had similar doubts about using Derwent Drawing pencils for a fine art piece. A nagging feeling that they are not professional enough in color and quality. If they end up being too dull I may have to start the piece again in another type of colored pencil, or, I may need to layer some other types of colored pencils on top. We’ll see.

My only other comment for today is that I will need to do some cleaning up of the profile of the lid. Adding a small bit of color to the edges, I have changed the shape of the lid slightly out of “true.” Eventually, this will need to be corrected with a needle-sharp colored pencil to bring the lid back into the correct shape.  

Friday, June 1, 2012

Archaeological Illustration – Lekanis Lid Part 1

I recently decided that my portfolio needed an update of a few, new, historical illustrations. For the first of these pieces I have chosen to illustrate an ancient Greek lekanis lid.

Lekanides (plural) are Greek red and black ceramics commonly decorated with lively pictures of maidens and palm fronds.

The lekanis consists of two parts: a shallow lid with a large, flat knob which was often turned over and used as a plate, coupled with a small shallow bowl, two ribbon-like horizontal handles, a low footed base, and a rim with a ledge to receive the lid. A lidded lekanis was generally used as a cosmetic container or as a gift for brides, which was given by their fathers on their wedding day and filled with trinkets. (Reference - the Perseus Encyclopedia.

My drawing will be colored pencil on Illustration board and approximately 9” x 9”. For a subject of this nature the drawing needs to be rendered as correctly and accurately as possible. I actually love this sort of illustration work. I find it both challenging and quite elegant to create.

This is the first stage - a detailed pencil drawing. Once this is corrected and checked I will begin adding color.
Lekanis Lid - pencil drawing.