Tuesday, November 27, 2012

This year's Christmas card

One of the things that keeps me extra busy this time of year is the production of the annual Christmas card.  Being a professional artist, I feel obligated to make my own.  This year I decided to create an image using my newly developed digital illustration technique.

I started with a pencil sketch--Christmas elves playing with a remote control toy airplane: 


Then I scanned the image, inverted it in Photoshop, and began to scratch away, painting black back in where needed.


You may notice a subtle difference in the positioning of the plane relative to the elf and presents on the floor. I made the adjustment in Photoshop, selecting the plane with the lasso tool and moving it up slightly. 

I opted for a smoother effect this time, more in keeping with the plastickiness of the toy.  Less of the raw scratching shows.


Then I added a color layer, bold and bright.


The cards are being printed by Moo.com.  I've always been pleased with their work, and they've extended their cyber Monday special til midnight tonight, bless them.  I went crazy and paid the extra for red envelopes!



Wednesday, November 21, 2012

The New Blog Banner

If you've visited this blog before, you may be thinking something's different this time.  You're not mad: I replaced the blog banner with one I created using my new Photoshop scratch board method.

I started with an image I used for the 2011 holiday season.  This I had drawn with pen and ink, and then added a watercolor wash to highlight the text, the people, and the doors (for a touch of rhythm).


I opened the scanned image in Photoshop, then inverted the colors and began to scratch away.


I kinda like the look mid-process, as the images are emerging from the blackness.  I may have to play around a bit more with that effect.


I liked the way the cars looked with the street still black, but because of the positioning of the text, the high contrast between street and sidewalk made it hard to read the words, no matter which color I filled the letters with.  I ended up scraping away most of the black of the street.  I guess its concrete instead of asphalt. 


I'm not sure I like this banner any better than last year's.  It's a bolder look, though, and I like that.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Tweaking . . .

This afternoon I've been working on tweaking the image from my last post. Here it is again:


I want to use it as a sample book cover in my portfolio. I decided it isn't quite up to the standard I want to project.  It's a little too heavy on the dark green.

This is where I love working digitally.

I went back into my original Photoshop document, which I had saved unflattened.  In my "wash" layer, I erased the dark green off the shutters and repainted them with the putty colors of the window frames.  I easily captured the same colors with my color picker tool.  Then I lightened the rectangle in which my name appears by selecting it and filling the selection with a semitransparent light yellow green.  In the scratch board layer, I scraped away some of the weight of the black lines around the window panes with the eraser tool.

Here's how it looks now:


I think the lightening of the window area has created a bit of an illusion that the characters were lightened too.  I didn't touch them this round. Hmm. Interesting effect.  I am happier now.

On another, more exciting note, I have ordered myself a copy of Painter 12 software.  It's on sale half off.  A bargain not to be missed!  The only thing worrying me is that I don't have a super powerful computer.  It's about five years old, running Windows Vista.  When I'm using Photoshop, all other windows are closed.  I optimize the computer after every digital drawing session.  Last Friday I cleaned out old high res files I'll never need again.  Yet, I still run into sluggishness when I'm working with a lot of layers.  I want to be able to draw quickly, without having to wait a second for my line to appear on the screen.  I'm afraid adding another high grade art software will freeze up this old machine.  Maybe Santa will bring me a new PC with a 6+ GB hard drive and 1 TB of memory.  He brought me my Intuos 4 tablet last year.  Here's hoping!

What new art tools are you wishing for?

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Illustration Friday: Tree


This week's Illustration Friday image, "Tree," is a redo of a mock book cover.  As you can see, I am still attempting to perfect scratch board effects in Photoshop.  I feel like I'm making progress.  At any rate, I like how the tree looks.  If I work at a higher resolution next time, I'll be able to get more nuanced facial expressions.  I'm loving how I can work and rework the image without overworking it. Just scrape away mess ups with the eraser tool and try again!

I'm also loving the boldness of the medium.  It's a great improvement over the anemic original (overworked in watercolor and colored pencil):


Sunday, November 4, 2012

Studio mascots

I have no new illustrations to post this week as I have been working on pictures to accompany my middle grade novel submission.  I'm reluctant to post them because I feel good about them and think that they, or some variation of them, might actually one day be published in a book.  Anyway, best not to share with the whole wide world just in case.  Still, I feel a need to keep the blog alive with a fresh content now and then.  To that end I've decided to take a break from my usual type of blog post and introduce you to my studio mascots.

As many of you are aware, writing and illustrating can be an isolating business.  Many illustrators and writers keep a pet or two at hand while they work, to take the edge off the loneliness.  I keep four.

It's okay; they're small.

No, I am not some crazy cat lady.  (Although if I were not allergic . . .)

They're gerbils!


That's Remus staring up at the camera.  The black one behind him is Snape, and the white one standing down in the aspen shavings is Albus.


This shot shows Harry with his head popping up out of the wooden box.  Remus has moved down by Albus.  It's not obvious with the speckled lighting, but Harry has a white mark in the middle of his forehead.  I'm sure all you Harry Potter fans know who these gerbils are named for.

It's a comfort to glance up from my work, turn to my head to the right, and see a furry critter gazing back at me.


You may be wondering, but Jeanie, why so many?

Well, I'll tell you.  For a couple of years, I had two gerbils, Ramona and Beezus.  They were delightful!  Ramona was as spunky a girl as her Beverly Cleary character namesake.

Here are Ramona and Beezus eating peas and carrots:


Last Thanksgiving, not long after this photo was taken, Beezus died.  She was two and a half years old.  These guys don't last long, but I'd hoped for at least three years.  They can live anywhere from two to five as well-cared-for pets.

Gerbils don't do well without a cage mate.  But gerbils, especially the females, also get crusty in their old age.  Introducing a new cage mate for Ramona was not in the cards.  *Cue the violins.*  Ramona only lasted  a couple of months without Beezus.

I decided to boost the mascot number and got four gerbils, males this time because I'd heard they're better at group living.  I ended up having to split them into two pairs once they were fully grown anyway, but at least the four will always be familiar to each other.  They now live in side by side cages where they can see and squeak hostile gerbil language at each other.  So in another year or two, when the grim gerbil reaper starts making calls to my studio again, the remaining gerbils will have a better chance of hanging onto companionship (and health) for longer.

Now, if you'll pardon me, I need to go break up a gerbil fight.

How about you?  Do you work with animals in your midst?