Monday, December 31, 2012

Illustration Friday: New

Here's to the hope that newness brings! 

2012 brought me new software--Painter 12--and I am having a blast with it. Best new toy ever!

More play with Painter brushes today for this week's Illustration Friday prompt: "New." 

I know I need to spend gobs more time learning this stuff in 2013, but I am excited--not daunted--by the prospect.

Saturday, December 29, 2012

More Play with Corel Painter 12

I've been going through the book Digital Painting for the Complete Beginner by Carlyn Beccia, and playing along with the software (both Painter and Photoshop) as I read. Today I learned how to clean up an old scan and tint the pencil lines.  I tinted the drawing in this post in Painter 12.  I used Photoshop CS 5.5 to tint the blog banner. Simple, but different processes for each.  (I won't go into them here.  If you are using both of these kinds of software and are eager to learn lots of tips and tricks for illustration, I strongly suggest getting a copy of Beccia's book.)

Then I went a little crazy playing with the brushes and paper textures in Painter.  Apparently it's possible to get just as messy in a virtual studio as a real one.  Who knew?

I did not bother to save most of my sloppy efforts today, but here's one I don't mind sharing:  

I colored this version with a diffuse grainy camelhair watercolor brush on handmade watercolor paper. The base drawing comes from an old sketchbook.  A very old sketchbook.  The model died about twenty years ago.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Illustration Friday: Glow

Futzing around with Corel Painter 12 for the first time.  This glowing lamp post in the woods (a la Narnia) I did with the soft pencil tool that was set for use when I opened the software:

I know I can do a lot more with the software, but today I am merely getting acquainted with the interface.  I love the realistic feel.  Very gratifying for an artist who had always assumed she would only be happy working with traditional media.  I look forward to playing around with the different surface textures and patterns.

Today I inadvertantly learned an important difference between Photoshop and Painter: When you're saving a Painter file in a different format, in my case a riff to a jpeg, you have to generate a different base name for the file or the save won't take.  In Photoshop, it's enough that your file name has a different extension.  You can have a sketch.psd and a sketch.jpg generated on the same PC by the same copy of Photoshop.  Painter says, "Get you sh*t organized or I ain't playin'!"

Saturday, December 15, 2012

My Tomie de Paola Illustration Award Contest Entry

You may have noticed that my last post, yesterday's Illustration Friday, was a Christmas card image from 2011.  I drew and painted that just before Thanksgiving, over a year ago.  So I did not create a fresh "snow" picture.  I decided to slack off and post an old one.  

I have excuses. It's been a hectic week at the day job what with all the year-end donations to process and the  preparations for our annual holiday party.  I've put in a fair number of extra hours the past few weeks.  My daughter returned from college yesterday.  And on the weekends, I've been working on this:

This is my submission to the SCBWI's annual Tomie de Paola Illustration Award contest.  It's a scene from The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, rendered in Photoshop using the scratchart method I've been trying to perfect recently.  The challenge was to illustrate a scene of your choosing from Tom Sawyer, Little Women, or The Yearling in black and white.  Since one of my goals is to illustrate middle grade novels, I thought I'd better enter the contest this year--you know--put myself out there.

If you'd like to see some of the other entries, take a look at the blog the SCBWI-Houston Illustrator Coordinator, Diandra Mae, set up:

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Illustration Friday: Stretch

Reaching for that book on the very top shelf . . .

This is a re-posting of a pic I drew in 2011 for the portfolio.  I don't expect to generate any new Illustration Friday pieces until the submission deadline for the Tomie dePaola illustration contest has passed.  

Yes, you read me right.  I am daring to enter this year.  I figure the challenge to do a black and white illustration for a classic middle grade novel is right up my street.

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  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?

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Illustration Friday: Sky

For the past week I've been plugging away at the sample grayscale interior illustrations for my middle grade novel.  I have three pieces I think I am happy enough with to include in my submission packet, so my next step is to create a sample cover for the book.  For that, I plan to color a Photoshop scratchboard pic.  I have completed a sketch, scanned it, and inverted the black and white in preparation for scratching out the image.

Then, having never tried colorizing one of these "scratchboards," I decided to do a test run with a simpler image, one I could rush through to work through all the kinks in the process without too much worry about the final product.  For subject matter, I addressed this week's Illustration Friday theme: Sky.  You see the results above.

I scratched away the black on the background layer, then did a "wash," applying fairly transparent color with a mixer brush tool.  (I chose the predominant sky color of vivid orange so that it with the black and the crows would evoke thoughts of Halloween.)  The "wash" dulled the black, so I had to spend a good chunk of the evening figuring out how to generate a black mask layer from the background and lay it over the top of the wash.  I ended up using the "subtract" layer style.  I'm sure there are other methods of achieving the same result, perhaps even simpler ones, but this was the first that worked for me, and I've been at this long enough for today.  I hope it doesn't take me too long to figure out from my notes how to do it again for the next piece.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Drawing by Subtraction

I took a third Photoshop stab at my middle grade novel illustration.  This time working with a scratchboard effect (click on image to enlarge):

No actual boards were scratched in the creation of this picture.  I took my original pencil sketch scan

and inverted the colors in Photoshop.  Sorry, I have no picture of the inversion, but the effect was to turn the background black and the pencil lines into faint white guidelines.  I then "scratched" away with the eraser tool, varying the size and type of brush (you can use the same brush specs for erasing as you do for painting) to get different textures and levels of detail.

I think I have hit upon the right method for this particular book, which has a lot of physically dark scenes.  It's a very forgiving method.  Easy to "re-ink" an error and "scratch" again.  Better than real scratchboard that way.  Also better in that I don't have ink crumbs everywhere and a hand cramping around a knife tool.  It is significantly better than real scratchboard in the amount of control I can get over finer details like facial features.  That and the fact that it is FUN are the most important reasons to carry on with this method.

Next, I will work up light pencil sketches for two more chapter illustrations, then give them the Photoshop scratchboard treatment.  As I get better at this method, I may decide to rework this illustration too.  And I need to be thinking about a sample cover illo to submit with my query packet.  Perhaps a "scratchart" illustration in color.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Decisions, decisions . . .

When I last posted, I had just figured out the composition for an illustration to accompany chapter one of my middle grade novel-in-progress.  My next step was to play with the image in Photoshop, a software with which I still feel pretty unfamiliar--especially when it comes to using brushes and layers, and see if I could come up with an appealing (and efficient) style.

Okay, so here's the sketch that I used for the background layer in Photoshop (click on images to see them in their full glory):

I first tried a fairly inky style.  I have an Intuos 4 tablet and was please with the similarity of sensation as the black seemed to flow onto the image with my hand strokes.  Nice to be able to erase mistakes so easily.  That said, I spent a lot of time cross-hatching and erasing.  After a few hours, I was getting a little impatient with the process.  Sure, it's more forgiving.  But inking in Photoshop is taking me as much time as it does with pen and paper.  I decided to speed things up with a shading shortcut:

Not sure how I feel about it.  Clearly, I have adjustments to make.  For one thing, the image loses a lot when scaled down.  For another, the flatness of the shading is too much at odds with the line detail.  If I go this route, I will simplify the line work more than enhance the shadows to make the two elements coordinate better with each other.  Simpler will likely reduce better and, more importantly, I can't have each black and white novel interior illustration taking over a week to finish.  Not with the number I'm hoping to produce for this book.  But perhaps I'm just being too ambitious about that.  After all, I do have a day job, and other books to finish writing . . .

As I was fiddling around with my new tools, I came across the wonder that is the pressure sensitive brush.  I am in love.  This brush only works properly with the Intuos stylus, not with a mouse.  The line on the screen changes with the pressure I apply with the stylus.  I have spent the better part of today drawing a layer with a hard round 5 px brush that produces an effect similar to an H pencil, but without smudges all over the place (or the need for highly toxic fixative spray).  This drawing has the background layer with the original scanned drawing visible because I think the two images blended together makes for a more realistic pencil effect:

This makes for a softer image, and I'm not sure that fits with this particular story.  Must think on it.  Also, this tool is not saving me any time either.  *sigh*

Friday, September 28, 2012

IF: Book

I am a great lover of books, so I did not have to look hard to dig up an image for this week's Illustration Friday challenge.  Books appear in so many of my pictures.  So do rats.  And kids.  The raven's a bit more unusual.  This is a piece I drew a couple of years ago, just for the sake of building my portfolio.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Novel Illustrations

I think I may be finished with the latest round of revisions to my middle grade novel manuscript.  Before I start querying, I want to have a few sample illustrations--two or three black and white interior illustrations and a color cover piece--to accompany the package.  That's what I'm working on now.  The following sketch is from the opening scene:

My original thinking was to work up a final version in pen-and-ink with a tonal wash. To that end, I inked what was essentially the same base drawing (without shading) that you see above.  The result was such a disappointment that I'm not going to post it.  Part of the problem is that I drew it too small to get a real handle on the facial expressions.  Also, the characters, who are supposed to about twelve years old, looked too young.  Today I've been redrawing the same picture at a larger scale while aging up features slightly.

You will notice that I haven't done any inking or shading at this point.  As I was drawing this I started thinking of other possible ways of completing the image.  I have Adobe Creative Suite 5.5.  I have the day off from my day job tomorrow.  Maybe I'll see if I can work this into a strong image in the forgiving layers of Photoshop.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

IF: Tall

Wow. I haven't posted in, like, forever.

But I have been working . . . My middle grade novel is finally coming together and I expect to start sending it out on submission to agents soon.  I want to do one last read-through, for any glaring problems, first.  I've been letting the manuscript sit a bit while I play around with illustration possibilities.  The above is from a scene and seems to fit this week's Illustration Friday theme ("tall").  The image below is also based on characters in the novel.  I began it as an answer to last week's Illustration Friday theme of "teacher," but didn't finish the inking in time to post it on the site.

Now that I have a pretty good sense of how I want the characters to look, I think I'll work on developing some more dynamic compositions and perhaps a slightly more simplified style that would read better when reduced in scale.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Illustration Friday: Puzzled

When Adam's dad put the ten pound bunny in Adam's Easter basket, most of the family was puzzled about how they would dispose of that much chocolate.

Grandpa, however, had an idea . . .

For this week's Illustration Friday theme, I dug out these illustrations I did for a short story I wrote a few years ago (that didn't get accepted for publication -- boohoo).

I'm drawing more these days, but nothing I'm ready to post here.  Working more on character design for one of the novels I've written that I plan to submit, accompanied by illustrations, to agents.  As I work on giving each of a myriad of characters a unique spark of life, I'm struggling to develop a more distinctive visual "voice" for my work as a whole.  So lots and lots of sketching and erasing and wadding paper into balls and starting over again with the pencil and the eraser and on and on . . . you get the picture.  Progress is happening . . . just very slowly.  I want to have a couple of presentable character design sheets and at least three polished illustrations (one of which should probably be a cover sample) for the submission package.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Swamp in color

I played around with the new Strathmore mixed media paper some more, adding color to last week's Illustration Friday "Swamp" picture with water color pencils that I then wetted to spread the pigment.  The paper dried flat without being stretched ahead of time, but I'm not sure how well the paper would handle a more complete soaking. The texture is nowhere near as fine as the hot press watercolor papers made by Arches and Fabriano.  The difference isn't all that apparent in the scan, but I really feel the difference when I'm working on it. I definitely prefer the Arches. Still, working on cheap paper often has the effect of loosening up my work.  I may have to play with the stuff a little more, just to see where it takes me. 

Illustration Friday: Return

Big brother comes home from college for the summer a day early. Surprise, everybody!

Once again I am posting my IF late on a Tuesday. We've been celebrating a lot of family birthdays recently, making it hard to focus for extended periods. This coming weekend may be less eventful--if no one insists on a fuss over Easter.  I'd like to use the long weekend to immerse myself in my art.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Illustration Friday: Swamp

After the rain, the garbage dump was a swamp. Still, the clever little ragamuffins found a way to navigate the reeking waters . . .

Illustration Friday posted on a Tuesday. Better late than never.

I drew this on the new Strathmore Mixed Media Paper. It's super thick and supposed to take wet media as well as dry.  I may throw some watercolor on this.  If I like the results, I'll post them here.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Illustration Friday: Shades

Howdy, strangers!  I know, I know, long time no post.  Sorry.  I have been wrapped up in novel revisions for, jeez, almost two months.  I hope to post more frequently while the latest draft marinates.  To help me get back into the swing of blogging I present this little Illustration Friday colored pencil sketch, "Shades."  A rather obvious solution to the prompt, don't you think?

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Illustration Friday: Suspense

Jorge was afraid to open his locker . . . ever since he first heard about the thing.

Little did he realize, the thing felt exactly the same way.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

My 2012 Sketchbook Project is digitized

. . . and has been posted on the Art House Co-op website. You can view it at the following link if you have an Art House Co-op account:

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Illustration Friday: Twirl

I'm busily working on a project I can't post about yet, so for this week's Illustration Friday I'm re-posting a sketch from my 2012 Sketchbook Project book:

To get home, you must first twirl the Ferris wheel until your house is at the bottom.

Friday, January 6, 2012


I seem to be neglecting the blog these days.  Sorry, folks.  I've been concentrating my creative energy and time on writing my latest middle grade novel and learning Adobe Illustrator (using Classroom in a Book).  I still sketch a bit in the evenings, however.  Nothing geared toward any particular project at this point--just whatever comes out of the pencil.  Here's a taste:

A cold turn in the weather had me drawing kids in winter wear.  Today the weather has turned again, and I'm thinking perhaps I should redraw these guys in shirtsleeves.  

I've decided not to sign up for the Sketchbook Project this year.  I've done the project for the last two years.  I got a lot out of the process, but I don't think I need their challenge anymore. Also, I'm not interested in the new printed book they're introducing this year.  I intend to keep taking frequent pencil-dives into my sketchbook, but on my own, and loosely, without a unifying theme or structure.  Involvement in this wonderful community of illustrating bloggers is sufficient stimulus to keep me drawing regularly.

Happy Holidays 2020

Here's the winter holiday card image for 2020. This is my first holiday card created entirely in Procreate on my new iPad Pro.  I had so...