ocicatsy asked: Hi! Picked up Ladies Havin' Fun this weekend at SPX. Cannot get over how awesome the saxophone picture is! <3
Thank you SO much!!
Happy long weekend! This week, I’d like to keep this post easy and short, and filled with tools that can make life easier on many levels. This post also concludes the toold I use in the non-digital world —you can also catch up by reading about drafting & inking, choosing paper, and a step-by-step case study.
Drafting Tools: Templates, Compasses & French Curves
My grandmother was a chemical engineer before she retired. Growing up I drew on the on the backs of industrial blueprints, and that was amongst my first memories of lines on paper. I love the organic aspect of the art-making process; but the mechanical side of drafting and drawing always fascinates me.
Last year my grandmother gave me all of her drafting templates and compass sets that she used in the 60s (which I constantly stole to draw with when I was little) The different sized circles and shapes are made for drafting volts, containers and circuits.
The making of time travel map for ImaginAerial’s variety show ‘The Bizzare and Curious Quest of Killian Kog,’ a map to be projected onto an 8 ft tall stage backdrop.
When I was younger there seem to be a myth between doing something ‘freehand’ and using ‘rulers’. Like, if someone could produce a straight line without the aid of tools, it is somehow better. I’m sure that now anyone who is a working professional would not say that’s true.
I draw a lot of buildings and man-made objects; unlike objects produced by nature, these are industrial products made from geometric templates.
I always use a ruler or compass to draw the geometric shapes; and then I ink the lines following the under drawing. This way the geometric lines blend well with the organic ones, and there is no awkwardness of unnaturally straight lines that attract unwanted attention.
Using rulers is also an excellent way of figuring out perspective, proportions and relationships between shapes. Sometime when I’m figuring out a composition, I pick up the compass and start doing overlapping circles on a page, and sometimes a composition emerges on its own.
Christmas opening spread for Robb Report China.
Lastly for this week, I’d like to share two time management tools I use in able to work more efficiently:
I learned to use the Pomodoro method from Allison Sommers:
To put it simply, I set the timer for 25-minute intervals and take a 5-minute break strictly every 25 minutes. I find it a really effective way to start working, because it breaks a big chunk of time into small intervals. Personally I only use it to start the day; the first hour is the hardest to concentrate. After I get into the work mode I like working for long hours.
I first heard about TeuxDeux when I attended Tina Eisenberg’s Keynote speech at SXSW earlier this year. Her ’11 Rules to Live By’ is on my inspiration board to this day. This to-do app is refreshing on the eye, and lets me cross-out tasks once I’m done with them, which is a huge pleasure.
Helps you focus. It’s true.
That’s it for this week! Thanks for reading on the long weekend, and hope you are taking the time to relax and recharge before fall starts. I would like to share a short TED talk that might go along with the theme of the weekend, from Huffington Post’s found Arianna Huffington: http://www.ted.com/talks/arianna_huffington_how_to_succeed_get_more_sleep.html
Thank you so much for tuning in! In the next few weeks I’d like to shift the focus to the digital half of the process. (YES, all that yummy Photoshop stuff!) While it is 30% of my overall process, it is 80% of the whole ‘look.’ I’d like to share a few tips on cleaning up drawings in Photoshop, coloring methods and cool things Photoshop can do.
Sneak peak: My very first Photoshop book, circa. 2004.
Talk to you next week! Have a great weekend!
Gears of the Trade (Without Breaking Your Bank)- Case Study: ‘Mothers of Reinvention’ for Entertainment Weekly
Happy Saturday again! If you are in New York, I hope you’re enjoying the gorgeous weather today. :) Thanks for supporting my weekly blog posts on tools, process and techniques. For the past two weeks: Part I: Under Drawing, Ink & Brush; Part II: Paper
This week I was originally going to do a post on drafting tools; there are some tips about french curves, light table, etc. that I’d like to share. But I thought it might be fun to take this opportunity to give a step-by-step demonstration on the piece I just finished for Entertainment Weekly, which came out yesterday.
It was a really exciting job because it was my first time illustrating a spread, and I was able to incorporate elements that I enjoy drawing into an editorial portrait piece. I love sleek, sharp portraits of women, as well as robotics—also the first time I tried coloring sequin! Big thanks to AD Jennie Chang, who walked me through the process and was very open to my ideas. I documented the process, and I think it might be helpful as a case study in my series of tools + process blog posts.
Some of the original sketches:
We decided on A. I usually do 5-6 sketches, sometimes 8, including some slight variations.
Once decided on the sketch, I transferred it with a light table onto a sheet of Arches hot press watercolor paper, cut down to 16x16”.
The ‘correction drawing’ begins (this was when all the references were looked at) with a mechanical pencil:
Finished pencil drawing: all the details were decided. Ready for the next step.
Inking: a detailed-orientated job, but because major decisions were made in pencil, it is a very enjoyable part of the process. With a good foundation drawing, I focus over the fluidity of lines instead of having to make arbituary decisions while inking.
Finished ink: As you can see, the line work usually includes a lot of information; I usually use color as a unifying device to make the main figures pop.
Coloring, revision, correction:
From this point on, everything is done digitally. Sometimes I draw the small corrections with a Wacom pen—it is very handy when there is a pressing deadline and I’m sending revisions every five minutes. Coloring can take me a long time—when I did this piece it took me about 4 hours.
The whole process took place over a weekend from start to finish. Thanks again to Jennie, who was so patient about revisions, for the great ideas and the awesome design!
Next week I will continue on my tools and process posts—thank you for tuning in! Hope you enjoyed this little case study. If you have any questions about inking, references or Photoshop, let me know! Always happy to share what I learned with my head buried in a drawing table or a laptop.
And I send you off to a beautiful Saturday afternoon!
Thank you for tuning in on my weekly blog installments on illustration & techniques again! Last week I shared some of the tools I use to draft and ink. This week’s main focus is on paper, and the cool things you can do with them. If you are just catching this post, you can read last week’s installment of the pencils and brushes I use here.
To me, paper is crucial. Knowing what I wanted for my drawing and match the paper with my purpose saved a lot of time, stress and money.
I like my lines to be crisp, sleek and clean; I wanted the personal touch in line quality, but I also wanted to weed out the ‘noise’ that rough papers could add. I first started by using plate Bristol in order to achieve clean, controlled ink lines. Smooth Bristol did what I asked for; I made most of my portfolio pieces with it while hardly spending a buck. However it was thin and not fit for any heavy drawing/editing with a lot of erasing. Plain smooth Bristol was great when I:
1. had a good idea of what I was drawing
2. knew I was doing many pages of similar drawings
3. wanted to eliminate textures
Bristol was not a good choice when I:
1. planned on using a lot of ink wash/large areas of solid black
2. edited my under drawings a lot
3. wanted textures in my lines
In other words, expect to do most of the heavy-lifting in the drawing and inking; the paper offers no aid stylistically whatsoever. Usually no ‘happy surprises.’ But I liked the plainness that Bristol offered. Because this way I knew exactly how I drew and inked before I went on to heavier and more textured paper.
‘Black & White Masked Ball' penciled and inked on Bristol.
Details of lines in ‘Black and White Masked Ball.’
The other wonderful thing that Bristol does is that it makes great paper for sketches. Nowadays I use Bristol for my initial sketching stage—the 12x9 pad fits many thumbnails on one sheet. For sketches, I can draw heavier than I could with copier paper.
Later I experimented with more textured paper, and found that Arches Hot Press 140lb works wonders. It has just enough teeth to hold the pencil drawing, and smooth enough to not disturb the ink lines. When finished digitally, the lines have just enough personal touch but still very clean. It is definitely highly flexible, and is capable of doing any heavy drawing, washes, mixed media that you wish to do. I use Arches hot press for my large, detailed pieces with a lot of intense drawing. Also very importantly, the 140lb is just thin enough for light boxing—another reason I buy it by the 20x30” sheet, not by the block.
Finished ink drawing for ‘Past vs. Future.’
I found that cold press, on the other hand, is excellent for making washes, textured lines, but not for inking super small details that I sometimes have in my images. The ‘rocky hills’ on the surface meant to hold moisture could be an obstacle course even from the initial drafting stage.
Experimental drawings done on ripped pieces of Arches cold press 140lb, drawings to be sent out to my Facebook page followers.
An affordable option for genrally small-scale drawing is this Canson XL Watercolor Pad: it is student grade paper, so it won’t hold much heavy editing or any ink wash (although it is advertised to be suitable for mixed media). But the surface is great for clean ink lines. To me it is just between Strathmore Bristol and Arches Hot Press—excellent for practicing and quick, light drawings. These are also what I used when I used to do live portraits. For the price of 1.5 sheets of Arches hot press, you can get 30 sheets of this. Just remember no creating ‘pools’ of water on this—the paper kind of melts and turns into a half-transparent grey, and the texture dies after that. (eek!)
The lines coming out of these are clean and uniformed; sometime I do my finished inking on these, when I knew it was a small and sleek drawing (The largest size that the Canson XL pad come in is 18x24”). The Narwhal piece is inked on this, and I knew it would be much more textured and look too ‘heavy’ if I inked on Arches hot press!
Inking a map of Manhattan for the back for my promo ‘20 Objects in Ridgewood.’
Finish for ‘Narwhal BBQ Skewers Poster.’
I was hoping to cover a little bit of drafting tools this week—but it seems that I used much space on talking about paper, and I’ll be writing about compasses & french curves next week! Drafting tools are my best friends second to my brush—using them in the right places have given me happy surprises.
Some of the tools I use for drafting. More next week!
Thanks so much for reading all the way through, I hope this post on the different types of paper I use can be helpful in your own art-creating process! if you have some secrets or suggestions you’d like to share, feel free to message or email me!
See you next Saturday!:)
For the longest time, I thought about sharing my materials in a post, but at first I didn’t work up the nerves because they didn’t have fancy names or were imported from France. Then I realized something: no one is telling anyone to use only uber-expensive products; artists who share are just generously helpful and hope of sharing good materials that work for them.
'Missing Alexandria' for the Wall Street Journal. Inked by hand on Arches hot press watercolor paper, colored on Photoshop CS4.
In this series of posts I’d love to share with you the materials that worked for me. I believe that no matter what you use to make your art, the basic ability to paint & draw is always more important. While buying the most expensive supplies won’t necessarily improve one’s ability to draw, shying away from good material to save money can seriously handicap your potential of making a beautiful piece. In this post I hope to point to a simple set of tools that are worth the hard-earned dollars.
The under drawing takes the longest in my process. An estimate 60% of the work, and 4-8 hours depending on the piece. At this stage, I do my research, fix the anatomy, and do all the heavy lifting before I go to inking. Basically, all of the details are decided at this stage, from a hairpin to the branding on a pair of headphones.
The tools I use: in order to draw the small details, I use mechanical pencils. I love the SumoGrip mechanical pencils; I have one with 2B lead and the other 4B lead. 4B lead is perfect—it is soft and responsive but still easy to erase. I’ve tried a couple of brands for lead, and I’m currently using Uni, from JetPens.com. I find it a great habit to always stock up on lead refills—it is no fun to run out of lead at 3AM and search frantically in all shirt pockets in hope of a forgotten pack somewhere.
I use a plastic eraser by Pentel. Kneaded erasers come in handy too.
For my lines, I use a size 00 Winsor & Newton Series 7 sable brush. I find this brush an extremely flexible tool; it can produce a fine, steady line like a marker can; it is also known for producing fluid, expressive lines with varied pressure. To me, using a brush means being able to have full control over line quality without having to switch gear and break the rhythm.
When I was a broke student they were notoriously expensive—(well, $24 could go a long way when you survived on 15-cent mystery buns in Chinatown; more on that later.) if your budget is blocking you from getting a nice brush, don’t forget online shopping. I order them on Amazon or Ebay; there is usually a 50% discount.
Ink: Dr. Ph. Martins.
I have used Speedball Superblack for the past few years and decided it was time for an upgrade. I did not have any hard issues with Speedball, but at the end it was clumping at the bottom of the bottle, and became too thick to work with. (One day I shook the bottle and it was…solid.) (At that point I also learned that any liquid you buy for $8 and keep for 1+ year perhaps shouldn’t be trusted.) Dr. Martins feels a little lighter, and it gives me more line variation. I am able to go very thin with my line.
Inking my new piece ‘Nocturne’ for Eight of Swords Tattoo's 2nd Annual Show 'The Future That Never Was.'
I also used to use Winsor & Newton black Indian ink because of the adorable spider on the packaging—it was great for nibs.
When it comes to drawing and inking, I think paper is more important in a way; great drawing skills and top-class ink might not reach its full potential when paired with the wrong paper. In my experience, it is crucial to find the right paper to match my purpose. I’ll be sharing more on the different types of paper I have tried, and what works for me. Thanks so much for reading, and stay tuned for next week!
Next Saturday in Part II: hot press vs.cold press, inking straight lines without looking stiff, and more!
You can also read more about my work process on Ape on the Moon.
I love listening to Freakonomics Radio, and I think this podcast is particularly helpful to folks in the creative fields.
'The Upside of Quitting' on Freakonomics: http://www.freakonomics.com/2011/09/30/new-freakonomics-radio-podcast-the-upside-of-quitting/
There is so much talk in illustration about persistence, and never quitting, that I think it is both refreshing and necessary to even just contemplate the option of quitting.
With that said, I am a hardcore believer in persistence, and I believe goals are definitely achievable if one keeps trying. Like many artists, I have been making art since I was a kid, I did actually make most choices in my life based on how it would help my artistic career.
I have always wanted to be an artist, but I did quit many things before I get to where I am now. I enjoy making the work the way I do now, but I didn’t always. I think while persistence makes a person strong, knowing when to cut off a tumor that is hurting her, makes a person even stronger.
No more than a year and half ago, I was trying hard to be a realistic painter. Every night I stayed up drawing with charcoal on large paper, painted in oil and acrylics, sculpting with clay, on the floor in the kitchen which was about twice the size of my 6x6’ room I was renting for $250 a month in Bushwick. I had two roommates, we had bugs, mice and cats and not a whole lot of space, and a lot of the time I was making work in the middle of chaos. I was psyching myself out when the work itself was just not progressing—because I was being persistent, putting in my hours, staying up night after night, talking and thinking about it all the time, and not to mention sacrificing personal life—and I thought I had invested so much that it would be a shame to quit.
A year ago in August, I did quit trying to be a fine art gallery artist in my ideal. And I made art the way I have been quite good at. I had taught myself Photoshop when I was 14. I like images that are bold, colorful, sleek and eye-catching. I enjoy making work for other people. I like studying about branding and design. To me doing commercial work is fun and fulfilling, it is like showing up as an art genie and selling magic.
I had no problem with promoting myself and having a web presence. I was happy that I could provide something for the people, whether they were my audience or not. I enjoyed having conversations and meeting new people. I enjoyed envisioning my own brand. I had an agenda, an idea I can tweak, revise, and promote. I gave my new work the same persistence as I gave painting, this time with a better time management system and some backup plans. Since I was happy and familiar with the way I worked, I was able to progress. Since I have committed to making client work, I feel more freedom and joy when I make personal pieces that I don’t expect commercial outcome of. Not to mention I knew what i was good at, and I knew how much time, space and money everything cost, I was in control.
It’s starting to work for me in many warm and surprising ways, and I constantly learn new things and tweak my process. Giving up an idea or a determined path was hard at the time for a 22 year old, but in no time I was happier for it. As a very stubborn person I usually learn things the hard way. But the things I learn from my own mishaps I will never forget. I hope it is helpful to someone to read what I have tried and learned, and maybe everyone can share a thing or two themselves. As a creative person I know it is very easy to get caught up in our heads about how our work should be, or how we think it is like. If you know there is something you would much rather do and it will make you much happier—my humble suggestion is that you try it, and try hard at doing it. I think it will be a good run.
What did you quit that made you happier and more productive? Feel free to comment or write me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Thanks for reading my first long blog entry about my thoughts on art!