Happy Valentine’s Day!
I wanted to switch it up and go with some new tropes, so this year I did Silly Sci-Fi Valentines. Truth be told I’m more into science fiction than I am into fantasy, yet these were so much harder to come up with! I think it’s in part because sci fi spans such a huge range of settings and subgenres, plus I didn’t want to reference specific characters or settings. Ultimately, it was a great challenge- and it was a lot of fun to draw characters again.
Feel free to print ’em out and give ’em to your nerdy Valentines!
Puttering around with more plants and landscapes! Although there’s still fall inspiration all around me, I thought it would be good to try something different. I thought back to an afternoon I spent wandering around Caroll Creek in Frederick, Maryland – they’ve filled the waterway with all these beautiful and alien-looking aquatic plants.
I found that without a specific photo as reference, I went in a more stylized/whimsical direction. It was fun, but very different from my last piece, which was really about capturing a specific scene and moment.
Another in my landscape vignette series. This one is inspired by a particularly foggy morning on the Blue Ridge Parkway. It was so foggy, when we stopped at overlooks we couldn’t see the ground at all! It was like a dream.
Here’s a photo I took that morning and used as reference/inspiration:
It’s been a very busy few months (spent 5 months on a colossal illustration gig, got married, you know) but things have finally settled down for a bit. I’m so happy to be turning my head back towards personal work for a little while- I’ve been itching to get back to those little landscape vignettes I’d been doing!
Part of the recent busy-ness was heading off on a honeymoon with my new husband. We drove through the Blue Ridge Mountains, on Skyline Drive and the Blue Ridge Parkway. It was beyond beautiful and incredibly inspiring! The above illustration is just the first of what I’m sure will be many drawings that come from that experience.
I put a few photos from our travels on my instagram, but the one below in particular shows what I was drawing from for this little vignette. I believe that pop of red is coming from a shrub called sumac (like the spice!), which we saw blazing fiery red all along Skyline Drive.
A little drawing of the Space Weaver / Bossa Nostra crew as a tribute to one of my favorite-ever games in terms of art direction, Broken Age! The whole game is one giant “oh man I wish I was this genius” fest for me.
I made this as a submission to the Gallery Nucleus Broken Age Tribute Show, which I found out about 3 days before the deadline! I didn’t get in, but I’m still glad I went for it- the Doublefine game studio has been a core influence on my art since I encountered Psychonauts back in high school, so it was really fun to spend some time paying homage to the great art in their games. I look forward to seeing all the great art in the show!
I have remained very much in Nature Mode the past few weeks. I’m finding so much joy in being outside that I’m spending all my personal art time paying tribute to it. It helped that I took a road trip through the Blue Ridge Mountains right at the peak of spring – absolutely stunning!
Here is a collection of the art I’ve been making lately, both digital and from my sketchbook:
We’ve all had it- you’re knee deep in an illustration, deadline’s coming up, and it is just not working. It’s too late to scrap the whole thing, but you dread going into the studio. The piece just doesn’t feel right.
What do you do?
At this point, I’ve hit this wall enough times that I’ve developed a bit of a routine to deal with it. I’d like to share my steps for troubleshooting an illustration that just isn’t quite right. They’re presented roughly in the order that I use them, but that’s definitely dictated by my working method and artistic priorities. It could be completely different for you!
Tip 1: Check Colors
I’m a nut for color- working with color to find interesting combinations is my favorite part of any illustration. If I don’t like a piece, odds are I’m not into the colors. If I feel stuck, I’ll grab the hue slider and pull it around until something clicks. I might do it on one or two elements, or (temporarily!!) flatten the image and play with the whole thing. Eventually something will spark and give me a new thing to try.
Tip 2: Check Values
Because I really love color, I often neglect the importance of value – that is, light/dark – in my illustrations. If the space feels confusing or the hierarchy of elements isn’t right, values are often the culprit. I check this by adding a black layer to the top of my document and setting its blending mode to “color,” effectively making my image black and white. Then I can see where I need more value contrast and go in to lighten or darken certain elements. I do this with the filter still on, then turn that layer off and adjust anything that might have gotten blown out or turned a weird color.
A lot of the personal practice of an illustrator involves playing around in a sketchbook, unsure of where it will lead. You plant your little seeds, and you have no idea which ones will grow.
Then, sometimes, you get to harvest! That’s what this illustration feels like for me, it’s a harvesting of a bunch of little ideas that have been germinating in my sketchbooks. It’s impossible to trace back all of the roots, but here are a few:
First of all- until pretty recently I was not at all a fan of colored pencils. I found them tedious, I thought the soft, grainy texture made most drawings look amateurish or like schoolwork, and I resented not being able to have any color I wanted. However, as I’ve been trying to incorporate more color into my sketchbook, I’ve found colored pencils to be a really good way to do that. They require no prep, I enjoy how easy it is to craft an interested limited color palette, and I discovered I LOVED the textures I can create with firm pressure and rough, scribbly lines. This lead to a few of my favorite sketchbook spreads:
Next, subject matter. Would you believe I used to hate drawing backgrounds? That’s really evolved over the past few years, too. I’ve had to draw plants and forests for various projects, and I’ve discovered that creating environments is now incredibly relaxing- meditative, even. I’ve built up a sort of lexicon of plant shapes (which I’m always trying to add to) and I get to pull from it whenever I get to draw something like this.
For our latest Sunshine Syndicate assignment, we’re working on patterns themed around “green” with a certain color scheme. I really wanted to do something nature-inspired, because at the time I was starving for some springtime! I grabbed colored pencils because they’re an easy way to iterate with certain colors, and I started doodling in my sketchbook. I liked the way the sketchy drawn trees looked next to the more filled in ones, and I thought I’d try filling a whole page with them.
Not only did I really like the results, I realized I had a lot of fun plotting the page out as I worked, figuring out where it needed an extra element or a different color. It was just.. fun! And relaxing. So, I wanted to do more. I also have a big empty wall in my kitchen, so I thought.. why not go big?
And that’s when I grabbed the big 18″x24″ pad of paper, basically untouched since college. And also when I laid down on the rug and started coloring like a little kiddo!
Now, this process of pulling from things discovered in the sketchbook is happening all the time. This is just an example where that growth is fairly easy to see. Hopefully it inspires you to dig into your sketchbook with some new materials- you never know what will come next!
Happy Valentines Day!
The Sunshine Syndicate did a fun Valentines printable project, and I knew I had to do some silly printable (and nerdy) Valentines! I love puns, plus I’ve been eyeing my buddy Marisa’s adorable annual pop-culture Valentines for years. It was great to give it a try myself!
Another really fun challenge for this was that we all used the same color palette. Rachel Place picked the colors, and they are so outside my typical wheelhouse, yet I totally fell in love with the combo as I was working and finding how to make it my own. Great learning experience!
So feel free to print these puppies out and give them to your Valentines!
It’s really nice once in a while to get to do something totally out of your norm. Stretch out those art-brain-muscles in a new direction!
This is – of all things – an album cover commissioned by DJ (and twitter-friend) Bill Boulden. He ran a super interesting Kickstarter for his new album, Music To Die Alone In Space To. The album is being re-recorded for each backer, and they have a number of customization options, including album art.