Thursday, December 31, 2015

Cockatoo Christmas Cards

Before we actually end up in the new year, I'm squeezing a few minutes of time to post the last of the Christmas cards I designed in 2015. 

For these cards I was given a beautiful photograph of a Carnaby Cockatoo, taken outside the client's house, and turned it into a pseudo-woodcut illustration in Photoshop for a graphic look. (I should add that I didn't use a filter, I drew it out carefully, as I would if I was really doing a wood or lino cut (if I had the space/materials/strong wrist/time) I added chunky text behind to fill up the empty space while keeping everything simple and uncluttered, so that the cockatoo stood out.

I threw these together very quickly, before the clients left for a photography holiday to Antarctica (from which they returned with many more fabulous bird photos) and were out of reliable contact. We got them printed at Moo, in two colour-ways. I think they look quite striking!

Adobe Photoshop CC2015 with a Wacom Cintiq Companion 2 and a Wacom Intuos 5.
6 to 7 hours. 

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Christmas trampoline

This is last week's Colour Collective, which looked a lot better in my head, before I ended up with too much work to do to actually take the time to do it properly... >.> Ah well. I'm always really busy around Christmas, so I wasn't surprised. I should probably have chosen something less complicated, but where's the fun in that? We'll call it a sketch. 

The colour was 'white', for the Christmas special. I chose to go with summery white clothes rather than snow.

Adobe Photoshop CC2015 on a Wacom Cintiq Companion 2
Not sure how long it took - definitely not long enough! 

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Illustration: A Beach Christmas

This is my Colour Collective from a few weeks ago, which I never got around to posting here. The colour was 'Cadmium Red' and as it was the first week of December I had decided to move away from my Fadeaway girl series and do some Christmas illustrations. 

Of course, a really Christmassy scene would stereotypically involve snow... but not here! Cadmium Red is such a bright, saturated colour that I thought it would be fun to put it in a hot Australian Christmas illustration with lots of other bright saturated colours. The 'snow at Christmas' idea, while lovely, is all-pervasive. Almost all the Christmas cards we have received this year have snow on them in some way. Time to do something different! (Yes, yes I know my cards last year had snow on =P)

Originally there was a boy in there as well, but I ran out of time to finish him off, and just removed his layer entirely... I thought it was better to cut him out than to leave him in, poorly finished. 

I was trying something different with this illustration - It was all done with a chalky brush, with no outlines. Difficult for me, as I usually rely on outlines in my work, but it was fun! I'm inclined to think that people prefer my work with outlines, as my succeeding Colour Collective got over three times the engagements that this one did. What do you think?

Adobe Photoshop CC2015 on a Wacom Cintiq Companion 2
Not sure how long - 4 to 6 hours I think.

Monday, December 21, 2015

Tutorial: Needle Felted Robin Earrings

Merry Christmas everyone! 

As a Christmas gift, here is an in-depth tutorial for some festive needle felted robin earrings. They're easy to make and should take about an hour - they took me an hour and a half, including taking photographs on timer and writing down all the steps on my ipad. 

Alternatively, you can access the tutorial and others on the Resources page of my website.

Have fun! Any questions, please don't hesitate to ask. 

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Lapphund Christmas Cards 2015

Some lovely friends again commissioned me to illustrate their Christmas cards this year. The first time I designed their cards from scratch they had one Finnish lapphund in their family. The second time they had two and this time they have added an adorable baby to their brood! If this keeps up there won't be any room for everyone on the cards in a few years!

They had me work up a discarded concept from last year (when they did not have a baby). As you can see, I had to rejig it a bit to fit bub in as well - but if you've got a new baby you can't have personalised cards that only feature your dogs, am I right? Plus, he's just too cute to leave off!

(yes, yes I know. My concept sketches are really ugly)

We had them printed at Moo, and they did a lovely job, as usual. I initially did two colour-ways with this design, to take advantage of Moo's Printfinity capabilities. 

However, my friends are great gamers, and when they saw the finished images (before print) they thought it would be fun if baby Alastair had a hat like Link in the Legend of Zelda games. So I put together a tweaked design that they could send to their gamer friends (who will hopefully get the joke). I don't play the games, but I was inspired by the Wind Waker games, as they have wall decals from that in the nursery, and when I made them a needlefelted baby mobile, I took that as my theme. Anyway, I already had clouds so it seemed apt. And I went a bit further than just updating the hat:

I used references, of course, piecing Korra and Esther together from a number of reference photos so that I could get the poses I wanted while still very definitely drawing them, and also using several references for Alastair.

I think they look quite striking all together. Three cards with the same design, but vastly differing moods:


Design done in Adobe Photoshop CC 2015 on a Wacom Cintiq Companion 2 and a Wacom Intuos pro. 

Saturday, December 12, 2015

Illustration: Dreaming of a White Christmas

I haven't yet blogged my Colour Collective from the week before (oops), but here is my latest. I decided to go with a more ambitious Christmas theme for my December entries, rather than the fadeaway girls I've been doing for some weeks. And I decided this, obviously, because I don't have enough to do in December *insert slightly crazed laugh here*

This time the colour was 'Myrtle Green' and I was again inspired by a classic song - Irving Berlin's 1940 song White Christmas

However, I'm in Australia, and while we have been having fairly cool weather (it got to 28C today) for December, a white Christmas is not something we will be seeing. (It will probably be stinking hot by then)
Christmas here is hot: 

But that's okay, because the person singing White Christmas is sitting somewhere hot too. I don't think I've ever heard a recorded version of the song that includes the verse (there must be some, surely) but I know it, because I have the sheet music to play on the piano. 

The sun is shining, 
The grass is green, 
The orange and palm trees sway
There's never been such a day, 
In Beverley Hills, L.A.

But it's December the 24th
And I am longing to be 
Up north

I'm dreaming of a white Christmas
Just like the ones I used to know
Where the tree tops glisten
And children listen
To hear sleigh bells in the snow.

I'm dreaming of a white Christmas
With every Christmas card I write.
May your days be merry and bright
and may all your
Christmases be white. 

I ran out of time to do all I wanted to this, and I didn't plan it out properly either. And why? I was busy cleaning and decorating the house in time for Christmas, rather than drawing:

See that music book on the piano? That's the sheet music for the film White Christmas, and that's where I got the above lyrics! The verse lyrics may not show up online, but I promise that they are there!

And I've been greatly honoured this week, as the lovely Penny Neville-Lee chose my illustration to be the Facebook header for the week! 


Adobe Photoshop CC2015 on a Wacom Cintiq Companion 2. About 4.5 hours (or, to put it another way, definitely not long enough!)

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Chiropractic Christmas Cards 2015

I was asked again to design a Christmas card for Burswood Health Clinic this year. Last year I did a comic snowman design, adapted from something they'd seen elsewhere, and they wanted 'something else funny'. A slightly scary request, but I did my best. 

I came up with six concepts, and they chose this one:

The Clinic was in a mad rush, as usual, so I put this together very quickly. Unfortunately my workspace was by no means quiet, and I was in such a rush to get it sent off that I accidentally masked the bleed. (I want my own studio! Anyone want to fund me a turret somewhere?) When working in Illustrator I mask it while I'm working because I find the artboard with stuff visible distracting when I try to evaluate the design as a whole - but usually I remove the mask! It was a stupid mistake, and even more annoying because I had carefully checked the outlines and the colour separations and everything else. I don't usually make such mistakes, but there's a first time for everything, I suppose. I rang them as soon as I realised, but it was too late to fix it. Arg!

Most fortunately, it doesn't seem to have mattered:

I think they came out rather nicely! The clinic likes huge glossy cards - A5 - so this looks rather striking. My father isn't very impressed with this design at all, but the Clinic seem to be very happy with it, and that's what counts, after all.

Adobe Illustrator CC 2015 with a Wacom Intuos 5. About 6 hours.

Sunday, December 6, 2015

Christmas Cards 2015

Here our the Christmas cards I designed for this year. I'd been having such fun with the fadeaway girl theme for Colour Collective that I thought it would be fun to do more detailed ones for the cards - my Colour Collective illustrations are usually pretty quick and rough.

Originally I had planned to have two completely different designs, but in the end I got a bit busy and went the easy route of two different girls but the same overall image. 

Here are some details:

I went with a 1915-era - 100 years ago this year, and a good date for Fadeaway Girls, as Coles Phillips first debuted them in 1908. Plus, of course, they had some very pretty dresses then, which work well with the fadeaway technique. I had a lot of fun coming up with the different outfits and hairstyles!

As usual, we got them printed at Moo. They have such fabulous printing, and I love their printfinity option. 

Moo have just introduced gold embossing on their business cards, so I'm really hoping soon they will have that on offer for greetings cards as well - my mother simply must have sparkly cards, plain printing will not do for her at all... and currently I have to emboss or glitter every one of the 100 cards we get printed each year by hand

 I always design my cards with reference to a simple way that I can add either gold embossing or glitter. It always has to be quite simple, as I have to do them all by hand - but I'd just love to go all-out with lots of gold in a more intricate design that just isn't feasible at the moment. These cards took me 6 hours to emboss - and I cheated on half of them, only embossing the string (not the rings on the lanterns) - they can go to the 'less deserving' (i.e. people less likely to appreciate the hours of my life that went into  these cards) on our Christmas Card list. =P

I had two desks set up while embossing the cards - if you're interested, I used Ranger Perfect Medium pens and fine gold embossing powder. The perfect medium pens, like embossing pens, are tacky - draw where you want the embossing to go, quickly cover with embossing powder, shake off the excess, and then melt it with a heat gun. When we printed our own cards it was glitter or nothing, as the plastic coating on photo printer paper melts under the influence of a heat gun - but Moo's cards hold up wonderfully. 

And here's a progress animation, from my hideous base scrawl to finished card:

And for anyone interested in how I use references, here is the pose reference I took for this illustration:

Photoshop CC2015 on a Wacom Cintiq Companion 2. I'm not entirely sure how long they took - as usual with our Christmas cards I start early and do bits piecemeal. I'd put the figure somewhere between 6 and 12 hours for the first one, less for the second, where much was already done. 

Saturday, December 5, 2015

Illustration: By the Light of the Silvery Moon

I'm a bit late blogging this Colour Collective piece. Heavens, I have been busy - always the way at this time of the year. The good news is that that means that I have a lot to blog about... the bad news is that I struggle to actually find time to blog!

However, here we are, with last week's Colour Collective - Silver. The obvious choice for this was Gus Edwards and Edward Madden's 1909 song 'By the Light of the Silvery Moon'. Really there was no other option, was there? 

Place park, scene dark, silvery moon is shining through the trees;
Cast two, me, you, sound of kisses floating on the breeze.
Act one, begun. Dialogue, "Where would you like to spoon?"
My cue, with you, underneath the silvery moon.
By the light of the silvery moon,
I want to spoon, to my honey I'll croon love's tune,
Honeymoon keep a-shining in June,
Your silvery beams will bring love dreams, we'll be cuddling soon,
By the silvery moon.
Act two, scene new, roses blooming all around the place;
Cast three, you, me, Preacher with a solemn looking face.
Choir sings, bell rings, Preacher: "You are wed for evermore."
Act two, all through, every night the same encore.
By the light, (By the light, By the light),
Of the silvery moon, (The silvery moon).
I want to spoon, (Want to spoon, Want to spoon)
To my honey I'll croon love's tune.
Honeymoon, (Honeymoon, Honeymoon),
Keep on shining in June. (Keep on shining in June)
Your silvery beams will bring love dreams,
We'll be cuddling soon,
By the silvery moon.
Your silvery beams will bring love dreams,
We'll be cuddling soon,
By the silvery moon. (The silvery moon)

Here's a version (from the film of the same name) with Doris Day and Gordon MacRae. Not a favourite version, but it does include all the words: 

Obviously the song is pretty heavy on the 'June' and this is a very wintry scene. Notwithstanding the fact that where I'm standing, June is winter (although no snow) I figured that it could very well be referring to someone looking forward to June, summer, and the option to stay out late. It never actually says it is June. 

This makes a total of 17 Colour Collective Fadeaway Girls - and I'm now taking a break from them to do some more Christmas themed entries.

Adobe Photoshop CC2015 on a Wacom Cintiq Companion 2.
About 2.5 to 3 hours.

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Illustration: On Moonlight Bay

The Colour Collective colour this week was 'Robin's Egg Blue', a lovely turquoise, so I went all nautical with the 1912 song 'On Moonlight Bay', lyrics by Edward Madden, music by Percy Wenrich. A perfect excuse to draw an old-time sailor suit!

We were sailing along
on Moonlight Bay
We could the voices ringing
they seemed to say
"You have stolen her heart"
Now don't go 'way
As we sang 'Love's Old Sweet Song' 
on Moonlight Bay

Here it is being sung by Doris Day:

This makes the 16th Colour Collective Fadeaway Girl that I've done. I didn't have much time to work on this one (I've got a lot to do right now, typical November, and I've also got a bit of a cold so everything's going slower than it should be), I got it done in just a couple of hours and there are lots of things that annoy me about it, but I do like her face. =) 

Adobe Photoshop CC2015 on a Wacom Cintiq Companion 2
Between two and three hours. 

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Illustration: In The Moon Mist

I chose the little-known song Moon Mist for this week's Colour Collective, as I felt the colour - Rose Quartz - was a lovely misty choice that would work well for moon mist. 

Moon Mist was adapted from Benjamin Godard's Berceuse (Lullaby). It's from his 1888 four-act opera Jocelyn, which was in turn based on a poem by Alphonse de Lamartine. In 1946 Jack Lawrence adapted the music and added some English words (that in no way resemble the original opera song).

One night I wandered by a stream
and saw you standing in the Moon Mist.
I thought at first you were a dream
until you smiled there in the moon mist 

The first strange flush of love 
was on your starlit face
and in the hush of love 
we met in one embrace

Now till we meet again I'll treasure 
that moment when we kissed
in the Moon Mist.

Here's Doris Day singing it:

And here's the original version if you're interested in comparing (although not from 1888 ^.~):

I chucked this piece together very quickly, as I have been flat-out with work all week - but I didn't want to miss this beautiful colour! Plus Friday was just one of those bad drawing days that attacks us all from time to time, so I wanted a break from work to do something that didn't have to be perfect.

This is my 15th Colour Collective Fadeaway Girl!

Adobe Photoshop CC2015 on a Wacom Cintiq Companion 2.
3 hours.

Saturday, November 7, 2015

Illustration: Moonlight Swim

This week's Colour Collective colour was 'Green Gold'. I went through my list of remaining 'moon songs' looking for one that would fit, and settled on 'Moonlight Swim', written by Ben Weisman and Sylvia Dee in 1957, but best known as being sung by Elvis in his 1961 film Blue Hawaii.

I haven't actually seen any Elvis films, so I went with a bit of a 'Beach Party films' vibe:

Let's go on a Moonlight Swim.
Far away from the crowd, 
all alone upon the beach. 
Our lips and our arms
close within each other's reach,
we'll be
on a Moonlight Swim

Let's go on a Moonlight Swim.
To the raft we can race
and for just a little while,
I'll sit and pretend that you're on a desert isle
with me.
On a Moonlight Swim.

Though the air is cold, 
with kisses oh so sweet, 
I'll keep you warm, 
so very warm
from your head to your feet.

Let's go on a Moonlight Swim.
We're in love, and above
there's a crazy gold balloon, 
that sits winking down
and inviting us to 
come on in.
On a Moonlight Swim.

Want to hear it?

This my 14th Colour Collective Fadeaway Girl! I think it looks a bit more 'river' than 'beach', but never mind. =) Next week is a lovely dusky 'Rose Quartz'!

Adobe Photoshop CC2015 on a Wacom Cintiq Companion 2. Three hours. 

Saturday, October 31, 2015

Illustration: It's Only a Paper Moon

This week's Colour Collective colour was Apricot and I went with the 1933 song It's Only a Paper Moon, music by Harold Arlen and lyrics by E Y Harburg and Billy Rose. 

It was originally written for the 1933 Broadway play The Great Magoo, set on Coney Island. It was a huge flop, and I particularly like this review from a 1998 revival:

The action opens in Coney Island at the height of the Great Depression. Nicky (...), a womanizing barker and songwriter, has fallen hard for hoochie-coochie dancer Julie (...), an ambitious entertainer whose sights are set on the Great White Way. For Nicky, Julie is the real "magoo," i.e., the woman of his dreams. However, both lovers are Olympic-caliber boozers who swan dive into the gutter at the least hint of a romantic reversal. Irritatingly, the Sturm und Drang in this show-biz soap opera is primarily of their own perverse devising.

I decided to go with a slightly seedier night-club vibe with this illustration, to match the setting the song was originally written for. No flowers and star-filled skies for this girl, and I think she's been hitting the (peroxide) bottle a little too hard...

Say, it's only a paper moon
Sailing over a cardboard sea
But it wouldn't be make-believe
If you believed in me.

Yes, it's only a canvas sky
Hanging over a muslin tree
But it wouldn't be make-believe
If you believed in me.

Without your love
It's a honky tonk parade.
Without your love
It's a melody played in a penny arcade.

It's a Barnum and Bailey world
Just as phoney as it can be
But it wouldn't be make-believe 
If you believed in me.

Here's Ella Fitzgerald singing it:

This in number 13 in my series of Colour Collective Fadeway Girls. I wonder how long it will be before they set a colour that I absolutely cannot link to any song with 'Moon' in the title? =P It was fun, this week, to work out how to keep the fadeaway dress while it was all fringing and sequins. It took a couple of tries to get it to this point, but I think it works well.

Adobe Photoshop CC2015 on a Wacom Cintiq Compaion 2. About three hours.

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Illustration: The Quest

Over the last few weeks I have taken part in Giuseppe Castellano's Illustration Department 3-Week Illustration Workshop. There aren't as many opportunities for workshops and the like here in Perth, and I was feeling a bit like I was working in a bubble - it was time to get some new feedback on my work and push myself to explore in different directions. Giuseppe's online course was perfect, slotting very nicely into a slow period of work and finishing just as work picked up again. 

In the first video conference Giuseppe went through my portfolio website, identifying pieces that worked the best and areas that needed work. He then gave me an assignment. He had flagged my heavy use of black outline in a lot of my work, and wanted to see me using a looser, non-black line, and also to tone down my colours a bit. 

My assignment was as follows:

Create a traditional piece, 8x10", subject matter open but using line that is not black and not 'outline' and a dead colour palette. 

He also suggested I look at Tony Diterlizzi and Arthur Rackham.  

The first few days after I got the assignment I was too busy to start. I had some artworks to complete, and it was also the weekend of the Kelmscott Annual Show and I spent the entirety of Saturday demonstrating portraiture and needle felting in the exhibition hall. However, I used that time to plan out my illustration in my head, sort of mentally thumbnailing. 

Lots of people, I hear, choose to redo an exiting portfolio piece with their assignments, but instead I decided to do something with a sketch that was sitting in my sketchbook, and that I thought had potential. I knew what I wanted to do with it would be difficult, so I wanted a reason to actually get started, do my best with it, and finish it.

I'd picked up The Islands of Chaldea, Diana Wynne Jones' last book, in the bookshop, and sketched this while I was reading it. It was a bedtime sketch, so not particularly imaginative in terms of layout or anything, just a rough sketch based around a scene in the book.

For my assignment I didn't actually want to illustrate The Islands of Chaldea, but I thought the basic idea of a donkey that didn't want to go was a good starting point, especially as it had been suggested that I look at Tony Diterlizzi's work. To actually be an illustration for The Islands of Chaldea the girl would have to have brown hair, the raven would be a parrot, the donkey would be pulling a cart, there would be several other people and the dog would be a magical cat. 

Here is the rough thumbnail I did before I started sketching, just to check that the basic concept I had planned in my head over the previous few days worked:

I then did a rough digital sketch based around that thumbnail:

I kept each part in a different colour so that I could see what was what. Sketching can get messy and it's so easy to get lost in a mass of linework. 

I then did a refined draft linework, still digital:

As you can see, I flipped the image. Images read best left to right, but being right-handed I draw best in the other direction. Why fight it when I'm working digitally and can easily flip once the difficult bits are drawn? I also altered the donkey's expression quite a lot, to make sure it was very clearly not happy.

I had planned the image with a diagonal cut across the composition, as Arthur Rackham had been mentioned in our first conversation. I did my honours thesis on Golden Age Illustrators, with a fairly heavy focus on Rackham and Dulac, so as a bit of a nod to him I utilised I popular Golden Age compositional trick, where the composition is cut diagonally, with most of the action happening in the bottom half. This was originally inspired by Japanese woodcut compositions, after the trade borders opened up in the 1870s and it's a composition I rather like.

All these images are from my Golden Age Illustration Pinterest board. Head over there if you would like to see them bigger.

Finally I did a colour study. Not only was I going to be using a colour scheme that wasn't my usual one, but a lot of the parameters for my assignment had to do with colour and linework - none of which come across on a digital draft!

I sent this, and the draft linework, off. Giuseppe was generally happy with it, his only concern being that the raven was the only dark part of the image and threw the balance off. He suggested I darken the tones in the foreground to fix this, and gave me the go-ahead to start on the final.

Before I could start on the final, however, I had to get some ink. Easier said than done in Western Australia! I went to my local art shop, wanting waterproof ink in any dark colour that wasn't black - sepia, dark grey, paynes grey, I wasn't choosy, but the shop wasn't very helpful. In the end I managed to snag some FW Acrylic Artists Ink in Burnt Umber. It's only water resistant, not waterproof, so if I was really working the watercolour in some areas it got a bit lost and I had to go back in and touch up, but overall I think it worked well. I also bought a cheap 2/0 sable brush so that I didn't kill my expensive brushes with the ink.

Having completed the inking it was time to paint. These are the materials I used:

The red tones were used the least. I researched dead palettes before I started, and a lot of the info stressed the need for one spot of bright, saturated colour. In my case it was the hair of my girl character. I used Cadmium Scarlet and Winsor Orange for her hair, and some Rose Dorè on her skin. Indian Red added the lowlights in her hair, and was also used on some of the browns elsewhere in the image, so that the red tones were spread just a little. 
It's almost entirely watercolour, but I did get out my coloured pencils at the very end, just to darken some of the shadows and add some extra leafiness to the vegetation in the foreground, and also darkened a couple of lines with a sepia PITT Artist's Pen (not shown). 

I sent the above image off to Giuseppe and we discussed it during my final conference. 

He was happy with it, and especially pleased with my use of leading lines (in the pathway and the river) and my treatment of the fabric and the figures, but flagged a few places where it could be improved:

The sky was a bit too busy
The figures didn't stand out from the background enough
The dog got lost

I agreed with everything he pointed out, so after our meeting I took the painting into Photoshop and made some adjustments:

What do you think? An improvement? 

The sketch, being a complicated one where I was trying new things (especially with the donkey) took about 9 hours, I think, and it took another 14-18 to paint it, although there were some pauses in there while I waited for paint to dry.


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