It’s A Jungle Out There

Here’s the final installment of background illustrations done for Plain Joe Studios‘ client, for their Go Kids cast of characters. I prefer illustrating organic backgrounds to artificial structures because, well, because I’m lazy and it’s easier to draw a jungle than to draw a giant city in perfect perspective.

Actually, creating organic forms is just so much more fun, what with all the wild foliage, vines, and such. Plus I like drawing gnarly tree limbs, twisting trunks, and tangled roots. If I had my druthers (I keep using that word without really knowing what a “druther” is), I’d be illustrating little fantasy stories that take place in all sorts of forests and wacky worlds. Honestly, I love creating charming artwork for children. My preference for the innocence of children’s media is probably why I prefer the fantasy wonderland of Disneyland to a “fast-ride” theme-park like Magic Mountain.

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This lava city is another Go Kids “worlds” illustration done for Plain Joe Studios‘ client, River Valley Church. The smaller inset rough shows just how far I go on the roughs to convey the concept to the client before doing a final rendering. I probably could get away with doing a far more crude rough, but I’m always afraid that if I don’t convey enough information in the rough, the client may think the final art strayed too far from what they imagined.

I’ll post one final Go Kids “worlds” illustration next week, at which time we’ll move back above ground.

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Going Underground

The creativity never stops at Plain Joe Studios. If I could post everything we did, I’d be posting every day, but then I’d never get anything else done. In any case, I only have a couple more of these I want to post in upcoming weeks and then I think I’ll start posting more Procreate “doodle” videos.

This week’s Go Kids background follows last week’s illustration, which was the exterior of the underground part of the Go Kids’ “world”. Each of the larger world areas are themselves made of of a few smaller cities or districts. This is one of three underground locations.

The smaller inset image in this case is not a rough of the larger image but is a previous variant done in a simplified, flat, graphic style that we initially tried. While I like the look of a flat, graphic style, I don’t go to that style naturally when I decide to do something for myself.

Which style do you prefer?

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IG Process Videos – Jan 1, 2019

Here are a few progress doodle videos I posted on Instagram last week, in case you don’t follow me there.

These are all just quick color sketches. When I sit down to do these, I really have no idea what I’m going to do. I just start drawing or blocking in colors and whatever happens, happens. Sometimes I like the results, other times it stinks. But it’s an effective and fun way to practice getting fast at conceptualizing.

The thing about working professionally is that you can often get stuck working on something that only focuses on one aspect of art. If you don’t practice other things, you don’t grow. So, for example, if you’re doing a lot of coloring, your figure-drawing skills may fall to the wayside. Or if you draw a lot but don’t paint, your color sense may suffer.

The thing is, no matter how good someone is, I notice that they aren’t great at everything, which is fine because no one is great at everything. But in those limited areas at which you want to excel, you have to constantly practice and keep growing. It’s difficult to stand still. You tend to either move forward or backwards. And I don’t even mean moving backwards relative to others whose skills have exceeded your own (though that will happen as well). I’m saying you either use it or lose it. If you’re good and you lose it, you may regain that skill with practice, but it’s frustrating to have to go through the relearning process every time you ignore some aspect of your skill-set. So I figure if I keep practicing, at least I won’t lose it and hopefully I’m moving forward, even if it’s at a glacial pace. Maybe by the time I’m dead I’ll be really good at what I do.

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Progress Doodle #6

This’ll be the last progress doodle post for the year. Even though these sketches are rough, I hope you enjoy seeing the process. Let me know if you have any requests and I’ll try to do a progress sketch on my down time. … and have a happy new year!

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Progress Doodle #5 – Christmas Elf

Here’s a little Christmas doodle I did on Procreate a couple nights ago. I know I need to cultivate a habit of posting regularly and I think Procreate’s progress video feature is a great way to share the creative process, even if it’s just personal little doodles and stuff.

I notice when deciding what to sketch, I tend to default into character design of some sort. Characters (being persons, more or less) are, well, more personal than a still life, landscape, architecture, etc., and I think they’re more likely to grab people’s interest more so than things. Well, at least they grab my interest more.

The one thing about working at Plain Joe Studios is that I’m more aware of the importance of storytelling. And it’s not that I didn’t care about telling stories with my art, it’s more that I’ve always sort of told stories or at least implied them without really being aware that I was doing so. And I’m not suggesting that an image needs to tell a full-blown narrative, but that it’s something that the viewer can look at and imagine in their own mind a story to go with what they’re seeing, even if that simply means they want to know more about a character.

One of my favorite children’s book is “The Mysteries of Harris Burdick” by Chris Van Allsburg. The thing I enjoy about it is not really the illustrations, as good as they are. What Van Allsburg did is present single, stand-alone illustrations on each page accompanied by a small caption hinting of some further mystery, intended to pique the curiosity of the reader to want to know the whole story, or perhaps to create a story in their own mind. That book still captivates me when I go through it. but I digress…

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Robot Spotlight Concept Illustration

So I decided to give myself a crash-course in using Adobe Flash and Final Cut Pro to create a video that turned out, well, not so great (the resolution stinks). But it’s my first time using those programs and I was in a hurry to actually complete something before the morning. Well, it’s almost 8 am and I’ve been up all night, so I probably spent too much time on this stuff.

In any case, Plain Joe Studios sent me on a bluesky to Gateway Church in Arizona to help create a new spatial story for their children’s ministry environment. I was there several days, and there was one night I woke up at 4am and couldn’t sleep because I had this idea for a rotating spotlight light-fixture; so I got up and created this in Procreate in several hours.

Speaking of sleeping in, I’m off to bed. I just can’t seem to get on a regular sleeping schedule…

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Clip Studio Paint is the New Photoshop … For Me

Although I illustrate almost exclusively in Photoshop, I’ve used Clip Studio Paint EX for lettering comics because it has useful tools designed for making that job so much easier. Otherwise, I haven’t really played with the program at all, even though I’ve been wanting to do so.

While up late into the night (because I’m a night-owl and can’t seem to get on a normal schedule), I decided to launch the program and check out its brushes. And honestly, while I’ll still be using Photoshop for a while, I have to say that inking and painting in CSP is so much more fun and its brushes are so much nicer and natural that Photoshop.

Here’s just a page of doodles done while playing with the program. Nothing fancy or “nice” because I was just enjoying getting a feel for the pen tool and brushes and wasn’t trying to create something to post.

Another nice thing about CSP that I think is better than Photoshop are (as I already mentioned) the tools available for creating comic books, not to mention tools for simple frame-by-frame animating. And best of all, you can render in vector without the STUPID, counter-intuitive techniques required by Adobe Illustrator, a program I (and many other artists who came from traditional media) simply loath.

As far as the many custom tools or blending options Photoshop offers for photo-editing which we artists utilize for illustrating, I don’t know how many such tools CSP has yet. Maybe not as many (for now). However, the advantages it has over Photoshop is still pretty impressive.

So while I won’t be switching to this program just yet, I plan to learn it and keep it as a backup program when/if my OS X no longer supports CS6 (I haven’t updated my iMac OS in years because their updates tend to take things away or mess things up. Gone are the days when I was actually excited about an Apple OS update and was willing to pay for it. Now I don’t even want it for free). The thing is, I suspect that day will eventually come, and I refuse to allow Adobe to extort a monthly tribute from me rather than sell me a copy of Photoshop, so I’ll be looking for a new program to replace Photoshop CS6 for illustrating. At first, I thought Corel Painter would be my go-to replacement program if I had to leave Photoshop behind, but now I think CSP will most likely be the software I turn to. In fact, if I can find the time to learn it, I’d like to start using it for my professional work right now, or maybe bounce between CSP and Photoshop and use the best feature of both programs.

So if you’re worried about what you’ll do when your Pre-CC copy of Photoshop is no longer supported and you want a software you can purchase and own, you may want to check out CSP.

Incidentally, Clip Studio Paint has a mobile version for the iPad, but it’s a subscription-based app, which baffles me because the only reason I’m willing to use their desktop version is because I can buy it. Hopefully they don’t do something stupid and start requiring a monthly fee for their desktop version. If they do, I’ll dump them in a heartbeat and use Corel Painter.

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My New Light-Box!!!

One of the tools that would have made things easier when I was working in traditional media (before completely digitizing my workflow with a Cintiq) is a good light-box, which would have allowed me to use any paper I like rather than relying on graphic paper or vellum to clean up my rough drawings. While I like graphic paper, it can be too thin for wet media, including ink when applied liberally with a brush.

I’ve decided recently that I’d like to get back into using traditional media, if only for my own projects which have no deadline and don’t require the efficiency of a fully digital workflow (though I do plan on utilizing the Cintiq where it still makes sense to do so). This time around I’d like to use a light-box so I can work with a thicker paper, like bristol board or even watercolor paper.

In the past, commercial light-boxes tended to be expensive for anything larger than 9×12 inches. I figured I could save money by building it myself, which, given my ineptitude at crafting and building, would have looked something like this:

And then I realized I didn’t have to use old bulb technology, given the ubiquitous availability of LED lighting. Still, my lightbox would have turned out looking like the above design, minus the giant Edison bulb perched on top. That was till too clunky.

And then I figured that if I thought of using LED technology for a light-box, and since many artists use the light from their iPad or other tablet as a light-box, then surely a company out there has started manufacturing LED light-boxes. After mentioning this to my lovely bride, she does a quick search and sends me a link for a light-box large enough for my desired use. And it’s flat to boot, which makes it perfect for laying on my drawing board without bulking things up.

Well, it arrived yesterday, so here are a few pics I thought I’d share. I didn’t place anything next to it to give you the sense of its scale, but it’s “Yuuuge” and can accommodate something like professional comic art boards (I bought this on Amazon which advertised the size as 21 x 2 x 29.8 inches, though it looks a lot thinner than 2″. Heck, it doesn’t even look like it’s an inch thick). As you can see below, it sits nice and flat on the drawing board.

The power button is one of those surface-flat, touch-sensitive power buttons on which you don’t even have to push. It’s pretty sensitive, because I’ve accidentally turned it on while reaching for the power cord near it. When it’s powered on or off, the light comes on and turns off very gradually. It’s not like flipping on a lamp.

My wife made me a cover for my Cintiq so it doesn’t collect dust while not in use, and I asked if she’d make one for this as well. She immediately dug out some fabric and made a cover to keep this clean and neat. What an awesome wife — I’M NOT WORTHY!

This thing is so flat and slim that it’s actually difficult to wrap the edges of the cover around it. That’s not a complaint. It’s actually nice that it lays so flat.

So there’s the quick reveal. Since it just arrived, I didn’t have time or an opportunity to try it out or to take a picture showing it in use. Maybe I’ll get to that in a future post if/when I do an actual review of this.

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Video: Doodling On Procreate

The cool thing about Procreate is that it can create time-elapsed videos of your sketches after the fact. I didn’t intend to create a video of the boxing sketch in the previous post, but I thought I’d generate one and post it.

While I was noodling around, my son started sketching, so you’ll probably notice that when it comes up. Also, the reason you see me start and stop so much is because I tend to noodle around on a layer, turn off the layer and begin noodling around on another layer, and so forth. So I tend to have multiple sketches on one file. I do this because I’m too lazy to create different files for nothing more than sloppy little doodles.

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