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Amazon Acquires Digital Comics Platform ComiXology

Last week Amazon announced that it was acquiring the digital comic book distributor ComiXology. If you don’t know what is, it’s been called “the iTunes of comic books” by the New York Times. ComiXology is a cloud-based digital comics platform that offers a selection of more than 40,000 comic books and graphic novels across Android, iOS, Kindle, Windows 8, and their Internet web store. ComiXology was launched in July 2007 and now has deals with 75 different comic book publishers giving these companies a digital storefront to sell their content. Their ComiXology app has gone on to become Apple’s top-grossing non-game iPad app from 2011 to 2013.

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They have had well over 200 million comics downloaded through their app as of September 2013. There have been several reasons for ComiXology’s rise to digital comics prominence, but none more prominent than their patented Guided View technology. Guided View has made reading digital comics a much better experience on digital devices. “ComiXology’s patent-pending Guided View technology allows readers to view a comic on a panel-by-panel basis suitable for mobile devices in a way that mimics the natural motion of the user’s eye through the comic” says the ComiXology website. Continue reading

3 Handy Illustration Resources

1. Figure and Gesture Drawing

Whether you’re a seasoned professional, a new student, or a hobbyist with dreams of becoming the next Jack Davis, figure and gesture drawing is important to practice to keep your skill levels up and to help you keep progressing as an artist. However, sometimes it isn’t always easy, especially if you aren’t in art school anymore, to go to a local figure drawing meet up when deadlines are looming. Thankfully, the kind folks over at Pixelovely have created a nice online replacement for those studio figure drawing classes that you can do right from home… in your sweatpants… with all those potato chip crumbs on your face… anytime you want. Its free too!

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Here’s the link: http://artists.pixelovely.com/practice-tools/figure-drawing/

2. Facial Expressions

Grimace is a cool tool to help you reference facial expressions when you don’t have a mirror handy, to use yourself as a model, or can’t get your friends to make goofy faces for you to reference. Its got a nondescript cartoony face with sliders next to it that make the face change to portray various degrees of six common emotions. You can use two emotions together for even more emotive expressions as well. This resource is free online and there is also an app available for iOS mobile devices for 99¢. The only downside to this is that its pretty fun to spend a lot of time playing with the multitudes of different expressions you can get using the sliders. Don’t waste too much time though. I’m sure you’ve got a deadline right around the corner.

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Here’s the link: http://www.grimace-project.net/

3. Color Palette Generator

For those times when you just can’t seem to get a harmonious color scheme and things are starting to look like a clown just threw up on your illustration or you’re going for a nice color scheme that you saw in a photo or piece of art online (Remember… Great artists steal!), DeGraeve has a free color palette generator just for you. All you do is find the URL for an image that has a color palette that you like, copy and paste it in, and… VIOLA!… a simple palette is generated in seconds to get you started on your next masterpiece. The cool thing about it is that it gives you a desaturated and a saturated version of each palette generated too.

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Here’s the link: http://www.degraeve.com/color-palette/

I hope you find these resources useful. Now go make great art!

Your pal,
Kevin Cross

Award-winning illustrator Lynne Chapman explains her process for creating Jungle Grumble

Today we have two videos by Illustrator Lynne Chapman. In the first YouTube video Lynne explains how she Illustrates a picture book. Lynne gives insight into how she plans her illustrations with thumbnails sketches and also how she designs the pages in her book Jungle Grumble. Learn how she turns a page of emailed text from the publisher into line drawings. She also talks about the things she requests from the publisher before beginning her process.

In video two she explains how she creates different personalities for her animal characters and how she brings them to life. She explains how she uses photo reference to help her identify key features like making minor adjustments to the eyes to change the characters feel. She also talks about how she may have to draw the character over and over until she gets it right, I’m glad award-winning illustrators have to do that too. I thought I was the only one.

If you’d like to learn more about Lynne Chapman’s work you can check out her website or blog where she shares much more of her wonderful knowledge.

Schoolism Spring Sale

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Schoolism is an online series of art courses taught by award winning professionals. They present a great opportunity for those who are seeking to advance their skill sets in the various arenas offered. All self-taught classes from schoolism.com are $100 off right now through April 15, 2014 bringing the cost of the class down to $370. Check out the Schoolism.com site and see what courses they have available! We have reviewed several of schoolism’s courses on OUaS and have found them very helpful. To read any of our thoughts on these courses you can find links to them below.

Character Design 1 with Stephen Silver (Critiqued Session)
Character Design 2 with Stephen Silver (Self-taught)
Gesture Drawing with Alex Woo (Self-taught)

If you do intend to take a course at Schoolism and you follow this link OUaS will receive a small portion of the purchase price that we can use on attending other courses and reviewing them for you. http://schoolism.com/?share=i9yrf

Review – Schoolism’s Character Design 2 online class with Stephen Silver

Last year I took the second character design class offered by Schoolism.com entitled Character Design 2 with Stephen Silver. This course was taught by Stephen Silver, a professional character designer working in the field of animation. He has worked on shows like Disney Channel‘s Kim Possible and Nickelodeon‘s Danny Phantom. Like I mentioned this is the second character design course I’ve taken from Schoolism and if you would like to read my thoughts on the first class you can read them here.

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If you are not familiar with what Schoolism.com is, it’s an online school with courses being taught by working professionals. The classes normally consist of nine lessons and each lessen is a prerecorded lecture with the instructor walking you through that week’s subject. Before you sign up you need to decide if you want to take a self-taught version or an instructor led course. Self-taught versions are a teach yourself at your own pace with all the videos being unlocked once you start. The videos are only available for 100 days with the Self-taught class. In the instructor led version of the class the class will start on a certain day and a new video will be unlocked each week as you move throughout the 14 week course. At the end of each lesson the instructor will give you homework and if you took the instructor led version the teacher will critique your homework. This feedback is normally a 10 to 20 minute video of the instructor reviewing your work and telling you how you could improve your technique. Each assignment normally has around a week to complete. The difference in price between these two options is significant with the self-taught class being around 500 dollars and the instructor led course being around 1000.

For me I have taken both the self-taught and teacher led versions and have found the instructor feed back to be great but pricey. So for Character Design 2 I took it as a self-taught class. My thoughts are only based on the video content and not the instructor’s feedback on the homework.

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It also must be said that this class was touted as a stand-alone class that you don’t have to take with Character Design One. I partially agree with this statement but there were several times during the course where Stephen Silver referred back to Character Design One. To me it felt like Character Design One was a course that would give you a foundation of character design techniques and the second course continues to build on the foundation that Character Design One had set up. If you feel comfortable enough with the principles of character design you probably could hop right in with the second course. If you’re not sure, Schoolism says on their class description that if you’re not sure if you’re ready for Character Design 2 they will critique your portfolio and let you know which course is best for you. Continue reading

New Illustrator to the OUaS Family

Here at Once Upon a Sketch, we are delighted to welcome our new contributor, the super talented Macky Pamintuan to the family. Along with multiple picture books, you might be familiar with his work such as the Nancy Drew and the Clue Crew and the Flat Stanley series. I had the pleasure of interviewing Macky and he offered some insight into his career and background.

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Can you tell us a bit about your background? School?

I’m originally from the Philippines and moved to San Francisco when I turned 21. There, I studied at the Academy of Art University and initially majored in 2D animation but soon switched to Traditional Illustration after realizing that I enjoyed that craft more.

I’m glad I did. I was always that one kid in class who did nothing but draw, but the 5 years learning the proper discipline of approaching an illustration (photo refs! thumbnails! commitment!)really helped me.

Shortly after graduating, I was at a fork on the road career wise. Not sure whether to seek stable employment under an art related company or try to go on my own and freelance. I gave myself 6 months to see if I could do the latter. Luckily, it all panned out and here I am.

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How long have you been illustrating?

As a working (translation: starving) art student, I’d pick up freelancing projects like an illustrated poetry book, theater posters, logos and even as a caricaturist for private parties. Around 2004, a few months after signing with my rep, I quit my job as an after school art teacher and began illustrating full time.

I’m still amazed that I’ve been doing this professionally for over decade now.

What do you consider was your big break?

That’s a tough question. I think my opportunities came in increments, most of them unexpected. For example, a small baseball portfolio piece that I did opened doors for me to do a lot of baseball artwork including three picture books (one of them for my beloved SF Giants).

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Come to think of it, there was no singular “big break” for me. Slowly building working relationships with publishers and art directors no matter how big or small the project may be helped me get considered for future work.

Sometimes, It’s hard to tell which piece leads you to more projects. One of my earliest picture books, “I Saw an Ant on the Railroad Track” (2006), still gets me work inquiries to this day. And sometimes, it’s hard to tell when it will happen. I was backpacking in Europe when I got offered to do the relaunched “Nancy Drew & The Clue Crew” series.

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We are both represented by MBArtists, can you tell us how you came to sign with them?

Yes, we are! In 2004, when I resolved to see if I can pursue a career as a freelance illustrator, I contacted a long list of art reps to inquire if they’d be interested in representing me.

After more than a few “No’s,” I found two reps who were interested. A Chicago based advertising rep and Mela Bolinao from MB Artists. The Chicago guy was talking big numbers, but I went with my gut and signed with Mela. I enjoyed the energy she brought and I foresaw a valuable partnership and friendship in the years to come. Easily one of the best decisions I’ve made. Continue reading

What is #sketch_dailies

For those artists on Twitter you may have started seeing the hashtag #sketch_dailies popping up in your feed along side a doodle. Sketch Dailies is a community of artists that do daily sketches based on a common theme. Sketch Dailies began as a warm up for Isaac Orloff and his fellow coworkers at the game company Storm8. Isaac would send a group email with a theme and they would share their sketches. As this idea continued to grow they created a sketch_dailies Twitter account and within 24 hours had 200 new participants. It’s popularity continues to grow adding 1,000 new sketchers each day. There has been a wide range of topics so far from who’s your favorite Muppet to Harold Ramis to Thor. These topics are posted as inspiration and the idea behind it is to just get you sketching. Sketch Dailies is open to anyone no matter their background or skill level. Topics are posted on the Sketch Dailies social network pages like Twitter and Facebook, Monday through Friday at 11am PST. Saturday and Sunday are catch up days where artists can catch up on themes they may have missed throughout the week. There are no time constraints or limitations on topics. Artists are encouraged to work at their own pace but the Sketch Dailies site will try to keep the work they share as up-to-date as possible with the most current theme. A handful of images will be featured on their homepage.

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If you’d like to learn how to share your artwork with Sketch Dailies or find out more about this new social media phenomenon check out the Sketch Dailies FAQs page.

If you’re looking for something to sketch and can’t come up with an idea head over to Sketch Dailies and see what the theme is and get drawing. Adding the hashtag Sketch Dailies to your artwork on your favorite social media sites might get you some new people looking at your work.

Interview with Children’s illustrator/designer Merrill Rainey

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I recently had the opportunity to interview the wonderfully talented Merrill Rainey (www.littlerainey.com). Merrill has been working as a professional illustrator and graphic designer for over 10 years. He has a very unique graphic look to his work, and I wanted to find out how he got into children’s illustration and how he developed his unique style, so let’s dive right in…

You are a graphic designer and illustrator – Can you tell us how you started out and how you ended up working in both illustration and design?

During spring semester of my senior year in high school, I headed to Kent State University in Ohio to meet with an advisor to schedule for fall classes. At that time, I was asked whether or not I wanted to be a painting or an illustration major. Not knowing what the real difference was, the advisor sent me down to the art building to look at the senior art show being displayed at the art building. While perusing the student work, I came across a series of of books with a familiar title; “Super Fudge”. I took note that this series of books had been redesigned and illustrated by a graduating student for their senior thesis. I was in awe of the work, and at that moment, I decided that illustration is what I wanted to do. I eagerly headed back to my advisor to tell her my decision. She then proceeded to enroll me into the illustration program. What I didn’t know until the following Fall, was that the program was actually called Visual Communications Design (aka VCD). Over the summer, my college class schedule showed up with a course called Basic Studio Skills. I couldn’t wait to start this class, and started thinking about what skills I would be learning. Would it be figure drawing, water colors, pen & ink…? The list of possibilities just went on and on, and I couldn’t wait to start.

Continue reading

Free PhotoShop Brushes and How to Install Them

Last week on a whim I threw away all my Photoshop brushes. Lately I’ve been feeling like my work has been missing some texture. I have a few brushes that I had been waiting to try and never did because I was stuck in my ways. I know that it’s not the brushes that make a good artist but I feel like I needed to change something and the brushes were the quickest and easiest thing I could think of.

By the way PLEASE don’t throw away your brushes without backing them up first.

This impulsive move has led me to several great places to find new Photoshop brushes. I thought I’d share some of these sites with you. Please be sure to download these brushes as soon as possible. They are free from each of these artists and they could remove the links at anytime.

First let me explain how you install new brushes into Photoshop.

  1. Before you install make sure that the brushes you’re about to use are compatible with the version of Photoshop you’re using.
  2. Next download the brushes. You may have to unzip the file so be sure to do that as well. The brush files extension should be .abr
  3. Now open PhotoShop.
  4. Once Photoshop is open click “Window” menu in the tool bar and select brushes Presets.
  5. Now select the drop down menu in the upper right-hand corner of the brush palette and open that menu. Once the drop-down menu is open select “load brushes”.
  6. Now find your saved .abr brush file and open it.
  7. The brushes you added should show up in the brushes palette near the bottom.
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Now onto the brushes. Please know that all the links below go to the creator of these brushes website and you will be going to outside pages to download these brushes. Continue reading

Sculpting an Illustration with Clay Illustrator Susan Eaddy

Let’s meet clay sculpting illustrator Susan Eaddy in the first of a two part interview about her process, children’s book illustration, and licensing artwork. Susan’s illustrations are fabulously detailed clay reliefs. Each form is designed, sculpted and attached – each part becoming a facet of the whole glorious piece. But even better than me trying to describe it, watch this short time lapse video as she creates colorful tide pool creatures for a Click Magazine illustration.

OUaS: How did you get the impetus to begin making the videos of your clay process? How have they worked as a self promo tool?

SE: I took a Make your own Book Trailer breakout from Chris Cheng at the 2011 LA Conference. It was so empowering that it basically gave me the confidence to tackle iMovie. I had to keep telling myself not to get perfectionistic, that this was supposed to fun, and I should totally revel in my amateur status. So I have! And that has released me to just play with the medium. The clay is so perfect for video-ing the process, and it has been a great self promotional tool. I started out videoing with my still camera and when I saw how fun, I finally bought a video cam.

OUaS: Susan is being completely humble when she describes these as a great promo tool… in fact her videos have been shown all over the world and even landed her a feature on the Parent’s Choice blog and a TV interview with Tennessee Crossroads.

In this world where everything is more an more digital what challenges do you find working in a most non-digital medium? What benefits?

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Final tide pool illustration

SE: Well, there are so many steps in my process and digital  certainly plays a part. I start with drawing, then composing, then coloring, either with pencil or on the computer, to figure out my palette. Then I do the clay. The clay is the most joyful part of the process for me! By the time I start the clay, I have figured out composition and palette, and I can get my hands dirty and figure out how to construct my reliefs. I’ve said it before, but it is this discovery process that I love the most. I don’t know HOW to make things until I just get in there and play. I often redo pieces and parts of the clay as I go along. Because you don’t really know if something is working until it is made. After the illustration is done, I photograph… again playing with light and angle until I like what I see.  When I put the digital files in the computer, THEN I can see how it translates to 2D and I notice things that I didn’t see before. So I usually shoot things anywhere from 5 to 15 times. I finalize all of my files in Photoshop and send digital files to my clients. Without Photoshop, I could not do my job.

OUaS: How do art directors/buyers react when you tell them about your process?

SE: Actually, it’s been a bit of a hard sell. Even the very visually oriented are often uncomfortable with a medium that is so different, and many are afraid to take a chance. Before digital was so common, art directors were confused about HOW they would get final files. But the digital age has streamlined that so easily that there is not so much confusion.

I was an art director myself for 15 years and I KNOW how tight and important deadlines can be. If an art director perceives that a process will take longer than normal they tend to shy away. When they look at my very detailed illustrations they assume that it takes me longer than other people to do an illustration. But that is just not the case. I have worked in ALL mediums through the years and the clay doesn’t take any longer than other mediums I have used.

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