After an amazingly full day one at the Schoolism Live in San Francisco, day two began with me running behind. The BART, Bay Area Rapid Transit, doesn’t run on its normal schedule on Sundays so I was late arriving at the conference. Instead of being 10 rows from the front I ended up being three rows from the back. Besides being in the back of the auditorium it looked to be a great day at the conference with some great presenters. The agenda for the day went as follows;
DRAWING CHARACTERS with Wesley Burt
CHARACTER ILLUSTRATION with Karla Ortiz
TBA with Iain McCaig
Wesley Burt (9:00am – 12:00am)
Day two began with Wesley Burt and for this workshop he focused on Drawing Characters. He began his talk about drawing characters by walking us through some of the projects he had work on and the characters he had designed for feature films. He showed us some of his character designs for Cobra Commander for the new G.I. Joe movie. He also helped design some of the new Transformers in the fourth installment of the movie franchise as well as many other images (Thor, Batman Arkham origins, and The Sims 4). His demo also walked us through his illustrative process. It was amazing to watch him draw characters. He did it so effortlessly it seem to flow so freely out of his hand. He did several rough sketches and finally settled on a anthropomorphic cat creature.
He spent probably about half of his three hours getting the under drawing just right. He talked about using basic shapes to design his characters like circles, squares and triangles. Once he had his under drawing to a place that he liked, he quickly began coloring it by using the hue and saturation adjustment to swiftly color his drawing. While he was drawing, he also shared some of his process while working with clients. Normally the first round he sends the client is 4 to 6 rough sketches of the character followed by a round of revisions and his third round is normally a colored image. He continued to talk all the while finishing up his drawing. Check out the images below to see how it turned out.
For her live demonstration she began with a mad libs that went something like “the blank huntress of the blank tribe is out hunting for food for her pet blank“. These blanks were filled in with Morgana, Mushroom and Bear cub respectively. She, unlike the other presenters, already had her under drawing completed so that we could see her coloring process and how she renders her image. She also used a lot of reference images but unlike the other artists she uses models for her illustrations. In this case she had a friend model the position she had in mind for this drawing and took several photographs of her standing in this pose. While she was rendering, she talked about the brushes that she uses in Photoshop. She uses a standard round brush, a round brush with texture and a square brush. While she was drawing she also played with the brush angle and roundness quite a bit.
Another thing that she talked about was artist injuries. Apparently she had been working herself too hard and hurt her wrist. The injury she suffered was a Repetitive strain injury (RSI). As she was drawing she had several warnings pop up on her screen telling her to stop and take a break. She gave us the names of this software – for Mac it’s call RSI Guard. Although she told us the name of the Windows equivalent, I don’t have it written down in my notes.
Iain McCaig (4:30pm – 6:30pm)
The final presenter of the day and conference was none other than Iain McCaig. He had quite possibly the best name for his presentation out of everybody with – TBA. I’m not sure why he named his presentation this but I’m pretty sure it’s because he wanted to keep it top secret. His workshop was probably the most lively and interactive of the bunch. Iain began by talking about his career and all the projects he’s worked on. The most interesting of all of these was his recollections of the Star Wars prequel movies. He talked about how he came up with the design for Darth Maul. George Lucas had challenged him with coming up with a new character like Darth Vader but not Darth Vader. Mr McCaig began designing new versions of the Sith Lord. He showed these ideas to George Lucas and none them stuck (Image below on the left). So he went back to the drawing board and thought about the most evil thing he could think of, a clown. He put a picture of a clown up on the screen. Everyone laughed. But then he explained how he took the face paint from a clown and instead of making it white he made a black and took the red cheeks and place them all around the face. The final design of Darth Maul is the image on the right.
I really enjoyed this story because it set up everything he wanted to get across in his presentation. Take something that’s already established and turn it on its head. He gave several more instances where he had applied this in his own career. He was asked to redesign fairies for Peter Pan but didn’t want to use the insect like fairies that had already been established. So he used lionfish as an inspiration for his fairies in this version of the story. Which leads us into the interactive portion of his presentation. We were tasked with redesigning an established franchise. He gave us several options to choose from, the room voted on which one they wanted and the rest of the workshop was spent fleshing out this new idea. The old franchise we were tasked to redesign was Beauty and the Beast. The first thing we needed to do to reimagine this property was to change the genre it was in. The room voted again and we settled on a horror movie set at a high school. We would shout out ideas and he would quickly sketch them on an overhead projector. The final story went something like this; Beauty, a boy who was the lead singer in the high school band, goes passed a haunted house and hears beautiful singing. The boy goes in and the beast, a girl ghost, is sitting there singing. The young boy falls in love with the girl’s singing but she won’t let him leave unless she takes him to the prom. That’s all I can remember. It was quite funny. Iain McCaig didn’t grow up in the United States, so the crowd had to explain to him what prom was and most of the concept of high school. His talk went over it’s time by about 40 minutes but I don’t think anybody wanted to tell the guy who created Darth Maul to stop. His presentation ended in a rush with him selecting two people from the audience that best represented beauty and the beast and he quickly drew them.
Main takeaways from this conference. Every single one of the presenters made it very clear that the foundation of your drawing is the most important thing and where you should spend the majority of your time. With out a good foundation you can paint like crazy, but you’ll still end up with a flawed illustration. Another thing I noticed is that every single one of the presenters did their paintings in Photoshop. Not that this is that’s strange it’s just I expected there to be a little bit of variety in the software used.
Overall this was a very good conference. Very inspiring and a lot of good information. I tried to share most of the memorable tips but there was definitely a lot more information given. I will definitely be attending next year.
Having grown up on the shores of Maui, Hawaii, Norm has always had a love for drawing. Since leaving the Islands’ beautiful beaches and landing in Oregon he went to college and received a degree in graphic design. Now living in Beaverton, Oregon, Norm has been working as a full-time graphic designer and illustrator for the last 12 years. He has spent countless hours perfecting his craft as a freelance illustrator working on several children’s books, a few video games and creating numerous educational products. His ability to draw has given him the chance to do the thing he truly loves — Create.
Before reading Creativity Inc by Pixar President Ed Catmull and Amy Wallace I wasn’t entirely sure what I could learn from a book written for creative leadership. I love Pixar and all they create but learning how their company runs didn’t really seem appealing to me at first. Well it turns out I was wrong. I learned quite a lot about my own creative endeavors as well as some thought provoking tips for life. Mr. Catmull has devoted his life to learning how to build not just a successful company but a sustainable creative culture and he shares his knowledge with the readers. Catmull’s purpose for writing this book is to not only to tell, but also to teach through his learned experiences. He talks about how he has seen many creative companies go off the rails and he wonders why? How does one build a successful company with a sustainable creative culture? He asks these questions and gives his answers to why.
Creativity Inc: Overcoming the Unseen Forces That Stand in the Way of True Inspiration is so much more than just a book for managers, it’s a wonderful tale of how Pixar was created while intertwining Catmull stories of how he became a manager himself and helped build Pixar in to the household brand that it is today. The book begins with a very young Catmull and his inspiration from Walt Disney. From there he explains how he gave up on his dream of becoming a feature film animator. Making the most of his talent in math he studied physics and computer science at the University of Utah. After finishing at UU he moved on to work at Lucasfilm and finally came full circle to his boyhood dream of working at Disney. Catmull tells an engaging story of how he fosters creativity at all the companies he’s worked at. “If there are people in your organization who feel they are not free to suggest ideas, you lose. Do not discount ideas from unexpected sources. Inspiration can, and does, come from anywhere.”
If you’re reading this post, I’m assuming that you’re a creative person and you’re interested in how the creative process works. Well this books process is broken up into four parts: “Getting Started,” “Protecting the New,” “Building and Sustaining,” and “Testing What We Know.” Throughout all of these sections he focuses not as much on the process, but more about finding the right people. It seem’s to me that this is more of the process at Pixar than anything. Be flexible and give creative people the ability to do what they do. Personally, I wish more companies had this motto but at least for the companies I’ve worked for these values are a little hard to come by. The book is not all about the Pixar process, it also gives fun insights into their movies like, did you know that the first plot for the movie Up revolved around a King that lived in a floating castle and his two sons were vying for who would be the next to sit on the throne. That’s nothing like the movie I saw. So how did they get there? Well, Pixar has A group of people called the “brain trust.” The brain trust is a group of Pixar’s most trusted creative people who get together every 3 to 6 months to try to work out problems with their movies. The movies are presented and this brain trust gives their suggestions on what is working and what’s not. I’d love to be a fly on the wall in these meetings!
The most poignant thing that I took away from the book is “Don’t wait for things to be perfect before you share them with others. Show early and show often. It’ll be pretty when we get there, but it won’t be pretty along the way.” That’s a quote straight from the book. I wrote it down because it really speaks to me. It’s something that I don’t do in my own creative process and need to begin to incorporate. Another quote that I loved is along the same lines, “if you seek to plot out all your moves before you make them—if you put your faith in slow, deliberative planning in the hopes it will spare you failure down the line—well, you’re deluding yourself. For one thing, it’s easier to plan derivative work—things that copy or repeat something already out there. So if your primary goal is to have a fully worked out, set-in-stone plan, you are only upping your chances of being unoriginal.” I hate to just copy this quote and be unoriginal, but there’s so much truth behind these comments I can’t help but want to share them.
My main take away from Creativity Inc. is that Ed Catmull is a very smart guy. He and Amy Wallace have written a brilliant book with tons of insight into the creative process. It’s amazing what Pixar has accomplished and it’s fabulous to get a look at there creative process and how they foster creativity. I personally listen to my books and I can’t wait to start this one again.
Let’s finish up our interview with clay illustrator Susan Eaddy as she discusses her current project and new opportunities in publishing.
Detail from My Love For You Is The Sun by Julie Hedlund, illustrated by Susan Eaddy
OUaS: You are in the middle of working on My Love For You Is the Sun, by Julie Hedlund, founder of the 12 x 12 Picture Book Challenge. The book will be published by Little Bahalia. Tell us how you first became involved with this project.
SE: I went to the Bologna International Children’s Book Fair in 2012. Sarah Towle, an amazing app expert & consultant gave Julie a consultation at the SCBWI booth. She told me, “Oh, you two MUST meet!” We had dinner together, and later met again at the LA conference where she bought Papa Fish’s Lullaby for her children. Julie had been in discussion with her publisher and her agent about this hybrid publishing model, and apparently her kids pressed her to ask if I would be the illustrator. I kept a blog about my Bologna experience; I think I may have mentioned dinner with Julie, but I had no idea where that introduction would lead. One truly never knows where an opportunity or collaboration will come from.
OUaS: The book is being published under the “hybrid” model of publishing. Most explanations of the hybrid model suggest that the risk is shared by the book’s creators and publisher – in this case that’s you, Julie, and Little Bahalia. Can you describe how the three of you shared the risk and how you will share the benefits once the book is successful?
SE: Yes, the advance payment is much smaller for this sort of project. ALL of us risk in putting a huge amount of work in the front end. I am madly working on the illustrations, Little Bahalia is designing and printing & positioning the book in the marketplace, Julie is not only the author, but the marketing guru, developing films, websites, and social media. It is a tremendous investment before the book is printed, but if the book sells well we will all do well.
OUaS: What has been your favorite part of working with this hybrid model? What would you do differently on your second hybrid venture?
SE: I have to say, working with Julie and Little Bahalia has been the best. We are all excited about the possibilities in this out of the box approach. And since it is a small group, we can brainstorm and be very creative in the process, without the sometimes kludgy experience of getting approvals from many people. Being small in this case equals being nimble, and we can publish more quickly. The whole process from contract to books in hand will take less than a year.
OUaS: What advice would you give a new illustrator who might be considering working with an author on a hybrid book?
SE: First, make sure you have a contract. Don’t just sign the first thing that appears to you, contracts are made to be negotiated, and make sure you feel good about your compensation, because once you have agreed to take it on you HAVE to do your best job. Secondly, if you plan to use Kickstarter or a similar crowd funding site, do your homework to figure out HOW to make it work for you. Julie has information about the process on her website. It really takes someone who is savvy with social media and networking to make a crowd funding project successful. I am naturally shy and am NOT good at that stuff. But Julie is great at it THANK goodness. So at least one of you in a hybrid project needs to be the designated marketing/social media guru. And of course, you have to have a project that you really believe in! Your passion will help you create work you can be really proud of!
Interior illustration from My Love For You Is The Sun by Julie Hedlund, illustrated by Susan Eaddy
OUaS: My Love For You Is the Sun is not your only book in production right now. You also have Poppy’s Best Paper coming out from Charlesbridge in 2015. What can you tell us about Poppy? Originally you wrote and illustrated it but then you and your agent decided to submit with a different illustrator, what’s it like to be the “writer’s seat” as opposed to the “illustrators seat”
SE: Poppy’s Best Paper came out of a Children’s Illustration class I took with Robert J. Blake. I polished the manuscript and created a sketch dummy in his class with a couple of sample clay illustrations. I started submitting it but I kept hearing the same thing over and over…the clay is not really a good fit for this story. I agonized & re-did illustrations for YEARS. Finally, Karen Grencik of Red Fox Literary asked me if I would be offended if they submitted my story with Rosalinde Bonnet’s illustrations. I looked at Rosalinde’s website, thought about it for about 30 seconds and said “Go for it!” Charlesbridge picked it up, and I have just seen the first round of sketches. I am THRILLED with her interpretation! I mean really, she has given Poppy a spirit and character that makes me laugh out loud. She TOTALLY gets her. I know that Poppy is in good hands now, and and one of the best parts is that MY job is done! At least until the book is published, and then of course I’ll be working like crazy to promote it.
Thanks Susan for sharing your wisdom and beautiful artwork in both posts! Readers, take a look at Julie Hedlund’s video for the original Kickstart campaign below. You can also see the original campaign here and read Part One of Susan’s interview here as she describes working as a clay illustrator.
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?
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.
Welcome back Once upon a Sketch and happy 2014! It’s been a long break but now it’s time to start a new chapter in OUaS’s history. We have a lot of great new voices that will be working on the site and I can’t wait to hear what they have to share with you. Since we have a lot of new voices we thought it would be good to ask everyone a common question. Everyone gave great answers so without further adieu here is our teams answer to the question “What we wish we knew before we started out as artists?” Continue reading
When I first started doing the Once Upon a Sketch Screen Casts I created a series of two videos about how I ink and color my drawings in Adobe Illustrator. Well, it’s been over a year since I created this set of videos so I thought I would share them again for those who haven’t seen them yet and even if you have seen them you might like a refresher. I just watched these videos again and learned things from myself that I had forgotten (which is really funny).
Some might ask why you would want to create inked looking vector lines in Illustrator when you could use another tool like Photoshop, Sketchbook Pro or Manga studio to get the same look. My answer to them would be, even though the two lines might look the same on the surface they are two very different things. The main difference between the two would be that vector lines are infinitely scalable and raster images are not. Example, a company hired me to design mascots to promote one of their programs, I created these characters using the same techniques shown in these videos and most were created at around 8.5in x 11in. With these images being created in a vector format it was no problem when the company asked me to create a billboard using the same artwork with no loss in quality when the images were blown up to about 600 times the size that they were created at. This would not have been the case if the images were created in the other programs. Now that you know why you would want to create this type of drawing, here are the two videos. The first is how to create inked looking lines in Illustrator and the second is how I fill in those lines using the Live Paint Tool.
The first video is about how I set up my brush tools in illustrator to get and inked looking vector line. I also use the blob brush tool to show you how to create a different type of line and describe the difference between the two tools. Continue reading
In our sixth episode we welcome our friends Donald Wu, Chris Jones and Mary Reaves Uhles to discuss the state of the freelance illustration industry. We talk about how the industry has changed, our uses of social networking to make connections and finally getting around to the mediums that we all work in. It’s a great conversation with good information.
Donald Wu –
Born in Hong Kong, Donald grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area after moving there as a child. Years of drawing doodles in school along with a love of comic books led him to study illustration at the California College of the Arts. While at school, Donald was introduced to many different mediums ranging from watercolors to acrylics. Although Donald started his career using traditional mediums, Donald has since made the transition to digital medium. Donald continues to reside and “doodle” in the San Francisco Bay Area. Website Agents website
Chris Jones –
I’m an illustrator with an expressive and humorous style that is fun and engaging. I’m equally comfortable working on picture books, or sequentially in comics/cartoons.Born near Toronto, Canada, and raised on comic books, red licorice, and Saturday morning cartoons, I’ve been drawing with a passion ever since I could hold a crayon!I’m a Graduate of the Ontario College of Art and Design, and a member of: the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators, and the Picture Book Artists Association. Website Twitter
Mary Reaves Uhles –
Mary Reaves Uhles has worked for over a decade creating art for children. Her pieces have been included in books and magazines around the world. Prior to beginning her career as a freelance illustrator, Mary worked as an animator on projects for Warner Brothers and Fisher-Price Interactive. To this day her work features a cinematic quality essential to bringing characters to life. Website Twitter
Norm Grock –
Norm Grock has been drawing since before he even learned to swim which is saying a lot considering he grew up in Hawaii. Since leaving the Islands’ beautiful beaches and landing in Oregon he went to college and received a degree in graphic design. Now living in Portland, Oregon, Norm spends countless hours perfecting his craft as a freelance illustrator working on several children’s books. With over 15 years in the children’s entertainment industry Norm would like to start working on his passions and create his own intellectual properties. Website Twitter
Wilson Williams, Jr –
I have been a professional commercial artist and designer for over thirteen years. My pens, pencils and wacom pen have been drawing and painting images from my imagination my entire life. My work is whimsical, fun and captures the measure of my spirit. Website Twitter
On Monday the SIGGRAPH Keynote was held and it featured nine distinguished animation directors Pete Docter (Monsters, Inc., Up), Eric Goldberg (Pocahontas, Fantasia/2000), Kevin Lima (Tarzan), Mike Mitchell (Shrek Forever After, Alvin and the Chipmunks: Chipwrecked), Chris Sanders (Lilo & Stitch, How to Train Your Dragon), Henry Selick (Nightmare Before Christmas, Coraline), David Silverman (The Simpsons Movie), Kirk Wise (Beauty and the Beast, Atlantis: The Lost Empire) and Ron Clements (The Little Mermaid, Aladdin). The panel was moderated by Randy Haberkamp of the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts & Sciences.
If you were unable to attend the SIGGRAPH Keynote panel, you’re in for a treat. The whole 92-minute discussion is posted online for all to see. The Marc Davis Lecture Series presented this panel, entitled “Giants’ First Steps”, which explored the student works and early careers of the participating directors. They discussed how they got started in the industry how they work through creative blocks and some discussed their challenges with drawing. They also talked about what they look for in artists’ portfolios. The more I hear working professionals talk about portfolios the more I hear “it doesn’t matter how good you draw it’s all about telling” a story and they reiterated this in their discussion.
I found their discussion very interesting and since I’m a fan of most of these movies, some even lead me to become an artist, I was really interested to get their insight. Very inspiring.
So many people think that getting an agent/rep is the end all be all. “If I get a rep then I know I will have made it and so much work will be thrown my way that I’ll have to turn stuff away!!” Yeah I used to think that too. So let’s get rid of that myth from the jump.
1. Getting a rep DOES NOT guarantee that you will get work! It is not the promised land!
Norm and I both have reps and we still have to bust a lot of pavement to get work. We have to constantly promote and market ourselves. Having a rep is a great tool and asset. But it’s just one tool in your toolbox and should never be the ONLY tool in your toolbox.
There are multiple ways to get work within our market. So look into all your options. Get info from multiple sources before you make your decision. Use every possible resource you can to your benefit. Maximize your opportunities.
In the following video Will Terry gives his opinions on whether an agent/rep is necessary. The answer to the question is, “No.” And truthfully they never have been. But Will goes into more detail about the current market and what it takes to be successful whether you have an agent or not. Enjoy, learn and as always, take notes!