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Schoolism Live San Francisco 2015 – Day 1

Today, July 18th, I was able to head to downtown San Francisco to go to a live Schoolism event. This workshop featuring some pretty amazing artists. I got a two day pass for this conference so I was able to learn from some icons of the entertainment industry. The weekend agenda went as follows;

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Day 1
STORY ILLUSTRATION with Helen Mingjue Chen
COLOR AND LIGHTING FOR ILLUSTRATION with Ryan Lang
PICTORIAL COMPOSITION with Nathan Fowkes

Day 2
DRAWING CHARACTERS with Wesley Burt
CHARACTER ILLUSTRATION with Karla Ortiz
TBA with Iain McCaig

The first day began at 9 o’clock and I walked in about 20 minutes early. I got checked in and picked up my swag bag which had a water bottle in it and a few other Schoolism items. The event was already starting to fill up, so I found a spot about 10 rows back and got ready for the first workshop – Story Illustration with Helen Mingjue Chen. Helen began her 3 hour lecture by walking us through her career so far. From her start at Disney, working on movies like Wreck-It Ralph, PaperMan and Big Hero 6, and into her current position, as an Art director at Paramount. From there, she walked us through a short presentation on what she thinks about when telling a story through illustration. It was a good talk with a lot of good information. My big take away from this workshop was that you need to think of your illustrations for movies as quick reads. The moment you’re depicting will only be seen for a few seconds so the viewer needs to get the information you’re trying to tell in a very quick amount of time. The example she used was if someone had just passed away and you wanted to show the loneliness that the person is feeling you would put them in a room by themselves with all the loved ones old possessions surrounding them. A spot light from the door would highlight the character casting everything else in shadow.

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Then she moved on to the live portion of her workshop where she did a live drawing of an environment scene that she came up with right on the spot. It was an image of two cities. One was upside down in the sky and the other was below. The city on the bottom was fairly normal but the upside down city in the sky had lots of Gothic cathedrals and felt much more old timeie. I thought for her just coming up with the image right off the top of her head it turned out well, but she didn’t seem to be particularly pleased with it. However, she did do a really cool trick when creating the lower city. When she created her perspective grid, the vanishing point was right in the middle of the image, and then she said she likes to “cheat”. Opening a new document she began drawing simple shapes that depict the city as if you were seeing it from the top down. These were just rough square shapes but when she put them back into her illustration she adjusted them to fit her perspective grid. It just gave her a starting point for her to quickly rough out the city. For me I’ve always had a hard time creating large cityscapes and this seems like a great way to get the illustration started quickly. I mentioned this to another attendee and they looked at me like “You don’t know that” so maybe I’m just a noob but, I thought it was a helpful tip.

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She began working on the top city looking up plenty of reference for different Gothic cathedrals. When that was done she quickly ruffed out a character for the foreground and began adding lighting.

Next up was an hour long break for lunch and after that we returned to hear Ryan Lang talk about Color and Lighting for Illustration. This talk was similar to the first, but Ryan began his talk with a short YouTube clip that he said describes his illustration process. Here’s the video.

Similar to the first presentation, Ryan walked us through his career taking a look at movies he’s worked on like Disney’s PaperMan, Big Hero 6 and Wreck-It Ralph. Then he began walking us through a short presentation about his thought process for creating an illustration. This presentation had several very solid tips. He didn’t want to go as far as calling these rules but more like guidelines that you should keep in mind. In his talk, he said that most illustrations he creates are done in five values of gray or less. The guideline he gave was; 0% black, 30% black, 60% of black, 80% black, and 100% black. Another good tip he gave was if you look at the Photoshop color picker the left side of it is all gray. The top starts at a pure white and the bottom left half is 100% black. Anyone can see this just by looking at it but what he talked about that I hadn’t heard was about the other three sides. The bottom half is 100% black but the top half runs from white being in the upper left-hand corner then moving to a 50% value in the upper right corner. Of course you can change the color of this but I didn’t realize that the top right-hand corner was essentially 50% of a value. Then moving down from the upper right corner down to the lower right the value turns to 100% black. I never thought of the top right hand corner as a percentage of grays because the color changes depending on what shade you want.

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Once his presentation ended he began showing us several images that he was going to use as reference for his live drawing demonstration. These images were of destroyed buildings which he was going to use as reference for a giant Mech standing on top of them.

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He began his image by finding the lightest light of his drawing and the darkest dark and began roughing in the rest of his shades of color. Ryan did his value studies in color which I hadn’t seen before. Most people I’ve seen do their value studies working only in grays and adding the color later but Ryan worked differently. Doing his value studies in color. He worked on the rough value study for the better half of two hours and then finally began refining the image for the last 60 minutes. The image turned out really well. Ryan seem to be a pretty funny genuine guy. He turned his robot into a turtle mech which got a pretty big laugh from the crowd.

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Snagged from Ryan Lang’s Instagram

The day began wrapping up with a half hour break and then the final presenter of the day was Nathan Fowkes. My mind was struggling to find room to hold any more information but Nathan had every intention of filling every last braincell I had. Which wasn’t a good thing, because I don’t know if any of you have ever heard Nathan Fowkes talk before, but this guy has a lot of knowledge to share. Which lead to a lecture that had a lot of information in a short amount of time. His lecture was about pictorial composition. He began this workshop more like an art history class and talked his way through old masters and how he applies what he learned from them to his own work doing visual development for movies. The majority of his talk was about unity with variety; big vs small, hard vs soft, dark vs light, active versus passive and saturated versus desaturated. Next he talked about how everything you see is made up of hue, saturation and value. The end of the presentation finished up with Nathan showing several videos about how you can take one illustration and change the mood of it just by changing the lighting. For instance he created a castle illustration and changed it to feel six different ways. The first was a very iconic lighting scheme with the light shining through the spires of the castle. Then he took the image in a different direction moving to something that was much more moody like a zombie film.

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He then reworked the image to have a storm blowing in. To accentuate this he added a lightning strike hitting one of the castle’s towers. Finally, he finished up with a bright sunny “my little pony” version of the castle. I wish I could remember more about this presentation but my mind was on overload at this point. Sadly my notes didn’t really help. My brain and my hand weren’t communicating anymore, so they were just illegible scribbles.

Day one wrapped up with a group photo and a whole lot of really crammed brains.

Since I’m a Schoolism Alumni I can get you a small discount. If you’re interested follow the link here to get the discount code.

About the author

  • Norm GrockNORM GROCKContributor, Founder

    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.

3 YouTube Drawing Channels You Should Check Out

The Internet has changed education so much since I was in school. It provides so many great resources for people to learn from.  Anything from home improvement to learning how to play the guitar can be learned. Almost anything is on the web. It can also help you become a better artist. One of the best places I have found to help me better my art skills is YouTube. There are so many channels out there dedicated to art it’s hard to find a good place to start. So here’s just a few of the YouTube channels I frequent to help better my art skills.

Proko TV – https://www.youtube.com/user/ProkoTV
We have talked about Proko on the site before but this content bears mentioning again. The site offers high-quality production and the amazing insight given by Stan Prokopenko, not to mention he takes art subjects and makes them pretty entertaining. Proko TV has instructional How to Draw videos. The drawing lessons are approachable enough for beginners and detailed enough for advanced artists.

CGMasterAcademy CGMA – https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCJKxFIEmsfDEs-B5F6IGoIg
CG Master Academy (CGMA) is an online community dedicated to helping artists develop and cultivate their creative talents. Filled with some of the best tutorials on YouTube, their online demonstrations will help aspiring artists in their goals of becoming industry artists.

FZD School – https://www.youtube.com/user/FZDSCHOOL
And finally, I enjoy the FZD School channel.  This channel is made by the instructors at FZD School of Design which provides an education in entertainment design. Even though this is partially an advertisement for their school it is a great resource for learning tips and tricks for creating production artwork. They talk about how to be a professional, what to put in your portfolio and many many other topics in these almost hour long videos. It’s a good source of inspiration for me.

These are just a few of my favorite YouTube channels. If you have any that you think should be added to this list please leave them in the comments and we can continue to add to this Post.

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.

About the author

  • Norm GrockNORM GROCKContributor, Founder

    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.

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