Archive for the ‘Illustration’ Category

TV Ladies of 2017 – process

Friday, January 5th, 2018

It was fantastic to see so many female characters on television this year, and an ever-growing number of female-led shows – really good ones, too! I think most of my current top favourite TV shows feature women leads. Drawing real-life people isn’t usually my thing, but all these awesome ladies made me want to push myself and give it a go.

First thing to do was compile a list of everyone I wanted to include. Some honourable mentions that didn’t make the cut include Rachel Brosnahan from the surprisingly entertaining The Marvelour Mrs. Maisel (who I sketched separately a few days earlier), Sansa from Game of Thrones, and Tulip from Preacher. I bet I missed a ton of others, because even though I watch a LOT of TV, I haven’t watched ALL of it. Yet.

The next step was creating a rough composition, where the placement, size, direction, and in some cases pose of each character will be determined. As you can see, at this point it’s rough enough that I have to write down names even for myself.

TV Ladies 2017 - layout

Then comes the part where I remind myself that drawing real-life people isn’t usually my thing and wonder what have I gotten myself into. But Queen Lilibet inspired me to go on; one must power through! The sketching phase is where I flesh out the character and define their expression – based on what I feel works for them, but also influenced by the reference images available.

TV Ladies 2017 - sketch

The next phase is refining the sketches with cleaner lines and working more closely with the visual reference, mostly for the likeness, but also for clothing and accessories. It looks a little like this while I work, except usually the photos are on the right side. It took me a good long while to work out it’ll be better if they were on the right because I kept hiding them with my left hand. Lefties can be very silly like that.

TV Ladies 2017 - references

Here they all are, crisp and clean. Each one is on a separate layer so I can easily move them around if needed.

TV Ladies 2017 - pencil

Moving on to colour, I create a base for each character (again, all separate layers) and make sure the different skin tones look right, on their own and in relation to one another. The reference photos had a huge range of tones due to lighting, so it was kind of a guessing-and-adjusting game.

TV Ladies 2017 - base colour

Stephanie Beatriz (Rosa from Brooklyn 99) was super duper awesome and shared my artwork on Twitter with some really lovely words, so I’ll spotlight her to show the process zoomed-in. The top row is the process so far. Then I add specific colours, using the same method shown here, of adding colour layers as clipping masks, so I don’t have to worry about “painting outside the lines” of the base colour layer I created earlier. Next I add some soft shading (basically just a purple layer set to Multiply, masked as needed). And the last bit is adding some details – small highlights, clothes/hair patterns etc.

TV Ladies 2017 - colour process

They all underwent the same process and came out the other side, looking colourful. Mmmm, too colourful.

TV Ladies 2017 - colour

Now comes the part I usually struggle with most when it comes to colour: taking all these individually painted or coloured elements – that work just fine on their own but kinda clash with one another – and combining them into a single cohesive piece. Thank goodness again for digital tools, I have no idea how I would even approach something like that in traditional media. But in Photoshop I try out various adjustment layers set to all kinds of layer modes until things look better. This time I also tried some actual filters, an area of Photoshop which I usually steer clear of, and they gave some interesting subtle effects (which might not even be visible in the end result, to be honest). Here’s the piece after some adjustments.

TV Ladies 2017 - adjustments

Add some flair to the background and some more graphic treatment to the border, and here’s the final piece, and what turned out to be my most shared artwork of 2017.

TV Ladies 2017 - final


Cutlasses without Captains

Monday, September 25th, 2017

Another Richard commission! My third project for Richard should have been a cover for a game that already had some character design done by someone else. It still sounded like a fun project, but then Richard said “actually, let’s do an illustration for a pirate game instead”, and I was ON BOARD and (wo)manning the cannons.

As usual, Richard provided wonderfully detailed specs and references, which led to this not-quite-rough sketch.
Cutlasses Sketch

After some notes, we were happy with this:
Cutlasses Sketch

And I moved one to cleaning the lineart and fine-tuning the details. The greys here are just to separate the different planes of the drawing for easy (albeit super dark for some reason) viewing before colour.
Cutlasses lineart

For laying down colour, I used the layers that had I already separated as base, and added the different colours as clipping masks – meaning that whatever I painted on them would only show within the bounds of the base layer. Here’s what it looks like:

This is more or less what it looks like after this stage (although the background has already been treated here):
Cutlasses flat colour

The next step is light and shadow, which I add either with Adjustment Layers (Levels, Curves, or any other mysterious tone-adjusting controls I happen to stumble upon) or Solid Colour layers set to Multiply for shadow and Overlay for light. These special layers are also clipped to the base layer, on top of all the different colours.
Cutlasses colour

And this is the point where I usually stare at the piece and wonder why I don’t like it. Often it’s because I’ve been working on it for hours and have lost all sense of judgement, but sometimes some adjustments to colour and contrast and a few small details can make the illustration pop a little more. I wish I was better at this stage, of knowing what needs to be done to make it GOOD, and when is it okay to say enough.

Here’s the final piece, which Richard was happy with. And so am I! It feels piratey. Richard posts updates about Cutlasses without Captains here, check it out.
Cutlasses without Captains


Teen Detective

Wednesday, July 26th, 2017

Here’s another commission from Richard Williams, this time for his Veronica Mars inspired C’thulhu Dark hack “Teen Detective”, which you can read about as it progresses here. He requested an illustration of three teenage girl detectives of varying ethnicities, body types and personalities, in a composition with one main lady in the front and two supporters to her sides. The style he was after was like my Bad Bones Lawrence character design.

Tip for commissioning artwork: adding a reference image that shows the style you’re looking for – lines, colour, cartoon/realism, flat/3D, level of detail – is really helpful. It means the artist knows what they’re aiming for, and the client knows they’ll get a result close to what’s in their mind’s eye. Picking a reference image out of the artist’s portfolio is even better, because it shows that a) you’ve looked at the artist’s body of work and chose them specifically; and b) the artist has worked in that style in the past, so it’s in their creative “arsenal”.

Richard also wanted each character as a separate image, so we started with Main Girl (naming not being our strong suit at this point). First I sent Richard two options for her design and pose:
Teen Detective: Main - concepts

He picked the left one, and asked that I make her convey “the cynicism of the private eye, the sense that she can read your guilt on your face, and her status as an outsider”, as well as give her sliiiightly more asian features to make her look more mixed race.
Teen Detective: Main - sketch

After a couple more adjustment to her outfit, I sent a rough colour version to make sure we’re on the same page before I move on to the long process of painting.
Teen Detective: Main - rough colour

Colour doesn’t come naturally to me, so I prefer to start rendering in black and white to get the tones and shapes right, and only then apply colour. Here’s the black and white version, which I also sent to Richard to make sure I didn’t veer off the original sketch too much, which can often happen with painting.
Teen Detective: Main - black and white

And lastly, the final colour render, with all the details and patterns and stuff.
Teen Detective: Main - final colour

It was a good call to go through the whole process with just one girl first, because after looking at everything, Richard found the rough colour version appealing in its cleanliness and simplicity, and asked for the other two girls to be in that style. If needed, we could always pick up from that point and go the full painting route in the future.

So for the other two girls (named “Snoop” and “Tough” for work process purposes) we went through the same steps, starting with two quick options each.
Teen Detective: Girls - concepts

A little mix-and-match and some outfit comments later, here’s the clean pencil artwork for the two girls:
Teen Detective: Girls - pencil

And finally, the finished illustration in flat colour:
Teen Detective: Girls - colour

You can see Richard’s progress in the game’s Google Plus collection page. I’m looking forward to being a cool teenage detective when the game is fleshed out!



Space party, table of seven!

Wednesday, July 12th, 2017

I was recently commissioned by James, an Edge of the Empire GM, to draw his campaign’s party. He runs a game for his two friends and their five children, which is so cool. How does the saying go, a family that harnesses the light side together, stays together?

He sent me descriptions of all of their characters, along with helpful links (because I warned him in advance my Star Wars knowledge is limited to what I’ve learned from the Bacta Basics segments on the Campaign podcast), and we agreed on a police lineup type poster, because they’re a bunch of scoundrels (and I’ve literally *just now* learned that Timothy Zahn’s book “Scoundrels” features the same image style on its cover. So…force-sensitive minds think alike, I guess?).

Here’s the layout I created to make sure I got the body shapes, heights and poses right, and – following James’s approval, the clean sketch.

Edge of the Empire party: layout sketch

Edge of the Empire party: pencil

For colour, James mentioned his friends’ family had a system where each member has their own colour for stuff – water bottles, backpacks etc – so they know what belongs to whom (apparently that’s helpful in a family of seven people). I loved that idea – both for real life and for the poster – and tried to incorporate each person’s colour in a clear, but subtle enough way.

This is what we ended up with, which I hope the party likes! You can read their adventures on their Obsidian Portal adventure log:

Edge of the Empire party: colour

May the Force be forever in your favour!



A Town with Pep

Friday, June 23rd, 2017

I finished the illustration for A Town with Pep – the Riverdale-esque game by Richard Williams – that I showed a process for a few weeks ago. Below are the ink and finished colour stages.

A Town with Pep - ink A Town with Pep - colour

Did you spot the difference (other than, well, one being in full-colour)? After seeing the finished piece, Richard mentioned that for a title illustration for a game called “A Town with Pep”, there’s very little “town” in the artwork. Luckily we found just the right spot to quickly build a little settlement, complete with a small factory that I borrowed from one of the early background references Richard provided. There’s always some pep happening around a factory.



Wednesday, May 31st, 2017

This year I learned that May is apparently mermaid month, in the sense that everyone draws a mermaid every day. Some people uploaded really spectacular ladies (and gents) of the ocean, do check out the hashtags!

I only managed a few at the beginning (some of them might seem somewhat familiar) and one for the last day, which also happily coincided with World Otter Day.