Friday, October 21, 2011

More Crits!

I will be updating this post as I get more crits in. I will try and do one or two a day for the next week until we are all finished up.

Our next lovely image comes from a long time friend of mine, LA-Fairy. As her name implies, she enjoys drawing fairies. Before I begin I must say that her art has made a great improvement over the years.

That being said here are the changes I would make. First, you are thinking linearly instead of in terms of light and shadow. There is no clear light source and there seems to be conflicting shadow areas in the face versus the rest of the body. So I decided to go with the body shading and take it from there. That means there is a lovely primary light source to her upper right, our left. Light source is very important because it determines how the form will be rendered. Be sure to have a clear light side and a clear dark side with consistent values on either side.

One other thing, the first thing I noticed when I saw this image was that the contrast was very very low. If you put a layer of black turned to saturation mode you will see very quickly that your figure is hard to distinguish from the background. With that in mind, I separated her from her background onto her own layer and popped the contrast immediately on both layers. Contrast is very important. It helps guide the eye to know what to look at and to better understand what is being seen.

Here is the finished contrast difference:

Taking what you already did in the legs, I fleshed out the forms more to show roundness while thinking about core shadow. Core shadow will be perpendicular to the light source and in this case ought to hit about halfway in her thigh and legs with variations based on the volume and roundness. From there I added some cast shadows hitting her thighs. I altered her shoulders and chest to make them more painterly instead of fully outlined. This gives the illusion of depth and will make your work more realistic. From there I changed the hair to include a clear light and shadow side instead of just strings of light and dark. I also added some large chunks fanning outward from her face as that is what would happen if she were really flying around. Also, as I played with the light source I could soon see that the shadow was in the wrong place. The shadow will be at the same angle as the light source. In this case, it is slanting in from the left so the shadow needed to be moved to the right.

I did alter some proportions as I went along. Mainly, the shoulders were a little out of place and the hands and fingers were too small. I didn't bother with reference so you may want to find some or if you do have some, think about proportion and size in relation to the rest of the figure to really get those areas down. Lastly I added some soft green rim lighting to define the form on the other side of her. One thing I did not play with much was the background. You will want to spend more time thinking about how it relates to the figure. You'll notice I did crop the image as there was too much empty space and the composition was getting a bit boring. Perhaps in the future you may think about having a more dynamic pose. Studying line of action may be of help.

Overall, I think you just need to think about light source and contrast. I would also think about the purpose of each image you create. Is it meant to be on the front of a greeting card? Should there be more of a background? Or is it a quick character concept? These are things that will change how the work evolves and what should be included.

While doing this critique I realized that in the future I will want to live stream these so I can explain exactly why I am doing what I am doing when I paint over them. I think it will be a great resource to everyone who wants to know why I make these changes.

Our next image comes from Chris.

As this image is coming from a beginner, as he called himself, I will keep my critic simplified. What I do see are some large blocks of color which is good for starting out. It looks to me like you used some sort of photo for reference. This can be okay to do from time to time but I have found that in the beginning stages of learning art, drawing from life helps you to see shapes 3 dimensionally. This allows you to understand the correlation between spacial planes to a higher degree than drawing from a 2 dimensional photograph where you have only one flat view of the object/subject matter. Also, starting by drawing cones, blocks, and eggs are a great way to focus on learning how to render value without worrying about complex shapes typically found in the face and figure. This is what I recommend for most beginners. Once you have mastered that, drawing portraits would work the same way. Basically, you would want to think in terms of light and shadow and not in terms of drawing the eye, the nose, and the lips. What I mean is, instead of drawing element by element, draw the general blocked in shapes of light and shadow. Turning your image upside down will also help you see these relationships without thinking about your predetermined notions of what an eye or a nose should look like. As this particular piece is in the early stages, and I don't have the reference you used to look off of, I think a paint-over may not be helpful. I will however recommend that you show some sort of a light source as this will help you give some depth to your work. As it is, the large blocks of color don't have enough range of value and look a bit flat. For a beginner however, the proportions look to be in about the right place. If you can do this freehand, you will have a far greater advantage than if you trace, so try to do it freehand whenever you can. It will keep your skills sharp. ;)

Thanks so much for your patience! Expect another one tomorrow!

Friday, October 14, 2011

Perfect Perspective Every Time

So I was browsing some art forums lately and I came across an amazing perspective tool from

It's a tool that adds instant perspective to your canvas by adding path lines radiating from a circle. The simplicity of it is ingenious. These circles are easily re-sized or moved to fit the perspective you have already established or to quickly build it up from scratch. I recommend watching the video tutorial as well.

It came during a particularly useful time. After spending hours mocking up a ship for a book cover using a mechanical pencil, a long metal ruler, and several computer papers taped horizontally to see my distant vanishing points, I realized it wasn't receding drastically enough for the composition. Luckily, I was able to plop the vanishing point tool directly into my canvas, line them up the way I wanted, and draw it again digitally with much less hassle. Whew.

I recommend this tool for just about anything! I can't wait to use it in more environmental works. It's easy to forget about perspective in character art but it's still an important principle to remember, especially when rendering cylindrical objects and ellipses or feet. (If you aren't going to use perspective in your portraits at least be mindful of your eye level as I have discussed before.)

And yes, that is why I haven't updated with all of the remaining crits. I have been working really hard on this new steampunk periodical called Clockhaven Chronicles due to be published mid November. I've done 3 illustrations for the project and I am very excited. It's all done so expect the rest of the crits shortly.

And in other news, Ballistic Publishing contracted me to do a tutorial of my Elven Concept piece which will be featured on page 130 of Exotique 7. It will be included in the DVD for those who pre-order the book. In it I narrate my process including line of action, keeping your values close in range, and light sourcing. A quick step by step video can be seen in the resources section of my website. It was a bit weird trying to put it together as I have never used video production software before, but I was tickled to death when I heard back from the folks over at Ballistic. They said it's probably the best walkthrough they have ever received! =D My trial version of camtasia is already up, but after feeling my way around it I think I may try an open source program and make more tutorials.

Speaking of resources, I posted four free texture packs on my website. These are free stock images with no usage restrictions. My camera is crap, but I've still found them useful.

Stay tuned for more crits and thank you all for your patience!

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Crit Day!

Hello hello! It's time to begin our crit day extravaganza!

Our first piece comes from Jonathan A Moore who graces us with some lovely Star Wars/X-men work (click for full view):

The first thing I noticed about this piece, aside from it's epic subject matter of course, was the strong lighting throughout. The lighting was rendered with confidence and I am impressed. This is a good example of showing the difference between cast shadows and form shadows as cast shadows (like that shown under the assailant's arm) are sharper than form shadows (like the gradual shadow on Han's cheek). A lot of digital art I see nowadays have shadows with soft transitions and it ends up looking a bit blurred.

That being said, I do see some room for improvement. I feel there isn't enough mid-tone in Solo's face and you may have gone just a tad too far with the sharpness. The transition from the dark side to the light side (haha) is a bit drastic. I also wish there were more saturation throughout to really make the image pop. It looks to me like white was used to brighten, and black was used to darken. In general, I don't recommend this as your colors become dull quite fast. Instead, try using a slight tint to your highlight and for shadows, add more saturation as you go darker. In this case, I think the highlight color would work well with yellow and orange hues to reflect the desert environment outside. Adding a slight overall color will really help pull it together and make the whole illustration look cohesive.

The area with greatest contrast is Han's face, which is great as you always want your focal point to be the area with greatest contrast, but the background has so many different light and dark values and details it's getting a bit busy. I would add a layer of soft color over the background and reduce the opacity until I got to a good balance of foreground to background. A way to avoid having this problem in Photoshop is to check your values as you create the piece by starting a new layer on top of everything, fill it with black, and set the layer to saturation. This will give you a great view that can easily be turned on and off to show you how your values are working.

Here's my "after" (click for full view):

And a side by side:

And here you can see the difference in contrast:

Our next piece comes to us from MeMilly:

The first thing I noticed was the lack of strong light source. It seems more of a soft ambiguous light. Instead of thinking of things like individual objects, a leaf here, grapes there, a face, etc. think of everything as having planes and shade accordingly. Like this:

Now you can more clearly think about where light and shade should fall. It looks a little like the image has a light source is coming from the front, a little up, and to the right. With that in mind, I would shade the face a little bit differently. I would focus on the highlights where the plane changes shift causing specular highlights that catch the light just right. With frontal light, the sides of the face should darken to help them recede into the background so I added some shading to either side of her face. I also enlarged her forehead as it looked a bit too small (typically, the forehead is the same distance from the brow to the hairline as the brow to the tip of the nose in a frontal view). I added a little texture, and I changed her hair quite a bit. It seemed to me like it would make more sense to have her hair be wet like her face. Wet hair clings to the head and is darker throughout with sudden specular highlights.

The background didn't have a lot of form. It looked like leaves just drawn in without regard to form. Again, think of plane changes. The sides of the grapes needed shading to show the overall curved form a vine of grapes would have. Likewise, the leaves should have shading to push the tops of them back into space and show some cast shadows from the leaves above them.

Lastly I added some more color variance to give the picture more interest. I realize this was a color challenge and you had a limited color pallet to work with, but I felt this gave it more interest.

Now I didn't really spend enough time on this to call it done as it stands, rather this is a starting point for MeMilly to take it to the level she wants. I hope it was helpful.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Crit Day! Post before the 11th and get cc!

Hello hello! It is a glorious day (and no I am not just referring to it being my birthday). The sky is blue, the air is a cool 76 degrees, and life is good. Thanks for all the warm messages. Let's celebrate with my first ever crit day!

Post a link to one original artwork of yours and I will offer my critiquing services to the first 10 who post artwork here (I'll be surprised if I get more requests, but if I do I will try and get to yours as time allows). You have one week to post your work. On Sunday the 11th I will begin critiques. It's okay to post works in progress although I would prefer the image be at least somewhat complete. Loose sketches are too early of a stage.

If this goes well, it's something I will try and do often. It's a small way of saying thank you to all my followers and watchers. Truly, I am very glad to have had so many people take an interest in my work and my blog. My ultimate goal for my website and blog is for it to be a resource to other people. I can't tell you how much critic has helped my work improve. I wish I could get in depth critic on all of my work but now that I am working for commercial clients I find that non disclosure agreements have heightened my respect for some good ole cc.

So go ahead and post away! ;)

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Ways for hopefuls to break into the industry

It's a curious thing to me to see so many people ask about how to break into the industry. I may not be a well known name in the industry, but I have my foot in the door and there are some great bits of truth I have discovered in my short journey (mind you I've only being serious about digital illustration since February of this year). Despite my short time in this field, I've suddenly found a pouring of illustration offers coming my way. I am ecstatic. I wish I could post what I have been working on, but know that I have been working hard.

One thing I have found to be true from all of this is that people take your art as seriously as you do. I first came upon this phrase while reading an article on the five fears that can destroy an artist. First and foremost, a serious artist spends some serious time working on art but that alone will not get you work. After building my portfolio, I realized I needed a professional web presence to be competitive. Soon after creating my art website, revitalizing this art blog, and posting on I found illustration offers pouring in. I couldn't believe it. What I gather from this, is that by creating a professional space to showcase my work and declaring myself an illustrator boldly on my homepage (granted I had only done a few personal commission at that point but you have to start somewhere), I showed people that I believed in myself. I also let my family and friends know what I was up to. I wasn't just doing art as a hobby anymore. I was serious about it and working hard. It was an attitude adjustment and people can tell that I have changed. I used to be embarrassed to let my friends see my work. Not anymore. It is what it is and it was time to own up.

That isn't always enough. The next step was getting my website seen. That's where my deviantart account and posting on art forums came in handy. I wrote a journal to let my watchers on deviantart know where to find my work online, but what really has helped me branch and network has been the simple and yet powerful act of posting critics and offering insight on People were curious about this person they had never heard about. I've always been of the mindset that you have to give a little to get a little. Helping others and cheering at others accomplishments is a win win. By commenting on other people's blogs and taking part in online discussions you become visible. You aren't going to get much traffic by getting your website up and twiddling your thumbs. And you never know who is going to be a good referral. Networking is very important when it comes to this industry. Another great way to get your work seen is to take part in challenges and contests. My work is in the current ImagineFX magazine again for winning the monthly challenge and this time my new website will be printed beside my work. With so many people scouting for new talent such a thing could only help, not hurt.

Now there are even better ways to get your name out there. Putting yourself on networks like or cloroflot are great ways to get your work shown to potential clients right away. Setting up tables at conventions and meeting people in the industry is also a great way to get your name out there, or so I hear. I want to do this soon, but I simply don't have enough work to sell at this point. It is something I hope to do in the near future however.

So to sum things up, how do you break into the industry? First, make good art, second, create a visible web presence, and third, network. So get out there and make it happen!

Do you have any tips on how to break into the industry?

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Ah sweet internet, it's so good to see you again!

Ever get cut off from the internet and feel absolutely lost? My internet was down all day yesterday and while the frustration was eating away at me I was able to hunker down and do some drawing and my productivity was much better. Makes me want to sign up for that selfcontrol app I heard about but sadly it is only for Macs. For now I'll have to try out a similar extension for Firefox called leachblock. Distractions are dangerous and I am guilty of surfing news sites when I should be drawing.

With a lot of commissions pouring in at this time (yay), I really want to up my productivity and the speed at which I work so that I can get more art in every single day. I was supposed to get up this morning at 5:30am and get to drawing, but after the hubby woke me on his way out the door for work I soon fell asleep again. Drats! I didn't used to try and get up at ungodly hours of the morning. It wasn't until I read this mind altering article on the differences between professional artists and amateaur artists that I decided it was time to make a change. Still, it hasn't been easy being a stay at home mother to two very young children and get art in, but if Brad Rigney can be a stay at home dad and do work for top clients like Massive Black then I can find a way!

Maybe I need to create a crazy schedule like this guy. What I like most about it, is that he always puts time in for studies to keep learning every day. That is something I yet to do- once I start on a commission it is usually my only project until it is completed. But by following a schedule like this I might be able to work a couple of projects at once AND still get in some practice speed paintings.

My next problem is speed. I want to be able to make a decent income doing this but I can't get in enough projects in a month to make it work yet. I know that part of it comes down to how much I charge for my services, and with time that rate will increase. Until then, I need to draw draw draw and push myself to get past working on details at an early stage.

My last steampunk piece is a great example of how NOT to do a piece. I started out planning to make a very soft elven maiden drawing for Exotique 7's call for entries. I soon realized that I can't do uber soft like Melanie Delon and it was time to do my own take. Problem is, it took me nearly 20 hours to get to that point and I had only worked on the face. Then I decided to take it in another direction and spent countless other hours trying to fix artistic problems that should have been solved early on in the thinking process. All in all, the piece took entirely too long. During that time I could have been working on another concept portfolio piece (these pretty characters are fun to do, but they aren't your typical commercial type of art). Sometimes it's best just to move on and get to the next project like . Oh well, lesson learned.

I'll be creating my own schedule here soon and try to stick to it! So how do you balance art and life?

Sunday, July 17, 2011

The sincerest form of flattery perhaps? Copying vs Reference

As many of you probably know, there is a well known fantasy artist who recently was accused of pasting elements of several other peers works into her own and painting over them. This artist has since sold these images in her books. Now this news did interest me as I was a fan of her work, but it interests me even more as one of the artists she is now accused of stealing from. Whether her affirmation that she hand painted everything is true or not, it did get me thinking that perhaps this is a great time for healthy discussion about the use of "reference".

Now there is a large divide in the world of art. Those who happily use reference images they find online and those that shun the practice. In case you wondering, I put myself in the "happily uses online ref" category. Let me explain why.

I define reference as some sort of imagery, whether perceived naturally or through photos/videos, which is used to help draw/paint/sculpt a new piece of art. Referring could mean a quick glance to establish a similar mood, color combinations, or to brush up on creature anatomy, or it could be in depth copying with methods such as "gridding" where the image looked upon is copied almost exactly. (Tracing is a different method and involves copying and pasting, projecting, and painting over other imagery and is another discussion altogether).

Now the debate isn't so much about either method, but whether or not the person using said imagery happens to have permission to use copyrighted images for reference or tracing/painting over. The answer may surprise you. Under most copyright laws in the world, as long as the imagery created is a "derivative" work and not a copy, it can be used as reference but copying and pasting someone's work into your own without permission is a much more dangerous practice. However it is important to mention that what is allowed under law is not necessarily looked upon with acceptance in prominent art communities.

Now I had a professor in college who does commercial art for clients based in California including Disney and other big name movies. As someone in the field, he explained to us that art directors don't care if you don't know how to draw a turtle from memory or not, if you have a project due at the end of the week you had better have an anatomically correct rendering of a turtle. Say there are no turtles around- you had better humble yourself and find some online reference. So how do you use online reference and still feel good about yourself at the end of the day? I find the key element to all of this, is to what extent you refer to something.

Referring to me, means looking at something, learning from it, and making something new. It means creating something similar with different angles and perspective, lighting, or mood. It's okay to look at online reference, and even other artwork. For example, below I have two images, one a reference image I used to create the other.

Character by ~akizhao on deviantART

Elven Concept by `lithriel on deviantART

Now if you look the images are almost identical in mood and color combinations but they are entirely different in every other way. This type of referring is usually called inspiration but it is reference all the same.

The best way to use exact reference, as my professor explained, is to build up your own library of stock photos, or buy them online if you must refer to something directly. No amount of reasoning can save your hind end should you use something copyrighted and get your publisher sued.

Now there are some times when copying directly can be a good thing, like when doing master studies. However studies are used for learning and not for making money. Even fan art, which I have done my fare share of in the past, can be a fun release provided you give credit where credit is due and don't profit off of your work.

So where do you draw the line with reference?

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Simplification and it's grand rewards

Greetings all! Guess what? I won the ImagineFX challenge again this month! :D Now I think it's time to step aside and give it a rest. I might still do the challenges but I won't post them in the finals. Here's the final winning image (but you can give me some crit over at

It's nicely rendered, but I'd really like to loosen up my style. I think if I had a more defined style I would be a lot further along in getting into the industry. As it is, I border on being forgettable. Looking around some art sites, I've been greatly inspired by works like this:

FAFN forest defenders by ~Pervandr on deviantART
And this guy who blows me away-

I love how each stroke defines the form and yet doesn't over define it. It reminds me of the very powerful statement I read recently in a great art tutorial-
"The advantage art holds over photos is simplification. In a photo you'll get distracting details. When drawing, you can remove objects that aren't relevant to the scene. "

Each and every stroke should add something to the piece. If it's not needed, you shouldn't add it. That is a substantial thought. It really made me think. Hope it makes you think too. ;)

And here are a few quick sketches I've done in the past week trying to loosen up.

Ref- link

I still have a ways to go as you can see but I am trying.

During my studies this week I have discovered a way to replicate that really nice hard brush look I see in concept art. My hard round brush just wasn't doing the trick. So played around and discovered that the "oil heavy flow dry edges" brush set with low opacity and low flow gets close to the effect. Anyone else have a different technique? I used it for the tornado speed paint above. Here are my settings:

And as stated I have joined some more art communities. Leave me a message and we can hook up:

Thursday, June 2, 2011

A Word on Eye Level

Many times in illustration we need to draw several subjects and objects in one scene. One mistake I have seen even the pros make is having multiple eye levels in one piece. What’s the big deal, you say? Well if your entire scene has the same perspective then eye level should be the same across the entire piece. There should only be one eye level.

What does eye level even mean? Eye level is the point at which you, the audience, is viewing something straight ahead. So if you were looking at a telephone pole at just 2 feet away you would have to look down to see the bottom of the pole and up to see the top but if you looked directly ahead you would see the middle of it.

How does that translate into the art world? If you are drawing a medieval dwarf up close at typical eye level (most people are about 5 to 6 feet tall) you would need to draw him as if the audience were looking down on his head. If you were drawing a tall monster terrorizing that same dwarf at close range, your eye level would hit maybe at the monster’s knees and you would be looking up at said monster’s chin. The problem occurs when you are looking down on both the monster and the dwarf because that’s not possible unless you as the audience is viewing the scene up in the sky, get me? You need to draw the monster in perspective in relation to the perspective already established in the rest of the scene.

Another time I see a problem is when I am looking at say, an illustration of a group of really cool people all standing behind the hero in an awesome v formation (because in the hero world everybody stands like this naturally). The illustration is looking so awesome, until I look at their feet. What’s wrong, you ask? I’m seeing everyone’s head at eye level and their feet too. You can’t do that remember? One eye level only please. I only have one set of eyes and they happen to be right next to each other not at my feet too.

In the case of looking at feet at eye level the bottom of the feet would be straight across. But if I am already looking at their heads at eye level, the feet should not be straight across. It’s either/or not both. If their feet are straight across then we need to be looking up at their heads.

Think of it like taking a picture of really tall buildings from ground level.
See that crazy perspective? Figures are the same way when you are looking up from feet level.

The effect is reduced the further you stand back. If you were looking at the tallest man in the world face to chest, the effects of perspective looking up would be drastic whereas if you were looking at him from 50 feet away, it would be more subtle. If you happen to be looking at him from miles away and from up on top of a hill, you would actually be looking down on him because the eye level is the horizon.

Another quick word about ellipses. Just FYI- they follow perspective too. Go get yourself a cup, yes really, go grab one. It will help you understand this principle.

Now hold it right in front of your eyes. You should be seeing the cup straight across. Now hold it at elbow level and closely watch the shape of the opening. It goes from a straight line and morphs into an ellipse. Now set the cup at your feet. The shape of the opening is now a full circle. Now pick up the cup and hold it above your head. Look at the shapes of the ellipses. You can’t see the opening anymore. Remember that as you illustrate. All too often I see the tops of cups I shouldn’t see the tops to. Any cylindrical object above eye level you won’t see the top to unless it is tilted forward. And notice how the ellipses are wider the more you look down. Most people draw them in reverse. They draw the top of the bottle sitting on a table with a nice wide ellipse and the bottom nearly straight across. This is wrong.

Let’s recap.

There is only one eye level.
If you have already established eye level with one figure, the other figures in the scene need to be in perspective relative to what you have already established.
Feet should never be straight across unless you are looking at feet level
The eye level is the horizon.
You can’t see the tops to cylindrical objects above eye level unless they are tilted.
Ellipses get wider the further you get from eye level.

Yes, you can break the rules. Just make sure you know you are breaking them and break them on purpose. Happy illustrating!


Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Evolution of an Artist- the advice of Daarken AKA Mike Lim

Ever feel like your art isn't good enough? We've all been there. I'm there right now at this very moment, but there is light at the end of the tunnel. Digital Illustrator Mike Lim shares his long journey as an artist with us in his recent blog post, Evolution of an artist.

He talks about his ever changing art- from his humble beginnings to his latest and greatest work. Along the way he gives fantastic advice about how to keep pushing yourself, and even offers a few well kept secrets about breaking into the industry:

"The reason I was able to get work without having to go out and find it for myself was because I had a very strong online presence"
Mikes states. "I posted on many different art forums, I had a website, a blog, and I made a lot of friends and contacts in the industry."

I have always believed that having an artistic network of friends is vital not only for the sake of your career, but for the sake of inspiration, motivation, and critic which helps to push you forward. These things may seem small but as Mike has demonstrated the payoffs can be huge. So if you are new to the art game I suggest joining all the biggest art communities:

The Art Order

Participate in the challenges, give critic to others, and accept critic with an open mind. This has helped to bring me to the level I am at currently, but I have a long way to go still. Just to give you an idea of my own progression, here is my first digital painting in August of 2009 (which I am totally embarrassed to even show), and here is my current work in progress:

The biggest difference I have seen from then to now is my transition from painting "typical pretty girls" to a more storytelling approach. This is a marked improvement because I have gone from a very reference heavy approach to a "make it up from your mind" take.

But remember how I started this post about saying how I don't think my work is quite where I want it to be? Give me three years and I know I could blow your socks off. Even in three years I will feel the same because there is always room for improvement.

Like Mike Lim states,"never give up... If being an artist is something you truly want to do, be prepared to put everything else aside in order to achieve that dream." And that ladies and gents is why I have been crawling into bed at midnight and getting up first thing in the morning to get in as much art as I can. I am committed for the long run. And if you are too, then get out that tablet and get drawing. That is the best advice anyone can give you.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Another Win Another DD

Surely one of these days someone is going to say something about how many DD's (daily deviation features) I've accrued. I'm up to 4 already as of today and it won't be long before people have had enough of me, I'm sure! =p My failed FEZ contest entry held by Deviant Art was chosen for the honor today and while I am quite proud at my contrast work with this piece it has several flaws. It didn't even make into the semi-finalists.

I wish they had just waited a little longer because I was seriously thinking about revamping this piece for my portfolio. There is such nice contrast and lighting going on and it's one of my most successful thumbnails or "reads well from a distance" pieces. Again I owe a shout out to the guys over at FZD School of Design for their amazing tutorials which frequently go over this very concept. However it's very low resolution, and I desperately want to rework some areas that I just ran out of time to address.

And would you believe it? I also won the April Monthly challenge over at ImagineFX? That means I will most likely be published again which is way way cool. :D At the same time though, my current monthly challenge (which I had the honor of choosing), has a much more complex and epic entry in progress which I feel merits publishing over last month's entry hands down. Here's a sneak peak:

Thursday, April 28, 2011

The Secret to good lighting- Beyond the Darkness

I have decided to enter the ImagineFX monthly challenge with the theme of "Beyond the Darkness". Along my journey of creating this piece I have pushed myself and have seen the fruits of my labors. You too can learn the secret to good lighting.

Several ideas popped into my head for this great theme and I sketched out several variations of different ideas. However, I realized I was entering the competition very late in the game (with a little over a week to go) and with a newborn in the house it would be better to do something less complex and more closeup. In the end I chose a rather typical image of an angel looking up into the light. The reason why I chose this is simply because I was itching to digitally paint a child and it seemed to fit the magazine's usual imagery well with emphasis on sci-fi and fantasy characters (which you should always think about when entering a competition) and it seemed to fit the theme best though rather straight forwardly.

The theme of "beyond the darkness" was the perfect opportunity to stretched my lighting skills even further. In my studies I have discovered that the secret to great lighting is knowing the difference between cast shadow and form shadow and NOT being afraid to create hard lines in your illustration. Don't be afraid that the shadow is going to look weird, just DO IT! You'll soon find that hard shadows in the right place makes your illustration look far more realistic.

I plan to do a tutorial very soon on lighting as it is one of the most successful tools in my arsenal. It was one of the most important things I learned during my classical art training in college but I didn't know how to properly implement it in an illustration setting until recently.

Next I want to push my illustrations to show more depth like the works of Glen Rane, Patrik Hjelm, and Steven Argyle.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Some Yummy Concept Art

A recent speed painting concept of mine:

As I have begun building up an illustration/concept art portfolio, I have wondered, what makes a good concept art piece? Concept art in and of itself is vastly different than illustration. As an artist is it sometimes good to have a solid grasp of both. From my research I have discovered the following:

Concept Art establishes mood, atmosphere, and scale. It should show value, space, and composition. Concept art should read well from a distance. Use value to establish a focal point and a clear idea. Perspective also is of great importance. Concept art is a means to an end. It isn't meant to be shown directly to an audience like illustration but handed to a team of 3D modelers and texture artists. Therefore if your perspective is off, it is harder for someone else to work with what you have. It may be confusing, or be impossible to replicate in a 3D environment.

Concept Art subject matter varies and so should your skill set. Concept art can be anything from character design, creature design, storyboards, machinery design, and environment design. Films usually have the budget to hire artists for each specific category of concept art but game designers usually need fewer artists with a wider range of skills. It's also a good idea to show both organic and inorganic elements.

A great resource for concept art is the site FZD School of Design. They have several video tutorials which go over everything I have just described above. Check them out if you have a chance.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

I'm Back!! DAZ Studio and W.I.P. Podcast

Sorry for the long absence. I switched over to deviantart as my main art account for a while but I am back. I'll be posting art and links to great resources on here as I continue to build my art portfolio and find useful links.

Speaking of which, there's a great group of artists who get together and critique artwork the first Wednesday of every month- W.I.P. Podcast I posted my work last week and got some great critique on my latest piece. Here's the before and after pictures:

As you can see, I changed the hair and finished the legs. Much better. I tend to fall into the trap of making my subject matter "pretty" instead of realistic and the most helpful comment was to give the hair as much dynamic movement as the rest of the piece. It's ALWAYS good to have another pair of eyes catch the things you don't even notice.

Check out the forums as well. There's a great little community over there for people to post work. It's a great stepping stone for beginners just getting into things who want to get critique. Also building a network of artistic friends is a great way to get your foot into the industry. Plus, you can't go wrong by offering others some helpful comments. The podcasts are very informational as well.

Another great resource I stumbled upon was a link on The Art Educators Blog about DAZ Studio- a great 3D resource for posing. I've played around with it a little bit and it looks promising for getting reference for poses that are hard to catch (like action poses) and for getting reference of body types that are hard to find. I'll play around with it some more but I'm not sure how useful the program will be when my 30 day trial is over. Plus you really need to buy a couple of packages for it to really be useful and I'm not keene on putting a lot of money into something that is supposedly free (but all the content costs money). The picture to the right is a quick snap shot I took of an action pose. Cool stuff, no?