Learning to draw (again)

I’ve spent the last year and a half learning how to draw again after a hiatus.  Everyone draws when they are a kid.  I don’t remember being really obsessed with drawing when I was a kid, but often wishing I could draw well (evidently not understanding it was something I’d have to work for).  I do remember some things that I would draw in junior high.  There was a flying serpent I drew a billion times in 7th grade, and then a cute puppy I drew a billion times in 8th grade.

I discovered Anime in the 9th grade, and that’s when I started being known for drawing.  I’ll go ahead and admit my first anime drawing was copying a picture of Sailor Moon off of my DIC VHS.  I actually got good at copying rather quickly.  I guess drawing what you see when someone has already done the line work for you is easy, relative to drawing from life.  In high school and a while thereafter, all I drew was anime, and most of that was girls (I probably drew a dozen guys or so in all that time).  Someone would tell me I should draw something else, and I would actually say “sorry, that’s not what I draw”.  Seems so silly now. I thought I was pretty good.  Character designs and pinup type stuff.

bllll_da_by_marimaru-d91k6p0
Dynamic hands was not my thing.

I still like a lot of that stuff from back then.  I should redraw some of those that I like and see how they come out.  Some part of me was determined that I’d get found and be given an art job, I suppose?  Life happened a bit, and when my oldest daughter was born, I pretty much quit drawing.  Two summers ago (5 years after said daughter was born) I picked up a sketchbook that wasn’t full and started just drawing the things around me.  The car, a tree, my daughters, etc.  I was pretty excited when that sketchbook got full, and the one after that.  Filling a sketchbook is a really accomplished feeling, and I love it.  I had an old set of watercolor paints that was given to me, and I broke that out and started adding watercolor to my sketches.  I also started 2 acrylic paintings that I have not finished (I will finish them some day, I am sure).  I’ve been through trying out a huge variety of supplies this last year.  Husband got me a subscription to ArtSnacks for my birthday last year, which has been AWESOME.  I’ve asked for something else this year, but if I ever get in a slump, I’ll definitely consider doing that again.  Besides, who doesn’t like a surprise in the mail once a month?

20160220_131247
A decent representation of the various supplies I might grab for any one project

In this recent time, I feel like I have really learned how to draw.  Between being willing to try to draw just about anything, and learning better how to draw what I see.  Husband often says to me “someone should make …” followed usually by a funny idea.  One day I realized that I could make those funny things he was talking about… at least make a picture of one.

 

Buttercup
This is Buttercup the Uni-corn.

Nearly all of those go into my Wunderlist now, and I try to remember to look at that list when I feel like I can’t think of anything to draw.  My lists have given me ideas for coloring books and calendars on all sorts of topics.  Some of my husband’s ideas can’t wait, and have to be done right away.  This turbeefin came from a dinner conversation that started based on the idea that the tacos I’d made had ground turkey and ground beef in it.

20151016_225207
“Someone should make a turkey-cow.  You know, like a World of Warcraft mount.”

Whether an image is beautiful or funny, the look a person gets when I’ve drawn what they had in mind is pretty cool.  I am working toward doing commission work, because I think that would be awesome for a while.  I’ve come to learn that I am going to cycle through a lot of things that in one moment or another are going to be ‘my thing’.  Right now, ‘my thing’ is watercolor (and anything related to it).  A few months back it was colored pencil.  Soon I’ll hopefully go back to acrylics and finish those paintings :).  I’ve been published in a book written by the awesome Alissa Oliverson , and that gave me a really huge boost.  It also really opened my eyes to what it might mean to do client work, in terms of drawing something for someone that I wouldn’t ever draw for myself, and still loving it.  

So I continue to learn how to draw (and otherwise art), and I certainly hope I am always learning, because if I’m not, I’m getting worse.  I think understanding that is what finally made me able to say that I am an artist, not that I am trying to become one.  🙂

Illustrate a saying

Getting Inspired

I’ve heard the phrase “trying to get my head wrapped around this thing” a million times, said in a handful of ways.  For some reason in a meeting one day the way someone said this, and the way his hands moved when he said he got me going down the path of this illustration.  To be honest I’m not sure about the colors, but I didn’t have a better idea when the Husband said the brain should be lime green, so there you go.

The Process

It used to be I’d just work on something until it was done.  Usually the paper was fried by the time I was done because of all of the erasing, but I never started on a new paper.  I always felt like when I did try to start clean on the same picture, there was some piece of it that was lost from the original each time.  I only mention that in hopes that someone will relate, and hear me say that it gets better :).

As I said, I was in a meeting, so I just did a quick doodle of the idea in my notes margin so that I wouldn’t forget it.  On the airplane ride home from that trip I worked on a rough draft in my Moleskin sketchbook.  It was the last page, and I promptly forgot about this for a bit when I shelved my full sketchbook.

wrappedaround1
water wash on the background

Once recovered, I decided I was going to do a process video.  Video editing is quite a bit harder than I gave it credit for, so the video will be a follow up, hopefully later this week.  ^_^;  (Update: This is now available!) First step was to redraw the head to larger paper.  I hadn’t done anything on the lettering, so the first copy I did was where I got the letter forms the way I wanted them.  I then traced the whole thing to a new paper.  Note to self: trace the drawing before you paint the rough draft next time.  Tracing will be easier.  *ahem* Once everything was traced and the video camera was set up, I used liquid mask on the letters so that I could do the background without worrying.  I then did a water wash on the background area.

wrappedaround2

I started dropping my background color onto the wet paper.  I love the way wet on wet watercolor spreads and you get kind of a cloudy effect, if you want it. Once this step was complete and dry, I moved onto the head area.  I similarly started wetting the spiral parts at the top and then dropping in some purples I’d mixed with the goal of a nice gradient.

wrappedaround5
I love liquid mask.  Need practice, but love it!

I did a few layers of purple on the face playing with the idea of more realistic shadows, but I ended up washing all that out in the end. I then started on the base color for the brain, and then got to pulling of the masking fluid from the letters.  Note to self: don’t get sick and leave the masking fluid on for an extra day.  It will ruin the paper underneath it.

wrappedaround7
gah!

 

Yup, the middle of the A ripped right on out when I pulled the mask off, in addition to a bunch of other little rips.  I decided not to let it get to me and just carefully moved on.  It makes me feel like this is more of a Final Rough Draft that I will definitely revisit later.

 

 

wrappedaround8

Another gradient for the text, and a bit of detailing added to the brain.  After this I used my nip pen to do the outlining for the letters.  It wasn’t my original idea but the paper fried from the mask, it seemed the best way to be as precise as possible.  I was still using water color here.  It’s a bit tedious, since you have to load the nib with the paintbrush (unless you mix enough paint for dipping).

wrappedaround11

I did the outlines for the head portion with a med/small brush, since I hadn’t masked that part off.  This when MUCH more quickly than the letters.  Having the details on the face filled in a bit sure made it pop more!  I rather like how a piece comes together during the outlining stage at the end when you’ve done it this way.  You can watch a number of mistakes not matter as those crisp lines start to go down.  Especially working with watercolor, which gets more beautiful the more you give up control.

SCN_0018
I love how the brain turned out.  Another example of crisp lines making a difference.

And there he is.  I hope you enjoyed learning a bit about my process.  It changes over time as I fall in love with a new way to do things and meld it in.  In the future I certainly intend to do more of these posts, as well as posts that talk about the supplies I like to use, etc.

Follow the @teamdrakeprod twitter for more of my artwork that is posted between our weekly blog posts!

Update 2/7/16: Below is the completed video.


 

 

Color Coder Beta

Hi there!  I’m Sarah.  I’m a wife and a mom, and I’m an illustrator who does web design/administration work.

Some time back I wanted something for keeping colors organized for my projects.  My husband, Mike, happens to be a software engineer, so he whipped me up something called syscolors.  It lived in the system tray, and it was a color pallet app, get it?  To use this: in edit mode I could add colors, other than that, I could click on the icon in the system tray, my palette would pop up, and the hex code for the color I clicked on would be in my clipboard.  That’s it.  Oh, and I had to keep the txt file it created on my desktop to keep my palette.  The neat part about that was that if I knew what colors I wanted I could open the text file and just edit my palette and the order of my colors at any time.  I almost never did that, though.  I used this tool for years.  It was in my windows startup stuff to just open if I restarted my computer, because I always got irritated if I was in Photoshop wanting a color and that wasn’t there waiting for me.

It’s neat having a helpful software engineer for a husband.  He’s also written me a password generator, as well as something he did for both of us that would scrub extra spaces from text copied into the clipboard.

Recently, he asked me what other features I might want to add to it if he wanted to update it.  He spend some time clacking away, and then had me check out the new version.  When I told him a list of people I could think of who might like it, we agreed more people might like it.  We’re releasing a beta for this.  If you found us and check it out, please drop us a line letting us know what you thought of it.  Features missing?  Anything not working the way you expect it to?  Please tell us!

What is ColorCoder?

ColorCoder is the solution to managing project color palettes for web developers and graphic designers.

Features include:

  • Organize colors in each palette
  • Manage multiple palettes in project directories
  • Color Grabbing from anywhere on your screen
  • Blend existing colors to create secondary palette colors
  • Random color generator for those moments when you just don’t know where to go next
  • Share palettes to collaborate with coworkers or friends
  • Move palettes to your desired location and lock them
  • Click the palette to copy the color hex to your clipboard, or into your keyboard buffer
  • Easy to bring into your workflow with any of your other programs

I really enjoy using it.  I hope that if it sounds like it might make something easier, that you’ll check it out.  If you think of a feature that would make it more awesome, do let us know.

Go to the download page.