Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Monday, December 24, 2012

The Explorer's Guide to Making a Cover: Part 3

See Part 2 here.

The Cover Painting: Preparing to Paint 

As I explained in Part 1 of this series, due to time constraints and other considerations, I decided I would draw and paint the cover illustration in separate layers, scan in the pieces, and use Photoshop to complete the image. With the drawing and color comps finished, next I needed to decide which creatures to group together for each painting piece. Those that were overlapping each other made the most sense to paint together.

I decided to paint the background, forest behemoth and flying fish as one piece which the other paintings would eventually be layered over.

Then, I printed the sand dragon, Marmoken warrior, sphinx and chimera on one piece of watercolor paper, and the Minotaur, crowned ibak and hydra on another.

The remaining creatures (the glass dragon, Paki, pancake glider, hook-legged bodeo, and lantern bat) would all be painted separately.

The following is an excerpt about preparing watercolor paper from my Explorer's Guide to Drawing Fantasy Creatures manuscript that didn't make it into the book:

"When using gouache, watercolor paper is a great surface. Depending on your preference, you can use a cold press paper, which has more texture and is able to hold large amounts of water for very wet washes, or hot press paper which has a smooth finish but can not hold heavy washes as easily. This demo was created on 140 lb. Arches cold press watercolor paper.

If you have access to a scanner to scan your drawings and a printer that can handle watercolor paper, the easiest way to transfer your finished drawing down to the paper is by simply printing it! Consult your printer's settings to see what size, shape and thickness of paper your printer can accept. Another option is to take your drawing files to a local print shop to see if they can print it on watercolor paper for you. You can also transfer your drawing the old fashioned way, using a light box to trace your finished image onto your watercolor paper. If you're feeling confident, you can also start a fresh drawing directly on the paper you plan to paint on. In that case, no transferring is necessary!

Once your drawing is transferred down to your paper, it's time to secure the paper to a rigid surface for painting. Watercolor paper tends to buckle when a lot of water is used, especially at the wash stage. If you don't want to deal with annoying ripples and wrinkles in your paper, stretching the paper is the answer.

1. Prepare a rigid surface, preferably any type of board that can handle staples. If you can find a wood soft enough, you can use a light duty staple gun to staple your paper down. If you prefer not to staple your paper, you can also use brown gum art tape, which sticks the painting to the surface when wet. You must leave space on the sides of your painting when you use this tape, however. Because it sticks permanently to the paper, it must be cut off of the painting when you're finished.

2. Fill a utility sink, large basin, or even bathtub with water a few inches deep. Immerse your watercolor paper in the water for 2 or 3 minutes. When you remove the paper, hold it up and allow the water to drain off the surface. The paper should be thoroughly saturated after having soaked up water.

3. Spread the paper out onto your board and staple all around the edges, keeping the staples a few inches apart. Make sure the staples are close to edges of the paper, not in the actual image area of your illustration. You don't want holes in your final picture!

4. Tape off the edges of your painting with artist's tape, up to the borders you wish to define. This will give your painting a crisp edge and will avoid water spillage over the sides of your paper, preventing a big mess.

After your paper has been stapled down to your board and is completely dry and flat, it's time to start painting!"

Want to see this process step by step?
Then watch this excellent demo of the paper stretching process made by Terese Nielsen:

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

A Link to the Past

A few years ago I accepted a project on which I worked mostly in my off-time...mostly. It was a project that unexpectedly spanned several years, much to the dismay of the small and dedicated group of people with whom I was working. I was happy with what I was doing, but incredibly embarrassed about the length of time it was taking me to do it. The project was a privately commissioned sculpture of Link (from the Legend of Zelda video game series) that would become a model kit for the group members' personal collections––not to be reproduced or sold.

When I finally completed the sculpture, I sent it to Joachim Höstlöf for clean up, and a few months later, I received my copy of the kit from the project coordinator, Derek Kan. I admired the excellent casting job, then carefully packed the kit pieces away in a box, hoping I'd have the time to put it together and paint it someday. 

Derek's kit was completed last December, and he's sharing the process of the sculpt's creation from its humble wire armature beginning, to its beautifully painted completion on his website.

The finished kit, painted by John Allred.

I would not have been able to finish the sculpture without the encouragement of the group, and definitely not without the help of Joachim, the very talented model builder and sculptor who made the beautiful shield and swords and prepared my sculpture for the the molding and casting process.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

The Explorer's Guide to Making a Cover: Part 2

The Cover Painting: Color Comps

It's hard to believe, but it's been a whole year since I last posted about the making of The Explorer's Guide to Drawing Fantasy Creatures cover. Whoops! Instead of making another massive post, I've decided to break up what's left into more manageable segments with the hope I can finish the series in a more reasonable amount of time.

In Part 1, I discussed the process of creating the drawing for the cover to The Explorer's Guide to Drawing Fantasy Creatures. Now I'll move on to the making of the painting.

First, I wanted to do some color comps. Since the creatures had all been painted previously for the book's interior art, I already knew what colors to make them. But I still needed to work out exactly what I wanted to do for the background of the image. I knew I wanted something simple since the focus is on the creatures. Additionally, I needed to leave some space uncluttered for the cover text. I also wanted a very colorful cover, so I skipped what would typically be the part of my color study process where I try to work out a specific color palette.

To do the studies, I printed several tiny versions of the cover drawing onto a piece of watercolor paper and blocked in the color quickly with gouache. I only painted the creatures once, painted a few backgrounds, and then scanned everything in and played with various combinations in Photoshop.

Study number two became the model for the final cover image.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Spectrum 19 is Out!

I received my copy of Spectrum 19: The Best in Contemporary Fantastic Art yesterday. It's a big hardcover with 304 pages full of artwork! My pieces can be seen on pages 54 and 82. Vinod's concept art piece is on page 116.

Spectrum 19's glowing Brom cover.

I'm honored to have my Explorer's Guide cover art next to a beautiful Scott Gustafson piece.

There aren't usually many spot illustrations in Spectrum, so I was excited that The Crowned Ibak was chosen.

Monday, November 19, 2012

GeekGirlCon 2012

GeekGirlCon immediately preceded Gen Con Indy this year. In my scramble to prepare for Gen Con and finish assignments that had piled up during my absence, I neglected to post about my first GeekGirlCon!

GeekGirlCon is a young convention at only two years old, but it has already developed a unique character. The atmosphere was welcoming and accepting. Because most conventions focusing on fandom surrounding things like comic books and games are male-dominated, it can occasionally be intimidating for women and girls to attend. I myself have been harassed at conventions in the past for no other reason than attending while female. Here, people were welcomed to celebrate their interest in geekery (stuff related to science, media, and the arts) regardless of age, gender, sexual orientation, or ethnicity. Everyone was encouraged to participate as much as they felt comfortable; to cosplay, sit in on a panel, or simply hang out and take in the con.

Panels at GeekGirlCon covered serious issues including harassment online and lack of diversity in pop culture, as well as fun topics like discussing a favorite sci-fi TV show, geeky crafts, and tips on costume-making. I regret that I was unable to wrest myself away from my table to attend any of the panels, but if I return next year I will definitely try!

My display at GeekGirlCon 2012.

And now...more profile sketches, this time from GeekGirlCon!

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Make Your Holidays Cuter!

Shameless self-promotion alert!

The holidays are fast approaching! Looking for cute greeting cards to send the family? I've got your answer...

...right here!

These holiday greeting cards featuring a Pancake Glider from The Explorer's Guide to Drawing Fantasy Creatures are available as single cards or packs of ten or twenty at my Etsy shop, Fabled Earth Art. And, if you don't mind waiting 'till almost the last minute, they'll be on sale for 20% off starting Friday, November 23rd through Monday November 26th!

If you're looking to do some easy online holiday shopping, I also offer prints, blank note cards, sketchbooks, and original art at Fabled Earth Art, and signed copies of The Explorer's Guide to Drawing Fantasy Creatures and my volume three sketchbook Journey are available to purchase through my website.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Postcard Illustration from the Suffragist Era

Today is Election Day in the United States. Yesterday, I came across an opportune article about the Suffragist movement in the late 19th and early 20th centuries and the illustrated postcards that argued for and against women obtaining the right to vote. It's interesting (depressing) to note that some of the arguments haven't changed much over the past hundred years when it comes to gender roles and issues that affect women.

I love the idea (still alive and well today, especially on cleaning product commercials) that certain tasks are dismissed as "women's work" until men do them. Then they're suddenly soooooo hard!
Palczewski, Catherine H. Postcard Archive. University of Northern Iowa. Cedar Falls, IA.

Rose O'Neill, the illustrator famous for creating the Kewpies, was active in women's fight to win the vote.
Give Mother the Vote!, 1915
"Give Mother the Vote!" women's suffrage poster. Chromolithograph published by the National Woman Suffrage Publishing Co., artwork by Rose C. O'Neil, 1915. Missouri History Museum Photographs and Prints Collections. Women's Suffrage. N20256.

For more about the postcards, check out the Palczewski Suffrage Postcard Archive.

If you live in the United States and haven't already, don't forget to go out today and exercise your right to vote!

Sunday, November 4, 2012

An Award Nomination for The Shadows that Rush Past

The Shadows that Rush Past has been nominated for a 2013 Forest of Reading® Silver Birch Non-Fiction Award by the Ontario Library Association! In connection with the book's nomination, the author, Rachel A. Qitsualik, fellow illustrator, Larry MacDougall, and I have also been nominated.

From the Forest of Reading® website:

"The Forest of Reading® is Canada's largest recreational reading program! This initiative of the Ontario Library Association (OLA) offers eight reading programs to encourage a love of reading in people of all ages. The Forest® helps celebrate Canadian books, publishers, authors and illustrators. More than 250,000 readers participate annually from their School and/or Public Library. All Ontarians/Canadians are invited to participate via their local public library, school library, or individually."

The award ceremony will be held at the Festival of Trees™ in Toronto, Ontario on May 15th and 16th, 2013.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Friday, October 12, 2012

No Reason

Election season is upon us in the US. For the past few days I have been mesmerized by this video. It. is. so. weird.
(More substantial posts coming soon! Promise!)

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Summer Convention Costumes

Attending conventions is a fun opportunity to share and discuss my work in person with the rest of the world. The only drawback to occupying a table at a convention is my inability to experience the rest of the show. It can be difficult to make the rounds in an art show even if I manage to show up before the doors open to attendees, I miss out on attending interesting panels, and rarely have the time to shop in the exhibition hall. (Shop was the only thing I did when I started going to comic cons in high school!) I also miss seeing many of the costumes during the convention, but I do manage to catch a few that come through the art show.

Here were some of my favorites:

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Abandoned Savage Dragon :(

Adopt me!
Someone came by my table at Gen Con and asked for a sketch of Savage Dragon on a blank sketch card. I obliged (he is lucky that the random artist he picked to draw this character actually knew who it was and could draw him without reference) but then he never returned to pick the card up. Poor Savage Dragon! I didn't want to throw him out since I did spend time sketching him, after all. Would anyone like this abandoned card? Cover the postage and I will happily mail it to you!*

*Edit: The card has been spoken for and is being shipped free of charge. Thanks!

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Sketches from Gen Con 2012

I do a lot of sketching at Gen Con in copies of the books I sell, in fans' sketchbooks that are filled with drawings by a variety of artists, and even on some unique surfaces like rubber playmats (used for playing card games) and dice bags.

A few of my favorite sketches from Gen Con (with apologies for the poor digital photos):

Each year Gen Con holds a charity auction to raise money for a non-profit organization. This was the dice bag I decorated for the auction.

A Sharpie drawing on a playmat–not the most forgiving surface!

This sketch was drawn in a handmade journal. The request was for a sketch and a brief narrative suggesting that the journal belonged to an explorer in an historically–based fantasy world.

You may have noticed a bit of a trend. Profiles are faster and easier to draw well in a busy convention environment.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Gen Con 2012

Finally, the post you're probably no longer waiting for!

Evidence that Gen Con is under way in Indianapolis.

Gen Con 2012 began for us much like Gen Con 2011 did: with little (okay, I admit it was actually no) sleep and an early morning trip to the airport with luggage packed within fractions of a pound of the weight limit full of art and prints. Once the bags were collected in Indianapolis and hefted over to the convention center, setup went like usual, although this year we were setting up two tables; one for me and one for Vinod. The most difficult adjustment we would have to make was running our separate tables alone until our friend arrived on Friday afternoon to help us.

Any trepidation about either of us being able to fill more panels than we had in the past soon disappeared.

This year our row neighbors were Tyler Walpole, Dan Scott and Scott Murphy. The art show Guest of Honor was Todd Lockwood, a veteran in the field of fantasy art. Todd helped define the look for the characters and creatures of the Third Edition of Dungeons and Dragons. His dragon designs in particular are equally sleek and powerful, visualizing a classic mythological creature with majesty and realism. Those of us who worked on illustrations for Third (and 3.5) Edition D&D became well acquainted with his drawings as we referred to the high standards set by Todd when we made our own dragon images.

The convention began on Thursday, and it was unusually busy for the first day.

On Friday, I had the opportunity to catch up with editors Vanessa Wieland and Christina Richards from F+W Media (publisher of my book under the IMPACT imprint) whom I met for the first time at Gen Con last year. Christina edited The Explorer's Guide to Drawing Fantasy Creatures.

Friday evening after the exhibit hall closed all of the artists gathered for the annual art show reception where we were finally able to mingle after a busy couple of days at the convention center. The reception wraps each year with the announcement of the Gen Con art show award winners in several categories. Imagine my complete surprise when it was announced that Guest of Honor Todd Lockwood, Wizards of the Coast art director Jon Schindehette, and last year's Best in Show winner Scott Murphy had selected my work for Gen Con 2012 Best in Show! What an honor!

Scott Murphy, Todd Lockwood, me, and Jon Schindehette at the artists' reception.

Cool-looking crystal trophies come with responsibilities. Next year I will be joining the Gen Con 2013 art show Guest of Honor and an as-yet unnamed art director to judge the 2013 art show awards. Gulp!

The Explorer's Guide to Drawing Fantasy Creatures at the Gen Con art show.
Sketchbooks and samples of prints for sale at the show.
Good news continued during the remainder of the convention. The Explorer's Guide to Drawing Fantasy Creatures was once again a hit after a slow start on Thursday and Friday. All but one of the books I brought sold. My sketchbook, Journey, also did well this year with a record twenty copies sold. I was also happy to have sold several original paintings. It's always a plus to go home with lighter suitcases and fewer boxes to ship! Table traffic on Saturday and Sunday was almost overwhelmingly busy, so I apologize to anyone who stopped by and did not have the chance to chat with me or otherwise get helped in a timely manner!

Thank you to art show coordinator Barbara Fisher and the rest of the Gen Con staff, all of the artists, attendees, friends and everyone else who helped to make Gen Con 2012 our best show yet! Can't wait to see you next year!

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Lessons from Gen Con

The print you didn't make is the one everyone wants.

Seriously, I got, like, thirty requests for prints of this painting of The Living Island from The Explorer's Guide to Drawing Fantasy Creatures. I would be slightly more wealthy today had I realized it was going to be so popular. Not to worry, though-I will be creating some 13 x 19 prints of this illustration soon, and when I do, it will be available for purchase online or in person at conventions next year.

The Living Island

I have been planning to write some convention wrap up posts, especially to share some exciting news from Gen Con, but I had to jump back into the projects I was working on immediately upon returning home. I will do my best to post about this summer's con experiences if I can find room for some breaks!

Monday, August 6, 2012

GeekGirlCon Floor Map

GeekGirlCon Artist Alley map

GeekGirlCon is less than a week away! I will be at table number 412 in Artist Alley, which is located in the exhibitor hall, rooms 304 and 305 on the third floor of The Conference Center.

I will be signing and selling copies of The Explorer's Guide to Drawing Fantasy Creatures, prints, self-published sketchbooks collecting my sketches and drawings, and original RPG and fantasy paintings. If you'll be at the convention, please stop by to say hello!