Jaunty Witches and Things Without Faces

With all this 3D modeling type learning under my belt I want to start putting together some animation examples for practice and to populate my demo reel. My initial plan was to make a very generic figure dummy, something like one of those posable sketching figures, and then animate that doing various things so that the action would focus on the action and not on an elaborate character that would be hard to animate anyway.

This whole line of thinking has involved a lot of “what would I be interested in if I worked in human resources for a studio and had to see boring old demo reels all day”, which it turns out is a dangerously recursive place to play, because then I started thinking that “a boring old dummy is boring and I want to make something shiny”, which lead to “I bet they want to see something shiny too, that would make my animation sample stand out”, which lead to “I like witches (for no particular reason)”, which lead to sketching all morning rather than animating.

But look, I drew some jaunty witches!

One thing I did get out of all of this is the idea of dressing my dummy up in some interesting accouterments, like those stylish high boots. It reminds me of the character from Emanuelle Walker’s Après La Pluie movie from Gobleins a few years ago.

I also briefly flirted with the idea of doing a monkey figure rather than a human, but I think I’ll leave that for the second go at things.

Little Witches

A very long time ago I wrote one of those uncontextualized and plotless fictional vignettes I write from time to time (we’ll talk more about that later, I promise) about an elderly college professor who would, from time to time, go to sleep in his bed and awaken the next morning still in his bed clothes but nestles in the arms of a large statue in the center of town, unaware of how he got there.

Then about 4 years ago I saw the movie version of A Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. The movie was, well, unfortunate. But, in the opening scene you see the Deep Thought, a mountain sized computer that looks a bit like a little person with a giant CRT head.

Then last year for Animation class I invented but later abandoned an idea of a pitch battle between a little witch (representing magic) and a little scientist (representing, well, science).

And that’s what I was thinking about when I drew these.

A Wedding in the Woods — finished pieces

Well the day is drawing near and the invitations for the wedding are out so I think it’s safe to post the final illustrations I did for my good friend’s up coming wedding in the woods.

First things first, this is the invitation image:

Cute, right?

Another idea that we all loved was the notion that the wedding should be attended by some of the forest creatures. I worked up a few woodland couples:





Don’t they look dashing?

For big design projects I like to make some small elements that can be reused over and over wherever the design might need a little picture or accent. It’s a good way to make the whole thing feel unified without making tons of custom illustrations. Even though I didn’t do the graphic design for this project (the couple did it themselves and did a fantastic job!) I wanted to give them stuff to work with, so I made up some small silhouette icons to use here and there.

Finally I ended up doing a larger version of one of my original drawings that didn’t quite fit the invitation. Instead this one ended up on the wedding website. I like the way it turned out.

Everyone asks which person is the bird and which is the squirrel.

Some Failed Landscapes

I downloaded a trial copy of Photoshop CS5 so that I could play with some of the new painting features on my tablet. I’m still trying to find a comfortable painting technique with photoshop beyond just coloring a scanned drawing.

My biggest complaint (in any version of photoshop) is that it’s a pain to adjust the color you’re painting with. I want to paint a bit with, say, a red, and then make it a little darker or lighter the way I would on my paint palette by adding white, black, or a complementary color. If I could have the big square color picker you get when you click a paint chip out all the time that would be great, but that’s a modal dialogue and it’s inconvenient to get at. The HSB sliders help a little (RGP is worthless) but they are small and hard to adjust on the tablet.

I thought maybe I could put my color in one paint chip, black or white in the alternate, and then use the brush settings to mix the colors with pen pressure. Here’s what I got:

This kind of works, but you never get the full strength of the back color. Plus you’re limited to mixing two at a time.

CS5 also has a new mixing brush tool that works a bit like Corel Painter’s oil brush tools, just without so many settings. I had a go at those on a reference photo and came up with this:

This worked a little better. However, you get this smeary finger painting effect that looks very “computer painted”. Ick! Maybe this will work better if I find a brush I like.

Practice practice practice.

Don’t Pout, It’s Unbecoming

Earlier this week I caught myself looking at the digitizing table that’s been sitting, forlorn and forgotten in a heap of cables under my computer desk. One reason I got the poor thing was to spend more time sketching in color so that I could attack coloring illustrations with more gusto and less timidity.  I figured if there weren’t any paints to set up or brushes to clean then I would have no further excuses.

It turns out that dust bunnies can be just as intimidating as brush maintenance. However, I refuse to give the King of the dust bunnies the satisfaction of knowing he has successfully dissuaded me from yet another important activity, so it was time to paint something.

But what to paint? And how? I’ve been thinking a lot about stylized figures lately and collecting blogs from people who’s styles I find interesting. Two I’ve come across recently are Chhuy-Ing, a French illustrator, and Laura Pérez, a Spanish illustrator, and the inspiration for the painting below. That’s how!

As for what, well. . .I read Wired magazine from time to time, and they always package it along with flyers for other magazines with awfully derivative fashion photos on their covers. Everyone always looks so pouty and existential. Well I can be existential and pouty too. First, here’s the sketch. I’m proud to say both that I did it entirely on the tablet, no scanning, and that it’s pretty rough, at least for me.

I really liked the way Pérez used a few different colors for her line work, complementing the surrounding colors so I gave that a try. You’ll also notice I tried her nose/eyebrow design. She pulls it off really well, but I don’t think it’s to my taste. It’s always fun to try new things, though.

Since I was coloring things in, I figured why not go a little pattern nuts while I’m at it. At first I was going to make them all into fruit forms (the guy on the far right still looks a bit like a strawberry), but I got carried away with stripes and spots, so there’s no real rhyme or reason to it.

After chasing off the dust bunnies once I’m sure word of the revolt has spread to the King, and he’s even now amassing his forces to retake my tablet. That is, sad to say, the way of things in this war-torn land. But I am hopeful that I can get a few more drawings in before the tides turn again.

A Wedding in the Woods

Two good friends of mine are planning a wedding in the fall and asked if I might be interested in making some illustrations for their invitations. Needless to say I jumped at the chance.

The wedding is planned for an outdoor setting so they asked if I could put together something with birds, squirrels, trees, and the like, so my first stop was the natural history museum to sketch the stuffed creatures.


Turns out there weren’t many squirrels at the museum, but there were a ton of birds. These sketches were fun, but for the invite the couple asked if I could make something sketchy and whimsical, so I played around a bit with different ways to abstract bird and squirrel shapes.





Along with the critters I needed somewhere to put them so I started playing with some different forest ideas. I really liked this idea of the bride and groom riding giant animals but it’s a little over the top for a wedding invite. Maybe I’ll save it for something else.


I was thinking about different ways to portray the forest: light and airy, dense and thick, tall trees, small trees, etc. It got me thinking about some images Luc Desmarchelier posted to his blog a while back when he was doing concept work for Open Season. I took a few cues from his use of hatching to create layers of foliage and thick underbrush. In the end though I think most of this was too thick for what I needed.


When we first talked my friends asked for something sketchy looking in pencil, probably without any color. Even so I decided to do some color experimentation just to see if it would generate anything interesting. Most of it wasn’t but the exercise was fun.


Really like this one with the two trees. I think I’m going to make it into a card for another occasion.

Back to the pencil stuff. I decided it might be interesting to think about different perspectives on the trees, such as looking up through them, or from low down or cropped tightly in the thick of branches.

Weather was finally looking up at this point so I took the camera out in the yard and took some shots of leaves and branches just to have something to look at.


Starting to close in on some ideas now.


I’ll post more when things are finished.