Monday, January 27, 2020

Colored Lead with Watercolor-Easy Lineless Watercolor Illustrations

One of my favorite 'tricks' for alcohol markers or for watercolor is to create a lineless artstyle using colored leads.  One of my favorite leads for this is the Pilot Color Eno Pink lead- perfect for florals and faces!

Today I want to walk yall through my process for using colored lead with watercolor.  The materials vary, but the process remains the same on almost any substrate, regardless of whether I'm using alcohol markers or watercolors.  Both watercolor and alcohol marker dissolve the pink lead a bit, and unlike graphite, colored lead won't necessarily ruin your marker brush tips.

If you're new to colored leads, I recommend you buy this set- it includes all 8 colors preloaded into handy mechanical pencils.  I find it really handy to have color coded, designated pencils for my leads.  If you have your own preferred mechanical pencils, you can get just the 8 pack of leads.

Demonstration 1

Fluid 100 Watercolor Paper

Step 1:  Sketch your sketch using the colored lead of your choice onto your paper.  Remove construction and excess lines with an eraser.

Step 2:  Paint as you normally would! 

Check out the Timelapse:

Demonstration 2:
MozArt Komorebi Palette

You're not limited to just pink though!  Match your leads with your subject matter, like in the below example with morning glories.

Demonstration 3:

Rice Paper Fan
Pilot Color Eno- Purple, Pink, Blue
MozArt Komorebi

Demonstration 4:

Pilot Color Eno Lead- Purple, Blue, Green
Rice Paper Fan
MozArt Komorebi

Demonstration 5:

Grumbacher Watercolor Paper Sample
Pilot Color Eno- Pink, Green
Da Vinci Mixing Set

Check out the Tutorial: 

Finished Works:

Grumbacher Watercolor Paper Sample, Color Eno Pink and Green, Da Vinci Mixing Palette

Fluid 100, Color Eno Pink, MozArt Komorebi

Strathmore Watercolor Paper, Color Eno Pink, Qor Mini Palette

Hahnemule Postcard, Color Eno Pink, Turner watercolors

Fluid EZ Block, Color Eno Pink, Derwent Inktense palette

Thursday, January 23, 2020

2019 Top Ten Favorites

It's a bit belated, but after much thought, I compiled a list of my favorite art products and services for 2019!  Some are new and some are just new to me, but I think there's plenty for yall to enjoy.

Want to help support more reviews?
Sponsor a review by buying something from my wishlist
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Help sponsor reviews and tutorials by subscribing on Patreon!

Most of the products on this list have already been reviewed or have tutorials that utilize them.  Artnerds received these videos awhile back, and they're currently being queued to go live.   Join the Artnerd community on Patreon to gain early access to video reviews and tutorials! 

Comic illustration created with Faber-Castell Albrecht Durer Watercolor markers, Inked with Pitt Pens
This piece represents several of the products on this list!  Strathmore Toned Tan Mixed Media Paper, inked with Pitt Pens, colored with Albrecht Durer Watercolor Markers, Pitt Pens, and Polychromos Pencils.

Strathmore Colored Mixed Media Papers
Toned Tan

Working on a colored base makes illustrations in opaque media pop off the paper!  I even love using alcohol markers and gouache on the Strathmore Toned Tan mixed media paper.

Strathmore's colored drawing papers have been around for awhile, but the mixed media equivalents are very new to Strathmore's paper lineup.  The black mixed media paper is the newest addition, and is great with color pencils like Polychromos.

Faber-Castell's Albrecht Durer watercolor markers

There're a lot of watercolor markers on the market, but most are dye based.  Faber-Castell's Albrecht Durer watercolor markers are water soluble India ink, so not only are they going to move easily with water, but your art will be lightfast for years to come.

watercolor illustration on Stonehenge Aqua hotpress watercolor paperWatercolor illustration on Stonehenge Aqua coldpress
 Watercolor on Stonehenge Aqua Hotpress and Stonehenge Aqua Coldpress

Stonehenge Legion Aqua watercolor papers

The coldpress is a great workhorse cottonrag watercolor paper- sturdy and easy to use- not a fussy paper.

The hot press is the best hotpress I've ever used- smooth texture that's great for inking, but can take layers and layers of watercolor.

The black watercolor paper is just as nice as the hotpress and coldpress, and the dyes used in the manufacturing process seem to be quite stable.  This paper is amazing for opaque watercolor techniques.

Zenpop Stationary Box

I've been disappointed by subscription art boxes in the past, but the Zenpop Stationery boxes really deliver!  Cute stickers, notebooks, washi tapes, pencils, and more, delivered to your door each month!

I had a sub from January until May, and was thrilled with the contents of my five boxes.

Check out the unboxing streams on Youtube!
January 2019
February 2019
April 2019
May 2019
July 2019

Pentel Tradio Stylo Sketch Pen

I've reviewed a LOT of pens over the years- technical pens, brush pens, fountain pens, and the Tradio Stylo offers something unique! A plastic nibbed fountain pen that's fun for sketching and handlettering!  Refillable with rich black ink, inkflow is consistent and immediate.

Watercolor illustration on Shizen Hotpress watercolor paper
Watercolor on Shizen Hotpress watercolor paper

Shizen pre cut watercolor paper
Hot Press
Cold Press

Inexpensive cottonrag watercolor paper that's amazing for wet into wet techniques.  A bit softer than standard mould-made paper and doesn't contain much sizing, so it takes getting used to.  If you enjoy coldpress watercolor paper, I recommend going with the hot press for this one.

Molotov Chrome Marker

There's a lot of metallic markers out there, but this one really delivers the chrome!  If you use it on a non porous surface, you'll get a shiny, mirror like effect!  Even on porous surfaces, it still stands out well.  Molotov Chrome markers utilize an alcohol solvent, so are not marker proof, but are indelible to water.  Can be removed with rubbing alcohol.

Copic marker illustration with colored lineart and mixed media background
This piece represents several products!  Kara and papers were adhered with a Tombow Permanent taperunner, Kara was inked with Tombow Fudenosuke brushpens.

Tombow Adhesive Tape Runners

Not just for crafters, adhesive tape runners are great for artists and stationery fans!  Your paper won't buckle, and Tombow's runners are available in both
versions!  I love using these for mixed media marker art!

Tombow Fudenosuke Color Brushpens (Discord Suggestion)

I love adding a pop of color to the inked linework in my illustrations, and Tombow Fudenosuke brushpens are alcohol marker safe!  The smaller brushes on these pens are easy to use, and available in a rainbow of color! 

Honorable Mentions:
Colored Pitt Pens (Twitter suggestion)
These colorful pens are lightfast, available in a huge array of colors, and available with a wide array of tip options, from fixed width felt tips to brushes and even soft chisel tips.

Stillman and Birn sketchbooks (Twitter suggestion)
These are super popular with artists!  Available in several paper colors (I love the ivory!) and many paper types and finishes, Stillman and Birn has a sketchbook that's perfect for your favorite media!  A bit pricy,

Other Awesome Art Supplies:
2018 Top Ten

Monday, January 20, 2020

Developing Concepts and Illustrations

Most of my illustrations are developed in stages.  This gives me a chance to refine the concept, improve the anatomy, and restage if necessary.  I often work in a combination of traditional and digital media- digital gives me the flexibility to create as many layers as necessary to get the sketch right, and allows me to easily cut and resize problem areas.[=

Generally, I do my first sketch in my sketchbook.  My brain just handles conceptualization better if I'm staring at paper rather than a screen.  But once the thumbnail is drawn, I'm free to go digital.  Sometimes I'll take a quick photo of the sketch with my phone and send it to my computer via Discord, sometimes I'll scan it when I'm putting together my monthly Patron sketchbooks- the transfer method doesn't really matter.

Image to the left- thumbnail sketch

Refining the Pose and Sketching Anatomy

Sketching in Clothing and Tightening up Details

Finished Sketch, later printed onto watercolor paper

This isn't the end of the process!  After this stage, I convert my sketch to grayscale and adjust the contrast so that it's just black and white, then use Duotone to convert it to non photo blue.  I then print the bluelines onto the watercolor paper of my choice and either pencil or ink the illustration.  The finished illustration will be in watercolor.

Lately, working this way has become a staple for my standalone illustrations.  Working digitally to develop sketches gives me the flexibility to resize easily, or to rework problem areas, or to clone and copy pieces that work well and that I want to duplicate.

Thumbnail sketch

Refining the Figure

Tightening Up Character Details

Adding Background Details

With the next example, I did a lot of alteration on the basic sketch- moving and resizing things- before committing.
Thumbnail Sketch

I wanted to play with scale a bit- making Naomi seem a bit smaller, and Kara a bit larger, and being able to manipulate things digitally helps with this!

I think this method is particularly helpful for people with tablets and iPads, particularly if they're busy and have a hard time carving out time for art.  It's easier to put it down when necessary or to break the piece up into discrete steps, and you don't feel the pressure to nail it on the first shot.

If you wanna see how these pieces turn out, check out my Instagram!

Friday, January 10, 2020

How to Succeed in the Mid Winter Slump

It's winter, and everything I draw comes out looking blah.  Any suggestions?

This question is a good one, because it's one a lot of artists seem to struggle with, even if they don't make the correlation between winter and art slumps.

First off, I want to point out this is a perfectly natural phenomena.  Many people suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder, many also suffer from a lack of sun based Vitamin D, and of course, cold weather makes it harder to get outside and get fresh air.

Many mammals hibernate all winter long.  Mammals that don't hibernate often spend most of their time during the winter sleeping to conserve energy and stay warm.    Humans have this same instinct to sleep and conserve energy during long winter months, even if we don't heed it.

Sometimes it helps to just accept that this is going to be an issue during the winter, and stop blaming yourself.  You can use this winter downtime intentionally- use your free time to enjoy friends, family, or attend fun events and refill your mental tanks.  You can also use your time to stock up on inspiration- like a chipmunk or squirrel creating a winter stash- and consume a lot of media that inspires and enriches your artistic life.  This time can also be spent doing non-creative drawing tasks like drawing skill drills, studying figure drawing or perspective, or practicing a specific skill set like folds.  This is also a great time to do style tests and refine elements of your style.

This is a wonderful time of year for reflection, and doing art redraws is a wonderful way to appreciate the progress you have made skill wise, even if you feel creatively tapped.  Redraws are simple- pick an image from 10 years ago, 5 years ago, or even earlier in the year, and focus on using your new skills and techniques to redraw it.  Fix up the character design, redo the pose, actually draw the hands- use this as a chance to focus on demonstrating your improvement, and worry less about being creative.

If you do have creative ideas, don't push yourself to make something finished and perfect- keeping things light, sketchy, and in a thumbnail stage is a good way to capture the idea without furthering your winter burnout.  This is a great time to work on research or development for projects, since the production quality isn't important.

Tuesday, December 31, 2019

2020 New Year's Art Resolutions

2020 is going to bring a lot of changes in my life.  7" Kara Volume 2 is just about ready to launch on Kickstarter.  Joseph and I plan on finally tying the knot in July, moving to Louisiana, and starting a family.  I'd like to start an art tutoring business in my home parish- St Charles.  So my resolutions and goals reflect this desire for a fresh start.

It's time for major change.  And I'm ready for it.

 Best Nine Posts from Instagram, 2019

2020 New Year's Resolutions:

  • Kickstart Volume 2 of 7" Kara
  • Marriage prep
  • Finish up teaching engagements in Nashville in April
  • Resume 7" Kara webcomic updates
  • Take on way less free work- this blog, Youtube, The Paintbox- establish strong boundaries
  • Redo professional online portfolio
  • Redo resume
  • Cull the art supply hoard even further, donating unwanted supplies to Goodwill and libraries
  • Move to Louisiana
  • Seek professional help for my ADHD and anxiety
  • Create more not-comic, standalone illustrations to share online

Thursday, December 12, 2019

Reader Question: What fundamentals do I need to know before I start drawing comics?

Recently, this excellent question came up in my Discord Server, The Paintbox:

What fundamentals do I need to know before I start drawing comics?

None.  Anyone can start drawing comics, and I encourage everyone to give it a try at least once!  If you can draw a smiley face and a stick figure, you can start drawing comics.  Just look at XKCD.  In fact, the sooner you start drawing comics, the sooner you can figure out where you need to improve, because this question is going to vary wildly based on the education and goals of the artist.  What an artist needs to get started is going to vary from artist to artist and from project to project.

However, let's say you want to draw a manga inspired longform comic that's going to be very character heavy, feature a lot of diversity, and is reliant on worldbuilding for story information.  For a project like this, I would recommend:

  • A strong understanding of various storytelling structures and ways to organize your story
  • An understanding of volumetric drawing
  • An understanding of human anatomy and a system to replicate it consistently
  • An understanding of facial anatomy
  • An understanding of atmospheric perspective as well as linear perspective
  • Thoughts on what style you wish to use and what direction you want the art to take
  • An end publication goal in mind- is it for print?  for web?  

And depending on whether you want to draw your comic using traditional materials, digital materials, or a combination of the two:

  • An understanding of the physical materials you're using and access to those materials
  • An understanding of the programs and hardware you're going to use, and access to those materials

And of course, do you want your finished comic to be black and white, or in color?

  • Understand light, shadow, and how to render textures
  • A working grasp of basic color theory

That's quite an undertaking, isn't it?  But don't be discouraged- you can often learn as you go, and there are a lot of free and affordable resources out there that will help you along your way!

I recommend you begin with a simple mini comic- aim for at least 8 pages.   I talk about this more in my post In Defense of the Minicomic.  Try to tell a complete, short story that would be understandable to people not familiar with your longform comic ideas.  Working on this comic is going to give you a great idea of where you should begin focusing your improvement first- what areas are MOST important to you.  I recommend you create this comic using the materials you want to use for your longform comic- this will give you an idea of how feasible those materials are for the project in mind.

Beginning a short comic project also gives you the opportunity to seek directed critique.  It's difficult to give curated advice without a product to judge and assess- creating a comic will give your peers a baseline to provide suggestions and further resources.

So once you know your weaknesses, how do you go about addressing them?

This blog is an excellent resource, full of great tutorials and suggestions!  I suggest you start with my Intro to Comic Craft hubpage.  If you're a video tutorial sort of person, I have an Intro to Comic Craft series on Youtube, as well as a Making Comics and Zines series.  And once you're ready for more, you can join us in The Paintbox!

There's also a wealth of great resources at your local library and on the internet!

Tuesday, December 10, 2019

Writing Comics-Presentation

More Resources on Planning, Plotting, and Writing your own comics! 
My Life with ADHD: Breaking Down and Planning a Comic Project
Brainstorming and Character Development
Let's Make a Comic: Concept to Scripting to Thumbnails to Roughs
Intro to Comic Craft: Planning Cicada Summer
Generating Thumbnails for Illustration
Developing a Script
Turning Your Script into Thumbnails and Layouts

This class on writing and planning comics was created and presented at the St Rose Branch of the St Charles Parish Library (my home library system!).  It was the first in a series of six classes designed to help students of all ages begin their comic journey.  Artnerds on Patreon received this slideshow the day BEFORE I even presented the class!

Found this helpful?  Consider tipping me on Ko-Fi!  Your support enables me to continue work like this!

Looking for more affordable art education?  My Artnerds over on Patreon have access to my entire Making Comics Class, taught through Nashville Community Ed!  This includes video tutorials, slide show presentations, printables, and more!  If you're in the Nashville area, this would be a perfect time to sign up for my Making Comics or Intermediate Comic classes, or check which of my Copic or Comic classes are available at the Nashville Plaza Artist Materials.  I occasionally offer classes or series of classes in other locations- sign up for my class mailing list to find out when I'll be in your area!

Thursday, December 05, 2019

How Do You Find Your Own Art Style

Recently, a wonderful young artist I'm mentoring via email posed an excellent question:

How did you find your own manga art style? Do you have any advice for me on how to find my own manga art style?

This isn't an uncommon question- it pops up a lot!  From kids to teens to adults, people want to know how to develop their own artstyle.

Don't stress about it too much- just practice drawing
The more you draw from reference, draw fanart, and draw your original characters, the more you're going to find elements that you want to use in your style.  Reading a wide variety of comics, watching animation, and consuming illustration will give you inspiration.

Think about art that inspires you, and works that you love
For finding your own artstyle, I think it's important for you to combine what inspires you with what you love.  For example, my style is a combination of the artists and studios that initially inspired me to draw (so Rumiko Takahashi, Adachi Mitsuru, Kiyohiko Azuma, Studio Ghibli, Disney Renaissance  artists like Glen Keane) and elements I think are cute (big hair, big eyes, big mouths, large ears, freckles, easily excited personalities, lots of animals, and flowers).  Your personal style will develop and change over time, but a great exercise for figuring out a base style that you like drawing in is to do style tests!

Consider what you're passionate about, and find ways to work it into your artstyle
This is going to vary from person to person, but what's important to me:

  • Reflecting real-life diversity
  • Creating characters that feel like people the reader knows
  • Reflecting American culture and physical appearances
  • Cartoony, expressive faces with fairly realistically proportioned bodies
  • Representing healthy body images
  • Art that feels like a relaxing escape to the reader
  • Depicting a variety of hair textures
  • Depicting a variety of facial features without diving into stereotypes
  • Taking traits from manga and anime and making it my own- transforming my inspiration into something personally important

While there may not be room in 7" Kara for all of these traits, I try to touch on them through various projects and challenges throughout the year, such as Inktober.

Emulate artists you admire through exploration and practice: 

Practice with Style Tests

Style tests involve drawing an original character (or yourself!) in the style of artists you admire- even if you think you're never going to draw in that type of style!  Carefully analyze WHY artists draw things a certain way- why they draw noses the way they draw noses, why they draw lips the way they draw lips, ect, and interpret your character in that art style.  This will help you figure out a shorthand for human facial features.  Once you've done about a dozen style tests, start combining elements you like from different styles!  Don't worry about copying- this is how all artists learn and find inspiration.  And once you have a base character style you like- draw a minicomic to put your character through their paces!  Doing expression studies is also a great way to figure out your style, and how your character's face moves.

Learn a System for Drawing
Example of simple head construction from Manga Madness
I personally really recommend constructive drawing!  This is the system that really made the difference for me, artwise.  It's a helpful method of breaking down and understanding the world, and it's particularly helpful for learning human anatomy and drawing figures!  It's also GREAT for breaking down the face's landmarks and memorizing them!

I love this system so much that I teach it in my 6 week comic classes, and offer it as in standalone classes!  You can sign up to my class mailing list to learn more about my classes, or you can join my Patreon and get access to the presentations: 
From Stick to Figure Presentation
Manga Madness Presentation

Practice Drawing Other's Characters in Your Style

Sakura (CCS), Mei and Satsuki (My Neighbor Totoro) 
 Tsukimi (Princess Jellyfish) and DeeDee (Dexter's Lab)

Kiki and Jiji (Kiki's Delivery Service) Laura Ingalls (Little House on the Prairie)

Ponyo (Ponyo), Kara (7" Kara)

Interpreting other characters, particularly those in drastically different styles from your own is a great way to problem solve issues that may come up while you're designing characters, is a great way to pay homage and explore your inspirations, and is a wonderful way to get some additional practice in.  Above are some of my Favorite Fictional Femmes, an Inktober exercise where I interpreted 31+ favorite fictional females in a b-style I was developing.

Its natural for your style to change over time

Your style will change and develop as you consume more media, follow more artists you admire, improve your technical skills, and develop muscle memory from drawing.  I recommend you don't stress yourself out by attempting to be consistent- see where your style and imagination takes you! 
It's ok not to have a specific style or to not draw consistently in the same style
Speaking of inconsistent styles- most artists have several different styles they utilize depending on the mood of the piece, or even the mood of the individual page.

Play around and find what you like!   The more you experiment, the faster you'll improve.  It's important to draw just for yourself, for the sake of study and improvement.

These are all the same character- Kara- drawn in a variety of different styles.  Even just changing the coloring style can change the feel of the piece!

Practice (and refinement!) make perfect!

Favorite resources:
Glen Vilppu Drawing Manual
Drawn to Life Volume 1&2
Naoki Urasawa's Manben
Concept art books:
Art of Studio Ghibli
Art of various Disney movies