Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Love from Santa by Hazel Mitchell

I hope that Santa brought you a gift this year!

Where ever you are and how ever you celebrate the season, wishing you peace,
happiness and a joyful 2012.

Thanks for visiting Pixel Shavings!

Come back next week for a post from Russ Cox.

See more of my work at
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Wednesday, December 14, 2011

A Solstice Serenade by Sheralyn Barnes


What a heartwarming thing it is that during this darkest time of year, 
the world is filled with beautiful lights and music. 
So whatever your reason to sing this season, 
I hope you have a wonderful celebration!

Peace on Earth

©2011 Sheralyn Barnes

 Thanks for stopping by and be sure to look for
another amazing creation from John Deininger next week!

You can see more of my work at:

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

A Christmas sketch by Fred Koehler

Happy holidays one and all. May your season be filled with gooseberry pudding, matching socks and winning lottery tickets. In the meantime, here's the elephant father/son duo I've been sketching so fervently as they settle down for a long winter's nap.

See more at and come back next week for another great post from Sheralyn Barnes.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Snow Flight: created with the Sketchbook Pro app on the iPad by Debbie Ridpath Ohi

FinalSnowFlight v2 600

Can't believe how quickly this year went by! This was my first year with Pixel Shavings, and I want to thank Hazel, Russ, Sheri, Fred and John for all their encouragement. I feel honoured to be part of this amazingly talented group.

This week, I'm going to show you how I created my winter-themed illustration, SNOW FLIGHT, using Autodesk's Sketchbook Pro app for the iPad. First I created the sky in a separate layer using a flat blue. Then I added texture in a slightly darker blue.


One of the advantages of working digitally is that it's easy to make copies, in case I screw up. Before making a radical change to any layer, I always make a copy of that layer and then hide it, just in case I need it later. In the image below, you can see how I've hidden the extra layer by clicking on the eye icon. In the active/topmost layer, I then activated the transparency mask and then added a sunrise texture/color. Because of the mask, I'm only painting on blue part of the picture, not the snow.


In a new layer, I created a separate transparency mask for the snow. At first I tried doing this with white but found it too confusing so switched to an obnoxiously bright blue:


After activating the transparency mask for the ground and painting it white, I added some texture to the snow. Then in another layer (I LOVE LAYERS), I did a quickie sketch of the flying girl.


Next, I drew the girl. Um…as you can tell, I pretty much ignored my original sketch. :-) After I finished the ink drawing, I deleted the sketch layer.


Next, I added color. I should note that I always hated coloring when I was in school because I found it so boring; I was always the kid in school who drew stuff so other kids could colour. Now I love it! Coloring's much easier digitally because I can make the brush really big so it doesn't take as long. Then I can add textures.


Here's what the colored version looked like:


I didn't like the way the black outline looked -- too boring and flat compared to the background -- so decided to add my woodcut effect, This is gradually becoming one of my "go-to" illustration styles because it feels so natural to me.

In Photoshop CS5, I use the Layer Mask tool but in this app, I used the Eraser tool instead:


I started manually erasing bits from the ink outline. This is the most time-consuming part of the process:


But I think the results are well worth it (you can see a bigger version here):


I added some footprints in the snow and signed it, then took the image into Photoshop (the app lets you save in PSD format, yay) and added more shadows as well as adding the copyright notice. I could have done this on my iPad using Sketchbook Pro & other apps, but I was already in Photoshop.

FinalSnowFlight v2 600

In case you were curious, I used a Pengo Stylus to draw on my iPad. It was a gift from my hubby -- he knows I find art supplies & tech hardware much more romantic than flowers and jewelry. :-)

Next up: a post from the fantabulous Fred Koehler!

- Debbie
On Twitter: @inkyelbows and @iPadGirl
Illustrator of I'M BORED, a new picture book by Michael Ian Black (Simon & Schuster Books For Young Readers, Fall/2012)

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

That Special Gift by Russ Cox

© 2011 Russ Cox | Smiling Otis Studio

As the holidays quickly approach and we begin to reflect on this past year, I just wanted to take a moment to say "THANK YOU" to Hazel, Sheri, Debbie, Fred, and John for letting me be part of this spectacular group of artist/writers. They say you cannot teach an old dog a new trick but with the feedback, support and encouragement from my fellow Pixel Shavers, I say you can. Each one has been a major influence on the direction my artwork is heading and on me as a person. I cannot thank you enough. They are also responsible for giving me a swift kick in the rump I needed to start writing. I would never have even considered taking that journey without that push down the writing path. So this illustration I am posting today, is for each of them and to all of my family and friends. You truly are "that special gift" in my life.

Also a big THANK YOU for coming to the Pixel Shavings glog and following our journey this year. Have a wonderful holiday season and cheers to 2012!


The charismatic Debbie Ohi will be up to bat next week.
Smiling Otis Facebook Fan Page
Smiling Otis Studio Blog

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Flying Robot (with waffles) from Hazel Mitchell

Following on from John Deininger's robot post last week I remembered a sample piece I produced this summer for my portfolio. Here's how it came together ....

 First a quick thumbnail about 2 x 3".
Then I worked  up the drawing in graphite, with no shading.
Scanned the line art at 600dpi and saved in photoshop.
With the multiply tool I blocked in the areas in roughly the colours I was thinking of and also coloured some of the line work itself, selecting with the magic wand tool.

 Here is the end result. Most of my work is done with the mutiply tool and with highlight/burn tools. I don't work with many layers. Not sure how the wings ended up as waffles ... I guess the little boy was having breakfast and it just happened. in this illustration I was looking to keep some looseness and texture in the shading and colouring.

Many thanks for stopping by!
Come over next week to see a seasonal offering from Russ Cox.


Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Going Batty by Sheralyn Barnes

            Halloween has come and gone, but the glow of the slightly sagging Jack O’ Lantern’s still illuminate these early dark November nights. I love Halloween and have trouble letting it go for another whole year. It’s the perfect holiday for the imagination with color combinations that can make an artist’s heart skip a beat. So I decided to extend Halloween just a wee bit longer so that I could take 
advantage of it for this post. 

I’ve really been trying to build my skills with color and lighting, as well as try to loosen up my computer painting technique. So here is a quick painting honoring my beloved holiday. For this piece I built layers of different colors and then erased them as if they were scratch board. I found it’s a fun technique and kind of relaxing.

©2011 Sheralyn Barnes

To see more of my work you can view my website at....

Thanks for checking in again and be sure to tune in next week for the 
great John Deininger!

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Sleepy Little Elephant by Fred Koehler

Baby close your eyes,
The moon's about to rise.

Your day has been much longer than
you'll ever realize.

Another day is done,
It's setting with the sun

And as you dream the stars will bring
to you another one.

So baby, close your eyes.

:-)  -fk

Check back next week to hear from Sheralyn Barnes.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Textures, Daily Doodles & An Autumn Dance - by Debbie Ridpath Ohi

"Autumn Dance" - by Debbie Ridpath Ohi

As I've mentioned in an earlier post, I try to do a drawing purely for the fun of it every day. I call this my "Daily Doodle" regardless of its content or final appearance because I find the word "doodle" helps take off the pressure and also reminds me that it's supposed to  be FUN.

Started with an orange background, added texture.

My only rules: (1) The drawing can't be for any work project, (2) Don't spend more than an hour on it. When things are superbusy or I'm super-uninspired, I may spend as little as a minute or two (usually this is a quick line doodle). Average is about 30 minutes. I didn't time myself for this drawing, but I think it took me about 40 minutes from start to finish.

Added new layer with the ground texture.

Ever since attending Richard Jesse Watson's session in the Illustrators' Intensives at the SCBWI Summer Conference, I've been inspired to experiment more with textures in my art. Unlike Richard, I work digitally...but even as I was watching him work, I got excited about the possibilities of being more adventurous with different types of digital media & textures in my work.

Created a tree on a separate layer.
I started playing around with more Photoshop CS5 textured brushes, including some wonderful grungy brushes by Dawghouse Design Studio. I plan to eventually create my own texture brushes for commercial work, but first I want to find out what does and doesn't work for me.

For this doodle, I knew I wanted to work quickly to get it finished within my self-imposed time limit, so I used a cheat via Layers, Transform and Transparency: I created one tree shape and then used it to create all the other trees. To keep the trees from all looking the same, I used Transform and Transparency to change the shape and look of each tree, plus sometimes added a few branches here and there.

Then I started adding some red leaves to the tops of the trees as well as scattered on the ground. I used one of the Photoshop CS5 library brushes, I think, that I had modified slightly. For the tops of the trees, I added red leaves between some of the layers to give a feeling of depth.

I was going to leave it as just the forest and leaves but then decided to add a dancer because it needed something MORE. I always like having some kind of implied story to my drawings because it makes it more fun to draw.

Anyway, I was a bit floored by all the Likes and comments when I posted this earlier this week (!). Thanks, all. You've inspired me to work up a more polished version for my portfolio at the SCBWI Winter Conference.

Next week, you'll be hearing from Pixel Shavings' fabulous Fred Koehler!

To see more of my work, please visit:

Illustrator, I'M BORED by Michael Ian Black (Simon & Schuster, 2012)

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Pinocchio With A Twist by Russ Cox

 © 2011 Russ Cox | Smiling Otis Studio

Recently I have been thinking about the story of Pinocchio and how to do a spin on such a classic.  I thought it would be interesting if kids had built him from junk that they found around the house or in a junkyard. A child has an amazing creative spirit and energy that I thought would work well for this modern take. It also reminded me of my younger days when we would build things from junk.

While I was sick last week, I began doodling and this is what appeared on the paper. Maybe a fever can be a good thing once in a while. Trying to think of things a group of children could find and use to make their robotic puppet, was a bit challenging. Most of the items are obvious but some of the support elements like the base of his face and lower body, I wanted to keep as chunks of unidentifiable rusted metal.

The faces of the children bothered me so I quickly sketched out some other ideas. Which I added to the cleaned up version of the sketch in Photoshop.

I decided to not add any tones to the sketch and keep the line work loose. The ellipses on the tires and other areas are not drawn perfectly on purpose in order to keep the illustration more child friendly. After years of drafting, it was hard  not to clean up those parts of the drawing.

Using Photoshop, I added a gray tone to establish light direction and then dropped in a purple value to pull the under painting together. 

I built each piece on a separate layer for easy editing. The color was built up using various brushes and textures like the background on the face. I was going for a tarnished, rusted metal look so the elements on the face stand out.
This is the final illustration. It is different than my usual vector artwork. After looking at it now, I think I will add a small cricket to the radar part of his head. Like he is whispering into his ear as the little girl looks down on him. It will tie in the basic storyline of the original and help pull the concept together.

In Pixel Shavings related news, we just mailed out our first tear sheet with bookmarks to art directors from various publishing houses. Hazel, Fred, Sheri, Debbie, John and I each did a new piece just for the promo. We think it is a pretty snazzy package that should get some attention. Fingers crossed!

Next week you're in for a treat as the lovely and energetic Debbie Ohi will share a new illustration for all to marvel!

To see more of my work, you can go to:
Smiling Otis Facebook Fan Page
Smiling Otis Studio Blog

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

The Ugly Duckling - creating an ebook from Hazel Mitchell

Ebooks are springing up everywhere. With the rise and rise of ipad, and now Kindle Fire, the race is 'hotting' up. What does this mean for your commonal-garden illustrator/author?

Many of the most famous children's book titles are being generated as ebooks by the original publishers, other authors and illustrators are working directly with app companies to bring back-listed books to life. Best sellers look like they have the best chance of hitting the number one spots on the app lists.

Yet it's an open field. Anyone can create an ebook, or app, and, if it's good enough, have it accepted into the istore. And there are plenty of illustrators and authors creating work that will be published as an ebook FIRST. It's a whole new animal.

So I thought I would dip my toe in the water with a new company just about to launch called Headed by (the wonderfully named) Nils von Heijne, this company is a little different. It's a worldwide community of excellent authors and illustrators creating quality picture books. With the online software interface created by Utales, authors and illustrators can design and upload their own books. Right now they are bringing in animation and sound tools, but I can only see these facilities growing after the launch.

One of the best things about this creator-driven company is that they have a great editing team headed up by Emma Dryden, of Dryden Books. So all the books are quality controlled - awesome! Utales are also working with 'Pencils of Promise'. P Proceeds from each sale can be donated to the charity and help fund projects in schools across the world.

The company asked for creators to retell a classic tale before the launch. I chose the great favorite by Hans Christian Andersen, 'The Ugly Duckling'. Here are some of the images I created from the book. I hope you'll check out the animated version on Utales when it launches in the coming weeks! Watch this space for details.


Oh, I didn't mention that there was also a competition involved for the creation of a classic tale. The first prize is an ipad, so please keep all your extremities crossed! 

Thanks for stopping by Pixel Shavings this week.
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Plus, watch out for the next Pixel Shavings mail out. Maybe one will be dropping in your mail box soon.
Call in next week to see what Russ Cox will be chatting about.