Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Giants at the Grocery by Fred Koehler

So my daughter and I unrolled a yarn as I was getting her to bed several months ago that went something like this: A pair of young giants are sent to the grocery store to buy sprinkles to finish their mother's cake. But things go quickly awry when the giants get there at the same time as a giggling little girl. Because young giants are particularly terrified of giggly little girls. And so they had to get that little girl to leave. By any ridiculous means imaginable.

As my daughter fell asleep, I thought about the concept. It was simple. It followed all of the rules of a successful picture book. It left an endless canvas for illustration. So I wrote it down. And then I spent the next two months working on the concept illustration.

I shifted how I wrote and drew based on feedback from the SCBWI conferences I've attended, with debts of gratitude owed to illustrators like Dan Santat, Janeen Mason, Loren Long, Paul Zelinsky, all my friends at Pixel Shavings, and editors like Katherine Jacobs and Stephanie Owens Lurie.

I worked tighter, pushed the perspective, paid attention to where the text would go and what would get lost in the gutter.

More interesting detail.

Better reference material, like this grocery storefront from the 1950's.

Particular focus on the page turn, drawing your eye to what happens next.

I'll take this concept to the next SCBWI conference, send out queries, and cross my fingers. And if that's where it ends, it's okay. We're each born with a billion ideas in our heads and a lifetime to explore them. More will certainly come.

Check back next week for something fabulous from Sheralyn Barnes.


Wednesday, April 20, 2011

iPad Sketch Using Artrage App - by Debbie Ridpath Ohi

Last time I posted about using the Sketchbook Pro app on the iPad. This time I'm doing my Daily Sketch using the Artrage app. It costs $6.99 in the iTunes store, which seems ridiculously cheap to me when you consider how much desktop art apps cost.

 As I've mentioned before, I try to do at least one sketch just for fun every day. Since I work mostly digitally, I sometimes sketch on my iPad instead of with a Wacom tablet and pen.

Because the art apps I use don't let you move layer contents, I usually start with a very rough shape layout, to make sure my drawing isn't going to run off the edge of my workspace.

Note the user-friendly left-hand display of art tool choices. In the screenshot above, I have the crayon selected.

Next, I create a new layer above the sketch and do the line art. At this point I can hide or delete the sketch.

Next, I create another layer below the line art for color. I like the watercolor brush in Artrage, so decide to select that tool. There's a bit of a lag when you're drawing, but I don't mind this for a sketch.

Above: As I add more color, I fiddle with the brush size and other settings.

I like the way the digital watercolor paint interacts with any paint already on the canvas.

Because the number of layers is much more limited in the app than a desktop art program, I frequently merge layers to make room for new ones.

Above: I use the paint roller brush on a layer below everything else to create a simple background. I add a signature and here's the final sketch:

You can find more info (and some great tutorials) on how to use Artrage on the Artrage website.

Check back next week for Fred Koehler's post!


To see my other sketches as well as find out more about me, please see DebbieOhi.com. If you're interested in digital publishing / e-books / creativity on the iPad (especially related to children's publishing), follow @iPadGirl on Twitter.

Debbie Ridpath Ohi is illustrating a picture book by Michael Ian Black, coming out from Simon & Schuster in 2012. Represented by Ginger Knowlton at Curtis Brown.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

A Simple Animation by Russ Cox

For this week, I thought I would show some steps for a simple animation that I did for American Greetings. The animated piece was used for their online ecards so we kept the color to a minimum and the overall look very simple to keep the loading time down. The first step is that I was sent a script to work from. After reviewing the script, I did a storyboard where I broke down the story into visual segments with notes on transitions.

Once the storyboard was approved, I brought the storyboard into Illustrator. Most people will draw directly in Flash but I find the drawing tools a bit clumsy. The latest version of Flash is much nicer so I will have to try it out. I used the storyboard as a template so I drew on top of it multiple layers so I can break down the movable parts into individual pieces.

Once the characters and support elements were completed, I imported them into Flash where they were organized into folders according to the character. I then began building the animation from the first scene. Since this was going to be used on the web and in emails, I kept the frame rate at 12 fps for faster loading times. Each movement and character was placed on its own timeline. This allows for easier editing. Some movements were their own smaller animations that were then placed on the timeline. This keeps the complexity down and allows looping of movements like blinking of the eyes. Flash can be a bit wonky so as I get major elements animated, I saved the file in steps. There have been a few times that Flash will just shut down or not open a file so it is good to have a previous version as a backup.

Once the client was happy with the animation, I sent them the final Flash file so they could drop it into their template and add their back end programming (ActionScript) so it would interact with their website and ecard downloads. This is the final file.

I hope to have some new Painter samples for next month. Check in next week for Debbie's blog contribution.

Email us or send us a Facebook message if you would like us to send you our very first Pixel Shavings postcard.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Progression of Character by Hazel Mitchell

Welcome to April! It's my turn to GLOG this week and I have had an exciting week.

First 'How to Talk to an Autistic Kid' by Daniel Stefanski, illustrated by me and published by Freespirit Publishing, went on sale this week. It's a fun book with a serious message. The author is a 14 year old autistic boy and in the book he shares what it's like to deal with people who are unsure how to talk to someone with Autism. Whether you are in contact with someone who is Autistic, or know someone who is, this is an informative and sometimes humorous book. It would also make a great gift for a school or library!

Learn more about the book on Amazon

It was also really cool as I got to do the lettering for the cover and chapter titles too.

Second - I just got back from the Nevada SCBWI Mentor Program (my mentor was illustrator (and National Illustration Co-ordinator for SCBWI) Priscilla Burris. I have been working with her for 6 months. It has been awesome and if your an illustrator or writer I recommend you check out the next program. Also check out my Facebook page/blog for more information.

So! Here are some of the sketches of the progression of the character drawings for Daniel in the book ...

 Here's where we started ...

 Tried it with grayscale tints ....
 Then we tried a more sketchy outline and realistic look.
Hmm. It wasn't working, so Steven Hauge (art director) asked me to make him much more simplified and cartoony. I also made his limbs and neck thinner and his head slightly larger to make him look a little younger. I used a felt tip brush pen. Then scanned in the drawing and tinted in photoshop.
 We were almost there ... but the hair looked too much like a helmet ...

 So I tried some different styles, and bingo, we had a personality! Number 2 was what we went with.

 Here's the finished look. The illustrations throughout were tinted grayscale and teal as a spot colour. Overall it gives the book a retro feel that is easy on the eye.

It was great fun and a pleasure to work with Daniel Stefanski and Free Spirit Publishing.

 OH! One last shout out! PIXEL SHAVINGS artists sent out their first group postcard mailing this week.
If you would like one or would like to be added to our mailing list please contact us.

Hazel Mitchell

Thanks for visiting Pixel Shavings this week.
Find more of my work online at