Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Isn't it always the case that you always get sick when you can least afford to rest? I'm almost better now, but this past week has to have been one of the most difficult this year. On top of the interviews below (and the 8 sketches for a project which many of you will soon be victims of me begging feedback for), I also finished this project as an homage to Carlos Lerms I chose him because he responded fastest, and also, he's so good at all the things I'm especially bad at. Here is the result of that.

The second is a technique test. My theme was Vacations! Done in photoshop, start to finish because it would've been impossible for me to have learned Illustrator to the level I would have needed that quickly. I think the hardest part was trying to wrap my head around his use of color. His pallet is actually limited, but not nearly as much so as mine (which I do out of comfort, rather than any foresight), so it was a baffling challenge. It was like a rubik's cube with a gradient of colors. (Oh, and it was fun too. :D)

Monday, March 28, 2011

Carlos Lerms Interview

Recently I was assigned a project which involved interviewing a working illustrator via email. It was actually so helpful I decided to share some of their responses. I was pretty lucky in that all the illustrators I emailed agreed. It was a great experience getting to talk to some of my heroes too! They all had some good advice to share, and so...

[Carlos Lerms] is awesome. He is a Mexican illustrator, working out of Cancun. He does a lot of poster work, and just recently started his own (blindly pretty) webcomic. If you check his deviantart (which is terribly inspiring and updated almost daily), you can also see a ton of works relating to pop culture that will probably make you laugh. (Here's one about winning if you have yet to tire of it.)
[Here] is a link to the piece Carlos talks about in Q3, his favorite assignment (lol.)
1) What sort of medium or programs to you use for your work?
I use digital mostly, illustrator and photoshop, but I always start with a pencil sketch, even if it's just a rough approach...

2) What are some of your favorite websites/magazines/books/publications for inspiration? is one, NiceFuckingGraphics ( , Omgposters, Yayeveryday... :)

3) What was your favorite professional assignment that you've ever done?
Once I had to do an illustration mixing Machete, Scott Pilgrim, and Harry Potter... it wasn't my best but it was the most fun :D

4) You have a really fantastic, bright style has it always been that way? How did you get there?
Mostly by just giving myself little challenges along the way... Trying to work in limited colors, then limited geometry, and suddendly letting go of restrictions and watching everything explode :)

5) What do you do when you can't come up with ideas? How do you manage stress?
I'm almost always stressed and tired, but it's ok if you're having fun... And about idea blockage, i don't believe in inspiration... If I can't think of something I just start working on something else, or researching... I never let myself stay still.

6) How do you advertise yourself/get work? What works for you?
Well, through my website mostly, and posting stuff on tumblr and deviantart.

7) Is your personal work particularly different from your professional work?
Yes, professional work is always what the client wants first... So it's very very different.

8) What's the best advice you would give a student aspiring to work as an illustrator?
Listen to a lot of music, Read a lot of books, watch a bunch of movies, play a lot of videogames, watch a lot of cartoons, and
draw the rest of the time... :)

Jon Klassen Interview

[Jon Klassen] is an illustrator who trained as an animator (and still does animation.) I was so excited he responded to my email, because I love his technique and have always wanted to know more about it. It actually makes for really mind bogglingly beautiful animation as well. Aside from that, I'm thoroughly looking forward reading 'I want my hat back.'

1) What sort of medium or programs to you use for your work?

It varies on the subject and how complex the final picture might end up being. these days i try and start with a messy media, like ink or charcoal, something that will give me accidents, and i make component parts of the picture with that. i either scan or photograph those pieces, then assemble them digitally. working on them digitally afterwards can get very involved if i wasn't very sure how they were going to be used or if something interesting happened while the pieces were getting made. i like this stage very much. it's kind of like film editing.

2) What are some of your favorite websites/magazines/books/publications for inspiration?

I like to look at photographs a lot instead of other illustrations. for illustrators this is better, i find, because you're not looking at somebody else's solutions to problems. unprofessional photos are best because they usually don't care so much about composition or anything as they do getting what it is they want in the picture, which is great for you because you start to think about how you would stage things in an interesting way. i like older photos mostly, cause the colors are always a little washed out and not so sharp. a good starting place for those kinds of pictures is

3) What was your favorite professional assignment that you've ever done?

I am working on kids book illustration right now, and i don't know if it's just because it's a switch from what i was doing for many years (i worked at big animation studios before this) but i'm enjoying it the most. i like the simple ones best, even though the illustrations might not be as impressive to do. i wrote my very first one and illustrated it this year, and it's called 'i want my hat back' and it comes out in the fall. i don't know if it's my best work, but i enjoyed making it more than most of the things i've worked on in the past few years.

4) Your style is really distinctive and eye catching, has it always been that way?

Thank you! i don't think i'm in a great position to judge it, really - i still see a lot of inconsistencies when i look at my work altogether, but i'm glad you think it fits together somehow. i think style has to do mainly with what you're choosing to think about and what you don't want to think about (maybe that second one more importantly) - the more i do pictures for myself, the more i start to learn what an idea actually is to me. i think thats a big step - when you're learning all this stuff, it all seems so grandly conceptual and you feel like you're just learning the tools, but once you sort of figure out how a small idea that you like can be pulled apart and extrapolated and made to be a satisfying thing for yourself, you're sort of set free and you stop worrying about technique so much and you just want to make ideas that you like and follow them where they go. the great part about that is that you don't feel like it's ending anywhere - it goes as far as you want to follow it.

5) What sort of process do you have? Do you work on many pieces at once or one at a time?

I try to only work on one thing at a time, but it never seems to work out that way. maybe that's a luxury you work up to - but i'm not sure it's a totally harmful thing to put a project down midway and go do something else. i used to think it was hokey when people said they wanted to let an idea 'percolate' or whatever, but just by the necessity of getting work done, i've found it's actually a very real thing and it can improve your work quite a bit.

6) What do you do when you can't come up with ideas? How do you manage stress?

I'm learning more and more not to hold onto things so tightly - sometimes it's hard because you want to do good work but there isn't enough time or you don't like the subject, and i've certainly done things i don't like now - that still stresses me out. but i think it's important to not see any of your work as a 'legacy' or anything like that - the more you look at it like a local problem with a solution, the more you can focus on that rather than on yourself doing it or how good you might be at it that day.
also i take very long showers.

7) How do you advertise yourself/get work? What have you found to work best for you?

i'm still finding out if this is as true in book illustration as it is for animation, but the best thing that's worked for me is to collaborate as much as you can, early on. you'll find out what parts of a project you like best, and the results will always be different than something you've done on your own. more interestingly, though, is that the people you work with, if you choose them for the right reasons, always end up having other things to do that you want to do too, and it becomes this really great organic thing. it sounds luxurious to say 'only work with people you like' because of course you can't always, but when you're starting out and stakes aren't as high as they might be later, if you have the choice between working with someone you like and who excites you or something you know is just to get on the record, go with the more interesting one. an interesting project will travel around and get you more work than a hundred boring ones for big places that you get paid for.

8) Do you have a time that you prefer to work? Night? Morning?

In school i was a night worker, but since then i sort of enjoy having daytime work hours and keeping the same schedule as people with jobs. of course if something needs to get done, all that scheduling falls apart and you just go until it's done, but that gets rarer, i think, as you get better at managing your time.

9) Is your personal work particularly different from your professional work?

No, not really. the work i do for books and commercials and things will vary based on the topic and the tone that's needed, and even though i think i'm switching it up, there always seems to be some common ingredients. i never really had a huge interest in personal work past things that i could only call 'assignments to myself' - i've always liked solving work problems that are brought to me rather than express anything i'm feeling that day. Although, i will say that more i do this work, the more i find that how you're feeling that day or that week or that month comes across in your professional work whether you want it to or not. I don't mind that when i see it happening, but i have a hard time using it as a starting point for making something.

10) What's the best advice you would give a student aspiring to work as an illustrator?

Work on ideas you honestly like, that are valid to you. your responses to things, your way of receiving a problem and turning it over in your head, before you ever put anything down on paper, is the best currency you have. all your style and technique can come out of that, and should be secondary to that. that doesn't mean you can't have things that you use a lot - sometimes things last a very long time in your head before you're done exploring in there. but try always to start with something in the topic you genuinely have a crush on.

Sarah Mensinga Interview

[Sarah Mensinga] is an illustrator/animator/comic artist, who is currently taking time to work on her own graphic novel called The Wellington Division. I first read her work The Changeling in Flight (v.5, I think), and I think her comics are lovely and endearing. The last image here is from a four page comic called Fish, which is hilarious and [available to read online]. She also gives incredibly helpful, sincere advice, so keep reading!

Her children often appear in her work, ahaha. ^
1) What sort of medium or programs to you use for your work?

I usually start with paper and color-erase pencils. I scan that and paint it digitally, usually with Photoshop, sometime with both Painter and Photoshop. I love the look of Illustrator, but I've never had the chance to sit down and really figure it out.

2) What are some of your favorite websites/magazines/books/publications for inspiration?

I add nearly every cool art blog I find to my google reader, which I try to check everyday. Most of the blogs I follow are conceptual artists in animation-related feilds. My newest discovery is, which is an online auction site. If you get a free membership, you can browse their lots and study high-resolution images of some fantastic illustrators. As far as books go, I have a huge collection of visual reference books. I love books on architecture and costume, most of all.

3) What was your favorite professional assignment that you've ever done?

I once got to design some Wizard of Oz dolls for some product pitch. I don't think the project ever materialized, but it was a lot of fun.

4) You have a really distinctive, painterly style has it always been that way? How did you get there?

Ha, it's a bit of a relief that you say that. I still feel that my painting is a bit unpredictable and that I'm not entirely happy with my process. I went to an arts high school and for my final year I focused on oil-painting and illustration. I think that gave me a pretty good foundation for learning how to digitally paint, but it wasn't until I started professionally character designing that I had to knuckle down and really learn how to digitally paint well. I realized that if I wanted my designs to catch the eyes of producers and directors who weren't necessarily accustomed to looking at line drawings, I'd better figure out how to make my designs look more like they would on screen. To learn, I asked friends who painted well a lot of questions, I did a lot of terrible paintings, I searched for tutorials and I studied the work of other artists I admired. I still do all those things. :)

5) What sort of process do you have? Do you work on many peices at once or one at a time?

My process now is a bit up in the air, but that's just because I'm not doing working full-time. (My kids are very little and I'm home with them.) In general though, I do a fairly tight line-drawing and scan it. I usually look for some photo (often completely unrelated) to create a color palette, and often tweak it even further in photoshop. I do a rough painted pass, keeping as many things on layers as I can and then I save and tighten and polish. The polishing part always takes forever. :) I do often have several projects on the go, both story-related and art-related. I try to focus on them one at a time, though.

6) What do you do when you can't come up with ideas? How do you manage stress?

If I'm working on a professional project, usually I have enough direction from a client that it's not difficult to build on their ideas. But sometimes if I'm working on my own art and there is no deadline, I feel a bit lost. Often, I start pulling reference books down from my shelves and open them to random pages, looking for inspiration. Othertimes, I think about something I could draw that would make my daughter or husband smile. As for stress, I push through it! I'm definitely the sort of person that just gets more determined when confronted with something that is stressing me out. The more I work on it, the faster it will be done and the faster is will stop stressing me out. :)

7) How do you advertise yourself/get work? What works for you?

At the moment, I'm sort of anti-advertising. :) Since I'm home full-time with my kids, and trying to focus on writing, I don't really want to be inundated with freelance projects. When my kids are older, I'll probably try to go back to a studio because I like how social it is. Or at the very least, I'll look into getting an art rep. I'm terrible at negotiating contracts.

When I do want to advertise though, I find attending comic-conventions with my portfolio and lots of nice business cards pointing to my website works very well. Being active on my blog, helps too.

8) Is your personal work particularly different from your professional work?

Yes. When working professionally, I often work on designs or draw subjects I might not otherwise. I think it's a good thing, it pushes me out of my comfort zone. My personal work usually revolves around stories I have on the go.

9) What's the best advice you would give a student aspiring to work as an illustrator?

Don't go looking for your style. The best kind of style is something that naturally comes into your work and you can't get rid of it even if you wanted to. That way, it's really, genuinely you, it will set you apart and it will be unique.

Never put limitations on yourself. Never tell yourself "this is as good as I will ever get" and feel frustrated. Sometimes it feels that way, but as long as you try to stay positive and keep trying to learn, you will always be improving throughout your career and new doors will open, which is exciting! :)

She's so nice! I felt more comfortable asking her random questions. She wrote such long, helpful replies! She also keeps a blog which is updated often with lots of fun things! (Here!)

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Wahoo! It's painted! What a process. This was my pet project over break, and I really enjoyed it. The testors enamel paint wound up being quite glossy but nice. I wish I'd sanded a bit more, but other than that, i'm pretty content. I can't wait to try the next! I've missed non-watercolor painting.
Still deciding what sort of animal thing to do next. I'd like to test some acrylic on something smaller soon too. Along with my actual final project (wait and see) this is turning out to be pretty interesting. (*I will try to take some better pictures soon. u_u)

Monday, March 7, 2011

Who doesn't want a chocolate bar wrapper with a bear-mermaid reading on it? Who? I'm so lucky I got the flavor "dreamy" (lemon + geranium rose + chocolate= sleepiness, apparently.) I had a lot more freedom to throw in things that I really like. Like public transportation and bizarre animals. Right now I wish the leafy roof had more depth. Otherwise i'm just happy watercolor scans integrated alright. I like to imagine this is what happens when you fall asleep in public.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Lots of things: first, I was a bit sick this week, and am still feeling a bit questionable, so try to forgive me if this makes less sense (grammatically or otherwise) than usual. First off, I decided to print my little pet project! This is one of the first things I've tried to make from a drawing rather than randomly.
Not that it didn't get random after trying to figure out how to make limbs and lines at correct angles in space. Also, Solidworks has a pretty nice rendering add in called Photoworks.
I'm pretty happy with the shape especially. Hopefully I'll be able to paint it once the super glue dries.

OH! Also, a friend and I went to see Anamanaguchi (from Scott Pilgrim) and Ra ra riot at the Ram's Head the other night and it was awesome! It was a pretty short show, both are great live performers. That was my second time seeing Ra ra riot, and they're still fantastic. Ghost under rocks alone is worth the effort to see them live.