News Flash: A new world speed record has been achieved!
It is only Sunday night, and already this week’s illustration is ready to post.
The new topic is announced every Friday morning, around 9:00 on the site aptly titled “Illustration Friday.” From there, the clock starts ticking, because in exactly 168 hours a new topic will go up, and the old one will be forever closed. Fortunately, all the pieces that are submitted on time will be archived on the site in perpetuity.
This week’s topic was “Eye Glasses”.
I’ve stuck with the motif of using a pair of people, which has been typical of my past illustrations. I also employed the nice, loose style that is most comfortable for me, though perhaps not the most ‘bankable’ for professional illustration work:
Probably the first thing you’ll notice upon viewing this piece is the color. The color scheme along with the style in which it is applied is fairly bold and eye-catching, even while limited in palette
I took inspiration for this one from a very accomplished illustrator who goes by the name Polly Guo. Please visit Polly’s site. The cover of “Houdini & Holmes” – issue 1, was the takeoff point for the colors of my guys above.
The piece started with basic idea of the turquoise background, the strong mustard yellow, and brown. I opted for a lighter tint of the yellow for the guy on the left. I like to use different skin colors in my characters. For one thing, it’s realistic: even within a single family, you’ll find variations in the overall pigment of the body. More importantly, though: it helps most pictures in a couple of ways.
The main problem the skin colors helped solve in “Eye Glasses” was to help visually differentiate the two overlapping bodies. This function also aided the close action in “My One Talent”, a few posts ago.
In that picture, the different colors also served to suggest the emotional state of the two subjects: one livid and reddened, the other shaken and ashen.
Finally, different skin tones offer opportunities to introduce a slightly broader – and therefore more interesting – palette.
Some of the other elements I was trying to deal with included: anatomy, mass, and polish.
Having been fairly chided for the awkward anatomy in “Myths”, I have forced myself to pay greater attention to the proportions and natural movement of the figures. I’ve also been reading up, and practicing a lot in sketches. It’s amazing how, after years of work and schooling, there’s still so much room to keep learning and improving. So let me know how this picture looks.
If anything if “off”, please help me to see it. Sometimes, an artist gets too close to his work, and loses perspective on its flaws. Or rather loses sight of some flaws and obsesses over others. And those others are usually the flaws no-one else can see.
The same goes for mass. My cartoony style has a tendency to read as flat, to lack a true feel of volume in the solid objects and subjects. Pointers, please. I tried to suggest mass here with a combination of directional shadow lines (the blue pen-like lines) and the stark white highlights versus the color. Not sure if it works, though.
Finally, the polish. Sometimes, it’s the finishing touches that makes a picture look really ‘done’. Here, those touches are a couple of gradients I used in the color to give a blended look to couple of areas. This technique was applied only to the background, which starts yellower at the top and moves to full-on turquoise by the bottom. The blue shirt got a similar treatment, with a hint of a dark blue increasing toward the margin.
For anyone wondering how it’s done, it’s not too complex.
- In Photoshop, you first create a new layer for my gradient.
- Use the ‘magic wand’ to highlight just the color areas you want to affect (you’ll do this in whatever layer you’ve done your existing color.).
- In the color palette window, select a new color you want to blend into the existing color.
- The gradient tool has a few options. Here, I’ve used the one where the color fades into transparency. In the new layer you created, drag the mouse from top to bottom (or vice versa) over the area that was highlighted and the gradient appears.
- At this point, you can adjust the opacity of the layer itself, so the new color balances the way you want it to with the old.
- You may need to Undo and repeat this a few times to get the right amount of gradient color.
Finally, a word on imperfections.
My style is a little sloppy at times. There are lots of little specs where dark lines weren’t fully erased at some point. Colors sometimes bleed over edges. You can even see ghost-images where it looks like pencil that was not completely erased.
These things are intentional. I picked up these habits in art school, studying and emulating masters like Richard Diebenkorn, Henri Matisse, and Edgar Degas who chose to leave of the “process” showing in some of their completed works. These techniques have found their way into the canon of fine art, but are sometimes overused. Sometimes, their used as excuses not to polish off a work properly. I may have grown too comfortable relying on this approach, so I’m trying to rely on it less. It’s nice to be able to choose the level of finish on your work.
Okay. That was a lot of words. It’s late. Time to take out the contact lenses and go to bed.