Tag Archives: art

From the Dreaded One’s Desk: The Evils of Illustration

ardythava“Erm,  your dreadfulness?” the Art Minion asked.

“What?” The Most Evil Dreaded Author bared fangs while trying to carefully ink the lines of her picture over the make-shift light table.

“I think the cat’s head is crooked… maybe you should start this one over.”

“And maybe I should boil you in oil,” grumbled the Dreaded One.

The Art Minion shut up.

The Editorial Minion sidled up for a closer look. “I think that arm is the wrong angle, and why does that dress have pointing lace on one side and rounded lace on the other?”

“Lest me show you why.” The Dreaded One flashed fangs and bonked the minion on the nose with the pen.

“Ow. No need to get so prickly,” the Editorial Minion muttered and slunk off.

“I demand silence! The next minion who speaks before I do gets toilet scrubbing duty!” The Dreaded One glared, mollified a little by the minions’ cowering. Trying to ignore her increasing frustration at trying to draw, she could fully recall why she didn’t do it often. Seconds later, the ink pen  lingered over the paper a fraction of a second too long, leaving a blotch of ink.

“Arg! I hate this,” the Dreaded One roared, throwing her pen across the room.

The Production Minion decided this was the moment for a status update. “It’s looking very good, your evilness,” he said, bowing, and ignoring the tantrum. “But you must finish by tonight if you are to make your Dreaded Deadline.”

“I’m the Dreaded Author!” snarled the Dreaded One. “Author. Not Illustrator! What is this nonsense? Get someone else to do it!”

“Your awfulness,” interjected the Budgeting Minion, “We don’t have the funds at this point to hire an artist.”

“Besides,” added the Art Minion, “All your family and friends agreed you were the perfect artist for this project. Your personal evil style is exactly what it needs.”

With a roar the Dreaded Author snatched up the Production Minion and threw him into the others. “I don’t care! I’m an author! Not an illustrator! Out!”

They scurried through the door, while the Dreaded One sat back with a sigh and a grumble. The half-finished cat drawing eyed her back. It had a decidedly smug look on its face.

“No you don’t,” muttered the Dreaded One. “I don’t care about you. Not at all! No!”

The drawn cat smirked. “I’m just too much a challenge for the likes of you,” it whispered, blotchy whiskers and all.

With a snarl, the Dreaded One grabbed a fresh sheet of paper. “Oh, I’ll wipe the smile right off your face! On this next drawing. With you drowning in the ocean. I’ll lock you up in prison next, and then get you skewered with a sword.”

The cat at least looked properly miserable in the next few versions.

“Not bad,” the Dreaded One growled, looking them over. “But I still think I’ll stick to writing next time.”

Sasha behind bars 001

The Blank Page

Calico PatrickI recall sometime in grade school, the local children’s author Eloise McGraw came to our school for a reading. To encourage reading, the librarian put all the library’s full collection of her books on a month-long display. Interested by the presentation, I tried not her award winning Egypt book, but a different one that caught my eye “Master Cornhill.” It was a rather involved English historical fiction novel about an orphan finding his place in society in the framework of one of the great London fires. An unlikely read for a girl of ten or eleven, but I enjoyed in none-the-less.

An unlikely image from late in the book has stayed with me my whole life. The boy finds an unlikely friend and master in a Dutch mapmaker, who at one point the book hands the MC a paintbrush and pot of blue pain and points to the map he’s about to start and suggests the MC makes the first stroke. Faced with the beautiful blank page, the MC is suddenly terrified. What if his stroke is wrong? What if he ruins the either piece of precious (and expensive paper)? And yet, there is the master, watching, waiting, and he also dares not disobey and so conquers his fear and makes lone long blue stroke across the page.

Good, the master tells him, I did not know until this moment if you had in you what it takes to become an artist. It takes making that first stroke. And if I had ruined the page, asks the boy. Then you would have ruined it, but that’s a risk that has to be taken, because if the page remains blank, you will never be artist… so something like that.

I don’t own the book, shockingly. I have only my memory, the quiet English room on the bridge of London, the white-haired Dutch master, the blond haired young boy, the white of the paper, and that one lone blue stroke. As if I was standing there myself. I suppose considering the vividness of the image I don’t really need McGraw’s book after all, do I?

It’s easy to forget now that I’m a published author that I started out as a visual artist as a child. I’ve long overcome the fear of the word processor page, dingier than a piece of art paper as my laptop screen is smudged and dusty, only hastily wiped off as I focus on churning out the words. It’s easy to forget that just because I have conquered this page does not mean that piece of paper waiting for me will easy to face.

For the past three months I’ve officially been planning to illustrate one of my own books. But the blank page has been winning. I haven’t drawn in I don’t know how long and somewhere in those years, the terror has returned. And so, when I sit down to write and think of the illustration project yet again, I take a deep breath and call to mind that English room, the London bridge, the white-haired map maker.

“Here,” he says, offering me a pencil, freshly sharpened. “You make the first line.”

The infinite white page spreads out and my small hands shake, the world spins, but then rights itself as I reach out and draw a long confident line across the page. This time I will not forget—I am an artist.

Meet My Illustrator — Leo DeBruyn

My illustrator, Leo DeBruyn has decided to formally start offering illustration and cover design services for sale.  You can take a look at his website here.  As well as showing off some of the art he’s done for me, I’ve interviewed him today.  I have to say, I’ve been thrilled with his art for “A School for Villains” and I’m saving up so he can illustrate book 2 for me as well.

What’s the best part of what you do?

My favorite part of the illustration process is probably the early composition stage, where I pick out the colors and shapes, define the negative space, and adjust the framing of the image. If I can make it exciting and interesting at that point, I know that the final image will be good. Later, changes will be more costly, but at the start I can try all sorts of different things. A close runner up is when I’m adding the details at the end. At that point, I already like the image and I’m just making it better. I am a bit of a perfectionist, so I will keep tweaking until I am satisfied.

What’s your favorite style of illustration? Which mediums do you prefer?

I like variety, but generally gravitate toward colorful images that are believable but not ultra-realistic. I want them to have charm and be visually interesting.

Overall, I prefer digital illustration because of the freedom that it gives me and the time it saves. These days, everything ends up digital, so it saves a few steps if you start out that way. The power of layers lets me experiment and easily mask things off– saving a ton of time. And of course, undo works better than any eraser yet invented.

When I am not working digitally, my favorite medium is crayons on paper. I like the brightness of the colors, and the versatility. You can sharpen them down to a fine point or put them on their side and fill in a space. And they are cheap, so you can have buckets of them and just play around. If you apply them in layers, you can get a very smooth and brilliant layer of wax that has a wonderful sense of depth and radiance to it. And you can also mix them with wax-based colored pencils if you need more detail. Plus, it’s kind of a kick to see people’s reaction when you take materials most people associate with children and do something that impresses them.

What’s your favorite thing to draw?

As a kid, I preferred animals. In art school, I went to the zoo a lot, and some of my favorite drawings were of penguins and bears, using a Japanese brush that allowed me to capture the entire animal with a couple of brush strokes. Since animals move around a lot, it was a great way to capture them quickly before they changed poses. I also like drawing people and interesting architecture, especially castles and spacecraft. Dragons and armor are always fun, too.

Who are some illustrators you admire or have inspired your work?

I love the work of many illustrators. Some of them have influenced how I draw, others just inspire me and fire up my imagination. My mother is an illustrator and definitely had a large impact on my style. Other illustrators that I enjoy include Maurice Sendak, Dr. Seuss, Leo and Diane Dillon, Quentin Blake, James Marshall, and William Steig. There are so many more, but I’m not going to turn this into an epic list.

For your personal work, where do you find inspiration?

Stories inspire me. That’s really what illustration is all about. A story comes to life in an illustration. I like to read a lot, and I have even done illustrations of my own life story in various diaries and journals over the years.

The human form also inspires me. What is amazing about it is that human beings love images of people, but they are really hard to get right because we have an innate understanding of the human form that makes us notice even tiny details that are wrong. It also subtly informs our idea of beauty and ugliness in everything, even inanimate objects. I have found the human body to be both inspiring and challenging. Drawing it makes me into a better artist every time, even if my next piece of work has no people in it.

Elaborate on your education, experience and skills.

I grew up drawing and painting in a very creative home. My mother is an artist and my siblings and I spent a lot of time creating art with her as children. When I grew up, I went to art school and studied computer animation. That is what really got me going with digital illustration. But I also spent a fair amount of time working with traditional media. Some other mediums that I enjoy are acrylic paint, wood and linoleum block prints, paper cutting and folding, and sculpting in clay, wire, and paper.

While I have produced a lot of art over the years, I haven’t done a lot of commercial illustration because I’ve been so busy designing video games for the last decade. I am trying to focus more on my art now because I really enjoy it and want to live a more balanced creative life.

For digital art, what programs do you use?

I use Photoshop, GIMP, Inkscape, Flash, Blender… it all depends on what I’m making and where I happen to be at the moment. I work in both vector and raster images, depending on the style and needs of the project.

What services do you offer and what are your rates? What are looking for in a project?

Currently I’m offering cover creation services. This can range from a simple layout and graphic design for your e-book cover using stock photos, to a full blown print-resolution cover with a custom illustration. Since I’m relatively new to this, and I’d like to work with up and coming authors, I am trying to keep my rates reasonable. All of my work is entirely custom (I don’t use templates), so your price will depend on what your needs are.

For example, an e-book cover with your name and title on it in a nice-looking font and color scheme, with a photo image, might be around $50, plus whatever the photo costs to license. If you have your own photo, or want me to find you a free royalty-free image, then there’d be no extra charge for the picture.

On the other end of the spectrum, a print-resolution cover with all the same layout and typography, as well as a highly detailed custom digital illustration containing an iconic scene or image from your book may cost you $400, depending on how detailed of an image you want. I can also do it in a different medium if you prefer. Really like woodblock prints? How about a photo of an origami bird floating on the water? Just let me know what you’re thinking and I’ll give you a quote.

I’d also like to point out that while I enjoy being creative, my ultimate goal with illustration is to please my client. I don’t mind doing an image in a particular style that you really like. If there’s another image out there that you like the look of and you want something similar, send a link to me and I’ll see what I can do.

Tell us about your non-illustration projects. What else do you enjoy doing?

I’m a game designer, so I spend a lot of time making video games. Some of this is basically programming, but sometimes it involves creating art. Just in the last few weeks I started playing around with something called

NeoTextureEdit to make procedural images of wood and stone surfaces for a game. It’s almost a game in and of itself tweaking knobs and typing numbers to create art.

I also enjoy writing. I’m hoping to get some of my own stories published soon.

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A Break from Writing for Dreaming

One thing I always notice during Nanowrimo is how much energy getting out the word count takes out of me and how much more time I spend intently staring at the computer screen.  While it’s not as hard on my eyes as say an 8 hour marathon of spider solitaire or minesweeper, it does rather exhaust both my eyes and my brain to add that much more screen time.

This makes it more critical to take proper breaks and do non-writing activities that are both restorative and creative.  My usual choice for non-writing creativity is wychinanki, or Polish Papercutting, where layers of colored paper are cut into the shape of birds or flowers with colored paper on top in diminishing sizes.  However, living with relatives (gotta love the recession) doesn’t give me a permanent table for the cutting and gluing and has scattered my supplies.  Thus, I decided my non-writing activity would be cleaning my room and sorting through the clutter to find my stuff.  Joy.  But it moved my hands and rested my eyes and used a different part of my brain than novel writing does, so that was good enough to qualify.

Well, while cleaning I found a dreamcatcher kit that my aunt had given my husband for Christmas several years ago and he’d never bothered with.  I’ve

always thought dreamcatchers were really cool, but none of the people I knew who made them ever got around to make me one, and let’s face it, when spending money, it was never going to get up to the top of my list as far as actually buying one.  So, I got excited, and thought I’d try and make the dreamcatcher following the kit instructions.  It was an interesting process but I’ve ended up really pleased with my dreamcatchers and quite pleased to finally have some to hang up.

After soaking the reed and starting to bend it, I realized the instructions actually suggested making three smaller ones instead of one big one, so I switched to trying that and made three hoops out of the colored reed.  I was a bit clumsy, but liked the results anyway.  I started with the blue hoop, and decided to use the blue string in the kit for it, but while there were feathers, the beads and a small clay bird, supposedly in the kit, were missing.  So I hunted around in some of the old jewelry I had and picked the star and the turtle for the blue dreamcatcher, along with a couple of old earrings.  After all,  a turtle is as good as a bird for a symbolic dream symbol, right?

The red one, I found that I hadn’t made the hoop as well, and the tension started to warp it.  After determining this was inevitable without resoaking it and trying to shape it to be smaller and stronger, I decided just to go with as the warped shape was also sort of pretty.  Again, I used a couple of old earrings for beads and while I’ve never seen a bell on a dreamcatcher, this one lying around seemed like the perfect thing to add to it.  To conserve feathers as the kit was short, this is one I found in my driveway that I think was once a feathered earring, but ended up in the mud and so is a little worse for wear, but the rugged shape I think worked out despite that.

The final one (purple) I hoped to keep from warping by not pulling it as tight, but it did a little, although not into as dramatically as the red one.  I decided to go all out on this one as far as trying to weave things in.  The stone and cross I got from one of those little machines at the supermarket (see my previous post and ninjas and aliens for the little machine saga) and thought they would be the perfect elements for this.  The shell I found on the beach last year.  The beads are old earrings and I just stuffed the ends of the feathers into the beads and figure if I’m careful, it’ll stay together.  Over all, I love these.  It was worth the wait for the right dreamcatchers.