Tag Archives: illustration

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

A Thousand Words… or could be

I’ve been sorting through papers to prepare for the move (can I just say I hate moving?) with hopes of recycling what I can rather than hauling it around.  Today I discovered a box of pictures and cards I’d saved.  In the days before google plus and flicker, I’d use cards either people had sent me or ones I’d bought like writing prompts or to inspire my imagination. I still like to collage them on the wall, but over the years I’ve end up with a lot of them and the ones I found were ones I’d not seen in a long time.  I hope I’ll have somewhere to hang them soon.

Until then, since a picture is about a thousand words, according to the usual cliche, I’ve taken a photo of several of them and perhaps I’ll try to sneak in some writing exercises using them in between all the sorting and packing.  I sort of like the idea of trying to write a thousand words for each one, it’d certainly keep me in shape for the next Nanowrimo, or when I have the focus to get back to the villain sequel.

Here’s an assortment:

What I learned from Bill Peet’s Autobiography

Growing up, I was in love with Bill Peet’s picture books.  My mother’s dislike for their “cartoony” illustrations and “preachy” messages only seemed to fuel my enjoyment of them and my desire to check them all out of the library (she would not buy us any of them).  That and Babar, which she also hated.  I liked the energy of Bill Peet’s pictures, especially his monsters, and the depressing tone to many of the tales didn’t bother me.  If there was anyone who knew what kids liked, it was certainly Bill Peet.

My brother is lending me a bunch of books because he’s going off to college and so needs somewhere to store them for four years.  One of his books, which I’d browsed when visiting him, is “Bill Peet: An Autobiography.”  Since it had been good when sampling it, I asked to borrow it, and ended up reading the whole thing yesterday evening.  It’s wonderfully readable, in part because each page has at least as much illustration as words, a picture book for adults.  It makes the autobiography about the size of a coffee table book, but its a delight to flip through, and the text is large and easily accessible.  I can’t tell if it’s meant for adults or children, in that it’s so easy to read, and yet he is so frank about adult life issues, poverty, raising children, and office politics under Walt Disney.  I think it’s the sort of book anyone could read, but you get a lot more out of as an adult reader.

Several things stood out to me from reading it.

  • Bill Peet never stops drawing.  He drew constantly from a young age to the present.  Drawing is like breathing for him.
  • Writing didn’t come naturally to him.  Peet was convinced he was horrible, until Walt Disney in a fit of weird temper started insisting he write full length animated screen plays.  For some reasons, Peet had no trouble doing this, and it gave him confidence in his story telling on his own.  He also kept practicing writing to improve, even though it took years and he tended to fall back into drawing instead out of frustration
  • Peet always had a back-up plan, even if it kept changing, other than working for Disney.  He knew the job was unreliable and would eventually drive him nuts, even if he kept doing it for 27 years or something.  It was inspiring and fascinating to hear him talk about the various back-up income plans he worked out and his failures before his children’s books took off.  The main thing is, he never kept looking for a way out, the next step to what he wanted to do for his career.

It makes me wonder, what goals do I want to set for myself and work?  When do I give up and when to I press forward?  And it makes me grateful that I don’t have Walt Disney for a boss, even if also sounds like he challenged him in positive ways.  He didn’t make him sound like he was someone it was easy, or nice, to know personally.

It also makes me think that I should take up drawing again.  I’m the opposite in that I write constantly, and when I try to draw I give up and just write instead.  But maybe if I stuck with it a bit longer, I’d be more satisfied with my work.  I also feel the need to go to the library… and check out as many Bill Peet books as I can find.

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.