I've been a little behind in my blog posts this year because I've been spending my time learning. In addition to reviewing some of my old Schoolism classes, I took on some new ones over at Skillshare. Some classes include designing patterns—one in Photoshop, the other in Illustrator. I'm still trying to decide which best fits my workflow but now I have more options. I always thought that some of my character designs might potentially work well either as patterns or standalone images on products. I'll let you be the judge! :)
Occasionally, I get a commission from an industry I wouldn't normally expect but I am always interested in learning from a new experience.
In this case, a friend was kind enough to recommend me to an assistant professor at a nearby university. She was looking to include some light-hearted illustrations to recap each of the sections of her tenure report on nursing, something I knew very little about. Working with an academic pushed me out of my comfort zone somewhat because I'm used to collaborating with someone who is also creative but this time I took on most of that responsibility while she provided all the expertise on the subject matter. She had never worked with an illustrator before so this was to be a new experience for the both of us.
Instead of a design brief I was given her report to read and see what images I could come up with. (Already outside that comfort zone!) Unfortunately, due to my limited knowledge of her field, some of my initial ideas didn't quite fit with what she had in mind so I had to do some additional research to be able to come up with something that would feel more sincere and believable. A lot of ideas were bounced back and forth before we narrowed it down to the following illustrations to accompany each of her sections. I think the collaboration went well.
Her Teaching Style
Instead of a conventional teaching image with a teacher at the head of the class pointing to a blackboard or diagram, she wanted to convey the collaborative nature of her teaching style with her nursing students. One such example was that she sometimes does what she calls 'silly demos', using muffins or pound cakes to illustrate different types of biopsies.
Road from Concept to Infographic
This was a tough one to finalize. She wanted images to express the journey to and from collaboration. In the end, a process map was the best way to show the concepts of education and leadership leading to collaboration, and collaboration potentially resulting in healthy living, a long life, and the funding of ideas or research.
For the topic of Service & Caring in her report, she had three areas she wanted a visual representation showing service to the communities:
Department: Committee Work and Planning;
Professional Communities: Nursing and Higher Education; and
University Faculty: Volunteering and Collegiality.
While brainstorming ideas, fond memories of Calvin and Hobbes came to mind and I created these little humorous vignettes using a little girl and her toy minions to act out the scenes. My client loved it!
This experience really reminded me how much I enjoy drawing cute characters and scenes. I've noticed that a lot of my sketches tend to either the cute or somewhat humorous. As an artist, I'm inspired by a lot of things and I often wish I could do everything under the sun but perhaps I will stop fighting that desire and just go with the flow. :)
As an independent artist there are many venues that do print-on-demand so it's hard to vet them all. However, having heard good things about RedBubble from fellow artist friends, I decided to try them out. I'm happy to share that I've added them to the list of stores that sell my artwork. Recently, I added some new artwork featuring a re-designed version of a Chow Chow character. I created it a while back for a friend's comic pitch that unfortunately didn't make the cut for an anthology. I felt it was a shame to shelve the character so I decided to take another crack at "Gordon" to see if I could push his design further and make him more adorable. I'm all about the cute these days and feel like it's a direction I want to keep going in, at least for now.
I ordered some things from both my RedBubble and Society6 stores using the same design in order to compare the quality, colour accuracy and speed of delivery.
My First Impression of RedBubble:
RedBubble performed better than my other store, Society6, when it came to delivery time but for Canadians I think there may be a bias. RedBubble has a location in Burlington, Ontario and I'm in nearby Toronto. Society6 ships from the US so there will always be a delay at the border. I think customers in the US would get comparable delivery speeds because RedBubble also has a American location.
I was already impressed with getting my packages quickly—within 5 days—along with a follow-up email to confirm delivery but it didn't end there. All of items from RedBubble arrived together. The packaging was also really well-designed and my mug was even safely nestled in a sleeve within the outer package. I don't know how many times I've received things from other vendors where items arrived bent or broken so this was nice to see. You can tell they put a lot of thought and care into it. Their attention to details—a tiny wooden clothes peg holding the tee-shirt tag, overall product quality, colour consistency amongst the products, and printing accuracy—helped make a really good first impression. I'm quite happy I tried them out.
My Society6 items arrived separately (because they use different fulfillment vendors) and took much longer, likely due to clearing customs. While Society6 provides tracking while in transit in the US, they don't extend that after it reaches Canada so that's something I'd like to see improved. Most items took about 2 weeks to arrive but the notebook ended up taking over 3 weeks! I had just sent in a request for a replacement, fearing it had been lost, when it finally arrived. Doh! One thing I will say is that their return/refund system is quite smooth and painless. Their customer service response is pretty good; I waited less than 24 hours.
Because Society6 uses different vendors I believe that's why the colour wasn't consistent from product to product. For instance, although the travel mug (on the left, in the second image below) looked good it was a lot more yellow than I would have liked. The hubby and I were split on which stickers we preferred, the glossy Society6 stickers or the RedBubble matte treatment. Both were of very good quality. Time will tell as to which one is more durable. The notebook turned out nicely. The paper has a nice smooth texture similar to 28-lb bond paper. I can foresee filling it up with lots and lots of drawings!
And lastly, some of the sketches leading up to the revised design of Gordon.
I'm not usually one to write these types of things. Every year has both its good and bad days, challenges and learning experiences but I considered 2017 to be a pretty good year for the hubby and I. I'll highlight some of the reasons below:
A Creative Collaboration:
At the end of last year, my husband and came up with a little creative endeavour for the both of us to work on (a small app). While I worked on fleshing out the characters at the beginning of 2017, we started to see a bigger potential for it and being the crazy creatives we are, imagined all kinds of things it could transition into. Based on the characters' expressions, we started to see their personalities emerge and my husband ended up coming up with the characters' names, backgrounds and motivations with the possibility of later creating a story with them in it. Although I have illustrated stories for others, neither of us had had much experience writing our own but we thought it would be a good opportunity to put some of the things we've learned over the past few years to use.
I had managed to get most of the characters cleaned up and in various poses when paying client gigs came in and we had to put it and other personal projects on hold. My husband is a web developer which tends to be all-encompassing and, when I get deadlines, I tend to brush everything else off to focus on that. Because work kept coming in, the project had to sit on the back-burner.
Client work came from a variety of industries which pushed me to learn new things quickly to be able to meet my deadlines. I had a lot of new experiences: I ended up pencilling and inking a comic cover to be coloured by another artist; I did my first-ever full-colour comic work, from pencils to colours and lettering; I designed a banner to promote a book I worked on, and a YouTube still for a musician I know; I collaborated with an art director from an ad agency on a few projects including spot illustrations, package label, and logo. It felt a little surreal getting all these requests because, due to lack of time, I had distanced myself from social media. I'm still not sure which was the cause and which was the effect!
One of the projects I collaborated on with an art director went through a number of iterations before a final image was chosen. It started off as a relatively simple cartoon likeness of the client but they ended up wanting to push it further into the realm of caricature. Unfortunately, I can't show the final image but you can see some of the iterations. This process opened my eyes to the nuances of what art directors and clients might ask for.
Things I learned:
Even with client work, I made a point of trying to keep up with my online Schoolism classes, albeit at a slower pace. I learned a lot of useful tips that I plan to apply to the latter half of our project. While I didn't have much time to do the homework, I did watch and absorb a few online courses. I love how it gives me a new perspective about art and the many ways to approach it. Hearing other artists share their experiences, backgrounds and tips, has made me feel less stressed about my own art and more excited about the future and possibilities. This was a huge revelation for me because I've always been a little too critical about my work which sometimes tends to hold me back. I'm learning that everyone has their own creative process and style so I need to not be so hard on myself.
I learned a great many things that contributed to my feeling much happier in 2017. I learned that it's not necessary to compare myself with others but to embrace the things I do well as an artist. That doesn't mean I will stop trying to push myself or evolving. I learned that limiting my exposure to social media made me less stressed and distracted. I learned not to worry too much about what others think and to instead focus on my work and projects; there will always be people that like what you do. I also learned a little about legal contracts and picked up copies of Graphic Artists Guild Handbook: Pricing and Ethical Guidelines and Business and Legal Forms for Illustrators.
Thanks for all the support and here's to a healthy and prosperous 2018 to you all!
Back in August, I shared some character concepts for one of the stories to be included in Bedside Press's Gothic Tales of Haunted Love anthology which is slated to come out in early 2018. Now that I have some time, I thought I'd share some of the images from the pages of Green, Gold and Black, written by my friend, Cherelle Higgins, that doesn't give too much away. The story is set in 1728 Jamaica when, on the eve of a slave uprising, a young house slave tries to protect her newborn infant from a pair of vengeful ghosts.
I wish I could share more because I feel I really pushed myself on this one, armed with some of the knowledge I've been slowly picking up from the Schoolism courses (I can't praise them enough), and also from years back at the Toronto Cartoonists Workshop where I learned how to break a script down into panel form from the wonderful Leonard Kirk! I didn't think I'd ever need to use that but while Cherelle has always written beautiful prose she didn't have any experience writing in comic form. With Cherelle and Bedside Press's feedback I separated the text into panels as how I thought might best work with the amount of pages we were allocated. I even surprised myself by doing all the lettering and hand-drawn text bubbles. On my previous two comics, I was lucky to have my husband letter for me in Illustrator. He really enjoys this whole process but this time he had his own deadlines and couldn't assist. Having said that, he did volunteer to design a simple title for the story.
Below is the first page followed by a slideshow of some progression and early character sketches. I hope you enjoy!
I was flattered to be asked to draw a still image to accompany Jeff Gunn's lovely Candle Lanterns song on YouTube. I am a fan of his work and sometimes play his songs while working. It's really relaxing and helps me focus.
Jeff has partnered with pledgemusic.com to release his full album, All the Roads We Take, this October. The song, Candle Lanterns, was written to commemorate the Bang Fai Festival on the Mekong River in Thailand. His album contains a collection of songs that were inspired from his travels around the globe over the last 10 years. All the sounds in the album were produced solely on the guitar using harp harmonics and was built on the versatility and beauty offered by the guitar. I encourage you to have a listen and, if you like it, please consider making a pledge to help him get his album out. Additionally, he is contributing 5% of all proceeds to Plan International. Thanks so much for taking a look!
Jeff Gunn is a Juno Award-nominated songwriter, contributor for Guitar World Magazine, Acoustic Guitar Magazine, National Geographic and author of the Hidden Sounds Guitar series.
Below is the final image along with some of the draft versions leading up to it. I hope you enjoy!
I was flattered to be asked to draw and ink an alternate comic cover for Canadian writer and filmmaker, Pasquale Marco Veltri. He wanted the cover for the preview issue of his graphic novel, Painting My Life, pencilled and inked by Ian Wright and coloured by Jorge Cortes.
The creative brief I received was to have the main character, Alice, seated in the centre of a room, painting herself and everything in the room on canvas while gargoyles watch attentively nearby. He wanted the painted scene to be repeated in the painting within the painting. To increase the level of unease, he wanted the painting of the old woman on the wall to be repeated on most of the canvases, watching Alice work with varying levels of disapproval or dismay. This was a challenging image to work on because of all the elements and expressions. Because I'm a huge fan of animation and anime I took inspiration from some of my favourite shows and movies when designing the characters while trying to maintain the main characteristics of the characters I drew. A mirror was always at hand while I acted out some of these poses and expressions!
While drawing this out in Clip Studio, I ended up adding in some flats for my own purposes to help me separate the foreground from the background. I'm not a typical penciller laying out shading and heavy inks because I often colour the page myself and so I was a little worried whether my pencils had enough information for the colourist but my fears were unfounded as he did a fantastic job! When I saw the finished version, I was surprised that his colour scheme was actually similar to my working flats. When I did my flats, I thought it would be nice to colour it later but then another project came up and it didn't look like I would have the opportunity anytime soon.
I'm super excited to be collaborating with my good friend, Cherelle Higgins, on a story she's written entitled: Green, Gold and Black. A story set in 1728 Jamaica, on the eve of a slave uprising. A young house slave tries to protect her newborn infant from a pair of vengeful ghosts.
Over the years, I've been fortunate to have read a lot of Cherelle's lush and imaginative stories, from cruel gods and goddesses to demons and angels, undead and other creatures I would never have imagined. She always manages to take a conventional theme and make it her own so I'm very happy she'll be getting another of her stories out there for others to read. If you haven't already, another story she wrote appears in the The Secret Lives of Geek Girls called Cherry where she tackles a past trauma.
And now, some character concepts: