Category: Blog Posts

SKETCH DIARY: Lady of February Part 2

Last Sketch Diary, I talked about the research and design process.  Now, I’m diving into all the lovely details that make up the character and the mythos around her.

Before I could move on with this piece, I had to make a decision about the pose.  I ended up choosing pose 3 because I like the playfulness of it.  The other poses were too assertive or too tragic looking when February is meant to be more welcoming and playful.  The subtle smile really sold me on this pose too.

With the pose figured out, my next big decisions involved sorting out the character and her setting.  From the start, I knew I wanted to have clootie (hanging prayer cloths), a sacred well, and the beeswax candles, all which harken back to some of the most provocative imagery of February, mainly with saint and goddess Brigid and sacraments of purification involving the beeswax candles.  February also clutches an arrow representative of Cupid’s Arrow and the season of love.

I had already established a common element of corset, head garland, and dress with the past Ladies.  The corset, especially, is a nice area to include the birthflower element or other symbolic element.  I’ve also included a candle crown much like Lady of December‘s, but February’s candles have burned down to represent the end of Winter.  Her crown is also flowering, representing the presence of Spring.  With all of this in mind, I did some sketching in my croquis sketchbook first:

feb-fashion
Pen and marker on a croquis template.

With these basic costumes in mind, I blocked them in quickly in Photoshop and also explored more wardrobe combinations by cutting elements from each outfit and combining them.

Next, I block in the shape of the flowers at the bottom to make sure they work with the elements of the composition.  This also helps me make a final decision about which outfit to go with, since I can see how all the elements work together to fill up the space.  I don’t want it to be too busy, which is very easy to do in such a narrow space.

lady-of-feb-composition

The arrangement on the right is my winner because it allows for some of the background elements (ie. the well, more of the candles) to be shown more clearly.  With my major design decisions settled, it’s time to move on to refinement!

Next: Reference gathering, detail refinement, and color testing!

REMINDER!  Don’t miss the opportunity to pre-order Limited Edition prints of Lady of February via Patreon!
Other Rewards include process tutorials, coloring book pages, etc.  Check it out!

Sketch Diary: Lady of February Part 1

It’s been about a year since I completed Lady of January.  A tumultuous 2015 kept me from really indulging in this project, but I’m happy to be back at it full force now that the storm has passed!

Inspiration:
I always begin the brainstorming for each month by examining the origin of each month’s name.  February was named for the Roman festival of purification called Februa.  Digging deeper into February revealed even more interesting symbolism with Brigid (both a goddess and a saint) and the martyred Saint Valentine, the namesake of Valentine’s day.

I like to jot down my notes and thoughts, along with symbolism in a list that helps my subconscious start absorbing and processing the imagery before I move on to making thumbnails.  I also start a mood board on Pinterest, which is a great place for visual meditation on a topic.

Lady of February Notes
Instead of typing this out, I like to physical write it out on paper. This helps me retain the information better.

 

lady-of-feb-pinterest-board-low-res
An excerpt from my secret Pinterest board for Lady of February.

Thumbnailing:

Once I’ve identified the imagery that resonates with me the most, I begin thumbnailing, usually in pencil with ink and white color pencil on toned paper so I can get a basic idea of my value structure and composition from the start.  For February, I was very drawn to the imagery of Brigid, especially of the sacred wells and blessing ties (or clootie) that are left around her sites.  I also feel that Cupid’s arrow is a strong symbol for this month, but I didn’t want to get too overdone as far as Valentine’s imagery goes.

I’ve also filled the background with what will be beeswax candles, which are often utilized in blessings for Candlemas and Imbolc during February.  I’ve pictured February with a candle crown similar to Lady of December with the intent to mirror her symbolism, while also harkening back to the flame of Brigid.  While Lady of December ushers in Winter, the Lady of January closes the door of Winter and welcomes Spring.  I also like the idea that while Lady of December’s crown was metal, January’s will be blooming with flowers.

We’ll see what sticks as this image develops, however!  It’s a very intuitive process when you’re working with such abstract concepts and themes.

lady-of-feb-thumbnails lowres

 

Rough Compositions:

The poses that stand out the most for me were 1, 3, and 5, but I still couldn’t make up my mind!  To help me out, I take the stock photos I’ve been referencing and, with a bit of photobashing, lay them all out next to one another to see how the poses look on the actual template of the window shapes I’ve already defined.

lady-of-feb-poses-low

This time, 2 seems the strongest and fits the space well, though she bears a resemblance to January’s pose that might be too strong.  I like how assertive this pose feels, while the others like 1 and 4 are more shy and submissive, while 3 is pensive and playful.

Window Design:

While I ponder on making up my mind about what pose to go with, I at least know that a good majority of the window design will be shown behind the figure instead of covered up (like it was in January with the veil, where I had to make sure the flower designs in the window were on the sides so that they were viewable).

Designing a window starts out very rough.  I lay in where I want the main foci of the design to be, remembering to keep in mind the shapes of the flowers, like Violets, which bloom in tight bunches with round leaves.  I sketch knotwork and design elements loosely, rotating as needed until it hits all the sweet spots.

lady-of-feb-window-process-lowres

Window #1 hit the right sweet spots, but then the celtic knotwork clashed with the weaving motif I’d been working with based on saint Brigid’s cross.  The 2nd design feels more consistent with the interlocking star shape that echoes the woven design.  I’ve also arranged the secondary circle of flowers in a way that I feel utilizes the space better.

Next: Creating narrative design elements and composition!

REMINDER!  Don’t miss the opportunity to pre-order Limited Edition prints of Lady of February via Patreon!
Other Rewards include process tutorials, coloring book pages, etc.  Check it out!

Sketch Diary – Winter Offering

Inspiration: Every year I do a painting to spread the cheer of the winter holidays to my fans, friends, and family.  Keeping in that tradition, I created this piece entitled “Winter Offering” for 2015.

I wanted to capture the quiet warmth of candles, which are one of my favorite decorative elements of the season, and pay homage to some of the Celtic traditions that define the holidays with the presence of evergreen holly and pine.  I also wanted a celestial theme for the window to represent the dark, cold winter nights which the light guides us through.

Tools and Techniques

For this painting, I used Photoshop CC and a Wacom Cintiq 21UX.

References

ref-winter-offering

A selection from my references. 

Art Process

Step 1 – Thumbnail sketching with ink and white color pencil on toned paper to find the right idea. At first, I wanted to do a candy theme, but the candles struck me with their simplicity and elegance. The Krampus one was also a fun contender, but I decided to save him for another time.

wip-candles-thumbnails 

Step 2 –  Reference gathering! I looked at many Tiffany glass windows, wreaths, and white candles for inspiration.  I keep a secret reference board for my yearly holiday images on Pinterest.

Step 3 – I did a rough sketch in Photoshop keeping loose and quick.  The sketch was then printed out and refined with pencil sketching on top of the lightly printed line work.

christmas-2015

Step 4 – This refined sketch was then scanned in and the lines turned blue so they could be easily transferred.  I also used the same refined sketch to do a digital color test so I had an idea of my colors before I put paint on paper.

winter-offering-color-test

Step 5 – The refined sketch with blue line work was then printed and transferred with graphite dust applied to the back of the printout.

transfer-process

Step 6 – The transferred line work on the illustration board were inked with various colors of mechanical pens for visual contrast and interest.

colored-ink

Step 7 – The ink drawing was finished with watercolor paints.

You can also watch the 5 minute time lapse video of how I created this painting here!

For more in-depth instruction on how I created this image, including the brands of materials I used, tips on creating a stained glass style in watercolor, etc., pledge to any $10 and up level on my Patreon to gain access to the narrated video tutorial!

You can also buy the individual tutorial separately at my Gumroad shop, but you won’t receive the other extras you would by purchasing via Patreon.

Patreon Update – Art Student Tier!

A brand new year is upon us and I’m rearing to get started on all the projects I have waiting in the wings!  With so much going on I’ve decided to pause the Mentorships I was hosting through Patreon so I don’t split my attention too much.

I know the mentorships have been helpful (and affordable) for aspiring artists, so I added a new Reward tier to take its place till I’m ready to host full mentorships again.  This new tier is called the Art Student!

With the Art Student tier, you’ll get the following:

  • Access to my usual Patreon Rewards from the prior tiers, including wallpapers, video walkthroughs, PSD files of my paintings, a PDF sketch diary, & the ability to participate in the inspiration prompt drawing each month.
  • A single paint-over OR redline per month for your work in need of critique! Additional paint-overs can be purchased separately at a discounted rate of 25% off for Art Students.
  • A narrated video of your critique will be recorded and uploaded privately for you to view at your leisure on YouTube. Critique videos will be fully detailed, providing advice and study resources.
  • A .PSD of your paintover/redline which you’re free to use as a base will also be provided!

Critiques will be delivered after the 1st of each month once the prior month’s pledges have been successfully processed. I aim to have them online within the first week of each month. You will be individually notified when your critique is available.

Questions, comments, or suggestions?  Feel free to drop me a line in the comments or via email! There’s no greater joy than unlocking the potential of a piece of art, so I’m excited to see what you all might throw at me!

Art in the thumbnail by Jude Mayr with a redline by me.

Art Goals for 2016

At the beginning of every new year, I like to set myself a few goals, as opposed to New Year’s Resolutions which always seem to fall to the wayside for me.  I usually have a thousand ideas going in on my brain, so doing this activity also helps me wrangle them into a format that helps me remember what I want to be focusing on.

First off, let’s see how I did with my 2015 art goals!

2015 Art Goals

1.  FINISH PD1! And my other online courses (Figure Drawing Fundamentals and Fundamentals of Color and Light).

Alas, I still didn’t finish Proko’s Figure Drawing Fundamentals or Painting Drama, though I made a lot of headway starting Painting Drama over from the beginning. It was making much more sense a 2nd time around, despite the fact I got waylaid by horrible life events and never finished…again.

2.  Finish my Rapunzel comic after all these years! It’s very nearly done.

YES! I finished this project that I’ve been working on since senior year in college!  You can read the whole thing here.

3.  Finish my cover portfolio and submit it to my target publishers.

I turned my portfolio in to a couple of my target companies, but never heard a word back.  Here’s hoping that more no’s (or never hearing back) will equal a single ‘yes’ some day, but I’m going to keep myself busy with my own IP’s in the meantime!

4.  Fully launch my art book review and resources site, The Muse’s Library.

I managed to get The Muse’s Library up as a blog and Patreon, as well as sync my current stock gallery to the new brand name! It’s all set and ready to expand.

5.  Teach myself how to make a music video just because it looks fun!

I DID IT!  I created my first anime music video for Vampire Hunter D Bloodlust!  It’s a little rough around the edges, but I learned a lot and hope to have fun with more videos in the future!  Video editing is becoming another hobby of mine.

6.  Spend more time writing for my novel-verse. I miss writing!

I managed to create a mock up book trailer during my IP Development Mentorship, write a fully detailed 3 act synopsis for Book 1 and finish all of the basic character bios.  I’ve taken some giant steps forward in preparation for my first novel this year!  I still have such a long way to go, but as they say, every journey begins with a step!

7.  Draw/write enough to publish a yearly sketchbook.

I think I’ve done enough Monster Girls for a little booklet, though it’ll probably be a coloring book instead of a sketchbook.

8.  SmartSchool/IMC???

Alas, I didn’t have enough funds to do either this year.  I’m still saving and hoping.  I’m considering a GoFundMe if it seems like we can’t get enough funds on our own within the next couple of years.  I’m also considering doing a writer’s retreat instead, if my focus is going to be writing this year moreso than art.

9.  Get out of the house more!

I did okay at this.  I occasionally made it to geek trivia with friends and did art meet up with other friends.  My motivation died off pretty early on though thanks to extreme stress and illness, however.

10.  Exercise and eat better!

My SO’s illness this year which requires low sodium has inspired the both of us to eat much better now.  A bad reason, but a good result!

 

2016’s Art Goals…starting NOW!

  1. I finished Rapunzel so now it’s time to create a special ebook edition with unpublished sketches and try to publish it on ComiXology or elsewhere.
  2. Continue (and hopefully finish) the Ladies of the Months series! I have big plans to expand this IP into a lot of different things once they’re done (calendars, a sketchbook, coloring book, etc.).
  3. Wrap up the Monster Girls and produce prints, stickers, and coloring pages of them.
  4. Finish world-building prep and get my first draft for Song of Exile finished! (Or I’ll settle for at least 3 chapters, instead)
  5. Create basic character concept sheets for all main characters in Song of Exile for concept art practice.
  6. Start publishing video reviews of art books for The Muse’s Library!
  7. Finish up Painting Drama, Proko’s Figure Drawing Fundamentals, CtrlPaint’s Concept Art Portfolio Builder, and Color and Light with Schoolism.
  8. If I can get the Monster Girls and Ladies of the Months wrapped up, start back on my Kushiel’s Legacy cover redesign and illustration project over at Kushiel Concepts!
  9. If I can get enough new work produced, start hitting up conventions again! I’m not rushing this one, however.
  10. Go to a park or museum I’ve never been to before and sketch!

That’s a lot for me to try to do in a single year, but I’d rather aim high and see how it goes!  What are you all hoping to achieve this year?  Give me your top 10 art goals!

Summary of Art 2015

Thoughts on 2015 – It’s been a tough year, no lie.  A lot of IRL challenges meant I spent a lot of time off instead of making art and that sent me into a spiral of depression that was hard to escape (I’m still not completely out of it).  When I was finally able to get back to creating art, I had to drag it out of myself.

On the upside, I completed The Rapunzel comic, which has been in the making for years!  I also finished the IP Development Mentorship with Robot Pencil and laid the seeds to a fantasy story I’ve been working on for over 10 years now and that’s something I’m majorly proud of!

My best piece this year was probably Blood of the Few.  I really pushed myself to strive for something different and cinematic!  This piece plus all the other work I did for the mentorship was yet another step in the direction of a personal project (Song of Exile) that I really want to push forward with in a major way in the near future.

Next Year – I’ve decided to do more writing and have planned to split my schedule between wrapping up some of my ongoing art projects so I can dedicate myself fully to Song of Exile.  If there’s anything I’ve learned from our trials this year, it’s that life’s too short to wait on doing those things you’ve always wanted to do!

List of Art for 2015’s Summary
Last year’s Summary of Art:
For an expanded look back of my progress as an artist, check my other art progression meme.  It has my art since the age of 9!

Sketch Diary – Satyr

 

Inspiration

Today I’ll be talking about how I created Satyr for the 30 Day Monster Girl Challenge.  For my version of Satyr, I went with my own fantasy twist of a well-known figure from Greek and Roman mythology.

The Satyr of myth is usually a mischievous male with the lower body of a goat who is known to lecherously pursue nymphs and dryads.  The Satyr were also drinking buddies with Dionysus, the god of wine and merriment.

For more about the Satyr, check out one of my favorite Greek mythology resources, http://www.theoi.com.

 

 

Tools and Techniques

For this painting, I used Photoshop CC and a Wacom Cintiq 21UX.

Concept Inspiration

For my Satyr girl, I wanted to go with the theme of grapes to honor Dionysus and his wine, so she ended up with a purple complexion crowned with grapevine adornments.  Like many Satyrs, she is also a player of instruments, in this case a flute.

 

References

A selection from my references for Satyr.

monster-girls-satyr-refs


Art Process

Step 1. Quick digital gesture drawing done to capture the movement and energy of the pose. This isn’t very precise and is more about energy than accuracy.wip-satyr-01


Step 2:  A cleaner line art is drawn on a layer atop the gesture. I used Lazy Nezumi Pro set to ‘subtle’ to help stabilize my lines in Photoshop and make them smoother.

wip-satyr-02


Step 3:  Added a base layer of color so no background color will accidentally show through.wip-satyr-03


Step 4:  Added the flat colors after much deliberation on what her skin color should be.wip-satyr-04


Step 5:  Colorized the lines to make the grapes, grapevine, and flute stand out.wip-satyr-05


Step 6:  Added a shadow layer using warm grey above everything clipped to the Group and set to Multiply.wip-satyr-06

 


Step 7:  Added a highlight layer painting in white set to Overlay. Also clipped to the Group.wip-satyr-07


Step 8:  Final touches of pure white in key places such as the leaves, grapes, and hair to help lead the strengthen the focus, flow, and dimensionality of the piece.

wip-satyr-08


 

 

For more in-depth instruction on how I created this image, Pledge to any $10 and up level at my Patreon to gain access to the narrated video tutorial!  You can also buy the individual tutorial separately at my Gumroad shop, but you won’t receive the other extras you would by purchasing via Patreon.

You can watch a video preview of the tutorial for Satyr without narration here:

 

Does it Pay to Specialize as an Artist?

I was quoted in an article over at CreativeBloq, “Does it pay to specialise as an artist?” 

Featuring some familiar faces and some of my own art and thoughts as well!  I’ve struggled for years to find my artistic voice and sort out my passions from my wide array of interests. Hopefully these words of wisdom help others figure things out for themselves as well!

Patreon Project Kit for Artists

Cross-posted from The Muse’s Library.

I’ve been on Patreon now for about a year since the site went live. I’ve tried a lot of different experiments in that time and have built a small, but dedicated following via this community-driven site. I’m a firm believer that crowd-funding is the wave of the future and the core building block of a growing breed of artist-entrepreneurs.

I thought I’d share that spirit of giving by sharing the structure, templates, and other resources that keep my Patreon ticking!  I hope it helps other artists out there considering promoting their projects via this site.  Let’s make a Patreon!

Patreon Profile Image

Release Schedule

When you set up your account, it’s important to have an idea of how and when your releases will occur and also other notices you’d like to send to your Patrons so you can be aware of how much you might be spamming them at once so they don’t get fatigued by your posts. Mine go something like this:

– Last Day of the Month.  Patreon begins charging your Patrons on the 1st of the month, so let’s start there!  The monthly image is uploaded. I only release one painting per month to keep things simple, but you may want to release more frequently! If I ever do more than one painting a month, I stagger out my releases so that there’s always one being posted per month.  However, I do not charge monthly because I am a slow worker and I’d rather my Patrons only get paid when I release a painting, rather than taking a chance that they might not receive anything if I’m not productive enough.

– Within the First Week of the Month.  Rewards for all levels are posted in individual posts (one for each tier) and a PM is sent out regarding my Keyword Inspiration sketch (an event I hold monthly for $5+ Patrons where they turn in prompts and I draw the most inspiring prompt).

– The 15th of Every Month.  A mid-month reminder post reminding people to attend my monthly Studio Hangout (with a link to the Event on Google+), sharing a WiP of that month’s art, and any other important reminders that might be relevant. The 15th is also my internal deadline to have the physical Rewards mailed out.

Last Wednesday of Every Month.  A link to the recording of my live Studio Hangout is posted.  The recording is auto-generated by Hangouts and posted to YouTube for me, which makes things easy.

Digital File Rewards

Digital Rewards are the cornerstone of any Patreon since they’re easy to fulfill and require less of an expense on the artist’s part. Here are a few ideas for distributing digital items.

Patreon Attachments. The downside is a user might have to sift through a lot of posts to find the older Rewards that wouldn’t have been emailed to them. Storing a master list with links that you can link Patrons to in a private Rewards post is another idea to help keep track of older Rewards for new users.

DeviantART’s Sta.sh. DA’s sta.sh allows for private viewing of file links for anonymous viewers who have the url. You can store any kind of file (image, video, etc.) and also ‘stack’ them if you have multiple releases you’d like to show at a single url. The current default limit for free users of DA is 2GB while Premium members get 10GB. Another random perk is that you can also hotlink to sta.sh files if you are embedding images into html on other sites.

YouTube. YouTube allows you to upload videos at private links (called ‘unlisted videos’) that are only accessible to those who have the link.  It’s a good alternative if you want to offer a streaming option for videos instead of requiring a complete download of the entire file.

Private Journal Entries

Sharing exclusive posts can really make Patrons feel special! However, Patreon’s current journal function is very limited and doesn’t allow images and text to be formatted easily. For this reason, here are some suggestions for ways to share private journals:

WordPress Public Draft Previews. If you run a site built with WordPress, the Simple Preview plugin allows you to share a link to a Draft which is private and only accessible by those who know the url. The downside is comments currently don’t function on these posts. A workaround is to disable comments on the post and request that Patrons comment on the original Patreon post that led them, including a link so they can easily access the correct url to post their comments.

DeviantART’s Sta.sh. While also useful for storing files, you can also use Sta.sh Writer to create more robust journal entries than Patreon currently does. These private journals also allow users to comment on them.

Physical Rewards

Postcard and Greeting Card Mailings. I use www.postable.com for a fast, secure, and easy solution for mailing out postcards (ie. Christmas cards, Thank You cards, etc.) to my Patrons. You can personalize your cards online, though they will not be handwritten.

Prints. I usually print off my own prints via an Epson Artisan 1430 which boasts lightfast inks and wide format printing (up to 13×19 inches), but when I need bigger and/or fancier prints (ie. giclee, canvas, mounted prints, etc.), I turn to www.iprintfromhome.com (tell them Angela Sasser sent you and we both get Thank You dollars when you make your first order!).

Reader Suggestions

Before I get to the Templates, I’d love to hear your reader suggestions in comments!
If you have any tips or resources you’d like to add that I find particularly helpful,
I’ll add your tip to this journal entry with a link to your Patreon page.
Let’s make this entry a great resource for the community!

Templates

It’s important to have a link to your Patreon wherever you promote your work. Here are a few buttons and banners to help you out with that!

Download the editable files all at once here.

Profile Image Montage:

Button:

Event Banner:

Logos:

Homework: Concept Art Starter Kit – Design Basics

I’ve recently started up CtrlPaint’s Concept Art Starter Kit with artist, Matt Kohr, as a way to brush up my own character design skills.  While I’m not quite going into Concept Art as a profession (yet?), I still think the basic skills will improve my artist’s eye, overall.  Plus, it’s just tons of fun designing characters for my own personal projects!

Since I’m coming mainly from an illustrator’s background, I felt like I needed to start at level 0.  I’ve read a lot of tutorials on concept design, but almost all of them assumed prior knowledge of industry jargon and familiarity.  It’s been refreshing to see something that starts off very simple with tons of visual examples.  The videos thus far are more lecture with examples than they are technique, but that’s just what I wanted and needed at this point. (Expect a review of the course kit over at The Muse’s Library once I’ve completed it!)

Shape Design covers the fundamentals of interpreting shape language and image recognition.  I tried out the suggested exercise of taking reference photos and not merely copying what I see, but trying to get a better idea about how the subject works via closer study and contouring.  The cat on the bottom right corner was drawn from memory after my studies were complete.

Exercise - Reference Studies

While this method does take longer, I think Kohr’s on to something with this more scientific approach, as I seemed to retain more info this way.  Admittedly, I’m used to copying and pasting references to get my final art done quicker.  Creating more in-depth studies is a good habit I need to get back into!

Next, I tried another suggested exercise where I took what I learned from doing my studies and drew a ‘good’ version and an ‘evil’ version of the same animal from memory using no reference.  Can you tell which one is which?

Exercise - Good vs Bad

If you guessed evil for the cat on the left and good for the cat on the right, I have succeeded!

For the evil cat, I went with the ‘modern’ body style of Siamese cat, which is sleeker and more pointed than the rounded ‘classical’ body style I used for the cat on the right.  I also made intentional choices to give the evil cat claws, pointed ears, pointed eyes, and to be showing his teeth while good cat is softer with rounded eyes and an overlarge head.  Both were drawn from memory based on what I’ve retained from my studies.

I’m looking forward to the next lesson!  Delving into the psychology of shape is utterly fascinating to me.  I think most of us understand this language instinctively, but learning how to purposefully implement it in our art can bring it to a whole other level.

Next Lesson: Design Basics 2