Tuesday, March 29, 2011

A snake called Carl

©2011 Russ Cox | Smiling Otis Studio

Sorry for the late posting but it has been a busy week and a half. After the review last week, I worked late nights just to block out time to work on the children's book story on Friday. I got a bulk of it down on paper but now it is time to really hone and craft the story which is my goal this Friday. Once I get it to my liking, I will let a few friends read over it, tweak it, and then send it to Marietta at Nancy Gallt Literary for her opinion. After that, who knows what the next step will be.

After doing the dancing gator a few weeks ago, I really wanted to get back into Painter. To take a break from writing, I decided to spend the past weekend learning more about the software. An idea of a large snake named Carl who escaped with his owner telling him to get back into his cage just popped into my head so I went with it. Marietta also wanted me to "just do" and not over think while I experiment. I quickly sketched a very rough drawing and scanned it into the computer. My goal was to keep the drawing loose and lively while maintaining a bit of my style but also exploring a more 50's and 60's retro look which I am very fond of. This was the end results. I could have spent some additional time tweaking it but I did not want to overwork it and let it loose its spontaneity. I would have done a few things differently but for the most part, I am happy with the final. The colors are probably my favorite part of the whole illustration. The irony is that I had a perspective client email me asking if I had any samples with a lizard like character and a car so I sent him this piece and the dancing gator with a couple of other samples. We shall see what he has to say which will be a good litmus if I am heading in the right direction with this style. I am already sketching out the next one so stay tuned.

That is about it for this week.

"There are more valid facts and details in works of art than there are in history books." ~ Charlie Chaplin

Monday, March 21, 2011

Portfolio Review

Hello one and all,

After posting the contest for a portfolio review on the blog early last week, I learned that I won the review. I must thank Marietta Zacker from Nancy Gallt Literary for taking the time to look over my artwork and share her thoughts. She was a delight and willing to share her insight in the industry. So late last week, we exchanged a few emails back and forth, setting up a day and time, making this afternoon the big day. We spoke on the phone for over an hour. Marietta is a wealth of knowledge which will help guide me as I try to venture into children's books. Her comments were very positive and any concerns I took as a plus. She thought my work is appropriate for the children's book market. I commented if it was too commercial and she said that was a matter of opinion and not to get hung up on that. She did say that most of my samples needed more of a story instead of coming off as spot illustrations. They need more depth and provide an emotional response from the viewer with a story. Her favorite piece was the robot and girl. She said that there was a story there. Actually she saw multiple stories within the one illustration and suggested that should be a guide for me in developing newer samples. Even though she liked my style and thought my work was full of energy, color, and liked the facial expressions I use, she would like to see me develop a style that when someone sees it, they know it is my own. Editors are looking for unique portfolio samples so the books stand out on the shelves. She said for me to find my visual voice or signature and run with it. I should ask the question, "can anyone do my style or is it unique to me?" It is not a matter of digital or traditional but more with what I am comfortable with doing and want to show. One thing she mentioned is that more editors are using digital artist that should not be a concern. I said that I would like to loosen up with a second style and she thought that it was a great idea. When I told her how I came up with the pieces she liked (I just sat down and kind of did them without any real thought), her recommendation was to more pieces like that and to "LET IT GO". Just do and not over think.

The second part of her review regarded my story ideas that I emailed to her as a synopsis. I am not going to share the stories just yet because, well, read on. The first story she thought was funny but needed to be expanded on since the idea is limited. She provided me some wonderful insight in pushing the idea and make it sound less like a parent at the end. Okay and now for the really exciting news, she LOVED one of my ideas for a story!!!! She said that she has never seen nor read a story like I proposed. She wants me to send it to her once I am completed with it so she can add her thoughts. That made me really excited and lit a fire under my butt to get moving on it. I have some of it written but now I must go back and work on it after hearing her input. I think I will try to block out most of Friday to get the idea onto paper so I can then actually write it. A writer friend gave me that advice, thanks Gene.

Well, that is the bulk of the review. Marietta and I spoke on the phone for over an hour. I cannot say enough nice things about her. She gave me more feedback than I could have ever have hoped for plus she is such a lovely person. I would work with her in a heartbeat. It might be time to come down to earth for a bit.

"Art is a passion or it is nothing." ~ Robert Fry

Monday, March 14, 2011

Illustrators Critique Contest

Hey illustrators! WriteOnCon.com is giving away a personal portfolio critique by Marietta Zacker from Nancy Gallt Literary. This is a great opportunity to have your work seen and reviewed. Click here for details.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

A Blink Of An Eye Studio Tour

This week I thought it might be interesting to post images of my work space. I enjoy looking at the work areas of other artist and see the equipment they use. My little work area is very small. It may be 10 x 8 but I like it on the cozy side. Compared to the space I had in Pennsylvania, this is a matchbox. My Pennsylvania studio was two 14 x 20 rooms with two work spaces. Now, I have everything nearby and very handy.

I do most of my drawing and sketching on the lightbox. It is from an old print shop which I bought years ago. With its size, I can keep folders, notes, and my sketchbooks at hand. I am trying to do more drawing in my sketchbooks so if they are nearby, I am more likely to use them. If I do a doodle on scrap paper that i like, I can take it up on the wall

For a bulk of my work, I draw on the Cintiq tablet by Wacom. It is an older model but still works great. I spent some time getting it dialed in to how on I draw digitally. It also has a Cintiq Partner pad so I do not have to drop what I am doing if I need to use the mouse. I use a Mac and Adobe products as well as Painter. Once I get a handle on Painter, I want to try my hand at Blender (3D).

A bulk of my books at right behind if I need them. I have a lot of different items on the shelves, ranging from reference items to other artist books to "how-to" books. My book over flow is stored in the basement until I make some additional room on the shelves.

Yes, I do play the banjo. The banjo on the right is my main instrument made by Bart Reiter. The other is a gourd banjo that is fretless and a hoot to noodle around on. If I get stuck or need a break, I pick one up and play for a few moments. It always helps and is very therapeutic. The rug on the floor was made by my friend Eric Weit at Studio Weit (eric.studioweit@gmail.com). He weaves beautiful handmade rugs from recycled fabric. It is too nice to put on the floor. I like having the tv in my studio as background noise. I work alone so much that I need to hear human voices so I feel like there are other folks around. The doors behind the banjos go to my storage closet. This spring I want to paint the doors and use the to tack up ideas, notes, and sketches. Seems like a perfect spot to do that.

Well that is a quick tour of my little space. I do have an easel, taboret, flat files, and other artist supplies that I keep in our basement. I have thinking about moving into another room that is a bit larger so I can have everything in one spot. But for now, I will keep my little studio space as it is.

"A painting is never finished - it simply stops in interesting places." ~ Paul Gardner

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Teaching An Old Dog A New Trick

©2011 Russ Cox | Smiling Otis Studio

This past week and weekend, I decide it was time to open up Painter and learn the software. I've had it for a few years but never really dove head first into it until now. After reading through a couple of books, I realized I still needed some help in finding things and how all of the components work together. I've heard good thing about lynda.com so I signed up for a month long membership. In 3 days, I knew more about how to use the software than a year of reading through books and articles. If you are looking to jumpstart any software knowledge, I highly recommend starting with them. I may use the rest of my time to try to learn some Blender (3D) basics which I could never get an idea on how it works.

I am showing you what I did in case anyone has a better idea or way of using Painter. I am open to all suggestions.

After a few days of learning some basics, I did this quick sketch as a starting point. No rhyme nor reason for it, just something simple to do.

After adjusting the layers so that the white background of the sketch disappears, I began blocking in colors. Since I liked painting with gouache back in the day, I used the brush setting for it plus the gradients tool. That took some getting use to but I figured out how it works.

I blocked in some basic colors on the gator and then added textures to the background. For that effect, I used the sponge brush on separate layer and then ten adjusted the transparency so the blue showed through. Each part of the illustration was built in a separate layer.

Again, more details are added while using the sketch as a guide. I really like how authentic Painter feels while painting. Much better than Photoshop in my opinion but I do not use Photoshop enough to be an authority on it. The funny thing is, I did teach a class on it many years ago. I think I learned more from the students than they did from me.

Highlights and floor details are now added. I then exported the Painter file (riff) to a Phoshop file (psd) and imported the illustration into Photoshop. I tweaked the overall colors just a tad and added the spotlight effect.

Overall, I am really happy with it. It has a traditional/hand drawn look to it which I have been trying to get in Illustrator. Some have told me the final as a cool retro look and others have said it is more kid friendly. I am not abandoning Illustrator at all, I just want to add another look to my portfolio that may capture the attention of art directors. For the past 18 plus years, I have studied and learned little tricks in Illustrator, which I still love. Maybe I will join the two somehow down the road. I guess you can teach an old dog a new trick.

"Art is not what you see, but what you make others see." ~ Georgia O'Keeffe

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