Thursday, June 22, 2017

AD A/B Testing

By Lauren Panepinto
So I was up at Illustration Master Class this weekend and as I was portfolio-reviewing, I noticed a trend gaining popularity with artists, and I was happy, because it's something we talk about over at Drawn + Drafted's art business bootcamps a lot. Having a leave-behind that has a choice involved. Usually a choice of business cards that have different pieces of your art on the back.

Alix Branwyn
It seems like such a little thing to do (and the advent of Moo cards offering up to 50 different backs to business cards or postcards made it very easy to pull off), but making someone stop and choose really has a big effect.

Bruce Brenneise

Irene Gallo of Tor Books and agrees, when we were talking about it on facebook, she said "being able to pick my favorite after a review makes huge difference in how well I remember people. It's kinda weird how much a difference...I'm suddenly emotionally involved, I've made a _choice_. (Also, artists don't always know what their best work is)"

Martin Gee

So there's not one, but 2 bonuses for making cards with multiple backs: first, making someone stop and choose between options does a great deal to cement your work in their memory.

Nicole Grosjean

And second — you have a very concrete way to focus test your portfolio pieces. It's going to quickly become obvious that one image will run out the fastest. Many of the artists I talked to also seemed surprised at which image was the winner. Pay attention, because other artists and art directors may have one favorite, and non-industry fans a different favorite.

Nicholas Elias

Really what this let's you do is called A/B Testing...on ADs! So I'm calling it A/D Testing from now on.

Julia Lynn Powell

You're welcome.

Clark Huggins
 Thanks to all the artists who posted pics of their card choices! I'm going to let you guys guess which is the most popular in each batch, and I'll reveal the actual most popular ones tomorrow.

Naomi VanDoren

Angela Rizza

Anne-Katrin Hermanns

Brandy Heinrich

Sam Broersma

Christine Rhee

Dawn Carlos

Dominick Saponaro

Elizabeth Leggett

Gwenevere Singley

Jennifer Geldard

Jon Hunt

Kate Santee

Laura Garabedian

Lily McDonnell

Linda Adair

Louisa Gallie

Marcelo Gallegos

Marisa Erven

Matthew Warlick

Preston P. Jackson

Randy Vargas

Sam Moonskinned Lamont

Live Demo This Sunday!

Please join us this Sunday for this month's Live Event. In this installment, Dan dos Santos will introduce us to a variety of Mixed Media techniques.

Learn how you can combine a variety of media, including pencil, gouache, acrylic, markers, airbrush, colored pencils, and oil paints... all in a single image to create stunning results.

This Event will be streamed live via YouTube for all donors of $5 or more. Donors of $10 or more will receive a downloadable copy of the video afterwards.

Event takes place this Sunday, June 25th, from 3-6pm EST

All Patrons, including new Patrons, should check the main Patreon Page 15 minutes prior to start time to receive their link to the event.

Get more info, or sign-up, here:

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

10 Things...What You Cannot Know

--Greg Manchess

I just returned from teaching our tenth year at the Illustration Master Class in Amherst, Massachusetts. Rebecca Levielle’s initial idea of teaching with friends has turned into an amazing week of learning in our art community.

This year I was reminded of how the process of growing as an artist is shared by every artist. Each evolves and must pass through different levels of understanding on the way to mastery.

But none of us reach new plateaus on a schedule, or in quite the same way as those master painters before us. Some students understand certain aspects before their peers and then run into a different level later that slows them down. Back and forth and up and down, our progress is never a perfect diagonal line upward. No normal brain gets to escape this. It is frustrating.

And entirely practical. Our species creates imagery and finds a way to express thoughts outside of our body. We’ve learned to do this over time, and we continue our never-ending need for visual stimulation.

Thinking of those IMC students and answering questions about my work all week, I compiled the list below to point out facets we all have in common for the process of artistic skills. 

Your mileage may vary.

You cannot know what you don’t know.
Relax into the work and apply unbending patience. You cannot see or understand the levels one can attain until you have gained enough information to visualize those levels.

That’s why we get fascinated by someone who seems to ‘see’ where they need to improve, sets a goal to get it, and then does. We think they have something special. Perhaps what they have is something easily attained. If only we can quiet the pressure we feel to do so.

The take-away: Accept that you need more information.

You cannot see what you don’t see.
You’re standing on a hill. You look outward over many hills and valleys and spot your goal. Then you set out downhill to reach the next hilltop. While in the valley, you cannot see your goal. Not even the hilltop in front of you. But you still climb.

Likewise for painting an idea. You set the goal, and you begin. The effort of building an image is like that downhill trek. You can bottom-out in the valley, lost in the weeds, but as you continue to climb up things get clearer until you reach the top and head out again. While you are in that valley, you cannot see the goal, but the valley is necessary.

Skills improve with time and effort. Not in a straight line, but in a generally upward diagonal, much like the stock market. An artist must trust that the stage they are in at the moment will improve over the long run. You cannot see nor implement the kind of ability you want in the present as you will in the near future —if enough effort and focus is applied.

Take-away: Make the trek anyway.

Mental tolerance.
An artist has to tolerate the fog of an unrealized idea. The effort needed to find clarification can be simple or nearly debilitating. But what kind of growth is built from already knowing where you need to go? What kind of character is built from a lack of effort? Why is anyone interested in the gift of automatic knowledge?

Unfortunately, we do find fascination with people who seem to not have to work to attain something. The reason is curiosity. We want to know why no effort was needed because we intrinsically know that work is necessary.

Take-away: Stay with your idea, even through the changes.

Focused observation skills.
We think we see what we are looking at, but often we miss subtle shapes that inform our minds about how to define an edge or capture a shape. Many students at IMC missed the subtle sculptural edges of a simple forearm. Edges they might’ve used to make a better drawing of the arm, or any other part. The smallest indention will give clues to musculature, character, and shape.

Take-away: Sweat the small stuff.

Listen without judgement.
Teachers who say they weed out the ones who will make it by being harsh and dismissive are merely amplifying their own ego. It is important to be firm with a student, but not to the point of dream-killing.

Finding someone with a growth mindset, who can point out your successes and failures without dragging you through the mud, is critical to your improvement. When you find them, listen with the mind of an athlete. Take nothing as personally as it may feel, but look for the clues for further real improvement. Listen without comment. Listen without explaining what you meant to do.

One can only absorb so much information before the extra gets dumped and you have to reacquire. But remember that repeated long-term effort is more important than short bursts of learning.

Take-away: Absorb from all quarters.

Drawing is your super-skill.
Learning to achieve a line with character is the ultimate knowledge necessary to create compelling drawings. Making many, many lines is what it takes to discover and repeat good line sense.

Is that too hard to figure out? A pitcher throws baseballs into a glove thousands of times to achieve speed and accuracy, but somehow we think the moment one attempts drawing, it must be instantly good, or they can’t create.


Take-away: Draw first; think next.

Learn strong composition.
Putting elements on a page seems simple enough, but it is the rearrangement of elements that creates impact. It may feel comfortable at first to place things in the center of the rectangle because our minds love to clean-up and organize random visual forms, but it takes repeated effort to learn how to balance and counterbalance elements across a two-dimensional plane to gain depth. Resist the temptation to keep things organized, and learn how to overlap elements for visual interest.

Take-away: Learn what makes compelling pictures and drop the need to be an “artist.”

Learn to handle pigment.
At the IMC, I watched students try to put down paint like a pro. They really did want to not only try hard, but to achieve. The problem was that many were judging their strokes too soon.

Simply because you laid a paint stroke on a surface doesn’t mean you know how to handle paint. But laying many strokes down builds a catalog of effort and each new effort after is weighed against the first. All this is recorded in your brain and once it feels the need for repetition, the brain builds memories needed to re-achieve.

Paint strokes are like calligraphy. We believe we need to know how to hold and manipulate a pen to get a result, so why not the same for a brush on canvas. Take-away: Traditional training is critical.

Watch others progress.
Students and peers around you are achieving at different rates. Causing yourself grief over not having what they have is a waste. You may be ahead in other ways.

Learn from them. Watch and pay attention to how they may be progressing. This is one way that we help each other.

Take-away: We don’t grow in a vacuum.

Get close to success.
As above, when we watch others achieve skills we want to own, we mirror their success. As a species we are very good at mimicry. And it is, after all, how we actually learn. Place yourself around others who are better than you whenever you possibly can. Strive to get connected to people who have a growth mindset. This is an infection you do want.

Take-away: Use information that is readily available.

Embrace fear.
Damn near any new endeavor causes some sort of anxiety about getting better. We want to achieve things quickly. We strive to be good at something fast. We have an intense desire to avoid work. Yet, work is where the learning is. The work is the point, not necessarily the final painting.

Learning to paint involves fear. Fear is going to be there no matter what you have in mind. Embrace it. Work with it. Use it. Fear is what the brain needs to improve.

Take-away: The way around is through.

All photos by Irene Gallo

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Thrain II

By Justin Gerard

I'm back this week with some new Lord of the Rings imagery! This time, from the Appendices. The image is of Thrain II at the East Gate of Moria, after defeating the orcs at the Battle of Azaznulbizar. This scene is of a victory, but one of the most costly ones for the dwarves of Middle Earth. 

Today I'll be briefly covering a classical oil technique that I use to help me when working in color. 

To begin, I start in the usual way, working from tiny thumbnails up into tight drawings. Thumbnailing is a proven, reliable way to keep me from lighting myself on fire in the later stages of the painting. It works 75% of the time, every time.  


Once I arrive at a satisfactory drawing I bring it into Photoshop and lay in a toned underpainting. 

Digital Comp

For this image, I knew that I was going to want a more saturated evening light. Usually, I prefer to work from a desaturated underpainting to a higher saturated final image. For this image, I decided to flip things and begin from a place of higher saturation, and then use grays and muted complimentary colors to push the saturation back and arrive at the color I am looking for. This is called "killing chroma," and is something I learned from the dutch-flemish painters, who use the technique to give life-like color to the faces of their portrait subjects. 

The trick is to find the color that works as the perfect compliment to your background fill color. In this case, a payne's grey mixed with white offers an excellent counter to the warm umber tones. 

While it's always best to have solid photo-reference and a good color study to help you choose your colors, I do find this technique very useful for keeping a unified palette when working from imagination/memory. Since I have started from a place of such high-saturation many of the color decisions are already made for me. It then becomes a matter of how much I want to push and pull the blues and greens to offset the warm tones of the image. 

For shadows and colors I use semi-transparent Normal layers. For highlights and details I use Screen layers. For a more in-depth look at how I work with Photoshop Layers, check out my previous post here. And to see the brushes I use for my work, you can check them out here

Monday, June 19, 2017

Khenra Scrapper

-By Jesper Ejsing

Pencil sketch with values and a bit of color to explain the light. 
This illustration is a for Magic the Gathering of the set called Hour of Devastation. It is a Jackal warrior wielding small knives in an aggressive pose. A simple art description. Therefore I decided to make a simple portrait solution. The sketch I submitted asked only for one small change namely the collar that would look too much like a feature from another character in the same set. But I really liked the ribbons that was attached to the collar so I kept those just hanging from somewhere on his back.  I like the ribbons because they add life and movement to an else static pose. When I transferred it to the board for painting i felt it looked empty, so I decided to add even more movement in this case - yet again - by adding a flock of birds. Those egrets are also a very clear reference to Egypt, the main inspiration for this magic set, so it would help the scene I thought. Also I like how they are taking off as if they are fleeing from something: The Hour of Devastation.

greytones on watercolor board
 When I look at the sketch now I am annoyed that I did not keep the lower leg in silhouette as in the sketch. For some reason ,that I cannot explain now, I added cloth there and covered up that little negative space. It is not helping at all. In the sketch the leg looks like he is stepping up on a rock and that the other legs disappears down and is stretched out under him. In the final, most of that is lost and the weight and movement is not as good. I am pretty sure my idea was that the battle mist and smoke and fog would hide it all and that I wanted to focus in on his torso and face, but it did not all turn out that way.

Color comp

Anyways; after I get an approval I take the sketch to a watercolor board and ink it all in waterproof ink and then adds grey tone value in black acrylic. This way my first washes are only acting as tonal to the drawing underneath and I can work more loose and random. I use lots of water to block in the local colors and to create happy mistakes and texture that I can use further in the painting process.  I take a photocopy and do a color rough. This was kind of an easy choice. I knew I had a black skinned figure so I might as well put him against he light to have a clear silhouette. He was going to be a black silhouette anyway. It meant that my background would be lighter than the figure. It is all a very warm picture; lots of yellow and red. If everything is too warm you have nothing pulling the other direction, so I added some grey for a neutral color and a bluish to the top of his head as a reflection of sky color high above him.

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Drawing Feet

-By Ron Lemen

I simplified this dialog to the drawings.  This started off as a rant against the HUGE problem with every one of my anatomy students these days, the problem with drawing feet.

Somewhere out there is some misinformation, or alternative truths that seem to be popular to the newbie art student, but need to go missing forever please.  I have created some pages of useful information that need to be put out there into the system.  But first, let's start off with some wonderful drawings from the Russian Academy.  Who can resist the amazing studies from that school.  So much character, so much charm.

Anyway, my diagrams are nothing in comparison to these beautiful drawings.  But diagrams are not meant to be beautiful drawings.  They are meant to help you learn and clarity is important.  So I do apologize if the drawings are not totally clear.  And if they are not, please help me by mentioning that in the comments.

These are more excerpts from my soon to be figure drawing book, but since that is taking as long as it is to complete I am putting these notes out there now.  I also realize I have a lot of them so I am only going to post so many.  If there is something that feels like it is lacking, the book will have taken care of that.

Here is what I am seeing quite a bit of lately, both the drawings and the bone structure.  I have no idea where this is coming from, but the land of drunk socks and bigfoot must be steered clear of during your training.  Go back to it if you must stylize your feet, but, these are not good quality representations of real feet.

There is also a trend of missing heels.  Someone has gone around and removed the heel from the foot design and replaced it with a "Weeble Wobble" style foot design.  I guess the world isn't already dangerous enough as it is, let alone giving us unstable feet.

There is also this interesting trend of giving everyone bow legged qualities.  Shin bones are straight with curved accents.  They are not curved.  Sorry.

A descent starting point for the foot is the door wedge.  It helps check the perspective of the leg and assures that the feet are grounded to whatever surface they might be attached to.  This wedge is the ideal shape for the 3 points of the foot, ankles, toes, and heel.

The foot is a shock absorber for the body, it makes sense that the ankles, and the leg are positioned over the arch of the foot to take that impact, from walking to running and jumping.  Thank the feet for that arch, that we need to put the leg over and not behind.

The ankle bones are the tibia and the fibula together, and combined they form a wrench like structure that holds the foot bones in place as the pivot point for the foot rotation.  The bones are side by side medially and laterally, not in front and behind.  And each leg mirrors each other, they are not the same orientation to each other.

Here in profile view the door wedge is broken down into two shapes to help support the design of the foot when the toes are bent.  The toe wedge is removed from the front of the bigger foot wedge and is rotated to its new orientation.  This now becomes the new position for the toe details.

Here are the simple door wedges converted to planar structures to help design in the change of surface from one bone set to the next, over muscles and the orientation of the toes and their segments.

And while talking toes, here are the planar stair steps both in primitive form as well as fleshed out a bit more with the big toe and the second toe.  In addition, because our toes are smooshed together in shoes a lot, and because our feet our well designed, the toes fit together nicely, but are over exploited into ugly distortions of the design because our shoes mold our feet to the constraints of their size and build.  But, our toes are all uniquely shaped to fit together and the diagram on the left shows how they fit together.

And here are the folds in the bottom of the foot common with all of us but not the same length and exact orientation between any of us.  Note that the big toe actually has 3 fat pads in it within its wedge like shape.

Add character to the body of the foot.  There is a lot going on in that space, but the foot won't often times show it, especially in photo reference.  I used hatch lines here to explain direction of some of the sub planes (anatomically rooted).  These would be represented in half tones being that these feet were directly lit.

These last few pages are for those of you who do not know anything about perspective and are surprised when you find out that the body is loaded with it...because all forms are in perspective.  I do not understand how students think that they can avoid perspective by just figure drawing.  LOL...I mean that with kindness.

I know they are not pretty, but I hope they help.  Now, please share these with all beginning students you know and hope to make careers with their art skills and to those who think they understand feet but we have had a hard time explaining to them that maybe they should practice them more often.  Or do what I do and hide everyone in mist so you can avoid feet, lower legs, upper legs, pelvises, and more thanks to that wonderful fog stuff.  Any time you have a hard time with something and you to meet that deadline, just fog it up a little.  Gonna duck into that fog now and get back to the work load. Comments, please leave em, until next time, creative success to you and happy arting.