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OddBerryCreations

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Okey dokey all my illustrating buddies (and those who aren't), I am in need of some guidance. I am going back to the basics as far as my drawing skills and I need to know where to start. I am using Loomis books but I need some other suggestions for a broader range of skills. Any books, any blogs, any tips or tricks on where I should look for drawing help? I want to increase my drawing skills BEFORE diving out into the illustrating world and I know my drawing skills are amateurish at best right now. I want to change this but I need help. I'm talking perspective, proportions, forms, gestures, etc. Give me all ya got! Thanks bunches!!

 :grouphug2  :thankyou
#1 - November 24, 2012, 09:45 AM

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A good place for just getting practice in is to join Illustration Friday. There is a different prompt every Friday and then everyone posts their illustration. You don't have post if you don't want to, you can just do the illustrations for yourself. But really, just practicing as often as you can is the best way to improve. And look at lots and lots of current children's books.

http://illustrationfriday.com/

As for other illustrating resources, when I was first starting I had a hard time finding anything. I ended up joining an illustrating critique group and getting as much feedback as I could, which really helped me make my work stronger. Hopefully others here will have some additional resources.

Good luck!
#2 - November 24, 2012, 10:24 AM
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When I was starting out I had a few books which had a wealth of information that I devoured and still refer to these days at times.

This book put out by Walter Foster and written by famed animator Preston Blair is a fantastic resource for cartooning with great pieces about action, emotion and character design: http://www.walterfoster.com/books-kits/cartooning-animation-books-for-adults/6/Cartoon-Animation/CS03.html

How to Draw Comics the Marvel Way, by Stan Lee and John Buscema, is wonderful for tips on composition, perspective and page layout/design: http://www.amazon.com/How-Draw-Comics-Marvel-Way/dp/0671530771

Also any books in the line by Burne Hogarth (google the name) about anatomy, lighting/shading, etc. are amazing.

Like Artemesia said, practice and critiques are going to be a couple of your most valuable tools. Hope that helps get you started!
#3 - November 24, 2012, 11:06 AM
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I read Writing With Pictures by Uri Shulevitz, which is the most complete how-to manual I've ever seen for children's book illustration. It's been out for a looong time, so some of the technical stuff was really outdated. I see that there was a much newer edition put out than my library had, so it's possible it's been updated somewhat. But technical aspects like manual color separations aside, the information on what and how to illustrate is fantastic.

AJ, those books on comic illustration look really fascinating! Thanks for sharing!
#4 - November 24, 2012, 11:12 AM
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My pleasure Artemesia! Glad you like them  :grin3

Surprisingly I have never heard of Writing With Pictures but I looked it up and am absolutely buying a copy. Looks awesome. So thank you for sharing that one!
#5 - November 24, 2012, 11:27 AM
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Although I'm focused on writing PBs these days, I'm a former film animator who studied with some of the old-timers at Disney studios. One of their favorite life drawing books was Kimon Nicolaides's THE NATURAL WAY TO DRAW.

For going back to basics with drawing skills, though, I'd say there's no better teacher than drawing from nature, especially the human body. Depending on where you live, you may be able to find a local sketch group that hires models, or else consider an art class that uses nude models.

Hope that helps. Have fun with it!

#6 - November 24, 2012, 12:18 PM

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So I bought the book 'Writing With Pictures' last night and it will be here next week. So excited. I don't have any critique groups in my local area so does anyone know of any...besides conceptart.org...that I could join online??  :writing3
#7 - November 25, 2012, 10:30 AM

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WetCanvas is a forum for artists of all kinds and I think they have an illustration board. I'm not sure if they have a designated critique board, but I have seen people give feedback. But you might find others who are also looking for a group. Also, we have a board here for posting about joining or starting a critique group if you are interested in an online crit group, or you might even find someone close to you for an in person group. If there are any SCBWI conferences in your area, you might think about signing up for a portfolio review when you are ready to share as well. That's about all I can think of.

I hope you enjoy Writing With Pictures!!
#8 - November 25, 2012, 10:55 AM
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I went to college for art. At that time, I mostly painted large abstract figural paintings. I doodled some cartoon cows and did some other art too, but mostly it was abstract. The reason I mention that, is because even though I had an established style and an art background, when I decided that I wanted to illustrate children's books, there was a steep learning curve for me. Illustration, and specifically illustration for children's books is very, very different than painting what you want, especially when it's abstract! And illustrations are different depending on whether you're making art for a PB - picture book, an EZ - easy reader, a CB - chapter book, or a MG - middle grade.

Here's what I did to make the switch:
1. I set my own drawing challenges, the biggest and most helpful of which was to pick one subject and draw that every day for a year. I did that for two years. (It almost made me crazy, but it was SO worth it.) The first year was cows, and the second was dogs. The daily art was just for me, for practice. It could be any type of picture I wanted to make in any medium. I created a lot of really great images (and sold a lot of them on t-shirts), and also created art that was so horrible that I won't show it to anyone. It's a learning process, and not every image will turn out.

***The most important thing that happened is that I found my illustration style for kids books, specifically picture books, but it can be adapted for older kids books too.***

2. I learned everything I could about illustrating kids books and what the differences were for different age groups (still learning this, as things change over time in the industry).

3. I signed up for every critique and portfolio show I could at conferences or with my local illustrator group. I look back on the images I was doing at the beginning and cringe, but I got professional advice and learned what was NOT working for kids books, and some of things that were working. I also learned (and still learn) that my art is not for everyone in children's books, but that there are editors and art directors that do like my art. It's all subjective!

I hope that helps! Good luck with going back to basics, finding your style, and deciding what type of art you want to do!

p.s. Lots of good books recommended already, especially Writing With Pictures. One other one I'd recommend is: Picture This, How Pictures Work by Molly Bang.
#9 - November 26, 2012, 08:32 AM
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Stephanie, I had the same learning curve as well. I took Fine Arts in college, but I think even then my style leaned more toward illustrative, and my instructors kept telling me they wanted to smack my hands, as they wanted me to do more abstract stuff. I felt a little lost. I ended up taking graphic design and prepress after, which was actually a lot more helpful to me now that I put dummies together. But although not specifically illustration, I think both FA and GD gave me some good foundation skills to build on.

And wow! the same subject every day for a year? What discipline! I know who my go-to person is if I ever need a cow illustration!  :dr

I'll have to look for that book!
#10 - November 26, 2012, 09:15 AM
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Wow Stephanie...one subject every day for an entire year?? To me that seems excessive but if it worked for you good on ya! I definitely agree that drawing, sketching, doodling needs to be a daily practice if someone wants to improve their skills.

Quote
For going back to basics with drawing skills, though, I'd say there's no better teacher than drawing from nature, especially the human body.

What Leslie said. Even when you're cartooning and objects/beings are exaggerated you still need to know how said subjects realistically look so you can exaggerate them in a representative and proportional manner.
#11 - November 26, 2012, 09:51 AM
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Thanks so much for the suggestions. I want to learn to draw better and I want my own unique style to come out and hopefully it all will come together. I've been told to practice, practice and practice some more but there is yet another problem. I enjoy drawing and I enjoy creating but if I'm practicing in the wrong way, I'm only enhancing my incorrect skills which is going backwards from what I want to be doing. I can read all the books and study up on the industry but what it comes down to is me being able to create the kind of work that art directors are going to notice. I don't know if children's book illustration is for me or not but I do know that I enjoy creating fun sketches and I like to THINK they're good but I honestly think if I were to show them to an art director, they would tell me to go and practice some more. That's pretty much sending me full circle. It's all a learning process and right now I'm trying to figure out the very best way for me to practice.

I have found fellow artists in my area and that I'm in school with but it seems that everyone is so hung up on building their own name, they don't have time or patience to offer suggestions or feedback. I completely understand this because they have family and needs as well, but it puts me at an awful spot because I don't have a critique group or any solid artistic support that can help guide me and vice versa. Is the life of an artist honestly so lonely?

I will keep searching and trying to find the best way for me to build my skills. Graduation is in June so there is a light at the end of the tunnel...I'm just not sure where the tunnel is going to end up.  :hiding
#12 - November 26, 2012, 09:53 AM

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I haven't been on it, but I think DeviantArt is a community that embraces illustration. I've seen illustrator Lora Innes (of The Dreamer comic on line) mention Paper Wings, too (http://www.paperwingspodcast.com/). My impression is that the illustration community is much more open to critiques than perhaps straight studio art. But maybe I'm not enough in the know to know better...

If you want illustrative drawing basics, though, the BEST book for expressions is this one: The Artist's Complete Guide to Facial Expressions, by Gary Faigin. It walks you through six basic facial emotions and their variations in great detail. Even if your style is more cartoonish, it helps to understand the basics of what those facial muscles are doing to make a scary/sad/happy/sneering face. A writer/illustrator in my crit group who is self taught said her editor recommended this book to her specifically. It's really excellent!
#13 - November 26, 2012, 10:09 AM

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this thread is making me want to start another thread for the best how to books for illustrators...

or do we already have one buried somewhere?  :eh2
#14 - November 26, 2012, 10:15 AM
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It sounds crazy, but the reason I drew the same subject for a year was because it forced me to think about how I wanted to draw it, not how it looked or how someone else would draw it. There were days during the cow year and the dog year that I didn't want to draw them ever again, but I kept at it. By doing that, I was able to keep refining how the animal looked until I had my own visual language for that subject. When I switched to a new subject, I found that the visual language transferred to that too. And sometimes it's just fun to experiment or throw paint around and not think about the subject of the art, because it's already been determined.

The best comment during the year I was drawing cows came in a portfolio critique. The art director liked my cows, but asked, "Can you draw anything other than cows?" The next year I had cows AND dogs in my portfolio. I still have both in my current portfolio, along with other animals and a few children too.

Arty, Do you think I should start advertising my cow drawings with the slogan: Will Draw For Moo? Hahahaha. Sorry, couldn't resist.

Olmue, !hanks for this recommendation: The Artist's Complete Guide to Facial Expressions, by Gary Faigin. I'll be getting that one!
#15 - November 26, 2012, 10:44 AM
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The best comment during the year I was drawing cows came in a portfolio critique. The art director liked my cows, but asked, "Can you draw anything other than cows?" The next year I had cows AND dogs in my portfolio.

That's awesome Stephanie  :haha

Artemesia...if that isn't a recent thread, or a thread at all, you should definitely start one!
#16 - November 26, 2012, 05:45 PM
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If you're looking for additional best how-to books for artists, James Gurney posted a list of them, and there are some additional recommendations in the comments to his post:

http://gurneyjourney.blogspot.com/2012/07/best-how-to-art-books.html
#17 - November 26, 2012, 07:26 PM

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When I wanted to make the switch from a gag and strip cartoonist to children's book illustration I did just what I did when I was a child. I learned how to draw cartoons by loving and reading and really studying the news paper comics, mad magazine, comic books.  So, as a "mature" adult, I continually took out picture books from the library by artists I loved and felt were similar to the style I could handle. Sometimes I wish I had training, sometimes not. My hardest challenge was teaching myself watercolour and acrylics. There is just so much trial and error and school would likely have saved years off my life in that regard:)
#18 - November 27, 2012, 02:09 AM
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Or not...lol. I had to teach myself watercolor and acrylics as well. Read everything I could find online, and took books out of the library. Didn't learn any painting skills in Fine Arts. Our painting teacher wasn't a painter (he worked solely in graphite powder) and really, I'm not even sure he was an artist, lol...and he didn't have a clue. We got absolutely no instruction. We were just given assignments and told to go do. I still feel like there must be so much I don't know yet, but I don't know what I don't know.
#19 - November 27, 2012, 08:10 AM
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Or not...lol. I had to teach myself watercolor and acrylics as well. Read everything I could find online, and took books out of the library. Didn't learn any painting skills in Fine Arts. Our painting teacher wasn't a painter (he worked solely in graphite powder) and really, I'm not even sure he was an artist, lol...and he didn't have a clue. We got absolutely no instruction. We were just given assignments and told to go do. I still feel like there must be so much I don't know yet, but I don't know what I don't know.

Wow, I thought that feeling just came from not getting to go to art school. I am always trying to fill the gap of "what I don't know that I don't know!" LOL. Maybe I feel a little better now.

OddBerry, I search the web and YouTube for everything that pertains to what I want to learn or accomplish in my art. I take every free course that interests me and pay for many of them as well. And I have to say that having all of the choices set before you and having to choose what excites you the most at the moment will definitely help define what kind of art you will love doing.

I can recommend two books for introducing you to children's illustration as a career. Though they are not about teaching you art. "The Encyclopedia of Writing and Illustrating Children's books" McCannon, Thornton and Williams-and "Illustrating Children's Books" by Martin Salisbury. I have been through these books numerous times and have given them a loving place on my book shelf.
#20 - November 27, 2012, 09:37 AM

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Copy other artists. Seriously. Find an artist or two who you really like, and try to mimic or duplicate their style. The resulting work shouldn't be put in your portfolio, but it's a good method to find new ways of representing something that you may not have thought of, and to get better control over what you're doing. As you do this you'll pick up individual techniques that you can use in the future as you meld what you learn into your own style.
#21 - November 27, 2012, 01:41 PM

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Anthony, that was actually a common exercise we did in art school. We had to try to replicate several of the great masters' works.

and I started the book thread! http://www.verlakay.com/boards/index.php?topic=65456.0 I hope I didn't miss any that were posted here, but please keep adding more books to the list!
#22 - November 27, 2012, 01:44 PM
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Anthony, totally agree! When I was about 8 I discovered the AMAZING Paul Coker jr in mad mag, then latter his style was used in christmas animations such as frosty the snowman. I copied and copied that mans style till I had it down pat (as much as its possible for an 8 year old  to imitate greatness:) I later needed to unlearn much of it, so as to find my own style but, I feel it gave me that basis to work from.
Art, your teacher experience sounds like that classic, and I'm sure often unfair, saying.... Those who can't, teach:) why would a school hire someone to teach painting who doesn't paint!!! High school art class did me in I think, as far as continuing my education in art past grade 10. I got only a c+ in it and the teacher hated me:) he would give out assignments like, abstract oil paint landscapes or some such, and on every assignment I managed to turn it into a cartoon. He was a "serious" artist and I was wasting his time and talent:)
#23 - November 28, 2012, 03:23 AM
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Have I mentioned how much I  :love5: you guys??

Anthony thank you so much and that is EXACTLY what I think I'm going to do. I have books on the way, as well as books I already own and am getting more by the truck load (my poor husband  :duh) but there are 2-3 solid moderns artists that I absolutely adore and their style is exactly what I'm looking for. I was told by my school that illustration is a tough industry to break into and since my actual B.S. will be in Digital Design and Animation, it might be a wise decision to get my foot in the door in digital art and design and THEN work on illustration in my spare time. It makes sense but...GAH, so many choices. I think I'll start copyng my favs and try to develop my own style. Thoughts??
#24 - November 28, 2012, 07:22 AM

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I drew Snoopy a LOT in first grade. I think the influence is still there in my work. :)

christripp: I hear you on art teachers! I had one in 8th grade that told me I had no artistic talent and should stop trying to make art (never mind that his idea of art was copying photos from magazines - ugh). Made him take it back in 10th grade though, when I took another class with him and we were allowed to be creative. Reminded him of his comment at the end of the year and he said he was wrong. Hope it made him think twice before telling other kids they shouldn't make art.

OddBerry: On one hand, your school is right. If you have that degree and are working toward that, it's a good place to start. Though it might be just as hard to get your foot in the door there, and if you're not passionate about design and animation, you could regret that decision later. If you're able to take the time to figure out what you want to do first, you might be happier in the end. So in that sense, your school is wrong. Basically, it's up to you to decide, which can be really hard. Remember though, if you go in one direction and it doesn't fit, you can switch gears and try something else. It's not as easy as taking the straight path, but you might gain skills and insight along the way that will help later. Good luck!
#25 - November 28, 2012, 07:53 AM
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Thanks for the feedback Stephanie. I think it's more about me being able to get the bills paid with my education versus being a starving artist and having a family. I am passionate about design but it's more digital art than anything else. I'm going to start working on my own sort of thing and then go from there. I was told that my proportions are off and that I need to work more on that which I sort of agree with but...here's my issue. If one's unique style is their own, why does it HAVE to look right? I enjoy creating characters and using my imagination but it almost seems as if I start doing things the 'right' way, I lose my heart and soul of the piece. Does this make sense? I want to know the right way to do things based on studies and education but I also want my work to be unique and different from everyone else's. What is THE right way? Is there one? I know I'm not a fine artist and I'm not trying to be...is this what the critiques of my work are talking about when they tell me to work more on the basics? There are so many forms of illustration, drawing, creating, etc. how do I figure out what MY right way is?
#26 - November 28, 2012, 08:57 AM

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I spent my high school days copying my brother's favorite anime. I drew Bubblegum Crisis, Dirty Pair, Iczer 1, Uresei Yatsura....and so many others! I also drew images from rock magazines and album covers.

OddBerry, for now, you have the freedom to just experiment. Try whatever grabs you. I think when you do hit on something, it will just feel right. You'll get excited and love what you are doing. I've never enjoyed anything so much as creating children's books. When you find that thing you love creating, I think you'll know. After FA I took Graphic Design and Prepress Technology, and except for a few freelance gigs, I never pursued it as a career. I'd been saying since grade 8 that I wanted to write and illustrate children's books, and I finally decided that I needed to put up or shut up, you know? I found the boards here and started learning all I could. Both the FA and the GD have given me transferable skills (the GD has been especially helpful in creating professional looking dummies), so I wouldn't say it was a total waste, but I did take a roundabout route to get here.

Chris and Stephanie, I totally know what you mean. There were two painting teachers, one did the most amazing technical work (boring subject matter, but his skill was crazy!), and the other did scribbles in graphite. Seriously, he showed us slides of a gallery show and it was a dozen framed pictures of wide pencil circle scribbles. He hated my work. I got a C- in his class. One day I walked into the studio early to find the other painting teacher sitting on a stool in front of one of my paintings, just staring at it, and he told me how much he loved it and why. And I had got a scathing critique from my instructor. That's when I realized how subjective it all is, and how grades in art don't really matter.
#27 - November 28, 2012, 10:54 AM
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OddBerry, that makes perfect sense to me! However, having a solid foundation of skills and being able to draw with the right proportions will help you to be able to get a job in the art field (where other people are expecting you to draw what they want you to draw with their specifications). It will also help you to find your own style by choosing when and how to break the rules, including how real the proportions are, or aren't.

Sometimes you have to do the hard work, by putting in the time and/or doing things differently than you want to, in order to get to the place where you can do what you want. It's easy to forget that Art/Design/illustration/Animation as a career is different than making art for yourself because you want to. As a career you will most likely have to learn to change your art based on feedback. In some fields, you may be told exactly what you need to draw and how it's supposed to look (for example, licensed characters have to look a certain way).

The thing is, if your proportions are off on purpose, that's a style choice and could lead to lots of interesting images. Usually when that's the case, it's obvious that it's a choice. When proportions are off, but not on purpose, that's what you need to watch out for.

Here's one way to tell: The more realistic your art looks, the more proportions being off will look like a mistake. The more stylistic your art is, the more it will look right, even if it's wrong (as in the artist has made deliberate choices in all their pieces so you can tell they were done by the same person).

Being able to pay the bills is a good thing. If that's your goal, can you get advice from your school on the best place to break in with the skills and knowledge you already have? You can work on finding your passion and what you really want to do when you're not working your day job. Who knows, what you end up starting out in could end up being what you love, or could help you get the skills to do what you love later.

One day I walked into the studio early to find the other painting teacher sitting on a stool in front of one of my paintings, just staring at it, and he told me how much he loved it and why. And I had got a scathing critique from my instructor. That's when I realized how subjective it all is, and how grades in art don't really matter.

Arty, so happy you found the other teacher and he told you he loved your art and why! It stinks that you had to have the other teacher for class though. Ugh.
#28 - November 28, 2012, 02:45 PM
« Last Edit: November 28, 2012, 02:48 PM by Stephanie Ruble »
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Finding tutorials online is a huge blessing! Think of what everyone did before youtube or Google. Searching animals on YouTube to get a sense of their movements, balance, and mannerisms can help place your characters in motion.

Everyone speaking of teachers reminded me of my high school courses. Some teachers were great and some  . . . not so. One teacher taught us that erasers are not to be used when drawing. Hmmm . . . why do they make them specifically for artists? Erasers are my friends. And the fear of watercolors was instilled in me when I received one bad grade in art due to . . . watercolors. (Although my parents not investing in supplies left me with a tin full of brittle paint didn't help). When critique partners encouraged me to try them years later, this secret experience held me back. Now, watercolors, like erasers . . . are my friends.

It's up to us to trudge through what works and what doesn't to find our own way.

Your enthusiasm is the best catalyst.
#29 - November 28, 2012, 10:27 PM
Fur Balls & Feathers & Fins, Oh My! Animals Are My Kind of People
 www.cynthiakremsner.com

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Haha, Cynthia, that ERASER comment is beautiful! I totally remember the art class teachers telling us, there are NO MISTAKES in art, you do not use an eraser here! For anyone who really cared about their work, it was completely frustrating to have to look at the MISTAKES !!! Hey, I may be a little kid but I do know a MISTAKE when I see one, I'm not that stupid!
When I was giving presentations years later, I would bring my well worn eraser and hold it up to the kids, this guys, is your best friend, he'll fix anything up for you:)
#30 - November 29, 2012, 02:08 AM
"Penelope and the Humongous Burp"
"Penelope and the Monsters"
"Penelope and the Preposterous Birthday Party"

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