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How can I learn how to illustrate?

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Hi, folks,


Can anyone tell me what the best way is to go about learning how to illustrate? I work during the day, so can't go for classes. Are there any good websites that I can visit? Also, is there any free software I can download that people use for illustrations?


Thanks for your help!
Nidhi
#1 - July 08, 2014, 05:16 PM
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I've spent quite a bit of cash on classes (online and in-person), I've spent a lot of time watching tutorials, and reading advice online too, but honestly, the thing that has had the most dramatic impact in my drawing/painting has simply been doing it every day, whenever I could.


As for online tutorials and advice, it really depends on what kind of illustration you're looking into. Watercolour, acrylics, pen and ink, digital, collage etc. There are also good books, but again it depends on the kind of illustration you're interested in.


Free software: Gimp. Gimp is Adobe Photoshop but not as flash. It'll take you a while to learn how to use it, as it would if you were using Photoshop. It's well worth learning, though, as it can help a lot!
#2 - July 08, 2014, 05:55 PM

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Agreed.

Practice, practice, practice. :)

Rue
#3 - July 08, 2014, 06:20 PM
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     Agreed!  The best way to learn to illustrate is to practice.  The best way to practice is to find "your hand".  It's very easy to feel like you are suppose to draw a 'certain way', but you're not.  Most of my favorite artists draw a way that is unique to them.  For the very best artists, you can see a picture that has no caption or signature and know whom it belongs to.  You view the world uniquely, so show everyone how you see it!  Muses and inspiration are always an artists friend, so spend time looking at things you like.  Illustration doesn't always have to be with pen and ink (like Eric Carle!!) so find a medium you like and play with it.  There are tons of references and tutorials on line to teach you techniques.  I wouldn't spend money on classes until I had tried something first to see if I even liked it.  Most importantly HAVE FUN, because art is fun and the best art comes from free expression.
 
#4 - July 08, 2014, 06:50 PM
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Triple Ditto what everyone else has said. Draw, draw, draw and draw. Then paint, color, paint color.
 
The tutorials can be helpful for certain things like learning a specific technique. I wanted to use salt in my watercolors for a certain effect and I found a tutorial that was spot on. I could go over it time and again, (unlike a class where there's only one time to take it in and digest it all). I also used a tutorial for converting from RGB to CMYK and addressing my out of gamut colors, etc.
 
It's essential to look at picture books and take them in, deconstructing and reconstructing, evaluating pacing, perspective, color choices and character creation. Those influences can be an imprint to get our own foothold into.
 
The foundation of the work comes from you, your interpretation, your adjustments after receiving input, etc.
 
When we all begin, I think we start off by emulating whose work we love and then other influences add to the mix. Eventually, our own voice emerges.
 
 
#5 - July 08, 2014, 07:22 PM
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Hi Nidhi,

Although I enjoy drawing and painting, I do not consider myself an illustrator, so I apologize if this advice is too basic for where you are at, but this is something helped me refresh my high school art class skills:

I went to the library and took out four different books about drawing and read them all, one after another, in a short period of time. I did some of the exercises on a newsprint drawing pad, especially in the early chapters of the first book, but mostly I just read. The great thing about reading four drawing books in a row was that where one book's description was lacking, the other books could fill in the gaps. And if I saw a tip or exercise repeated in three or four of the books, I felt more confidence that that information was important/credible. By the third and fourth book I was mostly skimming because I was largely seeing the same material I had already read, but I would still find new nuggets of information, or a new way of explaining something that helped. Looking through four drawing books in a row like that has helped me feel that I have a better understanding of what I am doing, or trying to do, when I draw.

I have also enjoyed these books in particular: Watercolor for the Absolute Beginner by Mark and Mary Willenbrink and  The Art of Colored Pencil Drawing by Cynthia Knox et al.

Finally, I found Raina Telgemeier's page on "How a Graphic Novel is Born (and Raised)" (http://goraina.com/2013/08/how-a-graphic-novel-is-born-and-raised/) to be very informative. She shows the stages she goes through in drawing a scene.

Hope this helps, and hope you have fun drawing  :-)

Lisa
#6 - July 08, 2014, 07:48 PM
« Last Edit: July 08, 2014, 07:51 PM by lisa-swanson »

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Draw everyday. Carry a sketch book with you and draw wherever you are, whatever you see. No secret, just lots and lots of hard work. Daily practice.
#7 - July 08, 2014, 08:18 PM
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I think there are two different questions here. How to learn to draw is one. And what are the professional skills a person needs to learn to do professional illustration is another. There are tons of books on drawing skills (drawing human figures are most important, followed by animals--but they are often anthropomorphized, so your human drawing skills are important regardless). Study books that are about anatomy for artists. Study people in motion, and practice practice practice.

Illustration differs from studio art in that a series of pictures is used to tell a story, so you don't usually have portrait-like pictures of people just looking into the camera. More common is characters interacting with each other. So work on interactions. And work on drawing consistent characters from different points of view.

Studying facial expressions is important. There's a book on that by Gary Faigin (The Artist's Complete Guide to Facial Expression) that is really good. Framed Ink: Drawing and Composition for Visual Storytellers by Marcos Mateu-Mestre and Jeffrey Katzenberg is a good book for learning visual storytelling and layout. It's actually for animators, but many of the same principles apply. And of course there's Uri Shulevitz's Writing with Pictures, which is specifically about children's book illustration. The book is older and the section on color separation is apparently outdated (we have computers now, etc.), but it's still useful.

And yes to what people said about working with particular media. Try a bunch of different ones and see how you like them, and you can delve into books that discuss those techniques.

Another resource: Yellapalooza (http://yellapalooza.com/) talks a bit about book dummies.

Good luck--sometimes I think part of learning is figuring out what questions to ask.
#8 - July 08, 2014, 09:17 PM

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I agree with previous posters - the most important part is practice, daily if you can (even small sketches will hone your skill).  I now carry a small sketchbook & pen in my purse so I can sketch objects people & scenes everywhere I go. 
Take advantage of the many free resources online. 
I'm doing Mark Mitchell Make Your Mark online illustration course.  I was hesitant at first, but it's been very helpful in moving my learning along at a faster pace.  I probably could scrounge up the info online for free, but it's worth it to me to not have to spend the time googling the info I need (some I wouldn't have even thought to look for), and the critiques have been helpful as well.  There are many other courses out there too. 
#9 - July 10, 2014, 06:24 AM
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Thank you everyone for these great tips! I am a bit afraid to take the plunge, and it sounds like I will have a long path ahead of me even if I try.  But I will surely give it one shot.
#10 - July 14, 2014, 05:50 PM
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It helps to attend SCBWI events for illustrators - check to see if there is one coming up in your region. These are not usually restricted to members, so anyone can go, but sometimes there are limits on the number who can attend and registration is required.

In our region (Southern Breeze) we have sketch events where illustrators meet to work together at a specified location like the zoo or a horse farm or alpaca farm or at historical/architectural sites. Although there may be an entrance fee to e.g. the zoo or other location, there is usually no fee to attend the event.

We also offer an Illustrators' Day in conjunction with our spring conference in the Atlanta area and have just started an illustrator intensive in conjunction with our fall conference in Birmingham (Hands on art! Taught by Greg Christie this year on Oct 10). These are wonderful opportunities to learn not only about illustration techniques and standard business practices like putting together portfolios, promotional material and dummies, and learning how to submit these to editors and art directors, but also how to pursue the business of illustration as a career.
#11 - August 07, 2014, 09:00 AM
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I forgot to mention our illustrators blog - there's a great post about how to put together a portfolio for art directors at children's book publishing houses http://sbillustrators.blogspot.com/p/portfolios.html

Cruise around the blog, some good stuff, and other regions have similar resources. Find out who the Illustrator Coordinator is in your region and contact them. They should know some resources available in your area, maybe even an illustration crit group with an opening.
#12 - August 07, 2014, 09:08 AM
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Thanks for that link, Claudia--it's awesomely helpful!
#13 - August 07, 2014, 06:44 PM

Practise is great advice.


Unfortunately, I had an idea for a PB that I wanted to do and started on it before I had the actual skills to support my idea. Been working on it pretty consistently for 5 years or so (around work and family or course) and, naturally, my drawing skill has improved over that time. I said unfortunately because a lot of my original stuff has had to be redrawn as I got a better sense of my style and need consistency through the whole book. If I had started with a good understanding of my own abilities then I would have saved sooooo much time.
#14 - August 08, 2014, 01:03 AM
« Last Edit: August 08, 2014, 01:05 AM by LukeW »

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Don't think of it as unfortunate, Luke. It's a learning process and that project has taught you the skills you needed to know. How else would you have learned them? I have one like that too that eventually evolved from a PB with so many redone versions while I learned what the heck I was doing, to a solid project my agent shopped (came close but no banana), to me taking a minor joke from it and turning that into the chapter book series I sold to Scholastic. It's not time wasted, I promise you. It's time well spent.
#15 - August 08, 2014, 10:07 AM
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Yeah, I know you're right. I just expect to be able to do everything correctly the first time I try something.  :haha




Part of my problem was that I didn't know enough about things like linework (as in, what line weight would look good once printed) and resolution and went off gung-ho, when a little bit of research and testing could have avoided that. I guess that happens when you're excited about things though, right :taz:



Funnily enough, I was looking through my older drawings from when I first thought I'd want to make a PB and they looked like something a child had drawn. I remember being so disappointed with my first try, as it looked nothing like what I had in my head, that I nearly stopped there and didn't try again. That would have been over five years ago. 
#16 - August 08, 2014, 04:37 PM

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Olmue is right. There seem to be two questions here. Drawing every day (or as often as possible) is great advice whether you're learning how to draw, or are already an artist and have gotten into a rut with your drawings.

If you're asking how to turn your art skills into an illustration career, the thing I'd suggest is to study illustrations of the type you want to do.

Want to illustrate picture books? Read and look at a ton of picture books (mostly current, but don't forget to go back and look at old ones too). Look at how the pictures interact, expand, and/or reflect the text.

Want to illustrate novels, or graphic novels, or editorial pages in the newspaper? Do the same thing I mentioned with picture books above. Read as many of the books or editorial pages as you can and see how the text works with the art.
#17 - August 08, 2014, 09:27 PM
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Not to beat a dead horse but I agree with the above posters. Drawing every day and drawing things in motion will help you greatly improve, and also thinking outside the box, attaching stories to the people, places and things your drawing will help you become more narrative. If you want to write and illustrate, adding writing to your every day practices will help as well. If I were in your shoes I would find a college grad and find their roster for classes majoring in illustration (I'd be happy to tell you the classes I took), check out the required reading at your local library and self-teach. There are -tons- of tutorials and online aids. One of my favorites is schoolism.com (a sub-organization of imaginism studios). If you're dedicated and passionate about it, you will be able to achieve your goals! Let me know if you want those class descriptions :).

#18 - August 09, 2014, 05:33 PM
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Luke, I redraw my books multiple times, even now. It's part of the process. Drawings need revisions the same way the written word does. It's a never ending work-flow.
#19 - August 10, 2014, 08:34 AM
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Yeah, I should have been clearer. What I meant was by having a style worked out before beginning some massive project. I lot of my line work was wasted because I set it to the wrong line weight, used the wrong resolution in the canvas settings, had no idea about grouping layers. That sort of thing which you pick up as you go, but I could have sped up the process by sorting it out first and having a clear idea in my head about how I was going to colour the work and if I had gone and looked at a few tutorials beforehand.
#20 - August 13, 2014, 08:56 PM

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