Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Skipping Steps

After receiving my Master’s degree in Illustration with my focus on children’s book illustration I relaxed.  I thought I had arrived and now I didn’t really have to follow all the arduous, time-consuming, boring steps to creating illustrations that my instructors pounded into my head.  I immediately went to work on the children’s book I wanted to finish for publication.  Each double page required a new character and   After only a month I got bogged down and lost momentum.  I thought that maybe it was just the long months preparing my thesis and finishing my schooling that oppressed me and all I needed was a break.  Two months later I was still dragging along wondering what my problem was.  I jumped right into making myself work on thumbnail sketches for each page but they were lacking in innovation, imagination and cuteness.  Over and over I changed things but still I wasn’t making any headway.
situation so it was a slow process.

Not long later, I was approached by my nephew who wanted a few illustrations for a YA fantasy novel he was writing.  He wanted to spend time talking about backgrounds and time frame.  My training kicked in and I made him describe his main characters so I could create a character sheet with facial expressions and body poses for each one before even trying to place them into an environment.  After working on   I had been skipping the step of creating character sketches for them.  I had thought I didn’t really need this step because I knew what I wanted but obviously I was wrong.  You may know mentally what you want but till you put it to paper and play with poses and facial expressions, you cannot really get the full visual sense of how you want it to lay out.
three of these and making the appropriate changes, I suddenly realized what my problem was with my own pages.

Lesson learned:  don’t skip steps even if you think you don’t really need them.  All the steps are vital to the process or they wouldn’t bother teaching them in art school.

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Color Temperature

Color is a vital tool in the illustrator’s tool belt.  It supplies mood and character.  Often it is used to clearly identify on a focal point.  And it has the power to impact the viewer in profound ways.  Studies from the 60’s and 70’s show that a red pill is more effective as a stimulant than a blue pill.  On the other hand, a blue pill is more effective as a sleeping agent than an orange one.  Also, green, white or blue pills aren’t as effective as red ones as painkillers.  Yet all of these pills were placebos, having no real medication other than the color playing on the mental perception. 

Why is that football players wearing red were statistically more likely to win than teams in other colors?  How is it that paintings containing red fetched higher prices at a London contemporary art auction house than those without red?  It is the psychology of color.

One key to painting that I constantly have to remember is the color temperature.  When the light is warm like from the afternoon sun, then the shadows need to be cool in the blues and purples.  Conversely, when the light is cool like from indoor lighting or early morning light, then the shadows should be warmer.  It is a tough concept to keep in mind.  Not only that but the rule is that cool colors recede and warm colors advance.  This makes it hard to paint red backgrounds which flatten out a picture and come forward naturally, or blue foreground images which tend to recede naturally.

How do you use color?  Do you fret over color temperature or background colors?  I’d love to hear about your color psychology experiences.

Sunday, February 26, 2017


Chiaroscuro is the study of light and shadow.  One of the keys to shadow is the edges.  Form shadows yield soft edges and cast shadows yield sharper edges. Edges, however, are relative. For example, a soft edge next to an even softer edge will appear hard. To clarify the types of edges, we can divide them into the following four categories.
Soft Edges: Soft edges are soft due to the curving of a form, such as the edges of a form shadow where there is a gradual change from light to shadow.
2.     Firm Edges: Like soft edges, firm edges fall within the category of form shadow; however, firm edges consist of a more abrupt turn from light to shadow than do soft edges. An example of a firm edge would be in the turning from light to shadow on the bridge of the nose. These edges are generally found where there is bone on the face; the edge of the form shadow is soft yet firm.
3.     Sharp Edges: Sharp edges can be found at the edge of the cast shadow or where there is extreme contrast, such as dark hair against the forehead in light.
4.     Lost Edges: Lost edges occur where the separation between two objects is so close in value that you cannot see where one ends and the other begins, such as the shadow side of dark hair against a dark background.
Ultimately edges and value are relative, and the variations in light and shadow are infinite within nature, so it's best to always carefully observe what is in front of you.

When doing these portraits I had to keep in mind the way shadows were cast on the faces.  Hard or sharp edges on a face make it looks older but softening the edges to firm makes even an older person look more youthful.  I find when doing portraits, you get paid better by being flattering and bringing back youth.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Aversion to Green

I have a strange aversion to green.  I know that sounds strange for an artist and for the longest time I couldn’t figure out why I don’t like green.  I won’t wear anything green but lots of women have favorite colors so no one noticed including myself.  However I refuse to have anything in my house that’s green.  It became apparent when my husband brought home a laundry basket that was green.  Sweet man, he thought he was helping but I hated it and returned it for a white one.  Later he brought home a new landline phone that was, you guessed it, green.  That’s when the fight began and I thought he should just know I don’t want anything green.  So he asked why and I couldn’t answer.  I had to go back in my memories and search for a reason.  Then recently I came upon it.  When I was a little girl my uncle owned a dark green Plymouth and would take us on a 2-hour trip to the lake almost every weekend during the summer.  We would go waterskiing, which I loved, and camp there lakeside all weekend.  But every week I would get carsick and have to have him pullover to the side of the road while I lost my breakfast.  It happened every time.  It got to where even the sight of that green car would turn my stomach… and who would guess that I still feel that way today.  The psychology of colors is a very powerful thing.  Even though I know intellectually that green isn’t sickening, I still don’t want it around me.

Painting with green isn’t a problem usually because it doesn’t sit alone.  However I resist using the dark greens unless I mix them with red to DE saturate or yellow to brighten and liven up the green.  Funny how some small event colors your whole life view.