Illustration for That’s Life Magazine

Title: Mortifed
Client: That’s Life Magazine Via The Illustrator’s Agency

This illustration for the Australian publication That’s Life which features readers true life stories and was a fun one to do. It was completed and approved within a few of days of receiving the commission. That’s what I love, fast turnarounds!

The brief on this one, was to show a mother preparing dinner in the kitchen, while at the same time comforting her daughter, who’s just been relating the tale of an embarrassing incident.

The illustration was done in a combination of Adobe Illustrator (Background elements and props), Manga Studio (Initial rough sketch and final character art) and Photoshop (Compositing and colour correction).

Mortified: Illustration for That's Life Magazine

For comparison. Here’s the initial sketch, which as you can see, just required some small changes to the facial expressions.

Mortified: Initial rough sketch

 

I’m Lovin’ It – Characters in McDonalds

Fast food restaurants and shopping malls are great places to spot real life characters. Here are some people sketches from the McDonalds which is about 20 minutes drive from my house. My cholesterol level is going through the roof and I’m getting fitted for a pacemaker next week but what can I say. Terrible diet equals great sketching opportunities!collage0019

Ralph Fiennes Caricature

I was vaguely aware of Ralph Fiennes role as Voldemort , but it’s only when I really studied his face that I realised how seriously malevolent the guy can look, even without the make up (Even more so maybe). I suppose that’s why he gets cast as the villain as often as he gets the heroic roles.

This caricature was done for the Caricaturama Showdown 3000 Facebook Group. Don’t forget to visit and like my Facebook page.

fiennes-stages

A Cartoon Character Goldmine on my Doorstep

In an effort to get away from the computer and my desk and out of the house occasionally, I’ve been getting myself in to the habit of taking my sketchbook with me everywhere I go and I’ve discovered a goldmine of local characters in the process.

sketches003So far the best places I’ve discovered, are the car park of my local convenience store, motels and shopping mall food courts. I’ve really been having a blast, going out in the morning doing maybe 40 minutes of sketches, bringing them home and cleaning them up a little bit in Sketchbook Pro before posting them on Facebook for some instant feedback.

It’s been so much fun that I’m going to make this a regular thing from now on. These are the sketches from my most popular Facebook posts of last month. To get more posts like these in your Facebook or Twitter feed, like me on Facebook or follow me on Twitter.

character-sketches001

Meet the Vampires

A vampire family, welcomes you in to their lovely abode

Do come in. We’re so pleased to eat…er…meet you

My attempts to turn this rough sketch of a vampire family into a finished piece have so far been frustrating and disappointing. I just seem to keep losing the energy that I like about this rough piece. Which is always the thing you have to struggle with of course. Oh well, maybe one day I’ll nail it.

Animated Characters for an Ipad Game App

Below is the finished splash page for the Ipad game app Jungle Jim.

The client also needed two animated characters for this game, a Jungle Jim and a Jungle Jane.

To create the animated characters, I had to draw them in a vine-swinging pose and then separate each part out on to it’s own layer, so that the animator could do his bit and move each part, as necessary, to create the swinging motion.

The final image is my rough design for the Jungle Jim character, as he would appear on the splash page for the app. The logo wasn’t used by the client, in the end, although he liked it. He’d already chosen a font that he liked and preferred to stick with it throughout for consistency.

The Jungle Jim game is available to download for free from itunes app store.

jungle-Jim-cartoon-characteanimated-jungle-characters junglejim-rough016

Autodesk Sketchbook Ink Review

sbi-logoI’m not a big fan of using the IPad as a drawing tool. It’s the Styluses (Stylii?) that are the problem. I just want a drawing implement with a sharp point (Not a fat cigar-like thing). Despite this, I’m really enjoying using Autodesk Sketchbook Ink. It’s a really simple app, just seven ink brushes and two erasing brushes. It has the ability to create multiple layers. Brush customisability though, is limited to a size slider. Not a problem for me, as the two tapered brushes have exactly the line quality that I favour. It is potentially a major drawback for the user who likes to use a wide variety of brush shapes.

I’ve found myself using SBI primarily as a portable sketching tool recently and although I really only have use for the two tapered brushes, I love the line quality and the fact that there is a kind of simulated pressure sensitivity when using a basic stylus in that drawing the lines faster results in a thinner line. Something about that and the smoothness of the line just suits my drawing style. Sketchbook Ink also has the capability to export png files at a huge 101.5mp.

I don’t love everything about the App however. I like to be able to quickly clear my screen if a drawing isn’t working out. So I would like to see the “erase all” function, which is currently located in the layers submenu, instantly accessible as a top level menu item. I have to tap to open the menu, tap again on the erase button and then tap again in order to close the menu and continue drawing. Having to do that every time really interrupts my workflow, as I tend to clear my screen a lot. I’d also like to be able to increase the size of the brushes much more. A minor gripe, it took me a while to realise that the crosshairs that appear when touching the screen for while are a colour sampler tool it was nice to discover it but I didn’t find any mention of it in the user guide.

Overall I give this App 7 out of 10 for it’s simplicity and quality of line.https://itunes.apple.com/nz/app/sketchbook-ink/id526422908?mt=8

Children’s book illustration using Adobe Illustrator and Corel Painter

children's book illustration

 

Video Transcript

In my last blog post , I talked about illustrating a children’s book as a personal project that came about when I was entertaining my daughter by doodling a little teddy bear character and just inventing  a story about him. I’m just going to talk a bit more about the process of finishing the illustrations that I started in Adobe Illustrator by taking them into Photoshop and Painter.

I have an Adobe Illustrator Master file containing all the basic vector graphic elements I need for my book illustrations. Each element is grouped separately, so it’s like a big disorganised library file for all the elements I need. It might be a tree, a character a cloud shape it’s all thrown in here.

The workflow I’m using is to copy and paste the elements I need in to different layers in a Photoshop file. Then I’ll reopen that file in Corel Painter and add shading to it with a Chalk brush, what I’m going for here is to take those sharp hard edged vector graphics and give them a much softer look. So here’s the illustrator graphic that I’ve created of the bear chasing a squirrel up a tree. I want the tree, the bear, the squirrel’s tail and the background of the sky and clouds all on different layers. I could just copy and paste directly from Illustrator to Painter, so why bother to add the extra step of Photoshop? The main reason is, I just find it easier to do this step in Photoshop because I know the software so well,  but the other reason is that Photoshop allows you to paste the element in as a vector object which means I can resize each element up or down without any loss of quality before I rasterize it. Only once it’s rasterized does it then become a bitmap which can be edited and painted over.

The next step is to save my Photoshop file and open it in Painter. I have a palette of custom brushes in Painter but the brush I’m going to use is the default brush called “Blunt Chalk 30” I make a new layer above all the others and this is going to be a white border. Then I’m going to add some shading to the tree. I’ve got the checkbox for “Preserve Transparency” checked and that locks the layer so that only the only the tree can be painted on. Then I’m going to soften the hard edges of those white clouds with the chalk brush, so now I need to turn off the “Preserve transparency” setting  in order to paint around and outside the area of the cloud.

Finally I add some finishing shading  to the bear and the squirrel and I’m pretty much done. Back in Photoshop, the advantage of layers can be seen because I just want to shift some of the elements around slightly.  I prefer to do this in Photoshop because it has an autoselect layer checkbox which makes this part easier. If you’ve never used it, checking the Autoselect layer checkbox allows you to quickly select layers by clicking on the element you want to move rather than having to highlight the layer in the layers palette first, it’s just one of those little time saving things that really adds up over time plus if you’re dealing with lots of layers you don’t have to waste time naming and organising them  and then scrolling through them all to find the one you want. It’s basically a lazy person’s way of doing layer selection  and I make no apology for it. So there we have it, I’m one illustration closer to finishing my children’s book project. If you’d like to know when the book is available either as a digital download or a hard copy please feel free to send me a message. You can contact me via my website www.zengrenade.com or just post a comment on this video.

 

Eddie the bad tempered teddy:Children’s book project

This project got started in the way many children’s book ideas have got started. To keep my 2.5 year old daughter entertained one day, I started doodling a cute little character and began to make up a story about him.

In this case the character was a bad tempered teddy bear called Eddie and his character just seemed to spring into life as I drew him. Here are some of those original doodles. (Colouring added by my daughter Josie.)
teddy001

Half an hour later we were both laughing at Eddie and the story I’d just made up about his poor anger management skills. I now had a simple character design and a basic story outline. I thought, to myself, why not make a children’s book out of this? At the very least it would make a nice present to my daughter. It shouldn’t even take me long if I keep it simple, I reasoned.

Wrong.

I started roughing things out in Sketchbook Pro. SP when used in conjunction with a Wacom Cintiq gives a very natural pencil line quality, I really enjoy using it.
I thought maybe I could do the whole thing in Sketchbook Pro, just using simple pencil strokes and subtle “watercolourey” type colouring, but somehow I just never managed to find a happy balance between my loose and lively roughs and my clean but stiff looking finished drawings. The magic elusive quality that animators call “Appeal” just seemed to drain away every time.

teddy003

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

So I went back to my tool of choice Adobe Illustrator. This was a bit disappointing to me because part of the aim of a personal project I feel should be to experiment with new styles and to do something different. So for now I’ve settled on a compromise which I feel is still somewhat experimental for me but gives a natural look that I’m pretty happy with.

teddy005

teddy007

I’ve taken my original vector artwork as a base and added paint and chalk brush elements on layers with Corel Painter.

The main time-consuming factor has been this whole issue of working out the style. My usual trad animation influenced style is one I’m pretty comfortable with and this differs in that there is minimal linework and flat colours with very simple iconic character designs. This should in theory have made things easier but Ironically, it was this simplification of style that threw up new issues and caused problems. The main one being that when there is no linework, only colour, body parts start to become a confusion of lost edges and the character’s pose starts to become very hard to read. This meant that I needed to go back and make changes to the original character design but I didn’t want to overcomplicate the design and lose the simple cuteness of the character..
teddy008

The first thing which goes a long way to address this problem is to always make sure that the pose is readable in silhouette. However, I found that to really solve these reoccurring problems I also had to go back and add some additional elements. I made some variations in the character’s tonal values to break up the big mass of tone. So you can see I’ve put a lighter coloured patch of fur on his stomach, I’ve differentiated the tones between his paws and the rest of his arm. Adding little paw pads makes it clear which way up the paw is actually facing. I added a crease line above his legs so now you can tell where his legs end and his belly starts. I also needed to strategically place a couple of shadows here and there to really make him legible. In the image above I’m still losing the shoulder as it blends into the head but I think I’ve done just enough to make him legible.

There are several advantages to working in Adobe illustrator. There’s the issue of resolution independence and also the ability to build up a “library” of reuseable and movable elements. For instance. If I create a library with a small number of trees. By flipping and resizing them, I can quickly make a forest scene . I always create illustrations now with this library approach in mind so for instance it may not be necessary to create a whole tree or other element of an illustration but I do anyway as I may be able to reuse it in a different context.

I’m about three quarters of the way to finishing the book now and I’m not sure what I’ll do with it once it’s done. I may use an on demand printing service to get a copy for my daughter and I’m also looking into the whole digital publishing thing right now, so we’ll see.

Creating a cartoon dog character in Sketchbook Pro and Adobe Illustrator

This video illustrates the 3 stages that I go through when creating a finished cartoon character design in this case a friendly dog character based on my client’s black and white Border Collie. The 3 stages are loose sketch in Sketchbook Pro, tight sketch using construction and colouring in Adobe Illustrator.

Drawing a Pterodactyl cartoon character in Sketchbook Pro x 8 speed

This video shows me in the process of creating a colour comp of a Pterodactyl character for a client, false starts and all. The video is speeded up for clarity and you also get to see the final coloured version at the end.

Designing a cave girl pinup girl for a T-Shirt

In my latest YouTube video I go through my process of creating this piece of pinup style art for a Zazzle Tshirt. In order to do this I start off by sketching in Sketchbook Pro and refine it, then bring it into Illustrator for digital inking and flat colouring and finally some digital painting in Photoshop. cavegirl

Caricature Sketch: Peter Cushing

Peter CushingI haven’t done a caricature sketch in a while so here’s a new one based on the classic Hammer Horror movie actor Peter Cushing. Cushing also played Dr Who in a couple of movies. This is useful information to know as his Dr Who role tends to get forgotten and I guarantee it will come up somehow in the next pub quiz you go to.

Space Trash: Deathtrip005

space-trash-deathtrip005

Here it is Deathtrip part five. Could it be that Jorz and Krell’s money worries are over? Well, maybe but their real troubles are only just about to begin.

There’s a lot of decision making that goes into producing a comic, character design, writing, panel layout, composition colour palette, or whether to even use colour at all. Initially the whole thing was going to be in black and white.

space-trash-blackandwhite

12-panel-grid

12 panel grid allows for flexibility of formatting

I liked the stark simplicity of it but then soon realised that adding a few grey tones gave me some more design options and finally I gave in and decided to go with colour which provide even more design options but requires a lot more decision making of course.

I’ve used a flexible 12 panel grid layout which may never use all 12 panels at once but allows me to format the comic in different ways. i.e. I could divide up the comic into 4 separate newspaper format strips or as 2 half-page strips which seems to work well for the webcomics format and should I ever print it like a traditional comic book. I can stack the strips as a standard sized comic page as above.

 

webcomic-evolution

 

Putting the comic in this flexible format creates other issues with regard to the writing and pacing of the story. If it’s going to work there has to be some kind of cliffhanger or gag at least every half page and where possible on every quarter page. Phew, like I said there’s a lot of stuff to think about.

Finally, here are some of the rough thumbnails I produced for this particular page. I’m currently using Sketchbook Pro with a Wacom Cintiq for the roughs and Adobe Illustrator for the final pages.

page5-visual-development

More Space Trash strips and posts

Tooniversity at The Quarry

Due to popular demand, I ended up doing two cartooning workshops back to back at The Quarry Arts Centre in Whangarei on Monday this week. Thanks to everyone attended. There are clearly some great budding cartoonists out there. We covered a lot of topics in 2.5 hours which included using basic shapes to construct different characters, creating dynamic poses and even down to some of the finer points of proportion and anatomy.

quarry-workshop-montage

I got some great feedback afterwards, including this awesome video from one highly talented young lady.

Thanks also to all the friendly helpful staff and artists in residence at The Quarry.

I hope to do some more workshops here in the near future anyone interested in attending future workshops, or in hosting one please contact me via my contact form or add your name to my newsletter mailing list on the home page.

Sign Up for Tooniversity

If you live in the Northland area of New Zealand why not come to one of my 1/2 day summer holiday workshops. I kicked off this week at Mahurangi College as part of year ten’s activity week and will be doing more at the Quarry arts centre in Whangarei beginning the week of 21/1/13 if you’re interested in signing up please do so asap as places tend to go quickly.

The workshops are suitable for anyone age nine or over and will cover such topics as anatomy, perspective, inventing your own characters and creating dynamic poses.

Character Concept Sketches for an Alien Bar

The title speaks for itself really. Here are some recent concept sketches that I did in Sketchbook Pro for Space Trash. This panel that required a bunch of different alien type characters in a bar. I suppose you could call it my story’s, Star Wars “Cantina Bar” moment that happens in when the two main characters enter a bar for a meeting with their client. The planet they are on is a tough mining colony and this scene takes place in a rough bar near a spaceport where there would be a lot of off-worlders and shady characters of all kinds mingling together, for fun, relaxation and often more nefarious activities.alien-bar-concept-sketches

Caricature Sketch of the Day: Matt Smith-Doctor Who

Doctor_Who-Matt_Smith_caricatureI’ve been a fan of Doctor Who for a looooong time.  I can still vividly remember Jon Pertwee, and I may have even wept a little when he was killed by those giant rubber spiders (O.K. I admit it , I bawled) which kind of gives away my age doesn’t it?  If you have no idea what I’m talking about take a look at this link. I can’t think of any other TV program that I used to watch as a seven year old that I still watch just as avidly. I really like Matt Smith’s portrayal of the Doctor. In fact since the series has been revived each doctor has been better than the last. So here’s my tribute to Matt with my latest caricature of the day.

 

 

Lemmy from Motorhead in Sketchbook Pro 6

Sketchbook Pro 6 is out and I love it! It has a new set of cutomiseable paint brushes. This new functionality makes Sketchbook Pro start to look like a real alternative to Painter It’s a low priced application but it’s drawing tools look and feel very natural to work with. The innovative and minimalist interface allows for maximum drawing area and it doesn’t suffer from the lag that other bloated applications seem to have. Anyway thats enough gushing praise, here’s a sketch of Lemmy from Motorhead done in Sketchbook Pro 6.

lemmy001

Sword Girl & monsters from sketch to final pt 8

Final coloured version. A bit more tweaking in Illustrator in Photoshop and I’m finally happy with this piece. I’m particularly happy with the colour contrast between the red hair of the “Glamazon” and the blue monochrome of the background.

 

Sword Girl & monsters from sketch to final pt 7

In this version I’ve taken the previous greyscale flats and tweaked it in Photoshop adding some shading with the airbrush tool and pushing the hue of he whole image to a monochromatic blue, apart of course, from the red eyes of the pursuing creatures.

Sword wielding and monsters

Sword Girl & monsters from sketch to final pt 6

Flats done in Greyscale in Adobe Illustrator. A “Flat” is simply a broad area of colour or tone that has no shading or textural detail added to it. Why Greyscale? At this stage it’s important to establish that the tones have enough contrast to create a clear division between the subject  and the foreground and the background

Sword wielding girl and monsters

Sword Girl & monsters from sketch to final pt 5

Digitally “Inking” the outlines in Adobe Illustrator. This process requires the creation of some custom brushes in Adobe Illustrator. A process which I discuss in some detail in this video http://youtu.be/W8KJ2Fw6lss The custom brushes that I made give nice thick and thin lines like an actual ink brush. The great thing about illustrator’s digital “Ink” is that it can be tweaked and smoothed until it’s exactly right. No whiteout, and no spilled ink on the carpet!

Sword Girl & monsters from sketch to final pt 2

I’m starting to nail it down a bit more now. With a bit more drawing in Sketchbook Pro. my Glamazon girl is going to be facing some kind of demonic creature and I’ve decided to use the creature as a framing device to make her the central focus of the image.

Sword Girl & monsters from sketch to final pt 2

Sword Girl & monsters from sketch to final pt 1

Thought I’d post an experiment with a new digital painting workflow I’m trying out with Sketchbook Pro, Adobe Illustrator and Photoshop. The idea being to create a piece of work that has a painted look by sketching an idea in Sketchbook Pro then creating a flat tonal greyscale image in Adobe Illustratorand then adding colour and airbrush effects in Photoshop at the end stage. By working this way in a tightly controlled logical sequence of steps I hope to avoid some of the pitfalls involved with a looser digital painting such as getting the colour balance wrong and also losing the feel of the initial sketch with too much overpainting.

Here’s the first stage. A very rough concept sketch done in Sketchbook Pro.

Sword Girl & monsters from sketch to final pt 1

Rise of the Mirrorbots

Sketchbook Pro has a great function which allows you to split the drawing area vertically or horizontally and mirror on one side what is drawn on the other. Generally speaking it’s considered to be a bad thing in comics and animation to create poses which are symmetrical but for character creation this mirror tool really helps me to break out of the box.

I needed a robot character for the webcomic that I’ve been working on and using the mirror tool helped me come up with some surprisingly Japanese looking designs, well it surprised me anyway.

Here are some of the results of this experiment. I really liked the guy on the top right so I took him and developed him some more and he’s made it into the webcomic which I hope to start posting on a regular basis on this site later this year.

Gun-Toting Space Lizard – New comic strip character

I never seem to have enough time to develop my personal projects, but I’ve been working on a comic strip for a while now and things are finally starting to come together with the script and characters. Here is a design for one of the main characters in the strip, though I haven’t completely decided what his name is yet. Lets just call him “gun-toting space lizard” for now. He’s basically a good guy although somewhat mercenary in outlook.

Wild Willy Character Design

Initial rough design concept with explanatory annotations

Client Brief:Come up with a fun cartoon character that kids could relate to for a family fun center. Arcade bumper boats mini golf etc. Name of the park is Wild Willy’s.
Character should be a clumsy adventure character who always finds himself in difficult situations and by luck is able to get out of trouble. Fun version of Indiana Jones.Would like to roll this into t shirt concepts etc.

Clients Comments: “Hi Andy. Looks great!!! Can you also do a version with dirty blonde hair?”

Audrey, the face that launched a 1000 designs…well at least 3 anyway

Back in 1994 , when I was working as an assistant animator at Amblimation studios in London. I noticed that some of the animators had pics of Audrey Hepburn pinned up alongside the usual approved model sheets and reference photos. this struck me as odd because we were working on Balto, a movie primarily about sled dogs in Alaska.

It turned out that the female lead, a Siberian husky called Jenna, was based at least in part on Audrey Hepburn. As strange as this may seem. Amongst the animation community, Audrey Hepburn is widely considered to have had THE most perfectly proportioned female face, a face that  I suspect has been used many times over the years as a model for animated heroines and yes, even animated animals.

It has been documented that Audrey was the original inspiration for Tom Oreb’s princess Aurora character design from Disney’s 1959 movie, Sleeping Beauty and again 32 years later with Mark Henn and James Baxter’s Belle from Beauty & The Beast. Therefore it does seem that there is some truth to the notion that was held by the ancient Greeks that true beauty always conforms to certain timeless proportions and as such is not subject to the vagaries of fashion.

Above: From woof to waif Jenna – Audrey comparison

Now, I don’t normally do caricatures, or portraits of  famous people, but I thought that it would be highly remiss for someone like myself  who calls himself a character designer, not to at least attempt to get on the Audrey Hepburn bandwagon so here’s my take on the gorgeous Audrey below.

audrey001

The SKAnimals Comic strips

Question: What do a lizard, a mouse a stork, a bear and a fox have to do with the world’s largest radio telescope?

Answer: The animals are a group of characters that I was asked asked to create in order to explain the workings of the S.K.A ( That’s the Square kilometre array) to children in the 9 – 14 age bracket. They live in a desert but the country couldn’t be too specific as that hasn’t been decided. So no monkeys or kangaroos in the group, although South Africa and Australia have been shortlisted as potential locations.

Here is an excerpt from the first comic together and some rough scribbles that were part of the layout process

 

To download the first 2 comics and visit the SKA Telescope website please go here.

http://www.skatelescope.org/