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.)
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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.

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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.

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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..
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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 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.

 

 

Caricature sketch of the day: Keith Richards

keith-richards006I’m really enjoying doing these quick character sketches/caricatures as a way of warming up and giving the cartooning muscles a workout. Todays sketch is of a youthful and significantly less gnarly, though not exactly fresh faced Keith Richards circa 1974.

Tommy Lee Jones Sketch

Tommy-Lee-Jones-001I have tended to avoid calling myself a caricaturist or to offer this as a service in the past. But I’ve come to the conclusion that a character designer who is any good should really be able to produce a half decent caricature. so with this in mind I’ve been working on a caricature a day as a warm up exercise, from time to time I’ll post the ones I like up here. The previous one I posted was Lemmy and here’s one I did today, Tommy Lee Jones.

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.

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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

New character concept development

Here’s a couple of pics showing the development of a character from my personal comic project. He’s a crusty old miner who our heroes encounter in a bar setting the stage for the main action. Although the story is set in space, it has a lot parallels with a traditional western, so I”ve decded to go with that theme and imagined him as an old prospector type tough and wiry.

 

 

 

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.