ADVIL Masterpost

Welcome, 2014! I’m sorry I jumped ship with the blogging for a while, there. Things got…

Well, things got how things get near the end of a semester, I guess.

So. I address this post to my readers (read: parents), to Rusty, and to anyone who happens upon this place and likes what they see. What lies beneath these words is everything I’ve done for my illustration independent study this semester. I’ve called it ADVIL, which I think is clever. (ADV-anced IL-lustration).

I’m including a few things that I technically did with another end goal in mind, but it all goes under the umbrella of illustration-I-did-this-semester. The point was learning, and I learned from all of these things.

I started off the semester by doing what can only be explained as experimenting. Tried to dip a finger in as many jars of jam as possible, if you will. As many pies. We’ll start with the gouache stuff:

blind as a bat

blind as a bat

I like hand illustration, I really do, but the worst part about it is trying to get it into the computer in a way that looks not-awful. I didn’t mess with it too much in Photoshop, because- well, you can tell when they’ve been messed with… But I still think this turned out quite nicely. I wanted something with a concept, and I did a print a while ago that was called ‘Carpe Diem’- a raccoon holding a fresh-caught carp- so I thought I would continue that trend with this one. It made me giggle, which is really all you need.


medical illustration

I didn’t label it. Should I have labelled it? I didn’t. I could. I still might.

Practical, practical, practical Kat. If you know me at all, you’ll know that I hate things that aren’t useful. Medical illustration isn’t the most useful, perhaps, but there are definitely still jobs in the world for medical illustrators. I chose a hand because I think it’s the most interesting part of the human body, and interesting is as important as useful. It includes the circulatory, muscular, skeletal, connective, and nervous systems (connective’s not really a system. I mean tendons). I had a huge bunch of fun with this one, largely due to all the long lines of the veins and nerves. I got hold of this wonderful pinstriping brush, and all but jumped for joy when I realized I’d finally have a chance to use it:

Pinstriping like a pro!

Pinstriping like a pro!

I quite like gouache projects, and it seems I’ve finally found a decent (if expensive) watercolor paper that doesn’t have an awful texture. That was probably the worst part of Illustration as a sophomore; the texture of the paper always shows up in the scans! Solved that problem by taking photos instead, though.

Here’s a little study I did in an attempt to practice skin tones and fabric behaviour:

Fabric study with umbrella

Fabric study with umbrella

I know, I know. don’t give me that ‘why didn’t you put her in an environment’ look. S’not about the environment. I drew this without any reference images (which is something I need to do more often. Those parts of my brain are rusty)- but not for the reasons you think. I have such problems choosing the right colors for things, and I wanted to do a little study of how things behave in my head, as opposed to the real world. Looking back, I think I need to be more aggressive with my shading on the fabric, and it lacks texture. But the skin looks like skin and the dress looks like dress, so I’m generally pleased. This, as one of the earlier ones, lacks a bit of somethin’ somethin’ that the others seem to have found, but it’s about learning, right?

Now then. You may recall these little guys, done as a supplement to a magazine article in Vis Comm IV:

platen press

platen press

Typewriter vs. MacBook

Typewriter vs. MacBook

old school computer

old school computer

The way I’ve done illustrations in the past is way different from the way I handled these, mostly because I was after a different, looser style, supplemented with the outlines. I drew them with one color on a lowered opacity, and layered strokes to get darker tones, instead of actually choosing darker colors. I think the most successful one is the typewriter vs. MacBook, and it makes me want to try this style with more things. Maybe on a black background? It just goes to show that you can’t be too complacent settling into a routine you know. It often serves to mix things up a bit. I’m definitely going to play with the opacity side of things some more.

I had such a hard time coming up with projects to fit the requirements for things I wanted to experiment with, so whilst trying to come up with an idea for a product illustration, I just decided to pick something I really wanted:

Volkswagon Van

Volkswagen Van

This is my dream car, and one day I will have one and I will drive around the US in it, and visit all manner of interesting places and finally go to Boring, Oregon and Hell, Michigan. Both of which are actual towns in which actual people live. I will dress like a hippie and it will be perfect.

That said:

I regret the decision to ever even so much as consider drawing a car, and I fully intend to try it again because I refuse to think that there is a thing (chemistry excluded) that I cannot do. I might even try this one again. Might shift gears to a nice performance car first, though. Maserati? Lamborghini? Who cares? Cars, man. Cars are hard, and I definitely learned a lot about reflections during this project. I spent a lot of time looking at what reflected where on different types of cars, and I now am confident that I could tell you a lot more than any one person should need to know about the way roads reflect off of cars. Maybe that knowledge will be useful later in life. I wish I had budgeted my time a little more wisely, because I spent rather a long time on the hubcaps and headlights, and not enough time on the windows and roof. Also, you don’t even want to know how hard it was for me not to hang fuzzy dice in the windshield. We don’t talk about it.

Here’s something I had been wanting to try for a while:

Aric fighting a Dragon

A Dragon Fight

Emma floating away

Emma floating away

Lauren the Pirate

Lauren the Pirate

Valerie tied up on the railroad tracks

Valerie tied up on the railroad tracks

I’d been wanting to try adding illustration to photographs, so this was a natural idea for me. Technically, it was a photo project, but it also goes along with drawing-with-opacity, so I felt it was important to include. Anyways, the idea was to bring the imagination to life, creating things that wouldn’t happen in photographs through drawing. At first, I wasn’t sure if I wanted the people to interact with their imaginations, but it occurred to me that people interact with their imaginations all the time, that’s kind of the point… so I went with it. I really like how these turned out, they’re quirky and strange and they make people who look at them do a double take. It’s a whole different set of cards to work with a photograph- you can’t just tweak the layout a tiny bit to get something to work the way you want it to. It forced me to look at my photographs in a new way, as much as my illustrations. Also, it was hard to find a suitable style for these- I wanted the difference to be obvious,but not gaudy. There were a lot of hideous test-drawings and mock ups before I finally decided where to let this project take me, and I’m so very happy I stuck with it. I’m fond of doing things in series, because it opens new doors in terms of being able to explore a thing from many angles. Also, going to a liberal arts school was probably the single best decision I’ve ever unknowingly made for my education, because it lets me do things like this: mash two classes, two disciplines, together, and see what each can bring out of the other.

Albert Einstein and the theory of textures

Albert Einstein

Albert Einstein

One of the things I talked about wanting to accomplish was working in a program other than Photoshop. Al here was painted in Corel Painter, and I am here before you today to tell you that if such a thing were possible, I would marry Corel Painter. Al here isn’t the most beautiful thing I’ve ever done, but he represents a whole world of possibilities that I have been wishing for since I started drawing with a tablet. Textures, and blending variations, and brushes like you wouldn’t even believe! not only do I get to choose between hundreds of brushes that are each uniquely programmed to be as realistic as possible, I can choose my media, my canvas texture, and can control the viscosity, blending, opacity, stroke length, dryness, and bleed of the paint, and that barely scratches the surface. As if that weren’t enough, Painter plays nice with Photoshop, so you can easily transfer a project back and fourth between the two. I love it so much! It’s everything I’ve ever dreamed of, and some things I didn’t even know I wanted. Textures! I swear, if paint behaved like this in real life, I’d never leave it alone!

Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy Book Cover

Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy Book Cover

The Restaurant at the end of the Universe

The Restaurant at the end of the Universe

Life, the Universe, and Everything

Life, the Universe, and Everything

Book Covers! I had planned to do Sherlock Holmes, but I’ve already done Sherlock Holmes book covers, so I went with this instead. Also, the imagery in these books basically begs to be drawn.

So. If you think they look random: good! They’re supposed to be random. There are two more books in the series, called So long, and Thanks for all the Fish and One More Thing… but I chose to focus my attentions on these three. Taking what I learned from Einstein (also, let’s talk about how much fun space is to draw in Corel!- I wanted to tie the three books together so they’d be an obvious series, so I went with space. More and more of it is shown as you go on to show the progression. That, and the similar treatment of type, of course)..sorry. Taking what I learned from Einstein, this project largely consisted of me switching back and forth between Painter and Photoshop to get each thing to have the textures I wanted.  I think they turned out really well, and I definitely think I’ll do the next two books in the series, if at all possible. Also, back covers? Dust jackets? The possibilities are endless!

Let’s talk about how much I love books. I think they’re awesome and I want to adopt all of them and keep them safe from the evils of this digital society (but also digital books are cool too, and offer a whole different set of interesting problems!). Maybe that’s why I want to go into publishing. One reason of many, to be sure. When I told you, Rusty, that I wanted to write an illustrate a children’s book as part of the independent study, you told me that I probably wouldn’t get it done, and that you had a student who focused an entire semester on just a children’s book alone. I thought that I would probably be fine, but I just smiled and said “Well, we will just wait and see what happens, I guess!”

Rusty, you were right. I didn’t get it done.

I could have, I could have stayed up late and gotten something down on every page, but this is a project that I’ve been wanting to do for at least three years, and I didn’t see the point in rushing through it and ruining my drive to work on it in the future by messing with my brain about it. I’ll tell you about the process, things I’ve learned with it so far, and then show you what I do have done. It just doesn’t look like much, but here’s the thing about things not looking like much: In illustration, at least the way I find that I do illustration, instead of a steady, linear progression of a thing looking like something more and more until it is finished, it goes something like, “this looks like nothing, this looks like nothing, this looks awful, how is this a thing you think you’re good at”- and then, in the last two or three hours or so of a drawing: “BAM. That’s what I’m talking about!”

So, basically, right now, I have a bunch of a children’s book that looks bloody awful, and a tiny bit of a children’s book that looks rather nice. I’ve discovered- and Rusty, this is probably what you were trying to tell me, that most of writing and illustrating a book is the planning of the thing, rather than the execution of the thing, and boy, have I learned a lot about planning. I spent several weeks researching and testing ways to make the book become an actual thing, first by sending it off to be published, and then by printing and binding it myself. I conducted a test of binding by making a sketchbook for my sister, and it turned out really well- so when it actually gets done, I have every intention of printing and binding a few copies. After writing it (which was really fairly straightforward), it took me a good long time to get it laid out in a little test booklet I made out of scrap paper- trying to figure out what lines of text would correspond with spreads versus individual pages, and how to break up the text so that it made sense to young readers, and their parents.

There’s a scene in Dr. Horrible’s Sing Along Blog, where Captain Hammer says:

“I am sick of the homeless”

“-ness problem in our city.”

So I kept that in mind as I was breaking up the text, because flow is really important to comprehension for little people.

After I did my little scrappy layout booklet (okay, well actually after I did about six little scrappy layout booklets), I set out to sketch each individual page, in detail. This was the part where, for the first time, I actually started thinking about how I wanted to illustrate it. Pen and ink? Watercolor? I knew I wanted to at least involve digital media, but I wasn’t sure in what way. This was further complicated by my discovery of Corel Painter, because any notions I had of what I could do digitally were basically completely overturned, and I basically ended up resetting my thoughts on how I would do it. I also thought a lot about font choice, which arose from my attempt to make my handwriting for where the text would be on each page as pretty as possible. I toyed with writing the words out for the final copy, but I eventually decided that it had no bearing on the story itself to do such a thing, so I ended up choosing to go with a nice, elegant serif font. Though, at this point, obviously, I could feasibly change my mind and choose Helvetica.

A thing in progress

Colors? I’ve spent more time thinking about colors in the past month and a half than I have sleeping. You’ve no idea.

So, here’s where I am now- well versed in the binding of the book, and nearly every page is sketched out in my sketchbook, and I know where I’m taking this and have the confidence and drive now to keep on with it, and… only one illustration that’s nearly finished. Needless to say, I could have budgeted my time a little more wisely on this one as well, but I’m not actually upset that it hasn’t gotten done yet. It may not look like much, but I’m both happy with the progress that I’ve made, and happy that I have by far learned more from this project than from anything else I did this semester. Other classes included.

While we’re talking about things that didn’t get done, though- there was another thing that I haven’t yet done. One of the points of this class was to find my style as an illustrator- to find just one thing that I’m really good at and that I really like, and I haven’t done that either. I’m actually a little upset about this, but the only way to do it is to keep going. So that’s what I’m going to do. Eventually, something will come out, right?

I hope so.

Congratulations! You’re extremely dedicated for making it to the end of this post. I’m glad you survived, hopefully relatively unscathed. I’m so very happy I had the opportunity to make this happen, and I learned a lot from the experience. I’ve ended up with some portfolio pieces, and some that are well on their way to becoming portfolio pieces. I was very happy to be able to retreat into my head and work through this stuff on my own, but still have the looming deadline and possibility to ask questions. And, to everyone else- stick around! If there’s one one thing I’ve learned this semester, it’s that I’ve only just begun.


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