Friday, May 31, 2013

Manga Studio 5 Part 2- Painting Demo and Custom Brushes

Here's my second video about how I use Manga Studio 5 for digital illustration.
It's a bit long and rambly but I talk a more about how I use certain features, a bit about art in general, and a look at how I make custom brushes in MS5.

Manga Studio 5 Painting and Custom Brushes demo by Tracy Bishop from Tracy Bishop on Vimeo.


Tuesday, May 28, 2013

A Study in Channeling Your Childhood

A few weekends ago while I was selling books at the Maine Comics Arts Festival, my table was surrounded by gaggles of enthusiastic kids. I find that it's often too easy to get a little trapped in your process and forget why you're making books. Those kids reminded me, recharged me, and really got me thinking...

 What did I like about books when I was a kid? 

That first sense of ownership?

There are a few things worth noting: The price of a Little Golden Book was 89 cents in 1983 and it seems I really enjoyed books that helped me learn something science-y! 

I loved my books and really, really took care of them:


The first book I might have ever owned is My Home, a Little Golden Book written by Reneé Bartkowski and illustrated by ROFry Ross. I wrote ALL over the pages of this book, which I like to think means I REALLY liked it. :) 

Detail from My Home, Illustration by ROFry

I stopped on the page below and remembered thinking: "That is what a city looks like!" I grew up in a small suburb in PA. I was close enough to Scranton to get a taste of city, but also close to many farms. It was the best of both worlds, but I didn't know what a big city like New York was like. I only saw it in pictures.

I used to pretend (more like really believe) that an electric tower in the distance was the Statue of Liberty and I could see it from my back door!.

Detail from My Home, Illustration by ROFry

I was a little obsessed with 500 Words to Grow Onillustrated by Harry McNaught. The book contained only objects or creatures with the occasional scene:

Detail from 500 Words to Grow On, Illustrations by Harry McNaught

Detail from 500 Words to Grow On, Illustrations by Harry McNaught

No story to read, but I might have imagined each of the objects or creatures having a story of it's own. That bus sure looks alive to me and on it's way to pick up some passengers.

Detail from 500 Words to Grow On, Illustrations by Harry McNaught

This book also falls right in line with my childhood love of rock collections and science kits. I spent hours looking through microscopes at butterfly wings and ants. 

Detail from 500 Words to Grow On, Illustrations by Harry McNaught

My What-a-Mess books were so cherished, their bindings are broken! Joseph Wright created a secondary narrative in his illustrations that sucked me right in. The little people and creature characters, often wearing bath towels or skydiving, had nothing to do with the main storyline. 

Detail from Super What-a-Mess, Illustration by Joseph Wright

But they sure were fun to find in the MESS!

Detail from Super What-a-Mess, Illustration by Joseph Wright

One more book that really strikes a chord, is Old Friends, New Friends. Flipping through this book tugged on my heart strings page after page. I must have really liked this one. I remember thinking, "Whoa, she's friends with a BOY." Not to mention, the guy to the left of the red balloon looks EXACTLY like my father.

Detail from Old Friends, New Friends, Illustrated by Jane Chambless-Rigie

Everyone kind of has bowl haircuts and out of date clothing (even for then), but I didn't care. I so badly wanted to wear this girl's tights, and be on stage, and roller skate with balloons. I wanted to be THEM.

Detail from Old Friends, New Friends, Illustrated by Jane Chambless-Rigie

So, it's a little nutty, the power of a book. Granted, things have changed since then, there is more TV than anyone knows what to do with, iPads, a million video games, etc. We author/illustrators have to fight hard to get kids to love our stories. But when they do, it's the most rewarding thing in the world. 

We have the power to write and illustrate things kids will remember and wonder about for ages to come, like...where did Goldilock's left shoe go? I never did figure that one out. 

Detail from Goldilocks and the Three Bears, Illustration by Lilian Obligado


Friday, May 24, 2013

Quick tour of Manga Studio 5

For the past year I've been using Manga Studio 5, an $80 program from SmithMicro, as my primary tool for digital painting. I still use Photoshop for certain things but for the most part, the bulk of the work is done in MS5.

Why did I switch to Manga Studio 5? In a nutshell- it's because it's a speedy program with powerful features made just for digital artists.

The video below will give you a basic tour of what Manga Studio 5 looks like and what features I use and find the most helpful for digital illustration.

 The main idea I want to convey is that this is not a scary program to learn. There are a lot of similarities with Photoshop. Have fun and the only way to learn is just to dive in and mess around.

 Next week I will post a demo video of me actually painting something in Manga Studio 5. If you have any questions, feel free to comment below or find me on twitter @TracyBishopArt.

Quick Tour of Manga Studio 5 from Tracy Bishop on Vimeo.


Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Quick Photoshop Painting Demo (with music)!

There are many different ways I paint in Photoshop, but this video demonstrates the technique I've used to paint FAST. I recently finished a project on a super tight deadline and I knew I had to figure out a way to paint faster in order to get everything done on time. So, I went back to basics: employing line, value and local color!

The video below started with a random sketch on a random piece of paper floating around on my desk. In real time, the painting took about 15 minutes but it's been condensed down to about four minutes here!

Since the video goes by at lightning speed, here are some useful tips for the basic layer setup I used:

  • The final line layer is set to MULTIPLY and is on top of everything else
  • The value layer comes next and is also set to MULTIPLY. It is important that you work out your values here in order to eliminate worrying about that in your color layer
  • The next layer is your local color layer set to NORMAL. Since your values are worked out in the above layer, all you have to do here is paint your flat (or local) colors in. Your values already show through!
  • Lastly, you can do a layer above everything else with your highlights.
  • I left my line visible, but if you push your value layer and really work out your lights and darks, you can completely get rid of the line layer.

That's it! Set it and forget it! Here's a piece I did using this technique. Until next time! :)

From "Goodnight Baseball" (Capstone, 2013)

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Getting Unstuck Part 2

When I started to thumbnail my first manuscript that I wrote, ever, I froze up. It was terrifying! Where to start? I made several pathetic attempts, but I was good and stuck. I decided to apply the same trick as in my last post. Not tracing, but thumbnailing existing books. Not just any books — epic books! I choose Creepy Carrots and No David!

Creepy Carrots is a favorite of mine by Peter Brown. This book is awesome in so many ways, but for this exercise, I chose it because of his wonderful and varied compositions. The key to this exercise is not to worry about making a pretty dummy, it’s all about seeing the big picture and capturing the essence of why a particular book is working. I found it also helps me to think bigger than I would if I hadn’t completed this exercise. Just like when I traced drawings in the last post, this exercise really opened my eyes to all of the possibilities! This is really just a trick to get me past my initial fear of starting.

Thumbnailing Peter Brown's Creepy Carrots

For the second book, I chose No David! It has a simple premise and very few words, just like my manuscript. I have read this book over and over to my kids. I’ve listened to David Shannon speak at an SCBWI Illustrator’s Day, but it wasn’t until I thumbnailed the book that I noticed the genius of his compositions. The different angles and the brilliant use of space became clear.

Thumbnailing David Shannon's No David!
I urge you to try this exercise! Good luck!

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Watercolor my World: Part 2

In my last few posts, I've gotten a little digital-heavy, but I promise I have not forgotten to document my painting progress! In my last watercolor post, I described why I decided to take a watercolor class in the first place. As my 8 week course comes to a close, it's easy to say that I'm not quite publish-ready with the medium, however, I did make a great deal of progress. 

My starting palette. 

Here's my edited palette (in list form) and what I discovered about each color (to my personal taste):

-Cobalt Blue (too close to Ultramarine, replaced with Prussian Blue)

-Viridian Hue
-Sap Green
-Burnt Umber (dull, but sticking with it)
-Yellow Ochre (too dull, replaced with Naples Yellow)
-Quinacridone Gold (decided to add more blue to palette with Cerulean)
-Cadmium Yellow Hue
-Burnt Sienna
-Alizarin Crimson (use it in EVERYTHING)
-Cadmium Red Light Hue (replaced with Mortum Violet)
-Cadmium Red (also use it in EVERYTHING)

As in most schooling, it's customary to start with still lives. Here's my first pass at one using my original  Winsor & Newton palette and Arches Cold Press

Here are a few other samples of what I painted:

I discovered how much I like to add reds and pinks when I'm real-life painting. I also became slightly obsessed with painting fur. :) It doesn't happen so much when I'm working digitally, but who knows, maybe that will change now? 

My weapons of choice:
-Ticonderoga #2 Pencil
-Isabey Squirrel Quill Brush (Size 4) - great for both large washes and details
-Isabey Kolinsky Brushes (Size 4 and 6) - best for small areas
-Winsor & Newton Cotman (Size 5) - best for hard details

I switched a lot between Hot and Cold Press Arches (140 lb.) throughout the 8 weeks, trying to discover what I like best about both. 

Cold Press (Toothy Texture) seems to be best at letting the paint do it's thing:

Paint edges look softer and blend better on Hot Press.

Hot Press (Smooth) seems to be best for adding ink line and/or colored pencil:

Paint edges look harder and more defined on Cold Press.

Here is an example of some color tests I did side by side on Hot Press (back) and Cold Press (front):

Lemur in a sombrero prefers Cold Press, like me.

I gave Cold Press another shot on the last night of class, and this is what happened (based off of this sketch):

I wasn't able to use my ink brush, instead I tried using the paint, itself to fill in the lines I wanted so badly to see. 

I hope to keep painting and I can only imagine that making the promise to update you all on my progress will push me forward. And then, maybe slowly over time, my palette will continue to grow to a more masterful size, like Dan's

Dan Moynihan's watercolor palette is well-loved!

Thanks for reading!


Thursday, May 9, 2013

Getting Unstuck Part 1

Some days my sketches flow from my pencil effortlessly. My pencil dances across the page like Fred and Ginger. I can’t draw fast enough to get all of the ideas out of my head and onto paper. I start to believe it will always be this way. I can go on like this for days or weeks at a time. But then comes the inevitable crash. The brakes screech and, quite suddenly and without warning, it happens. I completely forget how to draw. Nothing works. I’ve fallen flat on my face! Every line is stiff and awkward. Where just the day before I held my head high and created with ease, now there is only the dreaded Ugly Drawing, misshapen and taunting me. This tends to occur for no apparent reason. Other times it’s a result of a less than encouraging portfolio review at a conference or when I’m not getting projects and stop believing in myself for a moment.

Doing nothing is one option, but I don't think it's the best one.

We all know, or at least should know, that drawing is like working out, if you don’t keep up with a regular schedule, your skills start to atrophy. The question is, what do you do when you hit this all too frequent wall? The answer may be burn out. Getting out of the studio and into nature or an inspiring boutique or museum is a great idea, but what if it goes on for too long? I’ve been struggling with working on improving my drawing skills, especially when it comes to drawing people, for a while now. I’ve acquired some wonderful books to help me with that. I go out on a regular basis and draw from life. I have a lot of sketches of the backs of people watching volleyball from my sons’ games as a result. All of this is great, but sometimes it just doesn’t work.

Tracing of Tony Fusili's work. He is a master!
The best trick I’ve found for getting past this stuckness and improving my drawing skills at the same time is to trace the art of some of my favorite illustrators. Except for this blog post, no one ever sees these tracings. They’re purely an exercise for me. I don’t just trace the outline, I use a blue pencil and draw the action, gesture, and shapes, and then complete the sketch. It’s amazing how much you can learn from doing this. No amount of staring at the sketches replaces the actual drawing of them. Doing this keeps me using me in shape for drawing even when my brain and hand refuse to communicate. Connections are made that carry into my own drawings. This is huge! I’m telling you I have learned so darn much! I can force myself to continue to make ugly drawings, which I do, a lot, or I can give myself a bit of a break and trace something inspiring.

Tracing of LeUyen Pham's work in Vampirina Ballerina

The next time you feel stuck, go grab a picture book you love and try it! You’ll be awed and amazed, trust me.

Happy Drawing!


Book List:
Creating Characters by Tom Bancroft
Character Mentor by Tom Bancroft
Prepare to Board! By Nancy Belman
Drawn to Life I & II by Walt Stanchfield

Monday, May 6, 2013

What I'm Reading...

I've spent the last ten years focusing so much on the craft of illustration that the thought of actually WRITING my own stories seemed totally, utterly daunting. I always felt that since writing is a skill which must be honed for many years, I had no business even attempting it. I mean, hello, I was still trying to master my first passion of choice: illustration. 

However, over the past year or so I got the itch to tell my own stories.  The problem was, I didn't know where to begin. But wait! [**insert trumpet cadence here**] An email from my local SCBWI Listserv landed in my inbox announcing a nearby picture book writing workshop. I signed up (I secured the last spot--yes! ) and attended the wonderful workshop run by author/illustrator Laurie Knowlton. It was super inspiring and I left with tons of notes I will forever use as reference.  One of the best gems  she gave us was the recommendation of the book "Writing Picture Books" by Ann Whitford Paul

I'm currently halfway through reading it and it really is perfect for helping me figure out the direction and format I would like for my stories. The book is written in an instructional manner and Paul discusses all the stages of writing a story from beginning to end. After every chapter, there are exercises to complete: character studies, point of view studies and other tasks which help flesh out the different components a picture book story needs. 

Although there is SO much great info, the book is light and moves along quickly. It's not overwhelming and full of jargon; I look forward to the time I get to spend with this book! Paul has also included examples of lots of relevant picture books used to illustrate her points. I've got a loooong list of picture books to check out during my next library visit!

As I said, I'm still in the midst of reading "Writing Picture Books", but it's already helped me make strides and discover new directions for my characters and plots. I would recommend this book to ANYONE interested in learning how to craft stories that will hopefully go on to entertain lots of future readers!

Onward and upward! :-)


Thursday, May 2, 2013

The book that changed my life

One of the things that I experimented with and made tons of mistakes in is my freelance career. At first, I did EVERYTHING. You need a logo? Why, I could do that. You need a website designed and coded? I could do that too!

You can tell what happened after that, right?
I did great as a freelance designer. I had regular work and great clients. The problem was I originally left my cushy (but crazy busy and demanding) design job to become a children's illustrator. I was failing miserably at working towards this goal. I let the fear of trying something new and feeling like my art wasn't good enough get in the way. I fell back into what I already knew how to do to ignore all of my insecurities.

Seth Godin The DipThen I came across Seth Godin's book, The Dip. It basically talks about how everything is easy when you first start something. It's exciting and new. Then the hard work sets in. You have to battle insecurities, fears, and just plain hard work to become really good at what you want to do. That's "the dip"-- the long hard slog in the middle before you get to the other side of mastering your skill. Most people give up because going through that middle part is so long and hard.

After I finished listening to the audio version of this book, I decided that I didn't want to give up on being an illustrator. I gradually stopped taking on design projects as I focused on children's illustration. That focus and bracing for the fact that things are just going to be hard and discouraging in the middle kept me on task.

 A year after I read The Dip, I feel like I'm still working hard but I'm clearly on the right path.

 If you feel scattered or just discouraged, I really encourage you to try this book. It's super-short and the audio book is only about 90 minutes. You can't beat the audiobook price of $5.95 too.

The Dip unabridged audiobook in
The Dip unabridged audiobook in iTunes.