Monday, May 2, 2011


Do you use reference when you're painting? I mean, photographic reference, physical reference (such as collected items, knick-knacks, objects that have the same sort of texture that you want to paint), modeled reference?

I'm personally a stickler for reference. Everything I do, I'm always looking at photos at the very least, to help get a better feeling for what I'm painting. It's best if I can examine whatever it is in reality, but working with fantasy and science fiction subjects, that's not always possible. I have to sort of cobble together what I have in mind.

If I'm working on creating some sort of creature or beast, I'm looking at animals. Fur textures, skin textures, you name it! What's more, I'm looking at animals that are similar to what I want to design -- if it's a dragon, say, I'm looking at all sorts of scales, shots of reptile and avian skin -- sometimes even fish! If I'm designing an alien, even more fun, because then, I'm all over the place -- I want something that's believable, but also "alien."

If you don't use reference, or think that it is somehow cheating, ask yourself why? How are you supposed to know what it is that you're painting or illustrating unless you know what it looks like -- even if you're not looking at right when you're doing your initial work, if realism and representational work is important to you, then you want to see what it is that you're working from.

In the long run, the real art comes from not how well you copied the texture of something, but how well you've created a mood, and a feeling through taking what you're working with and putting it in another situation. Good reference is rarely directly copied, but always used as a strong influence.

Google images is a great resource for finding photographic reference. I'm using it constantly. Since I'm not copying the photos, there's no copyright infringement -- I just need to know what something looks like. Along the same lines, is also a great resource for image reference, and one I've used for years. I'm sure other image sites like tublr or photobucket can provide great resources as well.

This is what a typical reference sheet looks like for me:
Typical reference page for a painting
I can't show the painting that this reference is for right yet, as it's for a client. But, you can see there's all sorts of things there -- patterns, expressions, clothing, an ear, and a cropped shot from another painting of mine, included as a stylistic and detail reminder. I don't reference other people's paintings because I want my work to look like my work, not theirs.

If you're interested in doing representational art (even if you're not, it's good to practice), using reference is an incredible boon, and in no way "cheating." Your art will be stronger for it in the long run.

Since this blog post was made, the piece that I was working on has been released:
Copyright Wizards of the Coast

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Reviving the Drawing Board

After coming back from the Western Washington SCBWI conference in Redmond this past weekend I've decided to relaunch this blog with a focus on Children's Illustration.

The best thing about the conferences, aside from the fantastic classes they provide, and getting to meet incredible people like Dan Santat and Anne Moore of Candlewick Press and hearing inspiring key note speeches from celebrities like Holy Black (Dan's rocked as well) is getting to see some of my favorite people, like Richard and Jesse Watson and their families, but also running into old friends like Kathryn Ault Noble and getting to meet new favorite peoples like Kim Flemming, a talented artist who came all the way from Australia for the conference! I was fortunate enough to sit next to her in the master class taught by Dan Santat and Anne Moore. Her tree was so much better than mine! D:

So, the focus is on children's books -- picture books through young adult fiction covers. The plan is to have at least one contract by year's end. That means a lot of promotion and sending out tons of post cards and portfolio samples, and a getting a lot of rejections. First batch of post cards went out three weeks ago, and a direct submission to Candlewick press was made last week. I don't expect to hear back from most of the places I send stuff to, because the process can be a long one, and they may not have a project that my style would fit with right away even if they do like my stuff. So it's a waiting game. And that's where the blog comes in: Sanity keeper.

With that said, here's some art:

Cover for "If the Shoe Fits ... "
picture book I'm working on.  
Closetfound #1.
What's in your closet? Skeletons?
Bug Eyed Monsters?  Alternate dimensions? Aliens?
Closetfound :: A bestiary of things found in the closet.
The bad guys from another picture book. 
Whale Wall
Dragon Totem

More to come.