Learning by copying

I have been using pen and ink a lot more lately (and am growing to really like it), but there are still things I find difficult, especially when it comes to executing certain very precise ink ‘styles’ required for scientific illustration (loose pen and ink work is a whole ‘nother board game!!). I think that’s where copying comes in handy. Taking an image in the style you are wanting to learn, enlarging it (so the lines are approximate to the original inked size) and then taping acetate film over the photocopy and copying the original drawing is a great learning exercise. I have found that trying to get all the nuances of the line and details the same as the original illustrator did in their illustration is a huge help in learning the muscle-memory required to execute the technique (or something similar) on your own work.

Here is an illustration of a Marginella pygmaea shell from Henry Suters ‘Manual of the New Zealand Mollusca‘. The original illustration is much reduced in the published work, so that the stippling is hardly visible (and the dots tend to merge).

suter-atlas-stipple009

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Seals of New Zealand- free colouring sheet

I posted earlier this week on instagram that I would be releasing this ‘Seals of New Zealand’ colouring-in sheet as a free download on the blog- and finally its ready!

Equipment used: inked with a Hunt dip pen and detailed with Rapidograph isograph pens + Pigma micron. 

I thought it might be quite a fun and useful educational resource , as I don’t think the species of seals we have in New Zealand is very well known to the majority of people (myself included before doing this little project). SEALSofNZ-COLSHEET-final

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NZ Natural History Artist #2: Piers Hayman

Natural-history-series-button

This months Natural History Artist is Piers Hayman. I first heard about him through New Zealand Bird Rescue, a charitable trust of which he was a founding member (then the NZ Wildlife Rehabilitation Trust). Originally from England, and trained as a graphic designer, he emigrated to New Zealand in the early 80’s.

discovering-the-birds-of-nz-takahe

He has done numerous beautiful illustrations of New Zealand Birds, and has written and illustrated numerous books on NZ wildlife- two of the most well-known books being ‘Discovering the Birds of New Zealand and ‘The Bird Next Door’. He was a regular contributor to the New Zealand Herald where he wrote and illustrated a weekly column about birds, a clipping from one of his columns from 1985 is below:

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the process of a scientific illustration

Here are some in progress and final illustrations from a recent project I worked on for Leilani Walker, who is studying Cambridgea foliata (NZ’s largest species of sheetweb spider) for her PhD at the University of Auckland.

Starting with sketches, here is my initial concept sketch for one of the illustrations:

first sketch concept of two spiders fighting
first sketch concept of two spiders fighting

then the revised sketch after some valuable feedback, changing the leg joint angles and body positioning relative to the web:

cambridgea-grappling-sketchv2

Once approved, here is the basic inked version (inked by hand):

cambridgea_grappling_basic-1

I then added in the back legs, which were inked on a seperate piece of mylar, and adjusted to a lower opacity in photoshop. The stippling was added last, also digitally:

Cambridgea_Grappling_final

A similar process was applied for the other behavioural interaction illustration, showing initial ‘no contact’ between the two spiders. Here is the final:

Cambridgea_NoContact_final

In real life, these images show the spiders upside-down- that is, they hang from the web as they carry out these interactions!

It was a pretty fun project to work on, and it was interesting to be able to combine digital and traditional inking to get the final product.

If you want to find out more about Leilani’s research, please check out her blog.

Till next time!

emma

All images copyright E. Scheltema 2015. Please respect my client (these illustrations are part of their research) and do not copy or use any of these images without permission. If you are interested in commissioning work or collaborating on a project like this please contact me 

digitizing calligraphy skillshare class review + free card to download

hi everyone! blogging has been pretty slow over the last few weeks as I have been busy with a few projects- I’ll share what I can here soon! In the meantime, I recently did Molly Suber Thorpe’s online skillshare class- “Digitizing Calligraphy- from sketch to vector” and thought I’d post a quick review for anyone who might be interested in doing the class or learning more about taking traditional lettering into digital format.

happy-birthday-card-purple-grunge

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inktober week 3 round-up

just one week left of the inktober challenge! I haven’t been inktober-ing every day of the week- mainly because I’ve been focussing on getting an illustration portfolio all made up (a big job!!)- but have been trying to make 3 or 4 inked pieces a week.

toucamn-two-web

toucan-photograph-web

more toucan drawings! a sort-of story line is developing with them…

This week I also got hold of a pack of Sharpie Brush tip markers in a bargain bin at the Warehouse Stationery (I think I’ll do a full review of these too at some stage). I’ve been trying them out a bit too as you can see below- I got the ‘fashion colors’ set; lovely bright colours of lime green, aqua, hot pink and purple.

 

mary-oliver-quote030-web

drawn onto a piece of recycled cardboard…those pens bleed right through regular paper!

then corrected in photoshop:

mary-oliver-quote-edited

 

All set for the last week of Inktober? I’ll be sad when its over!!

see you in a couple of days with a newly reviewed Illustrated book of the Month.

emma

digital illustration techniques- what I’ve learnt so far…

Though I much prefer the look (and the process of making) art using traditional materials, it has been a goal of mine for a little while now to learn more about digital illustration techniques. Digital techniques are an indispensible skill to have today, and lend themselves quite well to many scientific illustration applications. I also love the idea of combining traditional and digital techniques so that the final work is not 100% digital- as can be seen in one of my first completed Photoshop paintings ‘Journey’ done for IF challenge.

I am very much a beginner but I thought it might be useful to post some of the simple tips and useful tutorials that I have been most helpful in my attempt to teach myself to paint digitally. Hopefully it might be useful to some of you too!

I started off with trying out pure digital painting and then moving on to colouring traditionally drawn/painted stuff that I scanned in. I have discussed ideas for both techniques below.

Pure Digital Painting

Not my favourite mode of using PS but definitely important to know!

  • Blending the paint:  While I’ve played around the photoshop before, the major issue I had trouble getting my head around to start with was how to blend colours in a digital painting?? It seems like this should be really obvious but there wasn’t too much information that I could find- nothing mentioned in any of the digital painting books I have looked at. Some less sophisticated graphics programs the paint blends as if it is wet in real life, however in PS, you have to go about blending in another (more controlled method). I would be lost without the excellent tutorials on this from Ctrl-Paint – especially this one:

Digital Painting 101- (3 of 5) – Mixing Paint from matt kohr on Vimeo.

Essentially this is all you really need to get started playing with the program! Give it a go and see what you can come up with.

dusky-dolphin
this dusky dolphin illustration was painted in Photoshop after scanning in the original sketch

The other essential I think is finding a brush you like. Though I know there are people out there who manage to use the default hard round + airbrush brushes in PS with great success, in my hands they usually end up making my digital illustrations look, well, digital! I’m not a huge fan of the digital polished look (as shown in the above dolphin illustration), so instead have enjoyed using Drew Greens gouache brush and also have just started using Kyle T Websters watercolour brush. This is an area that I’m still discovering and trying to figure out what works best.

Colouring traditional line work+washes 

This is now my preferred approach to creating illustrations with (partially) digital methods. Its something that I am definitely experimenting with a lot at the moment. I’ve tried a few methods of colouring traditional work, and this is the best I have come up with so far…

To colour traditional line work and washes…I initially started off using the method of making your line work set as ‘Multiply’ blending mode- so you can then paint in the fill areas on a layer below the lines. To colour the lines themselves, I would apply a clipping mask to the lines layer and set the mode of the clipping mask to ‘Screen’, then paint on my colour to the clipping mask. BUT I found this method gave very patchy results, with ‘screen’ colours not showing up at full vibrance and the painting beneath the line work showing through the lines, making them look messy.

migration_digital-colour_webver
I created this ‘Journey” illustration using the method described above

My new approach is one picked up from a couple of tutorials online- most helpful were these two:

 

Here’s a basic summary (total credit to the tutorials listed above- check them out for a full run-down on how to do this): to colour the line work/wash (also works really well with gradiented pencil or wash work) I remove any colours by desaturating the scanned image (make sure to convert it to RGB or CMYK mode first, if you scan in grayscale like I do, or it won’t work). Then go into channels menu (next to the layers tab) and CTRL+click the icon next to RGB channel. This selects all the white areas in your image. To invert the selection (ie select all your lines/washes etc) click Select–> Invert selection (or key board shortcut).

Next go back to the layers palette, create a new layer and fill it with your selected colour (you can use the quickly fill layers key shortcut described above). At this point you can also use your brush to paint in various colours in this layer. You will only be painting on the area selected by the marching ants.

Once you are done with colouring the linework/wash, you can deselect the linework, create a new layer and paint underneath the linework layer the fill in any white areas.

leaf-shapes-diagram_labels-incl-webproper
this little poster I made using the “new” method

This is a great method because it produces solid coloured line work that can be manipulated in many ways. The variety of options is endless once you start to realise the things you can achieve by utilising layers as well!!

Some other little tips I have picked up:

  • If your brush tip disappears it means you have CTRL lock on…oops, no need for a panic attack
  • When you start making really big files with all your painted layers, don’t be alarmed when PS tells you the file exceeds the 2gb limit to be saved, simply save the file as a .PSB (large document format).
  • To reduce the size of your document you can merge the layers into each other (but only if you’ve finished working on them), or add a white-filled layer above all the others- which is supposed to reduce the document size considerably. Also if you scan your images in as 1200dpi grayscale tiffs as I do, when you place your grayscale scan into your working document, make sure to reduce the resolution (about 400-600dpi for colour images). This makes them much easier to handle.
  • Start to think in layers. If you haven’t used PS or Illustrator much before it is really useful to learn more about layers because they allow so much flexibility when you want to work on isolated areas of a painting without potentially ruining the rest of your illustration
  • Choosing colour palettes in Photoshop: I found this REALLY DIFFICULT until I found this awesome tutorial by Zoe Piel. She says that creating harmonious/limited colour palettes in PS is actually really difficult because you have an infinite number of colours to choose from (as opposed to a number of tubes of watercolour paint). Her tutorial makes total sense and has been so useful to me. She also has an awesome tutorial on making a blender tool in PS.
  • Kyle T Websters brushes. That is all. Check them out. I have the wet’n’wild watercolour brush and can’t wait to try out more.
  • To quickly fill a layer with a colour use ctrl+backspace to fill with the foreground colour, alt+backspace to fill with the background colour (those are the colours on those two little square swatches in the tool menu [screen shot it]
  • A really cool tip I picked up from Edible Perspective (awesome vegetarian recipes!!) was that you can change the background colour (that is the colour behind your canvas- I have CS5 and it is automatically grey) by right-clicking on the background and selecting custom colour. This can be useful to know if you need to change the background for editing or colour correction purposes.

I hope you enjoyed this quick run down of the various tutorials and tips I have found useful so far in learning about digital illustration techniques.

If you have any tips that you have found useful I’d love to know- leave a comment below!

Till next time,

emma

inktober week 2

second week of Inktober is over! Here are the inky sketches I did this week- all india ink with calligraphy brush:

forget-me-knot010

a forget me not flower sprig (really close up) because they are everywhere at the moment. It kinda looked better in my head…

Then I thought I’d try and expand on the little Toucan character that I sketched out a few weeks back (apparently that was actually a few months ago!!), and that ended up being what I did for the rest of the weeks sketches:

toucan_3009_crappy-paper

compare this, to this…

toucan_3008

the difference a good paper makes! The first was done on cartridge paper, the second in a cheap Montmarte watercolour (190gsm) sketch book. I have found my favourite inking paper and will be doing all the rest of my inktober sketches on it.

toucan_3007

and

toucan_3006

Thats all for this week of the challenge.Are you taking part in Inktober? Have you managed to do a sketch for every day so far?

emma

inktober challenge week 1

hey everyone!

here is a round up of the #inktober sketches from this week. I didn’t get around to doing one every day- that’s my goal for next week!!

endangered-species-illustration_inked

some of the most endangered species in the world, kuretake brush pen

wish-upon-a-star005

wish upon a star, asian calligraphy brush and india ink

no-man-is-an-island

no man is an island, asian calligraphy brush and india ink / gouache

basic-leaf-shapes006

basic leaf shapes for a small project idea I had, calligraphy brush and india ink

Lots of fun and so far I’m finding it a really useful way to create more stuff!

I’d love to hear if you too are getting involved in Inktober– leave a comment below.

hope you have a lovely weekend,

emma

inktober challenge is here!

Hi everyone,

I hope you enjoyed the mini sketchbook tutorial! If you haven’t seen it yet- check it out- its an easy little project to make despite the length of the post!!

October is here- and that means a new challenge that I’ve been waiting to take part in for a few months now- INKTOBER!!

Inktober is a challenge that was created by illustrator Jake Parker in 2009 as a way to practice his inking skills- now its a worldwide phenomenon that artists take part in! The idea is that you make an inked drawing every day for the 31 days of October, then if you want, post it online with the hashtag #inktober. There are some awesome resources on the website, I recommend checking it out!

This year I’m taking part and will be posting every day on my instagram account– and will do a weekly round up of all 7 drawings here on the blog.

Here is my first drawing (was also part of a skillshare class I’m taking part in!)

endangered-species-illustration_inked

endangered species- inked with a kuretake brush pen!

I better hop to it to get todays drawing done!

Are you taking part in this years Inktober challenge? If you are please leave a comment with your website/instagram/tumblr/facebook below so we can all follow along with the work that you do!

emma