Saturday, 27 February 2010

A Little Background

The acid test for any illustrator and his style is the depiction of figures in interaction and figures in context. I've been posting samples of my recent experiments with Photoshop, but so far I have managed to avoid placing any of my figures in an environment. Here's a first attempt with a background (though I doubt if 'holding a cat' counts as interaction).

Knowing where to leave off drawing and start using Photoshop to shade and texture is still a challenge. I could have gone much further with the pen, but I held off cross-hatching too much and honestly can't decide whether or not this is a good thing. The result is an image that seems much lighter, with a lot less black than there might have been, but I miss the detail somehow. There's even a little 'painting' going on, although I can't go much further with a mouse. Not without my fingers seizing up, anyway.

Click for a closer look. All observations and advice welcome.


  1. I like the extra depth the cross-hatching gives to the gathers in the apron and the shadow beneath the cat, for eg, but I actually think you've struck rather a nice balance here between the lightness of touch, scanning/photoshop and the traditional illustration techniques. The only thing that made me look twice was that I noticed the lanterns in the background and realised the girl was not lit by sun but lamp light - (or moon?) would then her shadows be a little stronger? Her face has no shadows from her hair....just thinking about the direction of the shadows and therefore the positioning of the light source...(really scraping the barrel to find something other than outright praise here though) I think the detail in her dress is superb and I love the way you have organized the patches. There is a lot of detail here and this character strikes me as a tatterdemalion with sass - a super sleuth Holly Hobby type! The clogs are brilliant - I had a pair of red clogs as a child!

    You have such a talent for this

    Her hair is wonderful and the cat's expression is fantastic! There is a story in this picture!

  2. Thanks, Rachel. And you've hit upon a real issue in this image with your comment about the shadows – The girl's shadow is too strong and clearly defined for the time of day. In this picture I'm indulging my undying fascination with communard urchins and 'Mitteleuropaeische' street kids, so perhaps we could pretend the light is from a battle at the barricades or a burning palace.

  3. The green eyes, cat's eyes. I can see where your son gets his great sense of color. Nice!

    Also, as Rachael said, the cross-hatching is striking. And the textures, patterns, cobblestones, notices pinned up behind her. The atmosphere, rather Dickens. Something is going on. A story that needs to be told. And I'd like to hear it.

    I didn't notice the lighting, maybe I was thinking street lamp or bright full moon.

  4. A mouse? A MOUSE?!! Why don't you get yourself a tablet?

  5. Thanks, Terry.

    And yes, Amanda, an aspirin or two would be good:) Seriously though, you're right -- I need some new hardware to really get the most out of Photoshop. More on this to follow.

  6. argh! You mention the same problems I have, and have been struggling with for years now. Where should the line stop, and the colour begin? And, isn't it always more satisfying to draw and draw, than to phaff about with photoshop????? Even if it does make so much sense.

    I think the clothes and cat are the most successful parts. I think those work really well. Both have a lot of character.

    For me, I think the hair needs more depth. And also the clogs (actually, a little more pen would have worked here, perhaps? in order to balance the pen on the clothes?)

    I would also cool down the colour in the alley way behind slightly, to make it move back in the picture.

    Otherwise I think it's great. I love the characters, and like everyone else has said, am completely drawn in by their story.

    Do get a tablet though, if you can. It makes a crazy amount of difference to speed, as well as technique.

  7. Cassia, thank you! I'm a bit embarrassed to admit to how much time I spent on this image, and I rushed to 'finish' it, which might account for some of the weaker parts. The fact that I don't have a graphics tablet is what's held me back from painting with photoshop all these years, and this was the first time where I really felt the lack of it, with the hair in particular.

    Do you use photoshop to produce your work? I haven't noticed that digital touch, but I suppose I haven't looked too closely into your pictures before and assumed they were watercolour. For myself, I have a natural prejudice against digital painting, but I can feel it crumbling away with each test image.

    I tried out a tablet once and didn't like it, but this was about a decade ago. Blink and everything changes!

  8. I have a little Wacom Bamboo and absolutely love it. Of course, I'm just a little first year fine arts student... :P But seriously, the pressure sensitivity etc. etc. will make you wonder why you ever thought using a mouse would be a smart idea.

  9. Thanks, Amanda. I was looking at that very model earlier today, prompted by your comment. It looks pretty good. But the mouse does work just fine for the collage effects that I was really aiming at here. The painterly parts of this image were a bit of a distraction, and yes, the mouse is hopeless for that. I ran out of patience on the cat's head.

    What kind of thing do you do with your tablet? Do you have any samples on your blog?


    I don't update that near as often as I should, but the images in the very first post are all photoshop paintings.

  11. I'm no artist, but I think it looks awesome. I love all the texture.

  12. It's absolutely delightful. I can't make a single useful artistic comment, but I can say it looks full of life. Ooh, I wish I could do that!

  13. Thanks, Amanda -- I'm off to explore your blog.

    And thanks Natalie and Simon. This image isn't really finished, but I'm glad you like it.


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