Welcome to Sketch Round-Up! This will be a place for a couple of artists to trade ideas and share them with anyone who might find that interesting.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Fun With Copics

I have Copic markers.  And for the longest time, they've been sitting on a shelf of my computer desk.  I've sat and watched all kinds of tutorials on how to use them, and kept telling myself "Yeah, I'm going to use these soon!"  And then I do lots of...nothing.

I guess I figure they look too pretty to use.  Or something.  I think I've always done that in some way or another, buying nifty art supplies because they're popular and then I just sit them aside because some silly notion inside me believes I'll get proficient through osmosis.  But that's not how it works, however much I'd like to believe it.

So I went through my collection and picked out the colors most people use for flesh, chose some random colors for hair, eyes and lips, and simply started playing.  Now, normally Prismacolor pencils have been my medium of choice for just about everything, so this marker business is a whole new ball of wax.  Makes me wonder why I invested in Copics.  Maybe I'll blame it on The Marker [see first blog entry ever].


Copics have a learning curve.  Blending color is a process that I won't necessarily call slow, but it is methodical.  The process is much like watercolors, working from light to dark.  Type of paper makes a big difference in how the colors blend.  I was using Strathmore Bristol 100 lb. smooth for the image I was working on, as shown below:

The hair was done with a 'feathering' technique using the brush end of a Copic Sketch marker.  And before I continue, here's a brief rundown on a Copic Sketch marker and what the big deal is.  A Copic Sketch is a double-ended marker with a brush tip on one end and a marker-style chisel end on the other.

[photo taken from McCallister's Art Supplies]

The brush tip is the end used for most detailing for obvious reasons.  The feathering technique involves taking the brush tip and touching it to the paper, lifting up as the stroke is made.  The video capture below shows some examples of how the end result will look:

[Full video can be found on YouTube]

The finer strokes are what I used for the hair.  I first applied a light base color for the highlights and built up the details gradually, using The Marker and the base color back and forth.  Re-infusing The Marker with fresh ink made for the darker accents.  I think the hair was mostly successful, but laying down smooth flesh tones was another matter entirely.  The flaws were much more evident when I scanned the image at 300 dpi.  But I'm confident these problems will be worked out with practice.

Colors used in the drawing were as follows:

HAIR - E33 [Sand], E37 [Sepia - specifically The Marker That Will Not Die]
SKIN - E000 [Pale Fruit Pink], E00 [Skin White], E11 [Bareley Beige], E21 [Baby Skin Pink]
EYES - BG10 [Cool Shadow], G07 [Nile Green]
LIPS - R21 [Sardonyx]
Lashes done with Faber-Castell PITT Artist Pen, type "B" [brush]
Eye Highlights done with White Sakura Gelly Roll  
Stay tuned for more Copic craziness, to come soon.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Slackeroonies...! Well, not entirely...

Okay, so my last post was in March...that does qualify for slacking.  However, I'm pleased to note that I was actively engaged in an art project recently, as in end-of-June recent.  I was asked to create a design for the cover of a program booklet for an anime-oriented con.  A request was made to give it a Leji Matsumoto look and feel.  In case you don't know who that fellow is, he's the creator of several popular anime stories, among them being Galaxy Express 999 and Captain Harlock.  An example of his work is below:

In a nutshell, he's an epic space opera kind of fellow.  So I thought up a basic concept of a pilot, his computer AI which takes on the form of a woman, and the unusual ship he flies, which is called the Space Bird.  My initial rough pencil came out like this:

Expanding on the idea required me to do some research on Mr. Matsumoto's style to get the appropriate 'look and feel' for the image.  The Pilot, the girl and the bird were each rendered as separate black and white line art images.  These images were then scanned, sized, retouched and colored.  The girl required several layers for the many aspects of her costume, which is kind of funny since she appears semi-transparent in the final image and some of the detail is lost as a result. But it turned out well and the reaction was very positive.  For those of you who are curious, here it is:

Needless to say, there's a long series of steps to get from the initial pencil to the final product.  In my next entry, I'll try doing a step-by-step explanation of the five W's as I develop the image that I will post.  And I'll try not to take several months in between entries.  Promise.

Thursday, March 15, 2012


Oy.  I just took a gander at the last time I blogged here.  Has it really been that long...?

Wow, talk about slacking.  Well, not entirely slacking.  During the time I've been absent, I've done the following:

1) Repaired a 40" Samsung flatscreen TV for a friend.  It wouldn't power on, and after some online research I discovered that the problem was due to some bad capacitors on the power board.  So we opened the TV up, I removed the power board, ordered and replaced the bad caps, and ta-daa:

Needless to say, my friend is happy and is indulging his BG habit once more.

2) Repaired my old 19" Samsung flatscreen monitor.  I opened it up - mostly out of curiosity after dealing with problem #1 above.  It was actually more difficult to take apart than the TV was.  But the problem was similar.  Turns out that Samsung monitors in general seem to have this problem, with bad caps on the power supply board.  Again, ordered replacements, soldered them in, am currently using that very monitor now as i type this blog entry.

3) Refurbished a Dell Inspiron 1501 laptop for one of my goddaughters.  It was having heat issues (a common problem for Dell laptops in general).  Cleaned out the fan, made some other fixes, sent it back just this Tuesday.

3) Refurbished a Compaq Desktop computer for a neighbor in my apartment building.  He ordered a Dell computer from one of those catalogs (Fingerhut or something like that), and they charged him an outrageous amount of money for a refurbished dinosaur.  I bought a much better unit from a friend, got it up and running with all the requisite headaches involved.

4) Refurbished a second Compaq computer for a friend who lives across town.  This one just needed a purge of the hard drive.  Seems to be okay now.

But hey, what the heck am I doing, going on like this????

This isn't an electronics repair blog.  It's a sketch blog. 

Seriously, though.  Now that all the tinkering is behind me, I'm eager to get back to the drawing tablet.  In particular, I've been trying to refine my skills with drawing the anatomy.  I've never been happy with my renderings of people.  They tend to leave a lot to be desired, but I think I'm finally beginning to make some headway at last.  Stay tuned for posts of recent sketches, plus a new Fantasy Genesis challenge.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Fantasy Genesis Challenge #1 - Answered (also)

Well, Here's my first official contribution to Sketch Round-Up! (finally!!). I jumped off of Nadine's Fantasy Genesis challenge and this is where I landed.

This was created in Adobe Illustrator, but I wanted a different look from all my recent stuff.

When I purchased my Wacom tablet a while back, it came with a demo version of Corel Painter Essentials 4. I've never really used it much, but I thought it had some nice features. One of them is called an Auto Painter, which is designed to make photos look like some other form of art, such as an oil painting or chalk drawing, among others.

I'm usually not big on just throwing a texture filter on something. I try to use them in unusual ways when I do. But like I said, I'm not too familiar with this program yet, so I just let it do its thing.

Here is an oil painting

...and a chalk drawing.

There are all kind of ways to customize the results and the program has a toolbox filled with a wide and varied array of brushes and styles available. There's anything from a thick wet impasto brush to felt tip markers to chalk to watercolors and more.

Of course, you don't have to import any photo or other art. You can start from scratch. I was really intrigued by how much the tools look so natural and the ease with which they can be used. I am anxious to try some new stuff!

Thanks fer lookin'!


Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Fantasy Genesis Challenge #1 - Answered.

As mentioned in the previous post, the first challenge I picked from the Fantasy Genesis Basic Game system was a Caterpillar/Eel combination.  I did some research and collected images of both creatures for a final image.  I found it interesting and enlightening to see all the varieties of caterpillar out there (note to self: looking at photos of caterpillars too long makes my skin itchy).  Some didn't even look like a caterpillar at all - some actually reminded me of lizards and snakes, much much different from the fat pipe cleaners I'm used to seeing.  The eels, on the other hand, were mostly consistent, a lot like long, scaled ribbons with fins.  But a blend of the two escaped me for a while.  After looking at the pictures and doing some thinking, I came up with I thought was a decent combination.  Unfortunately, I drew it low on the page so I couldn't finish the body.

The tail would taper off to a large fin.  I may try to piece something together to get a full body.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Fantasy Genesis: Challenge #1

As I've already stated in a previous blog post, Fantasy Genesis by Chuck Lukacs is a great book for sparking the imagination to create images of all kinds.  The book uses a game-style system for generating a series of word concepts which in turn are used as references for an illustration idea.  Eric and I were planning to do a challenge series on this blog, choosing a subject and each of us creating our own versions of it.  And what better to use as our source than a concept generated by one of my favorite books?

So I grabbed my dice and a copy of a game sheet, and went to work.  I decided to use the simplest category of Basic for my first 'game'.  Basic has two sets of the categories Animal, Vegetable, Elemental and Tech.  One category from each set is chosen for a Major form and a Minor form, and these define the final concept.  Here's what I got:

By the way, I didn't really have to select just from the Animal category for the forms.  Anything goes if you can find a way to make it work.  I also think the Machine/Saw/Cycle combination could be interesting.  But the Caterpillar/Eel is what I personally chose for my combination this time.  Stay tuned for upcoming work in progress sketches.

Round-up Review: Fantasy Genesis by Chuck Lukacs

I like art books. A lot. I have nearly two hundred of them in my personal collection. It's always a benefit to look at the techniques used by others to create their work, because there's always a gem or two to pick out of the illustrations and text to use in developing your own personal style. But not all 'How to' art books are created equal. Some are more helpful than others with providing insight into striking that crucial little spark that will ignite your creativity and encourage you to create truly amazing things. What follows is my review on one of the better books out there, Fantasy Genesis by Chuck Lukacs. If you’re looking for a way to break through your artist’s block, this is your chisel.

Now let me tell you how it works. First of all, you’ll need some dice. Paper and Pencil Role-Player gamers rejoice! You’ve probably already got what you need on hand: A d20, a d8, 2d6, and a d4.

With the dice shown above and a Game Sheet – like the one shown below –

You’ll select a series of word concepts for an illustration and write them on the sheet for reference. The dice are rolled to select broad categories, then other rolls are made to select specific details within each category. These details then become the outline for your project. See what I mean by simple? It's also very, very helpful. Rolling dice to create a concept both adds an element of randomness to the mix and removes what can be a major hang up in the creative process - thinking about what subject you want to create. How many times have you picked up your sketchbook because you're just itching to draw something and put it right back down again because nothing comes to mind? That hurdle is removed immediately with this method.

Speaking of removing hurdles, Chuck takes it a step further with his tips and hints on how to render the elements you put together on your Game Sheet. I'll admit that I'm not all that great at rendering animals, so the sections on Animal Legs, Teeth and Tusks, and Paws and Claws are a tremendous help for me. They are detailed fundamentals explained in a simple manner that can be put to use for drawing just about any type of animal - mundane or fantastic alike. And those aren't the only helpful hints this book has to offer. Buildings, machinery, plants, emotions and actions are all covered with the same attention to detail. Even if you have plenty of experience with drawing various fantasy subjects, you’ll find something to put to use. I've lost count of how many things have 'clicked' for me after reading the demonstration for a given subject.

Fantasy Genesis is a book that’s not only good for concept generation. Chuck has generously sprinkled examples of his art throughout so there’s plenty to study and learn from. This is an outstanding book and I can’t recommend it enough.

By the way, here’s an example of my own work, created after using this amazing method: a Mantis/Lizard kind of...thing.  Creating him was fun and I'm really pleased with the result.

See what I mean? Nothing but win and win.

Get a copy of this book. You'll be glad you did. You can find it at Powell's Books, on Amazon, at the North Light Shop, or Barnes and Noble. And be sure to stop by the Chuck Lukacs Web Site to see the amazing things that other artists have created, plus even more of Chuck's great work.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

The Marker That Would Not Die

This is The Marker That Would Not Die (hereafter referred to as "The Marker"):

Really.  This is, literally, The Marker.  I specifically asked for it while visiting the friend I gave it to so I could take it home with me and snap a photo of it.  He thought I was a bit odd for making the request.  Can you imagine? 

Don't answer that.

There is a story as to why this marker earned that title.  And it all begins with my purchase of Copic Set 72-A.  I had saved up and purchased this set because Copic is the choice of manga artists in Japan and I want to be a manga artist someday, so there you have it.  I ordered my set through the Carpe Diem Art Store because they had the best prices I could find at the time.  But I don't think they had the markers in stock; I had a long wait of nearly a month before I got them.  When the package finally arrived, I discovered that it had two E37 (Sepia) markers, and I didn't want to go through the hassle of sending the whole thing back just for one marker.  So I bought an E44 (Clay) to replace the duplicate, done.

Now I wanted to play around with the markers, but I didn't just want to waste them, so I thought I'd use the extra Sepia when testing the different kinds of papers I had been planning to use them on.  And I quickly discovered that the color saturation varied greatly from type to type.  But that's not the point of the story.  The point is that I was using The Marker heavily on and off over a period of several weeks, scribbling, cross-hatching and filling areas of color on Canson Bristol 96 lb, plain copier paper, Copic Manga Illustration paper made specifically for these markers, Strathmore Marker paper, and probably a few others that I can't recall right now.  Suffice it to say that The Marker should have run out of ink somewhere along the way from all the testing.  But it didn't. I would set it aside for a couple of days and when I picked it up to test on more paper it was as strong as it was when I used it the first time.  Maybe I had underestimated the capacity of the felt.  Maybe it was the lack of sleep and the resulting over-caffeinated haze I'd been in for a few days that made me hallucinate and imagine its legendary endurance, but it just seemed like it was going on and on and on and on.  And so it got its name.

I finally passed it on to a friend of mine with some extras I had collected after an ebay windfall.  When I visited that same friend this evening to drop off a cat-themed car magnet that my sister had left as a gift during her last visit, I asked for The Marker so I could take a photo of it.  Just out of curiosity, I popped off the cap and doodled a little to see how it was faring.  Not as strong as it used to be, but I'm really surprised it works at all.

And thus ends the story of The Marker.  I'm just full of stories.  Stick around.

Chippin' at the Block, Part 1

I'm a little slow (okay, make that a LOT slow) when it comes to art trends.  One of them was the Copic Marker.  In case you're not familiar with this particular item, Copics are alcohol-based markers that are made in Japan.  With a selection of over three hundred colors - 348, I think, in all - they are considered to be among the top of the line art tools for illustration.  And they have a price to match.  Investing in a single 72-marker set will put you anywhere from $300-$400 dollors US in the hole, though you can snag some bargains on ebay if you're persistent.  Just be prepared to be sniped a lot (and I do mean a LOT) before you hit paydirt.  They're well worth the trouble, though.  These markers have replaceable tips and ink refills, so you could, in theory, keep them for years.  There's also an air brush system you can use, though I have yet to try it.

Adam Hughes uses Copic markers, and he's happy to share how he does so.  You can check some of that action out here: Adam Hughes Copic Marker Tutorial.  Otherwise, there are plenty of videos on YouTube where your fellow artists share techniques as well.  A search will bring up enough to keep you occupied for hours on end.  Many of these videos hail from the scrapbooker's end of things, so you may find a lot of ducklings and pixies and other cutesy subjects.  Even those have their merits, however, if the creator of the video shares details on technique.

To make a long story short, think of the watercolor approach when you use these markers.  Light to dark with some leeway on blending with a marker made just for that purpose - the #0 Colorless Blender.  Paper plays a major factor in the process as well.  You'll hear lots of preferences for this type or that type, but in truth it's whatever you're comfortable working with.  I've read that marker illustrations are best done on marker paper, but I had some success with plain old Bristol of around 92 lb. weight or so.

Below is a sample of my attempt to mix a flesh tone.  I wrote down all the colors I used, though not necessarily in the correct order.  I did a lot of swapping between the R000, R00 and R01, then I went in with the E00 and the E02.  Lastly, I covered it all with a layer of E70 because the end result looked too 'peachy' to me.

The E 37 Sepia wasn't really involved in the mix.  It's there because it's The Marker That Would Not Die (a story in and of itself) and I was scribbling with it first before I tried anything else.  And the blue blend near the top is an attempt to apply the #0 Blender.  In truth, I'm thinking for a smooth transition from dark to light, some of the really light tints may be required.  Not sure, still playing around as of yet.

Do you have some favorite Copic techniques, or do you prefer another marker?  I'm listening.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Greetings, Y'all!

Welcome to the Sketch Round-up!  Here we'll be talking about all kinds of things, mostly (hopefully) connected to art and things artful.  Much of it will entail ways of attacking that big chunk of art-crushing granite that sometimes appears when you expect it the least, sapping your creative potential and leaving you staring at that blank sketchbook/monitor/tablet and wondering what the heck happened.

I personally think one of the biggest contributors to artist's block is real life (yeah, I know, pretty obvious, but still...).  Even if you're one of the lucky ones who draws and gets paid for it, the grind of the whole process can leave you drained, strained and just plain tired at the end of the day.  I used to work at a print shop as a paste-up artist and film stripper for the press plates.  One of my (not so) favorite things when creating illustrations for a job was how a client would invariably want the Mona Lisa in three hours for five dollars.  And then want changes at the last minute after the plate was on the press, and be surprised at the extra charges.  Do that enough times and the grind tears you down.  It's a hazard of any creative work. 

I think that's what happened to my co-blogger, Eric.  I think Eric is a great artist/illustrator; always have, always will.  But he has been in a series of jobs that doesn't quite tap his full potential.  So a time came where he admitted to me that he hadn't even touched pencil to paper in a long, long time.  That made me sad.  So whenever we crossed paths, I tried to encourage him to get back into the swing of things.  I would gush my enthusiasm in waves, but I always had this feeling when we parted ways that maybe I came off as a creepy kind of stalker-type buddy to him and I might have scared him a little.  Didn't stop me from trying, though.

Eventually, many, many moons later, one of our conversations went to the idea of a weekly challenge.  He was hoping it would get him motivated again, and I was only too happy to try and help.  So in an email, I came up with some random suggestions, oddball things that might help spark the old creative flame.  One of them was A Platypus in Space.  Why?  Why not?  I just liked the sound of it, actually.  But it was the oddest suggestion of the bunch and my own attempts at it fell woefully short.  I didn't expect anything to come of that particular idea.

And then...lo and behold.  It came as an attachment in an email.  Slick lines, crisp colors, concept made real.  Exactly the way I would expect to be.  But the thing I enjoyed the most about it was the fact that Eric is getting his spark back.  And I will, hopefully, help him keep the spark going without referring to the bat.  But that's another story.

In the meantime, should you feel like Eric and wonder if you'll ever get going again with your artistic goals, just remember the platypus.  Anything is possible with a little nudge in the right direction.

And oh yeah, I babble.  A lot.