leaf play

leafplay

My theme for inktober is fall favorites. If you have a fall favorite you’d like to see my draw, leave a comment and I may draw it!

One of the things I enjoy the most about the inktober challenge is using color in harmony with the ink. I realized that if I don’t ink the outlines of all the elements (in this case the leaves), I can give the appearance of a foreground and middle ground. That means that the ink can pop forward and the color, even though its everywhere, has a more subtle quality.

SOLD! They measure 2.5×3.5 inches on bristol board made with a combination of brush pen, color markers, microns and a little dash of colerase pencils. I will update the post with sold if they’re gone ^_^

 

cooking with you

nidhi-chananiprocess Cooking with you I recently did a set of commissions and loved how thehubby described their cooking sessions – he made the food while she snatched samples along the way! Ive been asked about my process for awhile so I thought I would create a short gif to give some insight. I begin in flash with a line drawing, then I draw over that with solid color. I export my flash file in layers to photoshop and add shadows, lighting and adjust the colors.I hope you have a happy week!

night duel + urban epicurean festival

dueldeux duel1 Very early in my career my hard drive crashed and I lost the full resolution files of my illustrations. Duel was one of them – and as my work has been featured on different websites I’ve been asked for it as a print. Sadly I cannot recreate it – but I did revisit it! It was so much fun – it gave me a chance to truly see where I’ve grown. I understand anatomy and character weight better, but also light and shadow. I still have a long way to go but I know from years of experience my best route to improvement is to keep drawing. ^_^

Meanwhile, this weekend I will be at the Urban Epicurean Fest in San Francisco selling prints, cards and calendars with the wonderful Lyla Warren ofLittle Brigade. She’s coming from Portland to share her lovelySeedlingswith you all! Littlebrigade_seeds_of_love If you’re around please come by and say hello!

priyanka

prisss

 

I’m back in the studio after a 2 month break to be with my daughter. It’s the longest break I’ve had from art in 5 years! My biggest project is working on the final art for my graphic novel, Pashmina. As I opened my completed pages I noticed my main character, Priyanka, looked different in a few panels. I started to worry that I wouldn’t be able to keep her consistent throughout the book. As I revised the panels that bothered me, I thought about how much work isn’t seen by the reader. There’s so much pre-work – sketches, notes, ideas, drafts. Through the next few months as I work on final art I want to share some glimpses of the pre-work with you.

As I worried about character consistency, I pulled up a file with a bunch of Priyanka expressions I drew during the thumbnail process. This exercise not only gave me an idea of her personality, but also how to draw her face up, face down, and from the side. Once I brought this file up, I felt calm. I already did the work that could help me with consistency. I use the file for reference through each page.

This is my first attempt at a graphic novel. The whole process is a learning experience. By the time you hold a copy in your hands, each page will have been revised, redrawn and edited at least eight times. The manuscript had five drafts. The thumbnails had three rounds of editing. The final art will no doubt have at least two. Some pages are easier than others. I’ve read about other creator’s processes in writing and drawing. I’m sure I’m doing things wrong and I know I’ve made lots of mistakes. I’m okay with that. Once I finish, I will know what works for me.

For now, I must push forward, making mistakes and learning along the way.

fluffy friend and brush pen tips

fluffyfriend This is one of my recent evening brush pen sketches. In art school I was incredibly uncomfortable with the brush pen – it was a challenge. After years of practice drawing WITHOUT it I have a much better feel for it. Why? Because I have put in hours and hours of drawing time to understand form, shape and my own limitations (which are many). I start with a loose drawing in color pencil (usually whichever pencil is closest and sharpened, in this case it’s orange) and after I have the sketch, I bring out the brush pen. I ink over the lines as confidently as possible. The most important piece of this, which I didn’t understand before, is to commit. Once I put the ink down I cannot go back. I must be sure. I try not to lift the pen, to make solid, fluid lines. Some artists remain sketchy and loose at the ink stage, which is achieves another lovely look. I like the clear, solid lines so I attempt that. My favorite part of the process are the accents that appear due to the brush and paper texture. When I push down to make a thicker line, or pull back for a thinner line, the organic cracking and grain is so visually pleasing! I have more brush pen sketches on my Facebook page ^_^ Have a happy Friday!

little light

littlelight

I created this entirely in photoshop in 30 minutes – I usually do the base drawing in flash. I wanted to explore painting on just one layer but old habits die hard! I ended up with 12 layers but that’s a big change for me.

I woke up with this image in my mind because I felt a bit crushed by the news… it feels as though all we have is a little light – but hopefully that’s enough to grow out of these shadows.

burn to shine

minis

 

I am super excited to announce my solo show at Trickster in Berkeley in November. Burn to Shine: 100 mini wood burnings (all the pieces will also be available for purchase online, each piece will be $65). The opening reception will be November 1st. I am posting my progress on Instagram and Facebook. Between now and November I will create 80 more pieces! It’s the largest number of wood burnings I’ve set out to create to date. It’s incredibly fun to explore different animals, backgrounds, and patterns. I create many with mehndi patterns in mind, but I also love burning waves and using negative space to create a soft and subtle environments.

I also wanted to take this opportunity to share a bit about my materials and process!

woodburningmaterials

 

1. Wood slices. I obtain these from either Etsy, Michaels arts & crafts or Amazon. I shop for wood that is light in color without any dark marks or knots. If there are marks, I try and incorporate them into the work. The wood type varies from walnut, basswood, to cherry and oak.

2. Colwood Cub electrical unit. This unit heats my pens, it has great temperature control and its portable with a long enough cord so I can burn in my studio or living room (it smells so good!). I usually keep the temperature between 7 and 8, but when I want to create a softer, lighter background or environment I will turn it down to 6. I have never gone past 9, I think I’d burn my fingers!

3. A finished piece for the show!

4. A mechanical pencil. I use this to draw the character on the wood before burning. I never draw in pattern or background, only the central figure. Background and pattern I create in the moment. It’s my favorite part. It feels meditative and organic.

5. My two favorite fixed pens. I use both of these on each piece. One creates a thicker line I use for outlines of shape and the other I used for details like eyes, lips, and sometimes pattern.

6. Replaceable pen and replacement tips. I use these pens less often, but I do love the variety and texture I can get from them. There are two kinds of pens: fixed tips are just that, you cannot replace the tip only the whole pen. Replacement tips have one base and you can switch tips. I prefer fixed tips so I can switch mid burn and don’t have to wait for the tip to cool to take it off the base. Since I switch pens at least twice in every burn fixed tip work best for me.

7. Sand paper. Essential! If the grain on a piece of wood isn’t sanded down enough the pen will get stuck in the grooves and create a funky burn. Nearly every piece of wood can benefit from a quick sand to make sure the end result is pleasing.

That’s all from me! It’s been so much fun to work on the books during the day and burn at night – hope to see you in November ^_^

lamp lights

lamps

I created the top illustration 4 years ago. The bottom one I created last week. Why did I redraw this illustration? I don’t love or hate it, but I knew (or I hoped) I could re-approach it and do better. I remember creating that illustration years ago and even now I don’t see much WRONG with it. It contains all the elements I focus on today: character, storytelling, composition, mood and lighting.
The differences between the two are fairly clear. I understand the clothed figure better: arms and necks can be skinny if that’s your artistic style but not so tiny that it wouldn’t be able to hold up that large head. I know that it’s quite rare to see a table directly without any perspective. I am no longer sloppy with my lines and shapes, a trash can has a bottom, top and sides, and the legs of a table and chair have to feel solid and secure. I utilize reference to draw a lamp so it isn’t simply my mental idea of a lamp. My understanding of color has also improved. I know when to make a light warm or cool, I understand better how strong and mild highlights and shadows are depending on the light source.  I add texture for an organic feel, which I have come to love and appreciate in any digital work.

How did I learn all of these things? I read articles, talk to artists but the way I’ve seen the most direct improvement is by drawing. Sketching from life, with different materials, creating and sharing complete illustrations, comics, and painting. Each time I try something new I am not just nervous – I am TERRIFIED!

Draw a shark – Um, what does a shark look like? Like JAWS?
Draw a crowd of people – No, why!? Whyyyyyy! Can we just change the scene?
Draw a bird’s eye view perspective – Okay, that’s it. I give up. I’m going to pursue a career in kitty cuddling!

Even the idea of a throwback illustration made me nervous: what if my new version looks the same? I was very worried the early version was better. There’s a spontaneity and love that comes with original work – revisiting or copying doesn’t hold the same passion. Ultimately, I am happy with both. That’s not typically how I feel about my work. Those changes are the result of 4 years,1,040 weekdays, and probably 4,000 hours of drawing.

Creating regularly, sharing regularly has taught me that it doesn’t matter if I love it. As the creator I will always wish I could change. I have to get out of my own way. I must focus and produce, even if it means sharing work that I am not pleased with. I used to think that if I didn’t love it, as long as someone ELSE did that was okay. But it’s not about me, you or anyone else loving the work.

It is quite simply about making art.

Making art is joyful and painful. It is an awful feeling when you sit in front of a blank canvas and struggle with your limitations. And when people walk past your art without noticing, or worse yet when they comment negatively. It is the greatest feeling when a stranger can connect with a piece of art you’ve created. It will always make you happy when someone says they have your art proudly displayed in their home. I have been lucky enough to experience all of these things – even the negative experiences help me grow, thicken my skin and push me forward. But I wouldn’t be able to experience any of it if I didn’t keep making art. I didn’t wake up good at art. If I didn’t try and fail again and again and AGAIN, I wouldn’t be able to share either of these.

Keep drawing. Keep making art.

Fall into me (process post)

I had the pleasure of working with a loving couple on a commission recently, V & P. The process was wonderful from beginning to end and with their permission, I wanted to share a bit about my process in creating an illustration.

At the beginning of the commission, I asked V & P to send me some reference photos – I can’t draw them without knowing what they look like ^_^ I also asked them if they had ideas of what they wanted me to draw and if they had favorites from my portfolio. Asking people about their favorites gives me a good idea of the colors, stories and emotions they are looking for… They sent all the requested information as well as a bit about themselves – this included a video that V had made for P on their first anniversary. I thought, okay, I’ll watch it for some more reference on their faces but focus on what they want. They indicated they were interested in a scene in their kitchen cooking together with the Washington Monument in the background (to indicate location). So I drew this:

vpsketch2

But when I watched the video… it was as if V & P were right there with me. Telling me stories about how they met, fell in love and I truly felt as though I knew them. One story in particular stood out, on their first date it began to rain as they were walking which they compared to a bollywood film… Immediately this image popped into my head:

vpsketch

Generally with commissions I try to provide two distinct sketches in two different orientations. But the second sketch wasn’t one they asked for… I wasn’t sure they would like it. It seemed too simple. One of the things that is difficult to convey with a line drawing or sketch is what the transition from the above drawing to the final piece will be… I can see it in my head, but I do this every day! ^_^ I was hopeful that from this basic drawing they could tell where I would end up…

And they could tell! They picked that sketch and V & P only asked me to change the orientation, and indicate that it was fall time – my sketch was approved! Here is the revised sketch:

vpsketchrevise

My illustration work is all digital, so these sketches were created in flash. Once the sketch is approved, I lock the line drawing layers and begin to draw in color over them. I spent a lot of time on the trees, drawing each leaf in the foreground, getting the fall colors right. Because I am drawing for someone else (as opposed to drawing for myself) I take this part slower than normal. I researched reference for the Washington Monument, fall trees in DC, and I watched V & P’s video a few more times (partly for reference and partly because it inspired me ^_^).

This is something I never show, but here is my full color drawing before I take it into Photoshop.

vp1

I often feel that the work I do in Flash is the “hard” work, and the work in photoshop is fun. In the drawing above, you get the idea of the colors, but none of the light, texture, or vibrancy that comes when I work in Photoshop.

I finished the color work in Flash one day and the next day I began to paint in Photoshop. I ended up with over 98 layers – which is more than I have for most drawings. I knew I wanted the sky to have a somewhat thunderstorm-y feel, but I also wanted to have a bright light come from behind the monument. Everything else I painted, added texture, light and shadow intuitively. When you look at the illustration it’s just trees, rain and a couple… but simplicity is deceptive. From the shadows on the sidewalk, to the texture of the grass, each piece, each layer, breathes life into the illustration. The longer I worked on it, the more I feel in love with it.

It’s always nerve-wracking when I feel happy with my work but I’m not sure what the receiving party will think. After all, we haven’t met. We exchanged maybe 20 emails over the course of the commission and in the end I wanted to ensure that V & P loved it like I did.

Lucky for me, they did. And in the end, I feel like they have given me a gift. A chance to peek into their life, understand and be inspired by their love and create a new relationship where there was none.

Art brought us together… and I love that.

vplowres

find your path

Many things have contributed to finding my path as an artist. From an incredibly supportive husband, fabulous friends, to a love of storytelling… I receive questions every week about how I got here, what tools I use, what inspires me… so, I thought it might be helpful to write a bit about how I got here.

After college I had a host of jobs. Most of them weren’t right for me. In fact, I quit one job by placing my office keys on the desk, submitting my resignation via email and simply walking out, never to return again. Because the job wasn’t just making me miserable, it made me hate life. Another job I held for one single day. I learned that I am headstrong, I take action and think about the consequences later. I don’t recommend it, but it has mostly worked for me. Of all my jobs before art, the only job I enjoyed was working at the library. I was an assistant but I never felt like one. There was a level of respect, playfulness and curiosity that I loved there. (My ideal world is one full of art and books.) I worked at a cafe and and the library, took out massive loans (which I’m still paying off) and enrolled in art school at the age of 27. I was often the oldest person in my classes, and believe me when I say that I was AWFUL in comparison to the students 8 years younger than me. Being older, my one advantage was that I was clear about what I wanted to do – I wanted to create illustrations to make people happy and I wanted to write books.

Returning to my headstrong self, I learned what I felt like was enough and dropped out of art school. I began drawing everyday. I am now 3 years and 500+ illustrations deep into running my own show. I admit I am distracted by shiny, new, well-paid opportunities. Many of the artists I know work at animation or game studios. I was recruited by one of the big animation companies last year and turned down their request for an interview. I have to keep clear on my goals even when it’s easy to be swayed by big names. I am a full-time artist and business. Anyone who has started their own business knows the painful truth that YOU are the only way that your business earns and moves forward. I realize the path I chose is harder. Much, much harder than I had imagined. The majority of my income comes from my personal work and a small percentage from commercial work. I work weekends, nights, and sometimes I am disheartened by the lack of opportunities I have simply because I’m not associated with X, Y, or Z company. That’s the reality of any industry. But I truly prefer working for myself. I prefer creating artwork that I feel passionate about and working on projects that speak to me.

I don’t see myself as an authority on much of anything except my own experience. I can tell you what software I use to create my digital illustrations, what wood burning tool I use and what watercolors and pens. I believe in the beginning of any creative pursuit the idea that knowing the tools of your favorite artist will help you reach your goal is an easy trap. No one can create artwork like me because its not about my tools. My history, my experiences, feelings and thoughts inform my work. I use flash and photoshop, but you could find that you hate those tools. Then where will you be? In the end you have to find what works for you and go toward that. I battle a lot of insecurity and doubt, every week, every day, and recently that’s lead me to try new things… which is good and bad. Good because I get bored and trying new things keeps me excited and fresh. Bad because sometimes I fall into the same trap. I look at what others are doing and try to BE them. I have to constantly remind myself that although I might be good at a small amount of things, it is those things that I must focus on. I must go towards the things I’m good at, develop those and keep focused.

If I have arrived at a place that is admirable to others, I did that by being true to myself and working hard. I am not talented. I have no secret formula to create my illustrations or wood burnings. There is no magic button that makes shops carry my work or blogs write about my work. It comes from a constant pursuit of independence. I wanted to be free to create what I want, work where I want, with whom I want and make people happy.

Before beginning any path, creative or not, I think its important to be clear and focused. That is what will propel you forward. So… do you truly know what you want to do?