Saturday, April 12, 2014

The Great Project Rundown

Everybody occasionally runs dry of ideas.  I used to bump around the house looking for and rejecting ideas when I was younger, but that was before the internet.  With the net around there's really no reason to have a day without drawing.  Whatever kind of art you're into, chances are good that there's a group or activity or competition for it.  Here are some of my favourite sites to keep the momentum going:

Illustration Friday - weekly illustration topic
Daily Spitpaint - daily speed-painting exercise.  You have 30 minutes to create a painting based on the daily topic or topics.
Sketch Dailies - weekday illustration topic, usually fan art.  Lots of fun!
Inktober - 31 days of ink sketches in October.  Missed October?  I'm sure Inkuary works just as well.  Or any other month!
100 Themes - one hundred ideas on which to base a picture
Random Animal Generator - randomly generates two animals for you to mix together


Hourly Comics Day - February 1st.  Original site is now gone since John Campbell has gone pear-shaped, but the event is alive and well on Tumblr.
24 Hour Comic Day - make a 24-page comic in 24 hours.  I have done the lazy people version, where the pages are really, really small.  Your local comic shop may have an event so you can do this with other people!  Alternative for people who like sleep - do a 12 hour version.

Sketching From Life:

Urban Sketchers - get outside and sketch from life.  There are Urban Sketchers groups in many major cities, and if you can't find one you can start your own.  I joined my local group in late 2012 and have met some very friendly and social artists of all skill levels.  The Urban Sketchers have a very active and inspiring group on Flickr as well.
Sketchcrawl - every 2 or 3 months people from around the world go on a great life sketching marathon and then share their work online
Everyday Matters - a great long list of ordinary objects you can draw when you don't know what to draw

Friday, April 04, 2014

The Fairyland Project

A few weeks ago I got some books out of the library and one of them was Catherynne Valente's latest installment of the Fairyland series, The Girl Who Soared Over Fairyland and Cut the Moon in Two.  Catherynne Valente uses such rich language and her descriptions are so imaginative that I wanted to do some illustrations based on the book. 

In fact, I thought, why not do a chapter illustration for every chapter in the novel?  Which I promptly set out to do.

As of now, I have all 21 chapters thumbnailed, have moved onto the roughs for about five of them, and have finished three.  I think I'll post these in sets of three, as and when I finish them.  They don't take all that long to make, individually speaking, but I have other projects on the go and occasionally one of these will stall a bit as I try to deal with a difficult part.

I'm hoping to avoid spoilers for the book, mostly.  You won't learn who cut the moon in two (or why) from me!  Those of us who read the first two books will see September reunited with some friends but that's not much of a surprise to anyone.  What would a Fairyland book be without a wyverary?

But hopefully I'll get some practice in and people will be intrigued by the book and the whole thing should be good fun for all.

Anyway -- here are the first three chapter illustrations of Fairyland 3.

Chapter 1
September Looks at the Moon:

Chapter 2
Boomer and Beatrice:

Chapter 3
The Blue Wind:

So far I'm enjoying playing with real ink again and reviewing my compositions.  I'm starting to idly plan what other books I'd like to do.  I have a small supply of kids' books I never quite got rid of.  Classics like The Witches and The Phantom Tollbooth and The Neverending Story.  The more I think the more books I'd love to illustrate!

Oh well, I'll just keep going with this and see where it takes me.  Maybe the next book I illustrate will be one I wrote myself. :)

Thursday, March 27, 2014


This month has been particularly bad for me for painting (although I'm getting lots of illustration done, so that's something).  I eventually resorted to looking over my WIPs and dragged this guy out.  I had started it last year or possibly even the year before.  I had painted the frogs and the rocks, got to the silly day-glow reeds and that's where it languished for months.  Frogs, easy.  Reeds, hard.

I may end up cropping it at some point to remove the reeds.  I'm not too fond of them, but the rock is pretty nice.  That will have to wait until I can access my table saw, though.

Anyway, this was from a photo my husband took at an aquarium while we were on vacation a few years ago.  I think these were American Bullfrogs and man... their terrarium was crawling with crickets and despite the frogs' best efforts they did not manage to eat a single one while we were there.  At one point the frog launched itself towards a cricket, fumbled critically and the cricket ended up crawling on top of the frog's head.  I guess the aquarium caught the dumb ones and the smart ones are still out in the wild.

I enjoyed painting the frogs.  This year I'm going to try and get more photos of animals and maybe include more of them in my landscapes.  I'm really looking forward to plein-air season, but it looks like it's going to arrive late this year.

Thursday, March 20, 2014


Last month I did another illustration for Spellbound for their Spring 2014 Issue, Dwarfs.

I've really been enjoying making these black and white children's fantasy illustrations.  I love playing with shape and contrast and composition. 

Friday, March 07, 2014

March Sketchout

The Urban Sketchers March Sketch-out was at the Royal Alberta Museum. The day was awfully cold (-29C on March 1st? Really Mother Nature? REALLY?) and I wasn't sure whether I was going to go, but in the end I did and I was glad that I went.  I expected the museum to be empty, but the cheap admission and cold weather lured quite a few families out.  So much so that the cafeteria kitchen was actually closed at one when our group tried to get lunch there!  I had to settle for a slightly stale cinnamon bun.  Some 20 minutes later some of the other girls were able to get salads and sandwiches but the grill was so far behind that it had to stay closed.

Still, it was a fun time.  Next time I will bring Neil, who had been hoping to come along but found himself feeling sick all weekend.

The museum has an extensive collection of animals (mostly stuffed, obviously, except for the bugs which skitter around in all their multilegged glory), which are fun to draw. Mostly I try to draw animals from life, which is challenging because they are almost always moving.  Last year I became interested in bird watching, so I had a great time seeing their bird collection and trying to identify some of the birds I had seen but not confirmed.

For the first half hour I actually found myself trapped in the crafts area with a group of children who were doing a bird-colouring workshop.  I had been lured in by the owl and snow bunting, neither of which I've seen in the wild, and they closed the door on me!  The kids have a much shorter attention span than I do, though, and they were done with their birds long before I was done with mine.

Afterwards I wandered over to the First Nations Exhibit, which has some interesting tools and clothing.  I wish I had had more time to spend there, but by that point the museum was getting quite busy.  We'll be going back soon, though, and I'm hoping to have a chance to look closer at the areas I ended up rushing through.

This jingle dress is from the early 1990s.  It reminds me of my school days, when we would occasionally have native dancers at the school assemblies.

After lunch I took another turn through the nature dioramas, which I had also rushed through at the beginning.  The part that I like the best is that the paintings behind the dioramas all come from real places around Alberta.  It makes me want to fly out to Fort Smith and hike the Slave Rapids Trail.  There's a lot of stuff up north that I would love to see, with a little bit of camping know-how and a lot of bug spray.

Anyway, I had to draw a mountain goat for Neil:

We've only seen mountain goats once in real life, driving somewhere along the Icefield Parkway between Jasper and Banff.  We got really lucky that time because they were right by the side of the road, there was a herd of them, and they had kids with them.  And then... nothing.  You can always see bighorn sheep, but good luck seeing a goat.

Fun fact: mountain goats are not actually closely related to true goats.  They have their own genus within the goat-antelope family.

I also sketched some mule deer.

Bonus sketche: a few days later I was hanging around the house and wanted to draw some still life.  This is a pair of salt and pepper shakers Neil's parents gave us for Christmas.  They are very silly!  Also, rather challenging to sketch.
Hopefully I can get a few more journal sketches done this month.  I am also copying from Bridgman, which takes up a good deal of time (about one seventh of the way through!) and working on a series of children's illustrations.  So far March has been decently productive and I'd like to keep it that way!

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Update, With Ant

Last year I did some illustrations for a role-playing game book called "Isles of the Sun" by CB Droege.  That was fun, because I got to draw some things that I don't usually get to.  Like evil minions!  I did a few designs for undead mechanical golems (which were great fun), a couple illustrations, but I think this was my favourite:

It is a cart pulled by a giant art!  I think I like drawing giant insects.  This is a change from my childhood, when I was so traumatized by an oversized picture of a grasshopper in an animal book that I spent a good 20 years freaking out over insects.  Then I got a garden.  Now I'm just like "okay, small many-legged thing, get back in the compost pile where you belong."

Currently I am working on some chapterbook illustrations (personal work) that I would like to put into my portfolio, and a couple of paintings.  I've just finished up another illustration for Spellbound.  A lot of things are in the process of being completed or submitted or published, so there isn't much to show.  I've really tried to change my working schedule since the beginning of the year, and it has been a mixed success (but at least it has been a success rather than a big failure).  I think I'm starting to narrow down what I'd like to work on, which is books.

One consequence of this is that I'm writing more often.  I've submitted a fairytale retelling to the Spellbound anthology.  I don't know if anything is going to come of that (I expect not, because that is what happens to writers) but it has made me think more about stories.  Maybe all those books I am inhaling are helping that along as well.  It's nice to have stories to tell again.  Maybe even I'll be able to get back to writing things that I've had to abandon when the stories suddenly ran out, although I promise nothing.

On the weekend I'm going to try to write up a proper post, probably about how I managed to get more work done this year.  For now, though, I'd better move if I want to maintain that productivity streak.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Hourly Comics Day 2014

I do Hourly Comics Day just about every year, largely because I really like journal comics and getting a glimpse into someone else's life for a while.  It seems to be steadily migrating from the Hourly Comics Day forums to Tumblr, which I'm kind of sad about because it's much more difficult to see everyone's work on Tumblr.  It's the most disorganized place on the planet.

So this year for Hourly Comics Day I actually caved in and created a Tumblr blog.  I just toss random sketches on there for now, and the hourly comics.  You can follow me there if you like, or wait until I post a sketch-dump here, probably at the end of the month.  I guess I really do need a place to post random cruft and Tumblr does seem ideal for that.

Anyway.  Hourly Comics Day!  Every year a bunch of comic artists make one journal comic (or panel) for every hour that they are awake on February 1st.  When you read them, you get snapshots of people's lives in different parts of the world, all on the same day.  Since we're mostly comic artists, the snapshots don't differ all THAT much but it's kind of interesting anyway.

Here is the one I did for 2014:

(Click for bigger.)

This year February 1st was pretty busy, as I went to the Urban Sketchers sketch-out and a party.  I didn't have much time to draw on that day, and soon after I got sick so everything was shifted over by one or two weeks.  However, it was worth it, getting to draw some friends for a change.

You can see some of my previous Hourly Comics Days here:

2012 part 1 2012 part 2 2012 part 3
2013 part 1 2013 part 2 2013 part 3