Ok, so when I first started thinking about this project, it was all about home and the things I've grown up around. As the idea developed I realised this style could be used for all different categories, animals by country, terrain, endangerment, residents of a particular charity etc. etc. I think I'm going to stick to the initial idea and keep it all about home for 4th year and use the rest for future collections.
Busting out ideas
Despite loving so many illustrators and wanting those skills, I haven't done any regular drawing since my college course (2011-2012) and even then it was pretty forced and rarely enthusiastic. Since then I've maybe done one or two drawings a year, just depending on what client work comes up, so it's a little hilarious that my big, main, super important, hopefully career starting project for 4th year is largely illustration. I'm a real slow starter: even though I've known what I want to do from the start of the year, it took until about week 8/9 to finally brave the fear and put pencil to paper. The stag drawing below is my first drawing in a very long time and the first drawing I've done for me, because it's what I wanted to draw in 7, if not 10 years. Crazy eh? While I'd really like to be working from my own images, wild life photography is a whole nother skill and I can't wait until I've mastered that to start drawing. So my dear friend Martin let me trawl through his folder of stag photography to find something for reference. The illustration below is heavily based off his photographed - nothing has been traced, just drawn from sight- and I used a clearer face image taken from google just to get a clearer view of the eye. It pains me that this illustration can be shown in so few steps because it was a hell of a journey. Spread over two weeks, some days all I did was work on this stag from the start to the end of the day (I am quite a slow worker) This was all drawn in photoshop with a surface book and pen.
Initially drawn in pencil then outlined in pen then photographed. You will find this drawing in my physical work.
The face is wrong, too stubby, may be revised later. The antlers
are also smaller than I'd like, because I ran out of room on the paper.
Brought into photoshop, cleaned up, background removed, I set my linework to multiply and make it the top layer so all colouring can go on beneath. I downloaded some free watercolour brushes and had a little play about. I really like when painterly elements are brought into more digital, controlled illustrations. Anyway, this isn't anything, just playing.
I consider myself to be quite inexperienced in working with colour, despite it being the biggest draw for me to other peoples work. I find I struggle to think in anything other than factual/ literal colours. So for this illustration I decided from the start to push myself and work with something I knew would make me uncomfortable. So, purple stag. Blue would've been the obvious starting point because I'm a bit obsessed but I felt that was too cold for the king of the forest, also purple is considered to be a regal colour so purple it was. In these two images you can seem e just working through the shading. I can't do lights and darks for shit, it's so, so hard. A huge amount of perseverance was required. I'm happy to say I stuck to it.
A lot of the illustrators I love go pretty heavy on the black, I was undecided if I'd end up going that way. I started off just trying to work with shades of purple but it didn't seem to have that umph so I went back in and beefed up the black. I think it makes highlights so much more effective. I've always been really drawn to use of light in artworks and I think the heavy use of black contributes to that look.
I also started playing around with the background a bit. The stag reminded me of cameo's but after the amount of time the actual stag took and the fact that this was just meant to be a quick ice-breaker drawing, I decided to leave complicated backgrounds for the future illustrations.
To the left is a close up of some of the shade work and a look at my layers. I was working with black and 5 shades of purple. I numbered them from lightest -1- through to black -6- and then also colour coded these layers with labels in rainbow order so that at a glance I would know exactly which colour I should be working with on each layer.
This was also my first digital illustration done on the Surface Book, previously I've worked with a a wacom tablet (one of the cheaper ones where you're not drawing directly onto the screen. As I progressed with this illustration I felt my confidence and comfort growing which unfortunately resulted in me finding better ways to do things before I'd finished. I had to really fight myself from going back and completely starting again. I did allow myself to redraw the ear and face however - this time completely digitally which felt like a big achievement for me. Below you can see me struggling with the eye. I'm a firm believer that the features should be the first thing you draw because they make or break an image and foolishly on this illustration, I left them til last. Twat. You can tell I'm a bit out of practice!
Simple, graphic shapes combined with detailed illustrations just make me happy ok? Bright, contrasting colours are another element that I've come to recognise as something that really appeals to me in the work of others so I decided to try my regal, purple stag on a big clowy yellow-orange sun. I changed the brightest highlights to a yellow tone as well, to suggest the disc is the light source.
I moved the head around a bit to find where it sat most comfortably. Then I started to wonder if the piece would be better with a body coming off the page. Left is a very quick sketch. I think it would work nicely, it looks like he's looking out on a new morning, waiting for something or just checking up on his domain or looking wistfully to the past, lit by a setting sun. But anyway, I did not draw the body properly because again, this was meant to just be a breaking-in drawing.
Final illustration, completed by my logo in matching purple.
I rarely love work that I've toiled over for a long time. It's the pieces that happen quickly and organically that give me that good feeling at the end so I didn't really feel much when I finished this however it's grown on me in time and now I'm pretty pleased. This is really a quite fine attempt for being my first drawing in months and my first serious drawing in years. Not bad for a warm up!
Decided to play with the colours and get a little festive, cos why not. Also got some cards printed, which no one wants to buy. That feels like a bad start to this project but I guess it is rather close to Christmas for buying cards. I thought I'd get one or two sales but apparently not. It shows how little attention business posts get on social media these days. I think I'm going to have to have a lot of plans in place for attending fayres, holding exhibitions and stocking in indie shops while I get started, I can't see just hoping my friends will share posts is going to get me far enough.