7th May 2013
I’ve always been intrigued (and slightly baffled) by the process by which illustrators create their beautiful imagery, so I’m very happy that one of my all time favourite artists Kelly Smith (aka Birdy & Me) has agreed to shed some light on her process – from the first idea all the way through to the finished piece.
For those of you out there not familiar with her work, Kelly has the type of talent that most of us can only dream about – the ability to create whimsical and yet life like imagery that merges fashion and beauty to perfection. In short she draws life as we would all like to live it, full of flowers, pastels hues and perfectly tousled waves. Her illustrations have been commissioned by an awe inspiring number of magazines and brands, including Vogue, Net-a-Porter, H&M and Elle, and she is just about to publish the second book in a series entitled Sticker Fashionista. I couldn’t be more chuffed that Kelly took some of her precious time out to show us how she creates her amazing pieces, perfect for following along if you feel like honing your illustration skills (admittedly she makes it look easy when I imagine it’s anything but). Take it away Kelly!
There are so many different styles and techniques in illustration, and there’s definitely no right or wrong way to do it. Everyone has their own method and that’s what makes us all unique! So what I’m going to show you today is my process in 10 steps.
What I use:
- Pencils (HB, B, 2B and a super soft lead like 3H)
- Watercolour paints & brushes
- Adobe Photoshop.
Inspiration is the first step in any creative process. If you don’t have idea immediately, turn to what inspires you; imagery, nature, films, music – it can be anything. Once you have an idea you can start to gather images that reflect your vision.
2. REFERENCE IMAGERY
Create your reference image. Some illustrators work from their imagination. Others, like myself, work from reference imagery. I like to photograph my own images and collage them together with various others to create one picture to draw from. I’m pretty exact with this due to the realistic style of my work.
For this particular image I photographed myself holding an object of similar size to a skull. I then used images of flowers that I had photographed, along with the hair and facial features of various models that had been collaged together.
3. START SKETCHING
Using your reference image as a guide, start sketching out an outline. This will help you keep your proportions in tact before you start finalising the pencil work. Some people like to draw up grids to keep to scale. As I work on quite a small scale I prefer to draw rough lines over the reference image only so I can easily see where certain features or body parts line-up.
4. KEEP SKETCHING
Start refining your lines and existing pencil work. Don’t worry about going too thick or dark as you can erase these markings as you start to develop each area. We’re essentially ‘filling in the lines’ and developing depth and tone with shading and more refined pencil work.
5.TAKE A BREAK
Step back from your work. Have a break – grab a coffee or a cup of tea– and take 5 minutes out. Sometimes when you look at the something for too long, you can start to lose perspective. It’s really nice to take some time out and focus on something else for a little while and come back to a project with fresh eyes. This helps you to spot any flaws in the work, which you can then fix up or change.
The next step is to move the finished illustration onto the computer. I like to do this as soon as I’ve completed all pencil work, especially before I apply any paint or other medium. It means that you have a perfect digital copy of the work, just in case you make any mistakes! Unlike pencil, paint or ink does not rub out!
7. ADD WATERCOLOURS BY HAND
Sometimes I just add a little bit of colour digitally in photoshop, but this time I’m adding watercolour. It’s good to build the colour up slowly, so start with the lightest colour first and then add darker shades to create depth and texture.
When the paint is dry, scan the illustration again. Be careful to keep it perfectly straight on the glass so that both scans line up when you overlay them.
Adjust the layers/contrast/shadows on the original scan until you’re happy with the tones. Clean up any dust or smudges. I use the clone tool. Do the same with your painted scan.
10. LAYER IMAGES
Finally, overlay both of your scans so that you’re left with one image. Create one, or two, more layers, depending on how much colour you want to apply digitally. I like to add subtle colour to the face – digital make-up if you will!
Now that I’ve finished – save, save save! You should now be left with a perfect digital file of your illustration.
Thanks so much Kelly! You can purchase a print of one of Kelly’s drawings here, and make sure to check out her website for more of her gorgeous work and updates on her new book to be released this month.
22nd April 2013
Ever since I can remember I’ve loved beautiful handwritten notes, so you’ll understand my excitement when typography guru and self confessed font fanatic Gemma O’Brien (aka Mrs Eaves), offered to give us a lesson in hand lettering. Gemma rocketed to fame 5 years ago as a uni student with her viral youtube video Write Here, Write Now and has built, in just a few short years, an impressive body of work including hand drawn pieces for Canon (a favorite of mine) and Woolworths as well as a huge number of other creative projects such as developing the masthead for Peppermint Magazine, refreshing the title sequence for children’s tv show Playschool and designing 80th birthday invitations for ex-aussie Prime Minister Bob Hawke (see more of her work here). Today she’s going to show us the basics of hand lettering by making an exquisite hand drawn card – perfect for a friend or lover. Take it away Gemma!
Cast your mind back to primary school cursive practice and the quest to acquire your pen licence. Unless it’s a shopping list or a quick scribble… the hand written word seems to be a dying art these days. Lettering is different to calligraphy – it’s more like “drawing” letters – as opposed to creating them through the strokes of a nib or quill. For this reason, it’s quite accessible to all. You don’t need special tools … just a little practice. Once you’ve mastered your own style you’ll be beautifying the labels on your storage boxes and making hand lettered cards for every occasion.
Today, we are going to create a small card to accompany a bunch of flowers…with hand lettering that will read “Happy Days!”.
Step 1. Make a trip to your local art store or newsagency and gather a few supplies. You will need some nice paper with a bit of texture (watercolour paper can be quite good or Mi Tentes has a beautiful selection of cream and pastel papers available in A4 sheets), a 2B pencil, rubber, ruler and a variety of thicknesses of fine black markers… and of course some flowers.
Step 2. Select the size of card you wish to work with. My card is going to be A5 folded in half.
Step 3. Let’s start by drawing some guidelines just to help give our lettering a bit of loose structure. Eventually, after practice, you can draw the lettering freely without guidelines but initially its a good way to maintain consistency and balance to your work.
We are going to draw a baseline (this is the line upon which the letters sit), an x-height(this is the height of the body of the lowercase letters) , a cap height (the height of the capitals) and a stress guide line (this is an angled guide that you can use to give your lettering a certain degree of slant.) If you wish to do a little more background research into the anatomy of letters you can find a great source here. Make sure these guidelines you are drawing are quite faint so you can easily rub them off later.
Step 4. Once you have your guidelines in pencil you can roughly sketch you your letter shapes. Do not be disheartened if they don’t look great immediately. I think for this particular tutorial I wrote out “Happy Days” at least 20 times before I felt happy with it! Let the rhythm of your hand dictate the flow and start by simply drawing the “skeleton” of the lettering. It’s often helpful to look at existing examples of cursive and scripts. They can vary quite dramatically. Sometimes you can luck out and find some old books about scripts in second hand stores otherwise online font foundries have a wealth of reference and inspiration – check out this one.
05. After you are happy with the shape of you pencil skeleton you can start to add width with the strokes. This is where looking at reference comes in handy. Because you are “drawing” in the stroke width (rather than letting pressure or a brush stroke define it) it is helpful to look at examples of calligraphy and fonts to see where the contrasting thick and thins exist. While it’s important to keep the thicknesses relatively consistent across all letters, the nature of hand lettering is that there is always an element of human error… sometimes little mistakes can add character and interest. Once again … practice…practice … practice.
06. Lastly, trace over your sketch with one of the fine black pens and rub away the pencil with an eraser. If you’re working at a small scale like this it’s good to have 0.05 – 0.8 pens on hand. If working at large sizes using a brush pen or brush and ink is more appropriate. Now punch a hole in your card, and tie it to your flowers with a piece of twine…. Happy Days!
4th April 2013
I know I’m probably supposed to tell you that every project I make is a roaring success and not once have I had a project flop, but I’m going to let you in on a little secret – there have been more than a few doozeys. Although those projects don’t usually make it onto these pages (admittedly an attempt to make it look like it’s all smooth sailing on my end), I’ve come to learn that DIY is almost always a trial and error process, and that on the road to brilliance you’ll have a few bumps where things don’t go to plan. Don’t let it get you down! When it comes to projects that f*ck up, there are so many ways to make sure that your fails a) teach you a valuable lesson and b) can be re-purposed into something amazing. For that reason, and contrary to the title of this blog post, in my eyes there really is no such thing as a DIY Fail. In the spirit of better projects all around, today I bring you the golden rules of how to reduce the chances of making something you feel is a DIY Fail – and how to come back from it if you do.
How to: Not DIY Fail
- Visualise – when starting out on a project, take a few moments to visualize how you want the finished product to look. Better yet, practice your drawing and have a go at sketching out your idea before attempting to create the real thing. In the last few years sketching out my projects has helped me to iron out the processes, as well as helping me improve my illustrative techniques (still pretty rubbish mind you).
- Use inexpensive materials – Reduce fears associated with DIY failure by using inexpensive thrifted pieces to experiment on, and always buy extra materials so you don’t run out mid way (something I’ve done numerous times!)
- Experiment with re-moveable updates – This is a great one for those of you terrified about ruining your clothes with a DIY Fail - add an update, like this pair of knotted anklets, to an existing piece of clothing or an accessory. This allows for an the satisfaction of a DIY well done, without the fear of having to live with a mistake. This is also a great way to tentatively kick off a longer sojourn into the world of DIY.
- Test drive - When in doubt about whether a project you’ve made will hold up, make sure to test drive it around the house first, or as far away as possible from the eyes of the public. When I was about 15 I attempted to turn a pair of jeans from high waisted into low waisted (fyi – never a good idea) by cutting off the waistband, and then wore them out on a ‘date’ (those awkward gatherings of 15 year olds where everyone is paired off at the movies) only to have them fall off when as I was leaving the cinema. The shame!
- Salvage materials – Ok, so you’ve made something and it just isn’t going to work, like at all. Your first response might be to throw the proverbial baby out with the bathwater, but try not to completely ditch your project. You’ll be surprised how often you can find a use for the materials that went into a not-quite-right project – things like studs etc are perfect for reuse!
- Try, try and try again – Had a project that bombed spectacularly? Like a tassel pom pom necklace of mine that promptly fell apart? Or a skirt you cut too short? Or maybe a bag you made out of PVC that was the wrong dimensions (doh!)?Don’t let that discourage you – every god DIYer has a project graveyard for those that didn’t work out, and that doesn’t stop them trying again. Remember, any DIY that doesn’t kill you only makes you stronger!
Sooooo have you had any major #DIYFAILS? I’d love to hear what they were and how you dealt with them.